Age of Sigmar Tactics

Understand the game, make better choices and wreck face

Age of Sigmar Tactics

Getting the most out of the charge

Nothing feels worse than messing up the charge and having your hardest hitting units smashed to bits. Charging in Age of Sigmar has a lot of depth and not all of it is obvious.

To help you get the most out of your charges we will cover the following topics:

Instead of telling you what to do, I will try to help you understand the principles of charging in Age of Sigmar. I hope this will grow your understanding of AOS and help you make better decisions. Teaching a man to fish and all that.

Before we get into it, let’s first check out the rules as written by the Games Workshop.

Rules of the charge

Any of your units within 12″ of the enemy in your charge phase can make a charge move. Pick an eligible unit and roll two dice. Each model in the unit can move this number in inches. You may not pick a unit that ran or retreated this turn, nor one that is within 3″ of the enemy.

At least one model from the unit must finish within ½” of an enemy model. If that’s impossible, the charge has failed and no models in the charging unit can move in this phase.

When charging is or isn’t awesome

Running at stuff while screaming loudly is amazing, but is not always the best move. To get the most out of the charge, you should look at what it will bring you in the turns down the road. As they say, “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

To me, there are only four reasons to charge with a unit.

  • If the unit can win the fight and open up a charge in their next turn.
  • If the unit can deal damage while suffering fewer casualties during their opponent’s activation.
  • If it is the only way to prevent enemy unit(s) from moving to a better target or capturing an objective in the opponents turn(s).
  • If the unit can capture an objective.

In all other scenarios, your units will be stuck in combat until they die or retreat. Having units of similar strength brawl it out is always a bad idea. You will lose as many points worth of models as your opponent while gaining no advantage.

The benefit of the charge

Due to the alternating combat in Age of Sigmar, you will always have one unit that can activate before any other. We call this the alpha strike.

This unit can strike at full strength, without having suffered casualties in that turn. By destroying units on the alpha strike after charging, you can deal massive damage each turn without having the strength of the unit diminished.

All units you activate after the alpha strike will suffer one or more enemy activations. They need to be sturdy enough to be effective even after suffering one or more enemy activations.

Keeping this in mind, there are two things you should ask yourself when preparing for the charge.

  • How can I optimise my alpha strike?
  • How can I minimise the damage on the units I will activate later?

Optimising the alpha strike

In general, your alpha striker should be a hard hitting unit that needs the first activation to stay strong during the game. Whenever you have multiple strong alpha strikers consider the following factors.

  • Which of your units can do the most damage in one activation?
  • Which of my units can receive the most offensive buffs?
  • Which of your units has the weakest defence?
  • What enemy unit is the most threatening to your victory?
  • Which of your units will be in the best position after the alpha strike?
  • Can my opponent get a double turn after this?

It is important that you have a charge plan in your hero phase so that you can use your abilities, moves and shooting to bring it to completion.

When it is not clear who will be my best alpha striker or target, I usually try to calculate my damage output from and against different units. Take your time in this process, Age of Sigmar is a slow game and you should not feel bad for taking a few minutes to formulate a plan.

In the ideal scenario, after the combat phase is over, you have destroyed the most threatening unit on the board without having your strength diminished. Keep in mind that you can use your shooting to ensure you kill the target of your alpha striker.

The most threatening unit does not have to be the strongest. It can be a scary dragon threatening your backline as well as a unit of pesky skinks that is about to capture a game-changing objective.

Even though all units can charge in Age of Sigmar, some do it a lot better than others. These units get improved stats in the turn they charged and sometimes even deal mortal wounds after reaching their target. Good examples of this are High Elf Dragon Blades and the Orruk Megaboss on Maw-Crusha.

Minimising damage taken after the charge

After your alpha strike, it is your opponents turn to activate. This is the moment your units will start suffering casualties. These are three awesome ways to keep the damage they take to a minimum

  • Preventing enemy pile-ins
  • Killing enemy models
  • Buffing and debuffing

Preventing enemy pile-ins

When you activate a unit to attack in close combat, all models can move up to 3″ towards the closest enemy model. This is the pile in. Preventing enemy models from reaching your units with their 3″ move, is the easiest way to prevent damage. This works best against bigger units that can not retreat and charge in the same turn. The bigger the enemy unit, the better.

When you are preventing pile-ins to stall a unit, make sure you are investing fewer points worth of models than your opponent. Otherwise, you are just evening out for a few turns.

There are three ways to prevent your opponents models from piling in.

  • By placing a single model on the edge of a unit.
  • Sandwiching enemy unit with more than 6″ in between your units.
  • Removing dead models in front of unactivated units.

Placing a single model on the edge of an enemy unit

When you charge a unit with a single model, you have a clear range advantage. While you only need to be in contact with one model, your opponent needs to be in range with every model that attacks.

