Apocalypse Now ... Remarkable Scenes, shame about Brando...
After quite a serious amount of thinking and some frequent Apocalypse battles fielding Tau, Guard and Tyranids ... here are my suggestions for the best ways to win at Apocalypse.
***NB: Winning at Apocalypse is an Oxymoron, as anyone attempting to win at APOC will most definitely lose ... there are just too many variants, big destroyer cannon shots and other nastiness bouncing around.***
***NBB: These options involve standard apocalypse battles, using a big square board and a few (or no) strategic assets (which shouldn't be 'given away' anyway and should always be got through formations - but more on this later!***
BIBLICAL RULE #1: "Plan to kill Space Marines!"
The majority of large higgle-piggled together armies out there are space marines. GW love their pointy little heads, fluffy little rules and ridiculous number of codici for a single army variant ... that said, it makes it very easy to choose your weaponry... something that kills SMURFS will always have a target.
Obviously, if you are in a pre-prepared APOC arena versus Nids or Guard ... ignore the above. But nothing sucks quite as much as taking two hellhounds to kill Orks and having to use them on nurgle terminators...
So when the options is for AP3 or AP4 ... the smurf munching guns have it... Okay?
BIBLICAL RULE #2: "Formations first, Superheavies second!"
Ok, so superheavies are cool. A Warhound Titan will dominate a game very quickly. However, a warhound titan is also a very big boom waiting to happen. Within the annals of the IA and Apoc books are many formations. These formations range from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Think of the formation as a 'force multiplier'. The key is to purchase formations for units you were going to buy anyhow... To give you an example, in this APOC battle: Taking on a Warhound. Utilising two inexpensive formations gave our Tau army an impressive advantage.
The MIRAGE (pdf) upgrade cost a base 100pts and automatically allows you to upgrade all pathfinder devilfish in the formation gundrones to marker drones for free (?!?) ... well that just paid for itself. In addition, you can auto-deploy (ie like Marbo) at the start of the Tau first turn and move and fire etc! Also, if you get 3 markerlight hits on any number of targets and these are in LOS (line of sight) of any pathfinders in this unit, you get precision strike on that unit for every friendly unit on your side. Precision Strike is 2+ to hit for everyone. ALL for 100pts. Bargain. Oh did I also mention that every unit within 12" of the MIRAGE devilfish is covered by a stealth field operating exactly like a stealthsuit.
So that's a unit that is immune to long range fire, can deploy anywhere, is bristling with markerlights and grants a 2+ to hit to every friendly unit on any target they light up.
We combined this with an Armoured Interdiction Cadre from the Apocalypse main book. The Interdiction Cadre only costs 50pts, but allows you to place D3+1 markerlight hits every turn, anywhere in LOS. So for 50pts, you gets 2-4 markerlight hits which hit automatically ... hmm. We used them to great effect on pesky flyers (the bane of the Tau). The look on the Vendetta owner's face was distraught as 2 Seeker missile plowed into his vendetta squadron.... pure dirt!
In another example, the new APOC reload has some particularly tasty. The Hounds of Huron (for ChaosMarines) is particularly cheeky, giving you free 'flank march' on a horde of powerfisted Smurf bikes for 100pts. My personal favourite though is the 'Imperial Shield' Infantry Company.
150pts gets you 36" of aegis defence lines (3+ cover saves) to deploy at your discretion in your deployment zone ... so that's 'hulldown' for every vehicle then! It gets you a sheduled bombardment - which is music to a guardsman's ears ... dropping 3 turn worth of biblical firepower on the enemy. Oh, and it also gets you 'fire on my coordinates' where you drop an APOC (4) barrage at S8 AP3 on the vox-caster of a unit you 'sacrifice'. Imagine the attacker's surprise ... no to mention the fact that you just made 'charging the weedy guardsmen' a particularly irksome responsibility... Pure, pure dirt.
