Saturday, 10 September 2016

Tactica Clipping Assault

Tactica clipping assault

I can still remember the first time I was introduced to the wonders/horrors of clipping assaults. It actually came right at the same time as my introduction to another word I would learn to loathe, intermingled. For anyone who has ever played Blood Bowl you will know why these words are the "illegal procedure" of the Epic universe. But of course you guys can't think back with the same fondness to that moment so here's a picture... Yes the whole the whole sorry debacle was turned into a battle report... Check it out here if you want a laugh... 

So here's the story behind the photo. It was my second game of Epic ever, my first being against another mate determined to teach me in the iconic sink or swim fashion. This time would my opponent would be against easily one of the best players in the country (and I would argue anywhere) who was testing out just how powerful the Warlock Titan would be when it can summon an Avatar... It would be a game of many firsts for me. In the photo you can see my Steel Legion HQ nicely intermingled with the Warhound Titan and about to be introduced to the rough end of a pineapple colonoscopy. 

You see how clipping assault works is this. 
In this case what had happened was this. At the end of the turn using their activation advantage my Eldar opponent had run up the warlock Titan to within FF support range of the gaurdsmen, the shining spears had then flown in from somewhere (max move of 105cm after all!) around the warlock. At the beginning of the following turn the avatar had been summoned and the Eldar used their 2 point strat advantage to get the first shot in. Eldar are particularly adept at this sort of manoeuvre if designed with enough activations because of their high speed and triple retain combined with comparatively high strat rating. 
Now look at the position I'm in. The gaurdsmen would have +2 in the combat for numbers but a single blast marker on them (and none on the spears) balances that. The commissar gives them inspiring but the shining spears can easily get inspiring too and can get double inspiring easily enough. So that means that with minimal effort the Eldar player has negated all of my soft score benefits so now it just comes down to straight kills. 
            Now look at the positioning of the units. The spears are deliberately stretched back around the warlock, this is because the Epic engage rules stipulate that you must move towards the nearest enemy model, not the closest engaging model... So basically my troops can move towards the warlock or the avatar in this case. They can't attack either so ultimately all this achieves is that more move into the 15cm kill box. In return of course the warlock and the avatar both get to put their shots into the combat racking up some serious damage. 
            There is no twist to this story, it went exactly as it does for everyone's first experience with clipping assault, the attacker has completely outmanoeuvred me and I got slaughtered, combined with the Warhound being intermingled I had 2 formations broken in the first activation and the game was done by the end of the turn. I no doubt walked away feeling that everything was op and the engagement rules were stupid. No fact I know exactly what that looked like because I've visited the same pain on numerous opponents and you can almost see the same process every time it happens. Honestly I do think the countercharge rule is nonsensical but the reality is we need to live with it. Now here's the ray of sunshine... Looking back it actually wasn't as bad as I first thought. There was actually a reasonable odds chance of getting out of it... If only get out of it. If only I'd thought more carefully... 
            You see the attack does have some weaknesses, especially if the attacker doesn't pull it off perfectly. Look again at that photo and now bear in mind a few limitations that aren't immediately apparent. For example, despite the Warhound being intermingled it wasn't within 15cm of the attacking enemy (shining spears) and was therefore immune to being hit, worst case scenario then is he will end up broken. Similarly there were only 2 shining spears actually in engagement range whilst there were at least 6 gaurdsmen and with a bit of wiggling I could have gotten that a little higher (though not much because of how well positioned the war engines were). With only a little bit of luck I could have killed those shining spears meaning that there is no support fire and the real strength of the attack is wasted. Now in this case what would have happened next would have been a retain with the avatar which would would have done just as good a job but perhaps you can see how close these things can be if you just step back and think carefully. 

        In a similar example I was on the receiving end of at Cancon this year I managed to flip it around with some tricky movement that is worth storing away in the storage bank. In this case it was Eldar again with phantom Titans advancing for the FF support role in front of a unit of Squat berserkers with rhinos followed by shining spears on the flank for the clipping engage. In this case what my opponent had forgotten is that the rhinos have a counter move of 10cm rather than the infantry units 5cm so in the counter attack phase the rhinos drove forward making contact with the Phantoms and actually moving mode of the unit out of attack range of the spears in the process. The result was that now the entire squat formation could have a crack at something and though they still lost it became an extremely close thing rather than a total slaughter. This tactic can be used even more effectively if you keep a couple of your infantry inside transports while the rest just sit touching them to avoid dying with the transports. This gives you an even larger counter attack range with the 10cm move of the transport and then the dismount move. 
Clipping assault will feel harsh when you first experience it but don't get angry about it. For some armies it's as essential a tactic as air drop is for marines or long range shooting is for Gaurd. For Necrons it's all about FF engagements because the list doesn't have much else, for EpicUK Tyranids with expendable gaunts it's their go to manoeuvre whilst Eldar will love it because they combine awesome FF support units like gaurdians with free summonable avatars that appear with a guaranteed no blast markers and bonus inspiring, and that's even before you factor in triple retain and the rest. 

