Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Best Primer

Shamelessly stolen from

Primer Test:

I tried to be as fair and accurate with my tests as possible considering that I do not run a lab and they are based on observations and not scientific analysis.

1. Reaper warlord dwarf models were used because I wanted to see how well the primers covered. The Dwarfs chainmail is one place that tends to be obscured by excessively thick paint/primer as well as other areas of fine detail. All were primed with the same technique and given two coats of lightly applied primer per the manufacturers instructions and allowed to dry 24 hours before being photographed. Temperature averaged 70F with humidity under 40%. I looked at these samples for smoothness of the primer coats, ability to cover while not obscuring detail and general appearance.

The choice of primers for figure painters is a topic that comes up a lot on forums. Painters are always asking for advice as to the best primer to use in terms of color and brand. While I have had my own opinion on this subject I realized that my reasons for choosing one brand over another were based more on perceptions and feelings than hard data. So with some down time from painting and an assortment of some primers that have received a lot of attention I did a series of tests.

Floquil Light Gray Figure-Primer from Testors (Gray) 3 OZ/85g - $5
Tamiya Fine Surface Primer L For Plastic and Metal (White)6 OZ/180ml - $7
Citadel Primer Produced for GW (White) 11 OZ/310g - $10
Krylon All Purpose Primer 1315 (White) 12 OZ/340g - $4
The Armory Spray Primer (White) 12 OZ/340g - $8
Plasti-Kote Sandable Primer 19000 (White) 12 OZ/340g - $4
Plasti-Kote Sandable Primer 19001 (Gray) 12 OZ/340g - $4
Ral Partha Brush on Primer (White) 1 OZ/30ml - $3 OOP
Krylon Ultra Flat (Black) Not a Primer but used by enough painters as one to be worth testing. 12 OZ/340g - $4
All prices USD

Above is my Primer Test plate prepared for testing.

2. Since my main interest is in using primers to prepare metal miniatures for painting I wanted to test the adhesion of primer to bare metal and paint to the primer. A metal plate was cleaned uniformly and sample strips of each primer were applied to it. After 24 hours Reaper Master Series Burgundy Wine Acrylic paint was applied evenly across each primer strip with a brush. This was allowed to dry and then a crosshatch pattern was cut into the paint strips without cutting into the primer. Another series of cross hatches were cut into the primers. Next ordinary masking tape was laid on top of the crosshatched sections and burnished to create maximum adherence. The tape was then pulled off and the strips checked. This is a standard test used in the art world to evaluate substrates

Below is the Primer Test Plate at the conclusion of the test.

Results and Conclusions

Considering the forcefulness of opinions about primers in miniature painting forums I was very surprised by how well all of these performed. In the adherence test all of the spray primers stuck to the metal and provided good tooth for the paint. The Citadel Primer exhibited some problems near the edges of the crosshatch lines but not significantly. The Armory Primer performed well on the test model but gave me a mini orange peel effect on subsequent models. This has been my experience with The Armory Primer in previous use as well. The Ral Partha Brush on primer failed but it was old and I threw it in as an afterthought anyway.

Krylon Ultra Flat (Black) is not a primer and this was demonstrated dramatically when the tape pulled all of the paint from the test panel. Several painters on different forums swear by this stuff and use it as there primer for miniature painting. It did not hold at all.

The primers tested were the ones available to me. I would have liked to test more black primers, black versus white etc. But, I never intended to make the ultimate primer test. Floquil Figure Primer has been a favorite of mine in the past and lately Tamiya FS Primer has been my choice for display pieces. For gaming models Plasti-Kote is my preferred primer. After looking at the test pieces I cannot see much difference between the Floquil and Plasti-Kote (Gray) primers. They both look very good to me with fine coverage and tight coating of the detail.

Sections of the test models are posted here by number and not in any specific order. Each is identified at the end of this report. Maybe you will see something in the images that would make you prefer one to the others.

Happy painting!
Images represent the following Primers:

1. Citadel
2. Plasti-Kote White
3. Floquil
4. Krylon
5. Tamiya
6. Plasti-Kote Gray
7. Armory

Monday, April 7, 2008

Painting Gems


This technique can be applied to gems, scopes, glasses, buttons, and anything of the like. Its really not that hard you just have to understand the concept then apply it

Step 1: Apply your basecolor, most people use reds, greens, and blues but its up to you.

Step 2: Apply a lighter shade of your base coat below half way.

Step 3: Keep applying lighter shades until you reach the bottom and/or desired look.

Step 4: Add darker shades near the top just like you did with the lighter shades.

Step 5: Add one large dot and one smaller dot of pure white or pure white with a litle bit of your basecoat.

Step 6: Put a little gloss varnish over it to give it the shine if you like. Your done!