BIBLICAL RULE #3: "Infantry win games, tank and titans draw them"
Seems obvious, but if you load up with tanks and take few infantry, you better hope someone else brings the troops. If you play to true 5th Edition rules then only non-vehicle troop choices can claim an objective. Obviously anything can then contest ... however we found that this quickly turned into a sniping alley, with Superheavy Titans targeting tactical squads.
A better option that my local club has adopted is dropping back to the 'any infantry at 50%' rule ... which stops last minute contests. Alternatively, you can opt for the 'any infantry' can claim objectives approach ... this does add durability and competition to claiming objectives ... and makes for an interesting game.
In APOC, your tanks should always aim to support the aggressive aims of your army, while your infantry achieve objectives. Always remember that a superheavy transport or landraider can hold an objective well (if occupied).
BIBLICAL RULE 4: "Everything will die ... eventually."
The thing to remember with APOC is that everything except a superheavy or Titan WILL die if your opponent decides to fire every weapon at their disposal at it. A titan will probably die if the weapons firing at it are D weapons (ie from another Titan)... so don't put much store in one of your tanks, a unit or even a titan !
Carrying a big Destroyer weapon will also make you target numero uno for meltagun vets, deepstriking stormtrooper or just every lascannon in range. Just don't put your trust in one option, always have 2 or 3 options going for the same objective. Think of it as pawn-kills-pawn-kills-other-pawn moves from chess. If you don't you'll find your secure objective taken (or reduced to a large crater) without a 'leftover' unit to snaffle the prize.
Always try to hold something in reserve. For example, the platoon command squad is only 5 places in a stormlord (capacity 40), but can deploy and run up to 14" in a turn from the tank edge ... giving them near invulnerability (except if said tank go boom...) BUT objective grab potential.
BIBLICAL RULE #5: "Share and share alike..."
Sometimes running your own little men will prove confusing and silly. If you are running and fielding a deviously complicated list ... then don't do the following (and struggle because of it), but if you are running a themed list then I suggest the following.
For example, running both 'your' portion of the indirect long range tanks AND 'your' part of the flanking unit will simply delay the game (as you run back and forth), confuse the hell out of you and your opponents and result in uncoordinated attacks. Therefore, what I suggest is that you divide the battlefield into relevant areas and divide the best forces to defend/attack those areas.
You get his tanks and he gets your flankers... for example.
BIBLICAL RULE #6: "Demon combos..."
As with the 'formations' above, always be on the lookout for a knock-out combination of firepower. For example, 20 Lootas in a Stormlord (backed up by 20 boys of course) ... AV 14-13-12 and 20-60 48" S7 AP4 shots a turn... with each 5 lootas shooting at a different target... Anyone for Rhino-hell? Genestealers in a Chimera... or a Falcon ... or even a Devilfish? All of these options are totally viable.
BIBLICAL RULE #7: "Everybody flanks..."
Remember that with certain strategies, whole portions of your army can (and will) use flanking to try and get the drop on the enemy. Obviously this is favoured in 'long thin' battles over 'wide fat' battlfields. Remember to use this to your advantage and hit them hard where it hurts (repeatedly, without pause, for a considerable time)...
BIBLICAL RULE #8: "Prepare to see the big guns..."
APOC is the battleground for Titans, yes ... but you are also a lot more likely to see a C'tan, a Swarmlord, biblical tonnes of Monstrous Creatures. Fielding Ratling, Space Marine Scouts with Sniper Rifles or other 4+ to wound options can hurt these guys badly.
In the same way, taking toxin sacs for 4+ to wound or taking rending weapons have a much higher opportunity to hit something valuable. In this way, buying powerfist and thunderhammers is exactly the way to go.
In the last game I played. 10 ratlings made back multiples of their cost back. They killing a c'tan deceiver, polished off multiple tomb spiders and even bagged a couple of terminators... not bad for a 100pt squad.
BIBLICAL RULE #9 .... #10 and #11
What would you suggest for Apocalypse. This is what I've learnt over about 10 games over the last year ... some of you will have much more experience than this ... and maybe more things to draw on.