How do you place your dudes down on the table? As you set up to play a game, many people consider the mission parameters, the units they have selected, the opponent they have faced, etc. Rarely, however, does a newer player consider the implications of the location of the units they place, though it's generally understood by more experienced players that you want to keep certain units closer or further from the opponent, near objectives etc. One thing that very few people are currently looking at in Age of Sigmar, seeing as it is so new, is the variability available in unit shape, and model placement within a given unit. Let's take a look at what I mean below, and be sure to swing by the tactics section of our website for more goodness after.

In WHFB, we were restricted to blocks of infantry when skirmishers were less common. In Age of Sigmar, however, there are no such ranking limitations and so we can shape our units however we see fit. You can form up a unit into a sparse conga line, a packed moshpit, and anything in between. The way you choose to array your models within their units will likely have an effect on their battlefield effectiveness depending on the role you wish the unit to play. Let's observe some of the options available to us:

Old School Block Formation
Tried and true, but no specific advantages over a different setup. Many are keeping to this form, perhaps loosening it up a bit to be rough circles of models rather than rectangles, but the effect is the same. The models in the back will not be able to pile in particularly well, and the frontage they present won't block effectively or allow them to reach wide targets on the field. They aren't deep enough to really limit the attacks they take, and since the models are all the same type in most of these setups, you have a blob that performs one function, discrete from another blob nearby. There is nothing wrong with this setup, and it works fine in most circumstances, but isn't optimized for anything in particular. Many who transferred from WHFB are still using this as old habits fade, but if you can find ways to utilize other unit shapes you may have an advantage over them.

Wide and Thin Line
The simplest of the 'new' formations you can aim for, the 'net' has already started to see use in the battle reports I had observed. Keeping your infantry one or two units deep, you space them out to maintain unit coherency and cover as large of a frontage as possible. A 20 man unit can cover 20 inches of the board if you line them like ducks in a row. This allows you to have a greater charge threat, since you can ostensibly reach many units in a charge with the width of the unit, and they can block the progress of enemy units across that whole breadth. Of course, like ducks in a row, being lined up in such a way means you are more likely to have holes punched into the line as they are vulnerable to more enemy charges and more enemy ranged attacks. Perhaps your models are tough enough to take the damage they'll be hit with, or they exist only as a wall/distraction and you're willing to burn a few of them to accomplish your task, which is fine - but if you want them to live longer, this might not be the setup for you. Remember you can remove casualties from anywhere in the unit and you can keep the blockade solid in the part of the line you need it in by plucking dead models from the other end if need be.

Another unfortunate drawback of the thin line is that if you don't get the charge, most of your combats may end up one on one. you'll have difficulty double teaming any of your opponents' models since you can't necessarily bring two charging units to bear with one or both spread so thin. If your opponent charges you, you'll be piling in to the nearest model and your line will now begin to coalesce into a film around the charging enemy unit like shrink wrap. Great for packing in attacks (should they survive long enough to pile in the whole distance) but not great for allowing a two or three-on-one situation.

Arrowhead/Spear Formation
The arrowhead formation, or spear formation, is much like a Lance of Knights a la the Bretonnians of old. You'll be forming your toys up in a kind of column, perhaps with a wider front or wedged leading edge, but largely a pillar of models that has a very narrow profile from the other side of the table, yet is deep with 'ranks'. The arrowhead/spear position means you hit hard in one spot, since you'll be slamming into a select place with great numbers, and if you use cavalry or spears you can actually do a good deal of damage while not having many available models open to being hit back. This means also that you are less likely to be hurt by shooting, since the forward elements of the unit are more condensed, but the unit will be relatively useless in other spots in the field that their width does not reach. If you have elites who can move quickly enough to make use of this formation, it is likely a good one as it will keep them alive long enough to make an impact, though it might limit some of their offensive capabilities for models stuck in the back of the pack.

The spearhead layout can also be called the "Chaff Column", and can be used similarly to how it was done in WHFB with units like Skaven Slaves. This is ideal for a set of weak infantry or other tarpit models with high resilience through armor or numbers, but not necessarily very effective offensively. If you keep the unit thin and deep, with only a few models at the fore, only a few will be in range of your enemy's weapons at a time, and so you can slowly pile in to drag them through several rounds of combat. Put battleshock immunity on a phalanx of quicksand models and watch the unit you hit sputter in place.

This is a more 'advanced' setup, as it actually involves two or mode units in a single grouping. They will still function as discrete units, while conferring the advantages they bring as though combined within a single mass. If used well, this encirclement strategy could likely make your success rate skyrocket, and I anticipate variations on this theme to become much more common in the coming months as people adjust to optimize their deployment and movement in AoS.

If you have two units you wish to use in tandem, or a unit with mixed wargear, this is a great option. Place your tough things in front, or capping sides of a block. Tanky resilient models might form a bit of a horseshoe shape, with a nice empty vacuum in the middle where you can place something a little more vulnerable. This layout means people can't pile in around the defensive unit to the soft units protected in the interior, and helps control board space. This is perhaps a less damage-output focused method, but will likely keep your frail damage dealers kicking for a few extra rounds. Place a shield wall in front and around a set of archers, who can fire into the combat in front of them once the enemy engages while not being available as attack targets in the combat sub phase. Try a unit of multiwound or high armor save brutes surrounding a wizard or priest with support magic, allowing it to boost the effectiveness of the unit protecting them. Wrap a war machine in guardians to keep it save from the blades of your enemies and allow it to continue lobbing pain around the field for an extra turn or two. Surround a necromancer with deadwalkers so that he can reanimate them as they are hacked down and create a nigh-unkillable unit with a safe and secure summoner at the core. A nice creamy nougat, if you will. The possibilities are pretty diverse.

How have you fiddled with your model placement and formation within units? What tips do you have to share?