Mind Your Tempo

[Guest Article]

Hey Shawn

I want to say thanks for pubishing my Power Core. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Because of you, my local wood elf player started bringing a ton more glade guard and they really can be effective.

Heres another article I wrote. It uses references to MrMalorians youtube channel and a Chess site. If you dont feel this appropriate to be associated with you or BTP but still wish to use my article, feel free to edit it out. Its in a word doc and I also just pasted it below.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

Robert B.

Mind Your Tempo

Warhammer, though less air tight than card games or Chess, can use similar strategies to overcome opponents. I want to touch on specifically the most valuable commodity when it comes to miniatures conflict: Time.

More specifically, we are going to use the word “Tempo.” Anyone with experience in Chess or even Magic The Gathering will understand how valuable Tempo is in achieving victory. ChessOps describes tempo as “In chess, a "tempo" is a gain in time-units (represented by moves). When one player gains a tempo, it effectively means that his opponent has been forced to waste one or more moves.”

Basically, what we want to do is optimize our turn to force our opponents to waste theirs. We can do this most blatantly in the movement phase and the magic phase because these actions directly force a reaction from the opponent. Also, we don’t want to screw anything up either. Thinking about the time related to position will make or break a plan.

When it comes down to gaining or maintain tempo in the movement phase, you must evaluate your plans compared to the opposing armies. Simply, maneuver your army to optimize your plan while denying opportunities to your opponent. Now, this isn’t really that simple and cannot be completely covered in any article. Here are just some ideas and examples to best use tempo to your advantage.

First off, have a plan. This should be done before your army ever hits the table. While composing your force, you should have a basic outline to the role each unit plays and how each unit cooperates with each other. This is a pretty basic idea. If you have an aggressive force, play it aggressively. If you have a gun line, avoid running up the board to get into combats. Having a plan before the game sounds more daunting than it actually is. If you have an idea of how your units can best combat a variety of army builds this step is already complete.

Unlike in Chess where White automatically has a tempo advantage, I would argue that tempo is won or lost in deployment. Whoever gets first turn gets to dictate how the battle will be engaged. But the power allowed in the first turn is determined by the threats posed by deployments. Reacting to your opponents set up while composing your force to play out the plan that was designed during list building is the key to limiting the potential of the enemy forces. Second turn doesn’t automatically deny a tempo advantage. Ex: There are some Dwarf war machines in a corner opposite High Elf fast cavalry. The Dwarfs risk early combats. The Dwarfs can then deploy some shooting infantry beside the machines to take care of the cavalry, protecting the machines to focus on heavier units. Because of the threat of the shooting infantry, the power that the fast cavalry posed was weakened, even if they have first turn. That is probably the biggest difference in terms of tempo from Wargames compared to Chess.


Force your opponent to make mistakes. “Tactical Uncertainty” is a great tool for this. (Please see MrMalorians Orc Tactical Team Podcast Episode 31) With units like Miners or Ambushing Herds, you force your opponent to either a) worry about their random appearance and stifle battle plans or b) ignore them and suffer the consequences when the units do arrive forcing an unexpected reaction (and hopefully redirection of play.) Other than those few units, maneuver your army to force an opponent to react in ways that are not necessarily beneficial to their overall plan. This is the more complicated part. Trying to gain tempo off of more experienced generals becomes really difficult because they are also using their moves already in anticipation of oncoming threats and to pose greater threats of their own. Hence the beauty of this game as a competitive outlet.

The most important place to think about tempo along with positions, possibilities, and probabilities is declaring charges. First off, this is another part of a turn where the opponent gets direct to make direct actions to affect the turn such as fleeing. Be aware of possibility that charges will not be completed and the board may turn out looking very different. When multiple charges on a single unit, think about the possibility of a unit fleeing on the last declared charged and having 2 or more units fail charges marching forward towards an empty point. Will they be stuck in the middle of nowhere or is that position still a strong placement? Also consider secondary targets that may be good units to try and redirect into. Another thing to watch out for is charges getting in the way of other charges or even fleeing units from flee results or panic checks. Again timing is the key here. The controlling player gets to decide which order the chargers are moved after all of the reactions and such has been dealt with, so think carefully about possibly getting in less than perfect positions that can clog up other plans or give your opponent more time to deal with it. Remember: charge range is determined after reactions and after you pick a unit to move so it might be helpful to try and move the chargers that are more likely to make their destination before taking bigger risks on farther charge distances.

