I play a lot of Blood Bowl. The game is amazingly addicting and playing the PC version means knocking out a game in no time compared to table top. If you’re not familiar with it then here’s GW’s specialist page on it. In short, it’s a brutal game of American football that’s turn based, played on a gridded board with dice rolling. It’s a lot like chess, just bloodier.
Blood Bowl is simple to learn with the rules being about 23 pages. However, like chess it takes a long time to master it. I’m far from being amazing at the game but I can hold my own at least. My initial improvements with the game was learning what moves to make first, which order to perform my blocks in (hitting the other guy), so forth and so on. See, in Blood Bowl you can have a turn over, things like dropping the ball, failing a pass, being knocked down in your turn. If you suffer a turn over that ends your turn even if you weren’t done everything you could do. You can see why you’d make your safer moves first.
This leads me into how some of what I’ve learned in Blood Bowl has translated in 40K. Now, there are things I’ve always done in 40K before I ever touched Blood Bowl, so not everything was a new revelation or additional skill I picked up, some of it was just affirmation. For example, making your safe moves first. In Blood Bowl you can move freely an allotted amount of squares with a player. If you enter into a player’s tackle zone, any square next to them, and leave that tackle zone you have to make a dodge roll. This isn’t a safe move because it requires a die roll and failure causes a turn over and your tun ends. These type of moves you save until you’ve made your safe ones if possible. There are times you need to make these moves early, to set up the rest of your play.
How does that translate into 40K? There are times when you’re unsure of where to move everything. You know what you want to do but you aren’t sure if you can pull it off this turn or if you need to set up for next turn. Generally there are moves you know you’re going to make: these guys on foot need to move up 6″ and make a run move after, this tank has to move out from behind the building to get a shot off. Make these moves first, the ones you know you’ll make regardless and evaluate from there what to do with the other units you’re unsure of. Moving up that unit 6″ may give you a gauge for distance with nearby units you weren’t sure of. Just visually seeing positioning of know moves may spark an idea, give you some insight you were lacking.
The other big thing in Blood Bowl is making blocks. When you’re standing next to a player on the other team and you have not moved you can block him. It’s a strength comparison and if you’re stronger than you throw two dice instead of one. There are other factors here that add to your strength and since this isn’t about Blood Bowl I won’t go into it. These blocks are referred to as 1D and 2D for obvious reasons. What you do is make your 2D blocks first because it’s safer. There’s always a chance you knock yourself down on a block and having two dice gives you a safer block. Making a 1D block is not ideal and usually only reserved in dire circumstances because the odds of knocking yourself down are greater.
Initially it seems we’re talking again about making safer moves first, or attacks in this case, and we are but there’s a bit more to it. Now, this is something veteran players have learned already, it’s about proper target priority and firing order. If you have a heavy weapon team, let’s say Devastators, and they all have lascannons (let’s ignore how crazy expensive that is for the example), their job is pretty well-defined; they’re going to bust tanks or maybe fire on heavy infantry. You also have some other units that are capable of bringing down a tank but are less reliable. Maybe the strength of the weapon is lower, the unit only has one weapon capable of busting a tank, things like that. To make a direct comparison to Blood Bowl, your Devastators with lascannons are your 2D block against tanks. Your Tactical Squad with a missile launcher is your 1D block on a tank. If you need to bring down a tank then you’re first going to open up with the Devastators. If it works then your Tactical Squad can fire elsewhere, maybe get that 2D block against something, say a unit that was inside the transport the Devastators destroyed. If the Devastators fail then you make that 1D block with the Tactical Squad, you don’t start with it.
I could no doubt make a ton of comparisons of lessons learned in Blood Bowl that translate to 40K but I won’t. The core concept I’ve taken away from Blood Bowl is making those safe and known moves first. Make the attacks you know you have to make, the safer ones, early and the results of that can dictate how the rest of the ‘play’ unfolds.