Warhammer 40,000/7th Edition Tactics

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Listbuilding 101[edit]

Money, time, and (a lot of) effort.

Pick an army you like, for whichever reason, and memorise its codex. Start with a HQ and two Troops. Troops aren't as important in 7th edition now that all units can hold objectives, as well as with the addition of unbound armies. However, when it comes to late game contesting of objectives, you're going to be glad they have objective secured.

Next decide on a play style. Even within an army this can vary a lot, as Mech Guard is very different from Blob Guard, and Bike Marines are different from Drop Assault Marines.

Note that it's acceptable to go though these two stages in the opposite order. Pick a play style and then an army that fits it. If you want to drown your enemy in cheap bodies then you don't want to play Space Marines, but Orks, Nids or Imperial Guard. If you're a treadhead then you might find yourself at home in the Guard rather than Dark Eldar, but if you like flyers and fast, paper-thin vehicles they fit the bill (plus their vehicles are *gorgeous*). For the weeabos we have the fishes with vagina foreheads in Gundam battlesuits (abbreviated as Tau), while if you have a penchant for scratchbuilding stuff out of trash you are at home with the Orks and their ramshackle vehicles and weapons.

Next if you want a chance of winning you need to balance enough anti infantry power (typically high number of shots at mid-low strength and AP) to counter hordes (Guard,Orks,Nids) and enough anti tank power (few shots at high strength and low AP) to counter a wall of tanks and or monsters (Guard, Space Marines, Nid-zilla). Most armies fall in between these categories, but it's best to keep the extremes in mind when building your army.

It's also a good idea to look over the codex and tactics for armies other than your own, so you know what kind of forces and strategies other players will bring to the table.

Building a Successful 40k Army[edit]

"Good players build a list to deal with whatever may come their way. Bad players build a list hoping their opponent cannot counter it."

In theory, two people can attempt to build armies to out-tailor and out-counter each others' hard counters, but in practice, it's easier to attempt to strive for something resembling a "Takes-All Comer" army; if nothing else, sticking with the same army and gradually making adjustments to it as you learn what works and what doesn't work, will improve your skill as a player, compared to going "Fool, you think your Wraithknight can save you next time. I shall return with POISON!"mpl

So, what makes a TAC list anyway? What with fliers, and psykers, big tanks and giant robots, what all *can* we include to make our army safe and sane? Although these are not fundamentals, in many cases, the following are safe bets:

  • Seven is your lucky number: Generally, a good starting point for your army, is whether you have the ability to throw out a lot of Strength 6-7 shooting. This number is a sweet-spot one where you can threaten most light/medium with reliability, as well as force masses of saves upon smaller high-toughness units. Some armies have an easier time doing this than others (Craftworld Eldar are infamous for the amount of firepower that massed Wave Serpents can throw out). Most importantly, however, these weapons have good range, or are easy to maneuver around; whether running Broadsides with Missile Pods, Nightscythes, or even Autocannon Havocs, having at least two sources of Ranged S7 will give you a solid anchor to build most armies around.
  • Two HQs is two too many: Although this rule is no longer an absolute, many HQs have historically been overcosted while not contributing to your army as a whole. There are many notable exceptions to this rule, however (Tyranids and Flying Hive Tyrants are a staple, and having multiple Librarians seldom hurts), but for many armies, an HQ is an expensive tax you build into your army's cost. Note that this is NOT true for Chaos, who generally have awesome and expensive ones - although playing them properly can be tricky. The same exception can be said for Guard, any Guard player knows or should know that they should be taking commissars, priests, and primaris psykers along with the standard CCS or tank commander.
  • Know your Point Level: A 2000-point game is *not* a 1000-point game with 1000 points tacked onto it. As your games grow in size, you will find that you begin to run out of slots. While a Chaos player can get by with running a pair of Obliterators at 1000 points, such an investment won't suffice for anti-tank at higher levels. Slots become more heavily contested and you find you may end up running out of Fast Attacks/Heavy Supports. So then you take an Ally, or a Formation. Taking an ally usually means taking a second HQ unit, and as mentioned above, HQs have generally been the most point-inefficient part of any army in general. General point-levels for 40k include:
    • 200 points: At this level, you're playing Kill Team instead, or probably Heralds of Ruin.
    • 1500 points: Aka "UK GT" level. This is generally considered the smallest point level for tournaments.
    • 1750 points: Aka "ETC" level.
    • 1850 points: If you're in the states, most tournaments will use this point-level. NoVa and Da Boyz, as do the Bay Area Open and the Las Vegas Open (whom are run by the same team).
    • 2000 points: This was the previous point level for the NoVa US GT, and is still the point level for the Narrative Campaign. Some other tournments may use this level but it's being superceded in favor of 1850 points.
    • 2500 points: Aka clusterfuck-hammer. Back when GW used to run 'Ard Boyz, this was the point-level they used. Of course, they ran it in 5th edition, where you only had *one* FOC, equivalent to having only one CAD. What this meant for a lot of armies was that they could take their "good" units, run out of slots, then be forced to take lots of filler. Meanwhile, Guard could just keep scaling up, adding more tanks to their squadrons, adding more squads to their platoons...we don't speak much of this point level.
    • Apocalypse and Beyonddddd: WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! Ahem: This point level generally lends itself to an entirely different kind of play. Here you're not worried about composition, so much as sheer firepower. Spamming Superheavies, and units with extreme range will get you much farther here than 6 troop choices all kitted out. Remember that Eldar Rifle that has a range of 160"? Here's where you can actually shoot from one corner to the other of a Double-Lengthwise Table that's the staple of 6000 point games.
  • Build an Army, not a Mob: Remember that your units should support each other. Generally, you want to avoid "Pure" armies, or gravitating towards one extreme of list-building. While running a pure foot horde may look aesthetically appealing, it will suffer against players running mass mechanized vehicles (plus it will be a major chore to paint, and your turns will take forever...). While running a small elite squad may play quicker (and be cheaper), each casualty *hurts*. Notable "Pure" armies that don't work include:
    • The Scuttling Swarm: Aka "Horde" Tyranids; Tyranids in theory can drown an opponent in bodies and win. Key word is "in theory." In practice, the moment someone brings multiple vehicles, trouble is inbound. Although it's possible (and potentially doable) to destroy a Rhino in melee by glancing it to death with Hormagants, you cannot consolidate out of a close combat with a vehicle. What this means is that any time you want to charge a 35-point APC with your 180-something point horde of bugs, you're doing your opponent a favor by bunching your bugs up into easy-bake flamer (or other anti-swarm options; an IG player can delete entire 30-Gaunt broods with just a single Wyvern, if you bunch them up for him) formations. When the opposing enemy vehicles proceed to Tank Shock you, this only hurts you even further; meanwhile, his fire support is picking off your Synapse creatures and ranged AT. Lest you think "But wait, I can spread out my Hormagaunts and attack an entire car-park at once", you then read the rules for Disordered Charges, and the fact Furious Charge does not trigger during Disordered Charges...
    • Deathwing: Be it by Plasma or mass shooting, each casualty is noticed. You move like infantrymen, and pay too much for shooting to de-mech your opponents.
    • Swordwind Aspect Warrior armies: Nope, you won't take "one unit of Fire Dragons, one of Scorpions, and one of Banshees." Dragons, if that.
  • Cicadas and you!: Cicadas follow an evolutionary stratagem known as "Predator satiation", other wise known as "The predators can't eat all of us!". I mention this because it's something to keep in mind. While it's true that the above pure armies don't work, there is something to be said in running lots of something, since you know your opponent can't kill them all. It's OK to have a strong theme and have a predominance of one type of unit since you know your opponent can't wipe you out the majority of your army fast enough with the dedicated weapons they have, just don't use it mindlessly and grab nothing but Gaunts or Terminators or something. As ever balance is key, it can be an imbalance, just so long as there is some balance.
  • Several successful tournament armies in the past have a few things in common, to use some case studies:
    • An Eldar player running Wave Serpents (3 with Avengers, 2 with Fire Dragons), Nightspinners, Hawks, and a Wraithknight has the advantage that *all* of his units are fast, there's anti-tank and anti-infantry threat built into most every unit, and can comfortably stay back and play a defensive game, while still having the means to flush out the occasional unit in melee as need be.
    • A Space Marine player running White Scars Bikers and allied with Space Wolf Thunderwolf Cavalry has the advantage of an army that moves *fast*, has mobile shooting, the ability to threaten giant monstrous creatures at long-range, and the ability to use the melee prowess of Thunderwolves as a mobile anchorpoint.
    • Another Space Marine player using Sentinels of Terra rules ran lots of Scouts backed by Lascannon Devestators and a Thunderfire Cannon, lead by Lysander escorting a unit of Grav-Cannon Centurions, backed it up with an allied detachment of Flesh Tearers (including a Librarian, meltagun drop squad, and Mephiston). The Scouts were able to run through cover, capping and holding objectives, while being able to finish off any errant units that wandered near them.

