Since the general thread has been closed, and in my arrogance, I thought I’d start a dedicated tactica. I’ve played quite a few games now and I think I broadly know my way around the game.
Also, I don’t know knights as well as I know titans, so I think I’ll keep this focussed on the big guys to start with. There’s also a knight tactics thread already.
The idea of this thread is to discuss how to go from something like this, where there are lots of enemy engines:
To something like this, where there is lots of mess where they used to be:
These are my thoughts on how to do that.
Play your mission – and your opponent’s.
The missions in AT are quite varied. Some are more difficult to achieve than others. Many have secondary conditions that apply to either player. You win or lose depending on whether you achieve your objectives and whether your opponent does theirs.
Think about how many VPs are available and how to get them. Work on a plan to get more of them than your opponent does. If you don’t need your titans alive but you win by succeeding at retrieval, then rush the centre and do everything necessary to protect your runner. If you need to give up on your primary objective to keep your titans alive, so your opponent fails at engage and destroy, then do that.
And generally try to avoid “Glory and Honour” – because nobody can kill a warlord titan that they can’t see on turn one (and you can bet your target will be behind a hill with a blind barrage on it). I’ve no idea what FW were thinking with that one. I guess it’s doable if your opponent only has warhounds and there’s no cover. Otherwise, avoid.
Over time, I’ve found that reaver titans are really useful for achieving missions. They aren’t as entertaining as warhounds or as brutal as warlords, but they are reasonably fast and durable, which is what’s needed when you have to have a titan survive a journey across the battlefield.
Orders in the right order
Orders are always a risk. Sometimes you’ll fail an order and be in trouble. On the whole you should try to rely on them as little as possible, and always roll for the ones you really need before going for the “nice to have” ones.
In general, it’s very important to succeed on a charge order or repairs. If your melee titan can’t charge, or your hot titan blows up in the damage control phase, you’ll look silly. Full stride can be very important too, if the mission or your position demands it. On the other hand first fire and split fire are nice, but usually it’s not a disaster not to get one of those off.
Keep that reactor cool
Hot titans are dead titans. They can’t boost their void shields (which may collapse anyway with an orange reactor), they take hits to their bodies and their servitors are too busy trying to cool them down to repair hits.
So every draining weapon you stick on your titan makes it slower, less agile and easier to kill. Think: does it really make much difference to get shieldbane with that turbo laser, when you’re more likely to gain heat by doing so than you are to drop an extra shield? Similarly, think about whether you actually need to fire your plasma gun on maximal fire to beat the target’s armour, and if you can afford to roll a couple of 1s and gain heat.
Teach your titans to dance
You must choreograph your titans’ moves as well as possible. Titans aren’t very fast, can only move within their front 90 degree arc and have big footprints on the board. It’s extremely easy for them to get in each other’s way and block your progress, which will cost you precious time and make your shooting less accurate.
So to avoid this, plan ahead. Don’t stand a titan behind another if you want to activate it first. Try not to walk in front of a titan that’s about to fire. Look for obstacles like bottlenecks between two buildings and work out how you’re going to get through them – or avoid them entirely if you can.
Sometimes a channel will be formed between two terrain features so that only one titan can travel up it at a time. This is a very dangerous feature because titans at the back of the queue are effectively out of the game, while those at the front are forced to advance as fast as they can. Only go up these if you really have to, and go as fast as you can.
Do activations good.
It’s usually an advantage to have more activations than your opponent, because it lets you move units after all of theirs have gone. You can arc dodge and focus fire on a single target.
Sometimes though you’ll have units that want to activate first, not last. A unit with charge or first fire orders might well want to hit something before it gets a chance to move away, for example. And of course you might want to activate one of your own titans to avoid exactly this.
In the damage control phase activations only really matter when something might overheat and explode. Generally speaking, if your titan might go bang you should activate it last if it’s near your own titans, so they get a chance to repair first, or go first if it’s near the enemy, so they don’t get a chance to. If it’s near your own titans that are undamaged then you should activate it first, so the other titans can activate and repair any damage they take.
Pick your targets carefully. Annihilate them wantonly.
I generally try to prioritise whichever enemy unit is the biggest threat to my mission. This isn’t necessarily the most dangerous titan. It might be the one I think has vital cargo, or the fastest one if I’m trying to hold the line. The idea is to figure out which enemy unit is most likely to prevent you from winning, then remove it.
Ideally, your target should then die in a single combat phase. The bigger titans can repair themselves quite well if you give them a chance, so try not to. If you can’t actually bring much fire down on your priority target, for example because it’s hidden by terrain, then you should probably go for something else rather than half-killing two targets. If it’s carrying a rescued crew and about to run off the board then just do what you can.
Melee titans and knights are often high priority targets. They are certainly very dangerous. There’s a theory that they force your opponent’s hand by making them focus on the target you want. The downside to this is that going nearer to the enemy inevitably makes you take more damage, as weapons tend to be more accurate up close. So charging a reaver with a fist down the centre will tend to force your opponent’s attention, but also hand them an easy kill. I think that’s only worth it if it’s covering for a retrieval or vital cargo mission – otherwise I’d much prefer to make all my titans hard to kill.
So you want to kill a god?
Titans die when they take four crits to a single location. To do this you generally need to drop their shields (or walk inside them), hit them a few times very hard to break the structure of a location, and then follow that up with several more hits in the same place to cause the crits. So it’s a three-step process and different weapons are good for different steps. Let’s go through them.
To break shields, you need a lot of hits at S4 or better. The stand-out weapons are therefore apocalypse missile launchers, Vulcan mega bolters and gatling guns. These guns force the maximum number of saves.
