White Ghosts

“A fire warrior must learn the two key principles of warfare. The patient hunter and the deathstrike. Kauyon and Mont’ka. There is no Tau who has greater mastery of the Mont’ka than Commander Shadowsun.”

“There are some among our enemies who have achieved great skill in ambush. For example, the mutants known as Gene Stealer Cults, who have spread to some of the Guer’la worlds under our control. But no matter how skillfully the ambush is laid the key is surprise. If your ambush is not a surprise then it will fail.”

“Let me tell you of the time I fought alongside Commander Shadowsun at the Dongjiaotou uprising.”

Last weekend I had a 1250 point game against a Genestealer cult army. My opponent was playing a decurion formation with a lot of cheap infantry units. My own force was a themed CAD. A stealth army, based around commander Shadowsun. Two squads of stealth suits, a squad of sniper drones, with two spotters, a breacher team in a devilfish and a small firewarrior squad with a defence turret and two of forgeworld’s Remora stealth drone fighters. At the core of the army, taking up over half my points, was a super deathball with 5 crisis suits (two with fusion blasters, two with airbursting fragmentation launchers and one buffbunny), along with 10 gun drones, commander shadowsun and a second commander with fusion blasters a drone controller and counterfire defence and two spotter drones.

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We were playing The Scouring game, with 6 objectives of varying value.

My opponent got the initiative and set up first, placing two armoured sentinels, with lascannons, near an objective marker and deploying 1 squad of cultists in the corner, to prevent me infiltration on his flank. I deployed my devilfish and placed the small firewarrior team in a crater, by an objective.

I then started deploying infiltrators, placing my deathball in an area of craters on the middle of the battlefield. My opponent then brought in the first of his infiltrators. My stealth suits and sniper drones were all set up in cover and a vast horde of gene stealers and cultists were mostly set up withing a few inches of my units. Fortunately only two units of them were able to assault this turn. Some of my crisis suits could use interceptor, but our judge decreed that interceptor would not work against cult ambush. Some of the interceptors were able to shoot and due to some lucky rolls they killed two stealth suits in one of my stealth suit teams.

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Turn 1:

The most important single dice roll of the game. I rolled a six and stole initiative. This allowed me to pile a lot of shots into the GSC. My sniper drones and spotters shot past my deathball, at the large gene stealer formations opposite, giving an extra marker light. Then my crisis suits fired their airburst fragmentation launchers, scattering onto the larger gene stealer horde, killing 15 of them, while my drones gunned down the front line, who were the ones able to charge. My fusion blaster suits with target lock and Shadowsun shot at a squad of 5 tougher looking mutants, with 2 wounds each, killing them all. My stealth suits shot 7 out of 10 cultists in a squad, routing them. My devilfish deployed the breachers who gunned down another squad. The drones and the devilfish shot at a separate squad, killing several cultists and routing them. There were over 30 cultists or gene stealers killed, but a lot still on the board.

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The psyker rolled 1 for warp charge and snake eyes to try to use a power. The cultists then returned fire. At the bottom of the board, some unlucky cover saves allowed the cultists and sentinels to take out my stealth suits. The shots at my deathball proved ineffective and the squad shooting at my other stealth suit on my end of the board inflicted no damage. A small squad charged my deathball, but the sniper spotters scored 1 marker hit, allowing my drones and commander to fire overwatch at BS3, killing them all.

Turn 2:

One of my Remora came on, zooming fast across the board. It shot at the same unit as the sniper team, allowing the marker lights to boost its accuracy. Between them they killed all but the sorceror. I decided to detatch my commander, so that his marker drones could light up the gene stealers and my deathball fired at the remains of the large gene stealer formation, wiping it out completely, leaving only the few cultists that had retreated behind it. I was stunned at how quickly I had killed them all.

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I was stunned at how quickly I was eradicating my opponent’s army. On my end of the board the breacher team advanced and wiped out another small squad of cultists.

