“The tactician must know what to do whenever something needs doing; the strategist must know what to do when nothing needs doing. – Savielly Tartakower”
Hello readers and welcome back to the third graduate level gaming article. This week we are going to be taking the chess masters approach to Warmahordes. If you did not read my previous issues I highly recommend on going back and catching up you can find those articles HERE before continuing on. In this article we are going to follow the progression of the battle from pregame to end game. The ultimate goal of this article is to help develop your game plan so that you can play quickly with purpose and with the end goal in mind.
Many of you who are familiar with chess will already be familiar with the breakdown of “early game, midgame, and end game” however in war gaming I feel this needs to be taken a step farther. I feel Pre Game is as important as the other three parts in table top gaming and is often unmentioned.The Pre-Game
“It is not a move, even the best move that you must seek, but a realizable plan.” – Eugene Znosko-Borovsky
In your pre-game there are numerous things you can do to aid you in the ultimate goal of winning the game. The first step in the road to war is list creation. Creating a working list is your corner stone to success. In list creation you arm yourself with the tools necessary to face any thing that the opponent can throw at you. It is not always required to have every tool in your lists in a multi list format which allows for more flexibility over each list. There will be more on list creation in a the next article right now we just want to stick to the basics. The second step is creating your foundation strategy. This strategy is the way you intend to use your list to win the game. Planning this before the game is quintessential to your opening allowing you to play quickly and with purpose. Doing so will save you time on your clock in timed formats, and gives you a confident stride onto the battle field. One of the most intimidating things is an opponent who moves their pieces with direction and magnitude. I find it helpful to set up a table with minimal terrain and practice some openings. It’s good to play around with your deployment and see how your pieces interact on your first few turns. Planning just a few simple efficient openings will allow you to know rather than guess your first moves. I find that when I know how I will play my first couple of turns my mental faculties are free to explore battle strategy and decide which tactics I want to employ first.The Early Game
“In the opening a master should play like a book, in the mid-game he should play like a magician, in the ending he should play like a machine.” – Rudolph Spielmann
In your pre game prep we have already developed exactly how you want to break into each game. Now all you have to do is apply your formula to what the enemy brings. The first order of business is reconnaissance. When preforming recon you want to analyze the terrain, assess your routes into battle and prioritize your targets.Analyzing terrain- in your early game you want to look for the terrain in which you can take the most advantage of. Doing so should be your first priority of deployment. Next you want to look at what terrain your opponent can take advantage of and if at all possible develop a plan to deny him that piece of terrain. This can be achieved with threat, board position, and or hard denial. Finally you want to deduce which pieces of terrain will be hazardous for you so that you can plan to avoid them and or not be forced toward them by your opponent. Assessing Your Routs – one of the first considerations in developing a battle plan should be which vectors you can approach the fight from and what direction your opponent will be coming from. The more open the battle field the harder this can be. If you are able to choose where and when the fighting happens you will have taken the first step to controlling the flow of battle. Prioritizing Targets – looking across the table you should mentally note the pieces that must be dealt with and what the order of priority is for you. There will be many instances where you will tip your hat as to what you are targeting such as with the prey ability or with your initial deployment. If your opponent is actively trying to deny you the priority target. Take a second look at your priorities and assess if the resources you must invest are worth the overall gains of that target. Don’t forget you can fake out an opponent by pretending to be investing in a target to draw his resources away from a specific place on the table. Board position can also be a priority target. There are many instances where a location on the board or piece of terrain may be a higher priority than a model or unit. This is especially true for a list build that focus heavily on scenario play.
