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A Self Improvement Guide for your Tactical Mind

Natio from Ulthuan.net has agreed to share his wonderful article that focuses on preparing the mind rather than the usual focus on the armies or units. Enjoy!

I am writing this self help guide for all of us who sometimes get ahead of ourselves when preparing to play a game of Warhammer. It is a check list of sorts that (hopefully) helps the user improve their tactical skills in Warhammer. It will cover each gaming-related area of the hobby; building your army, deployment & battle.

This article is about the difference between the Tactical Mind & the Emotional Mind. The Emotional Mind is basing your decisions in Warhammer on what you think is cool or how you feel. The Tactical Mind is making decisions without emotions influencing you. Obviously it doesn’t mean you can’t have emotions, but they need to be recognized & funneled it into your gameplay, instead of subconciously affecting it.

Note: Much of this Guide will be reiterating the basics but it is often the basics that are forgotten at a crucial moment in battle.

Part 1: Building your Army

Making a good army is generally always a 3 step process;

• Gathering the models.
• Painting said models.
• Putting an army list together.

Now I have written the above steps rather simplistically but for the sake of my argument bear with me.

Generally people make mistakes in 1 or all 3 steps, and don’t know it or don’t care. Below each step you will see questions in italics. Ask yourself these questions when doing the relevant step for each unit or character & improve your Tactical Mind (probably Wink).

Step 1
In the gathering of models certain emotional attachments are often made to special models or units. Why can this be bad? It can be bad because the model/s can be overvalued in game just because it/they look cool. So avoid overvaluing a model because it has a nice sword, pose etc and thus avoid lavishing magic items on it or getting more to construct a ridiculously large unit. Why spending lots of points on items or large units is bad will be covered later in the article.

Is this cool looking model or unit going to detract from my armies tactical ability to win games if I have more of them, or make them central to my army battle line?

Step 2
Painting models well places an increasing value on certain models or if poorly painted does the opposite. It is simple psychology; if you spend more time painting the Hero or Elite unit then you’ll be more motivated to protect them with expensive items or tactics. Why can this be bad? It can be bad because it creates emotional reliance on those units. People get upset about losing the fully kitted out, well painted Prince on a Dragon and practically hand the rest of the game to their opponent because the game is “nearly lost now anyway”. Ask yourself these questions when doing step 2.

Does the fact that I’ve spent lots of time painting this mode or unit influence my game play?

Will I get upset if my incredibly well painted General/Mage/Dragon etc gets killed or threatened in the game? If yes, will it affect my game play?

There is also an opposite of this. It is when you don’t care about your troops & throw them away needlessly. Even Skaven Slaves have value in the game but a callous disregard for the poorly painted units could lead to blaze` sacrifices. So poorly painted massed rank infantry shamelessly pushed forward in clumps is not highly regarded by the player & is readily sacrificed, forgotten or just too bothersome to move. So the player has paid points for this unit, using a finite amount of points & doesn’t use them to their full capacity.

Are my less well painted/modeled units going to be ignored or used poorly?

Step 3
Now if a gamer has slipped up in step 1 or 2 then step 3 might also be at risk of emotional attachment. The most expensive models & better painted ones often garner more attention when assigning equipment in building the army list. This might lead to overprotecting the unit or model with expensive items, sacrificing other units to protect them in game or purchasing more troops for the elite (pretty) unit than the effective. Balance in an army is an effective way to win battles. Why? Because most players cannot gear their army specifically to yours & vice versa, making Warhammer very similar to Russian Roulette if you load most of your points into one aspect of the game. The phrase “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” comes to mind as there is always a list that can do what your army list can. Then it all comes down to luck, just like Russian Roulette.

Are there models I have that make me want to spend extra points on them?

Do they really need that extra protection or hitting power?

Is my winning specialization prone hampering the other parts of my game too adversely?

Can this unit do what I need it to do without spending as many points on it?

Why have I spent 40%+ on Characters & what was I smoking at the time I wrote this list?

Summary of above
So how it is exactly that valuing certain models or units but not others is bad? In a game of Warhammer each side has an equal amount of points to spend on troops, characters & both magical & mundane items. So it is necessary to spend these points in the best way possible. If a unit is the crux of your game plan then any opponent can identify it & neutralize it. Singular units & models are also vulnerable to bad luck, which can also ruin your game plan. The reliance on “Uber units of Doom” or incredibly expensive combat characters is generally the act of “The Emotional Mind”.

