The term “Target Priority” to me is defined as; the order in which you choose to shoot which ranged weapon at which target maximizing your opportunity for reaching your game objectives.
Choosing the order in you fire which weapon and at what in the correct order can make or break your game. But, I would not do the topic justice if I did not say in which phase this process MUST start. The most important game phase for this process is the movement phase. That is right, the movement phase. Why, you ask? Because this is the phase you will set up your shots.
This is an extremely valuable lesson when working with units with a Ballistic Skill (BS) of 3 or lower but still hold substantial merit for the marine BS of 3. (New Player note: BS or Ballistic Skill is the number needed on a d6 to hit a target. See your rule book for that chart). Where I learned the importance of setting up your shots was back in 4th edition when running my speed freak Ork army. Ork shooting, if you are not familiar with the army, is either laughable or devastating. Being able to capitalize on when a ranged weapon does hit its target is something you cannot overlook.
Take a look at these two examples:
In this example black designates enemy units and red your units. As you can see each friendly unit can only target one enemy unit. With a low BS it is likely one or both of the friendly units could miss. Also, if one friendly unit had a weapon suited to popping vehicles and the other friendly one suited to killing infantry, you could not use them in tandem with this positioning.
Also, again bear in mind this is being set up in the movement phase. Once the shooting starts it is too late to make adjustments. Here in the second example a fortuitous shot by the closer friendly unit could blow up a vehicle and the shot from the second friendly unit could be directed at the disembarked infantry; a circumstance that would not be available in the first example.
Often times I attempt to set up my shots in the movement phase to allow several layers of possibility…maybe three or more potential targets for each shooting units. With this I will also be aware not to over extend myself to return fire, but always striving to give each shooting unit several options.
Learning to do this well with an army like Orks maximizes your potential. I can recall games that while I attempted this every turn, my opponent would smirk as they watched everything miss despite my careful positioning on turn two. While on turn three, when my dice came back around, that look was replaced with one of disbelief while they removed large chunks of their army from the table.
Now that we have covered setting up your shots in the movement phase as the first step in target priority we can move onto the shooting phase in our next Tactics installment.