Strategy Study Hall #1: Analyzing Your Matchup

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fiesta0618
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Name: Brian Freitas
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Strategy Study Hall #1: Analyzing Your Matchup

Postby fiesta0618 » Mon Dec 19, 2016 9:48 am

Introduction
What is Strategy Study Hall?

Some elements of Warhammer 40,000 are very easy to discuss in a text-based forum. Unit profiles, wargear comparisons, army lists, and Mathammer statistics are a few common examples. Unfortunately, other topics are not so straightforward—things like how to manage lines of sight, or how to identify the most effective spot to deploy long-ranged units, or how to decide whether scoring an Objective now is better or worse than preserving that unit for later in the game. The concepts themselves are frequently simple, but it can be very difficult and complicated to have an effective conversation about them…and these areas are the absolute MOST important for improving your game.

The majority of skilled Warhammer players learn these lessons the hard way, by practicing and losing repeatedly until they can FEEL what the right decision is in a given situation. Everyone likes to play the game well, but most of us don’t have the luxury of putting in so many hours on a mere game, no matter how immersive and exciting. So what can we do to improve?

These Strategy Study Halls represent an effort to explore these abstract strategic topics, and render them down into a form that anyone can understand, learn, and apply. Each Study Hall will cover only a very small topic, but each topic has a huge potential impact on the entire game.



On this forum and others, you sometimes see the phrase “Play YOUR game, not HIS game.” Isn’t that a cool saying? It’s elegant and educated-sounding and, in the end, basically useless. It’s no good telling me to “play my game” if I have no idea what MY GAME entails.

This first Strategy Study Hall focuses on how to determine what MY GAME vs. HIS GAME really means. This begins with Analyzing the Matchup. In short, how does your army stack up against your opponent? What advantages should you try to exploit, and what weaknesses do you have to cover? Simply being AWARE of how your two lists will interact provides a huge boost in your ability to plan your approach to the battle.

The good news is, analyzing the matchup between two armies isn’t actually very difficult. To be sure, there are dozens of moving parts in each list, and thousands of potential combinations and interactions—but you can boil all those things down into four key attributes. Those attributes are Mobility, Weapon Range, Shooting Resilience, and Number of Units.

We’re going to do three things in this thread. First, we’ll examine what “holding an advantage” in each area means when it comes to planning MY GAME vs. HIS GAME. Second, we’ll take a detailed look at how to conclusively determine which army holds the advantages. Finally, I’ll provide a framework for you to apply and practice these principles yourself.


How do matchup advantages translate into a strategy?

While reviewing your opponent’s list before a battle, you should ask yourself a few simple questions:

1. Which army is more mobile?
--If my army is more mobile, I want to spread out the Objectives as much as possible. In addition, I want to encourage my opponent to spread his forces, and fight near the extreme edges of the table.
--If my opponent’s army is more mobile, I want to cluster Objectives as tightly as possible. In addition, I want to keep my forces concentrated, no matter what feints or tempting targets my opponent may offer with far-flung unit placement.


2. Which army has a weapon range advantage?
--If my army has better range, I want to play a conservative game, and force my opponent to come to me.
--If my opponent’s army has better range, I will need to play aggressively and move forward quickly.


3. Which army is more resilient to enemy shooting?
--If my army has better shooting resilience, I want to force the battle to be fought in open spaces. Even if this leaves me somewhat more vulnerable than I would be in Cover, my opponent is even more vulnerable than I am.
--If my opponent's army has better shooting resilience, I will need to focus on fighting from Cover. Even if my opponent also benefits from Cover, I benefit more than he does.


4. Which army has more units?
--If my army has more units, I can afford to spread my army widely if need be (although this is only safe if my opponent does NOT have a strong Mobility advantage). In addition, I can freely engage in battles of attrition—my soldiers are cheaper than his.
--If my opponent’s army has more units, I will need to keep my forces concentrated. In addition, I need to choose my battles carefully—my losses are costlier than his.


Note: if you find that your army is at a disadvantage in most or all of these areas for the majority of your battles, you should seriously consider making some changes to your list. It is extremely difficult to achieve any sort of success when you have zero relative advantages over your opponent, and that can easily lead to frustration.


