Wednesday, February 24, 2010

B2B: Flamers

Hello folks! Today we're going to talk about some basics of the Flamer, how to minimize getting hit by them, and how to maximize their effect.

The joy and sorrow of Flamer weapons is that they base their hits on the number of enemy models covered by the Flamer Template. No to-hit rolls, no partials, no cover saves, and all "I love the smell of napalm in the morning!" The downside is that the enemy should be able to look at your list, see you have flamers and adjust their battle plan accordingly.

A few simple facts pertinent to Flamer spread:
1. A unit cannot move closer than 1" away from the enemy without being locked in CC.
2. 1" = 25.4mm, a standard base is 25mm, and .4mm is too small a difference to easily distinguish. Thus a normal base is 1" across for all intents.
3. Unit coherency is measured 2" from base to base.
4. The flamer template is 8.25" long and just over 2.25" at the widest.
5. The template always covers a set area, so the total number of hits can be reduced by simply spreading out.

So how can you minimize their effect on your own Troops? Well, it's always better to not get shot at all and an 8.25" range isn't much. But when it inevitably happens, spacing out your unit can drastically reduce the flamer's amount of coverage. As shown to the right, 1" away + 1" base + 2" coherency + 1" base + 2" coherency + 1" base = 8". In theory, a conga line formation could reduce a flamer weapon to a maximum of 3 hits. Of course "in theory" means about as much to an actual game as a frictionless vacuum does to applied physics. Terrain, additional units, inaccuracies of movement & measurement, inability of attackers to be perfectly positioned and many other minutiae will both increase and/or reduce the number of hits that occur.

On the other side of the coin, a flamer correctly placed over guys packed in like sardines can hit about 19 models. A range of 3-19 is quite the spread... how can you go about getting the most flame for your buck? There's six main times an opponent will bunch up nicely for flamers:
1. They make a mistake, such as forgetting you have flamers.
2. They're crowding into a small piece of terrain.
3. They're clumping to surround an objective.
4. Deploying from a Transport.
5. After Close Combat.
6. After a Tank Shock.
I'm never willing to rely on the first but happy to exploit it when it does. The second and third also rely on your opponent and are commonly related to the first. But the other three are items you can be proactive with...

Deploying from a Transport: One of the best times to hit opponents with flamers is right after they deploy from a Transport. Unfortunately, your opponent probably knows this too. A voluntary disembark on their part usually involves a subsequent move away, a mistake, over-confidence, or a limitation of their army build (such as DropPod "Drop & Shoot" armies.) It's good to recognize these and use them if they come up, but they're not reliable items.
In turn, there is also involuntary disembarkation, aka killing their transport. There's a few snags to relying on this method too. The main conundrum is that movement is done before shooting or assault, yet these are your most likely phases to kill a tank. So your flamer units will have move into position before you kill the tank and the enemy disembarks. This makes it difficult to predict where they will go, especially as a Destroyed-Wrecked result has a different deployment area from Destroyed-Explodes. Having your guys in position also allows the enemy to deploy away from the flamers and in formations to minimize their effect. Flamers are also a short range weapon and need to be close to the target. Being close means a chance of hurting your own unit if you get a result of Destroyed-Explodes. Last, if your dice run sour and you fail to kill the tank, your guys are exposed for retaliatory fire and assault from the unit in the tank. While moving your guys and hoping to pop their tank can work in a pinch, it is not a sound enough tactic to base strategy on.

Close Combat: The nice thing about Close Combat is that everyone involved gets up close and friendly. The bad thing is that you can't shoot into CC. So you need a way to end the CC but keep the enemy bunched up.
One option is to sacrifice a disposable unit. Simply let the enemy charge, have the speed bump die, then hit the enemy unit. Another option is the use of "Hit & Run". The availability of this is highly army dependent and it isn't always a sure thing. The problem with both of these is that they allow the opponent to make a Consolidate move. Though random, a decent roll can go a long ways to softening Flamer hits.
But there's an option that's even better: let them assault a Vehicle. Units cannot perform a Consolidate move after, even if the vehicle was destroyed. On your turn, the Vehicle (if able) can move away from the combat without penalty and units inside or near can move in to maximize those flamers.
Here's an example of this from an Ard Boyz game:Admittedly, my opponent made a mistake is charging the Wave Serpent right in front of the Wraithlord. So how about a more realistic example:Here we have examples of a Space Wolf Rhino getting charged by a mob of Orks. The top diagram is what to do if the vehicle survives the assault and the bottom is if it does not. A large part of making this work is to not over-extend your move. It is much more risky when the enemy can block the tank's exits. You want to make sure there's still enough room for the unit to disembark. It is also good policy to leave some room for the vehicle to exit. This isn't critical though as the vehicle might be Destroyed, can Tank Shock their way clear, and/or can provide cover for your unit after the enemy is annihilated.
Also note panels 5&6 for another neat tip. Infantry models may place the template "so that [the template's] narrow end is touching the base of the model firing." Note that this is different from "the shortest distance" or anything. The Flamer can be measure from any point on the edge of the base that does not cause it to cross the base or a friendly model. In Panel 5, he is turned to face the opponent as people are naturally wont to do and the template is placed at the closest point. This causes the wide part of the template to extend past the enemy and covers 9 models at most. But in Panel 6, the template is pulled back to measure off the side of his base. The model has been turned in place to change where his weapon is, to make this angle more obvious. This aspect change increases the hit count to 12. Simple things like this are critical to getting the most out of of your Flamers. (Note that this is literally true for Vehicles as the template is measure from their actual barrel tip.)