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The sentinels shot my commander and I allowed him to take the two hits. A squad of 5 gene stealer cultists moved to attack my commander, but I got the deathball to aid him in overwatch, gunning them down. I wanted the guys with target lock to overwatch against a different target, but was told they couldn’t. My snipers fired overwatch at the lone psyker, killing him. The three cultists rallied and charged my deathball. 4 drones died from dangerous terrain tests, moving to counterattack the cultists, but my crisis suits easily crushed the cultists.

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Turn 3:

Let’s be honest. There was no doubt how the game would end. My second Remora came on and raced forward. There were only 2 sentinels, 3 survivors of a previously routed unit that had rallied and 1 squad of 10 cultists in the corner. My deathball advanced on the cultists and 1 of the crisis suits got within range, killing half the squad with his fragmentation launchers. One remora shot a further two cultists.

 

My commander and the other remora advanced on the sentinels.

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The commander fired first, causing one sentinel to explode and scoring two marker light hits. as they were a squad, this allowed the Remora to easily gun down the remaining sentinels, using both its seeker missiles for good measure and blowing it sky high.

My opponent only had 3 cultists left and decided that they would return to shadows, leaving the battlefield free of enemies and giving me the game.

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Result: Overwhelming Tau victory.

In the whole game I only lost 5 stealth suits from shooting and 4 drones from terrain. My list had a lot of firepower with a lot of ways to augment that firepower. Although they were not crucial to the game, i loved the Remora drones. Combined with the marker lights, they worked very well. Obviously the high points deathball was a huge gamble. Getting shrouded and stealth made them extremely hard to kill with shooting attacks, but they would be vulnerable in close combat. Had I not stolen initiative, I think the game would have been a lot closer.

My deathball has a huge weakness; melee. If an armoured sentinel or a deadnought etc got into melee against us, I had nothing at all that could harm it. Just moving to counter a charge caused nearly half of my casualties for the game. However, the effect that it produced when shooting was, to be quite honest, obscene. That sort of unit may be great for tournaments, but it makes the game less fun.

I hear that 8th edition will not have the same sort of deathballs. I think this is great news. I would much prefer a well balanced game, with everything playing a part and a need for tactical gameplay, rather than relying on overpowered units.

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Bull baiting: Tau vs Marines

Kor’Ui Kais watched in dismay as the sensor display of his Devilfish clearly showed that the hulking mass of the giant guer’la war machine that they called a Knight, lumbered forth at a surprising speed towards his position. To his flank a squad of armoured bikes was also advancing on him.

“Shas’O we need support. Someone has to stop this thing!”

“Negative Kor’Ui. The knight is not a priority. Sunforge team will take it out when they arrive. Just try to keep it occupied until then. For the Greater Good.”

That was it. No support was coming. The sensors also showed that none of the other Tau units were even bothering to target the bipedal behemoth. A stream of weapon fire blasted from the vast array of bristing weapons on the alien machine. Kais banked had left and activated countermeasures, hoping to avoid the worst of the weapon fire. If he was to  be a distraction, then he would at least try to keep it distracted for as long as he could.

“For the Greater Good.” he told himself, firm in his resolution to die hard and die well.

My third and final fight of the night was against Eric and his Space Marines. He was using the Ultramarines codex and had a small, elite force, with a major threat at the heart of it. A beautifully painted Imperial Knight.

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Again we had two objectives each to secure, but our main objective was to try to destroy more heavy support units. I only had one heavy support unit, while my opponent had two (his thunderfire cannons). If I could take both of those, I was sure to win the main objective. This was also the first of the battles with night fighting during the first round.

Turn 1: 

We were playing across board corners and I was lucky enough to be the one who picked sides. I selected the side with the launch pad and placed my Hammerhead on it, relatively out of harms way. There was an objective close to were I placed my Devilfish and I had placed an objective in a ruin, where I also placed my fire warriors.

img_3135My opponent placed snipers in a ruin, put his Deadnought in the center and the thunderfire cannons behind the defence lines. His marines were in two combat squads of five. One was in the transport. The other was behind the ruin, with his Librarian. The bike squad was on his right, closest to my vehicles. At the front of his troops was the Imperial Knight. Nearly everything was lined up on his right, ready to attack my left, where I was concentrated. I therefore infiltrated my stealth suits behind the ruin on his left, where he had placed one of his objectives.

