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+ Discussion + Terror and Psy-Ops in 40k. +

Terror Tactics Night Lords Reivers Psy-Ops Psychological

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#1
Grey Hunter Ydalir

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Psy Ops and Terror Tactics

 

 

So this is thought that I had recently while commenting in another thread and I thought it might be something to get a discussion going in the Liber that people can participate in, even if it's not directly commenting on someone's work.

 

 

Now, I'm not a military veteran, nor do I hold a degree in any relevant field. I have practical experience in a one-to-one capacity and I am an armchair historian and military theorist. I enjoy reading and researching things of this vein and 40k is fascinating in a theoretical application of real world theory to a relatable fantasy universe.

 

 

I think historically speaking terror tactics in terms of open warfare are shown to have increasingly diminishing returns in protracted conflicts, to the point of being detrimental as a population or enemy reacts increasingly more strongly against them, rather than being suppressed. This is in addition to only being applicable in 40k terms in a very tight set or parameters.

 

Psychological warfare always has a place, but that place is in concert with other operations and methodologies. It also depends what you define 'terror tactics' as, as conceivably I'd classify the Night Lords as a legion of card carrying terrorists. They prefer soft targets, operate against civilians and generally seek to do the most damage to morale and their enemies will to fight rather than military infrastructure, which has only been exaggerated with their turning traitor, along with any pretense to morality or ethics in warfare, bar a few notable individuals.

 

In opposition to that, I'd class the Raven Guard, and even more so the Raptors successor as using psychological warfare more effectively. They use it to terrorize their enemy when it's useful to do so, but more importantly they use it to manipulate the enemies perception of the battle or war they're fighting.

 

You also have to understand the modern 40k Astartes in terms of role as well as mindset. During the Great Crusade the Legions were an almost purely offensive tool. Even the defensive conflicts they fought were aggressive and focused on the outright destruction of their enemy, rather than holding territory (The Rangdan Xenocides for example). At the time of the 41st and 42nd Millennium, the modern Adeptus Astartes is almost exclusively a reactionary defensive force, as is most of the Imperial Military at this stage. Yes crusades are called and Astartes still perform in their preferred method of offensive operations (let's not talk about the Imperial Fists), but many of those are to lay low a particularly dangerous enemy or group who threatens Imperial worlds, or to reclaim lost territory.

 

The Adeptus Astartes respond to powerful threats more quickly and in a more focused manner than the broader arms of the Imperial Navy and Guard, but still to react to enemy military incursions. Terror tactics as a whole therefore are far less applicable. Psy-Ops still have their place, but I'd say the Reivers in this vein are actually a fairly good concept, just not on the tabletop. As it stands, Astartes are built and mandated to take on the most powerful and ferocious of opponents where psychological warfare isn't really relevant, either because you don't have the time to profile and implement such operations, or they don't respond to short-term psychological destabilization like say, a unit of PDF soldiers.

 

I also agree that certain races wouldn't respond as well as others, but I think a lot of people misconstrue or misapply racial traits and generalities to the effects and results of psy-ops and terror tactics.

 

The Orks are a really good subject here. On the broad face of it it's quite easy to qualify the race as a whole as either being too stupid, as well as too belligerent in character for 'terror tactics' to really work on them and in a lot of instances you'd be right. However there are two things that go against this on both a macro and micro scale. On the macro level, their stupidity and tribal nature leads them to be highly superstitious and susceptible to manipulation in this manner. On a micro level, they are more than capable of feeling despair and fear even up to the largest and toughest of Orks, though it is less and less effective the bigger, tougher and more self-assured an Ork becomes. I'd argue they are probably the most susceptible to a good psy-ops operation of any of the 40k races.

 

There are of course races that simply don't even rate. Chaos Daemons and Tyranids being almost equal right at the top, with the Necrons as a close second in terms of it being a pointless waste of resources to even try.

 

Someone mentioned Chaos forces as being less susceptible because they are in many ways fear and horror incarnate. I'd argue that you've totally got the wrong end of the stick. They have sold their souls to gain individual power, that is the root of every chaos followers ambition. What's one of the things that kept the Cadians fighting while their planet broke around them? Duty. Duty to your brothers in arms, duty to those you lead, duty to your race and duty to the God Emperor. Essentially they fight for the whole, not the individual. The same can be said for Loyalist Astartes; "Only in death, does duty end".

