Age of Sigmar Tactics

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Age of Sigmar Tactics

Retreating in Age of Sigmar

Retreating is a wildly underestimated tool in Age of Sigmar. Even though it costs you a few attacks, it is a great way to get your units out of a tight spot and surprise your opponent by pressuring key targets and objectives.

In this article, I will discuss a few cool things you can do with your retreat. I hope this will help and inspire you to do more cool stuff in Age of Sigmar!

The rules

Units that are in combat must stay stationary or retreat, retreating units can run, but not shoot or charge in the same turn.

The ability to run and retreat allows you to retreat you movement plus one D6. You do not have to move directly away from your enemy, but you do need to end your move 3″ outside of any enemy models.

This means that you can retreat around enemy units towards a better position, or over the enemy if your unit can fly.

Here are the rules as written by the Games Workshop:

Units starting the movement phase within 3″ of an enemy unit can either remain stationary or retreat. If you choose to retreat, the unit must end its move more than 3″ away from all enemy units. If a unit retreats, then it can’t shoot or charge later that turn.

When to Retreat in Age of Sigmar

When you retreat from a fight, your and your opponent will get their units out of combat, allowing your opponent to move and charge in their next turn as well.

This means that you should always be aware of the repercussions of your retreat. You should only retreat if you can prevent a unit from being wiped out, if you need to use a movement ability in your next turn or if you can apply more pressure by retreating.

Retreating to apply pressure

The most fun reason to retreat from combat is to surprise your opponent with some unexpected pressure. This can be done more often than you would think.

Because the retreat is such an underused move, people rarely expect you to pull your units out of a combat where you have the upper hand. Use this to your advantage!

Once you are aware what you can do with a retreat, more opportunities will start to present itself.

When you understand how you can impact the game with a retreat before you charge, the real magic starts to happen.

In most scenarios where you retreat to apply pressure, it does not really matter if you can directly impact the game. The danger of the impact you could have in future turns is often enough to throw your opponent off their game.

Pressuring objectives

Age of Sigmar is an objective based game, so retreating out of combat to capture or protect an objective is pretty much always a good idea.

This is especially good in games in which a last-minute capture can bring you the win. Think of tied games or scenarios such as Blood and Glory, take and hold and Gifts from the heaven.

Before any charge, friend or foe, you need to know how you can impactfully retreat with your unit. This way you can use your pile-in move to improve your position for when you want to retreat.

Once you declare you will retreat with a unit, you need to follow through. This means that you cannot rely too much on the result of your run roll. Try to figure out where you need to go with your retreat and if you movement plus the 3.5″ average of your run move will get you there.

It is important to think about how you can prevent your opponent from following up. Since all objectives have a minimum distance you need to be in to capture it, you can simply screen the distance with the unit you just retreated. Be careful that your opponent does not obliterate you on the charge.

By charging the Bloodletters with my Liberators, I prevent my opponent from capturing the objective behind them. With my charge and pile-in, I try to get as close to the objective as I can.

In my next turn I retreat my Liberators towards the objective and postion them so that only the edge of my bases are in capture range. This way, if the Bloodletters charge me, they will not be able to capture the objective since they cannot charge through my Liberators.

Pressuring key targets

The same as with retreating towards objectives can be done with key targets, except you would need to be able to charge next turn.

When you retreat towards an enemy unit, you need to have a clear goal in mind. Do you need to destroy the enemy unit, or is forcing it out of position enough?

Most support units need to be within a certain range of their allies, forcing these units away from others can sometimes be enough.

Since you need to be able to charge in your next turn to pressure your opponents key targets, it is important the opponent can not lock you in combat in their next turn.

When you plan to charge a unit with the goal of retreating from it in your next turn, make sure you have means to stay ahead. Have another unit standing by that can charge in as well, or do it with fast or flying units.

In this scenario my Liberators are charged by 10 Bloodletters. My Liberators are supported by a Lord-Celestant and the Bloodletters are supported by a Bloodsecrator.

In my turn I retreat my Liberators away from the Bloodletters towards the Bloodsecrator and charge the Bloodletters with my Lord-Celestant. This way I can charge the Bloodsecrator in my next turn without the Bloodletters being able to stop me.

By charging my Lord-Celestant on  the outer model of the Bloodletters, they can only pile in with a few model, ensuring the survival of my Hero!

Double turns

Retreating to apply pressure is especially good if you have the opportunity to get a double turn. The double turn allows you to immediately follow up with a charge or fully screen an objective.

Never count on the double turn, their is always a 50% chance you will not get it. You can read more about the double in my post “Optimising for the double turn“.

Retreating from a losing fight

The most usual situation to retreat from is a losing a fight. These fights are easily recognisable from the pile of dead models and the smug look on your opponent’s face.

Before deciding if you want to retreat your unit, try to analyse the situation. In what state is your retreating unit? Are they still strong enough to have an impact in a different combat? Are there objectives they can claim or other units that need their help?

If there is no other thing that your unit can do, you need to figure out if it would be better for the whole if they stay in combat or not. How long can they survive and is it important that the unit they are in combat with stays tied up?

When you have decided that you want to retreat and you know where to, it is time to figure out how you can keep them out of harm’s way.

This is a lot easier for fast and flying units than slower troops. Try to prevent your opponent from pursuing you by moving far enough, hiding behind your buddies or locking them down with another unit.

