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 Post subject: Deployment and Terrain
PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 12:26 am 
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Now that we all fight under one banner, I hope you will permit me to introduce myself. I have lurked here for many years and, while many other forums too-often prescribe to a system of item combinations and rules-trickery to gain an advantage, I find ulthuan.net unique in that actual strategy and tactics are often discussed. I have learned more in your forums than I dare say I have learned in all the others combined. Many of you have had wonderful insights over the years but I will take this moment to tip my hat to Seredain, Curu Olannon, Spellarcher, the Swordmaster of Hoeth, and many others of you. I have drawn a great deal of inspiration from here! Deployment is something I've focused on in the past and I've benefited from a modest improvement in my game play because of it. As a chance to contribute and give back, here are some of my thoughts...


The deployment phase is one of the most important, if not THE most important phases of the game. We’ve all experienced the moment when you’ve looked at your army and you opponent’s army and thought “I’m going to lose this one” or “I’m going to win this one”. The question is 'what makes a successful deployment phase' and 'how do you maximize your own advantages while minimizing your disadvantages'. While at the same time you want to minimize your opponent’s advantages and maximize his disadvantages. This is a topic that deserves much more thought than can expressed in an internet forum but I will try and cover some of the basic ideas and provide a few examples along the way.

The Deployment Phase and Terrain
A big factor of how the battle is going to play out depends upon the landscape of the board. As each piece of territory is generated, it is worth considering how the piece can affect each army. If you think it is beneficial, you want it on your side. If you think it is detrimental, you want it on your opponent’s side. Correspondingly if a piece of terrain is especially advantageous to your opponent, you should deploy it away from him or to deny him the advantage. Statistically speaking, when it comes to picking sides, unless there is an obvious advantage or disadvantage to one side or the other, the player who gets to choose sides will more often than not pick the side they are standing on or the side their army box is on. Perhaps it is a gesture of being nice to an opponent or just plain laziness but they’ll usually not pick the opposing side to make an opponent move all his gear or move his own. Knowing that, you should have a decent idea of what side you’re playing on and can place terrain accordingly.

When placing a piece of terrain you know you want to control, make sure you can reach it by the end of turn 1. Between Scouts, vanguard movement, and a myriad of other hazards, beyond turn 1 a lot of unexpected things can happen. By having the unit of your choice controlling a piece of terrain, you’re giving an advantage (minor or more significant) to your unit and bringing the fight to that spot on the board. Whether it’s an Alter of Khaine giving your units Frenzy or a defended wall, your troops are now more effective or better protected than they would otherwise be. And if the terrain is something that has an area effect, on the following turn you can position you unit to ensure your unit is within its range of effect while hopefully the enemy isn’t. Being able to see these kinds of advantages during deployment will help you capitalize on the strengths of your army or help eliminate a weakness. Your job during deployment is to ensure the terrain will help your units do what they do, just let them do it better.

There are always going to be pieces of terrain you don’t want on your battlefield. When a Sigmarite Shrine is rolled and your facing an Empire army, you know your opponent will want to cluster his army around it. Dwarves will want a hill for their war machines. Wood Elves love to see forests all over the board. Place these pieces of terrain off to the extreme sides or in the rear corner of a deployment zone. Or cluster a bunch of bad terrain choices together to make a part of the battlefield so undesirable that no one will want to deploy there. Rivers, a settlement, swamps, things like that are avoided by most players and in doing so, you not only can isolate something you’d prefer to avoid while also reducing the area where your opponent is likely to deploy. Deploying terrain essentially defines how an army deploys so controlling one often means you are controlling the other.

Of course there will come a time when a piece of terrain shows up in your deployment zone that you really don’t want to deal with. A swamp in the middle of your deployment zone forcing you to break up your army, an Anvil of Vaul when you’re facing High Elves, and so on. As you deploy your units you have two choices – deploy away from the terrain or deploy your fast units around it so that they can get away from it as fast as possible. If you don’t have troops near something, it won’t affect you. You may find yourself retreating towards it as the game goes but at least you’ve done your best to avoid it and not let it interfere with your battle plans. Of course if you win the dice roll, you can always choose the other side as well!

