Keys to 40k Threat Saturation & Target Overload

By |2018-09-16T16:54:14+00:00September 18th, 2018|Categories: Tactics, Warhammer 40k|

space marine wal hor wide

If you can’t beat ’em, overwhelm ’em. Let’s talk about target saturation in 40k and how to put your opponent between a rock and a hard place.

In today’s 40k life lesson I’m going to cover a topic which I think a lot of people are familiar with, but very few people can actually apply or grasp correctly: Target saturation.

Keys to 40k Threat Saturation & Target Overload

blood angel Faction Keyword 40k, A Tournament to Stop the Cheese?
Target saturation is the idea that if you overload your opponent with threats, your opponent will be unable to answer all of the oncoming issues and be overwhelmed. This tactic definitely has merit, but should not be applied carelessly. There is a very fine proverbial line you want to tread when attempting this tactic. If you cross it you’re very likely to get your army killed. In order to best understand what I mean, you first need to understand how to NOT saturate targets properly.

A client who I coach regularly through Nights PRO came to me recently with a question about my NOVA list. He asked me why I deep struck my spears at NOVA in most of my games. A good question, and one I get asked frequently. I responded by saying that by putting them into deep strike, I protect them from being alpha struck. He then replied with a follow-up question asking why not just deploy them, save the CP, and use a threat overload type of strategy to overwhelm my opponent. Another good question.


Now, let’s look at why it wouldn’t work. Shining spears have a very different profile to Grotesques, meaning that some weapons which are good against spears are not good against grotesques, and vice versa. By giving my opponent the ability to shoot his choice of both types of units, I’m not actually overloading his ability to damage me at-range, I’m actually just optimizing it.

Don’t Saturate the Table With the Wrong Units

Eldar Warlord

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say I’m playing against an Eldar player with a bunch of Dark Reapers. The two modes of fire for a reaper are either one-shot S8 AP-2 D3, or two shots S5 AP-2 D2. A Grotesque is T6, (near a Haemonculus) four wounds, 4++ invulnerable ad 6+ FNP. Meaning neither profile of the reaper launcher is particularly effective at shooing them.

If you fire the two-shot profile, you need 5’s to wound and you’re setting yourself up for a potential three failed saves necessary to kill one Grotesque when you factor in the 6+ FNP. If you fire the stronger profile, the D3 damage is really felt against the 4 wounds, as it takes 2 failed saves to kill 1 grotesque reliably, however with only half the total shots that’s a really bad exchange rate as well. Once you put the shining spears on the table with their T4 W2 4++ save profile all of the sudden the 2 shot profile of the reaper launcher has a value target to shoot at. By deploying the spears all you’ve done is give your opponent an optimal target to shoot at.

When Does Target Saturation Work?

ork warboss with group
Now that you understand a common misconception about what target saturation is and when NOT to do it, let’s cover how to apply it properly. It takes an army that can essentially spam a specific type of characteristic profile at you. That profile should also be one that isn’t vulnerable to a wide variety of weapons.

Running ninety Storm Boyz and ninety Ork Boyz is a good example of a successful threat overload due to the fact that aside from anti-infantry firepower, there aren’t any efficient weapons to shoot them with. Laugh hysterically as your opponent’s 600-point Castellan kills nine Orks per turn.

Tyranid Carnifex Wal Hor

Conversely, a list featuring three Flyrants and six Carnifexes overstresses the opposite end of the spectrum. While that volcano lance might one shot a big bug, it will also take every lasgun in the 41st millennium to put a wound on a Carnifex in cover.

Use the Right Tool for the Right Job

Primaris Space Marines

Some profiles are just not meant for target overload. Things like the basic Primaris Marine or Shining Spear are probably the least ideal to attempt this tactic with. Both types of units are on the pricier end of the spectrum. So losing a few Spears or a five-man Hellblaster unit to a volcano lance is far from insignificant.

Yet their profile isn’t durable enough to shrug off hordes of Fire Warrior bullets and mortars. These units simply do not lend themselves to the threat overload strategy. Side note, this is also why you *typically* don’t see twenty-seven Shining Spears or a horde of Primaris marines and Guilliman running the top tables of GT’s.

Threat saturation/target overload is a concept which you’re going to want to go for in the list design phase for your army. Not all armies can do it well. Still, it’s an incredibly powerful and useful tool for the growing 40k general. This is a strategy that you should become intimately familiar in order to succeed. If you’d like to learn more about how to successfully implement this strategy check out my personal coaching program, so I can help you design a threat overload style list that works for you!

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