Thanks to cookster from for this.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Boston Massacre: Game 1 Battle Report

First off our, our illustrious Duncan couldn't make it to Boston as my partner so I had a random Tyranid player assigned as my teammate. Our list looked something like this:

Farseer on a bike w/ singing spear, spirit stones, mindwar, fortune
4 warlocks on bikes w/ witch blades, embolden, enhance
2 X 3 jetbikes 1w/ s. cannon
5 shining spears w/ exarch and withdraw
9 harlequins w/ shadowseer all with kisses
5 fire dragons
1 falcon w. scatter laser, shuriken cannon, spiritstones, holofield, vectored engines

3 ripper bases
2 x 12 ish genestealers
dakka fex
4 ravengers
red terror
2 sniperfex

Game 1 - Eldar/Nid's vs Grey Knights / Black Templar

Terrain was heavy on the board but the middle was wide open to shooting and covered in difficult terrain. Deployment was in little boxes in each corner so all the allies were separated in their own corner. Extra points for conquering the middle, and extra battle points for more quadrants and getting units in enemy deployments zones.

The greay knights and nids each had a landraider crusader with termies of thier own flavor, the grey knights had a couple big bike squads, some scouts, a speeder, a chaplain and dread. The Balck templar player was playing a really big foot slogging squad with the chaplain, and the emporers champion, a small shooty tac squad, a speeder and scout squad.

We scenerio lent it's self to take on each army individually and cross over if need be. We figured we had the upper hand as we were fast thus could lend a hand easier. My plan was hit the big squad with the harlies and shining spears, kill the scouts with the s cannons on the jet bikes, block the doors on the land raider with the seer council and blow it with the fire dragons, then kill the spear the with the falcon.

How it played out. Abhor the witch brought the big squad out, then with some additional shooting, the squad moved up even more. The halies ran through cover unhindered, fleeted and charged the big squad turn one taking out about 10 guys. The jetbikes shot up the scouts. Everything else set up for the big pounce on the land raider. His first turn lurched the landraider forward and he dumped the termies into terrain. with a lucky roll of a six he made it into hth with my shining spears, messed them up and rolled in my flying seer council, which really messed up my plans. But I was committed and sticking with it. The fire dragons killed the land raider, the falcon blasted the speeders, and the harlies killed some more dudes in the big squad and were eventually wiped out.

His turn two wiped out my fire dragons with the remnants of the big foot slogger squad and the termies were still held by the fortuned walrocks.

On the other side of the board the nid's and the gray knights had been exchanging a lot of fire. The ravnegers, flyrant came over to the warlocks to kill the assault termies. The Eldar jetbikes zoomed over to the nid's side of the board and killed the grey knight speeder. The nids engage and eat the bike.

In the last turn I make the final gambit to move, fleet and assault the land raider. On 11 attacks I roll one six and my S9 hit failed to crack the tank, and thus didn;t kill the land raider and the grey knights inside. They get out of the land raider last turn and wipe out the seercouncil.

In the end this resulted in a Massacre in our favor. The falcon snags the deployment zone battle point and we hold 3 quarters to 1 for the other battle points.

Game Notes:

The good roll on the termi charge kept the game fairly close. Anything less than a six would have on that difficult terrain roll resulted in their entire army rolled by the end of turn 3 or 4. That said the seer council saved our ass and was the unit of the match. They basically kept the entire flank of the Eldar line from collapsing. It bought time for the Nids to deal with them on their own terms. Then the seercouncil zoomed across the board and hemmed the landraider in. It almost blew them up, but ultimately kept the grey knight termies busy for awile, allowing the nids to eat the rest of the army. So as a tar pit they completely removed the two big termy squads and thier HQs fromt he game.

Boston Massacre: Game 2 Battle Report

Game 2: - Eldar/Nid's vs K sons & World Eaters

Our opponents brought:

1 dread w/ plasma cannon, 2 squads of 9 k sons in rhinos, 3 squad of berserkers in rhinos, deamon prince, 2 predators with las and autocannons, chosen squad and a tzeentch lord with time warp, and a jump squad.

The mission was a reverse escaltion. Everything that would normally start off the board started on and vice versa. The board was basically a hill and a forest on both sides. I minor structure in the middle, and a forest on the middle right side of the board. So the baord was bassically a shooting gallery.

Our opponent started first and moved everythign forward with the rhinos coming down the middle and the left, the predators held down the right side from the corner wiht the raptors. We we centrally deployed and our plan was to send everything to the right. Deal with the predators and jump packs. Then work our way down the rhinos before they could consolidate thier assault and AP3 shooting. The closest Ksons jumped out and shot up the carnies.

The first turn moving cost us a sniper fex and a jet bike squad. All my jet bikes turbo boosted right to deal with the havoks. Th falcons shot right to tempt the raptor squad to charge and set up a counter charge for the shining spears. The falcon popped the closest berserkers squads rhino, entangling the squad. The farseer killed the sorcerer with mind war and hopped back behind cover.