 

Chaos on the other hand is the very antithesis of this. The one thing that keeps them is a trifecta of fear, hatred and the drive to gain power. At the end of the day that individualist streak is the weak link in even traitor Astartes. While they are overall more capable than their mortal followers and chattel, they fear death as all that waits for them is an eternity of suffering, it's the ultimate loss of power and agency.

 

 

Now, this is a fairly broad area of application, and has a lot of factors and nuance to it and I'm fairly obviously taking this from a more Imperial perspective, so there's definitely depth I haven't gotten to here.

 

 

 

Bringing it to the tabletop and taking Reivers in particular, their equipment would in my opinion be better served on the tabletop as a wargear (Reiver Mask) option for assault units, to have cheap option to break tarpits, or to make your smash-captain even more expensive and versatile. It would at the very least condense some of the real overload of unit options the current codex has.

 

 

Well, this turned out to be a lot longer and wordy than I'd anticipated.

 

I'm really interested to hear what other people have to say, whether you agree with me or not, or whether I'm wrong on something and you could correct me I'd love to see it.

 

 


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#2
Daimyo-Phaeron Lenoch

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[snip]...with the Necrons as a close second in terms of it being a pointless waste of resources to even try. [/snip]

I don't think it's a waste of time per se to attempt psychological warfare against a necron target. Sure, the rank and file aren't going to give a :cuss about anything, because they are almost quite literally slaved to the commands of their masters, and some of the necron forces, notably canoptek constructs, aren't even sentient. However, the nobles and crypteks are still sentient, and have much of their thinking capacity intact. Notably, they still have pride. If you can deal a blow to a Lord's pride, he is not going to forget it, and that can be to his or her detriment. Alternatively, threaten a noble's holdings, and he or she may respond to the threat with an overcommitment.

In short, I think it might work, but it's a strategic thinking rather than a tactical one.


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#3
Grey Hunter Ydalir

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 If you can deal a blow to a Lord's pride, he is not going to forget it, and that can be to his or her detriment. Alternatively, threaten a noble's holdings, and he or she may respond to the threat with an overcommitment.

 

 

In that manner I'd agree, but given how relatively little the Imperium knows about the individual lords attitudes and personalities, I think it'd for the most part be more trouble than it's worth for any force that doesn't have a well gathered intel profile on the particular lord they're facing. I agree, to play against the ego of the Lord of one particular group is a good idea, but it's not going to be reliable or consistent. Then you have interference from the various Crypteks that I'd wager the Imperium even on a broad military sense knows very little about.

 

My argument boils down to reliability of your operation eliciting a particular result from the Necron Lord in question. Without a reasonable prediction of success, it's not worth diverting resources that can be put to better use elsewhere when so much of the enemies response in this case are complete unknowns.


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"...I have seen the birth of this world and I have seen its death. I walked with the first men and I shared a beer with the last. For me everyone is both old and young at the same time as a million lifetimes pass before my eyes and humanity is like the grains of sand in the desert, each breath to me a sigh in the vast never-ending vacumn of space."
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#4
Ace Debonair

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I just knew, somewhere in my bones this would pivot on the role of Reivers and talk about how they could be better on the tabletop. laugh.png

 

While I agree they seriously need something to improve them, I don't think this is the place to discuss what rules Reivers or their masks "should" have. sweat.gif

 

As for their uses against fearless enemies such as daemons - dropping a bunch of Space Marines into the enemy's flank / back lines and causing enough mess, confusion and havoc (flashbangs, Nazgul screams Sonic masks etc) can still throw plans off and catch enemies unaware, fearless targets or no. Sometimes it's not about making your enemies flee in terror - it's about interfering with your enemies' plans.

 

I haven't really got anything useful to add on the subject of how efficient psychological warfare is in 40k, I just thought I'd speak up for my favourite Space Marine models. laugh.png



#5
Grey Hunter Ydalir

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(flashbangs, Nazgul screams Sonic masks etc)

 
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In all seriousness I tend to agree with you, I was simply making an example of Reivers so as to still have them available for the people that like them, but make them more useful for those that don't.
 
