The Art of War(hammer): The Golden Rules

Welcome all. Son of Adam here from MasterCraft Gaming with an introduction to the Art of War(hammer). Herein you will find the first two rules in the Art of War(hammer).

     When you explain Warhammer 40k to people who have no idea what it is, what do you tell them? It’s like Call of Duty, if your guys kill more of their guys you win? Or do you say that it’s like checkers, where you win once the other guy doesn’t have any pieces left on the table? I have to respectfully and fundamentally disagree with these common mindsets; Warhammer 40k is more like chess or Stratigo.

     Have you seen when a newer player simply lines up their dudesmen on the edge of their deployment zone and then charges forward, engaging whatever enemy happens to be across from them? This always brings to my mind Civil War tactics (granting some of the obvious limitations of the time). However, it is more than a little comical when players employ the “charge forward” tactic and then belittle or brag about how poorly or well their units performed.

Remember your victory conditions; you won’t be winning without them.

     I remember two players in a tournament once played a game like this. Both sides lined up their dudesmen evenly and quite attractively across their deployment zones, stopping now and again to admire the site (something I also like to do from time to time). The game began: they charged forward, threw some dice, killed some guys and lost some guys. Then it was that time of the game; turn 5. At this point the more confident player (that is, the one with more dudesmen left on the table) suddenly realized that they were playing a game with actual victory conditions and nonchalantly picked up his tournament packet to discover them. After mulling over a few lines, a sudden look of panic began to appear. The paper dropped an inch revealing his eyes. They scanned the battlefield. Then those signs of panic grew.

     The other player, equally unconcerned up to this point, and feeling quite defeated, lifted his copy looking for how many points he might have luckily scrapped together with those lesser “pity”, I mean, battle points. However, after glancing at his sheet, sudden delight shined on his face. He looked at the table, then back at the packet, then back to the table.

     Both players realized that the victory conditions for the game gave the “loosing” player the victory. However, this also means that both players had to have played the game with a total ignorance of those victory conditions from the beginning.

     These players must not have read the Art of War(hammer). It’s first rule clearly states:

“I. Game Strategy

1. Son of Adam said: The game is won by achieving the victory conditions, not by killing the opponent.

2. These conditions are a matter of victory or lose, a road to either glory or ruin, hence they are a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”

     It’s obvious and simple for sure, but often times the most basic and most obvious things are simultaneously the most important. If they followed these two rules both of those players would have, at least, had the victory conditions in mind and been trying to out-smart one another in order to reach them, rather than simply lining up like redcoats and militia and hoping that theirs were the guys that were left standing.

     Stone Wall Jackson, a controversial and skilled general (like most 40k generals), reshaped the colonial style tactics by seeking how to best achieve his victory conditions with what he had. His victory condition was the surrender of the North. How did he try to achieve this, through open war? Not a chance, his force was no match for the North. So how did he contribute to the securing of the victory condition? He hid and disrupted the supply lines taking key positions and supplies away from the North in order to slow them down and demoralize them, removing their will to fight.

Go for the objective or go for the kill?

     In the last round of WFN’s GT 2011 I played against a stormlord scarab farm list with my old Saim Hann mechdar list. My opponent was a very nice guy and we had a very boring game, but some good conversation. The game was essentially a capture and control mission with two armies that couldn’t really fight a head on battle against each other (I couldn’t win in combat or shooting for very long and he couldn’t catch me, or make it free of harm to my objective). We sat down and took a relaxed posture. After I read the mission victory conditions and his army list, I knew how it would run if as long as he or I didn’t suicide.

     He had one unit with a veiltek, and I had a falcon with the avenger upgrade. We would sit there in the dark and throw pot shots into each other. The last turn would come and he would veil and try to kill my scoring unit or claim/contest my objective, and then I would tank shock his objective to try and claim/contest it myself.

     When the bottom of my turn 4 came, I stood up (first time in the game) and moved all of my tanks into position and covered up my objective with jetbikes in order to deny his deepstrike-to-contest move. During his turn 5 he reacted and tried to destroy all my transports. Then he realized what was happening and tried to veil over to my objective. When his shooting didn’t cause me to fall back and left my one falcon alive he realized that the game was lost. My turn 5 I tank shocked the warriors off the objective and contested it, and then prepared my home objective for a turn 6 by blocking the assault with another tank. The game ended with an Eldar victory.

     My opponent looked at me and said, “Man I really didn’t see that coming.” That surprised me. I thought we were both looking at the same game, but I had rule number one in mind, and he only realized it at the end. For me the game was chess with the next five moves clear, for him it was a game of Call of Duty where he was content to sit and snipe, expecting to end the game with a positive kill death ratio.

     Next time we will look at the first two rule’s application in three more specific ways. This article may seem a bit reduced or too simple to be regarded, but as we look next into the three spheres of strategic gaming we will see how obvious and frequent rule one and two’s guiding influence is. We will follow those rules and will, on no account, disregard them.

     Thanks for reading. If you have any comments, questions, or instances where you have seen the civil war re-played in 40k, post below. Subscribe to our youtube page to see battle reports and other 40k related videos. Thanks.

About Son of Adam

I am a 40k player and have been since the time of third edition. My first love, and presently an unfortunate one at that, is the Tau. In 4th edition I began a modest IG army, and then started a small yet growing Grey Knight trophy army in 5th. In the recent past, I have succumbed to the desire to play Eldar; that same alluring desire of precision in play, and artistic gracefulness of modeling that many 40k players always seem to toy with. I am finding this last army to be very challenging and enjoyable. My involvement with the hobby is as an appreciator of much of the fluff, an admirer and novice in the art of modeling, and an enjoyer of the game.

Posted on July 24, 2012, in Art of War(hammer) and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Just started reading this blog, I know you stated it was simple but I’m a very new player and this actually helped a lot!

    • Welcome to the hobby and to this site. I’m glad to hear that this has helped you. Feel free to reach out to me if there is anything in particular you would like advice on.
      (You can do that in a comment here, or send me an email at

  2. Goood post. I will be experiencing some of these ssues as well..

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