Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Revisiting Swiftclaw Bikers

As you might have read in my battle reports from Jolly Toys, my Tau army came up against a unit of swiftclaw bikers. They were very effective in dealing with my Tau army but as a Space Wolf player I can't say I've ever used them. I've got a small squad of them assembled but I've never been able to motivate myself to paint them. I think this due, in no small part, to me owning some thunderwolves. I'm a massive fan of the thunderwolves because they're an extremely characterful unit that's unique to the SW army but also because they can be totally devastating to your opponent.

Now I realise that writing a review of swiftclaws when the new TWC models are about to hit the shelves is probably somewhat daft but I've already talked about TWC at length and have had my third party ones for a while. That being said, I'll carry on anyway.

As both the TWC and bikers are a fair old chunk of points I can't see me ever finding room for both. I think it's important to consider the swiftclaws though as they could provide a dimension to my wolves army that I've not had before. I've mentioned them briefly before but let's look at them in more depth now.

Firstly let's talk about Space Marine bikers in general. The main attraction is obviously the increased toughness and better mobility. Having a twin-linked bolter which can be fired whilst still assaulting the target unit is also nice. The other attraction is the option to take some special weapons e.g. plasma guns, meltaguns, heavy bolters/multi-meltas and get into range with them quickly. So what's the difference between normal SM ones and our swiftclaws?

The main thing that puts people off is the fact that they're Blood Claws meaning WS3/BS3, leadership 8 and also that they're limited by the Headstrong rules. This means that they'd rather assault an enemy than fire their weapons. The obvious solution to both of these problems is the addition of a wolf priest. The wolf priest will give them Fearless (dealing with the Ld8), prevents them being Headstrong and gives them Preferred Enemy to deal with the WS3. The BS3 thing is still an issue but with twin-linked bolters it shouldn't matter, the problem comes from the special weapon.

However, throwing in a wolf priest is quite an investment so we'll have to see if it's going to be worth it. Well for starters they're going to get a huge number of attacks on the charge. Each swiftclaw has 4 attacks on the charge (1 base, 1 for two CC weapons, 2 for charging). Thanks to the wolf priest they'll be getting 3 hits on most targets. Obviously, the attack bike has 5 and the guy with a special weapon will only have 3 but you can easily see that a squad will deliver some serious pain.

Sample Loadouts
Let's start with the most tooled up squad we can and work down from there:

10 Swiftclaws w/ meltagun - 260pts
Multi-melta attack bike - 40pts
Wolf guard w/ combi-melta/PF on a bike - 73pts
Wolf priest on a bike - 135pts
Total - 508pts

Ouch that's a lot of points! However, when you consider I often field a TWC squad led by a thunderlord which comes in at 510pts it really isn't that bad! Which is better though? Difficult question. Both of these units will attract some serious attention from your opponent and I've talked before about the benefit of that.

However, I've found with the TWC that they often lose a few of their number before they ever make it into combat. The swiftclaws on the other hand have a little trick up their sleeve. In their first turn they can move 24" and claim a 3+ cover save. Couple that with T5 and it's unlikely they'll be taking many casualties. Obviously you've got to plan your move well so that you aren't in easy charge range of something but if you can manage that then you should be getting a charge in second turn at nearly full strength. At this point your thunderwolves could still be trying to get across the board if you've had some crappy run rolls and your opponent has kept his army at a distance from them.

When the bikes get to their target they'll get 44 attacks from the swiftclaws and 4 from the wolf priest. That's 33 hits and 16 wounds. Oh and the wolf guard will then swing with his fist and score another couple of wounds. Comparing that to the thunderwolves for a similar price and it's clear to see the winner. Bear in mind this doesn't include any shooting that the bikers might have done before combat with approximately 10 wounds from the bolters against MEQ.

Let's not get carried away though. The bikers will, most likely, make it into combat all but unscathed but once they get there it's a different story. Despite their T5 they're still vulnerable to anything that's higher initiative than them. Wyches will struggle to wound but purifiers won't have that problem thanks to Hammerhand. There's no option to give them a storm shield like the wolves either so expect to lose a lot of them. However, they'll still do quite a lot of damage with what's left and like any other combat unit it's about picking your targets.

Let's consider a cheaper alternative then:

4 Swiftclaws w/ meltagun and power fist - 135pts
Attack Bike w/ multimelta - 40pts
Wolf priest w/ Saga of the Hunter on a bike - 145pts
Total 320pts

A lot more reasonable but still quite nasty with a decent number of attacks. The fist is really only there for helping you survive against dreads but it could come in handing. The melta might de-mech your target but you'll probably still rely on long fangs to do that for you. However, there are two advantages to this squad over the more expensive one. Firstly, it's smaller so more likely to get ignored. Secondly, it won't annihilate a squad as easily meaning they're going to stay in combat for a phase for some protection. The downside to that is if your opponent has combat units nearby you'll be relying on a much smaller number of attacks to do the job.

There's a big part of me wants to run the massive squad of bikers because it would certainly be fun. However, do I want to invest in the models? Possibly not. There's a lot of potential there though and I might have to give it a whirl with proxies to see if it's worth the investment.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

After Action Thoughts about Tau


So as you'll have read here I played my first tournament with Tau. Since it wasn't a complete disaster (yes I lost 4/5 but there was promise) and because my Dark Eldar won't be ready in time, I'm going to take them to Open War in April as well.

Therefore I need to look at the list from Jolly Toys and figure out what needs to be dropped, what I should tweak and if there's any units I need to add. Before start it's worth noting that Open War is 1,750pts so obviously something must go. Bear in mind that I don't want to be buying much (if anything) for the new list because with a new codex on the (perhaps distant) horizon it would be a shame to waste money on stuff I no longer need. In addition, I got a bit sick of painting after 5 solid weeks of it so the thought of new units fills me with dread. Let's have a look at the list's performance at Jolly Toys and figure it out from there.

Things to Keep (with changes)
So looking at my list there are a few units that really stood out for me. Obviously, the broadsides did their job well at times but struggled to destroy vehicles (despite penetrating). They took a lot of fire, as you'd expect, and I think an extra shield drone would be useful with so much S8/9 out there. I'd also like to throw in a target lock for the team leader so I can deal with razor/chimera/venom spam better. Even if I'm not blowing up a vehicle with each broadside at least I should be stopping them getting to me as quick.

The commanders and their bodyguards were excellent in every game I played. Having something deep striking helps to prevent it descending into a pure sit and shoot scenario. It also helps in objective games as the rest of my list can be quite static. At the moment the entire squad has 4++ saves with the logic being that they'll take a lot of fire when they deep strike. However, by losing them that's 2x40pts I can throw on something else. Similarly, I like having BS5 and 4 wounds with my commander but 2x25pts is a big saving. I think giving the bodyguard targeting arrays will help bring up the hit count without a reliance on markerlights. The commanders can keep their invulnerable save though. I might give the squad some gun drones as ablative wounds and still save points on the shield generators.

The "deathrain" crisis teams did a decent job but I found them missing more shots than I'd like. The flamers make a nice back-up but I can't say I got to use them much and when I did they really weren't effective. Therefore I'll probably swap them for targeting arrays. In order to sort out a bit of wound allocation I'm considering making one a team leader. I think it's also a good idea to have a bonding knife and target lock on him too. Again this will help when faced with lots of transports and hopefully I'll prevent them running (over 90% of the time).