All three armies have a few things in common which made their armies work well:

  • All three of them have several ways to deal with tanks, and light/heavy infantry. The bike loses out on "ranged" anti-tank for the ability to force numerous threats at once (as well as being able to pack multimeltas), all tough and fast ones to boot.
  • All three of them have some primary advantage with regards to movement; not only does being fast let you move around the game board faster, but high speed also lets you more effectively take advantage of Reserves. In the case of the Sentinels list, the loss of 12" movement was offset by having Infiltrate & Scout rules, and having access to Drop Pods.
  • All three of them are primarily shooty, but have at least one big "beatstick": Building an army purely for assault won't get you too far (Argueably not exactly True, YMMV), but having at least one tough guy will keep your opponent honest.

This isn't the only successful paradigm for building a list, but understanding "Beatsticks anchoring lots of mobile fire teams" (Or "Heavy Cavalry + Horse Archers") will get you far.

More detailed specifics will are found in the "Individual Army Tactics" of course.

  • MSU/MSSU: Muliple Scoring Units/Multiple Small Scoring Units

A popular tactic in the tournament scene, especially in 6th edition but with applications for any game. The idea is that the units holding objectives are highly versatile, very cost effective, very quick, and completely replaceable. Furthermore, *every* objective is covered this way. In high-objective games, like all maelstrom, this allows for the nabbing of undefended or undefendavle loacations. If one unit runs into trouble, another identical unit is ready to immediately replace them. DEldar, Sentinel Scouts, and Tyranid spore drop lists have all succeeded in this way.

Looking for advice[edit]

Note the large amount of excess information
I really hope you wouldent do this anon-kun
A much improved version

So you've managed to hamfistedly slap together your first list, its even won you a few games. but is it good? probably not, so you go to one of TeeGee's list threads, and immediately get yelled at for your poor formatting, lack of experience and general overall clean-shavenness

here are some do's and dont's in a list thread

DO:- Post what you want to do with this list (tournament, casual ect)

DO:- Post the points limit

DO:- Post the total cost of each model (for characters) or unit

DO:- List the upgrades a unit has taken

DO:- List the dedicated transports a unit has taken

DO:- Clearly identify which detachment/formation each unit belongs to

DONT:- Post the individual cost break down for each upgrade

DONT:- Post the individual stats of a unit

DONT:- Copy the list directly from battle scribe (or equivalent)

DONT:- List ALL the war gear/special rules a model/unit has

DONT:- List all the command benefits a individual detachment has

DONT:- bump excessively either, as that will diminish the likelihood anons will respond.

DONT:- be a wanker to somebody who gave you negative feedback. they gave it for a reason

Also remember, to get feed back, an anon who either plays or knows your army has to see it. this means you might have to post it a few times, at different times of the day, or included an image in the post. The less played the army the less likely you will get feedback first time: chaos usually gets feed back first time, but sisters generally have to repost a few time. Just be patient

Playing the Game[edit]

Movement 101[edit]

7th Edition: Movement Phase 101

Topics covered so far:

  • How movement works.
  • Common rules mistakes.
  • Basic advice regarding movement.
  • Accurate and predictable measuring.
  • Countering enemy movement.

Psychic Phase (AKA: mind bullet time)[edit]

7th Edition: Psychic Phase 101

The psychic phase is where you use your vast array of mind powers.

