Dawn of War III: Strategy Guide for Beginners

By Ian Boudreau 09 May 2017 0

After an eight-year hiatus, it’s no surprise that some Dawn of Warplayers will be diving into the third anchor game in the franchise feeling a little rusty. And with the new mechanics Dawn of War IIIintroduces, it’s natural to feel a bit at sea when you first head back into the never-ending WAAAGH. Not to worry though – Strategy Gamer has you covered. Follow this guide and you’ll quickly become da biggest warboss in the sector. Check out our review if you’re still wondering whether this is a game you want to play.

Play the campaign

The Dawn of War III campaign isn’t just a fun romp through a Warhammer 40K story, it also serves as a vital tutorial on the game’s faction-specific mechanics. You’ll get some hands-on time with elite units and learn, for instance, how to connect warp gates in order to move Eldar around the battlefield at will.

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But there’s another reason to play through the campaign: Skulls. These are the in-game currency you’ll use to unlock new elites and doctrines to bring to bear in multiplayer. Before every match, you’ll equip three elite units and three army doctrines (more on this later), and most of these you’ll have to purchase with skulls. Completing missions and leveling up characters in the single player campaign is the quickest way to earn skulls when you first begin playing, so there’s a huge incentive to knock those out before jumping into competitive multiplayer. Yes, it’s a bit of a time commitment, but just remember that you’re earning those sweet, buttery skulls.

Choose your unlocks carefully

Playing through the campaign will give you a rough idea of which faction you like best and how you want to play. Read up on your faction’s elites and doctrines and spend your skulls accordingly. There are quite a few doctrines tied to specific elites and units, and if you’re not using those, well, the associated doctrines will be worthless.

Some doctrines add active abilities to specific units. These can be powerful, like the Eldar “Vigor” doctrine, which allows Rangers to sacrifice stealth for increased DPS, or the Orks’ “Long Range Rokkit,” which allows Killa Klans to fire a deadly explosive. But when you’re starting out, focus on unlocking passive abilities that complement the units you rely on most.

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Here are some suggestions for early doctrines to unlock:

Space Marines

  • Tireless – Tactical Marines increase speed when not in combat.
  • Cover Fire – If Scout Snipers are in stealth or heavy cover, their ranged attacks cause slow.
  • Improved Listening Post – Listening Posts you build have improved health and do bonus damage.

Eldaraction menu

  • Improved Plasma Grenades – Plasma grenades do more damage and have reduced cooldown.
  • Avenger Shield – Increases the shield of Dire Avengers.
  • Improved Listening Post - Listening Posts you build have improved health and do bonus damage.


  • Healin’ Scrap – Non-elite units Heal after looting Scrap.
  • Get ‘Em Boyz – Boyz get hyped up when near other Boyz, increasing their speed if they’re out of combat. The bonus caps out at three squads.
  • Find the Goods – Gretchin teleport to a piece of scrap.

After these, the doctrines you choose to unlock are going to be self-apparent based on the units you use the most.

Elites make for a tougher set of choices as you’re starting out. Elite units are incredibly powerful, but they’re not uniformly powerful: Wraithknight Taldeer is far more dangerous than the Striking Scorpions, but the difference is that you can get the Scorpions on the field with just two Elite Points as opposed to Taldeer’s nine. Remember that you only pay for elite units once per battle! If you lose one, you’ll be able to re-summon them after a cooldown, which varies by unit.

As a beginning player, it’s advisable to focus on cheaper Elite Point units first, because in all probability your first dozen matches are going to end fairly quickly. Beauty da Morkanaut is super cool, but she’ll be no good to you until you can survive into the late game. Instead, bring Stormboyz and Da Kommando, who you can get onto the field and wreaking havoc early in the game.

There’s no such thing as a rush

It’s literally impossible to rush your opponent’s base in Dawn of War III, and that’s thanks to the power core system in multiplayer. Plenty of people have complained that this makes the game effectively a MOBA, but that’s not accurate – the system is there to prevent early-game rush tactics and it does this by establishing static defenses right from the outset. Before you can attack the core, you’ll need to attack the turret, and before you can attack the turret, you’ve got to take down the shield generator.