See below for a detailed explanation of the reasoning behind these strategies, along with some bare-bones examples.

Mobility

The army with a Mobility advantage has three key benefits:

• They can easily redeploy multiple units in order to gain local superiority.
• They can quickly move onto Objectives that are far away.
• They can use their superior speed to always fight at the most advantageous range.

This means that armies with an advantage in Mobility prefer to utilize the entire battlefield. That is NOT to say that they prefer to spread out their forces! Quite the opposite, in fact—because high mobility generally comes with a high points cost, fast armies are typically outnumbered, and thus prefer to concentrate their forces (see the Number of Units section). What this rule-of-thumb signifies is that Mobile armies benefit when the important areas of the table are widely spread out. In general, this is accomplished thorough wide spacing of Objectives. The more mobile force has the speed to quickly redeploy to attack less-defended areas, and strand their less-mobile opponent in ineffective positions.

As a corollary to this, in order to maximize the ability to redeploy, armies with an advantage in Mobility prefer to fight near the table periphery. Not so much because it’s better for them in any concrete way, but because this uses more of the table, and leaves their slow-footed opponent in a much worse situation once they redeploy.

EXAMPLE

Consider an Imperial Guard Infantry force against a Space Marine force. Each Platoon, with 2x10 Infantry squads and a 5-strong Platoon Command costs 130 points. Compare that to a six-strong Space Marine Bike squad at 126 points. In the pictures below, the green dots represent Imperial Guardsmen, while the yellow ovals represent Space Marine Bikes. The black circles are the Objectives, and terrain is ignored for these purposes.

In this first scenario, the Bikers have spread the field initially, and the Guardsmen have done the same. Things look grim for the Bikes; they are badly outnumbered everywhere. But in this case, after only 1 turn of Turbo-Boosting, the Bikers have been able to redeploy into a fairly concentrated formation on the left flank. This negates the Guardsmen’s numerical advantage; the Bikers are sure to win the left flank now, and the Platoon on the right flank can’t contribute. This worked because the wide-spaced Objectives encouraged the Guardsmen to spread out.
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In this second scenario, the Bikers have deployed in tight formation instead. But in this case, they’ve done it as a feint. They force the Guardsmen to concentrate their forces on the left flank, in order to avoid being overwhelmed; but in response, the Bikers simply redeploy to attack one of the small, far-flung Guard positions, ignoring the strong one entirely. And since they performed their feint on an extreme flank, the big Guardsman blob is now in a terrible position to do much of anything.
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Finally, in this third scenario, the Guardsmen have learned their lesson, and have concentrated their forces near the table center. This cedes the extreme table edges to the Bikers. However, they can use their larger army footprint to still claim a lot of table space; and if the Bikers ever want to actually fight the Guardsmen, they’ll do so at a big numerical disadvantage, and in a place where they have limited room for withdrawal and redeployment.
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From this, we can conclude that the army with a disadvantage in Mobility generally prefers to concentrate the battle, ideally near the table center. This eliminates the more mobile army’s ability to isolate and destroy far-flung units, and minimizes the space in which the mobile army can redeploy. In addition, it leverages the fact that less-mobile armies tend to have more models and more units, so a head-on, drawn-out battle of attrition is favorable for them (see the Number of Units section below).


The cost of concentrating your forces is that the less-mobile army totally cedes control over a fairly large table area. In the examples above, that’s a bit of a problem, because the Objectives are so far apart; the Imperial Guard forces will struggle to contest more than one Objective while maintaining their concentrated formation. The Bikers can choose to forego combat entirely and simply turtle up on multiple, widely-spaced Objectives until the game is over. If the Guardsmen move to attack a certain position, the Bikers will simply boost away to other areas.

However, observe how the situation changes when the Objectives are tightly clustered:
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The Imperial Guard are still ceding control over the table periphery, but that no longer matters—all of the Objectives are near the table center! The only way the Bikers can compete in the mission is to engage the Guardsmen head-on. This eliminates all of the benefits of the Bikers’ superior Mobility, while giving the Guardsmen maximum return on their numerical advantage.