Personally I'm not a massive fan, but I don't hate them either. Heavy Intercessors are my jam, heavy (heavier?) infantry is just the bomb-diggity, but they don't really relate here.


Edited by battle captain corpus, Today, 07:24 AM.

The Octaguide.
The Thousand Marine Myth.

On the scale mismatch of bolts and bolters by Coldfyre

Commissar Molotov's Castigators - Essential reading for IA Creation.

"...I have seen the birth of this world and I have seen its death. I walked with the first men and I shared a beer with the last. For me everyone is both old and young at the same time as a million lifetimes pass before my eyes and humanity is like the grains of sand in the desert, each breath to me a sigh in the vast never-ending vacumn of space."
-Silver Phoenix


#6
SpecialIssue

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I also think that maybe the big "within without beyond" threats overshadow some of the more common circumstances of conflict in the Imperium - seccessionist/independence movements that aren't (overtly) aligned with Chaos or xenos interference. These mortals, maybe having not even believing in the legends of the Angels of Death, are prime targets for psyops at all levels.

 

The obliviousness of most planets to the Imperium's actual ponderous, terrifying scale and the common disconnect with it's main institutions/central authority and the labour conditions on many worlds would make such movements pretty common I think.

 

I mean the Night Lord Legion specializing in these terror tactics was largely known for this effective policing role in the GC era. The awakening of the Nightbringer on Pavonis ran concurrently/in the aftermath of the Ultramarines crushing a worker rebellion on the planet. I think that many of the incidental battles the Astartes commonly face might be putting down rebellions in whatever sector of space they find themselves in i.e. gunning down PDFs/striking workers, as the closest forces available.


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#7
StratoKhan

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In history, the reputation of specific units was often enough to destabilize or unnerve the enemy facing them.

In 40k, the Orks fighting in the Second War for Armageddon grew to respect, but also fear, Yarrick.

These are byproducts of a unit‘s achievements rather than a concerted attempt to incorporate terror tactics into a force’s combat doctrine.

Flesh Tearers are a different example - a Chapter with a terrifying reputation, yes - but if I remember their Index Astartes correctly, their battle cry is a distinctive scream that’s amplified by their helmet’s vox units and terrifies their foes. It won’t work against everyone they face in battle, but such things also serve to boost the attacking unit's morale and rouse them. So even when the tactics don’t necessarily work against the foe they have secondary effects.

When it comes to Night Lords and so on, I think it’s also a characteristic that is born out of a sadistic compulsion - the feedback loop of the victim's distress and agony fuels the pleasure. I doubt they would waste their time trying anything of the sort on foes immune to its effects.
I suspect that a solid majority of the NL victims are humans and human-comparable Xenos. And terror tactics would work on them.

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#8
chapter master 454

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Night Lords I believe are prone to just soft targets but that isn't because they can't hit hard targets, they did once manage to attack and successfully rob a chapter (was it marine malevolent?) of their gene seed which doomed the chapter however this was likely out of need but still, I feel your naming of them as such is a little dismissive; a common mistake when dealing with Psy-Op based organisations.

 

Reivers however are just a unit needing a huge overhaul and re-work from the ground up really. They have the weird mix of supposed to be, and while lore and tabletop are separate they do inform the other and help create visuals for one while satisfaction for the other. Reivers don't feel like the terror troops, they feel like weak melee with a really niche gimmick that they pay far more for than they should. By all accounts, their gimmick should of just been in addition to whatever they should have for melee guys. 


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#9
StratoKhan

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Night Lords I believe are prone to just soft targets but that isn't because they can't hit hard targets, they did once manage to attack and successfully rob a chapter (was it marine malevolent?) of their gene seed which doomed the chapter however this was likely out of need but still, I feel your naming of them as such is a little dismissive; a common mistake when dealing with Psy-Op based organisations.

 

I'm sure they do hit 'hard' targets, they are Space Marines after all... with all the power, capabilities and skill that being Space Marines entails.


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#10
Gederas

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Night Lords I believe are prone to just soft targets but that isn't because they can't hit hard targets, they did once manage to attack and successfully rob a chapter (was it marine malevolent?) of their gene seed which doomed the chapter however this was likely out of need but still, I feel your naming of them as such is a little dismissive; a common mistake when dealing with Psy-Op based organisations.

