8th Ed Fantasy Battles Close Combat Tactics

Orc / Orruk Shaman and Bor Boyz

Mastering the close combat phase in Warhammer 8th edition Fantasy Battles can be seen in 3 phases. The first phase is to learn the basic mechanics of the close combat phase. The rule book does a very good job of leading you through the close combat rules, so I recommend that you read and practice this as a first step. The second phase of becoming a master of close combat in Warhammer 8th edition, is to become a master of how to assault different army formations to get the best results. The third and last phase is knowing how to arrange your units to avoid all the pitfalls that you have discovered as you where mastering how to assault your opponents formations. For this reason I will be concentrating on the second phase of mastering the close combat phase here.

Start at the End

This may seem odd. But once you have mastered the basics of the close combat phase, the best way to formulate strategies to use in the close combat phase, is to start with how you would like the combat to conclude and then work backwards planning different ways you can reach your goal or goals.

The Panic Test

In a pefect close combat, the best possible result to cause a panic test on as many units as possible by wiping out a unit in 6″ (15cm) of lots of other units. The easiest way to achieve this is to hit a relatively small unit with a much larger one. This will give you the best chance of wiping the enemy squad in a total annihilation.

Another option is to assault with two units at the same time. This will apply the greatest pressure to the enemies weakest spot. If you have read Sun Tzu’s art of war, you will see that this follows one of his main principles.

If you can not wipe out a unit, causing a unit to flee is almost as good as this will cause other enemy units in 6″ to need a panic test too. The difference is that the fleeing unit has a chance to rally later.

Choosing the Right Target

Now we know the outcome that we want, you can look around for a good target unit. We have already covered that the unit must be small enough to give a good chance at annihilation, and that it should be in 6″ of other units, and positioned so that if you do annihalate the unit, you will over run in to a second soft target.

There are other considerations too. For example, if the near by units are unbreakable then this tactic will not be effective. Also you will need to bear in mind army special rules too. For example Orcs do not panic if Goblins are annihilated or caused to flee. In this case you are better off targeting an Orc unit as annihilating one of these will cause both Orc and Goblin units to flee.

Another consideration is if the target unit is behind cover of defending a building. In this case annihilating the unit will be tough to do.  Catching units in the open is frequent enough to aim for easier pickings.

This size of the target unit is a concideration too. If you are aiming for anniliation there can not be more wounds left in the target than you have attacks. So a unit 5 across the first rank that has one hand weapon and a unit leader can usually expect to have 11 attacks (5 from the first rank, 5 supporting attacks from the second rank and an additional attack from the unit leader). So even if all 11 attacks hit, wound, and are not saved, you will not be able to wipe out an enemy unit of 12+ without help. If you start to factor in the relative weapon skill, strength vs toughness, and probable armour saves you will be able to work out what size of units you can take on or how much help you will need.

Close Combat Tactics

Defeating the Combat Reform

If you do not wipe out the target unit in one round then you and your opponent can make a combat reform. You can use this to broaden the width of your ranks to bring more troops in to an attacking formation, or narrow the ranks so you have more ranks which will give you the stead fast advantage, or negate the enemies chance to get the steadfast advantage.

However, it is to your benefit if the enemy unit is not able to reform specially if you have closed assault in to the sid or rear flank, or have your stronger unit assaulting in to the side or rear flank. To stop the enemy unit being able to reform, you need to assault the enemy unit from at least 2 directions. This could be the left flank and front, or better still a side flank and rear. This will leave the target unit with a much reduced fighting ability as you finish them off. Remember that blocking the enemies ability to reform will not stop your units reforming as long as there is not a second enemy unit counter assaulting you!

Close combat with a little help from your friends

If you are looking to annihilate a unit, and the main unit that you are sending in to the close combat may not be up to the job on their own, you have several options to help them out.

Close combat and strength in numbers

The first is to reform to give a wider front rank. For example if you are assaulting a unit that is 5 wide in the front rank, and you reform to have 7 models on the front rank, you will have all the attacks from 2 extra models on the front rank, and the supporting attacks from 2 models on the second rank, This usually raises your number of attacks from 11 to 15.

This will take a little planning as you will have to reform on an earlier turn than the turn that you initiate the assault. You can not usually reform and assault in the same turn. However remember that having a musician in the unit may allow you to do a fast reform and allow you to move in to an attacking position.