Weapon Range

The army with a Weapon Range advantage enjoys three main benefits:

• They do not need to maneuver as much in order to make effective attacks
• They have the potential to attack the enemy while taking no return fire
• They can exert influence on far-off Objectives without the need to physically contest them

Because of this, the army with a Range advantage can play conservatively. What I mean by that is they have the luxury of staying deep in their deployment zone, moving very little, and sticking to low-risk plays…and the opponent will be forced to move forward aggressively in order to engage them. And if the opponent doesn’t commit strongly enough, the few units that do advance can be blown apart before reaching their own effective range.

On the flip side, the army with a disadvantage in Weapon Range MUST play aggressively. They need to move up quickly and in significant numbers to force an engagement, or else the opponent will be able to pick them apart slowly without suffering any damage.

The quintessential example of this is Tau vs. just about anyone else. The Tau have such a significant range advantage against most opponents that the majority of games usually play out as RUN STRAIGHT AT THEM AND GET INTO COMBAT YESTERDAY, vs. SIT BACK AND BURY THEM IN BULLETS. This is also why Tau traditionally struggle in Maelstrom missions; Maelstrom forces highly aggressive turn-by-turn play in order to score Objectives, which plays against the Tau’s natural advantages in this area.

Shooting Resilience

The army with superior Shooting Resilience enjoys one key benefit:

• They do not need to rely as much on Cover.

Thus, the army with superior Shooting Resilience prefers to fight battles over open ground. In the main, this entails deploying units far from cover, so that the opponent must leave cover in order to engage; and it also entails placing Objectives outside of cover, so that the opponent must leave cover in order to score them. In short, the army with better Shooting Resilience tries to arrange things so that terrain plays as small a role as possible.

On the other hand, the army with a disadvantage in Shooting Resilience MUST use Cover as much as possible. They cannot afford to get in firefights over open ground, and they must be much more careful about Objective placement and managing lines of sight. In short, the army with a disadvantage in this area tries to arrange things so that terrain plays as large a role as possible.

The discussion of HOW to use Cover like this, both to make maximum use of it and to mitigate its usefulness, will be left to other Study Halls. It is a huge topic in its own right. Still, simply being aware of which player needs Cover more is a very helpful start.

Number of Units

As partially discussed above, the army with the advantage in this area has a few benefits:

• They can cover more of the battlefield
• They can contest more Objectives at once, and with more units per Objective
• They take more turns to destroy
• Each of their units is more expendable

Therefore, the army with more units has the option to spread out across the battlefield. If the army with fewer units tries to match this spread, they’ll find themselves locally outnumbered everywhere—a bad situation to be in! On the other hand, if the numerical underdog concentrates his forces, he gains local superiority…but at the cost of conceding control over many areas of the table. However, remember that relative Mobility plays a role here as well! Against a more-mobile foe, spreading your forces can catch you out of position, and allow your opponent to isolate and destroy small sections of your army piecemeal.

In addition, the army with an advantage in Number of Units prefers drawn-out battles of attrition. They can more easily afford to sacrifice a unit or two in order to claim an Objective or destroy an enemy unit, since each unit lost represents a smaller portion of their total strength.


EXAMPLE

Consider an Imperial Guard Infantry force against a Space Marine force. Each Platoon, with 2x10 Infantry squads and a 5-strong Platoon Command costs 130 points. Compare that to a ten-strong Space Marine Tactical squad at 140 points. In the pictures below, the green dots represent Imperial Guardsmen, while the yellow dots represent Space Marines. The black circles are the Objectives, and terrain is ignored for these purposes.

In this first scenario, the Marines have attempted to spread the field in order to counter the Guardsmen. In this case, each Tactical squad is facing down an entire 3-unit platoon. The Guard have a big advantage here; the Marines can destroy a maximum of one unit per turn, while bad rolls mean that any one of the Marine units could be removed in a single round. Time and dice favor the Guardsmen—it will take at least three turns before the Marines can seize any of the Imperial Guard Objectives, and the Guard can try to focus-fire one of the Tactical squads in the meantime.
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In this second scenario, the Marines have concentrated their forces. They will likely overpower the nearby Guardsmen (who have gathered extra units in the area to withstand the assault), although this will require at least 2 turns to complete. But they have totally abandoned the other areas of the field, which the Guard can control with a bare minimum of forces expended. The Marines hope to mop up the big blob quickly, so that they can move on to address the other areas of the field. In the meantime, the Guard will try to die as slowly as possible, so that the game ends with the Marines still stuck on the left side of the table and the other Objectives uncontested.
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This still isn’t a great situation for the Marines, but it’s far better than the first picture. In this scenario they have the chance to do serious immediate damage through massed fire, and if they eliminate the big blob quickly, the Guard will have almost no strength left. The problem is that they don’t have the mobility to counteract their small numbers! Compare this scenario to the ones in the Mobility section, with Space Marine Bikes instead of Tactical Squads. Same basic layout, but the Tacticals are the underdog while the Bikers have the upper hand.