Turn two brought the Rhinos on the far flank closer to the middle, and the raptors took the bait and bounced off the falcon. The shining spear smashed the raptors and hit and ran, the ripprs pinned down the squad. The jetbikes popped the closest K sons rhino. The fire dragon came onto the board, jumped onto the falcon and bounced 24" toward the predators. The farseer picked of the powerfist from the middle besrerker squad. The nids engaged the K sons.

Our opponents turn had the berserkes charge the nids that had killed off the K sons, and the predators shot unsuccessfully at the falcon.

At this point the nids had finished off one squad of berserkers, and the seer council with the help of some nid shooting shot and charged the middle berseker squad and wiped them out. The fire dragons popped the two predaotrs.

In the last turn of the game the farseer detached from the warlocks. The warlocks turbo boosted to block the doors on the last berserker squad. The farseer then took care of the berserkers with a charge with his singing spear killing them in a final blaze of glory.

Another Massacre in our favor and full battle points.

Game Notes:

The flying seer council was probably the unit of the match again. It popped sniped 2 sorcerers, and a berserker powerfist, killed off some k sons, a couple berserkers, then a whole rhino full of berserkers, when the farseer killed the rhino.

The other notable squad was the fire dragons that killed two preds, and picked up a battle point for holding down the opponents deployment zone.

Boston Massacre: Game 3 Battle Report

Game 3 - Eldar/Nid's vs Iron hands & ultra marines

This games was the big game. A warmonger and a random against 2 of Da Boyz Best generals Doug Lillie + Shaun Kem. Both of which I have tremendous respect for and a long history of close, tough battles.

The mission was cleanse with deepstrike. Each quarter was worth 750 points but could only be held if you had a scoring unit from each army in it.

They had 6 tac squads of about 7 guys each and a lascannon, 3 squads of 2 speeders, 2 predators, a dev squads with 3 hvy bolters, 2 venerable dreads in drop pods, a termi squad, and a command squad.

The board was strange. Their was no terrain, just a lot of walls of different height. All the terrain in the center of the board was short and the walls on the sides were tall.

Our concept was that we wanted to freeze the middle and contain the flanks, but in order to win we need to keep a lot of nids alive. Our final decicion was to keep the nids central to deal with the deepstirkers, use the Eldar to freeze the middle, and contain the flanks by using long range assault units like ravengers and shining spears as a deterrent.

How it played out. We won the roll off and chose second turn. Our first Goal was to destroy the speeders so we had a speed advantage. The sniper fexes, the jet bike s. cannons and falcon brought down a bunch of speeders. In the process, I left the falcon out in the open as a fire magnet. The marines took the bait, did not move any squads and shot all the lascannons at the falcon, which weathered the storm.

Turn 2 A dread came down deep in our deployment zone and swatted some genestealers and caused them to break. The terminators scattered into genestealers and killed themselves which was a huge break for us. The The sniper fex climbed over a wall and assulted the dread and eventually pulled it down.

On the right flank Teh warlocks, shining spears and 2 jetbike squads battle 2 speeders, and a tac squad. This took a while to work itself out but the shining spears eventually charged to bring the unit below scoring. Which forced another tac squad to move into the quadrant to contest and the tank to move in. The below half tac squad locked up the warlocks but the farseer was still free to kille the predator int he last turn to claim that quarter.

On far side of the board turn 3 the other dread dropped in to kill the harlies down enough that they would need to make a leadership test. The game came down to a lot of luck needed for the marines. The harlies would have to fail their check and the immobilized falcon would have to blow up and catch the fire dragons in the radius of the explosion and bring them below half for the game to be close. The marine shad killed more but we held 3 quarters at this points which was a plus 2250 VPs.

In the end the Falcon lived, and the halries passed thier test so playing the mission objectives resulted in a massacre in our direction, and we pulled in all the extra battle points.

Game notes:

The termies scattering to an untimely doom really helped. Other wise my shining spears and seer council would have had to retreat back toward deployment zone to deal with the dread and termies. So would still would have held 2 quarters and and drew on one giving us only a 750 point advantage which would have made it very close to a tie. (I think we probably would have pulled off a minor victory thought).

Our plan really worked well in the end. The nids handled the deepstrikers, the falcon froze the center and the Eldar pushed back the right flank. The halries and the ravengers were enough of a deterrent to force the left flank to retreat without even the need for hth.

In the end I really think it was tactics that won the game. I think if they had marched guys toward the corners their would not have been much we could have done to contest them with the tiem given to us. Plus being a little more conservative on the deepstrike and keeping the speeders alive would have screwed us and force our hand. Their over aggressive play play with some unit and under aggressive play with other units was their down fall. With the terrain given us, this mission was really anybodies game.