I have two last things I like to consider when I place terrain for my army; my movement speed versus my opponent and how much shooting I expect my opponent to have. If my army contains relatively fast units, knights or flying characters for example, I want to break the field up in some way to give my opponent a way to think he is anchoring his flank while I plan on moving my fast units around something and into his flank/rear. Other than big, ranked up units there aren’t a lot of things that will withstand a charge by our elite troops so once your fast moving troops have cleared a path into your enemy’s rear, he has almost lost. No unit in Warhammer wants to take one of our units in the rear while especially while we’re hitting them from the front as well! Conversely if my opponent has a great deal of speed, I want to use the terrain to slow him down. If the fight is coming to you, deploy channels of terrain to funnel his troops so that you can try and take them on a piece at a time. Break up his forces so you can concentrate on one unit and then another. Imagine trying to force him to engage your cheap, throw-away units in out of the way areas or have to pass through difficult terrain to get to you.
If your opponent is one of those players who loves to shoot at you, fill the middle of the board with buildings, forests, boulders, and anything else that will block his line of sight. If his units are forced to shoot at a penalty, or better, you’re choosing what units he is shooting at, you are winning the shooting war even if you left your RBTs at home. Every turn an enemy War Machine isn’t shooting at one of your expensive models or units, that machine is not earning its points and might even blow up along the way. Moving units around the terrain may be irritating but it is usually a lot less painful than one of your units getting hit with a template.

My last word on terrain – never worry about fleeing through Dangerous Terrain except perhaps with a unit of knights (because they WILL roll all 1’s for their tests…). A unit of 20 models will statistically lose 3. With a bad roll you may lose 6. You’ve not only saved your unit but you’ve probably left your opponent’s unit out of place. And you’ve denied your opponent the victory points he would have received had you actually fought the combat. I find my opponents will rarely try and willingly charge their own units through Dangerous Terrain but statistically it is hardly “dangerous” terrain. With that in mind, consider how to deploy your baiting units (Eagles, cheap chaff, etc) to lead your opponents units astray and near these hazards. Seeing the value in terrain will give you a significant advantage and can swing games either way depending on how it is used.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 10:21 am 
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Great first post! Welcome to the forum. I hope we have more lurkers like you ;)

I agree that it's often a forgotten phase of the game. Terrain dictates much of what happens in game. And often the approach is just to put something down. Do you play with a lot of mysterious terrain? Or mainly just regular hills/forests and so on?

One thing I would also consider when placing terrain is how you want your army to approach your opponent. What is your general battleplan. And how much room do you need for certain units or tactics. For instance, if you are going with a refused flank strategy then it can pay off to try and place a piece of impassible terrain in the middle of the battlefield, which would effectively split up a horde army, allowing you to fight half the army at a time.

On the other hand, if you're running a big block or horde, then it can pay off to have some open (or at least passable) spaces. Or perhaps you want some decent firing lanes for your RBT.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 1:26 pm 
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Welcome phierlihy and thanks.

As I am only able to play tournaments, terrain is usually pre-set. But playing Wood Elves there is always the question of the free wood. First issue, what type do you choose? Venom Thicket is popular because it forces DT checks on the enemy but if you have Rangers, making those enemy cause Fear leaves Abyssal Wood an attractive choice.

Then where do you put it? If you plan on attacking, just short of the centre is attractive. You might want to grab it with Eternal Guard as ASF Poison is excellent, not to mention the value of Stubborn in a wood. Then you can rotate your other units around the EG-held wood.

If holding back it can be good in your deployment zone, both to give cover and the +1 to cast spells. With Moonstone it gets very interesting. If you have two other woods say, it can pay to try to place your own to ensure flexibility about which table sectors to teleport into.

