When Life Gives You Lemons, Play Better (Part 2)

Last week, I began my epic on how to move past rolling poorly as a player by covering the concept of risk management in 40k. If you missed that be sure to catch it here. Today, I’m going to continue this series by going over some examples of tactics you can use in game to mitigate the impact dice have by reviewing a game I’ve previously played here: Goals Aren’t Just for Soccer Part 2.

To get the full recap here of what happened in the game I recommend clicking the link above. I know how lazy gamers can be though, so if you don’t click it because context is for squares, I completely understand.

Goals pic 1

This is a reenactment of my round 2 game of LVO vs Josh Conant and his Chaos army. The 2 night scythes back there are playing a bad game of pretend, but they actually count as fire raptors. In short, Josh has Magnus, 2 Fire Raptors, a bloodletter bomb in reserve, and an infiltrating alpha legion cultist blob.  I’m playing my LVO winning list.

As you can see from the picture my deployment is fairly conservative. Despite having the +1 to go first in this scenario, I didn’t want to be hung out to dry if I lost the roll or got seized on, so I deployed accordingly. Screens on the line, wave serpents in cover and far away, and random people scattered about to zone out potential deeps strikes and infiltrates.

Lo and behold, I got seized on. Good thing I was prepared for that!

Goals pic 2

As you can see on Josh’s turn 1 he moved up, shot some serpents, and then charged my front lines with the bloodletters and cultists,  surrounding models to prevent me from falling back. Josh wasn’t able to kill a serpent with shooting in this instance, due to cover saves and aliatoc, but had he, I wouldn’t have been screwed. Both serpents were positioned far enough away from the front lines that in the event of a seize and 1 dying to shooting, the contents could disembark far enough away to avoid being charged and out of LOS of the fire raptors. At this point I have a contingency plan in place for something at the ~5% probability interval for that unfortunate series of events. This is the kind of contingency planning and foresight which will really help you mitigate poor dice in your games.

Goal pic 5

This is a picture after my bottom of 1 movement phase. The bloodletters and cultists charged at the end of Josh’s turn as described before. I responded by disembarking everyone, moving a serpent up, and deep striking my spears. Here you can see all my key psychers hugging my board edge to ensure they are out of deny range of Magnus. In general, I make sure to stay out of deny range at all times unless absolutely necessary. In this case, it’s fairly obvious since Magnus is meany head with +2 to deny and 3 attempts, but I would do this same kind of thing against a little astropath wandering about in mid field as well. In general, giving yourself as few points of failure as possible is key to success.

Goal pic 7

This is the same turn after casting an undeniable quicken onto my spears. They moved behind the cultists with the intent of killing them, but are also within 7″ of the nurglings so they can kill them and trigger a soul burst to finish the cultists if need be. This is an idea of redundancy and it’s one of the best ways to remove dice from the equation. The spears were fairly likely to bring the cultists to a point where they will crumble to morale (which is all I needed to accomplish here), but it’s within reason that they fail to do so because whiffs can happen. Thus, I put them in a position to allow them to fight twice via soul burst if need be.

I typically try and always set myself up to completely overkill units when making plans, as opposed to trying to maximize efficiency by planning my turn around units dying when they should.

A prime example of this is when my reapers shot the two fire raptors in the above scenario. In my plan, I based my turn around the fact that I can very reliably put down 1 raptor, but the other will probably live. I moved accordingly and planned as though that would happen. I guided the big reaper unit and soul burst shot them at one of the fire raptors bringing it down to 7 wounds. I then shot all my 3 mans at it and only managed to bring it down to 4 wounds.  At this point I was down to just my second round  of shooting with the guided big unit, and there were still 2 raptors (though one was down to 4 wounds).

pexels-photo-220301.jpegQuick reaper math time! A raptor with 4 wounds left needs to fail 2- 5+ saves to die to reapers. 2 failed saves comes from 3 wounds. To generate 3 wounds you’d need 4-5 hits. To get 4-5 hits off guided reapers 5 shots should reasonably do it. A play based on statistically expected results would be to shoot 5 reapers at the wounded raptor, and the remaining 3 at the other raptor to try and chip it a bit. A 6 and 2 split if you really wanted to be safe about it. However, a better move would be to over-commit and shoot all 8 at the wounded raptor. While this should statistically obliterate it, and most likely end up with a bunch of wasted damage, that’s ok! Had I gone with the statistically expected play but the dice spiked leaving both raptors alive, I would’ve been in an incredibly bad situation due to the fundamental failure in my plan of killing 1 raptor. Also, what value am I really gaining by taking 2 “free” reaper shots at an unmolested fire raptor? Basically none, especially when you consider that it comes at an enormous risk.

There are so many more examples of where to try and use known factors and good decision making skills to limit the impact dice can have on your game, but this game does a good job highlighting a few key concepts.

In Summary)

  1. Deploy and move for the worst case scenarios occurring. (Plan like a pessimist)
  2. Minimize points of failure by limiting the amount of times dice are rolled. (Ex. staying out of deny range when casting)
  3. Set up redundancy when trying to kill units, so if a unit survives longer than it should, you have back up plans. (Set up safety nets and fall backs)
  4. It’s better to overkill a unit than to get greedy and not kill anything. (This may seem obvious, but see the reaper example)


It’s easy enough to come up with a good plan that should work, then blame dice when it doesn’t, but ultimately, this will be your biggest downfall. You will never grow as a player until you break that mentality. Instead of looking at it from the perspective of “I played well, had a good plan, but then the dice betrayed me.“, look at it like “What could I have done differently to not been vulnerable to rolling poorly and losing.” You need to be objective. It is much more likely that you could have made an earlier series of moves which would have put you in a position where you weren’t even susceptible to rolling poorly.