Things to Drop or Swap
The fire warriors by no means had a bad tournament but they were never really in a position to do a lot of damage. They had a couple of games where they stayed in their transports throughout. Therefore, much as it pains me to say it I'm probably better with the basic 6-man teams. If I've got the points spare I'll aim for 9-man but there are better things to splurge on.

This raises the question of kroot as bubble-wrap. One of the other Tau players used this to great effect against Matt's Grey Knights but you really need them in big numbers (we're talking 40+). I might play test with some proxies but I don't really fancy buying 3 squads of them, even from eBay. I've talked before about my feelings bubble-wrapping and the thought of it doesn't thrill me. Don't get me wrong they can be nasty but I'm just not a fan.

The skyray performed well and it's missiles and markerlights were crucial at times. I maintain that a hammerhead wouldn't have done as well, you might disagree but I'm convinced. Having said that it's the easiest way of saving over half of the 250pts I need to lose from the list to take it to Open War so, with regret, "You're Fired!"

The pathfinders were awesome in most of my games especially in helping deathrains/broadsides muller vehicles and the commanders annihilate troops. However, with no sky ray I can see markerlight hits being wasted so I'm considering a straight swap for piranhas. Very few of my opponents appreciated their role enough to target them but I might not be as lucky again. Most people with experience against Tau would take them out early as their pretty easy to kill and make my job that bit harder when they die. Piranhas on the other hand make great distraction, contest objectives and can melta vehicles if ignored.

Building the New List
Let's start with the obvious first, broadsides are staying. I like having the stabilisation systems on them for DoW and making sure they've got line of sight/avoiding cover saves. They need another shield drone and a target lock which brings them upto 200pts each. That's 4 twin-linked S10 AP1 shots with wound allocation and 2 ablative 2+/4++ wounds. Nice.

I'm going to need some scoring units and since at the moment I'm not going to buy kroot we'll go with the basic 3x6-man fire warriors in devilfish with disruption pods. That's 3 AV12 vehicles with a cover save at over 12". The squads inside are pretty squishy but that's fairly unavoidable. At 145pts each that's 435pts in total and 835pts so far. This gives me 1,015 to spend on toys.

As I said I'll keep the commanders but drop them to Shas'els. The commanders armament will stay the same apart from the addition of a target lock to split fire when deep striking behind vehicles. The teams will swap their shield generators for targeting arrays and one will take a bonding knife to prevent any embarassing running away like I had a couple of times. It might also help them hold up a unit in combat. With the addition of the knifes I think I'll throw in 2 shield drones per commander to add ablative wounds to compensate for the loss of the 4++ saves and maybe some flukey pinning. The suits themselves can put out 9 low-AP shots with hopefully 6 hits. That should be enough to kill 5-man marine squads and with three meltas some vehicles might die too. All that little lot comes to 602pts giving me a total of 1,437 so far.

Last but not least we need some deathrains for transport popping. As I said I'll switch the flamers for targeting arrays and make one a team leader adding a target lock and bonding knife for good measure. Each suit should be able to damage a transport on it's own and the bonding knife should prevent any running away. That's 121pts each and brings my total to 1,679pts. How handy, that's 70 pts spare. Let's throw in a piranha with fusion gun and disruption pod for some irritation and we're up to 1,749 and done.

To summarise, this list puts out 4 separate S10 AP1 shots (BS3 twin-linked), 4 lots of 2 S7 AP4 shots (BS4 twin-linked), 1 BS4 melta mounted on a fast skimmer, 6 melta shots on suits and 12 S6 AP2 shots from the same. Vehicle-wise there's 3 AV12 tanks with 4+ saves and an AV11 skimmer with a 4+ too.

Seems pretty good to me. It addresses most of the problems with my Jolly Toys list and actually puts out more firepower at more targets. What have I lost? 3x3 fire warriors, a skyray and the pathfinders. I can live with that. My only concern is that 15 KPs is quite a lot at 1,750pts. Hopefully they'll pull their weight so it won't matter. Here's the final list:

1,749 pts of Tau
Shas'el (fusion, plasma, shield, HWMT, HWTL, 2 drones)
2x Shas'vre (fusion, plasma, TA, knife, HWMT)
Shas'el (fusion, plasma, shield, HWMT, HWTL, 2 drones)
2x Shas'vre (fusion, plasma, TA, knife, HWMT)

2 Crisis Shas'ui (T-L missile pod, TA, knife, HWTL)
2 Crisis Shas'ui (T-L missile pod, TA, knife, HWTL)

6 Fire Warriors (Devilfish with disrupt. pod)
6 Fire Warriors (Devilfish with disrupt. pod)
6 Fire Warriors (Devilfish with disrupt. pod)

Piranha (disrupt. pod, fusion blaster)

2x Broadsides (ASS, 2 shield drones and HWTL)
2x Broadsides (ASS, 2 shield drones and HWTL)

What do you lot reckon?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Thunderwolves and Tyranid Kits from GW - My Views

So there's a lot of buzz about the new kits that Games Workshop will be releasing in March. I have to say that I'm not as excited as everyone else. Before reading on, have a look here and see for yourselves................... Back? Good.

Right so why aren't I excited? Well I've commented on that post briefly but I thought I'd explain in a bit more depth on here. The new kits have been a very long time coming with both codexes having been around for several years now. From general internet rumour it seems that GW had the models ready for a while but thanks to the whole Chapterhouse saga they had to delay releasing them. Now that the whole legal debacle has apparently subsided they're free to release them. Obviously from their perspective they had already spent the money in designing them and might have even made the moulds so wanted some return from their investment. However, a lot of time has passed now and those of us who wanted to use these units have sought alternatives.

Take a look at my third party thunderwolves and see what you think but personally I prefer them to the GW models. I can't put my finger on it but I'm just not blown away by them. I'm certainly not going to go out and buy a set as I've already got some. I'm not a fan of the roundy shields and the ostentatiously big axes. My mythicast ones look more powerful in my opinion too. I think the other problem GW has is that those of us who like the unit will have bought them and those that weren't going to use them in a battle won't suddenly want to. The unit has debatable effectiveness in a competitive setting but I can see them being popular with hobby-orientated gamers.

With regard to the Tyranid models I think that most people have already made their conversions. For example the winner of the BW2 painting competition. The main problem people had was the lack of left handed boneswords (or was it right handed?) so at least that will be solved with this kit. It's always nice to see something go into plastic and retain it's detail too. I'm sure most Tyranid players will be happy.

Overall my reaction is that they're pretty much a "meh" release. I'm disappointed that yet another month will be going by without a new codex release. Tau, Eldar, CSM, etc all need some love!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Jolly Toys Outing Tournament Report

Matt and I have been down to Warhammer World this weekend for the Jolly Toys Outing tournament which is a 2K "Nova" style event with each game having three different missions. Win on the primary goal and get maximum points, then a descending scale of points for victory on secondary, tertiary or finally VPs. As you might know, I took Tau to this event in order to motivate myself to paint another army and for a change of pace from Space Wolves.

My overall aim for the weekend was to at least win a game. This might seem minor but remember I'm playing Tau here! After that the organisers were giving prizes for the best general from each codex. This pitted me against two other Tau lists so I was in with a decent shot of a trophy!

Game 1 - Tau vs Imperial Guard
My opponent, Kelly, had a whopping 16 hulls (give or take) for me to deal with. Plenty of chimeras, 5 leman russ, a basilisk and a couple of other bits and pieces. Seeing as mech is my ideal opponent I felt pretty confident. We were playing Dawn of War and KPs with a 3 point KP margin being the primary victory requirement.