Unit of the match probably goes to the Sniper fex that popped some speeders and trashed the dread in hth. And on my side I would hav eto go with the seercouncil again. They sucked up fire power, helped pin the middle, then did a lot to collapse the right flank, but the farseer killed a pred to drop begin the quarter into our favor and mind warred a marine that was really close to straddling the middle line in the last turn.

Overall, the most most game of the tourny, although the second game probably worried me the most.

Chaos Daemon Squad Sizes: Mathmatical Maximums

With the new chaos space marine codex release, demons were neutered. Most players simply feel they are not even worth taking. I totally disagree. They are a super cheap and fearless. They hit like a assault marine, and have a 5+ I save.

Most importantly they summon. Summoning works like deepstriking near a teleport homer but you get to assault "if you can". The trick to using daemons is putting them in situations where they can assault the turn they come in. Bikes, terminators, personal icons, and rhinos can all really help you deliver the daemon to the fight. Also it should be mentioned, in 4th ed daemons are risk to take because of escalation. Thus you have to rely on infiltrators which eats up points and hurts you in an alpha. 5 edition kills escalation and completely empowers the daemon.

So to kick off the new demon bomb I started thinking about what are the best size units are now that there is no god flavoring.

So without further adieu: Circumference = 2 Pi X R

- Squads of Five give you the max number of scoring units but are easy to kill.

Beyond that with deepstrike you get one full ring around the center model at 7 models, so 8 would be a good squad size as it gives you an extra inch on the charge, and you get the boon of needing to lose 5 guys to fall below 50%.

To get an additional inch you need to bump the squad up to 19... So you might as well go with twenty.

How to Apply Decals

Decals. Well call me old school but I've always tried to free hand my unit markings and such. Decals always felt like cheating and I though tmy painting score would be reduced at tournies. For me decals were always something I used as a kid on model airplanes and such. They looked crappy and always took away from the paint job. I eventually found out that was because I sucked at putting on stenciles.

I recently took up building a Imperial guard force. I decided a lot of character can come out of perfect military writing and symbols. In the past I have alway done things like buy molded shoulder pad for marines or sculpt and re cast them myself. Or stuck to fairly straight forward markings. I've even been known to use stamps or cut my own stenciles for airbrushing. With guard I have rediscovered decals and they can really look good when used correctly.

So after much research trial and error, I give you my decal proceedures to add professional level decals to your models.

Professionally Level Decal Procedures:

1. I always put down a thin gloss coat layer where the decal is going to sit. ( I really like GW 'Ard coat)
2. Decal Solvent is great but you really only have 20 seconds at the most to work with it. You can add about 25% water if you have shaky hands and need a little more time.
3. I usually use cross locking tweezers to hold the back paper. I cut out the decal with scissors but leave a tail to attach the tweezer to the backing, then use the an exacto knife to score the decal so it will slide of the backing, but the backing will still stay in the tweekers.
3. I uses a pencil eraser to move the decal of the backing. It tends to be the only thing I found that won;t stick mark, scratch etc the decal, Sometimes I cut the eraser on the back of a pencil to a little more of a point.
4. Obvious point be use a lot of light, and a clean area... Also was the container you have the solvent in before using it!!! dust is your biggest enemy!!! Also wash your hands. Oil from your fingers can mark decals and can also screw up the solvent and the area you are trying to apply the decal.
5. Use the solvaset or warm water to wet the area on the model (with a paint brush) before you put the wet decal on on it. Makes a big difference when adjusting the decal.
6. Make sure the down side is the side that was on the backing. Both sides of the decal are not the same!!!
7. Put the decal in the warm water for about 30 seconds. This shoudl be enough time to slide it off. If not long enough throw it in for another 10 seconds.
8. Use a paint bush or your pencil to slide the decal off. NEVER YOU FINGERS
9. Use a paint brush to push air bubbles out from under neath out the edges of the decal.
10. Once positioned and air bubbles are removed, sparingly pain the decal remover on top. Make sure you cover the whole decal and edges.
11. Sometimes the decal solvent will make the decal look like it wrinkling. They will usually dry flat. That said if you do start seeing wrinkles a half drop of warm water and a paint brush can straighten out.
12. If the decal dries and you have an air bubble, pop the bubble with a pin, then hit the decal with decal solvent again. It should take care of it.
13. Finish it with a gloss coat. If don't want a glossy finish hit the model with a dull coat (I really like testors dull coat)

That's about as comprehensive as I could make it. I used to use a lot of decals when I was younger with model air planes and I you can really get decals to looks as good as painting (assuming good quality decals).

One note of caution, I never liked red decals, they tend not to work well on a dark backing and for some reason they usually fade to a dark pink. It annoyed me to the point that I started painting the red parts over with red paint...

Monday, March 10, 2008

My Credentials...

