Competitive Fundamentals – Screening Part One
This article is my first in what I hope to be a sort of fundamentals to competitive 40k series, where I take some time to break down the more technical fundamentals of playing 40k at a competitive level. The first topic I’ll cover will be one of the most overlooked items that I routinely see making or breaking a game in a tournament. Screening is an important function you’ll see in most lists from the top players, and is something you generally need to design in at a list level. If you build a list with Magnus, Mortarion, three Demon Princes, and three Bloat Drones – someone has to screen out those Grey Knight deep strikers – that unenviable responsibility probably lands on the Bloat Drones and Demon Princes, when it would have been less painful to include a unit or two of cultists, nurglings, brimstones, etc. to eat the initial pain.
My goal in this article will be to explain what screens are, why you should use them, what makes a good screening unit and then the three different types of screens, which are really just differences in how you place models to prevent various actions your opponent may make. This article will be broken into three parts, all released this week, to prevent death by wall of text.
So without further ado, here we go!
What is a screen?
Screens are any unit that is used to block out placements, movements, or charges – it’s that simple.
Why should I screen?
Do you want to prevent your opponents charges from getting full (or any) value? Do you like your tanks/important units to keep on shooting? Are you getting tired of deep strikers going into your backfield in pesky hard to reach places? Then screens are something you should start considering employing. Remember – screens can come in all shapes and sizes, and don’t necessarily mean you have to play a high model count army.
What makes a good screening unit?
In general, anything fairly cheap, because it’s probably going to take the beating that was intended for something else. Think of it this way – these are your models locking arms to play Red Rover, and just like in our childhood, some are probably going to get hurt. If it’s not cheap, it has to have some other characteristic to make it attractive, such as how quickly it can get into place, alternate deployments, durability, or in general being scarier then what is coming at you.
For imperial guard, generally you’re looking at conscripts, infantry squads, ratlings, etc. For space marines, generally scouts. So on and so forth. It is possible to use more expensive units to screen if they’re durable enough, and (hopefully) threatening enough that their presence is a good enough reason not to charge in. In past editions you’d see screens that were more counter-chargers then anything which protected the shooty/squishy bits of your army because people had no interest in engaging your counter charger.
- Alternative deployment options: The best screening units have these. Units that have an infiltrate ability (nurglings, scouts, ratlings), or a scout-move ability (dominions, scout sentinels, etc.) have a ton of value as you can block out turn 1 reserve shenanigans even while going second. I always build my lists to have something with this ability so I don’t get back into a corner and lose board control on turn 1.
In the next article, I’ll walk through the first two types of screens: Reserve/Deepstrike Screens, and Movement Screens. I’ll walk through their functions and the changes in how you deploy/set them in game. The final article will be on the more complicated and prone to failure, Assault Screens.