Neither of us deployed anything so we rolled on in turn 1. I got the first turn but obviously had nothing to shoot at. Kelly didn't do much damage with his shooting thanks to those lovely disruption pods. In my first couple of turns I did my best to hit the leman russ demolishers before they got into range of my suits but it was only in turn 3 that I figured out I'd be better hitting the chimeras for the easier KPs. This was especially true with the Leman Russes being in squads.

Once I'd figured this out it didn't take me long to rack up some KPs. My commander teams dropped in and popped open chimeras and either charged or gunned down their occupants for some cheap kills. In the end I won the game by 10pts to 5 giving me the maximum score.

Mission accomplished then! Only problem is that now I'd won a game I felt a bit more confident. My list had performed well and I'd hopefully be up on the higher tables where I'd be facing plenty of mech.

Game 2 - Tau vs Blood Angels
Seeing I'd got Blood Angels made my heart sink with the thought of jump infantry. I was pleased to see my opponent had a dual land raider list with a storm raven and terminators spread between the transports. With me taking first turn and Seize Ground (with 5 fixed objectives) being the mission Rob elected to reserve his entire force. He'd deep strike the land raiders and blast the storm raven forward when it came on. Speaking of which he'd made his storm raven from a Terminator Salvation salvation model and converted so it had all the guns/missiles.

I set up in my usual way with a nice spread to cover the entire board with firepower. I had a couple of turns to myself which meant one deep striking commander team ended up being dropped in near my lines as I had no targets. In Rob's turn 2 he brought on the storm raven and deep struck one of the land raiders. The stormraven immobilised one of my devilfish but little else happened.

In my third turn my first two shots of the game saw me wreck a land raider and a stormraven with my broadsides. The terminators in the land raider somehow pinned themselves and the stormraven's occupants were hit with a torrent of low AP fire and everything else bringing them down to a couple of models.

Next turn saw the two 5-man assault squads who'd swapped transports with the terminators walking on towards some objectives. Again there was little shooting to speak of from my opponent. The terminators that had been pinned found themselves in charge range of the pathfinders so easily dealt with them. I reduced both assault squads to 2 men each but despite failing leadership they'd be coming straight back. The terminators that had been pinned now took the brunt of the fire and died over a couple of turns of shooting.

The final land raider slammed in on one of my objectives but once again I downed it straight away. I swept in and finished off the second squad of terminators and then did some damage to the squad that had been recently evicted from their land raider. Rob had now got 5 terminators, a librarian and 2 lots of two assault marrines left on the board and I was certain of victory.

Sadly, it was at the end of turn 5 as I was making my assault phase jumps that I suddenly realised it was objectives as primary! The immobilised devilfish was supposed to be disembarked to hug the centre objective but I'd forgotten. I had one more assault phase move to contest that centre objective but my commander was 9.5 inches away meaning he'd still be half and inch short of contesting! My only hope now was that we got a turn 6. With Rob failing most of his storm shield saves he decided he'd like to roll the 3+ for turn 6. Of course he rolled a 1 which I stared at in disbelief. I'd scored a whopping 1,545 VPs to his 200 but he won the game by 2-1 on objectives. If ever there was a case of PLAY THE BLOODY MISSION this is it! Had I disembarked the fire warriors and rapid fired the two marines or ignored the terminators and hit the assault squads I'd have surely won the game in 5 turns. Gutted. At least my opponent took pity on me and bought me a beer!

Game 3 - Tau vs Dark Eldar
Feeling dejected about throwing the game away I was having a discussion with Matt about how I'd fare against DE. Sure enough in Game 3 I got to find out! My opponent had a mixture of kabalites/trueborn in venoms and wych squads in raiders. Coupled with the obligatory 3 ravagers I'd have my work cut out. Table quarters were primary and spearhead deployment so this would be complicated.

With me again taking turn 1 (as you'd hope with Tau!) my opponent again reserved everything. In some ways I thought this would play into my hands as I'd be able to gun down the army in waves. Anyway, he brought on two ravagers first turn and I found my broadsides without a cover. One squad was cut in half and the other took some wounds. The venoms hammered my pathfinders with poisoned shots and I was already down a unit.

In response I could only kill one of the ravagers. I popped a couple of venoms but didn't do enough to the squad inside who passed their leadership. For the next few turns we traded blows with both of us alternating between awesome and awful rolling. At the end of turn 5 it was still a tight game, we estimated it would probably come down to KPs and that was a close run thing. I'd dropped my commander squads into largely empty quarters which meant a hefty number of VPs to claim them. Luckily he used one of those arcane Ld flamer things (i forget the name) and killed one of the cammanders. The crisis bodyguard ran away but would hopefully regroup to flame some wyches. Of course they ran away and with them my chances dwindled.

I ended up losing 2-1 on quarters in a turn 7 which saw me fail to kill the necessary targets to win the game. Overall I don't think I played it badly but my dice let me down at the crucial times e.g. immobilising a ravager with broadsides!

Game 4 - Tau vs Space Wolves
Refreshed after a night's sleep we returned for day two to find that Matt and I had been drawn against each other. I'd have been quite happy to face his GK list because I'd done well against it in our practice games. I figured this would still give me a decent shot of winning the Best Tau General Trophy. Matt on the other hand fancied playing someone different (he was scared of my railguns if you ask me!) so we swapped with the next table over which had Tau playing Space Wolves on it. The Tau player rolled to play Matt so I was pitted against Wolves. Please note I forgot to take photos!

My opponent's lists featured a whopping 14 missile shots from long fangs and cyclone wolf guard. The other problem would be a large swiftclaw biker squad coming right at my lines. To cut a long story short my damage table rolls were appauling despite my opponent forgetting to use smoke. The land raider was immobilised with no weapons but still standing and two razorbacks had either lost weapons or been immobilised. Not what I needed in a KP game!

What followed was a hammering of my pathfinders with frag missiles before my suits failed cover/invuln saves to be insta-killed by krak missiles. Two lone wolves, the bikers and a small grey hunter pack made it to my lines which resulted in carnage and a 5 turn tabling.

However, it was an enjoyable game against a friendly opponent and I like to think things would've been different if I'd had first turn and better damage table rolls. The lone wolves would've given me KPs which would've helped. Nevertheless with Matt losing to the other Tau player I was pretty sure that trophy was out of my reach. I blame Matt entirely here since not only should I have beaten him but the other Tau player might not have beaten that Wolves list either! Ah well.

Game 5 - Tau vs GK
My final game of the weekend saw me fighting Simon Ellis from the Spiky Club (they run Starsmash). I'd played his CSM army at The End Times last year but he's now running Grey Knights (like everyone else!). He's got a shedload of razorbacks and rhinos plus the obligatory 3 dreadnoughts. I'd be relying on damage table rolls again here! Not to mention the table could well have been a Cities of Death board with the amount of LoS blocking stuff! Brilliant! The game was table quarters again though so it could still be anyone's game.

I took first turn but with Dawn of War there'd be no shooting until turn 2. Some awful damage table rolls again saw me immobilising rhinos and destroying weapons on dreads. Simon advanced his rhinos/razors up to the centre line and smoked them all. I popped a couple of them but could only stun a razorback with death cults inside. The next couple of turns saw me destroying a few more transports and failing to kill others. That razorback made it to the end of the game too!

