To be clear, what I mean are units positioned to push back deep strikers, and units strung out in front important units, that force you to charge them first, before you can kill the stuff hiding behind them. For my army to work at it’s full potential, I need to get better at clearing screens.
What are Screens?
As I see it there are broadly 2 types of screens. First there are the “normal” ones. By this I mean units of chaff strung in front of important units, to stop you charging them. A good example was Game 2 at DM5. My opponent strung 30 guardsmen across the board in front of his Knights. If I dropped down in front of the Knights, I need to clear the guardsmen, before I can assault the Knights. This particular opponent is pretty crafty, because he always makes sure that his Knights are more than 3 inches behind his guardsmen. What that means is I can’t even declare the Knights as a target when I charge, as they’re more than 12” away. Why is that important? Well, it’s important becasue if I could declare them as a target, I could wipe the guardsmen, then consolidate into the Knight, trigger Honour the Chaptes, to allow me to fight again, and then smack the Knight with some Thunder Hammers.
The 2nd type of screen is having some random guys standing around, zoning off the board - buy this I mean having enough units hanging around that I can’t get within 9 inches of anything. Again, my game 2 at DM5 was a good example. As mentioned above, my opponent had a string of guardsmen in front of his Knights to stop me dropping down in front of them and charging. However, that wouldn’t stop me dropping down behind them. However, he was wise to this and had dotted random chaff units around in his backfield to zone of everything behind his Knights and Guardsmen. So the only place I could drop was in front of the Guardsmen.
There’s another “trick”. Some untis can deploy outside of your deployment zone, pushing deep strikers back even further. For example, Eldar Rangers can deploy before the first turn, in “no mans land”, which create an 18” bubble of “no deep striking”. The best untis for this are untis that can deploy into no man’s land during deployment - e.g. Space Marine Scouts and Nurglings”.
Using a combination of all these strategies allows an opponent to deny you a huge area of the board to deep striking units.
What to do about them?
Bluntly, I’m not entirely sure! All three games I lost at DM5 we’re largely because of effective screening.
Simply stated, I need to work out how to kill screens before my damage dealing units come down. That means I need units that can kill lots of (typically) low toughness, high save models (e.g. Guardsmen, Scouts, Nurglings, Cultists) quickly and efficiently. But it’s not quite as simple as that. The screen killers need to be able to kill both types of screens. Being able to kill a line of Guardsmen is different from being able to kill three units of Nurglings 18” apart in no man’s land. For example, a unit of Death Company can come down and easily kill a line of guardsmen. However, it’s harder for them to kill 3 untis of 3 Nurglings bases when the first one is 36” away from the third one!!
Which means I need multiple ways to kill them.
And the screens killers will most likely die to retaliation next turn, so either they need to be efficient i.e. I dont care if they die ‘cause they’ve done their job, or have a way to protect themsevles from that retaliation.
I dont know if it’s THE solution, but it’s what I’m going to try.
Firstly, the best cure is prevention!! I need to use my Scouts more agressivly, punching them as far forward as possible to stop my opponent deploying anything into no mans land. Easier against units that infiltrate into no mans land (e.g. rangers), harder against units that deploy into no mans land (e.g. Nurglings). For units that deploy into no mans land, I’m thinking about taking a 10 man untis of scouts so I can zone off a larger area with one deployment.
But back to killing screens. In the army I’m thinking about I will have 3 Screen Clearer’s - the 15 man unit of Death Company, the Mortars, and a unit of 6 Assault Bolter Inceptors.
The Death Company I’ll use against big units, strung out in front of my opponents army, or against units placed close together. I can string out the DC, and multi charge all of them. With descent of Angels, and re-rolls from Lemartes a 9” charge is pretty reliable. They also have 30 bolter shots that will also help thin out the horde. The problem of course is that the DC will be targeted with extreme prejudice by my opponent. They are only Marines after all, and will die in droves. The secret then is to try and “take a prisoner” i.e. trap a unit so it can’t fall back, which means my opponent can’t shoot the DC next turn. Easier said than done on occasion. I did it regularly with my Harlies, and when it works, it's "golden".
The other beauty of using the DC is that they work against tougher screens because of the sheer volume of attacks, and +1 to wound from Red Thirst. It’s also easier to exploit any mistakes made by your opponent in placeing their screen, with an assault unit - e.g. if they place the units their screening too close to the screen.
I’ll use the Mortars for anything really, but typically for low toughness, high save units (Guardmsen, Cultists), that are spread out, denying landing zones. The Mortar’s protection is that they’re in the backfield, and (hopefully) out of line of sight.
Finally, the Inceptors can kinda do both jobs, as long as they get within 18”. I’m planning to run either Dante, or another Captain to baby sit them, for re-rolls to hit. The plan is to land them in cover for an enhanced save, and hope that their T5 and natural 3+ save will keep them alive. A forlorn hope perhaps, best boosted by giving my opponent something more scary to shoot at (the DC for example).
So there you have it, my solution to screens.