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I went first. I decided to overcharge the hammerhead and try to put a large template over the end of the snipers, in order to hit both the snipers and the marines below. It scattered, still hitting two snipers, but they made their cover saves. The smart missiles also hit the snipers and killed one of them. My stealth suits jumped into the building and shot at one of the techmarines, killing him with a fusion blaster shot. My transport and fire warriors also shot at the scouts, but with no effect.

img_3138 The librarian buffed the Knight, to make it twin-linked and did the same to himself. The remaining tech priest tried to blast the stealth suits with the thunderfire cannon, but scattered wide with all the shots. Both teams of marines also shot at the scouts, with the ones in the rhino deploying near them, and hit with a missile, killing the squad leader, who had been put forward to get a clear shot, which unfortunately meant the squad no longer had a homing beacon. The snipers shot my fire warriors, as did one of the Knight’s weapons, killing a couple. Most of the knight’s shots were at the Devilfish, but my 2+ cover save protected me. The dreadnought also failed to shoot the Devilfish. Unfortunately both my fire warriors and stealth suits were routed, which moved them away from the objective I needed for one of my Maelstrom objectives.

Turn 2:

For once the dice gods were not against me and two of my three reserve units came on (a statistically average result). My commander’s squad of drones and my bomber. The Knight fired interceptor at the bomber, but did no damage. My commander had rolled the ability that stops himself scattering, so I brought his drones down quite close to the marine squad from the rhino and blasted them. The marines rolled well on armour rolls and made 14 out of 18 saves, but still lost 4 men. The bomber came on and blasted the dreadnought in the rear, destroying it. My stealth suits rallied and shot the surviving marine, but his armour soaked everything. On my left flank I moved the Devilfish, but staying close enough to claim the objective, and deployed the breacher team close to the marine bikers. They gunned down the biker squad, killing everyone. I also deployed the drones, who jumped into a nearby building, killing one of them. My fire warriors rallied and went back into the building, close to the objective. I was torn between shooting his snipers or the remaining thunderfire cannon with the hammerhead. I thought that the snipers would make easier targets and using the smart missiles I took out two, including the missile launcher and routed the squad.

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The thunderfire cannon scored a good volley of hits on my drones, inflicting 17 wounds that ignored cover. I allowed my commander to take most of them, but took 7 on the drones, losing 4 drones. The commander made all of his 2+ saves.

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Once again the librarian buffed the Knight, to make it twin-linked and did the same to himself. This was a strategy which he continued every turn. The Knight advanced on my Devilfish and the breacher team. He was in a perfect position to charge both. He fired his heavy flamer and his main gun at the breacher team, but didn’t bother to shoot the Devilfish, as none of his other weapons would harm it. The heavy flamer alone took out all the breacher team. He then wanted to charge the Devilfish, but as he had not shot at it and had wiped out the only squad he had shot at, he was unable to assault. I don’t recall who the remaining marines shot at, but their shooting had no effect.

Turn 3:

My crisis suits came in from reserve, but scattered onto the knight. The mishap sent them across the board, where they were placed out of the action by Eric. I was very disappointed, because they could have quite easily destroyed the Knight. Instead, they could contribute nothing at all to the battle. However, it didn’t have much impact on the outcome of the game.

My Hammerhead blasted at the thunderfire cannon, scoring 1 wound on it. My drones and the commander moved towards the tech priest manning the cannon and blasted him. He made all his 2+ armour saves. When my commander fired the tech-priest went to ground, to maximize his cover save against the fusion blasters and survived. My stealth suits just finished off the lone marine. My bomber tried to bomb the marines on his way into reserve, but scattered too far. The drones targeted the thunderfire cannon, with little effect. I moved my Devilfish away from the objective, to give the Knight a choice between pursuing it or taking the objective.

