With the current state of the rules in 40K’s 7th edition, and the general trend in army lists and force composition we have been seeing lately, some are claiming that assault is ‘dead’ for the time being. Certainly assault is somewhat less reliable in 7th edition than compared for previous rulesets in the game, but it still can be highly effective if done correctly. Depending on the army you play and the playstyle you prefer, you are going to want a way to make sure that your toy soldiers make it into combat and do their best work, so let’s take a look at tactics to improve your chances.
Limitations on Assault
The second thing you will find limits your ability to succeed with assault is the presence of overwatch fire. Whenever you declare a charge, the targeted unit will have the opportunity to fire at you and defend itself (and in the case of Tau, actually do some serious damage), which means that you will need to plan ahead for any potential damage you take. Sure, snap shots aren't likely to deal tremendous casualties, but if you get unlucky you might be taking a few models out of your charging unit before the charge move is made. At best, this means you will have fewer attacks on the charge because of the dead miniatures, but the worst case is that, seeing as models are removed from the front, you fail the charge because your unit is now effectively further away due to those removed models. If that happens, you have eaten overwatch damage, failed a charge, and are now floundering in the open for your opponent to blast away or counter-charge. How do we make sure we avoid these scenarios or at least minimize their presence?
One thing to bear in mind is survival before the charge - how do you plan to last until the moment for assault is at hand? Judicious use of assault vehicles in a transport capacity is a pretty common tactic. Black Templar sword brethren pouring from the front ramp on a Land Raider Crusader looks great and is as fluffy as a strategy comes, but the A14 helps ensure that those power weapons actually end up swinging at an opponent. Regardless of how you get your units in your enemy's face, you will need to make sure that they aren't blasted away before they have the chance to do their best work. Ultimately, if your army can make use of it, pinning fire will be your best friend. A squad with their noses ground into the mud won't be doing much to prevent your deamonettes from closing the distance alive! Another useful skill is being able to present your opponent with target priority issues. If they cannot decide what to shoot or run from, they will end up spreading themselves thin trying to deal with every threat at once, or concentrating on some at the expense of others. If you can convince the other player to pay attention to your distraction unit, you can sneak the real threat right under their radar.
It is also important to have a focus on defusing their threats - your opponent's army likely won't take the charge sitting down and you will need a way to de-fang the unit you plan to assault to have the best chance of survival. Precision shots can kill the big threats: template weapons, marker drones, or units with a solitary defensive grenade thrower. Removing the leadership boosters from a unit in this way can also be very useful once the combat is underway. Additionally, you can kit out your assault units with template weapons and other assault weapons to soften them up before you rush in, but make sure you look out for increasing distance with kills! Wiping out too many models with your guns means you might not be able to make the charge once their front rank is removed and the gap between units expands. Hammer of Wrath, if it is available in your army, also is excellent for softening the target up, striking at I10 means you will clear out a few wounds before they ever get the chance to hurt you back.
Obviously you are also going to need a figure out closing the distance - how are you going to actually get your miniatures there? Transports and deep striking help, particularly if your transports are assault vehicles or you have a trick allowing you to assault out of deep strike in certain conditions like Blood Angels. Scout moves and infiltrate help you start a little closer to your opponents as well. Regardless of how you get close to the enemy, you need to ensure that your charge is successful. Fleet and crusader allow you some extra reliability on the charge, and any other abilities that give you rerolls can be useful. If your units have extra mobility by being classed as jump infantry, bikes, jetbikes, or beasts, then all the better.
Lastly, it is critical that you finish strong - make sure that you win the combat, however you need to. Ideally, they lose enough men to break and fall back. If you can succeed in sweeping advance, you'll clean the unit out without needing to actually defeat them all in melee. It is also absolutely vital that you win the assault during your opponent's turn, and not yours. This means you want to be fearsome, but not too deadly. Think of an over-virulent disease, if it burns out its host too quickly it cannot spread. Kill it in two rounds of combat, not one: The reason for this is that you will have the option after your sweeping advance/regroup move, you can immediately charge another unit and keep the pain coming. If you win too early (or too late), your opponent has the option to shoot at you while you are standing in the open or charge you back with another unit.
So go hit the table with the fanciest swords you can find. Keeping the above tips in mind, hopefully you will find some good fortune and make the most of the most entertaining and rewarding phases of the game: assault. Be sure to check out our other tactics articles here, and happy chopping!