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This means you’re not initially tied down to defending your spawn position. Take advantage of this by capturing resource points immediately. Dawn of War III’s escalation mechanic means that in the first stage of the game, having a squad eliminated refunds 25 percent of the unit recruitment cost, so losing squads early isn’t much of a setback. You want to be out there capturing resource points and prodding your enemy as quickly as possible, but remember the same rules apply to your opponent. Denying resources is far more devastating than causing attrition at the outset.

And not all resource points are created equal! Each point has two, three, or four nodes that you can build either requisition or power generators on, and the rule of thumb is that the closer a node is to the center of the map, the more nodes it’ll have. A point with four nodes (usually dead center) is worth double what a two-node point is – but only if you can defend it. Keep in mind the need for energy – it’s easy to mindlessly click the requisition icon when you first capture a point, but it’ll be energy that you’ll be wanting when things escalate to phase three or four.

You’ll also need to be aware of which nodes can provide Elite Points, especially if you’re bringing expensive heavy-hitters like Beauty or Solaria to the fight.

Once you’ve grabbed a couple resource points – and I cannot stress this enough – immediately start attacking your enemy’s shield generators. Do this as early as possible, and get that first step toward victory out of the way. Once you’ve got two basic infantry squads to spare, attack. It’ll draw your opponents’ troops away from you.

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Dawn of War III’s focus on aggression means you’ll be rewarded for positioning base structures as far forward as you can. Space Marines and Eldar have their own unique movement and deployment mechanics, but it’s still valuable to have recruitment structures positioned as near to the action as possible. Don’t be afraid to build outside the range of your turrets – you want to push troops out and to the front quickly.

Hotkeys, float, and abilities

Your line units are going to die, a lot. But that doesn’t mean you should just ball them up and shovel them into the fray. Create control groups based on ranged, melee, and shock units, and refresh these groups as you replace lost squads and gain new units. Don’t bother hotkeying elites, though; for them, train your left hand to tap F1, F2, and F3.

Use the small buttons on the top of the action menu in the lower left-hand corner to tab between production buildings. This way you can recruit units without having to return to your base.

The game will tell you that it’s always cheaper to reinforce squads, and that’s true. But it’s not always true that reinforcing is worthwhile, at least when it comes to line infantry. If a unit of Tactical Marines or Boyz or Dire Avengers is going down in flames, let them go. Focus on production and other territories instead.

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“Resource float” is an old RTS term, and it refers to passively banking up resources that you’re not using. Don’t let this happen to you – spend everything you get as quickly as possible. Use early requisition to get squads out as fast as you can and have them move to as many areas of the map as possible. Watch how you eat up resources though and adjust the way you manage your power generators accordingly. As I said above, you’re going to need lots of energy later in the game, so ensure you have enough coming in.

But you also need to think of your elite units and unit abilities like resource float. Time not spent using those abilities, or without those units on the battlefield once you’ve unlocked them, is wasted potential. Use abilities and elites as soon as you have them available, and memorize the hotkeys for each of them. Even a misfired ability can do damage to your enemy’s army; saving them up for the perfect moment just means you can fire everything off as they’re killing your core.

A few stray concluding thoughts

Dawn of War III is a brand-new baby in the competitive RTS scene, and that means it’s still got some growing pains to go through. I neglected to mention in my review that there’s no way to rebind keys, and that’s a big deal, especially for players using Dvorak or other keyboards. I can only hope rebinding functionality is patched soon.

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A more annoying aspect is that when you first start playing multiplayer, Eldar are going to mop the floor with you. Based on my own matches and what I’ve watched on Twitch, a decent Eldar player will dominate similarly-skilled Ork and Space Marine players. Eldar, as of this writing, are OP. That’s okay though – Relic will most likely make adjustments based on match data they collect. In the meantime, just be prepared to face a lot of Eldar players.

If you’ve found some top tips for Dawn of War III, share them in the comments section below. The Emperor may protect, but a little good advice never hurts.



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