Recently I got in a game against one of my friends who is preparing a list for a national tournament soon. He told me to bring a no-holds barred list because he wanted a good test for the army he was looking at taking. Happily I obliged with my usual Drop Wolves with a squad of Stern Guard in a pod as well. After the dust settled we totaled up the points and I managed to pull out the victory despite loosing all the Sternguard – opps! We can get into speed bump units, multiple Troop choices or even the merits of Drop Pods some other day. What we are really here to discuss is target priority – because at the end of the game my friend was puzzled with me as to why I was shooting what I was shooting with what I was shooting them with!
Opposite my army over there in the Tyranid lines sat a pair of Dakka-fex, a pair of baby spewing Tervigons, a Dakka-Tyrant, a pair of squads with two Hive Guard each and a bunch of gribbly things. First turn I poured shots into the Hive Guard and the Dakka-fex leaving the Tervigons and Tyrant all alone, second turn I continued. In fact, by the end of the game I hadn’t put a single one of my 10 missile shots a turn into either of the Tervigons or the Tyrant. Why not?
Quite simply I look at bugs in three categories – small, medium and large. Small bugs are the gribbly little things that nip and your heals and try to tie you up so the big bugs can come up and clean your clock. Medium bugs are the mid field shooting and support guys, their main purpose is to inflict casualties in your base of fire and distract you from the rest of the army. Large bugs are just that, the large bugs! Tyrants, Tervigons and Trygons are really the primary large bugs, Carnifexes can fall into the large category if they are outfitted with choppy spikey things, but I put the Dakka-fex into the medium category.
So in my mind when I started my target priority in the first round I went for the Hive Guard and the lead Dakka-fex with my missiles. I allowed the small bugs in front to move forward into bolter range and more importantly – funnel the large bugs and slow their movement. I managed to pick off the medium sized support bugs in fairly short order and by turn 3 they were all removed, next target was the remaining small bugs that were camping objectives, which I blasted off with large volleys of frag missiles, again avoiding and shots at the large bugs. Instead of shooting up the large bugs I tied them up with Grey Hunters by forcing them to assault into me across cover and slowing them down a full extra turn when then failed a charge roll initially. The Grey Hunters held up for a couple of turns and bought me the time I needed to keep the large bugs from ever crossing midfield.
So, could I have shot the large bugs with missiles? Yes – but why? With AP3 missiles at strength 8 I stand a much better chance of knocking out the Hive Guard and the Dakka-fex early on. Firing AP3 missiles into the Tyrant with his 2+ save is a waste of ammo, better to tie him up with speed bumps than to even waste a single missile on him. The Dakka-fex has a 3+ save, so you are removing his save and he’s only got 4 wounds – which you can strip almost entirely in one turn from Long Fangs. The amount of shooting from the Dakka-fex that you are eliminating from the Tyranid army by shooting him up first is truly amazing – or you can waste shots trying to remove the 6 wounds on the Tervigon, your choice.
When dealing with bugs it quickly becomes a game of how quickly and reliably can I eliminate threats to keep him over on the other side of the board. A Tyranid player relies on the ability to make you choose targets and hopefully present you with difficult choices that will benefit them. Killing the Tervigon who is in the back field spewing out gaunts faster than you can kill them is always a tasty target. But how reliably can you kill it? At toughness 6 and 6 wounds with a 3+ save, and probably sitting in cover as well, how effective are you lascannon, autocannon or missile launcher shots really going to be at taking her down? All the while the Dakka-fex and Hive Guard are moving forward and murdering your front ranks.
Assessing the threats and eliminating them in order of priority is quickly becoming the key to winning in the brave new world of Dakka-40k. The above examples are made using Tyranids as an example but the principles discussed apply to any army.