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

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