Shooting Stuff[edit]

The basics[edit]

  • Choose a weapon to shoot with and throw a dice. To hit, you need to score higher than your BS (which may vary due to external modifiers like cover).
  • Rolling to wound:
    • Attacker's Strength two (or more) greater than target's toughness: 2+
    • Attacker's Strength one greater than target's toughness: 3+
    • Attacker's Strength equal to target's toughness : 4+
    • Attacker's Strength one less than target's toughness: 5+
    • Attacker's Strength two (or more) lower than target's toughness: 6+

If the target's toughness is double (or greater) the attacker's strength, then the target is completely immune, the attacker can't damage him. Conversely, if the attacker's strength is double (or greater) the target's toughness, the wounds gain the rule "Instant Death" (meaning any unsaved wounds insta-kill the target).

  • There are two ways to kill a tough unit: Either you use a high penetration high damage weapon to greatly reduce the chance of the unit succeeding its armour save , or you can attempt to overwhelm the unit's defense and fire enough dakka into it to make it fail a save. Bring the appropriate amount of dakka to combat a heavy unit, lest you be the one shot to hell.
    • Example: Space Marine Terminators hate Guardsmen, Necron, and Tau bricks because they put out a fuckton of weak shots that will make them inevitably fail armor saves. Or rather than rely on 50 lasgun shots the guardsmen can instead bring a plasma gun that can flush their armor saves and instantly kill them. The plasma gun only needs to cook one terminator to make its points back. Conversely, the terminators can bring a heavy flamer and viet-nam 80% of the guard squad.
  • Consequently, using too many units on a weak enemy is a waste of firepower and resources. Every unit who is somewhere can't be somewhere else.
  • Although over-kill might be considered bad by some, lady luck might not always be on your side. You want to succeed even if plans A, B and C fail.
  • During your shooting phase, assess what target options each one of your shooty units has, and always have your units who only have a single option fire first. The reason for this is if you've got unit A in a position to shoot anything he likes and unit B which only has one thing to shoot at, you want B to take the shot first. If you shoot B's target with A first instead, you run the risk of destroying it or breaking their morale, and you'll feel like a complete moron for depriving B of anything to shoot at.
  • Another thing that is good to remember is which guns to fire first. Always fire blast weapons first, because the number of wounds they deal is always equal to the number of units in the squad at best, whereas regular guns can deal as many wounds as they hit.

Advanced Notes[edit]

  • Generally speaking, don't rely on blast or flamer weapons to rack up large numbers of kills, as an enemy general can easily spread out his models to minimize potential damage. More than anything, they exist to keep the enemy honest and prevent an extreme concentration of forces. That said, there are four major scenarios for enemy models to bunch-up.
    • When the enemy is displaced from one or more Tank Shocks.
    • When a unit emerges from Deep Strike, and either rolls poorly to Run, forfeits running to-shoot (though a lot of Deepstrike units can reliably "Fire & Run" with the right power combinations), or is targeted by an Interceptor Weapon beforehand.
    • When the unit rolls poorly to consolidate after an assault (of note is the fact that models cannot consolidate after assaulting a vehicle). Don't forget your flamers for the second wave.
    • When the unit loses its transport, either to a wreck or explosion. A classic "one-two-punch" for a Marine army is to use heavier weapons to destroy enemy transports, then immediately follow-up with the Thunderfire cannons before the surviving passengers can spread out!
  • If you want to maximize the amount of damage done to bunched-up models, four AOE weapons firing from the same unit will inflict more damage, than from four different units. To use a (very vacuum) example, let us compare two (vacuum) scenarios, with Orks as target practice:
    • Four units of Chaos Space Marines, each with one flamer and 4 Bolters, fire at a unit of 20 Orks. All other things being considered, each flamer-equipped model can hit roughly 5 Orks apiece. The first unit fires, with one flamer hitting 5 Orks. After rolling to-hit and wound, the flamer kills about 2-3 Orks. The remaining models fire their Bolters, and probably kill another 4 Orks. The next unit fires, and is lucky if there is even one Ork in range of its flamer.
    • On the other hand, let us suppose a unit of Chaos Chosen with four Flamers was firing at the unit of Orks. Each one hits 5 Orks, for a total of 20 hits. You now roll to-wound and the flamers themselves kill an average of 10 Orks, for a fraction of the investment.
  • Many squads gain a disproportionate amount of strength from any special/heavy weapons they are carrying with them, or from the occasional superior character leading said unit. As a result, there are some occasions where you can mostly neuter the strength of the unit if you kill those specific models.
  • Although Characters can get "Look Out Sir" rolls, troopers armed with upgraded weapons do not. Thus, a competent player will generally hide such models in the "Center" of a formation, where they are shielded by their buddies (since the closest models from an attack vector are hit first).
  • There are two main ways to single out enemy models in a unit: The first is to use weapons which can single out specific models. This includes attacks with the Precision Shot rule, or Beams/Focused Witchfires. These attacks tend to have inefficient economy of force.
  • The second way is to force key models to be the the closest visible ones singled out by your firepower. This is generally more efficient, but is situational and requires more prep-work to pull-off. Several ways to more reliably force your attacks to wound the models you want dead include the following:
    • Using "Barrage" weapons (Mortars/etc) changes the attack point of origin from the firing unit's location, to ground-zero of the blasts in question.
    • Though it's basic, it bears repeating: Always keep careful track of the order in which the models in your unit fire. A good motto is "Area of Effect Weapons First", "Rank and File Weapons Next", "Specials Are Last But Not Least." You want to remove as many chaff models as possible before you give your Plasmagunner a clear shot to the enemy Plasmagunner.
    • If you have ready access to powers that let you move and fire during the Shooting Phase (Battle Focus, Feints & Ambushes, the "Fire & Move" order for Guard, Marines in a Stormlance Demi-Company, etc), you can line troops down one attack vector. Units that can move after firing can move aside so they don't grant the enemy cover from your next firing squad (think of center-peeling and you're not too far off). Units that can move-then-fire in the shooting phase, you can further reposition your models based on any opportunities to hit the "next closest model".
    • If all else fails, you can aim to block visibility to the parts of the enemy unit you don't want to shoot. This is yet another reason why Rhinos and convoy formations can be nasty. You can play "Space Invaders/shooting gallery" with your troops forming a triangle, and firing at a distinct subset of models they wish to remove.


