Dawn of War Wiki

This article is about the basic combat mechanics in Dawn of War II and its expansions, Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising and Dawn of War II: Retribution.


Melee Stance icon
Ranged Stance icon

Units have a "combat stance", which defines whether they will attack using their ranged or melee weapon when ordered. The units will default to their strongest attack – i.e., Melee Stance for Slugga Boyz and Ranged Stance for Shoota Boyz, and so on. Usually this is how you would want them to attack, but sometimes you may want to change the stance. For example, you might want your burna-upgraded Slugga Boyz to attack a garrisoned building or a generator with the ranged burnas instead of melee, or prevent your low-health walker vehicle from getting too close to the enemy.

Melee Attack[]

Melee Attack icon

In general, an infantry unit (not including vehicles) that is attacked in melee combat cannot shoot their ranged weapons; they must defend themselves by responding to their attackers with melee.

Even if a unit has been set to the Ranged Stance, you give them the Melee Attack command – commonly called "force melee" – to order it to melee a target. Even though your squad may specialize at ranged attacks, though it may cause less damage output, you may wish to order your squad to melee a dangerous enemy ranged unit (a suppression or artillery squad)  to prevent the enemy from using its weapons, for instance. 

You may also want to force melee if you know your unit to be stronger at close combat. For example, Tactical Marines are slightly stronger at range than Chaos Space Marines, but the Chaos Space Marines have higher melee damage. Likewise, both these aforementioned units are stronger at ranged shooting, but also have decent melee capabilites, which means they can approach to close combat to overpower pure ranged specialists.

Another use for force melee is using it to kill retreating units (see Fall Back below), as a unit that is retreating has increased resistance to ranged damage, but suffers extra damage from melee attacks.

Retreating (Fall Back)[]

Fall Back icon

In Dawn of War II, you can issue the "Fall Back" command to heroes and most infantry units. Units that are told to Fall Back will make a bee-line to their HQ building while breaking suppression, gaining more speed (Which kicks in after a few seconds) and greatly reduced (-80%) ranged damage, but also increased (+30%) melee damage. The unit becomes immune to weapon knockback, but is still affected by ability knockback. Some abilities – notably grenades – also do full damage to retreating units. The unit is marked with a yellow exclamation mark icon and cannot be controlled while retreating.

Note that vehicles and the most powerful infantry units – such as Terminators – cannot retreat.

While a good Fall Back decision will save your unit, a badly timed retreat may result in losing the unit – it might run straight into an enemy melee unit, or a grenade tossed on the retreat path. This example shows a player making a panicked Fall Back decision and actually causing his squad to run into a grenade thrown behind the squad – not on it – obviously in the hope of just such a reaction.


Dow2r cover example

The Tactical squads are in cover, while the Scouts and Guardsmen are not; in this situation, the units on the left will take barely any damage, while the units on the right will be massacred

Using cover is essential to surviving a shootout. Units behind cover (indicated by green/yellow dots on the ground when giving a move order, and green/yellow lights around the health bar) will gain defensive bonuses against ranged fire, making them both harder to hit and lowering the damage of the shots that find a target. However, the effects depend on the damage types involved; sniper weapons and explosives can ignore cover, while flamers will actually do increased damage to units in cover. Cover is also directional; it only helps if it lies between the target and the attacker.

There are three types of cover in Dawn of War II (note that the numbers assume "piercing" damage):

  • Light cover (Rt cover light): -20% accuracy and -37.5% damage (+50% flame damage)
  • Heavy cover (Rt cover heavy): -40% accuracy and -58.3% damage (+150% flame damage)
  • Garrison (inside a building): -40% accuracy and -70% damage (+100% flame damage)

Garrisoning inside a building provides the ultimate cover, but there is a downside; the models inside can only shoot through windows, and sometimes a garrisoned squad will lose to a squad in heavy cover simply because there is only one window facing the enemy, and thus only one model can fire out while the enemy squad is attacking normally. Garrisons can also turn into death traps when grenades or artillery units show up.


Dow2 loading closerangedamage

The Slugga Boy squads are suppressed and have already taken heavy casualties because of not retreating

In Dawn of War II, certain weapons cause "courage damage" that reduces a regenerating courage resource of a unit. When a unit's courage reaches 0, it becomes "suppressed". Suppressed units become dramatically slowed and practically unable to attack until their courage regenerates. If they are still affected by the suppressing weapon, this will obviously not happen.

Suppression can be broken by certain abilities such as Frenzy or Combat Stimulants or by using the Fall Back command. If the unit can avoid the attack (or the attack is interrupted), courage will regenerate in a short while and the unit can act normally again.