Game Highlight! Clipping assault example: (Space Marines Vs Necrons) 

One interesting thing we did get to see in this incredibly short game was a solid example of the clipping assault tactic I’ve been recently discussing. Check out the pick and you will see the land speeders carefully positioned to provide FF support whilst also causing the monoliths to move towards them an away from being able to respond effectively to the warhound that would trigger the engagement. In this case I managed to turn the tactic slightly to my advantage as the obelisks move 30cm so have a 10cm counter charge, one of them would use this to make BC with the land speeders bringing them into the engagement and actually putting the warhound out of FF range. Tragically this didn’t achieve much anyway, the contacting obelisk’s reinforced armour was no match for a difficult terrain test and the units 7 attacks failed to do more than scratch the paint on the land speeders whilst their melta attacks would take down a monolith… Net result was a win to the marines but the fearless ron’s just shrugged with a robotic nyah. Still a good example of how to set it up and what an (potentially!) go wrong.

Counter strategies 
If your opponent was using teleporting terminators you would use scouts to screen important units, if they were using thunderhawk assaults it would be countered with overwatch and CAP, the same applies to clipping assaults. There are always counter strategies for you to consider. 

1) Don't intermingle... Especially for new players being conscious of the 5cm gap between units is so important. So many games are won or lost on a solid engage move and so many of those losses come from intermingled units where the losses can be compounded. Personally I used to intermingle so much that I started writing a sticky note and putting it on the table to remind myself! I would suggest grabbing some sort of tool to make it easy to measure the gap. In my area we use this custom tool printed by one of the locals. It's not currently available beyond attendees at Castle Assault there has been discussion of making these more widely available if there is enough interest. 

2) Watch the activation count - if your opponent has 2-3 more activations than you you are at solid risk of clipping engagements at the end of the turn. You can definitely spot this by looking out for the units that would make excellent choices to do it with, if they aren't moving it's probably not by accident. 

3) Be careful with aggressive early moves - it follows on from the one above really, if your army has less activations odds are you'll be looking for opportunities to balance that by knocking out some enemy activations early in the turn. They can be easy to do with long range artillery/shooting but if you push too far out that gives your opponent more options to set up a suitable response. If you want to move forward that's fine but make sure you have units that mutually support each other. If you look at my orkeosaurus strategy for Castle Assault for example the main goal was to have it so that each dino was supported by 2-3 other dinos as much as possible with the only weak points at the end of the line, those I could cover with other units. 

4) Be conscious of your strategy rating - if you are playing a low strat rating like Gaurd recognise that is because your army has certain advantages like lots of long range shooting that most armies don't have. By contrast higher strat armies like marines and Eldar are supposed to use that advantage too. Marines can use this through air assaults, teleporting etc whilst Eldar armies like the example I started with will try to use the triple retain to do a big hit using clipping assault. Each army is playing to its advantages which is good play, if you have a low strat rating army you just need to expect this to happen if you leave yourself open to it. By contrast just running a high strat rating army like marines will give you a solid defence against it. 

5) Screening troops - one thing available to just about every army is cheap screening troops which can be thrown forwards to protect your valuable whatever at a critical time. Throw them too early and they will be cleared by enemy support units and squandered, too late and the hit is already made but if you can identify a weak point in your line and throw them forward at the right time it could just save you. Scouts are easily one of the most important units in any army in epic, ignore them at your peril. 

I guess the moral to the story is that clipping assaults are no worse ultimately than air assault of deep strikes you just need to be prepared. Lots of people will complain about the countercharge move rules and yes they are stupid, but no more stupid than fearless commissars making shadowswords bulletproof after they are broken or air engagements that can fly laterally to completely ignore your carefully crafted scout screens whilst drop ships from space have to move outside them... I take the position that the rules are what they are and what players should do is focus on how to use them to their best advantage. 

Good luck, play well and if worse comes to worse don't get sad, get even! 

1 comment:

  1. Great write up Steve. The epic tool ( available from the netea web-page ( is very useful and also has a nice 5cm edge.