A good set-up in Age of Sigmar allows a player to execute their plans while still adapting to their opponent. A great set-up forces the opponent to adapt, pulling apart their strategies.
Your deployment can win you the game and starts with your army list. In the following article, I will cover the most important aspects of the deployment. I hope this will help you make better choices and armies.
We will cover the following subjects:
- Rules of Deployment
- First turn or not?
- Threat range
- Adapting to your opponents deployment
- Synergies & Key targets
- Scenarios & Objectives
- Single drop armies
- Teleport armies
Rules of Deployment
Every game starts with an initiative roll. The player that rolls the highest decides on which side of the table they want to deploy. Players then alternate setting up their units, starting with the player that won the initiative roll. All units must be set up at least 12″ from enemy territory. The player that finishes deploying first may decide who will take the first turn.
Note that some or all units in a battalion can be set up as one unit. This is stated in each Battletome at the introduction of Warscroll Battalions.
Before a battle, ask for your opponents army list and take stock of the number of drops your opponent has.
If you have fewer drops than your opponent, you will always be able to decide who takes the first turn.
Taking the first turn or not?
With most games, the first turn is a blessing. Not so much in Age of Sigmar. In this game, there are benefits to getting the first or the second turn, depending on what you can do with it. Before you decide if you want the first turn, there are three things you need to consider.
- The player that takes the second turn will have a chance to get a double turn.
- There is always at least 24″ between your models and those of your opponent.
- The scenarios “Border War” and “Three places of power” have important objectives in the middle of the board, 12″ from both territories.
This means that in a lot of games, both players will have very little to do in the first turn while still giving up the opportunity for a double turn. Having the first turn is usually only beneficial in one of three scenarios
- If you can capture an objective without overextending yourself.
- If you can do significant damage to key targets without overextending yourself.
- If you need to use abilities to survive your opponent’s next turn(s).
If it is not up to you to decide who takes the first turn, you can try to force the hand of your opponent with your set-up. Do this by deploying aggressive, forcing them to take the first turn or suffer heavy casualties and lose objectives. Make sure you do this without overextending yourself.
The most important thing to consider when deploying is how far all units can charge and shoot after one movement phase. This is called the threat range.
Units that deal damage in D6’s have a huge damage potential, but a low output on average. A Wierdnob Shaman on a Balewind Vortex can have the potential to wipe out any unit within 38″ but on average, only does about 3 mortal wounds per turn. Trying to deploy outside the reach of the Wierdnob will set your back more than when you suffer one or two rounds of spells.
These type of units inspire fear in their opponents. Use this to your advantage!
Being aware of the threat range and damage output of your opponent’s units will allow you to get rid your fears and deploy your units most efficiently.
The first unit my opponent sets up is a Wierdnob Shaman. I know the Shaman has a potential 38″ threat range (red circle) since he has 100 points in reserve to summon a Balewind Vortex. My first instinct is to set up my Celestial Huricanum out of its reach, but this way I will only be able to support my units at one objective as you can see with its (blue) threat range. After some quick calculations, I come to the conclusion that the average output of the Shaman is only 3 wounds per hero phase. I decide I am willing to take the 3 wounds to be able to support my units at two objectives.
Adapting to your opponent
With every deployed unit, the options of each player become smaller. Try to understand the role of each unit that has been set up. This will allow you to respond with your next unit.
The order in which you set up your units determines how well your opponent can respond to your set-up. In general, setting up your most determining units last will reduce the chance you get countered.
Since I set up my Celestial Huricanum as my first unit, my opponent suspects I will deploy the bulk of my army around it. By deploying the Gore Grunta’s near the bottom objectives, I am forced to respond or lose it. By placing my Skinks in a line, I can place my Dragon Blades behind them without giving away on which objectives I will focus. Knowing this, my opponent needs to deploy on the top side, spreading out units or lose pressure on the objectives.
Synergies and Key targets
Loads of armies focus on synergies to optimise their units. Even though this can lead to potent units, their dependency on each other limits their deployment.
When deploying a synergy heavy army, make sure you keep track of the threat range of enemy units and their damage output.