Spells like Curse of Anraheir and Awakening of the Wood also need to be considered. Not to mention Treesinging. Often overlooked but there are tricks like inflicting 2d6 S4 on a unit in combat to watch out for.

Don't get me started about the Acorns...

:)

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 3:53 pm 
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I do need to write a a second piece to accompany my Deployment and Terrain thoughts regarding deployment and your opponent. I believe how your opponent deploys carries a heavier weight regarding your own deployment than taking advantage of terrain often will however so far I've not yet been able to write a cogent article. The topic is so vast I've found myself spiraling into endless tangents each time I've tried. I do keep trying though!

I play generally using scenarios and terrain out of the book unless I'm playing in our local league in which case we use custom terrain charts for where the battle takes place - Khemri, Chaos Wastes, Lustria, etc. But still there is plenty of magical terrain on the table. We do scatter each piece for a bit of randomness. I've seen folks just place terrain but all too often the boards all look the same or you get the guy who deploys his cannon inside a *lava donut* so I prefer rolling for it.

Wood Elves and woods are a topic unto themselves. And that woods has two basic potential functions - assist your units (provide +1 to cast, give Fear to your units, etc) or as a teleport location for the Moonstone of Hidden Ways. In theory I prefer the Moonstone as a way to protect anyone from getting too close to my bunker but each are valid uses of the wood. I'd rather save 500ish victory points and frustrate my opponent by teleporting away than having poisoned attacks but there are some especially canny Generals out there who can make astounding use of some of those abilities. It really depends on your army build on how to make best use of that wood.

I don't believe the Acorn of Ages is worth 100 points in 8th edition as the benefits and penalties associated with forests are fairly minor. Depending on how forests and charge distances function in 9th edition, this item has the potential to be game changing.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 4:41 pm 
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Nice article! A great way to get started on Ulthuan! I'm also writing a deployment piece as we speak - we should combine some of our ideas maybe and add it to the tactics forum.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 5:49 pm 
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What a great first post! Welcome to Ulthuan :)

Seeing as I never play generate terrain by the book and very rarely play mystical terrain, this is a particularly interesting read.

I am curious though, do you envision this expanding into discussing evaluating a specific board - be it randomly generated or set as per arbitrary rules - in the light of terrain? I have done this to some extent previously (see the Dwarf case study in the powerplay article for example) and the more I do of this, the more interested I become in exploring this further. You have obviously thought a great deal about this so I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter. In my experience, most lists have certain pre-configured templates that they'd like to adapt from in any giving game. The most obvious example is a bowline where you want to castle up in a corner, but I also find that combined arms and hyper-aggressive armies have certain patterns they enjoy more than others. What's interesting about this is that regardless of whether the terrain is generated or set, you can evaluate the board prior to deployment (and choosing sides) and make an educated guess on what's good for you, what's bad, what's flat-out unplayable and what's autowin.

As I mentioned in another topic recently I think there is far too little emphasis on deployment. In terms of tactical discussions, analysis and awareness it seems to be an often forgotten part of the game, at least it doesn't get the attention I feel it deserves. Your thread here is an excellent point to start digging further into this and I thank you for your contribution!

John, will we be seeing a draft of your deployment article any time in the near future?

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 7:13 pm 
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Curu Olannon wrote:
John, will we be seeing a draft of your deployment article any time in the near future?

I hope so! At the moment its on the 'to be completed' list along with a few other higher priority items (my PhD thesis being the big one). I'm hoping to work on it next week, maybe Sunday if I get a bit more done on my thesis before then.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 7:35 pm 
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I feel the Moonstone is more important for a foot character. It still makes sense mounted but it's less critical. So following that logic, the aggressive placing of the wood might make more sense if you don't need it as a teleport station, so much.

Acorns, interesting. They cost you all the magic item 'slots' of one lvl4, which limits your options on the other characters. But if you intend to fight much, use Moonstone, Stave etc. they're worth a look I feel. Where you actually put them down could be a complex issue.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2015 5:07 am 
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Hi phierlihy,

First of all, thanks a lot for very kind words. It is a great honor to know that my contribution to this forum is considered valuable.