Position the base of your model so that the distance between it and the majority of your opponents models is as big as possible. Every model that can’t get in range with its pile-in can’t attack and is worthless during your opponent’s activation.

Enemy models may not pile in when they are already in contact with an enemy model. Use this to prevent the closest enemy models from making room for its buddies by moving around you.

This is a great way to shut down a unit for one or two turns. At some point, they will get enough models in reach to kill your model. Let’s hope you have slaughtered them all by then.

By charging my Dragon Noble into the far most Blood Reaver, my opponent can only attack with 4 models. Thanks to the positioning and the 4+ re-rollable save of the Noble, I can activate my Dragon Blades first without fearing for my Nobles life. Because the enemy Bloodreavers are now engaged in combat I do not have to fear a counter charge on my Dragon Blades. This allows me to charge them, or the Bloodsecrator, in my next turn. With a bit of luck, I can kill the entire enemy force without suffering a single casualty.

Sandwiching one enemy unit with two of yours

Units must always keep unit cohesion. No model can move further than 1″ from another model from the unit, even when piling in.

This means that you can shut down units longer than 6″ by engaging them on both sides. When the enemy tries to pile in they will soon find out that the middle segment of their unit can not move without breaking cohesion. This locks a unit down until it is dead or retreats. The smaller your unit is, the harder your opponent’s pile in will be.

With this method, you have more units in combat with one enemy unit. This allows one of yours to activate before your opponent which is a huge advantage.

By positioning my two Dragon Nobles on the far edges of the unit of Bloodletters, I can survive significant long than when I would charge them head on. This allows me to hold the unit in place untill I can charge it with a stronger unit or shoot them to pieces. You shoud only do this if you have a good reason to hold them in place. Simply avoiding or kiting hordes of Bloodletters is always better, they hurt like hell!

Removing dead models in front of unactivated units

Whenever you engage multiple enemy units with one of your own, you can reduce the attacks your opponent can make with its next activation by removing dead models in front of the unit that has yet to attack.

After failing my charge, my Dragon Blades get charged by two units of Bloodreavers. My opponent attacks with his top unit of Bloodreavers first, killing two of my kights. After dealing with my emotions, I remove the two knights that are closest to the unit Bloodreavers that have yet to attack. This creates a big gap, preventing most of the Bloodreavers from reaching my kights with their pile in.

Killing enemy models

The most typical way to reduce the damage output of your opponents units is by removing them from play. Blood and glory and so on.

Besides the alpha strike, you can do this by outnumbering your opponents units, creating an odd number of activations. Even tough you will suffer some attacks, it will enable you to deal more damage than your opponent.

Always attack enemies that have yet to activate, first. Every model you destroy before your opponent activates will reduce its damage output.

Luckily, this does not work as well the other way around. Units that have charged are always allowed to pile in 3″, even if there is no enemy in range. This gives them a 3″ to 6″ threat range after the charge depending on their weapon range.

Not an ideal situation since neither of my units of Dragon Blades can kill the 24 Bloodletters in one go. I can, however, greatly reduce the damage output of the demons by killing a few models on my first activation. Not only will they have fewer models to attack with, they will also lose their +1 to hit buff if I kill more than 5 demons.

Buffing and debuffing

Another great way to prevent damage on your units is by making their defence stronger of your opponents attacks weaker.

The most obvious buff is mystic shield and cover, but every Grand Alliance has access to all kinds of buffs and debuffs. From reducing your opponent’s hit rolls to improving your wound values.

Use these buffs and debuffs to make sure your units stay effective after your opponents activation(s).

General advice

  • Roll your decision-making charges first. Do you need to lock down a unit before you dare to charge with your alpha striker? Roll their charge first!
  • Make room for your models. If you charge with more units on one enemy unit, make sure that there is ample room for the next unit to join the slaughter.
  • Position to optimise your units reach. Can they stand in double rows? Make sure they do, if they can’t, makes some room!
  • Prevent accidental enemy pile-ins. Make sure you stay more than 3″ away from units you do not want to engage in combat. If you don’t, they can become a nasty surprise!

Summary

  • Decide on a charge plan in the hero phase so you can use abilities and moves accordingly
  • Choose a unit and target that can get you the biggest advantage out of the alpha strike
  • Roll your decision-making charges first
  • Make room for your other units on the charge
  • Prevent accidental enemy pile-ins
  • Minimise the damage on the units you will activate later by:
    • Preventing enemy pile-ins
    • Buffing and debuffing to optimise damage and minimise damage taken
    • Strategically removing slain models
    • Creating an odd number of activations
    • Killing enemy models that have yet to activate

23 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on wartable and commented:
    Some good advice for the budding AoS general

  2. Nice write up mate. I’m really happy to see some solid advice on strategy in Age of Sigmar. I like the pictures to help communicate your ideas too!, keep it up!