As this site is going to be dedicated mostly to how to win Warhammer 40k Tournaments, I thought a list of my credentials might be warranted. Everyone on the internet has advice, but a lot of time you don't know if the advice is crap. Now I realize this comes off as fairly little braggart but I am honestly including every Grand Tournament, Indy GT and Official Rogue Trader Tournament that I have played in since December 2004 starting with my first Games Workshop GT. Yes. You can see I got my ass handed to me at Adepticon Galdiator last year :)

That said, I am not a power gamer. I tend to out general my opponents, with finesse lists. My lists tend to be fairly unorthodox and based on speed, resilience and short ranged firepower.

40K - Official Rogue Trader or Bigger since 2005 (Not Including Warmonger Tournaments)

Best General – Eldar - Boston Massacre Team Tournament – 2008 *

Best General – Chaos Space marines - Assault Phase – 2007

2nd Overall – Manhattan 1st circuit – Armored Company - ‘Ard Boyz - 2007

17th Overall – Eldar- Necronomicon – 2007

Best Hybrid Team – Warmongers Chaos – Adepticon National Team Tourney 2007

27th Overall – Eldar – Adepticon 40k Championship 2007

81st Overall – Eldar – Adepticon Gladiator 2007

Best Overall – Chaos Space Marines – NEWCC - 2006

Best Team – Warmongers – NEWCC - 2006

Best Overall – Sisters of Battle – Rogue Trader ToyWiz - 2006

Best Overall – Chaos Space Marines – Rogue Trader Cherry Hill Mall - 2006

Best Overall – Chaos Space Marines - Necronomicon – 2006

Player’s choice runner up – Chaos Space Marines - Necronomicon – 2006

Best General – Death Guard – Baltimore GT – 2005

Best General Runner Up – Death Guard - Boston GT – 2004

* Self Awarded. Bastards, didn't have a Best general award, but I'm taking it anyway.

Classic Formations

In the bleak world of Warhammer 40,000 deployment can make or break a battle. With all the special deployment in 4th ed, understanding classic formations is even more important as it builds the conceptual spine for your approach to battle.

Understanding classic formations and common variations is the first step to becoming a competent general.

This article is introduces some of the classic formations and common variations. There's no need to memorize them - they won't look exactly like that on the field - just try to understand the key features and what makes these formations work.

This article was written in collaboration with the QUATZEMELAN web site, a brilliant site dedicated to Warhammer fantasy lizardmen and general tactics:

Balance Line

The Balanced Line is an old workhorse that has been around for centuries. The reason why it has withstood the test of time is that it offers flexibility and is based on sound basic principles that haven't changed. It's greatest strength is it's ability to react to any situation.

Classic Balanced Line. This setup has all the features of a Balanced Line. This is a more offensive setup, as it allows the infantry to advance freely.

Static Balanced Line. The embedded artillery and shooters leave little room for movement. This is primarily a defensive setup.

Strengths The advantage of this formation is flexibility. With the slower units in the centre and faster ones on the flank, the army is able to react to enemy deployment by swinging to either side as required. This is an adaptable formation, allowing for many variations to be played.

Weaknesses It may be successfully broken by some other formations, but has no critical weaknesses in itself. Balanced lines are especially susceptible to formations with concentrations of power. Because they are spread thin to cover the whole board equally, it can be easy for an opponent to set up a situation of localized superiority.


Cannae Tactic. At Cannae, Hannibal's Carthaginians engaged the Roman cavalry on the flanks while their centre fell back steadily before the elite Roman legionaries, who were inexorably drawn forward into the trap formed by the lighter Carthaginian units on the flank, who remained stationary. When the Roman cavalry broke, the Carthaginian cavalry swung around and closed the trap. The Roman legions were hemmed in from all sides and slaughtered. The massacre drove the Roman army to the brink of defeat.

The same tactic can be used against an opponent trying to Drive a Wedge, our main units falling back in the face of his strong centre while our support units advance to outflank his centre.

Pincer Movement. Basically using faster harder hitting units on both wings while the infantry line advances to engage his.

Swing Right. When faced with a Weighted Flank, the Balanced Line is flexible enough to swing across to meet the threat. This is also known as a hammer & anvil.

Ilipa Outflank. A variation of Scipio Africanus' outrageous tactic against Hasdrubal, brother of Hannibal. The line suddenly splits into two halves, which advance against the enemy wings. In the actual battle, Scipio also had units in the centre to pin the stronger enemy centre while his own stronger troops were hammering the weaker enemy units on the flank. His victory broke the Carthagian power in Spain.

You can use this offensively, as shown, or defensively, forming a V shape with our infantry line, facing inwards. Units advancing down the middle can be catch in the middle of a fire fight or engaged from both sides with multiple units.

The Balanced Line is a steady formation that is very useful to beginners and veterans alike. It allows response to a wide variety of enemy formations and has no critical weakpoints. It is good for when you're unsure how the enemy is going to come at you, especially during scenarios with hidden deployment or multiple objectives. 4th ed 40k tends to force armies into this formation to deal with many of the missions and plethora of special deployments.