On the same note, when deciding the order of combats is effected by position relating to tempo. The combats are fought out and resolved one at a time, meaning the controlling player should take into consideration a couple things when deciding the exact order of executing each combat (pg 46.) What is the probability of winning and breaking the combat? Do you want to pursuit to better position yourself or do you want to try and tear down the unit? Where will this leave the board and how will it affect the other pursuits and the following turn? Who has control of the next turn is a very powerful part of tempo when deciding actions following combats. That general has immediate control over the battle right after the combat results meaning they can use the pursuit to gain some distance to hit a deeper part of the field or they can completely reform to help their brothers in arms somewhere else on the board. There are plenty of separate situations that can occur, but the key to keeping your tempo advantage is to consider the time it takes for units to act and at what point of the game is the time (turn) allocated to the competing generals.

One can lose tempo quite easily as well. When an army needs to “redeploy” or when a general starts to panic shuffling his units around to deal with threats appropriately, they have lost tempo. Here is a classic situation that every general has encountered at one time or another. There is a unit on the board that is right where another unit needs to be or is blocking the effective unit from getting to where they need to be. The turn or two it takes to shuffle the pieces around to correct the mistake gives the opposing general ample time to set up the charges they want or gain positional advantage (even positional advantage for combat resolution). Shooting armies get the extra time to shoot at the jazz stepping soldiers trying to re-arrange themselves in the midst of battle.

Tempo should not be ignored when it comes to casting either. Again, this is a part of the game where the opposing player can make direct reactions. And again, the key to using tempo as an advantage is to plan. For simplicity sake, we are going to ignore using spells to enhance the rest of the game and just focus on the mechanics of the magic phase.

Magic is fickle and it is at best unreliable. This doesn’t mean one can’t be prepared to use it. Prioritize your spells by order of casting and by how many power dice should be allocated to it. Some generals like to shoot off their big scary spell first and some like to burn as many dispel dice as possible to make more favorable margins and cast the more important spells later in the phase. Whichever works for you, go for it. But the key is to have a plan. If an opponent is constantly looking over the spells they generated and biting their lip trying to think about it right there on the spot, you know you can lock down their magic phase because they are unprepared. Personally, I have my rules of thumb I go by when casting against certain army builds. For the last year or so I have taken almost exclusively the Tzeench deck in W.O.C. (pg. 108) and I know how many dice I need to throw at each spell and I know to throw my direct spells at immune to psych builds, pandemonium against casty armies like VC especially, and Call to Glory when I’m playing a grind out attrition game. That I have the situations to use my spells and the dice allowance I’m comfortable with, I can use my preparation to better think about the order of spells and how they should affect the board even if the winds of magic aren’t feeling generous.
Every spell cast forces the opponent to react. Having three “medium” spells may be just as tough to deal with as that huge “Ubber” spell because the dispeller needs to try and minimize the casting. This is not hard at all for the dispeller if allows for the casting wizard to have broken concentration first spell because of bad planning (not necessarily bad luck. Double 1’s…what can you do?)
Last little bit of my personal magic phase advice: when casting against dwarfs, just give up.

The key to tempo advantage is to have a plan, a back-up plan, and another plan. This requires some reading of rule books, critical thinking (I find brainstorming with other generals to be quite helpful), and of course, more gaming. Practice just magic phases for an hour with buddies. Practice just the movement phases or set up combats, declare which units flee, pursuit, or hold and play out the different scenarios of how the board would be positioned after declared charges or after pursuit moves. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. So consider how the time affects the game play the next time you rock up to a table.

Robert B.


Chess Ops: http://www.eudesign.com/chessops/basics/cpr-temp.htm

MrMalorian: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4Yde7L1kyU

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Warhammer Armies: Warriors of Chaos



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