A game of 40K, or any game really, is often a back and forth struggle. One moment you gain an advantage and the next you’ve lost it and are on the defensive. A lot of hard decisions need to made and one of the decisions I see people struggle with, or even fail to recognize, is when a cause is lost and no longer worth pursuing.
A recent example from one of my games at my FLGS’ monthly tournament. In this mission the primary objective was to hold the board center with a scoring unit. The secondary objective was kill points and the tertiary was eliminating the enemy’s most expensive HQ. After two turns my opponent had already scored two points from the board center and I lost all my troop transports, leaving me on foot. Now, I knew I could most likely get at least one of my troops to the board center but the problem would be in clearing the center out so my small unit could hold it uncontested and have enough turns to gain at least three points from it. I would need to keep them alive against what I knew would be his entire army unloading on that unit, not good odds for me.
With that in mind I changed gears and gave up on the primary objective, at least with any reasonable hope of achieving it. I focused on gaining kill points and used my Assault Terminators to contest the center. My opponent focused on the board center and expending resources to that effect which allowed me relative free rein to take some easy kill points and quickly take a strong lead there. The nail in the coffin was when his most expensive HQ got out of his ride to try to dislodge me so he could push his troops to the center uncontested. His HQ was removed, granting me the tertiary, I lead on KPs to take the secondary while he had the primary. I took a minor victory from the game.
I acknowledged early on that the center was lost to me. I didn’t stop pushing for it, indeed another turn would have seen one of my reduced troop units get to it, but I focused on what I knew I could achieve and to take any victory possible first and foremost. I would rather take a minor victory I know is well within reach than focusing on that massacre victory against substantial odds; odds that could very well turn my massacre win into a massacre loss. It’s a pragmatic view born of game conditions. I go into any game aiming for that massacre. Some times you have no choice and need that massacre to take first place. Other times you simply need a win to advance.
The other side of this game, and what allowed me that minor victory, is that my opponent focused on the primary objective to the exclusion of all else. As I took the lead in KP he continued his efforts for the board center. When the game was down to what would be the final turn he handed me the tertiary objective by letting desperation in achieving the primary goal lead his decision to step his HQ out of his transport. He failed to acknowledge it was a lost cause and adjust his strategy.
Recognizing a lost cause isn’t always as largely encompassing as that example. It could be realizing that your offense is ineffective and you need to adapt your plan. Why keep throwing units into the meat grinder if the result will still be your failure? Maybe someone is rolling up your flank and you know you won’t be able to stop it. Instead of expending vast amounts of resources to holding a flank that’s going to fold regardless, use as little resources as possible to buy yourself some time and reposition, set up a counter attack.
Experience plays a large role in the ability to see when something is going to fail early enough to adjust your plan accordingly so that failure has the smallest impact on you as possible, or to avoid it entirely. The more you play the more easily you can read the flow of battle and use your resources where appropriate.