My commander squads dropped into the same quarter being some tanks and a dread. I blew up one of the rhinos with my broadsides and the commander squad opened up with low-AP. Unfortunately the bodyguard completely missed but the commander killed three purifiers leaving just the psycannons. The other commander team blew up a dread. They'd now have to weather a torrent of wire!

One team took the brunt of the shooting and only a single bodyguard remained with a solitary wound. The other team was unscathed though. In the following turn I blew up another rhino if deathrains and the full strength commander team annihilated the occupants. The solo bodyguard used some a markerlight hit to open up on the two psycannon purifiers but missed 2/3 shots despite BS4 leaving a grey knight standing. Fire warriors who found themselves without a devilfish opened up at him using their 30" range and did enough to finish him off thank god.

With the rest of my army surviving well up until now I still had a good chance of winning the game on quarters. My two home quarters had 400+ points in each and one of his had one and a half commander teams in it. Simon suddenly realised this in turn 5 and took steps to deal with it. He moved some purifiers in to use their VPs and their shooting to even the odds. They gunned down the solo bodyguard and some death cults who got out of a nearby razorback charged the other team. They drew the combat but reduced the squad by 50% meaning I'd lost that quarter.

In one of my home quarters Simon advanced two squads of purifiers, Coteaz and some death cults. This would give him a VP advantage if he could kill some of my stuff. Sure enough a rending psycannon shot was lucky enough to blow up my sky ray and fire from the other purifiers (with help from the dreads) finished off my broadsides. This left Simon with 3 quarters and with no Turn 6 I had no chance of doing anything about it.

One win and four losses is never a great performance but I really feel like I only had myself to blame (despite some shitty rolls). The game against the Blood Angels was the turning point. Not only did it knock my confidence but in the following games I was so focussed on the mission I didn't think about target priority enough. I'll do a full run down of what was good and bad in my next post but overall I think the Tau list I've got is pretty solid. With more experience and a bit better luck I could put in a good performance. Had I won that BA game I would've been likely to meet more mech and hence have a decent chance. That and I'd have been in a good chance of getting the Tau trophy. Ah well, onto Open War in April.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jolly Toys Warm-up Games Summary

In the run up to my first tournament of the year I've been pitting my Tau against a selection of armies controlled by my usual opponents. Here's a run down of how they've performed against various armies and the lessons I've learnt.

Tau vs. Grey Knights (Matt)
This was the game that persuaded my to take Tau to Jolly Toys in the first place. Matt fielded an army with several rhinos/razorbacks, a land raider and a couple of dreads. First turn I stripped away most of the vehicles and it wasn't until the end of the game that we realised Matt had narrowly beaten me on KPs. A full report of the action can be found here. Bear in mind that's my older Tau list which has changed a little since then.

Tau vs. Necrons (Jamie)
Jamie was trying out a few things with his newly acquired Necron army so his list didn't really reflect those I'm likely to meet at tournaments. However, it did give me an idea that I'd struggle to take down Necron infantry. It didn't help that Jamie had several resurrection orbs in there but still it's clear that massed, heavy infantry will be a difficulty.

The rest of the army didn't give me too much trouble. The barges die pretty quickly and once they're gone the necrons rely on their eldritch lances which Jamie didn't have in great numbers. I still ended up losing the game though since his warriors hugged objectives better than my fire warriors did (as you'd expect).

Tau vs. Necrons (Matt)
Matt's Necron list was a lot more streamlined than Jamie's. He made full use of Writhing Worldscape, Tremor Staves, Eldritch Lances, Solar Pulses and both types of barge. It has to be said that with smaller units of warriors knocking around it was a lot easier to deal with his troops but those tesla destructors are hideous when he rolls a 6 pretty much every time he fired them, especially with re-rolls.

The eldritch lances did a much better job here and I lost several of my tanks. I did well in the early stages by taking down barges and killing off squads. I was unlucky not to kill a necron overlord who came back from the dead and made a mess of my broadsides. The game really could've gone either way in the closing stages but the problem was that I'd over committed myself early in the game to avoid losing out to night fighting too much. I should've let him come to me for a turn and held my ground.

One thing that neither Jamie or Matt did was to use Veil immortals. I think they'd be pretty nasty against Tau when you've not got long to bring your weapons to bear before they jump off again.

Tau vs. Orks (Matt)
This was to be a test of my ability to deal with massed light infantry i.e. troops without a decent armour save. Matt fielded a trukk heavy list with a couple of battlewagons, deff dreads and of course Ghaz. Having not played Orks for a while I'd forgotten just how far they can go when Ghaz makes them fleet with a 6" run. Again I positioned portions of my army too far forward and combined with the fact that Matt made the Kustom Force Field saves that mattered, I really didn't stop them getting to me.

When I used to play Tau regularly I would tend to hug my board edge and let my opponents come to me. I wanted to avoid this style of play in these games but frankly it probably would've made the difference between victory and defeat in nearly all of these games.

Tau vs. Blood Angels (Dave)
For a full report of these battles look here. Basically these games confirmed what I already feared about jump pack lists and helped demonstrate how effective Tau can be against mech lists.

Looking back it's depressing to realise just how many times I've used this Tau list and lost with it! However, as Matt and I have discussed, you learn far more about an army when you lose than you do in victory. There's certainly a lot of lessons to be drawn from these games.

Firstly, I need to remember that there are no other armies in the game that can match the range of most of my weaponry. Broadsides can be positioned right in a corner and still hit nearly all of the board. I've also learnt that deployment will be absolutely crucial. There's clearly a lot of duplication and redundancy in my lists but it's important to make sure I keep certain units apart. For example, my broadsides will always be a target so I need to have them at opposite ends on the board so that my opponents must spread their forces to deal with them. I also need to think about multi-charges and try to minimise them by spreading my units out.

I could really do with another unit of troops but as I've said I'm not a fan of kroot, I don't have the models for more fire warriors and can't spare the points for them anyway. The key thing is to try and keep my fire warriors alive as long as possible in objective games. Their devilfishes are guaranteed a cover save thanks to disruption pods and AV12 makes them fairly durable. Deciding when to disembark them for some rapid fire goodness is crucial. A single space marine can probably take a squad of fire warriors in combat so I need to be sure I'll kill off an entire squad.

Target priority will be important too. Tau work well when several units combine their fire to bring down a heavy enemy unit. If I spread myself too thinly my firepower will be wasted. However, I also need to consider the possibility that I'll kill a unit quicker than expected and therefore choosing which order to fire my units is tricky. If there's a unit that can only fire at that particular enemy unit they should fire first and units which could hit several should go last. If only it were as simple as that!

Finally, what's certainly clear is that it's going to be a big challenge for me to perform well at the tournament. I'm not naive enough to think I'm going to be up on the top tables but I'll be happy if I at least win a game! If I win two I might pass out!

Now I really must get back to painting them!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Painter's Progress - Part 2 - Fire Warriors, Pathfinders and Crisis Suits

As you might have read here I've given myself a punishing task of painting 2,000pts of Tau, pretty much from scratch, in about six weeks. This is the army I'll be taking for Jolly Toys and whilst they only need to be three colours, I'd like to give a decent representation of the colour scheme I'm using. Part of me wishes I'd just resorted to basic three colours to give me a chance of getting them done but I'm pleased with the results so far. Needless to say I think my wife is getting pretty fed up of me painting pretty much every free minute I get so after Jolly Toys I'll probably have a bit of a cool off period before my next project.

