One of the biggest changes from 8th edition of WHFB to the new Age of Sigmar is the change in combat order: You can now select which unit hits in any order you please. The question that this sparks then is, how do we know which unit to strike with first, and in what order should we proceed? Additionally, since we no longer play with ranked units in block formations, we can take casualties from anywhere in the unit, rather than the back. Unlike 40K, where the 'nearest model' to the damage dealer is struck down (exempting a "Look Out, Sir" roll), in Age of Sigmar the controlling player can remove any of their models from anywhere in the unit. How can we best take advantage of this? Let's explore these concepts below, and be sure to look at our other tactics articles as well.
In a combat with multiple units, try having tank unit pile in first so that they have to pile in back to the 'anvil', since that will now be the closest set of models. The opponent only has the option of striking the nearby tough and/or numerous damage sponge unit, and will perhaps fail to do much damage to your shield wall. After this is done, then let your high-damage elites pile in afterward to be more likely to hit hard without being hit back (they can't pile in to that unit nearly as well once they have committed to the tanks). If you can arrange a 2-on-1 unit situation, say with Liberators and Retributors against a single group of Orruks, having the relatively weak hitting Liberators soak up the damage while keeping your Retributors out of harm's reach will allow the Retributors to unleash the full force of their attacks when it is their turn to pile in, greatly increasing your effectiveness and keeping your heavy hitters alive. Spears may make this a bit more of a challenge, but the concept should help you win more combats.
Casualty Removal, or "The Dance of Death"
Whenever you are in a melee with multiple units in a single combat, you have the ability to be selective when removing casualty models. When removing dead units, you can take them from any part of the unit. People normally just pull from the back or the flanks to keep the models in the front 'in the fight' as we are used to in 8th edition WHFB, but this is not necessary in AoS. You can certainly take from the 'in combat' models. This can open up space for another unit to pile in, if you play your positioning well. Imagine tactically removing your models to create a pseudo-charge lane for the next unit to pile in more effectively. Expanding on the previous example, some Liberators begin the fight with the Orruks, and take two casualties. If these are taken from the area immediately in front of your Retributors, they now have a clear and direct path into the melee once their pile-in move arrives, and will be more likely to get the full number of models engaged and attacking. Additionally, if you have another unit that is not currently engaged in the melee, but will be charging into it on your next turn, you can increase the odds of making the charge by providing a clear path into the fight by removing models from that area to shorten the distance between models. If you just took from the back of the pile, your reinforcing unit might have to charge around your own engaged models to reach the enemy, and that extra inch or three could mean the difference between making combat or failing the charge which can in turn affect the winner or loser of the game.
Do you have any other savvy tricks for combat that you have found helpful? What have you or your opponents done to capitalize on the rules in Age of Sigmar and increase your odds of victory?