  • Assaulting is somewhat less reliable in 7th, due to Overwatch and random charge ranges, but it can still be a highly effective way of dispatching your enemies. It's also very situational, so make sure you are familiar with just what your unit can do and to whom it can do it to best. You'll be primarily concerned with delivering your fighting men into assaults reliably and keeping them alive between combats. While Assault has Less of an impact in 7th edition it's still a potent force to be considered. remember 7" is the average roll on a 2d6 charge and Dont rely on overwatch to mow your opposition down before it gets to you, Assault is Far from dead and you'll regret it if you treat it as such.
  • Optimizing your chances for success: Precision Shots should always aim to eliminate serious threats to your Assault game (i.e.: Template weapons, Marker Drones, Single Defensive Grenade bearers, etc.) Assault Vehicle, Crusader, Fleet, and Hammer of Wrath make your assaults more reliable, by getting your units closer, neutralizing enemies before they can fight back, and ensuring that when you Sweep, you stand a better chance of knocking the target out. Aim to kill the target of your assault during his turn, never yours, because killing it in yours leaves you open to enemy shooting. Pinning shots are your friend.
  • Weapon selection: Models who rely on faster initiative should seldom take Unwieldy weapons, while with slower, tougher and better armoured troops it's less of an issue. Impact weapons such as power spears are useless without either Hit & Run or a reliable way to get the charge. Rending is no substitute for AP 2, but has its uses, especially in quantity. Above all, kill them before they kill you, and to that end, take Concussive when you're faster and you can get it, but remember it only makes a difference for multi-wound models. And don't sweat AP, or lack thereof.
  • Assaults happen twice per game turn vs shooting's one, they dissallow cover saves, and they almost always have a better chance of dislodging units from objectives owing to how leadership resolves.

