I was at my usual gaming club evening, refining a list I've been working on for tournament play, and had arranged a game against another member also working the kinks out of their Dark Angel list.
My personal light bulb came on when we rolled for the mission type, and got purge the alien. It's my least favourite mission, particularly since the list I'm working on is a dark eldar one. It brings in the region of 15 kill points to the table, 5 of which are AV10 skimmers (one with just 2 hull points) two are AV11 skimmers, two are T3 Sv6+ troops and one is an AV11 flyer. Fragile is possibly the understatement of the year.
What I noticed however, was that despite this fragility, the terrain on the table was set up in such a way that meant I could quite easily hide my entire army (except the flyer) behind a couple of buildings that dominated the centre of the board. Knowing as I did that my opponent had a drop pod full of marines and his hq, a plan formed in my mind. It was fairly obvious that his intention was to drop the pod into my deployment zone and shoot something squishy. That would almost certainly have worked in a normal mission where I would have been looking to get across the board to claim some objectives. Here though 4 kill points were dropping directly into my lap completely unsupported by the rest of his army, which was holding firm behind an aegis line. Sure enough that drop pod crashed down and shot down one of my raiders. In the next turn, my reserves arrived and proceeded to pick up those 4 victory points, whilst my other AT weaponry took out a dreadnought and a whirlwind. A little mopping up of a devastator squad gave me 7 victory points at the end of the game. I'd lost the raider, a venom and my void raven, plus a couple of wyches that had been shot by the marines advancing across the table in the later game turns, leaving my opponent on 4 victory points.
So why did I decide to dedicate a post to this game? Quite simply, my epiphany came through realising that I could win by avoiding a fight with my opponent. I realise this may come as no surprise to experienced generals out there, but more than anything for me, this match highlighted the importance of knowing how you will play the mission, and how you can adapt to specific game circumstances. In the above example I only gave my opponent shots at a handful of my units, meaning that I could guarantee the safety of many of my kill points, whilst focussing my fire on a few of his at a time. The secondary learning point was that my opponent gave up four victory points to me and got only one from the sacrifice of that unit. Had they used the drop pod in an alternate manner and kept it safe, I would have had to go more offensive, exposing myself to his guns more and therefore probably losing more units myself. It also made me think about use of the deep strike rule, in particular making sure that I stop and think about whether a unit needs to use it, and how I am going to support it if it does.
Winning 40k isn't about fighting, it's about achieving your objectives, and you may actually be able to do that better by avoiding the fight.
Isolated units are dead units, and before you put something in that position, make sure you're prepared to lose them and know what it is you're gaining by their sacrifice.