The more and more games I play the more and more mistakes I see myself and others make. In my opinion the most common error is one of target priority. For anyone reading this that is fairly new to the game, target priority is exactly what it sounds like determining the most important target in your opponent’s army and dealing with it. In a recent small tournament I was playing a very shooty Spacewolf list (2 Long Fang Packs with 4 Missiles each, and 2 TL autocannon dreads.). When I was making my list I had about 80 points or so left over so I threw in a Dakka Predator (autocannon, with Heavy Bolter sponsons), to fill points. What I found during the tournament this seemed to be target priority #1 for my opponents (2 Mech IG players, and a mech Space wolf player). This struck me as strange as it was probably the least threatening part of my list, especially for mechanized armies. So I figured I would talk about what goes through my head as far as deciding what to target during a game.
For me target priority is broken into 2 phases, early game, and late game. In the early portion of a game, target priority breaks down as follows.
1.) What in my opponent’s army, that I can effectively deal with this turn, is the biggest threat to my army? This is priority number one, what unit in my opponent’s army is likely to do the most damage to my list on his turn, and can I deal with it right now. Maybe it is an Imperial Guard Basilisk that is going to drop huge templates on my marines if I don’t at least shake it this turn, then that is what I will shoot first. The reason I include the idea of deal with right now in target priority is that sometimes you don’t have an effective way to deal with a threat at any given time. For example, if my opponent has a Land Raider full of Terminators, that may be his biggest threat, but if my only way to deal with that is using melta guns, I might not have range this turn.
2.) What can I kill/disable, that will maximize the strengths of my army? If I have dealt with my opponents biggest threats as best as I am able I then go to trying to make my army more effective. For example if I am playing a fast army, like mech elder, I might look to kill my opponents transports reducing his mobility and widening the gap between our armies in that area of the game.
3.) What can I kill/disable, that will minimize the weaknesses of my army? For me this is similar to #2, but in the opposite manner, if I am playing a foot army I might target transports so that I bring the opponent down to my level of speed, or if I am playing a shooty army and I don’t want to get into close combat, I will target my opponents units that are good in hand to hand, so I don’t get beat in an area where I am weak.
4.) What can I target that will most easily reduce my opponents effectiveness? This is usually the last consideration, is there a squad or vehicle that I can target that will remove a threat (however small) from the table.
As the game progresses priorities change, as with the end of the game approaching the mission comes into play. Late game target priority switches depending on the mission.
For Objective missions
1.) Target troops/scoring units. If your opponent has no troops they cannot win the game. While this is something you might do all along, it is not a great idea to ignore your opponent’s threats early in the game, just to kill troops.
2.) Target possible contesting units. Late in an objective game you want to get rid of any units your opponent has that might be able to contest objectives that you are holding. Priority #1 here is usually fast moving units, but it could be any unit that can move within 3” of your objective.
For Kill-point missions
1.) Look for easy kills. Weakened squads, light transports, etc.
2.) Multiple kill point units. If you have 2 equally sized squads to shoot at going after the squad with an attached independent character, can net you 2 kill points instead of just one. (Remember fleeing squads count for kill points at the end of the game.