“Hammer and Anvil” Battle Tactic

tacticsHi guys. First post here. I am Reepy and I am a long time Warhammer 40K fan.

I am one of the two guys that created the “Web Army List Builder” and I am the one answering your mails when you send bug reports. I also add all the data so… I am the one whose mother you mention in your thoughts when something is missing or wrong.

My favorite army has always been Eldar though I tend not to use them the way tournament players do. I play Banshees, Scorpions, Eldrad, WraithLORD, Guardians, Jet bikes without Scatter Lasers and so on. I also play a lot of Dark Angels and Tyranids, and at one point had a Necron army and I’ve always tried to play what I like and not what is fashionable. I think that makes you a better general at the end – winning with what you have.

So, after that long preface – let’s talk about HAMMERs AND ANVILs.

A few years ago I read a series of Eldar tactics in a Warhammer forum. I think the poster was named “Irisado” and it was on “40KOnline”. It was tactics for 4th edition Eldar but I believe they work very well now too, so I’ve been applying them in some of my games with good outcomes (mostly) and not just with Eldar.

The one I like the most is called “Hammer and Anvil”.

It requires discipline to not break the “formation” but it gives quite the advantage if you do. It’s similar to a simple “Flank denial” but just a bit more complicated.

The main idea of the tactic is to squish a big part of your opponent’s army between the “hammer” and the “anvil” while loosing fewer forces because:

  • part of his army is farther away on a desolate flank.
  • the main focus of his army is your “anvil” which is harder to kill.

This picture shows the basic idea of the execution:


I used Dark Angels which are, I think, as good as Eldar in this particular battle tactic.

The Hammer

  • Company Master with Jump Pack (1)
  • Assault Squad with Jump Packs (10)
  • Ravenwing Command Squad (3)
  • Ravenwing Bike Squad (3)
  • Ravenwing Land Speeders (1)

The Anvil

  • Interrogator Chaplain (1)
  • Tactical Squad (9)
  • Tactical Squad (8)
  • Deathwing Terminator Squad (5)
  • Dreadnought (1)


The Setup

This tactic depends a lot on the initial setup and knowing where your opponent will setup his forces. That means that you probably want to be second most of the time. Some armies can redeploy (using scout for example) which gives them the opportunity to deploy most of their forces in the middle and then decide which flank the Hammer will go to when they execute this tactic.

Setting up the Hammer

The Hammer must be fast and be able to hit hard. Its meat is the army’s Fast Attack fast-attackoptions: Bikes, Jetbikes, Jump Infantry, Land Speeders, Skimmers, Dedicated Transports, etc.
Set it up in the corner of your deployment zone, preferably on the side the opponent has less things that can easily harm the Hammer or where they can do most damage.

Prepping the Anvil

The Anvil is there to take central positions and bait the opponent so set it in the middle of your deployment zone.
It is composed of units that are harder to kill or are cheap enough to not make a big difference if you lose them. Those units must be a threat, however, because if the opponent decides to not shoot at them and focus your “Hammer” you will have a bad time.
Space Marines, Terminators, Monsters, Dreadnoughts, Tanks, Wraithguard, Wraithlord, etc. Maybe some counter assault units like Striking Scorpions, Incubi or why not some Possessed?

Don’t be frightened to put your units behind each other, even though some unit may become slower that way. The Anvil is not supposed to go fast. Do not spread the Anvil when you take the center. Keep them closer to the Hammer’s flank but in the center.

The Anvil moves slowly towards the center as shown in the picture above. It must be a threat to whatever is opposite it but it must not “charge” towards it immediately. Do not forget that it is bait. If you can shoot try to focus on opposing units at the center or near the flank of the Hammer.

!Do NOT get cocky and move to the unsupported flank just to grab an objective or to shoot at an exposed unit. If you do you will lose your positioning and will be an easier target for units that otherwise do not have anything to shoot at or assault near them.

Hitting with the Hammer

The Hammer moves fast and aggressive at the flank. Its main purpose is to make mince meat of whatever is there. That flank must be fully secured and overwhelmed. Since most of your army is on either this flank or in the center this should not be too difficult a task.

Focus on units until you kill them fully. Do not leave small survivor units that will bug you and may cost you the game. Your Hammer is fast so it should probably be able to hit first and hit it hard.

Mopping up

If everything goes according to plan you should have a clear flank and most of the center at about turn 3 or 4. Most of the Hammer should be untouched. The Anvil has been shot at and beaten a lot but it should have survived, though probably not without suffering losses. Your opponent’s army should be in trouble – more than half of it gone by now.
At this point the Hammer can go help with securing the center or (if you’ve fared really well) it can go handle the other flank. Do not forget to keep a unit or two near the secured flank so it can grab objectives. Maybe something long range like Vypers or Land Speeders with Typhoon Missiles.

Final words

A really hard hitting tactic that requires you to have built your list with it in mind. When it works it feels a bit overpowered. Makes you think about the synergy between the units. The hardest part of the execution is having the discipline to keep your units in formation.

The Hammer and Anvil does not work against really fast armies which can redeploy and negate your flank denial. Against such armies… do something else *wink*. If your opponent has just a few fast units however (like in most lists) make sure to position your Hammer at the flank those units are at. This negates their speed advantage. Half of your army is fast. Use that. DESTROY THEM!!!

This is all from me for now. Maybe there will be more posts like this one so… tell me if you liked it.




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