Strong Centers

Armies containing a steamroller or sledgehammer unit like to deploy said unit in a position whereby it is able to see most combat and exert maximum influence. And what better place than right in the centre of the army? Classic strong center units are units like a squad of 4 termies, and a termi chaplain in a Landraider. This squad will pretty much eat anything in the game, but tends to be a serious point expenditure so you want it in the thick of the action. Strong center units do not always need to be hth though. They can also be groups of units like 2 demolishers driving up the middle or with chaos, a unit of bikes turbo boosting into your opponents deployment zone and summoning in a bunch of daemons, aka Deamon Bomb.

A souped-up unit, variously known as a steamroller or sledgehammer tends to cost a lot of points, so a player would naturally have big plans for it. This usually involves being in the forefront of the assault, leading the rest of the army in breaking through the enemy lines. The best place for this is usually in the centre of the line, which leads to the Strong Centre formations.

Strong Centre. The cream of the units are in the middle, the weaker ones play a supporting role from the wings.

Drive a Wedge. The classic attack, breaking through the centre and then turning to roll the line in either direction.

The strong center formation maximizes the potential of your expensive units by placing them where the enemy is least able to avoid confronting them. The spearhead need not be in the exact middle of your line, indeed, it is more commonly slightly off-centre. If timed well the Spear head rolls over much of the army as your opponent is helpless to react to your charge. This form of attack can lead to spectacular victories or disastrous slaughters. Once the enemy centre collapses, he will always be facing an uphill task to hold his army together.

The Empty Centre deployment or Cannae tactic can be employed successfully to counter the central advance. Or if the enemy has strong units (or tarpits) holding his centre (or Lady Luck turns her back on you), you may not achieve the fast breakthrough required, and your spearhead runs the risk of being trapped in and pinched off leaving your supporting units out matched on the flanks and left to die a less than glorious death.

There are not many variations for this formation. It's usually a straightforward frontal assault. You may sometimes decide to vary your choice of which part of the enemy line to target, but beyond that the basic concept is CHARGE!!!! or blood for the blood God etc…

Off-centre Attack. Same principle as Drive a Wedge, but with the spearhead pointed at a slanted angle to catch a weak point in the enemy line.

Held! The Spearhead fails to penetrate and is stranded in no man's land as the rest of the enemy army advance to cut off the supporting units.

The strong center is a simple formation that doesn't require much tactical genius, yet brutally effective. In 3rd ed, the strong centers was the bread and butter of the rhino rush army. In 4th ed, a strong center formation is still a very viable option but is much less effective due to dumbed down vehicle rules and an increase in special movements. A strong center attack does you no good if they teleport in behind your Spearhead and pin you down.

Reinforced Line

The reinforced line consists of two layers of units staggered to allow the back units to freely reinforce the front units. Reinforced lines tend to used with very balanced lists, but this in not always the case.

Reinforced lines are usually designed with two types of unit that compliment each others weaknesses. In most situations you have a lock and a pop unit. Usually the forward units are the lock units. They tie up any incoming units and the pop units (also known as a counter assault units) come in to destroy the units that are locked up. As good example of this list is a hth heavy Imperial guard list that uses shooty infantry units up front to bait units charge them in hth then charges in with units of rough riders, ogryn, arcoflaggelants etc to clean up the locked up unit.

Similar tactics can be employed with armies like Eldar with guardian squads and howling banshees. This would be an example of a defensive reinforced line which uses shooting to force engagement.

The strength to this formation is that it uses very specialized units to work together in tandem to take down units that they could never handle on there own. In essence, the two units combined are stronger than the two units of their own. It also allows you to set up situations where you know certain unit will excel. This is a key point if you play a specialized list like a Beil-Tann list. Aspect warriors an unstoppable in the situation they were designed for, but tend to flounder and die horrible deaths if caught in a bad situation.

This formations weakness lies in the fact that the two different types of unit have to compliment each other. If your opponent can kill off most of the lock or most of the pop units. The left over units tend to be too specialized to survive on there own.

The previous example was for an army on the defensive with shooty units up front anchored by counter assault units behind. One varitition is what you see with horde armies like Tyrannids. Fast lock units like hormaguants run a head to tie up units, only to be followed by a second wave of pop units like carnifex, hive tyrants and warriors.

Another variation is what you see with balanced space marine armies. The lock units are actually deployed in the rear and consist of units like devastator squads and other shooty units. They lock down opponent in area of terrain by taking away movement lanes allowing mobile pop units like assault marines, dreadnoughts etc to engage units in hth.

The reinforced line is similar in use to the balanced line but tends to be composed of units pushed to either side of the spectrum of shooty to hth. Really the important take away is the concept of deploying troops to set up intentional counter assault. It is an important concept in 40K as it allows you to dictate your opponent's movement.

