The Three Spheres of Strategy Gaming

Hello all. Son of Adam from MasterCraft Gaming here again with another article on fundamentals; the three spheres of game strategy.

     In section number one of the Art of War(hammer) the three spheres of game strategy are presented:

3. The art of war(hammer), then, is governed by three constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations when seeking to determine the methods for victory.

4. These are: (1) List building; (2) Deployment; (3) Method and game play.

5. List building is the art of predicting what pieces your will need in order to take the victory conditions from your opponent.

6. Deployment prepares the army you have taken to achieve the victory conditions, and to disrupt your opponent from doing so.

7. Method and game play comprises of the strategy, both micro and macro, that bring your plan into effect to achieve the victory conditions.

8. Not one of these spheres is more important than any other. Success is found with their cooperation.

     None of these rules are absent from the first two. Again these may seem a little basic, but they are fundamentals after all. They will become the language and framework with which we will learn how to better discuss and learn the game. Let’s check them out individually.

     Rule #5; list building. Sometimes you can nearly win or loose depending on your list. What you bring to the table versus what your opponent brings to the table in light of the given victory conditions for the mission being played really sets up how the rest of the game will be played.

List building is important, but poor deployment and gameplay can keep you from victory. Don’t ignore the other spheres!


     When approaching this we first have to remember rule number one. How do we plan an army based on achieving the victory conditions? Well there are a couple of things to consider. First what is the setting of your tournament/game? That is, finding out the points level, mission types being played, any key changes to the rules that would change what in an army is appropriate to achieving those victory conditions, what you can expect other armies to look like, and what kind of terrain to expect (amount/type). Second, how will your army, with its separate parts, work together.

     We are not going to get too deep into the real particulars of this here. This is just a description to highlight what types of things to consider, and to lay out other, more specific, things to discuss in the future.

     Next up is rule #6; deployment. Often the overlooked stepchild, it is certainly what controls the rest of the game. Deployment is your starting moves in chess. You can control where the game goes with it. For example, if you overload one side of the table your opponent is forced to react. If your army deep strikes, outflanks, infiltrates, or scouts then you can force your opponent to respond. Again this is more of a description than a tactical discussion, but be familiar with the very real power that proper deployment can have, and check out the other articles that we have on the different ways to manipulate the deployment sphere of game strategy. Take your time and consider how you can deploy in order to achieve the victory conditions or force you opponent to fail to achieve his.

     There are many ways you can do this, and some of them are particularly irregular and potent. The following is an instance that will give a more real life example of the types of creativity and their relative strength in deployment.

     In one particularly satisfying game back in 5th edition, I played the puppet master using deployment. The game was kill points and I was playing eldar against my buddy’s nids. He had four squads of genestealers in his list that he declared to be infiltrating. Then I knew his primary deployment tactic would be to infiltrate them within 1st turn charge range of whatever was vulnerable. So, instead of trying to play against this I appeared to play into his hands by placed two of my very delicate transports in very vulnerable positions to that tactic. He, quite predictably, placed all of his genestealers in the best positions to get that 1st turn charge. After reminding him that I had Eldrad in my list and reminding him of his divination power, (friendly game and all that it was) I then proceeded to use that power and move both of those juicy transports one inch back making it impossible for him to get the first turn charge.

     He was then forced to do one of two things with the stealers, given their new found, and very deliberately, dangerous position. First he could try to find a defensive position during his first turn, or just charge forward hoping to overwhelm my fire and survive; both very dangerous and ultimately game ending moves.

     In this instance you can see that the game was essentially won simply by manipulating the second sphere of strategy gaming. I determined his deployment tactic, countered it with a bait and switch, and the game was won. Never underestimate how much of an impact that deployment can have. There is more to come on this subject in future posts.

     Finally we have rule #7; method and game play. This may seem like the most obvious and most important part of the game, if not the whole of the game itself. It generally has the most strategic discussion about it, but I must stress that this sphere has the same amount influence on the game as either of the first two spheres and no more. If you have a poor army and terrible deployment when playing against a good opponent, your chances to win are minimal regardless of how talented a player you are. However, as many veterans know, with good play you can overcome the odds of a match to defeat your opponent (sometimes this is the most satisfying way to win a game).

     There are two different ways that we will talk about this sphere as we go forward; macro and micro. Macro method and game play refers to strategies for moving around your dudesmen on a table-wide scale, something like an alpha strike; whereas micro refers to the minutia of details involved in every little part of the game like using a squad as bait.

Understanding macro and micro gameplay is vital. Adjust your tactics to maximize your army’s potential to increase your chance for victory.

     Here is just one quick side note on this sphere. It is important to predict how your opponent is planning to execute this sphere as well. Sometimes your opponent won’t be following rule one and their method and game play will be to kill stuff. If you recognize this while they angrily charge forward with some death-star unit, eager to swallow whatever poor and helpless models have the misfortune of being near it, you, being aware of rule one, can take some (or many) different units and throw them near this squad, but in positions that are irrelevant to the game. More concerned with killing things then boring objectives, your opponent may take this bait and chase/kill these units while moving themselves into useless positions and winning you the game. So remember to try and figure out what your opponent plans to do on the table in order to better figure out your own strategy.