Close assault with the help of a second unit

The next option is to see if you can have either units moving in to close assault from another flank. This s the fortay of the chariots. Chariots are not good at initiating an assault, but the are good at causing impact hits on units in assault already. Heavy chavelry work in a similar fashion and can move across the battle table quickly to offer support from an unexpected direction.

Close Combat, bring in the Boss

Another option is to move a Hero or Lord in to the unit. Characters normally have more attacks, beater weapons, and better skills that will help slice through the numbers. Characters like Lords and Heroes can move from unit to unit to allow you to add the extra mussel where it is needed. However characters can be vulnerable out in the open, so do not leave these valuable assets exposed.

Close Combat, Bring in the Big Guns

The last way to get some help from your friends is to apply some heavy artillery against the target unit. This should thin the ranks so there are not so many models that need assaulting. The last chance to shoot at the unit will be the turn before you assault. This means that you will have to be careful that you do not give the plan away. If you do your opponent will have a turn in which he can attempt to spoil your scheme. Be careful not to use too much fire power here. You do not want to totally annihilate the target unit through shooting as this would mean that there would be nothing left to assault.

Magic can be classed in a similar way to artillery attacks here too. Your magic can be used to thin out the ranks, and it happens in the previous round so it could give the game away. However magic is different in that you have a selection of effects you can use. Direct damage spells are the obvious blunt force option, however there are a number of spells that will weaken or slow down the opponents target unit, or inhibit his supporting units to help, and there are other spells that will make your units faster or better so that they will cause more damage. I will cover these issues in the magic master class.

Close Combat Help from the Terrain

The lay of the land and obsticals can aid your assault too. First obstacles like buildings and walls can hinder the enemies supporting units from getting in to the fight. And secondly fighting from a higher level will aid your combat resolution if you do not wipe out the unit.

Close Combat Closing summary

In this Close combat master class for the Warhammer 8th edition we have seen that for the best results you need to do a bit of planning eith a result in mind, see a opportunity and then use tne whole army in a coordinated fashion to bring that desired result to fruition. Bearing in mind that your opponant will be trying to throught you plans at every turn, and kill you in to the bargain, you will see that this is no easy task. But that is where the fun is! With a bit of practise you will be able to take on more experienced players and one day declare that you are a Close Assault Phase Master!


General Warhammer Fantasy Tactics

AoS Chaos Lord on Daemonic Mount
 In this section we will look at the tactics that apply to all the Warhammer 8th Edition Fantasy armies!


Warhammer Fantasy Empire GeneralLeadership is very important in Warhammer Fantasy. The main source of leadership will be from your Lords and Heroes. Keep these characters near the center of your army. This is specially true if you are fielding an army that generally has a low leadership score.

Movement and Placement

The next most important skill is manoeuvring your forces so they are in the right place at the right time.

Magic Tactics

Magic is a major part of the Warhammer Fantasy Armies battles.

One thing to be aware of, is that there is a lot more magic dice in the 2010 rules. Now you get 2D6 magic dice per turn. This means that you could have anywhere between 2 and 12 magic dice, with an average of 7.

The Role of Magic Users

The magicians have three roles, they can cast spells that protect or enhance your forces, they can cast spells that damage the enemy forces, and they can dispel your opponents spells.

How many dice?

More dice you roll the higher you chances are of you rolling a miscast. Also rolling too many will reduce the number me dice for other spells. He you roll too few dice then you will fail to cast and end the magic phase. I suggest the best number me dice to roll is enough for the average to cover the cast plus one.

Remember the average roll of a single dice is 3.5. We will round this down to 3. The average of 2 dice is 7, of 3 is 10 rounded down, of 4 is 14 etc. So for a level 2 wizard to cast a 16+ spell you need to roll a minimum of 14 (16-2), so 4 dice plus 1 (5 dice) should cover it most times. If it is important to get the spell off, add an extra dice (6 in this example).

War Machines

Not being out done by magic, science has created war machines that can be just as devastating as spells.

Where to Place Your War Machines

War machines tend to be long-range and need line of sight (the operators need to be able to see the target). This means that placing them where you can see the greatest amount of the table. A hill will do perfectly. If no hills are available, then you want to place your war machine where they can see as much of the table as possible between the buildings and woodlands and all.

The exception from the line of sight is for guess weapons. Guess weapons do not need line of sight. So you can place them out of sight from enemy artillery.