Please bear in mind I'm only aiming for tabletop standard here and at some point in the future I'll come back to them and add some highlights, washes and more detail. To be honest, knowing what my attention span is like "at some point" probably means after I've painted my Dark Eldar for Blog Wars 3 and my/Matt's Orks for fun!

First off here's the first batch of crisis suits:

These are the "deathrain" variety that form the core of my anti-transport firepower. They'll make the most of their JSJ ability to keep at range but swoop in with flamers when they're hemmed in.

Next up is the first squad of fire warriors. I'm really pleased with how they look and I think the scheme suits them well.

Finally there's the pathfinders. One of the two six-man squads is made from the proper pathfinder models and the other is "converted" using the fire warrior kit. When the two are mixed together it isn't too obvious that there's a difference. I did think about extending the helmets on the converted ones but frankly my greenstuff skills aren't up to much:

So that's where I'm up to as of this morning. I've got the day off work today though so I'm going to hammer those paintbrushes and try and get the last suits done and make a big dent on the remaining fire warriors. Here's there story so far:


  • 4x Broadsides
  • 1x Skyray
  • 3x Devilfish
  • 6x Gun Drones 
  • 12 pathfinders
  • 2 shield drones
  • 9 fire warriors 
  • 4 crisis suits
Still to paint:
  • 18 fire warriors
  • 6 crisis suits
Should be doable right?.... right?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Battle Report: Tau vs Blood Angels (2000 pts) - Twice!

The last in a series of warm up games for Jolly Toys saw my Tau facing off against Dave's Blood Angels. I know that at a tournament I'll really struggle against BA thanks to their FNP and high manoeuvrability. The same can be said of other fast armies but most other speedy armies e.g. Dark Eldar are pretty flimsy too. BA are anything but flimsy. Unlike the other battle reports in this little series I forgot to take any photos so you'll have to make do with some army shots.

Game 1 - Tau vs Blood Angels
Dave brought a couple of different lists for us to try out. The first of which was a jumper heavy list with three big squads of assault marines, a couple of dreads, some vanguard, some sniper scouts and Dante with his honour guard. This was never going to be easy. We rolled Pitched Battle and Capture and Control. I won the roll off and spread my forces out in the usual way with broadsides in the corners for crossfire fun, sky ray in the centre and everything else in between. Only one of the two low-AP squads stayed in reserve. Dave chose to combat squad two of his assault marine units so that they could be assaulting multiple targets when they got to my lines. The dreads were in cover at the back with the vanguard, Dante and one of the other assault squads in deep strike reserve.

Rather brilliantly, Dave seized the initiative! Oh dear. Dave brought his four combat squads forwards up the flanks, running them to get as close as he could. The dreads opened up on a couple of targets but could only claim a shield drone from the broadsides. Knowing full well that the front combat squad on each flank would be in combat with my broadsides in turn two I had to deal with them. With the railguns as my best hope of getting rid of the dreads I needed to use hit them hard now before I inevitably lost the broadsides. Unfortunately I could only shake the one on the left and the other one made both of it's cover saves with defiant double sixes. Thanks to their run the marines were well within range of one of my commanders and his bodyguard. A combination of low AP fire and support from the other units saw me wipe out the first combat squad on the right. On the left I could only kill a couple of marines but this was enough to make them flee. Sadly they only moved 7" so they'd be back pretty quickly.

Dave's turn two saw the arrival of all of his deep strikers. The vanguard smashed straight into combat with the commander and despite failing to do much damage they swept them away taking a single loss themselves. The large assault squad dropped in right before one of my pathfinder teams with Dante close by so the novitiate could lend them FNP. The assault squad melta'd  the sky ray into oblivion. The dread that could fire opened up on one of the crisis teams and I managed to fail all four 3+ saves killing the squad. The remaining assault squad on the left leapt forward and blew up a devilfish with their melta. Luckily I was able to keep the fire warriors out of assault range.

Crunch time. I was hoping Dave's reserves would arrive in dribs and drabs but with Descent of Angels that's never likely. I swung a devilfish towards the vanguard and disembarked the fire warriors. A couple of markerlights made them BS5 and this was enough to land an impressive 14 wounds on the veterans killing them off. My remaining commander landed behind Dante. I hoped I'd be able to kill off the entire honour guard so that the broadsides could instant kill the chapter master. I managed to kill all but the novitiate and so the broadsides had to finish him off. Dante passed his invulnerable save much to Dave's delight. With no FNP to help them I flamed the 10 man assault squad with my crisis suits. Thanks to their clustered deep strike formation I was able to get 10 hits with each flamer. Sadly I only scored 9 wounds and Dave passed all but 1!! Another fire warrior team opened up on the regrouped combat squad but could only claim a single marine without markerlight support. My other broadsides again failed to hurt one of the dreads.

The game was pretty much over now. With space marines right in front of me and my fire warriors out of their transports I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. Dante jumped in on one of the FW teams but only killed one! Unfortunately he passed both saves he needed to make and swept up the survivors. The dwindled combat squad assaulted the broadsides and the power fist easily dealt with them. The large assault squad was joined by the other combat squad and annihilated my remaining commander. On the right the final combat squad hit my broadsides and they fell to power weapon hits.

With just a couple of fire warrior teams against 20+ marines I knew there was little point continuing so I decided to concede so we could move onto the next game.

Game 2 - Tau vs Blood Angels
Now here was a list I knew how to deal with. Dave had two land raiders, two razorbacks, 2 dreads, a squad of scouts, two assault squads, some sternguard and Gabriel Seth with an honour guard. We got Pitched Battle and Seize Ground. Again I was lucky enough to get first turn but this time Dave didn't seize.

With markerlights stripping the land raiders of their cover saves the broadsides blew one up and immobilised the other. A crisis team got rid of one of the razorbacks too. Dave was forced to walk with his assault squads which is never nice. Both ran forwards but the only action came from the scouts killing a couple of pathfinders. In my second turn one of my two reserved commanders came in and sat firmly in rapid fire range of Seth's honour guard. With help from broadsides they easily killed off the honour guard and left Seth wounded. I largely ignored the assault squad on the right as they'd have a long way to go before they'd be assaulting me. I withdrew my forces over to the left so that just the broadsides would be at risk.

Dave had very little to do again with Seth retreating to the safety of a nearby assault squad rather than assault the crisis suits alone. The sternguard's razorback which had been previously stunned now moved up the field. The scouts killed a couple more pathfinders and a combination of dreadnought and lascannon from the immobile land raider left one broadside looking lonely.

Despite having popped smoke the sternguard's razorback was destroyed by crisis fire with a marine or two dying in the explosion. The broadside teams both claimed a dreadnought each. The remaining commander deep struck in on Seth's assault squad and with help from the other commander and nearby fire warriors Seth found himself alone again. I now put some fire on the assault squad on the right which was edging closer. Thanks to FNP they only took a couple of casualties.

Seth now had no choice but to charge one of the commanders and thanks to his S8 he instant killed the squad over a couple of rounds of combat. The sternguard killed a few fire warriors with help from the scouts and the survivors fled. The land raider killed off the lonely broadside with a lascannon. I killed off the sternguard in the next turn but it was too late for the fire warriors who ran from the battlefield. Seth was eventually killed by a couple of crisis suits who made their saves and stripped him of his remaining wound. The remaining commander employed his squads fusion blasters to strip the weapons from the land raider which they then wrecked in the next turn. I now had two fire warrior teams in devilfish on two of the 5 objectives and Dave had an assault squad and scout squad claiming two for him.

