OK! The first brief introduction I wrote to Age of Sigmar was quite popular, but one thing still confuses people …. the combat phase with lots of units in bigger battles. And to be honest, I totally agree. Its really not intuitive with the way everything else works. It grows out of the way Games Workshop games have done close combat for years, but for a newbie? Its bonkers.
OK, lets imagine we have two armies with three units each, all in close combat! Its Player A’s turn, and he has 3 stormcast units in close combat. I’ll call them Stormcast Alpha, Stormcast Beta, and Stormcast Omega. Player B, on the other hand, has elves – we’ll go with Lion Corsairs, Tiger Corsairs and Panther Corsairs. Now, lets say SC Alpha are facing the Lions, SC Beta are facing the Tigers, and Omega the Panthers.
You’re Player A. You’ve done your hero stuff. You’ve done your movement. You’ve done you shooting. Player B is sat around waiting for his go, maybe rolling the odd saving throw. Its time for close combat … so you go through your close combat attacks, right? Wrong!
The combat phase works totally out of sync with the rest of the game – I think of it like a mini game in its own right. Each player takes turn picking a unit and doing their close combat attacks. The only thing that matters about it being Player A’s go? He gets to pick first.
He picks the Alphas, and they go ahead and kill off some of the Lions they are facing. Now, its still the combat phase in Player A’s go .. but Player B picks a unit and rolls their attacks.
This is a key area where tactics leap to the fore in Age of Sigmar. The order you pick the units really matters! Imagine you have a small elite unit and a big horde on your side. If you pick the horde to go first, your enemy will probably target the elite unit to kill some off and reduce their effectiveness before they get a go. If you pick the elite unit, he might try to finish the small unit off if he can, or he might try to damage the horde instead!
In this example, there is absolutely no advantage to Player B picking the Lions to strike back right now. Their opponents, the Alphas, have already done their attacks. Player B can’t reduce their effectiveness. But if he chooses the Tigers or Panthers, whose opponents are waiting their turn, he can hammer them and reduce the damage one of his units will take.
An interesting side note is that if you can arrange to have an odd number of your units engaged on your own turn, you have an advantage in that you will get at least one extra unit striking before an opponent. If you have an even number engaged, the enemy can potentially strike the same number of your units back before they get a chance to go.
Does that make sense? Its player A’s combat phase, but both players take turns. The Tigers will strike down some of the Betas, The Omegas will then kill some panthers, and then the units who have taken damage will start to be picked for their strike backs until all the units are done. The sole advantages of it being in Player A’s combat phase is that he’ll have done charges to optimise his numbers, and he gets to pick the first unit to go.
OK, now stay with me….. there’s a few more complications. What happens if one player runs out of units? If a unit was wiped out, and can’t strike back? or 6 of Player As units are beating up just 3 of Player B’s? Well, as soon as either player runs out of units to activate, the other player just finishes off going through the rest!
In addition though, you can have more than one unit engaged with another. Imagine a situation where you have 2 units of elven wardancers beating up a unit of goblins. If its the Goblins player turn, he picks the goblins. He might place attacks against one or both of the units of war dancers. Then the elf player would probably pick one of the war dancer units to go next. If those are the only units fighting, he’d then get to activate the other unit of war dancers.
If its the other way around through, the elf activates a unit of war dancers and beats up on the goblins a little. Its then the goblin players turn – if they have any sense, they’ll direct as many attacks as possible against the war dancers yet to go, minimising their potential. Finally, the elf player picks the war dancers queuing up to attack the goblins.
Once all the units have been activated, and wounds dispensed, the combat phase ends. Its then back to the players to go on through the phases normally … until the next player’s combat phase where we go into the mini game and both take turns!
I hope that helps a little!