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:
- Rules of the charge
- When you should or should not charge
- The benefit of the charge
- Optimising the alpha strike
- Minimising damage taken after the charge
- Some general advice
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).
- 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!
- 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