The other day while discussing 40k tactics with some friends the subject of timing came up. Timing of assaults, timing of turns and timing of games in a tournament setting are all critical to success or failure - yet we never discuss them. Sure we talk about math hammer, we discuss point cost efficiencies, evaluate movement distances, whether to reserve or deep strike and we even talk about how to game wound allocation, all while totally skipping perhaps one of the most difficult to master and critical parts of the game. Timing.
Lets start with an example from a recent game. We were playing capture and control with 5 objectives, my Eldar opponent held two objectives while contesting one other at the end of turn 5 while I only had control of one lonely objective. Rolling a five caused another full turn and by the end of the 6th turn I held 3 objectives and contested the other two. In the span of one turn I went from a minor loss to a major victory. Think about that for a second - one turn to go from a minor loss to a major victory. Now put it into the context of a tournament where that can mean the difference in playing for top 3, or playing for placement in the top 10.
So what is timing and how do I get it? Well timing a a combination of everything I mentioned in the first paragraph - timing is math hammer, movement distances, reserve rolls, deep striking and wound allocation. Timing is to Warhammer what College (or University for those of you across the pond) is to Grade School. Here is another, very specific, example of timing.
My Venerable Dreadnought with Assault Cannon, Close Combat Weapon and Flamer moves forward 6 inches and is now standing 4 inches away from a group of 5 Dark Reapers. What do you do? If you answer is shoot them in the face and then assault, you fail.
Lets say you fire the assault cannon and kill two or three of them, that leaves two or three left alive for your assault. More likely than not you will kill at least two of them on the charge leaving perhaps one alive if you rolled bad on your assault cannon and your assault rolls. More likely than not you are going to wipe out the squad between your shooting, assault and them taking a leadership check. This leaves your Dreadnought standing there going 'hur hur hur, who's next!' while a Falcon full of Fire Dragons pulls up, yells 'NEXT!' and turns you into recycling.
If you skip shooting the assault cannon and simply assault in, you aren't going to kill all of them during your assault phase which leaves them locked in close combat during your opponents shooting phase, meaning the Fire Dragons can't turn you into slag. During your opponents assault phase he is still locked in hand to hand with you so you get to safely finish off the Dark Reapers and take your D6 consolidation move all during your opponents turn. Then during your turn you can move again, shoot again and assault; all thanks to being safely tied up in hand to hand combat for an extra round so nothing could shoot you.
Talking about things like math hammer, movement distances, reserve rolls, deep striking and wound allocation are all great and useful things. However, knowing how to make all those things to work together in concert is what creates timing and timing is what creates the opportunity for success. Over the next few months I am going to throw together some advanced tactics articles like this one that provide simple examples from the game to highlight tactical considerations you should make during your games, I hope they will be informative, easily understood and practical. I'm sure the pictures of cat's will help too.