Age of Sigmar Tactics

Understand the game, make better choices and wreck face

Age of Sigmar Tactics

Piling in – Warhammer Age of Sigmar

In Warhammer Age of Sigmar, close combat is an important aspect of the game. Units can get in combat in quite a few different ways, most commonly through a charge.

When fighting combat in AOS, players alternate selecting units to fight with, starting with the player whose turn it is.

When a player activates a unit to attack with during the combat phase, all models in that unit that are not in base contact with an enemy may move up to 3″ towards the closest enemy model. This is called “Piling In”.

Piling in a great way to get as much models in attack range, but it can be used for a whole lot more than just getting a few more axes in range to swing.

In this article, I will discuss the different uses for piling in and what you have to look out for. We will discuss the following:

  • The rules of Piling in
  • Getting the most attacks in
  • Reducing damage taken
  • Staying in range of buffs
  • Engaging enemy units
  • Screening objectives
  • Preparing for a retreat

The rules of Piling In

The rules on piling in in the 4-page rule book:

“When you pile in, you may move each model in the unit up to 3″ towards the closest enemy model.  is will allow the models in the unit to get closer to the enemy in order to attack them”

In various FAQs there have been some more specifications to the rules:

  • A unit is in close combat when it is within 3″ of an enemy unit or if it has charged earlier that turn.
  • Models can move around enemy models during their pile in, as long as they end their move closer to the closest enemy model.
  • All models must end their pile in move within 1″ of another model in their unit. If this is not possible no model can pile in.

Getting as many attacks in as possible

The first and most logical thing to consider is how you can get as much of your models in attack range as possible.

To maximise the number of attacks you need to think the range of your weapons, the size of your bases, how many turns you expect to be in combat and the dead enemy models your opponent might remove.

Getting in combat

Planning the pile in starts with the movement and charge phase, the larger the unit, the more important it is to prepare. When planning your pile in there are a few things to consider.

  • Are there enemy units I do not want to engage with
  • How exposed will my unit be after the pile in
  • What is my weapon range
  • What is my opponent’s weapon range

Piling in is all about weighing your damage output against that of your opponent. Sometimes it is better to hold back a little bit so that you will suffer a lot less.

Due to the positioning of my opponents Mournghoul, I cannot pile in more of my Saurus guards without engaging the Mournghoul as well. This way I prevent the Mournghoul from attacking by sacrificing the attacks of two of my models, saving a lot more.

Weapon range & Special models

Some units are allowed to have special models that are better at combat than the rest of the unit. Quite often these are a big source of your damage output.

Before your charge and pile in, you should be aware of where you want them to end up.

When you are fighting one enemy unit with multiple of your own, you should make sure that your special models have targets even if your opponent removes casualties from an earlier activation.

When your special models have a longer weapon range, you can try to pile them in up to their maximum attack range so that their buddies can stand in front of them, allowing them to attack as well.

Removing enemy models

When piling in, you should always consider what would happen if your opponent gets to remove casualties.

When your models are stretched too thin or just within 3″ of another unit, you could get stuck in combat without being able to attack with most of your models.

This is especially important when you are fighting enemies with larger bases.

Because I really want to kill the Mournghul, I decided to charge as many models on it as I could.

If I activate my Ripperdactyls first and kill the Mournghul, I will not be able to pile in with most of my Saurus Guards due to the distance towards the skeletons.

If I activate my Saurus Guards first and do not kill the Mournghul, it will mostlikely destroy my Ripperdactyls.

It would have been a lot better if I had kept my Saurus guards a bit closer to the Skeletons so I that I can still pile towards the Mournghul without being too far from the Skeletons if it died.

Preparing for future turns

Whatever you do, you should always be aware of how your opponent could respond to your actions in their future turns. With combat, this is especially tricky since you are stuck in it until the combat is over or if a unit retreats.

When you pile in your should keep an eye out for possibly enemy charges. The best way to do this is by simply looking at their threat range if you do not want to get charged by a certain unit, don’t make it easier for them.

Both my Ripperdactyls as my opponents Mournghul in range to charge if any of our models pile to close.

Because it is my turn, I am able to that I position my Ripperdactyls so that if the Mournghull charges my Saurus guards, I can easily counter charge him for some devastating damage.

