Wednesday, February 9, 2011

750 Salamander Space Marines v Tau: Or, why lone drop-podding is death

And herein follows the glorious combat between Matt's Space Marines forces and my Tau. The armies were as follows:

+ 1 HQ Crisis Commander - Shas'el, air fragmentation grenade launcher, plasma rifle, targeting array, hw multi-tracker
+ 1 Crisis Suit squad x2 - Plasma rifle, Missile Pod, multi-tracker, shas'vre: bonding kife, hw drone-controller, 2 shield drones, targetting array
+ 1 Fire Warrior squad x7 - shas'ui: bonding knife, drone controller, shield drone
+ 1 kroot squad x15
+ 1 Broadside squad: Shas'vre: advanced stabilization system, bonding knife, hw drone controller, shield drone
+ 1 Hammerhead tank: ion cannon, burst cannons x2, disruption pod, fletchette launcher, targetting array, multi tracker


1 HQ: Commander: terminator armor, storm bolter and power sword
2 Space Marine squads x10: 1 flamer, 1 krak missile launcher, boltguns, sargeant w/ chainsword and pistol
1 terminator squad x5: storm bolters, thunder shields power fists
2 drop pods

We roll for map type: spearhead
we roll for battle type: annihlation.

we randomly setup terrain, the index cards are difficult terrain, no impassible terrain this combat. Matt goes first.

Setup: matt doesnt have anyone on table. I Setup in a line with everyone fairly accessible to each other. My commander is attached to the crisis suit squad.

Turn 1: Matt deepstrikes his first marine squad in. He immediately splits them into 2 smaller squads, the special weapons split between the two squads. he opens fire on my crisis suits, scores two hits which my Crisis Suit shield drones shrug off.

flank ambush!

things get hairy

Turn 1 me: I move my hammerhead on a diagonal left, fire warriors run for the middle of the map, the broadside advances into the difficult terrain straight in front of it, the kroot move towards the marines, and the crisis suits move on a diagonal-right to be on top of the squad.The crisis suits and broadside open fire and wipe out one squad. the hammerhead kills maybe 1, the kroot assault and finish everybody else off.

kroot v marines...

lunch time!

Turn 2: Matt successfully drops his other drop pod in the middle of the map, as well as his commander off to the right side. He immediately splits his marine squad again. he opens fire on the crisis suits and kills the suit commander and shield drone. the drop pods don't kill anyone and the commander advances.


Turn 2: me: the hammerhead backs up further to have a clear shot at either squad. the fire warriors advance into rapid fire range. the crisis suits move closer to the commander to get out of the kroots way, who advance on the new squad. the hammerhead kills 1 with an ion hit, 2 with burst cannons. the broadside kills another with a missile  salvo and the fire warriors miss the guy with the missile. the crisis suit squad scores a four on the other squad, 3 plasma rifles and 1 grenade. the kroot chicken out of the assault and execute the remaining sergeant with a bazillion shots. and the crisis suits jump to what i believe is a safe distance from the commander.

lone ranger

Turn 3: Matt: Terminators do not come in. the commander advances on the crisis suits, the drop pods do not score any wounds. the space marine with the krak launcher wrecks my hammerhead in one hit! it dies, being 11 inches away, therefore not getting a cover the assault phase, the commander assaults my crisis suits, and wipes out the regular one. my commander breaks and runs in fear, and is mopped-up without mercy. Tough turn for Tau.

here lies my crisis suits...

Turn 3: Me: the kroot advance. the broadside takes a shot at him with a railgun, he soaks it up making a 5+ invuln save. yikes. the fire warriors advance to the center of the map in case of whatever. the kroot assualt, loose a couple, and score two wounds.

Turn 4: Matt: Terminators arrive! They gun down 5 of the 7 fire warriors without remorse. In the assault phase, the commander dishes out another death to an unlucky kroot, who respond by pulling him both down and apart! again the drop pods hit nothing.

think custers last stand...

Turn 4: Me: the broadside moves back and fires at the terminators, they soak up a railgun hit with an invuln save.the kroot run towards the terminators, using the drop pod as cover. the fire warrior successfully pass their morale test and move to hide behind the wreckage. At this point it dawns on me that in terms of kill points my dead forces are worth more than his dead forces. quick math reveals that he is going to be 1 point ahead of me when the fire warriors die. ugh.

this is getting risky..