Although he had gone to ground the tech priest could still snap shot. He engulfed the drones with his flamer (are you allowed to use a template weapon when you snap shot) but missed with his other weapons. The Knight shot a load of weaponry at the Devilfish, with little effect. He then assaulted and destroyed it easily. Eric had carefully placed the Knight so that even after assaulting, its huge bade was just within 3″ of the objective. The marines in range fired at my commander and his drones, destroying a few more drones. The two remaining snipers took out one of the bomber’s drones.

Turn 4:

My Hammerhead shot the thunderfire cannon, destroying it. My commander moved to get a clear line to the tech priest and gunned him down too. There was very little else worth shooting at. The remaining marines were clustered around a ruin, posing very little threat and there wasn’t much I could do to kill the Knight just yet. The crisis suits ran and jumped towards the main conflict and the stealth suits failed to blow up the rhino. Down near the Knight, the lone drone that had detached from the Devilfish jumped out to land within 3″ of the same objective as the Knight. As it was part of a troop choice, it was securing the objective.

Eric didn’t need his objective 2 that turn. Instead the Knight turned away and fired everything it had at my commander, killing a few more drones and scoring 1 wound on the commander. The rhino tried to tank shock my drones, forcing them back a little. The other marines and the rhino also targeted my commander, killing one of the two remaining drones. Unfortunately for Eric he had failed to get any Maelstrom objectives, kill my commander or take out a squad. At this point we ran out of time and the game ended.

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I had won both the primary objective, more Maelstrom objectives and two out of 3 secondary objectives. Eric had scored nothing.

Final score: Tau 10, Marines 0

I definitely played better this time, but even so, in the last round I got complacent and didn’t remember to bring my bomber back from rolling reserve. I had concentrated on securing objectives, scoring Maelstrom points and trying to make it harder for my opponent to do the same. There were small things that I could have done better, such as not having my stealth suit squad leader at the front and maybe using my bomber and the drones more effectively, but I still feel that my gameplay has improved a lot over a short period of time. During the whole battle, the first round, when two units on objectives were routed, was the only round in which I failed to get both the Maelstrom objectives that I was going for. Having a fast, mobile army that could deep strike and infiltrate allowed me to fight on both sides of the board effectively and although my squads each served a specific function, they had not been overly specialized.

I don’t want to be too critical of my opponent, but his gameplay reminded me of my first game of the tournament. Like me, he took significant losses early on. As I had done in my battle against Bern, Eric concentrated on destroying the annoyingly evasive transport and threatening units (the commander drone blob), rather than going after objectives and victory points. He had two objectives in his deployment zone, but deployed his troops away from them, focusing on being close to my troops. The main objective was to destroy heavy support choices, but I do not recall him even once bothering to fire at my Hammerhead. He had some very effective units in his army, like the thunderfire cannons and the Knight, but once his bikes were taken out, the rest of his force was far too static. I hope that the tournament was a learning experience for Eric too.

The Marine list was not a bad one. It combined anti tank firepower from the dreadnought with the superb horde killing power of the thunderfire cannons. The Knight had decent firepower for taking out light vehicles and great close combat power. He could have done with some more troops and I really didn’t see any point in the librarian. The librarian concentrated on making the Knight and himself fire twin linked. The army already hits on 3s and could reroll 1s, so it was only a very small buff. The other marines with the librarian served as little more than a meat shield for a unit that seemed to be contributing so little, that I never felt a need to shoot at it.

Thieving Necrons

It probably shows that I am not an experienced player, when I say that I had never played against Necrons before last Sunday. the experience was an ignoble one but still a good learning experience.

The game was intended as a practice for an upcoming mini tournament. I am not taking the tournament too seriously and was just using it as motivation to finish building and painting a few models and to try out some models that I had never fielded before (as well my favorite units). It was a 1250 point list. I had a small fire warrior squad, a breacher team in a transport, my commander had a drone controller and was leading a large squad of drones. I had crisis suits with fusion blasters and a buffmander squad leader. I also had stealth suits with a homing beacon, a hammerhead gunship and a bomber, that had all never seen action.