Advanced Notes[edit]

  • As a general rule of thumb, you want to break or destroy your enemy in your opponent's assault phase. That way, your opponent does not have a shooting phase before your assault teams move towards their next target.
  • Generally speaking, Overwatch is more of an annoyance than a true threat, though certain rules, bonuses, etc (Dark Angel Chapter Tactics, Tau Supporting Fire/Counterfire Defensive Systems, flamers, etc) can take your toll, especially if you're relying on glass cannon units (Harlequins notably). Some special "Negate Overwatch" powers exist, but there are other ways to mitigate the effects of Overwatch.
    • Pinned units cannot Overwatch. However, this generally is not a state you can reliably inflict on your opponent.
    • Overwatch takes place before you move your charging unit, and is still subject to normal rules for Line of Sight, cover, etc. Moving a Rhino or other vehicle flat-out to block off models from shooting your chargers is always a valid trick.
    • If blocking Line of Sight is not an option, then aim to eat the overwatch. One way to do this is to have a "tanky" unit lead the vanguard. For example, when charging a unit armed with multiple flamers, have a fast monster/walker lead the charge.
    • Alternately, there's sacrificing an otherwise-depleted unit. If you have one grunt remaining from a squad, have him charge first before following up with a more intact unit. Either your opponent must waste the Overwatch killing that one single model, or that model must tie up the enemy unit.
  • Remember that pile-ins use the same overall rules for charging, and thus any unit must ultimately maintain coherency. When attacking a large spread-out unit, you can negate a lot of its strength by attacking on opposing flanks.
  • Multi-assaults are where things get interesting. Remember that should a model be engaged in an assault with two enemy units, and is in only base-to-base with models from one of those units, it must allocate its attacks against that unit. What this rule means, is that if you have more valuable units you wish to preserve in assault, then you can plan your attack vectors accordingly. Hilarity is forcing Commander Smashfucker to waste his Strength 10 super-hammer of doom on rank-and-file Termagants while his bodyguard is being eaten alive by the nearby Carnifex!
  • The ability to quit close combats is a very powerful ability. It can be defensive, preventing ranged units from being tied down in melee, or it can be offensive, allowing assault units to "pinball" around the battlefield. Hit & Run is the main evasion ability, though Gate of Infinity finds its use as well (attaching Draigo to a unit of Centurions is the classic one-two of the infamous "Gravstar"). Another dirty trick you can use Hit and Run for in conjunction with a sufficiently durable unit (ex: A Conclave of the Burning One with a Deceiver Shard) is "Pulling" units off objectives. Attack the unit from the flank, wait for them to consolidate away from the objective, Hit & Run, and repeat the process.

Vehicle Tactics[edit]

  • (Tank) Shock and Awe
    • Mastery of metal box movement is key. They can be used as walls to many different effects, from bluntly blocking the enemy's movement to funneling some men on foot.
  • The most common metal box tactic used by armies that have cheap enough transports with few guns is to disembark in the movement phase, shoot with the infantry in the shooting phase, then flat out the transport in front of the infantry.
    • Basically ram them and hope it explodes; it really is fun when it does.

Dice Roll Math[edit]

  • It is almost always better to re-roll dice than to get +1. For instance, re-rollable 4+ has almost a 10% edge over 3+.
    • The exception is re-rolling 6's, which is 1/36 worse than 5+.
    • Because of how people throw dice, a re-rollable 2+ has a lower chance than math suggests. People tend to use the same rolling motions, which means those dice often end up in the same position ("1" both times).
  • A scatter die has a 1/3 chance of rolling "hit", making it better than or equal to BS2.
    • Despite being good for low-accuracy units, blasts also favour high BS units. Up to BS7, you get increase RoI on accuracy.
    • Against large targets, like tanks, a difference of 1-2" makes little difference. However, *any* scatter usually costs hits against infantry.
  • The average of 2d6 is 7.
    • Average number of 3d6 is 10.5. 4d6 is 14.
  • Picking the highest of two dice adds about 1 (actually .9722....) to the average roll.
  • 4+ re-roll 5+ is the same as 3+.
  • And, if you're into it, there's MathHammer.
  • GW dice are not mathematically fair! This set of mathematical data presumes you are using perfectly balanced casino dice which are. See following for details. http://www.dakkadakka.com/wiki/en/That%27s_How_I_Roll_-_A_Scientific_Analysis_of_Dice

Individual Army Tactics[edit]

Each of these pages contains (or should contain) a section on:

  • "Why Play Them," which briefly summarizes the positive aspects of the army.
  • "Unit Analysis," a brief discussion of the benefits (or lack thereof) and drawbacks of each unit individually.
  • "Building Your Army," suggestions on how to buy, convert, and paint the actual models.
  • "Tactics," suggested viable builds for a complete army.




Horus Heresy[edit]

Homebrew Tactics[edit]