     Thanks again for reading. If you have any comments, criticism, or questions post them below. If you find these useful and are interested to hear more check out some of the other articles and find some of our videos on youtube.

If you don’t get the reference to the Art of War by Sun Tzu go buy a copy and read it. It’s good stuff.

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 25, 2012, in Art of War(hammer) and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Yes, yes, YES! This awesome! I am a new player still building my army and I have not had a chance to play a game yet, so i have been scouring the net for warhammer40k strategy. Almost everything out there is written from the “kill moar stuff” mindset, which has really frustrated me since I know that a majority of 40k games aren’t decided by KP alone. These articles are exactly the ideas I’ve been looking for, and they are really well demonstrated in your videos. Thank you, keep em coming!

    • Thanks Kp. I’m glad that these articles have been benificial to you.
      What army will you be playing? Good luck getting started with 40k.

  2. I have put together a pretty basic 1000 pt C:SM army with 2 10-man tac squads, 3 Bikers, a 5-man sniper team, a Rhino and a Librarian.

    I also really enjoy all the articles on the site that don’t deal only with a specific army’s tactics or list, which I have noticed is pretty rare other than your basic “how to move and shoot” articles. As a player on a budget, I can’t really go around experimenting with new units and codexes, so the general strategy articles are much more useful to me as I can use them with the units I already have instead of having to buy new ones.

  3. KP good job on the army. Have you picked/created a chapter for them?

    I’m glad you have gotten so much out of the general strategy articles. Let us know how your first games go, and how your army is coming along.

  4. My chapter is the Space Geckos (Green & Yellow). My army has grown and now has a Dev squad, a Termie Squad and a Captain. My first two games have not gone well, but I am learning from my mistakes. In my first game against C:SM, 750 pts, I deployed second my 5-man Devastator squad right across the board from my opponent’s Plasma Cannon and lost three of them on the first turn, though luckily all his plasma shots scattered or got hot after that. In my defense, his army was completely gray so it was hard to see what weapon each squad was holding. I also kept forgetting that I couldn’t move my Librarian and fire his Vortex of Doom at the same time, so I kept missing lots of kills with that. I realize now that with so many of my army points tied up in my Devs and Librarian, losing so many shots with them early on is what left me outmatched. Luckily the board and objectives created a bottleneck and my flamer bikes were able to do a lot of damage to his troops that had filled it up, but the died pretty quick after that to his Terminators and the remaining troops and weren’t able to do enough damage to make up for losing half of my devastator squad and losing so many shots from the Librarian. The Terminators ended up mopping me up as i did not have enough anti-armor at the end-game.

    My second game was a Purge game against the same guy, this time 1000 pts with lots of ruins in the center of the board, Hammer & Anvil. In this game I made the mistake of rushing my fast attack option forward to quickly to try and score first blood against his infantry unit, and they were caught out in the open (albeit on the edge of the board) and got crossfired by a deep striking terminator unit and the infantry unit that they were trying to rush. I also learned how firing lanes work, as when I tried to move my shooty Infantry forces through the ruins that divided the board into 4 quadrants and a large middle square, my opponent had by then already moved into the square, and from within the square all his units were able to draw LoS to all my units. On the other hand all my units were divided by parallel walls, and could only draw LoS to a different enemy unit, which effectively divided my forces and my fire. Since the game was KP, what I should have done was retreat from the center of the board (which my opponent moved to occupy on the first turn) to my own edge (or deploy there) and let my opponent come to me, and concentrated my fire on his forces as they were filtered and funneled through the ruins. I also realized that my army no longer had enough Armor Busting with the Devs gone and the Tacs holding Heavy Bolters, I will be more aware of my list in the future and what elements it’s missing.

    Anyway, that’s what I learned from my first two games of 40K.

    • Excellent KP. It’s good to see that you are learning from your games.
      For Marines a defensive play can often help. Most people play too aggresively with Marines, but the quality Marine players tend to take more of a defensive stance.
      How do you equip your devs? Loadouts on the Tacs?
      Good luck and keep it up.

  5. The devs in the first game had 2 HB and 2 Lascannons, the HB guys were the ones that died on the first turn. Tac marines had flamer, combi-fler and multi-melta.
    Game 2, 1 tac had plasma gun, plasma pistol, and HB, and the other tac had flamer, combi-flamer, and HB, which basically left me with no answers to my opponents dread and termites while his plasma tore me up. Bad idea to build a new list right before a game.
    I’m now fielding Las/PC Devs, and one squad with plasma gun, plasma pistol, and the other with flamer, combi-flamed, and multimelta, and I’ve switched the bikes from flamers to plasma. Also an artificer captain with a relic blade to counter assault anything that tries to tie up my shooting units. And a rhino to protect my devs. Hopefully these changes will drastically improve my damage output against meq armies, which everyone at the LGS seems to use, while also having options against mech units with all the plasma as backup to the heavy weapons.

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