With the arrival of Age of Sigmar, and now that people have had a chance to look over the rules (available here for free) and play some test games, we're getting a better sense of how best to use our models and earn victory. Below I'll detail some tactics you can employ during your own games, and then some of the overall impressions people have given me in their battle reports/experience writeups.
Combat OrderIn Age of Sigmar, you do not complete a single combat at initiative steps the way you would normally in WHFB or 40K. Instead, you select which unit in combat you want to attack with and roll their attacks, and then once those are concluded your opponent picks any of their units and rolls with them. If there are multiple combats happening in the same turn, you do not need to select units involved in the same combat. This is huge if played right - once an enemy unit has made its attacks it is no longer an immediate threat to you and you don't need to respond right away - instead take your combat turn to strike at something that hasn't hit you yet and soften it up before your opponent uses it to hit you. The order you attack with your units in the combat phase is a great way to use live tactics and try to gain an edge over your opponent and could certainly win you games.
FlankingOne of the biggest complaints has been that there are no longer bonuses for flanking an enemy block. In the direct sense, no, you no longer get combat resolution bonuses like you used to, and no bonus to battleshock is conferred for flanking as might be expected. However, you can still flank and it is still a useful strategy. If you can set up a charge move correctly and do your pile in right, you can wrap around the unit you are fighting and have access to many attacks. An important thing to remember is that with the pile in move, you move in a straight line to the closest model. You opponent will not be able to get around your quarantine flanking box and will end up with models stuck in the middle of the unit unable to reach yours, while you wrap around the edge of his circle hitting with every model you have. Flank your opponents with Spears and do even more damage, since you have increased range in melee. Flank your opponent with a second unit and watch your target crumble to damage and battleshock.
Focused FireA lot of people seem to be ending up in various 1v1 combats where two units face off in this fight, while two other ones face off nearby. If you can instead find ways to outnumber your opponent in a single combat, you have the opportunity to really smash that unit and obliterate it, keeping it from doing more damage. Setting up your charges or deployment to make it so an opponent has to take on multiple units to his or her lone unit will lend you more success in the combat phase. It's not particularly complicated to try and use the "Divide and Conquer" principle here, but if you are tag-teaming one enemy unit while leaving the other enemy unit in the open with nobody to fight, you'll wreck the unit you are fighting and take less damage at the same time. The simplicity of these four page rules seems to have made people think that the game has become more straightforward in terms of 'move forward until battle lines crash', when realistically you have the opportunity to concentrate your forces in one area and pick the enemy apart one piece at a time.
TerrainRemember that you can include terrain in your games, and they confer benefits. Aside from the regular cover save (+1 to your save for being in or near terrain) you get from it, they also come with rolled bonuses like adding to bravery or something else. Knowing what terrain has what benefits and planning your moves around this can help you optimize your tactics. Treat them like objectives in 40K and make them a focus of what you do and you'll find you perform better. Also remember you get to place up to three pieces of terrain per two feet square, not up to three total, so you can actually get really stuck in with terrain in this game. The player who is best able to use terrain to their advantage should find themselves winning more often.
Going First Vs SecondIt could be good to be very aggressive if you're the player going second in a given turn. Since each turn sees a new roll for who goes first, there is a 50% chance you will get to go twice in a row and make every combat turn out how you want, as well as pumping two consecutive rounds of shooting into your enemy. You have the chance of overcommiting yourself using this tactic, to be sure, but being aware that there is the chance to go twice in a row means you can set yourself up to capitalize on those opportunities when they do arise. No longer are we playing a game where one player goes first each round and the other goes second - there is going to be some fluidity to turn order and being able to react well to situations where you have two turns in a row (or defend well when your opponent gets the same against you!) should help you do well.
Warscroll Special Rules
Initial Play Test ResultsLooking into some playtest results others in the community have talked about, as well as rolling some dice in theory-hammer on my own, I'm seeing a few situations where we can optimize our ability to do damage that go beyond the obvious hero-spamming. Since there doesn't appear to be a restriction, some players might be tempted to take every named hero from every army and have a 30-odd strong force that it nigh unstoppable, but I'm going to dismiss that route for the time being. I'm more interested in looking into synergy that can be built from more realistic army choices, but if you're looking to have a good time with a legendary warrior demolition derby, go right ahead.
Summoning as a mechanic looks like a great way to find success in your games. You will have to count all summoned units killed in battle toward your casualties count, and that might lose you the game in a kill percentage scenario, but generally speaking it is seeming like a way to have a superior model count without falling prey to the sudden death rules, if you're willing to wait a bit for those units to be summoned. Nagash obviously has a great ability to summon models, and if you want to go the Tzeentch route, Blue Scribes and Fateweaver should be very successful summoners as well. The Great Bray Shaman can summon any monster from any army list, which could make him a very versatile wizard to take in your list. I have heard from people playing some initial games that if you are too successful with summoning you simply steamroll your opponent and lots of tactical flexibility is removed. It also does make the game move a little slower, but should still be faster than 8th.
I have also heard rumor that an excellent option for a hero in your force is a High Elf Archmage on a Dragon. With two spells and the possibility of two dispels, in addition to all the damage a dragon can put out, that 'single model' should be able to give you a considerable boost in all phases of the game. There are other 'big beefy unit' strategies floating around as well like Archaon with four Chaos Lords, but again let's ignore those for the time being and focus on more general strategies to help us succeed. Just like nobody wants to play the unbound 40K army that has 3 riptides and 3 baneblades, nobody wants to fight your Nagash/Fateweaver/Screaming Bell combo list.
What have you experienced in your playtests and theory sessions? Do you have any tips or idea about how to make a viable force in Age of Sigmar? Let us know in the comments.