Age of Sigmar is a tactical skirmish wargame. This means that movement and positioning are one of the most important aspects of the game. Denying enemy movement is a great way to gain an advantage over your opponent.
The three-inch rule
In Age of Sigmar, no unit can move within 3″ of an enemy model during the movement phase. Flying models can move over enemy units as long as they end their movement outside of 3″ of enemy models.
This means that each model covers at least a 7″ of the table that no enemy model can end their move in. I call the this their zone bubble. This bubble can be used determine where your opponent can or can not move. Area denial is a great way to foil your opponents plans and gain huge tactical advantages!
The size and shape of you base also contributes to the size of your zone bubble. Skeleton bases have a diameter of roughly a 1″. This creates a bubble with a 7″ diamator. Cavalry bases create an oval zone bubble that has a diameter of 9″ long and 7.5″ wide. You can see how bigger and longer bases can help you deny larger areas.
Best units to zone with
It is important to realise that units that you use to zone enemy models are very likely to get charged. The tougher your unit is, the longer it will take your opponent to hack trough them. If it takes long enough, you might force them to retreat, winning another turn in which the can’t shoot or charge.
The best units to zone with are units that can hold up an enemy unit long enough to gain an advantage or are cheap enough to be worth one or two turns of area denial.
Examples of this are the resilient Nurgle Plague Bearers, cheap Brimstone Horrors and Skinks that can retreat instead of piling in.
In Age of Sigmar, all models can move separately as long as they maintain unit cohesion. This means that as long as each model is within 1″ of another in the unit, you can make the craziest formations. This is one of your strongest tools for area denial.
Because all the skeletons are within 1″ of another skeleton, the unit of 20 skeletons can easily protect the hero and objective.
Units vs single models
Because models within a unit need to stay within 1″ of another model, there is a lot of overlap of zoning bubbles. This is different with single models since they can be spaced more than 1″. This way you can create a 6″ gap in which no enemy model can end their movement phase. This also goes for two separate units.
When the edges of the zone bubbles of differen units meet, they can use their maximum coverage. Even though these units are not proped up against eachother, no unit can pass between them in the movement phase.
Areal denial Vs Flying units
Flying units can pass over enemy models as long as they end their movement phase 3″ away from enemy models. Denying the movement of flying units is a bit harder but far from impossible.
Since they can not start or end their movement within 3″ of your models, flying over a unit requires at least of 7″ of movement.
You can prevent enemy models from flying over your units by making the distance they have to cross to stay out of 3″ bigger than they can fly. If you want to deny a unit that can fly 12″, you need to position you models so that they cover at least 6″ of ground.
Due to the placement of my Skeletons, none of the Prosecutors can fly over or around them to reach the objective. The prosecutors now have to decide if they want to charge or fly the long way to hopefully reach the objective next turn.
When you are trying to cover as much ground as possible, it is a good idea to spread out you models so that their zone bubbles overlap as little as possible.
Since your zoning units will probably be charged, it is important that you will still be able to pile in with your models. With this formation I can cover 180″² while still being able to pile in and atack.
Area denial Vs Teleportation
There are plenty of units in Age of Sigmar that can teleport. Either from reserve or by removing them from one place on the table and setting them up somewhere else.
A set-up is not a move and overrides the 3″ rule. This means that these units can be set-up base to base if it is not stated otherwise on their war scroll.
Most units that can teleport have heavy restraints. Some need to stay within a certain distance of a friendly unit, others need to stay at a minimum distance from enemy units, usually this is 9″.
Denying the move or set-up of a teleport unit is very difficult but not impossible. Start by looking at its limitations.
Setting-up x” away from enemy models
If the unit needs to keep a minimum distance from enemy models, you can deal with them the same way as you would zone other units. Except that you have more room to play with and the enemy can come from any direction.
If a model can be set-up anywhere on the board 9″ away from enemy models, you get a zone bubble that is 19″ in diameter. You can use this to minimise the overlap using formations with a lot of “arms”. Read more about denying the set-up of teleportation units here.
By spreading out my units of skeleton warriors, I practicly doubled the area in which my oponent can not set-up their models. Even though my models are quite spread out, they will still be able to pile-in when the units get charged. The more extensions your units have, the bigger the space is that you cover, the harder it becomes for you to pile in once you het charged.
Setting-up x” within a friendly model.
If they only have to stay within a certain distance of a friendly unit it becomes a lot harder. These units can be set-up base to base as long as they are within range of their special buddy.
It is important to note that a unit is within’ a certain distance of something else as long as the shortest distance between the two units is equal to or less than the stated distance. This was stated in this F.A.Q.
A good example of a teleporting unit is the Liberators in a Vanguard Wing Battalion. During the movement phase, they can be removed them play and set-up anywhere on the table, within 5″ of one of the Vanguard wing’s Prosecutors.
If they had to walk, these Liberators would have neve gotten in combat with my Necromancer. But because my opponent only needs one Liberator to be within 5″ of the Prosecutors, the rest of the Liberators can form a line past my Skeletons towards my Necromancer. Oef!
In this scenario, denying the liberators movement is near to impossible. Your best shot is to make sure that these Liberators can only engage with units of your choice.
You can do this by denying the movement of the Prosecutors instead of the liberators. Even though this is very hard, it is a great way to keep an expensive unit at bay. Two birds with one stone and all that.
With this formation, my Skeleton Warriors deny as much movement from the Prosecutors as possible forcing the Liberators to engage the Skeletons instead of the Necromancer. Due to the placement of my Skeletons, most of them have no problem piling in against the Liberators.
Summoning, the ability to set-up new units on the table through abilities, is the holy grail of area denial.
As with teleportation, summoning has some restrictions. Summoned units must be set-up within a certain distance from the summoner, usually 18″, and can never be set-up closer than 9″ from enemy models. For each unit you summon, you have to pay reserve points.
You can read my article on the strength of summoning here.
Summoning is the most flexible way to get units on the table since you can decide what unit you want to summon based on what you need. This means that if you need a lot of models to zone a flying unit, you can get them. Need a sturdy model to plug a gap, no problem!
You can set summoned units up how you like, as long as one model is within the range of the summoner, all models are at the appropriate distance from the enemy and the unit remains in cohesion. This means that you can cover huge patches of ground with only a few models.
A huge benefit of summoning over deployment is that you do not have to move your models in a formation. You can just set them up how you like, pretty much where you like.
Even though you need to keep a large distance from you enemies, you can determine where their units are going, by closing off sections of the table.
By summoning the two units of Skeleton Warriors, I have denied my opponent the ability to flank me. The ranks are too thick for most units to fly over and too wide to run around. This forces my opponent to stay stationary, charge the skeletons or my Morghast Harbingers. If they charge my Skeletons I can counter charge with my Harbingers. If the charge through the middle, I can collapse on them with my skeletons. Win win I would say!
Offensive Magic & Shooting
Zoning is usually done with weaker and spread out units. This means that if they die through ranged attacks, gaps in your zone bubble could open up.
Since the hero phase comes before the movement phase, you should be aware of any damaging spells your opponent has. Roughly calculate how much damage the enemy can put out on your unit before positioning. If they have a high damage output, make sure the most important parts of your formation still stand after suffering casualties.
If you are trying to deny a charge on a specific unit, you also need to be aware of any shooting your opponent has. If your opponent can kill enough of you models that deny their movement, they could still open up a gap to charge trough.