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My opponent had a Necron force with two night scythes full of troops, an Ark with upgraded armour (13 all around), flayed ones, a large squad of tomb blades with an improved jink and the ability to ignore cover along with two squads of destroyers with a lot of anti tank firepower.

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The game we rolled was relic.

Turn 1:

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I only had deployed first and infiltrated first. He had infiltrated his flayed ones close to the relic, forcing my stealth suits to come in further away. His forces shot at my transport, but due to night fighting and other upgrades, I was able to jink away from all the attacks. His command ability allowed him to cause my units to take pinning tests on turn 1 and they all failed. My tank shot at his heavy troops, but missed. The transport fired ineffectively too.

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Turn 2:

The two flyers came on. One zoomed forward and sat over the infiltrators, blocking my access to the relic. The other Ark moved up to also block my access. Both of them blasted my transport with everything they could. It was good tactics by him and showed that he had his eye on the prize. His infiltrators could relatively safely claim the relic. The other scythe hung back and shot at my tank, as did the tomb blades, who had moved into cover. He scored 1 glancing hit on the transport and the tank.

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Now my reserves came on, although unfortunately not the crisis suits.I should probably have concentrated on killing the flayed ones, but at the time I didn’t realise quite how important the race for the relic would be. Instead I brought the drones down near the destroyers. When they opened fire it pretty completely ineffective. I only inflicted 1 wound.

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My devilfish moved forward a bit, my stealth suits moved into the building for better cover and shot at the Arc, destroying 1 of the many weapons, and my fire-warriors fired ineffectively at the flayed ones. The bomber tried to bomb the flayed ones but missed. However the drones detached and shot one of the night scythes, scoring two hits. As the hammerhead had jinked I moved it at cruising speed and fired snap shots at the damaged night scythe, but it jinked out of the way.

Turn 3:

The damaged night scythe raced over to attack my drones and commander. He deployed his troops, who shot a lot of the drones. The destroyers lent their support, killing a few more and badly injuring the commander. The other night scythe took its place. The Arc and the troops inside shot at my devilfish and due to some poor jink rolls, managed to destroy it, scoring first blood.  The flayed ones ran for cover with the relic. I hadn’t realised that it could be moved and had nothing close enough to pursue them. The tomb blades shot ineffectively at the hammerhead, but did manage to force it to jink.

It was pretty clear that I was losing badly, despite the relatively low number of casualties. Fortunately the crisis suits came on, close enough to the stealth suits to use their teleport homer, and easily destroyed the Arc. The commander and his drones tried to finish off the damaged night scythe, but missed. My drones and hammerhead shot at the other night scythe, but it jinked out of the way. My bomber tried to bomb the destroyers, but did no damage. Most of the rest of the shooting was equally ineffective.

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Because we were practicing for a tournament we had given ourselves the same 1.5 hour time limit. We were virtually there and called the game. He had the relic and first blood. I only scored line breaker.

Necron victory: 4 : 1

There were a lot of things to learn from this. The main one was, go for the goal. I should have gone all out for the relic from the start. My commander could have done some damage there with his drones. When kill points don’t matter, I should not worry about conserving my troops. This is especially true in a timed game, where we will be stopped by the clock.

The drones from the bomber did quite well, but the bomber itself was not very effective. My hammerhead was jinking too often to shoot effectively. I need to think more about whether to bother jinking or not. I should also put more firepower against the night scythes as soon as they appear. Wrecking that and inflicting str 10, AP2 hits against all the troops inside would be the easiest way to take them out.

I also need to remember all my abilities. I didn’t remember the seeker missiles on my bomber or the upgrade to the commander, causing a unit’s weapons to get hot. There are too many things that I am forgetting.

It was a pretty strange game. Both armies proved very survivable. Only two transports were destroyed and a few drones smashed. My jinking and his armour combined with regeneration saved the rest.