In 1984 NATO adopted a doctrine of battle known of as ‘Air Land Battle’. This doctrine divided the battle space up into a three parts - the Rear Area, the Main Battle Area and the Deep Operations. Generally speaking, different elements in the force were given responsibility for separate areas with clear boundaries on those areas. The areas given to specific units generally fit the capabilities and limitations of the forces assigned to those areas. For example a B-52 would have responsibility for targets in the Deep Operations area because of its ability to deliver large amounts of highly explosive ordnance from the relative safety of high altitude but its inability to actually hold any ground. An Infantry Company or Tank Platoon would be given responsibility in the Main Battle Area due to their relatively short range, compared to the aforementioned B-52, and their ability to take and hold ground, which the B-52 lacks. Artillery with its longer range and high damage potential but relatively low survivability, compared to the Infantry and Tanks, is more suited to the Rear Area where it can support the Main Battle Area with relative safety.
Now, I know that right now you are doing one of two things. You are either:
A) Wondering who in the hell cares about all this mumbo jumbo.
B) Already categorizing units in your army based on the above criteria.
The rest of this ‘article’ is written for those of you choosing option ‘B’. The rest of you should skip down to the end for the instant gratification of our hawt chick with a gun for this week. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s continue.
Starting from our table edge and working forward, let’s look at the first area which extends 8” forward from our table edge, the ‘rear fight’. What goes on in the rear area and what kinds of units will we find there? Artillery loves the rear area - things like Long Fangs, Thunderfire Cannons, Manticores, Whirwinds, Lobbas, Lootas and Broadsides all enjoy hanging out back in the rear area. These units enjoy the relative safety of the rear area where they can use their longer range and higher strength to maximum effect against opposition targets at greater distance. With their range they can affect anything in the Close Fight and some things in the Deep Fight while maintaining a generally safe distance from all the unpleasantness of the Close Fight.
Moving forward of the 8” imaginary line we get into the area of the table I refer to as the Close Fight. Things that excel in this area are units like Grey Hunters, Chaos Marines, Boyz Mobz, Firewarriors, Gaunts and Guardians. Their relatively short range, high volume of fire and ability to take and hold objectives makes them the perfect choice for pushing forward from the rear fight and into the close fight. As these units move forward they provide a screen for our units in the rear area and allow them to continue with their primary mission of neutralizing your opponents priority targets through the depth of the field. The Close Fight is where battles are won and lost; the units assigned to fight there must be able to survive incoming fire whether through superior numbers or superior armor while simultaneously dishing it out.
Crossing through the Close Fight we are now 36” across the table at another imaginary line that gets us to, what I refer to as, the Deep Fight. What goes on in the deep fight is typically things designed to disrupt your opponents support formations and draw units away from the close fight. Being able to influence the deep fight does not also mean you need to physically be there, things like Autocannons, Boivores and Lobbas are perfectly capable of effecting units in the deep fight with their long range. That being said, slinging bullets only goes so far and sometimes you will need units to physically be in the deep fight to have the most effect. Drop Pods, Spore Pods, Teleporting, Shunting, Jump Packs, Bikes, Outflanking and transport Flyers are all great ways to deliver units into the deep fight that allow you force your opponent to react to you and pull forces from the close fight while hopefully eliminating some of the units hiding out in their support echelons.
Thinking about the areas of the battlefield in this way helps us to establish a framework of categorizing units that will pay dividends in army construction and planning before you hit the table. Understanding the ways in which units should be deployed and used in a supporting system of overlapping capabilities goes a long way towards making your army work in a cohesive manner where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.