I'm sure they do hit 'hard' targets, they are Space Marines after all... with all the power, capabilities and skill that being Space Marines entails.

Exactly. They do PREFER 'soft' targets, but they're still Space Marines.

 

Iirc, in the Night Lords novels, one of them (might have been Talos or Cyrion?, been a minute since I've read the novels) says "We waste our skills on foes too inhuman to feel fear!"


Edited by Gederas, 17 October 2020 - 02:31 PM.


#11
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Reivers lore-wise are a bit interesting and I think they are attempting to fill a similar niche to Destroyers, but Destroyers from the HH just do this better. It looks like they sort of tried to make reivers fill a role like that, but they missed the mark a bit I think.


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#12
ThePenitentOne

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There is another element of Terror tactics that isn't discussed here, which is that terror tactics are often aimed at civilians, not the fighting forces that protect them.

 

The purpose is to undermine the protectors by removing the faith their civilians have in said protectors.

 

Similarly, terror tactics are used to disrupt; to create riots and conflict among civilians so that the protectors are too busy with domestic policing to fight the actual military threats, which are causing the unrest through civilian agents, sleeper cells and convenient dupes who believe in conspiracy theories.

 

Seen through this lens, factions which make use of cultists are also a part of the terror game.


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#13
Plasmablasts

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I think the phrase that’s missing from this thread is “transhuman dread”. Astartes seem to be designed with their psychological impact on normal humans intentionally: they are living embodiments of psychological warfare. Dan Abnett I think first coined the phrase, to describe the overwhelming effect of seeing something so big, so powerful and so fast coming straight for you. Chris Wraight (Emperor’s Legion or Hollow Mountain?) describes Marines using battle-cries and their sheer momentum to keep their foes on a back foot.

Other branches of the Imperium also tend to employ “shock and awe” tactics: Titans must be designed as much for their psychological impact as for their military effectiveness. Think also of the Ecclesiarchal pageantry of the Sororitas. The Inquisition, putting the “psy” into Psy-Ops?

And then we have the Officio Assassinorum...
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#14
b1soul

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I think psy-ops is more about your propaganda (often news or entertainment media, not necessarily hard propaganda) infiltrating other polities. It's a form of "soft power" projection.

It's something the Alpha Legion miiight employ against a non-Imperial human pocket empire.The AL generally does human infiltration, not media infiltration

Edited by b1soul, 18 October 2020 - 01:45 AM.

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#15
MetalMammoth

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I think the reiver's "scaryness" comes from more then just a mask with a built in loudspeaker. It's also from how they operate:

 

Imagine a regular soldier fighting with regular tactics, shooting at you in open warfare, wearing said mask.

 

Now imagine it's pitch black night, 2 AM, it's raining heavily, radio contact with HQ has been jammed beyond hope for the past hour, and your entire squad disappeared one by one without so much as a gunshot or a scream. Then John Rambo emerges from the mud right behind you, also wearing such a mask.

 

Or, as another line of thought, when a jump pack equipped assault marine is plummeting straight at you from the sky like a ton of bricks sheathed in flames, does it really make a difference how loud is he yelling?


Edited by MetalMammoth, Yesterday, 04:54 PM.


#16
MegaVolt87

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Psy ops and terror tactics are completely different in 30k/40k context in effectiveness etc. Terror troops are units such as the Night Lords or more edgy units like destroyers, psy ops troops are like Alpha Legion or RG's Mor Deythan units. 40k psy ops also incorporate insurgency actions, sabotage, assassinations etc. Terror tactics in war are largely redundant in modern 40k, because the Imperium has effective methods of suppression to clean up after when they happen. NL's have devolved and live largely in the moment, so rarely have some larger game plan to establish a lasting empire etc to the extent of more organized legion forces.

