Close Combat is a bloody affair and one that can quickly cascade out of control. Do we as gamers lose sight of the rules at the mere thought of crushing our opponent in the Assault Phase? The sear excitement for some players at the taste of it can have them jumping ahead of themselves in a desperate attempt to roll the dice. I've seen time and time again at my local hobby shop where a player throws their army haphazardly at their opponent so they can get into Assault. When this happens models are simply piled in as fast as one can and sure enough sometimes the opposing player is caught up in the excitement as well. At this point, the Moving of Assault Models and the Defender Reaction Move is where the rules are thrown out the window in favor of a mindless blood bath.
What are the rules of Close Combat though and where can they be found? In the Big Rule Book (BRB) you can find them on Pg33 under, THE ASSAULT PHASE. It’s broken down into 3 acts:
Act 1: Move Assaulting Units
Act 2: Defenders React
Act 3: Resolve Close Combat
Act 3 is rarely ever played out incorrectly but the first two is where things go astray. Let’s have a better look into the Act 1 on Pg 34 of the BRB; Moving Assaulting Units. The first step is declaring all of your assaults which is straight forward. Then any units that are within assault range may engage in Close Combat with the designated unit by moving the closest model to the nearest enemy model. From here on out you can move any model in any order that you want. There are a set of guide lines that we must follow though. These guide lines ensure that all models in the assaulting unit are kept in coherency, have engaged as many models as possible with as many assaulting models as you can. So what is this set of guide lines, well here it is:
1/ Coherency must be kept within the unit.
2/ When ever possible a model must be moved into base to base with any enemy model that is not in base cont with an assaulting model.
3/ If the model cannot get into base to base with an unengaged model it must move within 2" of another model in its unit that is in base contact with an enemy model.
4/ If that is not possible then stay in coherency as per step 1.
This is fairly straight forward so where does it go wrong? Step 2 is where it goes wrong. People just check if each model is in assault range and move them forward often ignoring enemy models that could be moved into base to base with. If the sequence is followed it will force you to spread you unit around more evenly with the enemy unit. The worst part is that if this mistake occurs than history repeats itself in Act 2; Defender React. When any unit gets assaulted it is allowed to move all of its models up to 6" (unaffected by terrain) in an attempt to get in the fight. This movement is bound by the same guidelines as Act 1 though. The only extra caveats is that the Defendering Unit is not slowed down by difficult terrain and cannot engage a unit that is not currently involved in the assault. So as you can see things can quickly start to be played wrong from the onset but what’s the big deal? The impact is that models that might not of been in the fight could of have been or perhaps the charge itself would of failed thus no Close Combat should of taken place.
You are probably wondering how following the guide lines for Moving Assaulting Models could result in a failed charged. On Pg36 in the BRB under Assaulting Through Cover you can find out how this could happen there. Essential if a single model in the Assaulting Unit must move through difficult terrain then the whole unit is effected by that slow poke. Rolling for difficult terrain can turn a 6" charge into a 1" and thus not being able to make it into close combat. DANG! That would be a bad jam for something like that to happen. Well as the defender you can create this advantage on the battlefield by positioning your units in your turn so that at least one model that might get assaulted is in cover. You are aiming to create the impression that your unit is not in cover. When your opponent assaults that unit and follows the Guides lines for Act 1 he might have an Assaulter that must move through difficult terrain to engage one of your models. All of sudden his charge fails and he is left in the open for you to shoot and assault on your player turn. Even if he gets his assault off the difficult terrain can still affect him. One way is that not all of his model will make into the assault and thus be left out of the fight. Another way is that if that unit does not have assault grenades it will be striking last regardless of initiative. I set this tactic ever time I see Blood Letters on the table and boy does it pay off being able to cut them down before they can strike with their power weapons.
So in the end it pays to know how to play out the Acts of the Assault phase. It can make or break unit’s performance whether you are the Assaulter or the Defender. So next time you hear your opponent’s Warrior's scream out their battle cries, stand steadfast, take a moment to breath and remember the motions of the Assault Phase.