It is interesting to note that this very interesting but difficult topic is at the same discussed by our cousins in Athel Loren:

http://asrai.org/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=28312

You touched upon very important aspect of the game, that is terrain placement, as it directly affect the deployment. It actually looks like a separate sub-phase. I admit I don't have experience with it as the tournaments I attended and casual games I had usually use pre-set terrain. It is often mysterious terrain too, that adds another dimension to the game as you enter the battle without knowing what particular forest can contain. Because of that players sometimes dedicate one unit to scout the terrain first so that the player knows what kind of danger lies ahead.

For those who play on UB this terrain generator might be useful:

http://ubmaps.wix.com/ubmaps

I think we can distinguish three general ways of setting up the terrain that will affect the deployment in their unique way.

1. Terrain placed by players - that is the way you have just described but might not be practiced by many players. It may add little more time to do so but definitely adds new dimension to the game.

2. Terrain randomly pre-set - this includes any other instance when you don't know what terrain is going to look like and you have to assess it just before the game. It can be randomly generated by players (like choosing the map on UB) or by tournament organizers for example.

3. Terrain pre-set and known - ETC style tournaments are probably the best examples here. You know beforehand what kind of terrain you can encounter as the maps are already prepared and known. So even if you don't know on which table you might play, the fact that the number of options is finite and known allows you to plan ahead before you start the game.

In terms of factors affecting deployment I would be interested on your point of view on the following:

1. Scenarios

They are obviously an important factor. Some of them may affect army list building more than the deployment. Blood and Glory comes to mind as an example. On the other hand, even in that scenario, you might deploy your standard bearing units in a more safe position than usual just to protect your fortitude points.

I am aware there are many options here, as scenarios are varied and even the ones from the book can be modified etc.

2. Going first or second

Some armies have low unit count, some are the opposite. You cannot guarantee if you go first or second but +1 to roll-off is an important factor tipping the odds of winning first turn to the player with lower unit count. How do you take that into account when deploying? Some scenarios also affect the chances to go first so that can probably be addressed in point one but the subject overlaps both factors.

3. Order of deployment

Do you have fixed order of deployment or does it depend on something? HE often start with great eagles and fast cavalry to see where the enemy goes and then position their main regiments. Of course that all depends on relative number of regiments too. If you, as HE player, happen to have fewer regiments, does it affect the deployment order at all?

4. Formation

Does your army arrive to battle in the same, generic formation that may slightly vary due to terrain, enemy army, scenario? Or do you improvise just before the game due to these factors?

5. Character placement

Personally, I find it very important too. General's and BSB's presence is very important as they boost the leadership of the troops and allow these very important re-rolls. Of course, if you have compact army it might be of a small issue. Or if you have a dedicated bunker unit. But if you have more regiments it might be different story.

I think you answered the first question with your second one. It is a general answer but still a good one. If you can deploy in the way that maximizes your own advantages and minimizes your disadvantages then it is a good deployment. How to do it though is a much more complex task. I have found out that trying to discuss that topic with particular game in mind helps to narrow it down and discuss specifics so I often try to check on battle reports to have a look at this phase in particular.

But it is good idea to have a more general topic, so thanks for starting one.

Looking forward to your comments!

Cheers!

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2015 5:13 am 
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Great first post as mentioned above.

Most tables I play have pre-set terrain similar to Tournies our club games generally ignore the Magical Terrain but we have used these features in the past.

As you have touched on the style of army you use will help determine which terrain features are advantageous to your army.

For example if you have a defensive army you will let your opponent cross a river on the board and you might even try to fight his units while they are stuck in this disadvantaging terrain.

Sometimes at club games I will simply pick the side I am on so we don't need to move all our stuff. It can be more of a challenge if the Terrain is not to your advantage.

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