Retreating for mobility

When you are stuck in combat you can not charge or use movement abilities.

Some units in Age of Sigmar do not dish out a lot of damage but are very hard to kill. These units are excellent for keeping a unit pinned down to protect other units and objectives. We call this a tarpit.

Even though the damage output of tarpits is pretty low, it does ramp up over a few turns and takes away your ability to move. If you can not destroy a tarpit within the next one or two turns, you need to use a movement ability or charge next turn, it is time to get out of combat with them asap!

You can do this the same way as you would with any other unit, except it is extra important that you prevent other units from the same fate. Try to pin down the enemy tarpit with a cheap unit while keeping the damage they take at a minimum.

Stopping the pursuit

In most cases, you do not want your opponent pursuing your fleeing units, just to have them stuck in combat the next turn.

Prevent the pursuit by moving far enough, locking the enemy unit down or screening your opponents way.

Locking a unit down

Locking down large enemy units can be dangerous, but there are quite a few ways to reduce the damage your units will take.  One of those is by preventing your opponent from piling in. You can do this by making the required pile-in distance as big as you can or by making it impossible for the enemy to pile in without losing unit cohesion.

By positioning my two Dragon Nobles on the far edges of the unit of Bloodletters, the enemy Bloodletters can hardly pile-in without breaking unit cohesion. This allows me to survive significantly longer than when I would charge them head on. Be careful, when enough these Bloodletters get to the Nobles it is going to hurt!

This is an example from the post “Getting the most out of the charge“. In that article, you can read more about charging and reducing the enemy’s damage output after the charge.

Screening & Zoning

Screening can be done with a unit that can withstand the charge, is cheap enough to sacrifice or the unit you just retreated with, hoping your opponent will fail the charge.

Since models within a unit can be up to 1″ away from another model you can spread your units out to create “screens” against a charge. This is great to protect other units and objectives or preparing for a devastating counter charge.

Just make sure that the distance between the models is not big enough for your opponent to charge through!

Because all the Skeleton Warriors are within 1″ of another skeleton, the unit of 20 skeletons can easily protect the Necromancer and objective while still staying in unit cohesion.

This is an example from my article on zoning and area denial. In it, you can read more about denying enemy movement.


  • Only retreat in 1 of 3 scenarios
    1. You can save one unit without sacrificing another
    2. You need to use movement abilities or charge in your next turn
    3. You can apply pressure to objectives or key targets
  • Apply pressure by Retreating
    •  Towards an objective
      • Using your charge and pile in to get closer
      • Capturing the objective with the outer edge of your models bases
      • Screening the objective to prevent your opponent from capturing it with a charge or pile-in
    • Towards a Key target
      • Using your charge and pile in to get closer
      • Preventing the pursuit
  • Stop the pursuit by
    • Screening with a cheap or durable unit
    • Moving further than your opponent can move and charge
    • Locking your opponent down with another unit

That is all I got for now, I hope you enjoyed this post!

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Thanks and have a great day!


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  1. Anonymous

    Nice article, awesome advice.

  2. I really enjoy your tactica, thank you for sharing, this is a really well thought out and put together article. I play Skaven and I’ve always been scratching my head thinking about how to optimise retreating.

    • Matthijs Mentink

      Thanks man! That means a lot to me! I hope this helped you to get a bit more out of those awesome rats 😀

  3. Just looking at getting into AoS with the kharadron overlords, and found this site from Warhammer Community, looking forward to any future posts, but this one has definitely got me thinking!

  4. Pedro

    noob question about the skaven Bell Chimers (clanrats)
    it says that the unit gets a +2″ bonus move when retreating or running
    excat wording: , it can move an extra 2″ whenever it runs or retreats.

    Does this mean thta if the unit retreats it gets +2″, and then runs it gets another +2″
    or does it apply only once?

  5. Question! I probably just don’t understand some nuance about piling in, but I’m confused about this example you gave:

    “By positioning my two Dragon Nobles on the far edges of the unit of Bloodletters, the enemy Bloodletters can hardly pile-in without breaking unit cohesion. This allows me to survive significantly longer than when I would charge them head on.”

    Why can’t the Bloodletters just pile-in towards one of the two Dragon Nobles to full effect? They would be moving away from the other one, but they would maintain unit cohesion and get more attacks on one.

    I’m assuming there’s some restriction about piling in I’m missing. Do models HAVE to pile-in towards the closest enemy model? I thought you elect the unit they pile-in towards and move them all in that way.

    • Matthijs Mentink


      No worries, the rules can be confusing sometimes 😀
      You always have to pile towards the closest model, so you are not allowed to pile away from one model towards another. If you want to get all your models on one of the two dragon nobles you will have to retreat and charge again. Hope this answers your question!

      • Ahhhh okay thanks for the clarification! I missunderstood it as piling into the closest model of the UNIT you’re piling in towards.

        Love your articles by the way! Super awesome and well written. 🙂

  6. Dominic

    In your example above where the liberators retreat to go after the bloodsecrator. Couldn’t the bloodletters pile back into the liberators or at least get within 3” thereby pulling them into combat again? So you would need a 6” gap minimum to prevent reengagement in this scenario. Or am I understanding the pile in rule wrong?

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