Always have a Game Plan: Model Placement

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This is a guest post from Owen at

I believe model placement is one of the fundamental things that differentiates beginners from more experienced players. This post looks at some of the different factors that impact on the placement of individual models, both as part of a unit and when they move individually. Before I launch into the specifics of placement let’s talk about the anatomy of a model… no, no, not like that!

Model Anatomy
There are a few basics of a model that need to be understood before we talk about their specific placement. Namely, these are Line of Sight (LoS), Melee Range, Command Distance (CMD), Speed (SPD) and other factors that impact their manoeuvrability, common things like base size and less common such as Incorporeal. Let’s start with Line of Sight.

In order to charge a model, you need to be able to see it. Most models have a 180° front arc that determines their LoS. This arc is also important for determining what models they have engaged in melee also. Models in your front arc, that are within your melee range (either ½” or 2″) are engaged by you (or to phrase it differently you are engaging them). They may not be engaging you depending on their facing and melee range. So, why is LoS important for placement? Often you’re trying to engage an enemy model with your movement (through a charge or otherwise) or you’re trying to avoid becoming engaged with them. At this point it’s worth mentioning that you can measure any of your models’ melee ranges at any time you wish. This is useful when trying to move precisely around other (usually enemy) models (check out this excellent article on measuring in Warmachine and Hordes from Handcannon Online).

Command Distance (also covered in that article) is the next element of a model that impacts placement. If you want full control over your models you should keep them in CMD of the unit leader. There are a number of reasons to run models outside of command, but I’m not going to discuss them here. Rather, I’m going to assume that you’d like to keep your unit under command. For most units the command bubble is pretty big. If your unit leader is placed centrally in your unit (and generally they should be) then you’ll usually have an 8-9″ radius around them. That’s pretty big. We’ll discuss the impact CMD has on placement in a bit…

The final element I want to mention is Speed and it is related to CMD, as one of the main ways to end up out of command is to outpace your unit leader. Speed is obviously key to placement as it is the prime factor for enabling/preventing a model from getting to a certain location on the battlefield. Okay, they’re all of the elements of a model I wanted to talk about. Next up, the model as part of a unit.

Models in a Unit
Unit Placement
The diagram above represents a unit that is spread out to avoid AoE attacks, either direct hits or from scatters. There are a couple of things to note –

  • The leader (L) is more-or-less in the centre of the. The models ufrtherst from the leader should be in formation by at least a couple of inches. This is in case the leader is killed and another model is promoted.
  • The models are all spread out with a 2-3″ between them and other models. This is in an attempt to limit the impact of AoEs. Of course, if an AoE template scatters perfectly a few models could be clipped, but that is just bad luck. On a side note, if you’re models have reach, and you have time, you could measure their melee range to get an idea of how your spacing them out.
  • The unit is in two waves and the first wave could well be place further ahead. These guys are there to absorb a charge. This tactic assumes this unit is a meat shield and will be charged (rather than doing the first charge). The reason for the second wave to be a few inches back is to avoid them being engaged by reach troops. Of course your opponent could shoot the first wave in order to reach the second, but now they have committed additional resources to the task.
  • A model has been left trailing as a spell target for your Warnoun. Using this simple tactic your ‘caster can put a buff/defence/etc. spell on the unit without being too close to the action. It means that model may not get into combat, but if they’re a Standard Bearer (from a UA) chances are they don’t have a melee weapon (and you’d rather the reroll on a CMD check).

In this example, the unit has be spread out to survive for as long as possible. This can be combined with jamming tactics, where you’re trying to clog up important parts of the battlefield (e.g. control zones) or pushing the line of battle deep into your opponents side of the board. Running to engage the enemy with the first wave can prevent them moving forward, while still leaving your second wave an opportunity to charge in subsequent turns. On that point, let’s talk about models when they charge.

Charging Models
Charging to engage the enemy is a fundamental part of Warmachine and Hordes and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a battle where a charge hasn’t been declared… well, there was one game with Lylyth2! Charging is something beginners often get wrong. Get wrong is a little strong – beginners rarely optimise charges. Let’s recap the basics of charging. You declare a Run/Charge order on the unit. Individual models either run or select a charge target. The runs/charges may occur in the order of your choosing, which is important for getting badly positioned/faced models out of the way. Models that charge must move in a straight line no more than SPD+3″ that will bring them into Melee Range with their charge target. When they finish moving their model is turned to face directly towards the middle of their charge target. If the charging model moved at least 3″ as part of their charge they gain boosted damage on the charge attack (if they hit!). The following diagram illustrates the most simple charge –
Charge Placement 1In this diagram model A has charged their target. In this instance they have charged directly towards the target and ended in B2B contact. There is nothing wrong with this charge and in many instances it’s the right thing to do. There are however other considerations. For example, will more than one model be charging this target? If so, do you both need to make space for them and try to ensure the charging models are engaging more than one enemy? The rationale behind this tactic is to ensure you get to make as many attacks as possible. If you charge a target with multiple models and the first one kills it, leaving the rest with nothing to attack, you’ve essentially wasted those attacks. That’s a little harsh, but you get the point.

Charge Placement 2Here’s a second look at that charge (I’ve added another enemy model in!). In this example you can see that A just about has the charge target in LoS, but once it can see the target that’s all that is important. A opted to charge at a slightly strange angle. This was to both engage the charge target and the enemy model behind. In your opponents turn they will have to deal with A somehow if they want to do more than fight A in melee (or they could risk a Free Strike, granting you an additional attack.

There are many other considerations when charging – one that is shown in these diagrams is the facing of the charging model. In the first diagram A ends up facing North (presumably towards the bulk of the enemy force. In the second diagram however A may be presenting a back arc to a lot of enemies – making it easier to hit in melee and at range.

This article has only scratched the surface of model placement, but hopefully some of the ideas presented here will be of use to newer players.

Until next time,


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