Turn 5: Matt: The terminators ignore the Broadside whose shots they have been ignoring, and they execute the lone remaining fire warrior. A casket for him will be unnecessary. Then, the drop pods kill a couple Kroot.

Turn 5 Me: Realizing the folly of the Kroots current plan in relation to kill points, they turn tail and run, using the central drop pod as cover. The broadside scores a hit and destroys the flanking drop pod, bringing Matt and I to a tie in kill points.

one foul pod down...

Turn 6: Matt: Matt rolls, the game continues on. Moving the Terminators for a better view, he guns down the majority of the Kroot. The drop pods finish off all but one of them. Morale saves are in order.

Turn 6: Me: the lone Kroot fails his morale save badly. Rolling for fleeing, he does, but not off the table. The good news, is that the unit only gives up a KP if it is destroyed entirely. So it still holds its KP. the Broadside takes a shot at the other drop pod... IT HITS ... IT DESTROYS IT!!!!


Final Result: Tau win, 7kp to 6kp.
Survivors: Terminators squad, Broadside squad.


I haven't had much time this week to ponder my next post, still working on the next genius inspiration. So, I figured I would post one of my Tau's closer victories and discuss it.

This was a tough battle for Tau, due to the lack of CC options. So, it is absolutely essential that every squad that gets near dies. Every one, which is a bit of an unforgiving demand. Fortunately, half of all drop pods come in turn one, the rest turn two. Rule number one for drop-podding should be: Bring 3 or more! Otherwise, your squads get fed piecemeal. And that is never pretty.

The other oddity about this battle involves the KP system. Because there is 1 KP per squad, and 1 per leader, My army started out with more KP on the table. In effect, this means that I have to work harder to keep my forces alive as well as kill his forces. If we both lost, say 50% of our forces then he would be the victor. I did not realize this until the game is almost over, when it occured to me that I had better kill the drop pods or else i'd lose the game.

This battle had several surprises for me. The first was a start of a trend, where my Hammerhead dies the same turn as its hit, which has continued for the last 3 games. I can't describe how annoying it is, for such an awesome tank to be totally plastered the first round it is shot at. Typically, it doesn't pay for itself. Also, this battle I decided to try out the ion-cannon before i swap the modeled piece out. It was highly average. I am thinking I may stick with the railgun. The other trend, was the success of the Kroot. This marked the first post-3++ game I played, where I took them instead of Fire Warriors. I must say, I am impressed. While I don't particularly care for Kroot (which the careful eye can detect by lack of care in painting them), they are quite effective at mopping up after Crisis suits and tar-pitting powerful characters. It surprised me how many kills my Kroot pulled off before they decided to almost all die and run almost off the map.

All in all, it was a good game, with lots of enjoyable moments. I will post more batreps in the future. Until then, enjoy the storm, enjoy something warm and tasty.

"Point us at the target"

Shas'el Mike

Friday, February 4, 2011

Death Company Conversion

During my after-Christmas buying splurge, I picked up enough Space Marines models to run a 900-something point Blood Angels army. I love the fluff, and the pathos of the Death Company. However, I didn't find any good deals for death company models or accessories. However, I do have 25 Tactical Squad Marines when I am only interested in 20. The downside is, they are all from AoBR, or Assault on Black Reach for the uninitiated. While this did make them inexpensive, I was unaware that the models themselves were rather static, a single piece for the body, a piece for the weapon, a stand, and a piece for the backpack comprising each shoulder. However, I have some spare arms laying around, and I picked up some spare parts from Ebay, so I began converting!