Oblique Line

Also known as Echelon or Checkerboard deployment, the Oblique Line features units deployed behind and to the side of one another, forming a diagonal line. This diagonal line forms the basis of a few variations versatile enough for attack and defense.

The Oblique Line works on the basis of infantry units supporting each other, very much akin to the "pawn chain" seen in chess games. At first glance, the diagonal line of infantry units appears to have plenty of blind spots where the enemy can attack but, as we shall see later, there are ways for another supporting unit to counter-attack the aggressor. Therefore, it works best with a line of cheaper basic r-n-f units. The placement of one unit relative to a leading unit is such that it is far enough to the side that if the first unit gets broken, the pursuit would not clip the edge of this next unit. At the same time, this unit should not be so far that he cannot perform a supporting charge on enemies engaged with the first unit. The oblique line allows you to move forward and still maintain your counter assault options.

This chain of units can also be used as a "human shield" against enemy shooting. The reasoning behind this is that the diagonal line divides the enemy firepower (assuming it is evenly spaced out along the entire front), and placing our own firebase on either side allows us to pit our entire firepower against a portion of the enemy's.

Sicilian Dragon. The firebase on the "outside" (or "strong-side") of the diagonal line. Derived from a chess opening of the same name. This makes it difficult for enemies to advance on the firebase, having to run the gauntlet of covering units.

Meat Shield. Similar formation, but with the firebase now on the "inside" (or "weak-side") of the diagonal. The firebase can now work on shooting enemies advancing down the weak-side, while the rest of the army advances to contact the enemy.

Note that in these diagrams, there is always a fast heavy hitting unit "inside" the line. This unit functions as a "Lock" for the infantry "chain", and is a vital part of the defense. This unit is the heavy protection unit that keeps the hinge alive, and can also act as the counter assault unit. It's generally deployed behind the chain so the chain does not ever have to turn around.

The diagonal line is able to put up a robust response to a variety of opponent strategies to break the chain. The concentration of centrally located mobs denies the center of the board while the fire base whittles down the opponent. Any attempt to break the chain results in a heavy counter assault. This formation is especially useful for taking objectives, as it is mobile, protects the fire base and can easily support a battle for a central point.

The major weakness is if your opponent has unit strong enough to roll your line. They could potentially massacre one squad after another as it eats it's way down you army. Also, if the enemy manages to push a few units "inside" the line, stronger than the Lock can handle, part of the line must turn inwards to provide support.

Mechanized armies can deploy in oblique lines with much success. It allows them to maintain better firing arms than lines abreast, and it funnels opponents into massed fire power. Lines abreast are very vulnerable to flanking and pincer attacks and deal very poorly if flanked. A mechanized in an oblique line cannot be flanked as they can always make a 90 degree turn to cover the flank and rear.

The Oblique Line is a very usable and interesting formation to add to one's arsenal, especially if one fields a balanced army and likes tactical fireworks. It works well with all hth, counter assault and shooting tactics and allows you to mix and match tactical situations.

Weighted Flank

The Weighted Flank group of tactics is the anti-thesis of the standard formations of old, exchanging the traditional symmetry and central infantry lines for a localized concentration of force on one flank. In my experience the weighted flank is THE way to defeat horde armies. Especially if you have a faster force that is hth driven.

The Weighted Flank formations involve heavily beefing up one flank (the Strong Flank) with the bulk/cream of one's troops in order to create overwhelming local superiority and achieve a collapse of that flank. The other flank, known as the Refused Flank, may be left totally empty or, as is more advisable, held by light troops whose objective is to slow the enemy down and prevent them from assisting their comrades. It is considered a Weak Flank if the line stretches into it, but the units in this part of the line would be considerably weaker than those on the Strong Flank.

The Classical Weighted Flank.
An asymmetrical array of units with the preponderance of strong units on one wing.

On occasion, formations weighing both flanks ("Empty Centre") may be seen. When used defensively, it becomes a hedgehog or fortress formation, which will be covered shortly.

It is most useful against horde armies, or those who are similarly spread out and vulnerable to a focused application of pressure. By concentrating our forces on one flank, we are creating a situation where that flank becomes isolated from the rest of the enemy army, which has to spend a few turns coming to their aid, and is beaten piecemeal. In theory, we are trying to hit half the enemy army with our whole army (sans the units holding up his other half), overrun them, and then turn around to meet the other half, again with our full army. Most of the time, however, if the opponent has deployed well and kept his units united, then he can wheel his army to meet ours fairly comfortably. It is the horde armies whose lines stretch from one end of the table to the other that will have problems reacting to the Weighted Flank attack. Speed is also a large factor with this tactic. The more of a speed advantage you have, the more you can trick your opponent to spread there line across the board. With speed you can quickly refuse a flank and add more concentrated power to one flank. A force like Eldar can literally deploy flush across the board and redeploy in one turn.