Dave's assault squad hunkered down in the hope of clinging onto an objective. I swung the sky ray around and, with help from the pathfinders, seeker missiles finished off some of the marines. I parked a devilfish nearby to contest the objective. In turn 6. The assault marines eventually succumbed to sheer weight of fire leaving only the scouts claiming an objective with a shas'o breathing down their neck. I killed a couple of the scouts off but they held their nerve. If it'd gone to turn 7 I think they'd have been annihilated giving me the tabling. As it was I won 2-1 on objectives.

Two very different games which demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of my Tau list. I've no doubt in my mind that if I come up against BA jump packers I may as well forfeit! However, againt most other armies I feel like I stand a chance if I play well.

In both games markerlights made a big difference whether they stripped cover saves or made fire warriors deadly accurate. I think they were allowed to live a bit too long by Dave and certainly most tournament opponents will know to get rid of them early on. Having said that they were one of the few units around when I conceded the first game and they'd be pretty useless on their own unless I got lucky with pinning!

I've considered whether or not bonding knives on my fire warriors might've been a good move. As they're my scoring units and I only have 3 of them it'd be good to try and prevent them running. Sadly I don't have the points spare and even if I did they're probably spent better elsewhere.

I've now got to concentrate on getting my army painted in time for Jolly Toys and with only two weeks to go I've got my work cut out. I've still got to paint 4 tanks, 39 infantry and 10 suits! At least it's only three colours!! Wish me luck!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Choosing a Tau Army - Heavy Support (and Special Characters)


In the last post in this mini-series I'll talk about the final section of the FOC - heavy support. These are undoubtedly some of the best units in the tau codex and it's a shame you have to choose between them as they've all got a place.

Heavy Support
For a change there's actually three things worth taking here. Firstly let me cover the one that isn't, Sniper Drone Teams. On the surface they sound OK and 80pts isn't too expensive. The unit actually get's to make the most of its stealth field generator as it has 36" range on its weapons. Sadly they just don't pack enough punch and with so many cover saves at the moment there little chance of them becoming useful any time soon. It's a shame because I love the models. Maybe if the new book gives them the ability to target specific models I might consider them but until then they're easily beaten by everything else in HS.

With a pair of markerlights and 6 seeker (krak) missiles skyrays are a threat to light vehicles. Granted the army doesn't need much help dealing with vehicles but the skyray is useful for its synergy with the pathfinders. Catch a unit of marines in the open, light them up and then unleash a torrent of missiles. The markerlights count as defensive weapons and with the aid of a target lock it can split its fire. I usually equip mine with a smart missile system so that you can keep it at range and still hit stuff in the midfield. AV13 and a disruption pod will make them an irritation to deal with. They'll still blow up eventually but hopefully by then you've set off all the missiles. Unfortunately, they usually get overlooked in favour of hammerheads.

The hammerhead seems excellent at first. The option to fire its railgun as a solid shot (S10 AP1) or submunition (S6 AP4 L.Blast) makes it very flexible. However, despite having BS4 (thanks to the targetting array that's included) I find the solid shot misses. Frankly broadsides do the railgun thing better. We all know large blasts are hit and miss but one thing that is nice is that scarabs die in droves when you hit them with it! Opponents always seem to target them first, and whilst this can work in your favour, it means you'll need more than one to use them effectively. I'd rather have more broadsides though. The ion cannon is an interesting option that I have to admite I've always ignored them in favour of the railgun but with S7 and 3 shots at BS4 and they'll hurt rhinos and then AP3 will upset MCs and marines alike.

Finally, we come to the stars of the show, broadsides! There are few if any units in the game that strike fear into people's hearts like the XV88s! They've got the best anti tank guns in the game strapped to their back and what's more they've twin-linked them! There's very few things that can stand up to that punishment. They're going to be a target for your opponent so make them strong. I like to give them a couple of shield drones for the invulnerable save and ablative wounds (good for soaking up lascannon hits). The other thing to do is give them advanced stabilisation systems. These are good for two reasons, firstly to keep them moving and keep them in cover and secondly so that they don't lose a turn of shooting in DoW like most heavy weapon teams do. I'd nearly always field a pair of them and consider giving the team leader a target lock for multiple target fun. If you've got the points and don't fancy a hammerhead or sky ray then either beef them up to 3-man teams or stick in another team of 2.

They'll die in combat to anything with power weapons but they can still be frustrating here since both the suits and the drones have 2+ saves. Holding up a unit is always good for the tau but you have to hope the combat eventually ends on your opponents turn!

Special Characters
Regular readers of From the Fang know that I love my special characters. I really tried to find a use for them in a Tau army and to be honest I couldn't. Let's start by saying that Aun'Va is god awful. I mean like truly truly pointless. Why pay 205pts for something that has to die to make the army better? He's going to be hard to kill at range but otherwise he's useless. I really hope they do something good with him though in the next book.

The trouble with farsight is that he gives close combat benefits to an army that wants to avoid it at all costs. He also enforces restrictions on your army. Most importantly only allowing a single broadside team! He isn't too expensive though and can have a massive unit of crisis suits as his bodyguard. Giving everything in the army a bonding knife is a nice touch but he just needs a bit of tweaking before I'll take him. I've got a farsight model knocking around somewhere but he's not exactly brilliant. I've got high hopes for the new codex but god knows when that will be!

I've never actually tried out Shadowsun but I see her as a bit of a suicide unit with her fusion guns. Again she's not awful though and has some nice upgrades. She does have positive effects on your army and won't die quite as easily as a normal suit. The model is nice so I might give her a try but to be honest there's better ways to spend the points in a Tau force. That and I'm crap at painting white!

I hope people have gained something from these posts. I apologise if they've been a little negative in places but I'm growing more and more frustrated at the lack of a new codex for my beloved Tau. My aim in writing these posts was to make me think more about my army selection and if you've found them useful then that's a bonus. I might have totally changed my mind about these things after the tournament but we'll see how I get on!

What's most frustrating about the lack of a new codex is that they really don't need much to improve them. Fingers crossed it'll be this year but it's looking less likely.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Painter's Progress - Tau Army for Jolly Toys Outing (pic heavy)

As I've mentioned in several posts now, I'm trying to get my Tau ready for Jolly Toys Outing on 18th/19th Feb. Clearly I haven't got much time left so I'm frantically painting 2,000pts of models that are either painting Tausept Ochre or not painted at all. I've already posted the colour scheme I'm going for so I thought I'd just throw up and update of how I'm getting on so far.

Here's a selection of shots of the sky ray, broadsides and devilfish that I've painted so far. They're by no means finished but I'm aiming for gaming standard for now and then I'll come back and improve them after the tournament.

My lovely wife helped me along by painting the devilfish. I love how the colour scheme came out but I need to go back and fill in the panel gaps with chaos black to better define them and to cover up some of the tausept ochre that can be seen in the gaps!

I've denoted the pathfinders' devilfish by painting the cockpit in adeptus battlegrey and added a couple of antennae to represent their beacons for deep striking. The sky ray will make an excellent centrepiece for the army and I can't wait til the army is on the table with it's new scheme. The broadsides look a little different to the vehicles as I used Regal Blue on them rather than the Mordian Blue that I've now switched to. It stands out a bit better and breaks up the grey nicely.