Hopefully this will give you some ideas on what to look out for and how to mitigate dice in your own games! Stay tuned for more content to come!


9 Comments on “When Life Gives You Lemons, Play Better (Part 2)

  1. Hopefully this isn’t a double post as I had some difficulty with the comment system. Apologies if it is.

    Great post, definitely a trap I quite often fall into trying to maximise my damage and expose myself too much to the risk of bad dice.

    A rules question though, is it legal to quicken/other method of moving outside the movement phase a unit that has deepstruck that turn.

    From the main rulebook (pg 3 battle primer) reinforcements section:

    Many units have the ability to be set up on the battlefield mid-turn, sometimes by using teleporters, grav chutes or other, more esoteric means. Typically, this happens at the end of the Movement phase, but it can also happen during other phases. Units that are set up in this manner cannot move or Advance further during the turn they arrive – their entire Movement phase is used in deploying to the battlefield – but they can otherwise act normally (shoot, charge, etc.) for the rest of their turn.

    I attempted to do the exact same move you described, an opponent quoted the rule above and I could see no way in which he was wrong.

    To me the intent of the rule is that you are not allowed to use your normal movement after deepstriking but you would be allowed to quicken/warptime etc, however this is not the way the rule is worded as it specifically says cannot move or advance further during the turn.

    • The intent get’s really fishy here. If you apply straight RAW the rules actually directly contradict each other because not being able to move further that turn would actually prevent you from charging as well, but later on the rule book talks about charging out of deep strike. Most TO’s simply allow you to move again via warp tie or quicken, so that’s how most players play it.

      • To expand on this, GW (somewhat) clarified this rule in the Index: Chaos FAQ:

        “Q: When I manifest the Warptime psychic power, can I select a
        unit that arrived on the battlefield as reinforcements this turn?
        A: Yes.”

        While this does not explicitly permit the unit to move, it implies as such, given that there is no reason to target such a unit if it would be unable to move if the power goes off.

      • I certainly thought the rules were clear on this, and I think maybe if we use the rubric of “general rule is overwritten by specific rule” it is. But this is up there with Assault Weapons.

        “Units that advance cannot be selected to shoot in the shooting phase”

        “Models with an assault weapon can shoot in the shooting phase even if they advance, albeit with a -1 to hit.”

        The problem being, you cannot select the unit to shoot, ergo the model can never be selected to shoot.

  2. As you stated it is a good move to actually commit to an overkill especially when you are under pressure and the worst case scenario happens.
    I can take some of the tips and tricks that you wrote. Ultimately my biggest problem is that I am a statistical anomaly dice roller. In most of my games it is quite a challenge for me not to freak out. I do manage to roll my 3+ saves and during the whole game I only passed 1/3 of all my saves during the whole game.
    What do you do if your space marines die like cultists? What I do then especially if that happens is that I just focus on mission points and trying to use my units to mitigate incoming damage and save 3-5 models so I don’t get wiped and pray my opponent thinks that he can wipe me for a win and forgets the mission.

    • Yeah, a lot of times your own units just die when they aren’t supposed to as well. It’s easier said than done, but I’ve learned to just accept this reality and become very adaptable in game. Create a plan that will function independently of what your opponent can do, play the mission to the T, and design the most efficient list you can.

    • In this case you could do as many pros seem to do (imho) and even like Nick suggests in other posts: there are ways around it that do not revolve around dice.
      I’m just a noob, so what do I know…meh.

      But methods like screening, protecting units inside transports, hiding characters behind bulky screens LoS blocked, ways to build your army to make it hard to priority target, and many others.
      If your problem is dice can not just go very badly, but amazingly “OMG I just hit the opposite of lottery” bad….then the thing is to take them out of the equation.

      Dicing going bad is unavoidable, enemies having ways to deal with a specific strategy is unavoidable. So it all goes back to one of Nick’s post imo, where you must have plans for “what if that happens?”. Your army shouldn’t deal with it like “now what?”, but like “now I do this and that as planned”. A lot like the spanish series La Casa de Papel (Money Heist): he didn’t go like “oh, this gonna work”. He did his heist like “they’re gonna figure me out and have great tactics against me”.

    • Sorry for double posting.
      Point is: it’s not that sh&t can happen, it WILL happen nonstop. Plan as to get surprised when it doesn’t.
      Don’t hope for a psychic power to work: protect the psyker, keep it outta deny range, give it relics that buff, give it auras that buff, give it rerolls, have stratagems and whatnot that could mimic that if even after all of this he still fails, if that all fails have other ways around it, and so on.
      And have your opponent’s list in mind: if you’re depending on a psychic power to work next turn and your opponent has a librarian with Null Zone and whatnot about to deploy on deep strike, plus one of those +2 to deny…be ready for it.

  3. Pingback: Nick Nanavati vs Mike Brant /Finale – The Brown Magic

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