 

Now, psy ops and insurgency actions are VERY effective to use against the Imperium. WB's subverting the imperial church with chaos cults, AL doing AL things etc have a much larger impact because they are attacking the very institutions, concepts and power structures that make the Imperium what it is. Atrocities/ terror campaigns in the Imperium burn out in impact within a few years, their only legacy as a legend/ spooky story to tell the kids. Its also easier to inoculate Imperial citizens against such perditions by telling them about the Dark Eldar etc. So they are kinda prepared when they see NL's in action, but its better than nothing. NL and DE cross similar enough circles on the terror chart IMO- easier to blame/ teach about xenos than the HH.... Hatred and zeal are effective counters for the Imperium against terror, they have it in spades. But being so monolithic, psy ops/insurgency type actions are a superior methods to use against them in 40k. 


Edited by MegaVolt87, Yesterday, 12:50 AM.

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#17
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Given the scale of 40k, squad level terror tactics have very little use, as you can easily terrorize a small group, but if the fear doesn't spread throughout the ranks of an enemy army which can have millions of soldiers, the gain will be irrelevant, especially because survivors from such a targetted attack would likely be executed for cowardice, even outside of the Imperium, something which would easily contain the fear and prevent it from spreading. That means that masks, a war cry or sneakily killing a unit one by one, would have little gain in the great scheme of things, although they might be useful against important targets.

 

You can still employ larger scale tactics to affect morale of the enemy. If it is an enemy planet you could always go with the easy route and target weaker targets like civilians, but that is very unethical, even in war (not that is really a concern either in 40k or real life :D ). Still, even with a rebellion brewing and causing damage to a garrison, terrorizing civilians is not always the best tactic. If you want to break an army the best way is to start with its belly :) . Break supply chains, destroy food provisions, burn crops and leave everything barren. An empty stomach is pretty bad for morale and if you impact the supply of weapons and ammunition, the enemy will be weakened significantly.

 

Break the unity of the enemy by removing their leaders. While some would say that a stealthy kill of an enemy leader would be easy, a very public assassination would have a greater impact on morale, especially because the surviving hierarchy would not be able to hide the death or disguise the absence as something else.

 

If an enemy has weaker allies in a nearby system, destroy them utterly, ensure no support exists in the region.

 

If you are defending from an invasion and their home world is nearby, pillage and ravage through their world while they are busy facing you, take the fight to them and leave them nowhere to return to. Beware though, a desperate enemy can be very dangerous, but desperation rarely promotes reasonable strategies.

 

The real nightmarish monsters are not the ones that use piercing screams on the battlefield, but those that leave you no place to retreat to and nowhere to feel safe.



#18
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Have you read the inquisitor game book? Quite a lot of the Imperium IS a Psyop. See also genestealer cults.

That's assuming you mean Psyop to be when one or more parties seeds propoganda or disinformation into media, advertising, etc etc



#19
chapter master 454

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Given the scale of 40k, squad level terror tactics have very little use, as you can easily terrorize a small group, but if the fear doesn't spread throughout the ranks of an enemy army which can have millions of soldiers, the gain will be irrelevant, especially because survivors from such a targetted attack would likely be executed for cowardice, even outside of the Imperium, something which would easily contain the fear and prevent it from spreading. That means that masks, a war cry or sneakily killing a unit one by one, would have little gain in the great scheme of things, although they might be useful against important targets.

 

You can still employ larger scale tactics to affect morale of the enemy. If it is an enemy planet you could always go with the easy route and target weaker targets like civilians, but that is very unethical, even in war (not that is really a concern either in 40k or real life biggrin.png ). Still, even with a rebellion brewing and causing damage to a garrison, terrorizing civilians is not always the best tactic. If you want to break an army the best way is to start with its belly smile.png . Break supply chains, destroy food provisions, burn crops and leave everything barren. An empty stomach is pretty bad for morale and if you impact the supply of weapons and ammunition, the enemy will be weakened significantly.

 

Break the unity of the enemy by removing their leaders. While some would say that a stealthy kill of an enemy leader would be easy, a very public assassination would have a greater impact on morale, especially because the surviving hierarchy would not be able to hide the death or disguise the absence as something else.

 

If an enemy has weaker allies in a nearby system, destroy them utterly, ensure no support exists in the region.

 

If you are defending from an invasion and their home world is nearby, pillage and ravage through their world while they are busy facing you, take the fight to them and leave them nowhere to return to. Beware though, a desperate enemy can be very dangerous, but desperation rarely promotes reasonable strategies.