To summarize the other side, the army with fewer units generally prefers to concentrate their forces. This allows them to gain local superiority, even though they are globally outnumbered.

Similarly, the army with fewer units prefers lopsided, decisive engagements. Trading units 1-for-1 is a losing proposition for them—they will run out first! So they need to only fight in areas where they can win quickly with minimal losses, and then move on to the next engagement. If that can’t be done right now, they need to regroup and redeploy to areas where they CAN do this. Remember, high Mobility is a key factor; if your army is both less mobile AND has fewer units, you are in BIG trouble!



How do I determine my relative advantages?

Often, figuring out which army holds an advantage in a given area is pretty easy. Playing against Eldar Jetbikes? Yeah, they have the Mobility advantage for sure. Other times, though, you may need to do some quick calculation. This section describes how to do that.


Mobility:

You instantly recognize a mobile army when you see one, but MEASURING relative mobility can require careful thought. For example, are your two Rhinos more or less mobile than his eight-strong Space Marine Bike unit? What does that question even MEAN?

To make an estimate of relative Mobility, there are three factors to weigh:


1. Raw speed
This is pretty straightforward. Jump Infantry (12” move + d6” Run) are much faster than Infantry (6” move + d6” Run). Vehicles (12” move + 6” Flat Out) are a little bit faster than Jump Infantry. Bikes (12” move + 12” Turbo-Boost) are markedly faster than Vehicles, and so on. Just look at the maximum possible distance that a unit can move in a single turn, including things like Running, Boosting, or Assault Phase moves like Thrust (Jet Packs) or Eldar Jetbike moves.

In our example above, Raw Speed slightly favors his Bikes unit over your Rhinos. Both have a 12” move, but he can Turbo-Boost 12” while you can only Flat-Out 6”.


2. Number of “fast” units
In this case, “fast” means any unit that moves faster than footslogging Infantry. Obviously, this is an easy one: you have two Rhinos compared to his one Bike unit. The advantage here goes to you.


3. Resilience of “fast” units
In other words, how easy is it to eliminate your speed? Of course, this partially depends on the weapons your opponent has (see the Shooting Resilience factor below), but you can make a rough estimate even in a vacuum.

For example, each of your Rhinos has 3 Hull Points at AV11. That’s not bad, as Vehicles require special weapons to damage, but they do come with the downside of having the potential to be one-shotted by (un)lucky Explodes results, and vehicles generally don’t get Saves. On the other hand, your opponent has eight Bikes at T5. Pretty much any weapon has the ability to damage them, but successful hits need to punch through a 3+ armor save or a 4+ Jink save, and they have 2 more Wounds than the Rhinos have Hull Points to begin with.

Since the Bike unit has more Wounds/Hull Points, a good Armor Save, and the ability to gain Cover anywhere they wish via Jink, the resilience advantage lies strongly with your opponent’s Bikes.


In summary, your opponent’s Bikes have a slight advantage in raw speed and a significant advantage in resilience. In this limited example, that overpowers your 2:1 advantage in number of fast units—his Bikes will be around far longer than your Rhinos, so your ability to cover twice as many Objectives as him won’t last for many turns. And in any case, his raw speed advantage means you can neither run away nor chase him down and force an engagement if he doesn’t want you to.

Therefore, we can conclude that, in this case, eight Bikes have a Mobility advantage over two Rhinos. Weird thing to say, right? But you can clearly see the reasoning!

Weapon Range:

“Weapon Range” is actually a bit of a misnomer; considering raw range alone is not quite enough.