Locally, we take turns to deploy one unit each until the entire army is deployed. So having fewer units is a big disadvantage as you have to reveal your main force before the opponent places his. This formation helps mitigate this somewhat by keeping our army together not spread out and vulnerable to the enemy's own concentrations of force. The caveat here is that the enemy does not have overwhelming superiority in ranged attacks, in which case it can quickly turn into a disaster.

Refused Flank formations are also useful tools against guerilla armies, as it denies them the chance to prey on stragglers. Keeping together, it is harder for the enemy units to gather enough force to stop a full out charge, as there tends to be to many units to deal with at once.

A Weighted Flank formation is also one way to tackle a Breakthrough scenario, creating a localized break in the enemy line to shepherd the units through for the touchdown. However, this runs the risk of being totally held up if the lead units run into tarpits.

Empty Centre. Lure the enemy down the weak centre, then crush him in the vise formed by the two strong flanks.

Frontal Assault. A direct attack by the Weighted Flank, while the Refused Flank carries out a holding action.

As mentioned above, if the enemy has ranged superiority and digs in on the other flank (ie. opposite our refused flank), then we have just dramatically increased the distance our troops have to march under fire to reach him, which can only mean higher casualties and poorer prospects for victory. If the opponent has deployed his units well, the Weighted Flank formation may not confer much of an advantage. Worse, if the opponent has the first move and is able to advance aggressively, or if our own assault breaks down, we might find our entire army hemmed in and under attack from two directions.

Catastrophe. The enemy castles into the opposite flank. Blue army faces a long march to the enemy lines.

Counter-assault! The opponent meets the Weighted Flank attack with aggressive advance of his own.

Besides the frontal assault, an army with speedy units may attempt the Sweep Left/Right, especially if the enemy has guessed our deployment and our Weighted Flank faces a morass of infantry units that doesn't look like they can be broken through easily. If pulled off successfully, we would have diverted our attack onto the other flank, while the enemy units which were placed to hold our Weighted Flank struggle to catch up. However, do not make the mistake of attempting the Sweep when the ipsilateral flank (the flank directly opposite) contains enemy fast units, as they can catch you with a CounterSweep.

Sweep Left. Catching the enemy by surprise with a diagonal attack on the other flank instead.

Counter-Sweep. The Sweep is fraught with danger. Blue makes an inappropriate Sweep and is caught out.

Alongside the Balanced Line, this is one of my most used formations. It may not be as flexible, but offers fairly safe deployment and a chance of quick and painless victory against careless opponents. Although it should be noted that I tend to play small elite armies, not hordes.


Hedgehog formations are used by shooty armies to defeat the balanced line, or horde army. Hedgehog formations tend to be tightly packed fire bases packed in a corner or an easily defendable position on the side of a board.

Hedgehog strategies are usually are used with shooty armies, but can also be used by hth armies that are expecting to go up against a maxed out drop pod assault army. The concept is to create a localized fire base in a corner and remove any speed superiority the enemy may have and create a concentrated point of fire power. It also forces any units deployed on a far flank to move a much further distance to mount an assault, allowing the shooty army to divide the army up by shooting the closest unit first and further away units on subsequent turns. A good tactic with this formation is to deploy satellite speed bump units. These units can be fed to the enemy to further stagger his approach, giving you more time to pick your opponent apart piecemeal.

The strength of the hedgehog lies in its ability to deny the other army any localized superiority in shooting or hth. The game is played on the shooty armies' terms. Deployment is very important with this formation. If you deploy second you can at least negate one heavy as you can deploy everything in the far corner. It tends to be a tough formation to pull off without tipping your hat too early.

The hedgehog tends to be an all eggs-in-one-basket play. You are betting that you will damage the other army enough that you can handle anything that makes it to hth. If you don't do enough damage, the first combat kills your line of sight, and you're done. Other weaknesses include being packed together and vulnerable to ordinance, as well as being ill-prepared to win a mission with an objective other than wiping out your opponent.

The most common variation is the castle formation, otherwise known as the empty center formation. This formation in it's most basic for is a hedgehog in either corner. This forces an enemy to either divide there force to kill each hedgehog or mass to one side. If they mass to one side they will likely kill off half your army after taking serious casualties, they have to go all the way to the far corner to get the other half of the armies, taking casualties along the way. This formation works especially well with two pieces of indirect ordinance that can cover each other from across the board and denying your opponent the choice to kill one side and hide.

I find hedgehogs are the answer to horde armies for shooting armies. It gives shooty armies the ability to divide and conquer, and it is easy to set up the formation as a horde army usually starts running out of space in its deployment zone.

The castle formation tends to work better against elite armies as they don't have as many models/units. The castle can be mobbed by a horde as the distance of separation breaks down, because horde armies tend to be spread across the entire board. Against Elite armies they need to stay closely packed to support each other to gain localized superiority. Deploying two pieces of an elite army at each corner is an easy way to hand your opponent the game.