So I've got about a week to go and here's my progress so far:

  • 4x Broadsides
  • 1x Skyray
  • 3x Devilfish
  • 6x Gun Drones
Still to paint:
  • 27 fire warriors
  • 12 pathfinders
  • 10 crisis suits
  • 2 shield drones
Holy crap it looks a lot when your write it out!! I'll let you know how I get on! My wife's going away for the weekend so I've got a good few days of solid painting but it's gonna be tight!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Choosing a Tau Army - Troops and Fast Attack


Following on from Monday's article about HQ and Elites I'm going to take a look at the next two slots on the FOC.

Tau armies must include a squad of fire warriors. A lot of people hate this but personally I think it's a good thing. When the new book lands I'll be really disappointed if the best builds don't have any actual "Tau" units in them. There are a lot of fire warrior haters out there, I can see why, but I disagree. I love fire warriors. There, I said it. They're shite in combat, they really are. So is everything else in the codex though! Guardsmen aren't much better and there isn't so much hate for them! Oh and fire warriors tote S5 guns not S3. I think people expect too much from them. Personally I think 10pts is a little steep and for this price they should come with a bonding knife for free or slightly better Ld. Let's be honest you're paying for the gun not the guy here.

Now, most people on the net say the best way to use them is in the minimum 6 man unit, locked in a devilfish and holding objectives for dear life. Whilst I've used them like this I really feel like it's wasting them. Don't compare them to the troops in any other codex because frankly they'll lose out. Guardsmen have more options and are half the price, wyches are awesome, genestealers are great, boyz are numerous and they aren't even in the same league as Space Marines. However, like guardsmen they come into their own when boosted by other units in the army. Whilst IG's "orders" system is arguably better, markerlights can make fire warriors disgusting. If you don't like fire warriors you probably aren't using pathfinders. Combined they can be awesome. I'm going to leave my discussion of fire warriors here and I'll return to it when I get to Fast Attack and hence Pathfinders.

Onto Kroot then. The internets pretty much universally prefers these to fire warriors and whilst I've tried to see their point of view I simply can't agree. They're certainly better in combat but that's hardly an achievement when fire warriors are probably one of the worst units in the game in that score. However, you probably won't get to try them out since with initiative 3 and no armour save they'll be dead before they swing. Against GEQ they'll do OK in combat but it's MEQ where you need the punch. The rest of your army is quite capable of killing light infantry. Let's be positive for a minute, for the same price as the minimum fire warrior team in a devilfish you could get yourself a 20-strong kroot horde. They can infiltrate and hence Outflank. If you can find some trees they'll get a 3+ cover save and they've got rapid fire guns to irritate your opponent.

That's the key word here: "irritate". That's pretty much all they do. They don't do enough damage with shooting to make your opponent have to deal with them. They'll die in one phase of combat with most things too. So why do people love them? Basically because they act as bubble wrap for the rest of your army and they can be decent objective huggers (albeit with crap leadership). Whilst they do provide a nice cover save for the things behind them, if they charge or get charged they'll actually help your opponent get to you quicker with a consolidation move!

I've just never got on with kroot. Maybe I'm expecting too much from them but if I'm going to spend points on them I want them to perform a function other than to sacrifice themselves for the greater good!

Fast Attack
This is the first section of the codex where we get more than two options. However, you can essentially forget about two of them so we're back to a 50:50 again. I can't think of any situation where I'd take gun drones. You have to spend at least 48pts on them and they're nothing more than a nuisance to your opponent. You get them for free with vehicles and two of them is about as annoying as 8 are anyway. Pinning isn't very reliable so they're pretty redundant.

Vespids don't seem too awful at first but they're a little bit contradictory. They've got decent guns but despite a poor statline they're given "fleet". Why would you ever charge something with them? They're the only T4 infantry (ignoring suits) but they have a poxy 5+ save. They're incredibly over priced too. Were they cheaper you might think about a large squad to use the AP3 guns but since they're BS3 and need to get to 12" for a single shot each, don't bother.

Luckily, the other two options are actually pretty decent. Firstly the piranha is an excellent unit for the tau. Think of them performing a similar role to a land speeder and you aren't far wrong. Blasting them at full tilt for a 4++ save and sticking them in your opponents face is good. They're AV11 on the front which helps keep them safer from bolters. For 70pts you can get a fusion blaster and targetting array. Not amazingly good value compared to a land speeder especially when they're open-topped but you can see why they can be useful. Late on in objective games is where they really shine of course with last minute contesting. I don't take them in squadrons because with them being open topped your opponent only needs to roll 3+ on the damage chart to wreck one. Better to keep them separate and hamper your enemy in multiple locations. They are great for supressing your enemy, not with torrents of fire but with something in their face that they have to deal with asap or have it causing havoc with their vehicles etc.

Pathfinders are again one of those units that get overlooked. They are pretty fragile and have to stay still to do their thing. However, when used in combination with the rest of your army they're deadly. In the early turns they can help your broadsides and missile pod teams rip through enemy vehicles by either making their shots more accurate or removing the vehicles cover save. The mistake I used to make with these was to only take a single squad. It's the classic 40K principle of redundancy here. By taking two or three squads you don't feel it so much when you lose the first squad.

There are several ways to use the markerlight hits but a couple no longer have much effect. One thing that might come in handy recently is to use a markerlight hit to ignore night fighting. Necrons rely on this effect to keep them alive long enough to get into range and the combination of ignoring it and then removing a cover save or hitting with deadly accuracy should upset them. The difficulty is that your pathfinders will need to see first to get their markerlights off.

Combining pathfinders with fire warriors makes both units worthwhile in my opinion. I use 9-man teams of fire warriors (for leadership reasons). When these squads can use a handful of markerlight hits they can become BS5 easily. That means you're getting about 10 wounds on your target marine squad. Probably not enough to kill a squad on their own but still nasty. Against hordes like orks or nids you'll be killing 12-13 assuming they don't have a cover save or if they've had it removed by other markerlight hits.

The tau army isn't packed with a variety of deadly options but it rewards generals who use their units in combination to get the job done. Concentration of fire is the key here. Against mechanised armies you can pick of transports early on with your superior range and gradually thin down the infantry as they foot-slog it towards you.

Knowing the limitations of your units is key here. I'm going to follow these unit discussions with a few tactical tips that I've learnt over recent battles.

Next post will be about the heavy support section and briefly about the special characters.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Choosing a Tau Army - HQ and Elites (or XV8s as they're known!)


You may have noticed that this blog which purports to be a "Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolves Blog" has recently been focusing on Tau. At some point I'm going to do a bit of a redesign and change the layout and banners to reflect that I'm not just focussing on my wolves any more. Anyway, inspired by a couple of articles by EYIG at Apostates Anonymous (see my blog roll), I'm going to take a look at the options presented by the Tau codex. The rumour mongers don't seem to have any clue about what's coming when at the moment so currently the new Tau book could come as early as April or as late as 2013 or even 2014. To be honest I'm not sure even GW has decided so I'll just see what happens. In the meantime Tau players are faced with the prospect of dealing with armies with brand new books that are well suited to 5th edition with their rules that are circa 3rd edition!

Now I've recently posted some army lists up but I wanted to have a more general talk about the codex and what it offers in terms of vaguely competitive lists. Let me start by saying there is no "all-comers" tau list. Quite frankly outside of crisis teams the units just aren't flexible enough and each FOC slot has very limited options. This means that no matter what list you bring there's always going to be a few armies out there that you're simply never going to beat. This might not sit right with people but remember it's an old book that's struggling to keep pace with the new kids on the block. If you try and design a Tau list to combat a particular type of army you inevitably gimp it against other builds. Now this is true of most armies but not to such an extreme as it is with Tau. That isn't to say you couldn't win a tournament with Tau. I firmly believe you actually could. Call me delusional but if you met the right armies anything is possible.