For example, who has the range advantage? Your Imperial Guard army containing one Basilisk (120” Heavy 1, Barrage) and 50 Lasguns (24” Rapid Fire), or your opponent’s Space Marine army containing 3 Devastator units with 4 Heavy Bolters (36” Heavy 3) each? Raw range favors the Basilisk, of course, but there are actually two factors to consider:


1. Raw weapon range
Absolutely straightforward. 12” < 24” < 36” < 48”. If you know how to count, you know who has a raw range advantage.

In the above example, your Basilisk has a huge raw range advantage over every unit on the table. His Devastators’ Heavy Bolters have a strong raw range advantage over your Lasguns, of course, but the king in this matchup is your Basilisk. Advantage: Imperial Guard.


2. Volume of long-range shots
Again, pretty easy to figure out. Tally up the total number of shots from all your long-ranged weapons. In general, “long range” entails anything above the 24” Rapid Fire standard of Boltguns and Lasguns and the like.

In this example, your opponent’s Devastators have 3 units, with 4 Heavy Bolters each, with three shots per gun. That’s 3x4x3= 36 long-ranged shots. On the other hand, you only have one Basilisk, which shoots a single Large Blast every turn. Even if the blast covers 5 enemy models on average, your opponent has a HUGE volume advantage here: 36 to 5.

This factor is very important, because it means that the Devastators have a much higher maximum damage output. At best, your Basilisk will kill 5 models per turn, while the Devs can remove as many as 36. 5 Wounds might be ignored; 36 certainly can’t be![/list]


So we have a case where your Guard have a raw range advantage, but your opponent’s Marines have an ENORMOUS shot volume advantage at range. Since his ranged damage output is so much larger than yours, your extra raw distance won’t count for all that much. So we can decisively say that 12 Heavy Bolters hold a Weapon Range advantage over 1 Basilisk and 50 Lasguns. Again, a seemingly odd statement on its face, but quite logical once you follow the reasoning.

Shooting Resilience:

In other words, how vulnerable are you to your opponent’s shooting, and vice versa? We saw that this plays a role in measuring Mobility above, when we were considering the relative resilience of our fast units. But this element also plays a strong role everywhere, which is why it has its own category.

Most of the time, Shooting Resilience is very easy to determine. If you have lots of Tactical Marines (Sv3+) and your Imperial Guard opponent is packing Lasguns (AP-), your Shooting Resilience is quite high. On the other hand, those same Marines have very little resilience against Plasma Guns (AP2).

But as with the other factors, Shooting Resilience can require a bit of thought. For example, if you have a Space Marine army containing 10 Bolter Scouts and 10 Combi-Plasma Sternguard, how does that stack up against 2 Missile Pod Broadsides and an Ion Accelerator Riptide?

This can be estimated through one simple metric:

1. “Quality shot” volume
For these purposes, “quality shots” are those for which a significant portion of the opponent’s units will not get an Armor Save--as well as Anti-Tank shots against an opponent who has many Vehicles.

In this example, your Boltgun shots don’t count towards this factor, since all of your opponent’s units have a 2+ save. But his Broadsides, with their AP4 High Yield Missile Pods, are extremely nasty for your Scouts, which comprise half of your army. Finally, both your Sternguard and his Riptide ignore any and all armor saves, with AP2 weaponry on each.

However, take note that the effective “quality” of the Marines’ Plasma shots is reduced by the fact that the Riptide has a 5++ Invulnerable save (which can be boosted to 3++), while the Marines have no Invulnerable saves at all.

In summary, your Tau opponent has 8 AP4 shots, and one Large Blast at AP2. We’ll assume he hits 5 models with each Large Blast, so he has 13 “quality shots” overall. Your Sternguard have only 10 Plasma shots at best, and a paltry 5 shots if they fire from beyond 12”. In addition, their AP2 shots are “one use only,” while the Tau can use their guns every turn. Finally, the Tau possess some Invulnerable saves, which blunt the effectiveness of the Marines’ AP2 weapons.

Therefore, your Marines are more vulnerable to the Tau shooting than vice versa. So we can conclude that Missilesides and Riptides have a Shooting Resilience advantage versus Bolter Scouts and Plasma Sternguard.