After a Tank Shock: One of my main armies is mech-Eldar and Tank Shock is one of my favorite tools. They have highly mobile and durable tanks in a force that needs to maximize every aspect of their attack to succeed. Commonly you see Tank Shock used in objective missions to push enemy units off of an objective. But a lesser known use is to compress the enemy unit to increase your Flamer shots. Simply, even if an enemy unit passes their Morale check, they are still displaced by the mass of the tank. The affected models must move by the shortest distance to clear the tank and must maintain coherency. So if you hit one side of an enemy formation, you can force the models at the edge to compress back into the main part of the squad. Additionally, models inside the tank may deploy as normal AFTER seeing where the enemy moves. This will often increase the number of hits enough to make it worth skipping on assaulting, especially with a non-combat unit like Guardians. Here's a visual:This is a simple example, but it should give you the general idea. Now imagine doing this with a tank on each side... As another variation, you can always Tank Shock with one unit and then flame and assault with a second.
There's also one more fun bit to remember about Tank Shock... Ramming! As mentioned above, enemy units bunch up when deploying from a tank and flamers will get more hits. Because most anti-tank is done after your movement, your opponent has greater ability to react to where your flamers are placed. Yet Ramming happens in the Movement Phase. Thus you have the potential to pop their tank and jump your guys out for maximum carnage. Just be aware that this type of attack relies on a number of random factors and enemy movement. It really is an attack of opportunity rather than a tactic I would rely on regularly using.
UPDATE: And yet another fun thing about Tank Shock: "Death or Glory" attacks are only allowed by a single "model in the vehicle's path". Many players like to place their special weapons and nasty characters either to the center of the squad or stacked to one side. If you Tank Shock an edge of the formation such that those don't have to move, they are not able to perform a DoG attack. This is another of those simple yet critical items that be make all the difference in your Tank Shock.

This is the first in a new series of articles I'm calling "Back to Basics", or B2B for short. Most of my tactics articles have focused on really complex and/or esoteric items. Partly this is because I haven't seen others talking about them. Partly I like complex tactics as they give me a chance to show off. But mostly I'd assumed the majority of players on the internet/blogosphere were experienced players looking for the rarer ideas. In looking around and talking to people, I've since realized there are a lot of newbies looking to up their game and regular players that may have missed some basics. Several times I've dropped a comment about something I consider basic, such as "escorting" or "castling", only to be asked what I'm talking about. So the B2B series is going to focus on basic rules and how they interact with other basics to create the mid-level tactics that are the bread and butter of winning at 40K. Cheers and I hope you enjoy this new style of article.

PS. Go vote on a banner and COMMENT in my "Vote a New Banner" thread. I promised a set of sculpting tolls to a random lucky winner and an LE fig if it hit over 20 comments. Well, we're at 27 now. Depending on how many more I get, even more cool stuff will have to be pulled out...

***Image is from Apocalypse Now and used without permission***


  1. Very nice tactica about a simple subject. I need to try this tank shock and flame thing at some point- sounds really cool and purpouse built for Chimeras...

    And you measure from the tip of the weapon? Huh, didn't know that. I always thought you just aimed from the model's base.

    One more thing that I would stress about flamer templates is that in many situations closer is not better. For instance, if you have a large, roughly circular blob of models somewhere (say, hiding in a crater or inside exploded vehicle wreckage) moving closer can make it so that you don't hit as many as if you had stood back just a little bit, as the difference between the large and small ends of the template hitting can be HUGE. Also applies to situations where the enemy is spread out perpendicular to you and you do not have the speed to catch the nice line up.

  2. Mmm... looks like I should clarify. Vehicle rules specifically go from the tip of the weapon. The Infantry rules state "so that the narrow end is touching the base of the model firing". So technically, that can be ANY part of the base.
    Most people want you to measure from the weapon or the closest point. By turning as shown, you avoid that debate. That make better sense?

    Also, excellent point about being careful with your range. It makes quite a difference.

  3. Aaah... now I get it. Yes, that would avoid many a rules debate. Nice tip.