  3. Mike

    Good read, keep it up!

  4. Stephen

    Thanks for taking the time to do this. I’ve been enjoying painting up some models and your articles have been helping me feel a little more comfortable with the idea of getting around to playing the game!

  5. jasonbowser

    This is a fantastic overview, and I will definitely be coming back for more.

  6. Carnelian

    Good stuff!

  7. Ivo Ventura

    Fantastic article, very helpfull

  8. Florian

    Really good read!

    I have one question, in “Killing enemy models” you wrote: “This gives them a 3″ to 6″ threat range after the charge depending on their weapon range.”

    Can you explain this ?

    • Thanks! All models can pile in 3″ in the combat phase, if that unit has charged it can do so even if there are no enemy models within 3″. Some units have a weapon range of 3″ giving them a total of 6″ in which they can attack a enemy models. Does that help?

  9. I’m still a little fuzzy on the sentence “Units that have charged are always allowed to pile in 3″, even if there is no enemy in range.” What does “in range” mean in this case? Is this specifically referring to the case where a successfully charging unit has the closest models of its target removed in another combat such that there aren’t any models within 3″ of it when it activates? (Not having models within 3″ would prevent pile-in normally since you aren’t in combat, right?) Thanks for this great article!

    • Matthijs Mentink

      Hey! Yes, units that charged are always allowed to pile in, even if they are not in combat. A unit that charged could be removed from combat if all models within 3″ have been removed from play in an earlier activation. Does this answer your question? I’m happy you like the article!!

      • That’s exactly what I needed. Thank you for demystifying this part of the game for me.

      • EMMachine

        I saw this case in the tga community. There are some rare units that can retreat when they are activated in combat (The “Wary Fighters” Ability of Skinks). This is another case where a unit could pile in without enemy models in 3″ when they have charged this turn.

  10. Chris

    Great web site! Looking forward to reading all of your articles.

  11. gengis137

    man I really don’t get it x)
    to you, a unit that charged on the same turn can pile in even there’s no one at less than 3″ or can’t??
    great thread btw 😉

    • Matthijs Mentink

      You can! You can find it in the core rules 😀 Thanks!

  12. Anonymous

    So the core rules say “The first model you move must finish within ½” of an enemy model. If that’s impossible, the charge has failed and no models in the charging unit can move in this phase.”

    Also the pile-in is part of the combat phase, not of the charge phase. So if you can’t get within 1/2 ” of an enemy model you can’t charge and then you won’t be in combat and won’t be able to pile-in.

    • The author answered this in the comments already. If you charge a unit, but before you get to activate your charging unit the target has enough models killed to remove you from combat, you can still pile in.

  13. EMMachine

    Hm, I think I have something to mention about the first example.

    After the rules only say that a unit can pile-in if it has models in 3″ and each model has to pile to towards the closest model (after the newest faq the movement has to end closer to the closest model than it started). There is no point in the rules that the pile must be to an already engaged unit.
    Wouldn’t that mean, that the Bloodreavers that are closer to the Dragon Blades will be able to pile in towards them, as long as the unit can end its movement as a single group.
    So the Bloodreavers couldn’t do a real countercharge to the Dragon Blades, but they can block parts of the Dragon Blades if there were any Bloodreavers left after the fight and the Blood Secretor couldn’t be charged the next turn.

    Perhaps there is a point for a Pile-In Article. Because there are possible tactics for redirect large or widespread units even without charging with all units as long as the units are engaged in combat.

  14. Okay. This is a great article. My first impression of AoS was that it was that it lacked dynamic action. Shadespire got me back into 40k and and Fantasy.
    AoS has so much more under the hood than when you first look at it. I have played wargames since Fasa’s era of BattleTech. Some of AoS’s tactics are unlike anything I have ever seen. It is a really fun game. My favorite unit are Wrathmongers. The person i played against kept forgetting to take the extra melee attacks. It was really amusing to keep reminding him.
    I discovered that Wrathmongers can bring down monsters and heroes in one round of combat.
    My opponent’s Varghulf ate two WMs and was then blood furied for 7 of his remaining wounds.

    Khorne is so much fun to play. It really doesn’t matter if I lose with them. Khorne is still pleased with the carnage. If i lose a unit to a bad mistake i get a blood tithe point. If i kill a unit I also get a blood tithe point. You can’t lose.

    It is awesome that Gee Dubs is moving away from the tournament geared competitive play. The game seems to be becoming more about characterful, story driven games between gentlemen (and gentlewomen).
    These articles are great. I look forward to reading the rest.

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