If you fear your opponents damage potential, calculate what their average damage output is before deciding if you can or can not be in their threat range.
I now must place my Skinks next to my Celestial Huricananum to protect it from the Gore Grunta’s. The +1 to hit buff of my Huricanum only reaches 10″ around it (the dotted line). Due to the placement of my Skinks I have limited options to place my other units within the reach of my buff. My opponent knows this and sets up a third unit of Gore Grunta’s in the middle. This way my opponent is still able to cover all objectives with at least two units and the Wierdnob Shaman.
After my opponent sets up the last unit, the almighty Maw Crusha, I set up the rest of my army. After recieving the first turn, I try to claim a position in which I can absorb most of the charges with my Skinks. This way I can set up counter charges with my Dragon Lord and Dragon Blades. Let’s hope my opponent does not get a double turn!
Scenarios & Objectives
Out of the six scenarios, only “Border War” and “Three Places of Power” have objectives that are relevant in the first battle round. When you play either scenario, pay close attention to the objectives when deploying.
You can pressure your opponent by having a large or sturdy unit on the objectives and having it in your threat range.
Do not deploy your army by only focusing on the objectives. While it is the most important element in the game, there is no use in capturing an objective so your opponent can take it from you the next turn. If you plan on taking an objective, do it in a sustainable way.
Deployment and single drop armies
All grand alliances have battalions that can contain an entire army. In these cases, a player can choose to deploy their entire army at once, ensuring them the choice of the first or second turn. As strong as it seems, it also forces the player to deploy blind, taking away all its ability to adapt to the opponents deployment.
If your army deploys in one drop it is important you have a clear deployment plan that works against your opponents army. Test this at home and practice different scenarios and types of opposition. Try to learn how far your army can cover the board without overexposing itself. It is also good to roughly calculate how strong a unit must be to present a threat to you.
If you are deploying against a single drop army try to take advantage of the fact that they can not adapt. Put your most disposable units down first and see what your opponent does and adapt accordingly.
Deployment and “teleport” armies
Some armies, like Sylvaneth and Stormcast, can put some (or all) of their units in reserve, bringing them into the game at a later moment. This allows them to disregard the hardship of deployment and set their units up (almost) anywhere they choose.
Even though this seems hard to prepare against, it has three glaring weaknesses.
- Units in reserve usually come in during the movement phase, making them useless during the hero phase.
- All units that get deployed from reserve have a minimum distance they need to keep from the enemy. Usually, this is 9″.
- Units that come from reserve can never move after they are set up.
Stormcast can set-up models within 3″ using Knight Azyros, but we will get into that in another article.
If a teleport army takes the first turn, they will open their opponent up for a double turn without having the buffs from their hero phase. This allows the other player to do some heavy damage with magic, shooting, charges and battle shock.
If a teleport army decides to take the second turn, the opposing player can try to deny the deployment by using their minimum distance. This is best done by spreading models on key locations as you would with a meat shield. Use big or beefy units that can survive at least one shooting and combat phase.
If you are playing against a teleport army, make sure you have enough pressure on the places where you think they might pop up. This way they can not deploy without suffering heavy casualties in your next turn(s). Make sure your most important units are protected against a charge. Even though a 9″ charge is hard to make, it is not impossible.
With my deployment, it will be impossible for my opponent to get to my key units without suffering heavy casualties. After receiving the first turn, I try to keep everything as protected as possible while still pressuring all objectives. My opponent spots a few weak points in my defence and prepares for the charge. If the Retributors fail their 9″ charge the will be in quite some trouble!
- Know who will decide on the first turn.
- Know the threat range and average damage output of all units in the game.
- Adapt to your opponents drops.
- Pressure enemy key targets.
- Pull apart enemy synergies.
- Deploy your key units last.
- Pressure objectives.
- Focus on objectives that are the least covered by your opponent to force them to spread out.
- Focus on objectives that are pressured by your opponent to pressuring them into investing more units.
- Deny teleportation by using their 9″ minimum distance.
- Pressure teleportation opportunity’s by punishing your opponent for failing long charges.