Measure Before You Decide

In 8th Edition Warhammer rules you can measure the distances before you pick a target. As this is allowed, then you are highly recommended to do so.

Bolt Thrower War Machines

Bolt Thrower War Machines are huge great bows and arrows! They have a good range and, if they are well placed, should be able to cover most of the table.

Cannon War Machines

Warhammer Fantasy Dwarf Cannon

Warhammer Fantasy Dwarf Cannon

Cannons are used by the realms of men and Dwarfs. The lob a heavy cannon ball that land and then bounce forward. The damage they cause is the line between the first impact and the cannon balls final resting place.

Fire Thrower War Machines

Not all the Warhammer war machines are long ranged. You will come across war machines that have a range of 24″ or less. These are infantry support weapons and are designed the be placed on, or just behind, your front line.

Deciding on the first landing spot

These days you able to pre-measure the distance that the cannon ball lands and this makes the use of the cannons so much easier to use. Basically it takes the guess work out of using the cannons. The usual process is to pick a valid target and call out how many inched that you  want the cannon ball  to land at. As you Would be able to pre measure the distance the opponents usually will not bother that you have not pinpointed the exact location and allow you  to move straight on to rolling the artillery dice. this does speed up game play too.

Stone Thrower War Machines

Stone Thower war machines have one of the longest ranges, and they have a large impact area, which is great against large targets (as measured in surface area ), and can be effective against monstrous creatures with a lucky roll of the dice!

Gun lines

Closely linked the use of War Machines is the tactic of the gun line. This tactic is basically to have a wall of fire power and wait for the enemy to come to you, and hope that you can kill enough of they through shooting before they get in to close combat.

Dwarf players are known to use this tactic, but other armies like High Elves, with their longbows, are known to use this tactic too.

Close Combat Tactics

If you have a unit who are in close combat with two or more enemy units, you will find that some models have a choice of target. If one of there targets have a lower initiative, it is usually better to target this unit as it will reduce the number of returned blows. Concentrate on striking at the weakest unit. This will maximize the number of kills for the combat resolution.

> Also see: Warhammer v8 Close Combat Master Class

Creating Regiment Bases

Regiment Bases are neat a way to manage a large number of models in a unit. In the following video I will show you how you can make simple regiment bases that will slot in to movement trays.

> Also see: My vid on creating regiment bases


Warhammer Fantasy Battles 8th Edition

Warhammer fantasy Battle 8th Edition Island of Blood box set

Warhammer 8th Edition

Enter the world of Wizards and Dragons with Warhammer 8th Edition Fantasy Battles.

Warhammer 8th Edition Fantasy is set in a fantasy setting of wizards, dragons, and mythical creatures. Warhammer Fantasy has more rules than the Sci-fi version so it appeals to the more mature player. The races available are similar to Warhammer 40K with approximately 15 different armies available to choose from.

Please remember that these pages are not a replacement for the Rulebook. You will need the Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition Rulebook, or at least access to one, to play the game.

You will not find Warhammer Fantasy Battles in the Games Workshop Warhammer shops any more as it has been replaced by Warhammer Age of Sigmar. However if the prefer the more complex and tactically challenging Fantasy Battles rules I have kept these pages available. In the Age of Sigmar stories the Fantasy Battles era is called the Age of Myth.

Why Play Warhammer Fantasy?

The Warhammer 8th Edition Fantasy Battles has been replaced by Games Workshop with Warhammer Age of Sigmar, so why is there still such a strong following?

Warhammer Fantasy Battles requires much more precise thinking that is required for Warhammer 40k or Age of Sigmar, and is generally played by more mature players.

As usual to play Warhammer 8th Edition you will need own (or access to) a copy of the rule book and additional army book for the army that you play. You will not be able to find these in the Games Workshop stores any more, but you can find them on EBay and Amazon

“Games Workshop”, “Warhammer” and many of the other phrases used in this section are trademarks of Games Workshop, and all their rights are respected.

Warhammer 8th Edition FAQ’s

  • Do I need to replace my army book to play Warhammer 8th Edition? Well strictly no you do not, and for a time there will be army books that have been released before Warhammer 8th edition. However, with the release of the Orcs and Goblins army book we can see that Games Workshop will be slimming down the army specific quirky rules and equipment to make the armies more streamlined.