WFB-101: General Concepts and Recommended Reading
Last week, I wasn't able to get in 2500 game, with my Wood Elves, but instead, I played 1000 points with a friend of mine who was fairly new to the game. While playing this game, I realized that there is a lot to understand to actually win a game of Fantasy, certainly much more to pay attention to than most games of 40k. So it is for him, and anyone else, that I've decided to compile some articles I've written for people who are new to Warhammer Fantasy (WFB).
WFB is a deceptively complicated game. It's core mechanics are very similar to 40k, but plays nothing like it. The objective in Fantasy isn't to control points across the board, but is instead about completely destroying enemy units. I say "completely" for a very deliberate reason, a broken unit with even 1 model left on the board at the end of a game yields 0 victory points... Nothing, not a single one. To score points, you must absolutely annihilate a unit, so keep that in mind, while we talk a bit about the phases of the game.
Many experienced generals will agree that the game is often times won and lost in the movement phase. Unlike 40k, and many other skirmish scale games, movement in WFB is extremely rigid. Generally a unit can only move directly forwards, wheeling around the outside model when they need to turn. This means if you move out of position, or into a spot that can get you in trouble, it is considerably more difficult to correct.
Every time you move a unit, you should be checking to see if this is putting you in charge range of the enemy, or within LOS and/or short range of their shooting units. By carefully considering where you move, you can often times make accurate predictions of how the enemy will move in return. Did you move your mage bunker within 11" of your enemy? Well if they're M4, then they have a 58% chance of successfully charging you, but if you stop just over 11" away that goes down to a 42% chance.
A huge part of fantasy movement is understanding how to control your enemy through using your own chaff and redirectors. If you can position a cheap, fast unit, in the path of a huge enemy unit, but angled in such a way that if they charge, it will make them vulnerable, then you have set a perfect trap. Cheap fast units are undeniably one of the most important tools that you can have in your army. In addition to having your own chaff, you also need to be sure you have a solution to enemy chaff (see Shooting below).
The Magic Phase is where a lot of novice players also make catastrophic mistakes, the most common of which is rolling too many dice for a spell. If a spell's success is not critical for your strategy, then you don't need to roll a ton of dice! For example, casting Wildform with a level 2 requires you rolling an 8+, which can be cast extremely reliably on 3 dice... Even if you have 4 dice left, the odds of miscasting nearly double, going from a 7.41% chance with 3 dice to a 13.19% chance with 4!
That all said, magic spells can be extremely powerful, so you really do need to weigh against the results.
When approaching the Shooting phase, people may be less impressed with the results than in 40k. Generally, there is no equivalent to Taudar in Fantasy, it is seldom that an army will win through pure firepower alone, though Dwarfs and Empire may beg to differ from time to time. The reason for this is because shooting in WFB is much less reliable than it is in 40k. When you are taking ranged units in Fantasy there are a couple primary roles they can fill. First is to eliminate chaff, a few archers shooting off a unit of 5 hounds can actually be quite impactful, since that will remove a charge redirector from the board. The second role is to strip rank bonuses. If a unit of 20 warriors is arranged in 4 ranks, then killing just 1 model will reduce that units rank bonus in combat, and make them count 1 less rank for Steadfast, allowing one of your units to cut them down more easily in the following turns. The last role is mostly for cannons and bolt throwers, which is killing monsters. A single cannon has the potential to kill a 6 wound monster in one shot, though the odds of that happening are far slimmer than internet cry babies would lead you to believe.
Large fights of close combat are generally the meat and potatoes of the game, if you don't have a strategy around how you'll win a few rounds of combat, you're in for an uphill battle. If you are running an army like Goblins, or Skaven, you might actually not have a solid chance of winning a combat, especially against armies like Warriors of Chaos and Lizardmen. Instead however, you can take large blocks (40+) of cheap models, run 5-wide. This minimizes the amount of damage that you'll receive, while keeping you steadfast as long as possible, giving you time to have your own hard hitting units join the fray, or to at least gum up the opponent so they can't kill something more valuable. The opposite of a big steadfast unit would be a horde. Some units excel in combat and really need to be sure they hit as hard as possible to cripple their opponent, running them in 10-wide units means you'll get another rank of attacks, though typically at the expense of being steadfast. This is a solid strategy for units which are naturally Stubborn or immune to psychology.
Using redirectors (see Movement above), if you can control which combats are fought and when, you should be able to make sure that the combats are heavily weighted in your favor. Generally, a risky combat is suicide, and if you really want to ensure victory, you should only engage when the odds suit your favor (or when you're desperate, you could surprise yourself!).
Understanding the phases of the game will give you a great head start into competitive play in WFB, but to really dominate the game, you must understand all the nuances. This ranges from understanding how to place and take advantage of terrain, to actually winning the scenarios! If you've made it through the reading above, I'd suggest checking out the other articles I've written on how to play Fantasy, though some of it is dated due to new books (mostly the "Looking at Everyone's Redirectors" part). Even if your army doesn't use Monsters and Chariots, reading the articles on those will help give you insight into what to expect from your opponents.