Competitive Fundamentals – Screening Part Three
Assault screens are probably the hardest screen to get right, and the easiest for your opponent to muck up as they have their entire turn to do so. The first thing to remember is, you need to adjust your thinking about the gaps you leave to account for the fact that the unit you’re trying to stop is now allowed to get within 1” of you, as long as they declare you as a charge target. I’ll walk through the different aspects in the bullets below for ground units, flying units, and weird harlequin jerks.
Ground Chargers: These are the simplest to block for obvious reasons. The main thing to remember here is that they can now go between gaps in your units. So if you have a blocking line and something behind it you don’t want them getting to, you need to leave gaps smaller than their base size – in most cases, 1 inch. You should also be cognizant of them going around you, as a lot of movement (3”, twice) can be gained by charging towards the flanks of a line, moving 3” around it (while getting fractionally closer to the closest enemy model) then repeating at end of combat. If their only goal was to stop a tank or other unit form firing, they just need to get within an inch of it before they end their turn. Remember, you can pull casualties from wherever you want, and your opponents moves must go towards the closest enemy model. If you pull models from near where they want to go, they’re going to have a harder time using their pile in’s to move towards it.
Flying Chargers: These are units that typically you’re going to have more trouble blocking. The best you can generally do is just to remain aware that your opponent still has to be able to physically place the model, so especially for models with larger bases, you can leave a gap just smaller than their base. If you have a lot of models this is more doable (30 conscripts, cultists, etc.) but for most people and situations it’s not plausible. The biggest thing to manipulate here is how you pull casualties so they can’t get any extra movement out of you that you don’t want them to have. Remember, pull the models that are at/around the area they’re trying to go to prevent them from sliding towards it, using your models like magnets.
Weird Harlequin Jerks: They get their own section because they’re special. Harlequins are a gigantic headache – especially since most are ynarri and have soulburst right now – and they also usually have a variant of fly that lets them skip intervening models, or launch chargers from crazy distances, like the solitaire. My best advice in this situation is to not overthink it. They’re still subject to the same restrictions – despite soulburst giving them an additional activation, so be careful how you pull casualties. They still have to physically place themselves, so when they’re on character assassination runs for things like a commissar or key psyker, make a physical wall of models between that one character and all other models. Gaps less than one inch so they can’t fit between, but a slight gap in between your key model and the models surrounding him so that they can’t base the models protecting the character and by doing so engage the character. Doing this obviously requires a lot more models to block out a target, so it should generally be reserved for just key lynchpin things as you can’t realistically protect everything.
Multiple Activations: These might be as much of a headache as harlequins. For this we’re talking primarily about khorne berserkers, and again, it’s all about how you pull casualties. While they do get to pile in and fight again, they’re still subject to moving towards the closest enemy models. Use this to your advantage to prevent them from moving where you don’t want them. Given how damaging berserkers are against light infantry this isn’t always possible – see my game from the NOVA Open against Nick Nanavati for proof of that. I set a decent screen, and 7-8 Berserkers tore through 70+ conscripts, 4-5 primaris psykers, and astropath, and based a tank at the end of it on the charge. In hindsight I should have known I couldn’t stop him, and instead just kept my psykers further back and out of the range of the mess. I could have also put one tough unit into the upcoming messy location that his berserkers couldn’t kill – like a tank or Celestine – to prevent him from slaughtering the units (you can’t choose casualties carefully if everyone dies) and force him to stay as out of my gut as possible during that turn.
In closing, your screens are keeping the core of your army alive and giving them the breathing room to work, don’t think of them as points you’re throwing away – think of them as the enablers for the rest of your force. You screens won’t always be successful – your opponent will be doing their best to get by them and at your juicy bits, so don’t see it as failure if a screen doesn’t work out – the idea is just to force your opponent to work for what they get, and make them make choices/allocate resources to deal with your models that they wouldn’t have normally had to. If you’ve done this, you’ve accomplished what you set out to do which was getting more value out of your miniatures.