The first step is to remove one or both arms. Death Company allows for the choice of bolt pistol OR bolter, in addition to the chainsword as basic armament. It is important to keep at least a couple bolters in the squad to prevent undesired assaults, now that 5th edition neutered the Chaplain. If the bolter was to be retained, i would only cut off one arm. Then, I would cut the hand mouldings from the bolter and repostition it, as well as the chainsword arm. If it was gonna be a bolt pistol, I cut off both. Then, because one arm is molded to the body, I would need to cut down that half of the stomach area to mimic the chest armor curve on the other side. Once this model is painted, that trimmed down area should appear to the casual observer as a natural part of the torso. Death Company has a WS of 5, as well as FNP, and Furious Charge. So, they are brutal in the assualt phase. I often run into nasty vehicles or Chaos Demon Princes, so having a power weapon in the squad is important. So, i realized that even as a troop choice the DC can get thunderhammers! Picking up a two-handed thunderhammer, I decided to go ahead and model one to carry a hammer. So both arms came off. a little bit of trimming to remove SW symbolism off the hammer and it was ready to go. I had previously converted a couple AoBR sargents to have better weapons, so I had a couple chainsword arms from them laying around, plus a chainsword arm from my Assualt Marines after I gave their sarge a power weapon. So, I used those plus the above mentions arms to do my thing.  The models currently only have one or neither shoulder pads, and no backpacks. That is because I will be ordering the DC accessories to make them look proper. More on these guys as I progress!

"Battlesuits on Ready"

Shas'el Mike 

Repairing Assault Marines, or Ebay is my Friend

So I recently began a side army project, a Blood Angels army to be precise. While I love Tau, sometimes I want to run an army that looks great, and is able to throw itself in CC. Also, there is an unwritten rule among my play group that every person must have at least one Space Marine army. So, I too shall adopt the rule. Still working on which chapter to go with, more on that as time goes by.

I price-checked Assault Squads retail, than took a look at Ebay. If you have not checked the worlds greatest garage sell, you should. I picked up a 5 man squad configured illegally with a melta-gun and plasma-pistol on two guys, two with bolter pistols, and one missing his gun hand. All for 17 bucks shipping included. And they were fully painted. And none were configured as sargeants. So, I grabbed my Ravenwing upgrade sprue and popped off a suitable head for the sarge. Then, I grabbed the power-sword arm from the same sprue. A couple mins later, the guy with a missing hand was designated as sarge. The day before last, I had 2.50 in ebay bucks set to expire. So, I picked up a set of 4 bolter pistol arms. Got them in today! Which excites me. So, A little bit of work later, the sarge is done. I have one arm left for the plasma-pistol guy. I have not yet decided whether to leave him to be added to my next squad or replace him. While the 'Gets Hot!' rule says take a scalpel to him, the s7ap2 says wait. So, included are some pics.

"For the Greater Good"

Shas'el Mike

Crisis Suit configuration

So after the last couple battles, i've been doing some thinking about my Crisis suit loadout. Traditionally, I do 3 Fireknifes per squad, as many squads as possible. Which boils down to 211 for a squad with plasma rifle, missile pod, multi-tracker, and a 'vre. And, at a BS of 3, at a range of over 12 inches only 1.5 shots per suit on average will hit. Needless to say an army that depends on hitting will need to do better. And, the plasma won't hit till turn 2 or 3, once your enemy is within 24 inches. This theory generally shows itself in my games. the plasma rifles are pretty much wasted until at least turn 2, while the missile pods would do better if their accuracy increased. However, the stopping power of the plasma rifle means it cannot be left at home. Recently, i've gone to running 2 Deathrains with a Fireknife 'vre. The biggest change in this setup is allowing everyone to take a targetting aray, and max out the long-to-mid versatility.This allows for everyone involved to be upgraded to a BS 4, which allows for an increase in hitting accuracy, as well as reaching targets on turn 1. And the 'vre has the plasma rifle for that extra punch. More info on how that goes. Unfortunately, this means that for my suits I am now 7 missle pods short. more on how resolving that shortage goes.

  My command squad is subject to much love but not as much play. In smaller games, that extra 10 points for a Crisis suit that is cheaper as an elite is unnecessary. However, in larger games the extra suits are nice. However, I wanted these suits to stand out. Heavier armor, more ornate helmets, different weapon loadouts something. As far as weapons go, i felt this squad should be more of a hold-the-gap type unit, so i gave the body guards dual plasma rifles, and the commander an afb and a plasma rifle. lots of AP2 death, made cheaper by twin-linking. I wound up converting my commander after being inspired by this entry on Warhammer Tau. I wanted my honor guard suits to be similar, and yet different. I figure that being who they are, they will naturally have beefier looking suits. But I couldn't figure out what to do with the head. Until I saw this post on Advanced Tau Tactica. So, with a little bit of conversion, and supergluing later, I was done. All that is left is to touch up the paint. So, here are a couple pics of my new suits. Any thoughts?