By this I mean in a game of Warhammer a player can revert to the “Rule of Cool” instead of the practical, that is, they grab some characters & elite units, then, spend lots of points on them. This splurging of points leaves few points for the Core troops & Support troops, which then causes all sorts of difficulties for the player later on. Difficulties such as fewer troops to soak up casualties. Fewer units to prevent the opponent from identifying your deployment game plan & to discover theirs. So what we all should be aiming for is a balance between quantity & quality of units & different roles for our characters, other than just the combat character.

Good Tactics starts with you. As Sun Tzu said;

‘Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril’.

So mastering yourself & your emotions can lead half way to victory, or maybe even further……

So the idea of this section is:

Know thy self implicitly, recognize attachments before the game & don’t let them get the better of you so you start on the right foot before every game.

8 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Hi! I’m new to the Hobby. I’m mainly a World War 2 enthusiast (wish to model a diorama of the Battle of Crete in 1/72 scale as I am of Greek descent and live in New Zealand hence the fixation on Crete-have been there recently),but I am building up a High Elf Army to enjoy some combat with my son Michael (aged 20) who has 3 armies of the dreaded “Druchii”.
    I have spent ages on painting. I have done an alternative to the regular “Mithril” silver look preffering a mettalic blue look rather like the cover of the recent “White Dwarf”, and High Elf Rule Book.
    Thank you for your enlightening article. It would be nice to hear from you.

  2. I’m still too new at the hobby to really give a comment. I’m more of a painter than a gamer. Once I get all the rules etc in my head can proggress.
    Your comment about “Balance” is very valuable indeed. As is the point of not needlessly sacrificing troops. When I play chess for example I tend to be defensive rather than aggressive so I see your point.
    My son says I take too long to make moves/decisions for that very reason. As for not spending massive points on “Characters” and fancy stuff as versus balancing out on “…the GRUNTS…” the core foot soldiers thats sound advice indeed…….Nick Papadopoulos.

  3. Hi Nick,
    Great comments. Yes that is the case, you will find the grunts are the ones that make the difference. Don’t worry about speed, I am very slow as well. Play more and you get faster. At the end of the day don’t forget to have fun! PS that metallic blue sounds like a good idea!


    i’m new at the game too but i think my case is the totally oposite.
    I know the most rules since i spent a lot of time reading the rulebook over and over.
    Still i havent played a single match, because i keep changing colours in my army.
    first i started with blue and white but now i use red, black and gold.
    Anyway i just want to say that i found the article very right and that i hope to see some more of that type.
    PS i am from Greece too Nick!!

  5. High Elf Roger

    i’v been playing high elves for about 7 years and i would say that one BSB is all the combat characters you need. i sometimes think that the good paint job will stop you from making rash decisions on a charge or something like that. my question would be do you think its worth taking a lvl4 mage with book of hoeth and a lvl 2 mage with seer staff who then picks spell 2 of the heavens list to let me reroll a miscast. that ends up being like 450 points. do you think its worth it in a 2250 tourney list

  6. Austin Conrad

    Extremely good article. I’ve been playing a mixture of High Elves and Dark Elves for about 3-4 years now, and I’ve never considered the difference that your state of mind can have on your gaming. Makes a lot of sense.

    My opinion with the mage problem roger mentioned is that it depends on what Lore you choose. I would recommend High Lore for that oh-so-nice Drain Magic against magic heavy foes like Lizardmen and Dark Elves. You can always take Shield of Saphery, which I have found to be the most useful spell from the lore (Swordmasters are an arrow-magnet!), while Vaul’s Unmaking, while difficult to pull off, is a terrific spell against opponents who like to use expensive magic items or against the dreaded… Special Characters. I have wiped the floor with the Green Knight (Bretonnians) after nailing him twice with that.

    Really, IMO, if you are going to be using a magic based army, go all the way though, Banners of Sorcery and whatnot. Unless you roll like I do, I think you would do fine in a tourney.

  7. Max

    great article. i have one thing to add tho. get one special character that isnt so powerful and expensive but looks big, scary, and well painted. then talk to ur opponent as if that character(or monster) is key to ur army; as in if the enemy kills of 2 swordmasters, quickly say “i dont care, just wait till my dragon gets to u” and act as if that dragon is the cornerstone of ur army–phsycologically this sometimes gets into ur opponent’s head and causes him to direct more attention than necesary to your dragon. also if the enemy prizes a certain character or unit–make sure it dies becuz this will have a large effect on ur opponent’s mindset(for example, today i was fiting a high elf player with my all cav warriors of chaos army and he destroyed my knights getting off spirit of the forge irresistable(gah very annoying) i probably still could have won, but i started getting careless and lost in the end))

  8. Axel

    russian roulette is all about skills 😀

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