Vehicles and special hero/infantry units (e.g., the Hive Tyrant and Terminators) cannot be suppressed.


Some weapons and abilities cause knockback, which knocks infantry units to the ground, unable to move or attack until the unit gets back up. Typical sources of knockback are charge abilities, melee special attacks, and explosives (such as artillery weapons and grenades).

There are two types of knockback in the game; one is called "weapon knockback" and the other "ability knockback" in the data files. The distinction between the two types is quite important for a successful multiplayer career.

  • Weapon knockback is the "regular" type of knockback, caused by melee special attacks, grenades, most knockback abilities, and such. This type of knockback does not affect retreating units or extremely heavy infantry (e.g. Terminators or the Hive Tyrant).
  • Ability knockback is a special effect which also affects retreating units and extremely heavy infantry. It is caused by charge attacks, global nukes, walker vehicle special attacks, Devastator plasma cannons and some abilities. Typically, attacks or skills that cause this type of knockback are more rare, or with a longer cooldown/lower rate of fire or higher Energy cost. Ability knockback can be used to stop and wipe out retreating units.

Infiltration and detection[]

Dow2 sm infiltrate

Certain units have the ability to "infiltrate", becoming invisible to the enemy. If they attack or use abilities, they will become partially revealed (flashing red), and can be attacked but take -20% reduced damage. If they stop attacking they will become infiltrated again.

Infiltrated units will be fully revealed if they wander very close to enemy units – the "keen sense" radius being 5 for most units – but certain infantry units can detect infiltrated enemies in a radius of 30–40 (almost full sight radius). These units are called "detectors" and marked with the eye Dow2 eye cropped decorator icon. In some cases (e.g., Scouts and Rangers) the same unit can both infiltrate and detect. Detectors, by race:

Armor types[]

Dow2 sm scout rank60

Scout (infantry)

Dow2 sm tac marine rank60

Tactical Marine (heavy infantry)

Dow2 sm terminator rank60

Terminator (super heavy infantry)

See also: Retribution/Damage types, Dawn of War II/Damage types

Each unit in the Dawn of War II series possesses one of several possible armor types. This determines how vulnerable or resistant they are to different types of damage (see "damage types and weapon families" below).

The armor types according to latest data (Retribution) are:

  • commander (heroes): Some resistance against light ranged fire and light melee weapons
  • infantry (e.g. Scouts, Guardians): Light infantry; suffer 100% from most damage types, but less from plasma weapons
  • infantry_fire_resist (e.g. Heretics, Gaunts): Like infantry, but take reduced flame damage
  • heavy_infantry (e.g. Tactical Marines, Wraithguard): Resistant to small arms fire, but more vulnerable to plasma, power weapons and grenades
  • super_heavy_infantry (e.g. Terminators, Avatar): Even more resistant to small arms than heavy infantry, but also suffer additional damage from plasma and power weapons
  • vehicle (e.g. Razorback, Carnifex): Almost impervious to small-arms fire, only can be effectively countered with anti-vehicle weaponry
  • building (HQ buildings): Resistant to most damage types, can be damaged by ranged anti-vehicle weapons
  • building_defense (turrets): Resistant to small arms, vulnerable to anti-vehicle weapons, very vulnerable to flame damage
  • building_light (generators): Somewhat resistant to small arms, vulnerable to anti-vehicle, very vulnerable to flame damage

The above is a very rough outline of the major advantages and drawbacks of each armor type. For details, consult the data tables of relevant units, weapons and damage types. Note that weapon efficiency against a target is also affected by the attacker's weapon family and the unit's size, which determine accuracy (hit/miss chance) for those attacks.

Damage types and weapon families[]

See also: Retribution/Retribution/Weapon families, Dawn of War II/Weapon families

Along with its specific damage, range and rate of fire info, each weapon (both melee and ranged) in the Dawn of War II series belongs to a Weapon Family. There are two considerations of importance regarding a weapon's weapon family. The first is its accuracy (chance to hit) against the target's Size category, and the second is the family's damage type against the target's Armor Type (already described in the Armor Types section).

Weapon families that represent heavy and cumbersome anti-vehicle weapons have a very low chance of hitting smaller creatures and infantry models (of Tiny or Small size). Though they would cause massive damage on a hit, the chance to hit infantry can be as low as 5%, or even 1%. Despite this unwieldy nature, they are able to consistently hit vehicles and buildings (Large or Huge size categories), and in fact are the only weapons that have a Damage Type that can impart full damage to the vehicle Armor Types of these targets.

Meanwhile, weapon families that represent anti-personnel small arms can consistently hit infantry targets, and obviously have no trouble hitting larger vehicles and buildings either. However, due to their Damage Type, they only cause insignificant scratch damage to vehicle and building Armor Types.