By following these three steps in your early game you will have created a battle plan that can help you choose the proper opening. Remember even a modest plan is better than no plan at all. I find in practice it is good to time yourself even if for just the first three turns. You will be amazed at how much time you spend on moves that are trivial to the game. After several games your muscle memory will become reflexive and your openings will be more efficient.The Middle Game
“When you trade, the key concern is not always the value of the pieces being exchanged, but what’s left on the board.” – Dan Heisman
This phase of the game is where the game really comes alive. Every move in the mid game can be a game winning smite or a fumbling misplay. This is a good time to reassess your priorities and begin unveiling your plan to win the game. Focus on your goals. Piece trading becomes the name of the game at this point. You already know which pieces are your high priority targets. You want to set up a board exchange where you offer one of your non priority pieces for your intended target. There are many ways to approach the tradeThe Initiated Trade – a trade in which you offer one of your less essential pieces to your opponent to gain access to one of your priority targets. The trade is achieved by backing up your piece with a counter attack but not so strongly that it deters the opponent from taking the bait. The Tribute Trade – a trade in which you aggressively take out a high priority target at the cost of one of your pieces. This can be a good way to keep an ongoing piece trade if you can back your tribute with an enforcer. The enforcer can counter attack the piece that removes your tribute or act as a threating deterrent to make reprisal against your tribute look unfavorable. The Pinned Trade – a trade in which you lock down an enemy’s piece or board space for a duration by pinning it down with your own models. This can be denying table space with a tough to remove unit, crowding a model with your models so that it cannot move about freely or engaging with your models to deny a model freedom to select and attack targets. The Kill Box Trade – a trade in which you offer a favorable board position to your opponent to bait them into an area in which your army can counter strike and regain that ground. This can be one of the riskiest trades as you may not be able to take the ground back due to dice or an opponent overcrowding the zone. The Control Trade - a trade in which you offer your opponent scenario points in order to gain access to a zone, board position, enemy pieces or to gain scenario points in exchange. This can also be a risky maneuver but it can be a game winning play if timed correctly.
In the middle game look to see if your opponent has made any mistakes. Seek to capitalize on them or force additional mistakes. If your board position is good fortify the key areas and if it is weak gain ground somewhere. If you are the aggressor then this is the time you need to be actively applying your army. If you can dictate the tempo of the middle game you will be able to control what is left in the end game. Find a weak point and exploit it. Put pressure on the enemy warcaster. When a player feels cornered they are prone to make mistakes and overexpose themselves. This is a good time to take calculated risks that enable you to enforce you dominating board position.
If you feel you are in a weak board position your options are much more limited. Seek to stabilize your loss and bring balance back to the point exchange. Minimalize your causalities and regroup. Fortify the positions you can easily control with fewer models. Playing defensively is not cowardly if you are intending to set up your counter attack. This may be a time to try baiting with your caster. Put your warcaster just beyond the mathematical killing range and try to get the opponent to take the bait. If they think they are going to win they may expose them self to you. If you can weather the storm counter attacks may have presented them self. I have won many games by using this risky tactic to gain access to my opponent’s most valuable pieces. You may suffer a turn of lost ground, position, models and control points but you have not yet lost the game and so there may still yet be victory here.The End Game
“A player can sometimes afford the luxury of an inaccurate move, or even a definite error, in the opening or middlegame without necessarily obtaining a lost position. In the endgame … an error can be decisive, and we are rarely presented with a second chance. – Paul Keres”
In the final phase of the game every move is crucial. Never take for granted even a single trooper model. Pieces which have little or no offensive potential in the end game can have the overwhelming defensive properties of a well-timed block. Every piece you can put between your opponent and his end goal is a brick in the wall of your success. Blocking charge lanes, wasting activations and contesting zones are just a few ways that those models can still be useful long after your opponent has written them off. Be goal oriented and have a direction. Every move should be taken with serious consideration and made with an ending in mind. Often in timed formats in the late game every second can be very crucial. Some of the best moves are the ones that only take you seconds to execute but take your opponent minutes to deal with. Time consuming moves that force the opponent order of activation issues can cause even the fastest players headaches. Seek to make simple decisions and force difficult ones. Preserve your resources. If there is no purpose consuming them don’t waste them. Do not get baited at all cost. A savvy opponent will seek to draw you out of and force you to make mistakes. Keep a clear head and be mindful of your opponent’s intentions behind each move. This is the most important time to play the other side of the table and see through their eyes. Some games predicting even a single move can break the enemy lines. If you are in the position to win do not get brash and play it loose. Make each blow like the killing stroke of an artful assassin. If it is your head on the executioners block never give in. you never know if the dice will pull through in your favor. Games can be won or lost on a single die roll. Many times my opponents have gotten cocky and fumbled when the game was all but theirs. They failed to take precautions and woefully handed me the game. I will leave you with one final chess master quote.
“The endgame is an arena in which miraculous escapes are not uncommon.” – Leonid Shamkovich
Well readers that are all for now I hope you find some spot of information useful to help better your game. In our next article I will be discussing list creation. If you have any questions feel free to email me at Emonclass@gmail.com and don’t forget to tune into Removed From Play!
May the force be with you.