The Dark Fortress

Killhammer 2: close combat

5th Edition

This article concentrates on applying the basic principles Killhammer with regards to Close Combat. Using the concepts introduced by Warp Angel in Killhammer Part 1.

The fundamental theory of Killhammer is to create a "kill gap" between your opponent and yourself. I'm not going to go into the Killhammer basics again here, but instead focus in on applying Killhammer in close combat (cc from now on). To act as a memory aid though:

  • K = Killing Power
  • D = Defensive Strength
  • and S = Situational Modifier

Close Combat units can be broken down into three basic Killhammer levels: Weak, Average, and Strong. Like everything else relating to Killhammer, ratings are subjective and situational. In general however:

  • Strong units will inflict far more casualties than they receive.
  • Average units will win or lose combat by a small margin.
  • Weak units will usually lose combat by a large margin (and often break).

But you all knew that, right?

1. Applying Killhammer to close combat

So why am I talking about it, and why is it important enough for me to do so? Because knowing how to apply cc power can win games. In 5th Edition, with the changes to close combat resolution, and the inability to roll into another assault, proper application of cc power is more important than ever.

Applying Killhammer principles at their most basic level, it would seem to always make sense to charge your best cc unit into their most damaging unit. For instance, charging Vanguard into Dark Reapers. You are pretty much guaranteed to knock them below half starting strength, and force a break test at unfavorable odds.

But that may not give you the greatest kill gap advantage. Your objective with assaulting them is to eliminate the threat that they pose to your army. You can do that just as well by assaulting with a tactical squad, and allow your Vanguard to go after another target that the tacticals can't handle as well.

By sending in your average cc squad against their average cc squad, you've almost guaranteed that combat is going to take multiple turns. Assuming that you're at no risk of being countercharged by anything, this is a VERY sound strategy in many cases. The Reapers aren't shooting anything, and they've become somewhat ineffective for at least one turn of the game, and due to the nature of the combat, your tactical marines are probably taking fewer casualties than they otherwise would if not in cc. This shifts the kill gap in your favour.

That Vanguard squad is now free to assault and severely damage or destroy the Wraithlord that would inflict far more casualties had you chosen to reverse roles for the two squads. More than likely, the wraithlord ISN'T dead on your turn.

(This is the part where you claim Warp Angel is crazy — you're thinking that you could have wiped out the Reapers and tied up the Wraithlord if you had reversed it. PS: You're right, you could have).

If you weren't crazy like me, however, your tacticals would have suffered far worse at the hands of the Wraithlord comparatively than the Vanguard would have, and your Vanguard would now be out in the open, exposed to enemy fire. By staying in combat, you've rendered much of your opponents army ineffective during the shooting phase.

Come your opponent's cc phase, you've got a better than average chance to destroy the Wraithlord and break/destroy the dark reapers. The latter is less likely, but even assuming your tacticals are tied up again, the vanguard can charge over and tilt the combat back in your favor and eliminate the Reapers. At the worst, you leave the tactical squad in combat and apply Killhammer principles with the Vanguard wherever they make the most sense.

2. Killhammer and defensive close combat

So what do you do if you are overmatched in cc (like we usually are against Biker Nobz)?

Let's take the example of facing Biker Nobz. It's the same principles, applied differently. You DON'T send your Vanguard against the Biker Nobz. You send a wall of Rhinos to deny their assault in the first place, or you send a squad that is guaranteed to die on their turn, leaving the bikers open to being shot. If you pick their target for them, you can ensure that for the price of one unit, you can pour fire into a tightly massed group of bikes.

If you don't have the localized firepower to inflict significant casualties (remember kids, only 1 in 4 non-AP 1 or 2 wounds from shooting is going to stick), you feed the nobz a unit that will tie them up for multiple turns, or feed multiple units into the grinder so that the killing they do is meaningless compared to the carnage you fling at the rest of their force.

This latter example is one that many people aren't willing to go with, since it means that you're sacrificing a portion of your army to no gain... and one that is completely counter intuitive to the way that you would have played in 4th ed. Just keep telling yourself "points don't matter", and you'll eventually be able to believe it. Your job is to go for complete destruction of the rest of his army, while feeding the hungry nobs just enough to render them less effective. That's how you create the kill gap with defensive cc.

3. Final lesson of Killhammer in close combat

It's almost always good to charge a non-marine enemy that's below half strength after your anticipated cc body count. If you win combat by 2, most armies are going to break on a 2D6 roll of less than 6. More than half the time. More often than not, they'll never recover. Even if you don't end up chasing them down, they are no longer scoring and will eventually run off the table. Charging a 15 strong Boyz squad accomplishes the same thing.

Even assuming they're sluggas and choppa Boyz, you're going to hit them with 4 wounds, they're going to be lucky to get 2 in. They stick around, but they're down to 9 for the next cc turn where you'll probably rout them.

Remember that Killhammer is a methodology and thought process that requires your judgment in applying the principles to your specific situation.

Best of luck
Warp Angel


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