As a somewhat over-generalized conceptual summary: small arms can hit everything, but can only really hurt infantry. Anti-tank weapons can seriously hurt anything they hit, but can only consistently hit vehicles.

As there are over 40 weapon families in the game, referring directly to the corresponding page for specific info is necessary to fully evaluate the effectiveness of each weapon family against a target of a given Size and Armor Type, but the generalized logic described above holds true in most cases.

Melee Skill[]

The "Melee Skill" statistic (listed on each unit's main stat page on this wiki) is a statistic that is only used in melee combat. When making a melee attack, the attacker's melee skill is compared to the target's, and the difference is used in calculating the chance that a special attack will be performed. The base chance is 5% (which will be the case for equally skilled combatants).

When an attack is made, if the attacker's melee skill is higher than the defender, the chance of a special attack is (5% + x%). Thus, if an Assault Marine (Melee Skill 70) were to attack an Eldar Guardian (Melee Skill 50), he would have a (5% + 20%) = 25% chance of performing a special attack.

If the attacker has a lower melee skill, the difference is used as a negative modifier that is further multiplied by 5 (5% - 5x%). Effectively, having a Melee Skill of even 1 point lower than the defender means there is no chance of making special attacks at all (5% - 5% = 0%). Having a negative final percentage (below 0%) has no effect.

The skill comparison is especially important in the case of opposing units that start off with equal skill (for example Assault Marines vs Howling Banshees, both with 70); an advantage of being just one Experience level ahead (and therefore 1 point more melee skill) can tip the balance of a fight even further than the level bonus to health/damage might suggest.

A moving model has its Melee Skill reduced by 2 points. While this only slightly increases susceptibility to special attacks for already overmatched models, it can allow a slightly underskilled model to tie, and grant a small chance of pulling off a special attack on a moving enemy trying to slip past. This -2 penalty does not apply to models that are performing "Charging" movement (a special movement state when a model is running towards an enemy to engage it in melee, with a recognizable animation).

Certain upgrades and triggered temporary abilities also increase a unit's melee skill.

The actual special attacks vary depending on the specific attacking unit. While they generally inflict varying amounts of extra damage, the additional effect differs. One type of unit might have a short ranged weapon sweep in a full 360 degree circle, while there are other units that perform a further-reaching front-facing knockback hit. Some units even have more than one special attack, that will be selected at random. Ranged specialist units often do not have a special attack at all.

Knockback from melee special attacks all fall under the "Weapon knockback" category (as opposed to "Ability knockback") and therefore do not affect Retreating units, Terminators, and the like.

Melee resistance[]

Dow2 eld howling banshee rank60

Howling Banshees receive reduced melee damage

Certain units – generally close-combat squads but also all heroes (even ranged heroes) – have a passive "melee resistance aura" ability that causes the unit to receive reduced (-40%) melee damage. This is important to know in order to predict how a fight involving these units will turn out. Generally these units have high melee damage, and with the melee damage resistance, it is often better to avoid close combat and shoot them down instead – they still take full ranged damage.

A notable exception to melee resistance being limited to melee specialists are Scouts, Tactical Marines and Chaos Space Marines, who have melee resistance, in spite of being primarily ranged units.


Most units gain experience points through killing enemy units and reviving allied commanders. Experience points grant veterancy levels, which award bonuses such as improved health and damage. Some specific abilities such as Tyranid synapse auras and the Apothecary's healing abilities improve with veterancy levels. Regular units have 4 levels, while heroes have 10.

Each model in the game has a designated XP value granted to enemies that kill it. When the model is killed, this XP value is spread out to all units that did damage to it. In addition, squads that gain experience share it to all friendly squads within a radius of 55 length-units (for comparison, the sight radius for most models is 40 length-units). These squads will receive 40% of the XP that the original unit gained.

Every unit requires 500 XP per level, and the progress to attaining the next level is visible as a bar on the status display that fills up with blue from left to right.

Leveling up grants various general bonuses listed below (values are rounded approximations and in comparison to base stats).

  • Level 1 (0 XP): Base stats
  • Level 2 (500 XP): +15% health and energy, +5% regeneration, +1 melee skill, +10% melee damage, +5% ranged damage
  • Level 3 (1,000 XP): +30% health and energy, +10% regeneration, +2 melee skill, +20% melee damage, +10% ranged damage
  • Level 4 (1,500 XP): +50% health and energy, +15% regeneration, +3 melee skill, +30% melee damage, +15% ranged damage

Heroes gain 50% more XP than other units and continue progressing up to level 10. Reviving allied heroes grants the reviver 250 XP.