This article (in several parts) will take a look at the FOC slots and the options presented in the book. I'll try not to put much bias on but inevitably I have a particular style of play that won't agree with other peoples' views. My motto when building an army is "all killer, no filler". I hate seeing things in a list that are either there as "speed bumps" or are just a place holder. Your opponent is unlikely to have throwaway units so why should you?

I'm not going to pretend this article is anything new because I'm sure there are tons of these things floating around as it's hardly a new book. However, I wanted to present my thoughts on the matter anyway.

Like many slots in the Tau FOC there are only a limited number of options here. Basically, your choices are an Ethereal or a Shas'o/Shas'el XV8 commander. Andy Hoare makes the decision for you really by making the commanders a 1+ choice. Frankly you're not going to want an ethereal anyway. Ethereals start off looking like a decent choice with an honour guard of BS4 fire warriors for 2pts per model (which will be fearless) and a re-roll on morale for any model that can see the ethereal. The problem comes when the Ethereal snuffs it (which he will). All Tau units must take a morale test or fall back. Brilliant. With pretty unimpressive Ld values throughout that'll mean about half your army legs it. Oh but it's OK because if they don't they'll get Preferred Enemy! Brilliant when you're only getting 1 attack each assuming you survive being charged in the first place!

The commander on the other hand is an excellent unit. I could write a whole other post about the pros and cons of Shas'o vs Shas'el but either is good. I like to make use of the option to take a bodyguard as they're all Shas'vre which means tasty hard-wired upgrades. I'll cover equipment in the next section but it's worth mentioning the special issue items here as your commanders are the ones most likely to take them. Offensively there's the Airbursting Fragmentation Projector (AFP to it's friends) and the Cyclic Ion Blaster (which has no friends). The AFP is essentially a large blast flamer with no cover saves. As with any blast template they're unreliable but nice when you hit that unit that either just disembarked or tried to assault a vehicle and is now clumped up. The ion blaster is a rending Assault 5 thingy that isn't awful but practically you're only going to rend once and struggle to wound otherwise with it's S3.

Otherwise there's long defunct command and control node, the positional relay which takes up a hardpoint that could be used for better things and vectored retro thrusters which are only any good for suicide commanders which I don't like. I can't see anyone ever thinking that a good way to spend 15pts is to buy a Failsafe Detonator or Ejection System which leaves just two more items. Iridium Armour would be better if it just gave a 2+ save without the reduction in assault phase move and the stimulant injector is OK but only one model in the entire army with FNP isn't going to win you a game.

Whereas most new books have tons of options here, the Tau codex shows it's age by again giving you just two. Stealth Suits seem like a great idea at first but practically they aren't much use. This is because their weapons don't have long enough range to make the most of their version of Night Fighting and they make a very expensive delivery system for a single markerlight otherwise. The main problem, however, is that the unit they share the FOC slot with is frankly excellent.

XV8 "Crisis" suits are a staple of any serious Tau army. I resent anything that's a "must have" in a codex but with Tau that's kind of inevitable. Crisis teams are brilliant because of two things. Firstly, their ability to Jump-Shoot-Jump (JSJ for the cool kids). This can be incredibly frustrating for your opponents. Position your suits directly behind a wall, jump 6" in your movement phase, get a clear shot in the shooting phase then jump back out of sight in your assault phase. It also means rapid fire and other short range weaponry can be used, safe in the knowledge that their won't be an assault to deal with next turn. Well, unless they're either fleet or jump packers or you're backed into a corner!

The second thing that makes them awesome is the sheer number of weapon combinations they can take. Very few units in any codex written since are quite as flexible with their equipment. You can kit them out for taking down light vehicles, scaring the crap out of terminators with massed AP1/2 fire or mowing down infantry with flamers etc. Let's have a quick look at the weapon options:
Burst cannons - not really worth it, they may be cheap but they aren't long enough range and don't do enough damage compared to other weapons
Flamers - good as a secondary weapon for when things get a bit too close for comfort or twin link them to do nasty things to infantry of all kinds. Only problem is you're guaranteed to get charged if you try this.
Fusion blasters - everyone loves a meltagun for 12 points.
Missile pods - always twin-link them to mow down rhinos or upset MCs
Plasma rifle - like a plasma gun but S6 so not as good vs vehicles but just as good against troops

The joy of the crisis suit is that they're relentless. There's plenty of different builds knocking around the internet with cool names like Deathrain and Helios but I take them in one of two flavours. Firstly, a cheap and cheerful pair of Shas'ui with twin-linked missile pods and flamers at 94 points. They reliably take down transports and offer something once troops are nearby. Even Grey Knights don't like having to make a lot of saves from flamers. Some people replace the flamer with a targetting array to make them BS4 but with twin-linking this doesn't really make much difference (88% not 75% to hit) and ups their cost by 12 points a squad. The flamer is certainly last ditch but it's amazing how useful it is.

The other build I favour requires the slightly more expensive Shas'vre. In order to take a squad of these you need to get them as a bodyguard for a commander. Looking at the basic stats, 10 points more for one extra point of initiative and WS seems like a rip off but the key is that this unlocks the hard-wired support systems. This means you can add shiny things without losing weapons. The most important of these is the multi-tracker which allows you to fire two weapons per turn. My preferred build is plasma rifle, fusion blaster, shield generator and hard-wired multi-tracker. Not cheap at 184pts but combined with a commander with the same equipment and they're lethal to marines and terminators alike. Their fusion blasters can also help them deal with heavily armoured tanks if you get chance.

You could consider swapping the shield generators for targetting arrays but personally I'd rather keep them alive than give them one turn of accurate shooting before they're gunned down. I often use markerlights too which make targetting arrays a waste of points. If joined by a Shas'o they can present 8 wounds with 3+/4++ which has the potential to really hold up any unit that assaults them. I think if you're investing so many points in a unit you want it to have a decent shot at survival.

Two slots down and two units to avoid. There's going to be plenty more where they came from! However, we've also got a couple of fantastic choices too. Using commanders and crisis teams well is crucial to success with a Tau army. If you decide not to splurge your points on the plasma/fusion teams then you should go for a Shas'el with twin-linked missile pods and perhaps a fusion gun for cheeky vehicle kills late on in the game. That makes him just 80pts which frees up a lot of points for the rest of your list. Mind you, I really think it's worth trying out a team or two of the low-AP boys and smiling as you wipe out marines and hop back out of assault range. Deep striking is something to consider against certain armies but often deploying everything presents your opponent with an array of choices for what to take down first.

I'm not saying that these are the only suitable builds for crisis teams, rather they're just the ones I've had most success with. As with all of my articles on tactics and army building it really depends on your style of play. Some people like suicide units which are designed for maximum devastation for minimum points but I'm just not a fan.

Finally, I want to make a point about drones. There's an argument for throwing in a couple of gun drones with your suits to provide them with ablative wounds. The difficulty is that when you lose one you'll need to take a leadership test and you'll probably fail it! By making the most of JSJ your suits really shouldn't be taking too much fire. In combat your drones won't save you either. 

Tomorrow we'll move onto Troops and Fast Attack since, again, they rely on each other to be effective.


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