Number of Units:

This one is the simplest. Who has more units? Just count the number of units you have, and count the number of units the other guy has; if one player has significantly more, they hold the advantage in this area.

Of course, be careful to consider Independent Characters! For example, if an army has 10 units, but 3 of them are ICs, then the army will usually be operating with only 7 effective units on the table. These Characters may split off in late turns in order scoring last-minute Objectives, but that won’t come into play for the bulk of the game.




A simple example

To illustrate these principles, let’s analyze a hypothetical matchup. Imagine a 1000-point game between Dark Eldar and Space Marines.

Army Lists

Space Marines CAD

Chapter Tactics: Imperial Fists

Librarian

9x Tactical Marines (Meltagun, Combi-Melta, Vet. Srg., Powerfist)
--Rhino (Dozer Blade)

9x Tactical Marines (Meltagun, Combi-Melta, Vet. Srg., Powerfist)
--Rhino (Dozer Blade)

Attack Bike (Multi-Melta)
Attack Bike (Multi-Melta)

8x Devastators (4x Lascannon)

2x Thunderfire Cannon


Dark Eldar CAD

Lilith Hesperax

4x Grotesques
--Raider (Dark Lance, Nightshield)

5x Kabalite Warriors
--Venom (2x Splinter Cannon)

5x Kabalite Warriors
--Venom (2x Splinter Cannon)

3x Reavers

Ravager (3x Dark Lance)
Ravager (3x Dark Lance)
Ravager (3x Dark Lance)



Matchup Analyisis

Mobility: Dark Eldar

First, let’s look at the number of fast units on each side:
>>DARK ELDAR 7
2 Venoms
1 Raider
1x3 Reavers
3 Ravagers

SPACE MARINES: 4
2 Rhinos
2 Attack Bikes


Next, let’s look at raw speed:

>>DARK ELDAR
All of the Dark Eldar vehicles are Fast Skimmers. This means they can move 12”, then Flat-Out 18”. Reavers are Eldar Jetbikes, meaning they can move 12” and then Turbo-Boost a whopping 36”

SPACE MARINES:
Rhinos are Vehicles, which can move 12”, then Flat-Out 6”. Attack Bikes have a standard Bike movement profile: 12” movement, and 12” Turbo-Boost.


Finally, let’s consider speed resilience:

>>DARK ELDAR
16 Hull Points at AV10-11, and 3 Wounds at T4 Sv5+

All of those can Jink; the Raider does so at 3+, due to Nightshields. The Marines have plenty of Meltaguns and Lascannons, but the real scare here is from Ignores Cover Thunderfire shells. Fortunately, with careful defensive placement, the TFCs can’t destroy more than 1 unit per turn.

SPACE MARINES:
6 Hull Points at AV11, and 4 Wounds at T5 Sv3+

The Attack Bikes can also Jink. However, the Dark Eldar have lots of long-ranged Poisoned weapons on fast platforms, which negates the benefits of high Toughness. In addition, they have 10 Dark Lances, which should make short work of the Rhinos.



Unsurprisingly, the Dark Eldar have a HUGE Mobility advantage. This surprises nobody—speed is a central feature of both their fluff and their rules.

Weapon Range: Space Marines

First, consider raw range:

>>SPACE MARINES
2 Multi-Meltas (24”)
2 Storm Bolters (24”)
4 Lascannons (48”)
2 Thunderfire Cannons (60” Barrage)

DARK ELDAR
4 Splinter Cannons (36”)
10 Dark Lances (36”)


Next, let’s look at ranged volume:

--SPACE MARINES
Assume each Thunderfire blast hits 3 models. Since each of the two TFCs gets 4 shots, that translates to 24 effective hits. Add in the 4 Lascannons, 4 Storm Bolter shots, and 2 Multi-Meltas, and that’s 34 potential wounds coming downrange every turn.

--DARK ELDAR
All of the Splinter cannons are on Relentless platforms, so they’ll get the max 6 shots every time. That’s 24 shots to begin with; add in 10 Dark lances, and that’s 34 potential wounds per turn.