You can also use the pile in to get closer to your next target,  this is a bit trickier since you can not pile in if you are already in base contact but it can be very useful!

Unit coherency

All models must always end their move within 1″ of another model in the unit. If this is not possible, the unit may not move at all.

Because models must always pile towards the closest enemy model but cannot break coherency, you can stop a unit from piling in by sandwiching it with two other units.

It is important to keep this in mind when piling around enemy units. The more spread out your unit is, the easier it will become for your opponent to lock your unit down, forcing it to retreat.

By piling all the way around the Skeletons with my Saurus Guards, I was able to kill them put my warriors in an unfortunate, stretched out formation.

My opponent smartly took advantage of this by charging my far most Saurus Warrior, stopping them from piling in far enough to inflict any serious damage.

Staying in range of buffs

A lot of armies are dependent on offensive and defensive buffs. When piling in you should always keep the range of your buffs in mind. In a lot of cases, it can be a good idea to refrain from piling in with some of your models so that they stay in range of your buffs.

It is important to note that a unit is “within range” of an ability if at least one model is within the required distance.

Even though I could get the last two Saurus Guards in combat through the pile in, I choose to string them out a bit so that the whole unit can enjoy the re-role to hit buff the Astrolith banner offers.

I’m going to need it against the -1 to hit debuff from the Mournghul!

In some cases, it might even be smart to break unit coherency when removing casualties to stay in the range of your abilities, even if it means that you cannot pile in.

Engaging other enemies

Since you always have to move towards the closest enemy model, it often happens that you have to pile towards another enemy unit than the one you charged

This is a great way to engage enemy units even if they seem safely protected behind their buddies. You can us this to engage important targets or tarpit bigger units by engaging them on the far points of the unit, preventing their models from piling in.

Because you only have to end closer to the closest enemy model, you can use the pile in distance to get closer to other models or units while still ending closer to the closest enemy model.

This is a great way to optimise the 3″ move you to engage “protected” models and surprise your opponent.

After charging with my Saurus guard, I piled my models towards the necromancer between the other the Skeletons and the Mournghul.

This is possible because even though I moved past the closest enemy model, I end my move closer to it than that I started.

Even though I will not be able to kill the Necromancer outright, I will force it to retreat or get punched in the jaw!

Protecting and capturing objectives

In most matched play scenario’s, players need to have more models within a certain distance from an objective than the opponent in order to capture it.

In a lot of cases, you can use the 3″ pile in move to get a few more models within range. In some scenarios this will put you in a weaker combat position, so always keep in mind if it is worth it in the long run.

You can also use the 3″ pile in move to prevent your opponents from getting closer to your objectives, stopping them from getting within the capture range.

This way you do not only prevent them from piling towards the objective, you also stop them from retreating towards it.

Preparing for a retreat

In my article on retreating, I discuss all the cool stuff you can do while running away from combat. The pile in can be a great part in this. When you know you will have (or want) to retreat from combat to save your models or get to a better position, you can use the 3″ pile in

When you know that you have (or want) to retreat from combat to save your models or get to a better position, you can use the 3″ pile in move to get to a better starting point. This is especially useful in the turn your opponent charged you.

That is all I have to say on this subject, for now. Thanks for reading!

Don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments or on the Facebook page and share these posts with your buddies, it really helps me out.

If you are ever in Amsterdam, come test your tactical skills against me or the awesome locals in the Amsterdam South Games Workshop.

Dennis, the manager, organises monthly tournaments and every Friday there is a game night for AOS and 40K where you will find plenty of generals to test your skills against.


  1. Gully

    Thanks for another great article. A lot of what you’ve written so far can also be applied to the new edition of 40k but it sure would be nice if you did dedicated 40k articles in the future!

  2. Just a quick note of encouragement Matthijs, I’ve read all these articles now and there is some fantastic content here. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us!

  3. Rollengeiger

    Thank you very much for the continuity of this blog. It gave me already several good ideas. One question to ‘Engaging other enemies’ – due to the AoS erratas it seems not possible to move in your sample to the necromancer, as the errata speak of models not units:
    Q: How is a pile-in move carried out?
    A: When a model piles in it must finish the pile-in move closer to the nearest enemy model. As long as you finish the pile-in move closer to the nearest enemy, you can move around friendly models or obstacles to do so.

    Thanks for advice!

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