Shieldbane weapons are an option for breaking shields, but often not a good one. After all, the enemy titan can repair a shield almost as easily as yours can cool down the point of heat you get for shieldbane, and you also risk your titan going nuts when you push its reactor.
I ran some calculations. If there are no hit modifiers a warlord titan’s apocalypse missile launchers drop an average 1.48 shields against a target with its shields in the 3+ zone that pushes its reactor to reroll 1s. With turbo lasers and shieldbane it drops 1.67, again with no negative mods to hit (within 16”). That’s the best you can get out of shieldbane. In any other scenario you’re better off with a multi-shot gun like a Vulcan or gatling blaster, rather than a laser using shieldbane.
Notice that the defender has to push their reactor against each individual attack. This means that it's a bit harder to defend against two missile launchers on two reavers than it is against the same two missile launchers on a warlord. The reverse is true of shieldbane - the warlord can make 6 dice of turbo lasers have shieldbane for one point of heat, while a warhound only gets to do it for two shots. And of course the warlord is far more able to manage that heat than the warhound is.
Alternatively, just walk inside the enemy’s shields. That’s easier said than done of course, but it can still be a viable option. You might decide that you’ll leave one enemy titan alone, focusing on other targets, until your warhounds get nice and close. Then have them run in drop it without shields becoming an issue.
This one’s pretty simple. Hit the target very hard with something. A bellicosa volcano cannon, sunfury plasma annihilator (on maximal, preferably), plasma blastgun, melta cannon or volcano cannon are the best options here. Melee weapons work well too.
It probably doesn’t matter where you hit, so don’t do targeted shots at this stage. Sometimes you’ll annoyingly hit a weapon, but the chances of doing that are lower than the chance of missing altogether when using targeted shots.
You can target wherever you like with melee weapons of course, and on the whole I’d recommend the body in that case. You’re likely to cause a reactor leak and/or drop the target’s shields, which will make it a lot easier for other titan’s to finish the job.
If there’s significant structural damage already, say because the enemy titan’s reactor overheated, proceed to step three straight away.
Now that there are no shields and there’s a big hole in it somewhere, you need to hit that location some more to cause crits. A weakness of blast weapons is that they can’t do this. On the other hand, multi-shot weapons get a lot of attempts to hit and often have a chance to gain +1 to hit for range, which will seriously increase the number of hits you land.
This means that things like Vulcan mega bolters are surprisingly good at killing titans, while volcano cannons aren’t. If there’s +3 to the damage roll from structural damage and all you need is a direct hit to cause a crit, spraying bolts into the wound can work very well. But a second hole appearing in another location won’t make the enemy titan any more dead. You could get lucky and roll the right thing with your location dice of course.
Lasers and flamers are in an odd place. They don’t have the number of shots to be great in stage one, the strength to be great in stage two or the accuracy to be great in stage three. The “Glass half empty” way to look at them would be to say they are bad guns that don’t work in any situation. Or you could be more positive and say that they’ll always be able to do something useful in any of the three stages. The macro-gatling cannon is different because it has enough shots and accuracy to be great in stages one or three, and useable in stage two against lighter targets.
Essentially, knights are always in stage two. They don’t have void shields to remove but neither do you ever get positive modifiers on your armour rolls against them for structural damage or hitting them in the back.
The combination of their ion shields and armour makes low-strength dakka guns very ineffective against knights. On the other hand, high-strength blast weapons can take off whole banners in one go, ignoring ion shields and killing whole knights with single crits.
Of course, if you go up against a knight army you may as well just shoot at them with everything, in spite of the fact that your dakka guns aren’t particularly useful. But they are a balancing factor that prevents you from just using Vulcan mega bolters on all your hardpoints.
Choosing your battlegroup.
The good news is that you can take kind of anything you want in AT and have decent games. AT isn’t won and lost at list creation. There are still some things to consider though.
Some legios tend to be better for some classes of titans than others. For example Defensor want guns with a long range that will be in range to fire twice on turn one, and a reactor strong enough to survive doing so – which probably means they want reavers and warlords more than they want warhounds. But the mortis stratagem to take a free move before the game starts is awesome for warhounds. Vulpa has rules to make melee reavers seriously scary, and Astorum warlords are very tough. That doesn’t mean you should only field those titans for those legios of course, but it’s good to play to your strengths.
You’ll also want a good balance of guns across your list, and probably on each individual titan. Personally, I never like to field a titan with the same gun on both arms. I’d much prefer to have a gun for stage one and three, paired with one for stage two. So I find melta and gatling a good reaver set up, plasma and Vulcan great on warhounds and on warlords I like plasma and gatling. Those are by no means the only good set ups of course, but they are great all-rounders.
Melee weapons should probably be paired with something that can do targeted shots at wherever the fist has landed. Gatling weapons, lasers and other melee weapons are good here. A melta on a reaver is probably good enough to take with a melee weapon, just because it’s so powerful relative to anything else.
Some titans are also more “high maintenance” than others. For example, a melee titan is going to want full stride or charge orders most of the time, but a shooty reaver can generally get by without orders at all. If too many of your titans need orders too much of the time then you’ll inevitably fail sometimes and your titans won’t do what you need them to.
The same applies to activations. A warhound might really want to move last and fire first, so it can avoid enemy fire arcs and then hit hard before retribution comes for it. But not all your units can do that, so it’s advisable to have a few things that are happy to move earlier and fire later.
That's more than enough from me
Any comments, disagreements or lessons that you can add to this would be very welcome.