"Bring us to the Hunt"

Shas'el Mike

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lessons from Mont'ka

Or, Why Being Aggressive Helps Keep You Alive

If you play Tau, you know this feeling: Broadsides against the wall, every other unit dead, Plague-Marines bearing down on you in an inexorable march of death.

My good friend, who i shall call Starsky, loves his Nurgle army. My Tau have traditionally lost every game to his army, generally a bloodbath. This is the bottom of turn 6 in our latest match, after two failed chances to turn it into a win and two failed chances to turn it into a draw. Which honestly is quite ok, as this battle showcases what I would like to ruminate over with you: aggressive deployment.

The forces of the Greater Good traditionally have stayed away from the middle of the map, as their prodigious glass jaw practically dares any imp to shatter it and bring them to their knees. I am of course referring to the sad lack of good close-combat options in the Tau army. Typically, this results in a gun-line on the back of the table, hoping to pump enough firepower down range to wipe out the enemy and save the day.The other alternative commonly seen is a purely mechanized force supported by crisis suits. The plan is to cruise around the map, pumping gun salvo after gun salvo into the enemy. While this is not bad, the lack of Broadsides for anti-armor, and the necessity of Fire Warriors for the Devilfish is a problem. Instead, I propose something different.

I propose a plan in two parts. (A) In the deployment phase deploy aggressively. Put your hammerhead(s), your Crisis suits, your Fire Warriors nosing the foward boundary, spread out enough that a single Leman Russ salvo won't kill you. The only exception should be Broadsides, who should have a clear view from somewhere in the back. Then, (B) deploy your kroot in front of your zone as a screen during your infiltration option.Naturally, they should be deployed close enough to your lines to be supported.

The first reason to perform this crazy deed is to seize control of the game. Historically, very few battles are won on the field of the enemy's choosing. Of those few battles, none were won by playing by the opponents plan. By deploying aggressively, you've broken the mold. By doing so, you've forced your opponent to re-evaluate his plan as well as yours. Oftentimes this means that the army you are facing will become more reactive in the begining, buying you precious time. By taking the mental lead, you are more likely to take the tabletop lead as well. Think of it as a game of chess: you want to either force a check on your opponent to make them take the defensive.

The second reason is to maximize firepower. If you allow two to three feet of empty space between armies, those IG or SM transports will be on you in no time. They will go flat-out, and run you over like a toad. By deploying at the front of your deployment zone, you chose where they disembark. By forcing them to disembark in front of your Kroot wall, or else be suppressed for two to three rounds, you have made the troops a vulnerable target for your Crisis suits, Hammerheads, or Fire Warriors. Then, you can fall back, leaving yourself more room to ready the next killing blow. If you put a unit in check, the other player has to weigh rescuing it against his previous objectives. Additionally, if transports are forced to disembark, that means your Broadsides can be used to target the tanks. Which is always good.

The other advantage I want to bring up is anti-armor tactics. By taking the target lock upgrade, your Hammerhead can fire like a fast vehicle. This means moving up to twelve inches before firing the rail-gun. Since you have already started a foot in, cruising another foot before taking your rail shot will most likely land you within the arc necessary to generate a side-armor hit. As you will likely be successful, this also puts a threat on your opponent's flank, possibly saving a couple Kroot lives. They will thank you. If you turn a flank with a Hammerhead, the check will make your opponent more likely to deal with it rather than other potentially weaker units.

Playing Tau is difficult, and requires some degree of skill. Due to the Fire Caste doctrine, you must have multiple pieces working together in harmony. If you can force the enemy to relinquish control of the Rules of Engagement, and then maximize firepower on now-vulnerable units, and aggressively use anti-armor tactics, you will likely be able to bring forth another victory for the Greater Good. Remember, the Tau do not value territory. It is better to split your forces and fight like guerrillas than to die holding that firing-line.

Prosper, as Tau Shall!

Shas'el Mike