Both armies bring roughly the same volume of ranged fire, but the Marines do so at far greater range (and ignoring LOS), due to the 60” Barrage profile on the Thunderfire cannons. This provides a solid advantage to the Marines

Shooting Resilience: Space Marines

>>SPACE MARINES
Marines typically do well in this area, with 3+ Power Armor on everyone. Only the Dark Lances will ignore the Marines’ saves.

DARK ELDAR
The only Save in this army better than 5+ is Lilith Hesperax’s 4++ Dodge. Literally every weapon in the Marines’ arsenal is incredibly threatening to them outside of cover.



Dark Eldar don’t really use armor much, so they usually have the disadvantage here; this matchup is no different. Conversely, Marines trade heavily on that best-in-game standard save of 3+. That said, this advantage is not as lopsided as it first appears, because the Dark Eldar have the ability to Jink with their entire army…at least, until their transports start going down.

Number of Units: Dark Eldar*

DARK ELDAR: 11 (1 IC)

SPACE MARINES: 9 (1 IC)



In fairness, the Number of Units metric is really, really close, and could fairly be considered a wash.


Basic Strategies

Dark Eldar

Based on their advantage in Mobility, the Dark Eldar will want to spread the Objectives widely. Their disadvantage in Weapon Range means that they will need to be quite aggressive, though—a clear priority for them is to destroy the Thunderfire Cannons early. If they can do this, the Weapon Range advantage will switch to favor them instead, and they can then dictate the flow of battle as they please.

Although they have a disadvantage in Shooting Resilience, the choice of whether to fight in Cover or not is tricky. On one hand, they carry their Cover with them (Jink), and the most threatening enemy unit (TFCs) can Ignore Cover anyway. On the other hand, if the Marines manage to destroy a significant portion of the Jink-capable units before the TFCs are destroyed, massed Bolter fire will quickly become a nightmare. Were I in the Dark Eldar’s place, I’d probably choose to hedge my bets and focus on fighting from Cover.

Space Marines

Based on their superior Weapon Range, the Marines would like to sit back and make this a long-ranged shooting game. The Thunderfire Cannons are the key unit here; the rest of the force should be focused on protecting them as much as possible in the early turns. Due to the Dark Eldar’s superior Mobility, the Marines won’t be able to safely spread out; clustering in a protected area is the only option, and the Objectives should likewise be clustered in an easily accessible area.

The key threats to look out for are the Splinter Venoms, followed by the Ravagers. Despite the Marines’ superior Shooting Resilience, the huge volume of Poisoned shots will make short work of the Thunderfires regardless of Cover, although Cover will protect them quite well from Dark Lances (especially with Bolster Defenses bonuses from the Techmarine Gunners). Fortunately, forcing those units to Jink goes a long way towards reducing their offensive impact—and the best way to ensure that they need to Jink is to prevent them from gaining Cover normally.

Therefore, the Marines have a VERY STRONG preference for forcing the Dark Eldar out of Cover. They will need to keep that fact constantly in mind when choosing table sides, placing Objectives, and during initial deployment.




Your turn!

Do you have any questions about any of these topics? Do you disagree with any of the principles, or have alternate ideas about how they should be applied? Do you have any illustrative examples to offer from your own experience? Feel free to speak up!

In addition, there are a few ways to practice this sort of analysis:

--Post your own 1000-point list, and lay out your own matchup analysis, compared to one or both of the armies listed in the example above. Or analyze the matchup between your list and one posted by someone else. Or analyze the matchup against a list that always seems to give you trouble. Or any list at all!


--The next time you fight a battle, try to apply these principles, and take note of how the battle progresses. Did things go how you expected? If not, why do you suppose that happened? Did you make any errors in weighing the relative advantages of each army? [/list]

After the fact, post the two army lists here, your initial analysis of the matchup, and what the final result was, successful or not. Your personal experience can serve as a valuable example! And if the battle didn’t turn out the way you expected, and you’re having trouble identifying why, other players may be able to offer helpful insight so you can improve your skills and elevate your game. This thread is a community resource—use it!

Granted, the strategies outlined here are rather vague. For example, what does “play conservatively” really mean, and how do I know when to break the rule-of-thumb about “concentrating my forces”? Topics like that are excellent potential topics for a future Strategy Study Hall; this thread merely lays the groundwork. If you have an idea or a request for a future topic, let me know, and we’ll make it happen.
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