 

The real nightmarish monsters are not the ones that use piercing screams on the battlefield, but those that leave you no place to retreat to and nowhere to feel safe.

 

That is why you always leave them somewhere to run. Somewhere to huddle, to feel safe. Always give them the option to run. Then, once all other objectives are done, once every other feast of fear complete may you finally have the true main course and show them that it was never safe, everything they did just part of your plan. Desperate Breakouts? Was adorable and even considered to be allowed to win, but time marches on and got places to be and this has been fun.

Now, which of your lieutenants do you think won't shoot you to escape?


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I Chapter Master 454, Chapter Master of the Angels of Justice, Warboss of WAAAGH Gubskul, Commander of a Catachan Regiment, Phaeron of a Tomb World, Shas'O to a Cadre and Princeps of a lance of House Taranis hereby pledge that I will not take up any further models til all other prior have been fully built and painted to tabletop standards. There is no time limit for this task, there is no deadline. My oath is to solemnly complete the armies I have now, to see it that they can have their glory. Paint will be stripped from the old in need, thick may it be like ceramite I will see it removed so that plastic and metal alike may see light of new paint. Models yet to be, boxed and in darkness will be assembled with due care and attention. For this task I am permitted to still buy the supplies needed to do my task but not one model more.

http://www.bolterand...one-model-more/ the thread to my oath. My own reminder.

http://www.bolterand...rk-in-progress/ my own chapter
"The objective of playing a game is to win. The point of playing a game is to have fun. Never confuse the two"

 

 

 


#20
Iron Father Ferrum

Iron Father Ferrum

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Psyops are not solely targeted against civilians; remember the scene in Saving Private Ryan where the Wehrmacht "morale officer" was speaking through a bullhorn and saying things like "The Statue of Liberty is kaput!"?  That is technically a psyop.  Other things like air assault units playing Ride of the Valkyries as they fly into battle is also a psyop (and yes, that one and similar has occurred in real life, not just in a movie).

 

The problem with any kind of psyop rule is that ideally, it would affect your opponent -- the actual human being you're playing against -- rather than doing simple on the table like applying a negative to leadership.  This is why I love the Alpha Legion stratagems from Faith & Fury so much: some of them are absolutely perfect for messing with your opponent's head.  If they have a unit arriving from reserves, where should they go?  Will they get screened out by a further 3"?  Will they get plastered by gunfire upon arrival?  They just counter-deployed to avoid one of your high-lethality units...too bad you can pull them off the table and deep strike them back into the fight next turn!  It's about confusing your opponent, making them second-guess their choices, and keeping them on the backfoot.

 

In the US military, we call this "interrupting the OODA loop."  OODA stands for "observe, orient, decide, act."  It's the most basic form of military decision making, and if you can consistently and continuously interrupt your enemy's OODA loop then you have the initiative throughout the fight.  You are in essence keeping the deck stacked in your favor by not letting your opponent actually make decisions.  If you've ever played a game where it seemed like you had little agency, like you were being puppeteered by your enemy...your OODA loop was broken.

 

Now, a common thread when this type of topic has popped up in the past has been how you as a player can "psyche out" your opponent... as in not using actual tabletop rules, but saying or doing things that discomfit the person across the table.  Trash-talking your opponent's units/army, bragging about your own skill or battle record, (usually false) bravado are all fairly common and we're all fairly used to it.  However, I have met people who have advocated truly non-sporting psychological tactics to ensure their victory.  One guy I had the misfortune of knowing would, I swear to Christ, not shower for two days before a tourney so his body odor would just be rank and distracting.  Refusing to share "open" information like what units are in what transport.  Turtling or slow-play.  Dice that are difficult to read from across the table.  False humility in pre-game discussions to lull your opponent into a false sense of security.  None of these things are strictly speaking against the rules, so the most WAACish in the community can and will put some of them -- and more -- out of the hat to aid their chances of winning even if they are unsportsmanlike.

 

So now that my planned on paragraph has become a short wall of text, I would ask a slightly different question: in the sportsmanship-vs-psychological warfare issue, just how far do you think is too far?


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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Terror Tactics, Night Lords, Reivers, Psy-Ops, Psychological

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