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.

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Tyranid surprise counter-attack

“Men of the 4th.  In recognition of your courage and skill in defeating the tyranid horde you have been chosen to have the honor of taking up the arms and armour of your fallen comrades of the first company.  Remember to always do justice to the long and illustrious service which those arms have seen.  We must be ever vigilant.  Today we defeated the xenos, but their threat always remains.  There is no telling where they will next strike.”

Chaplain Camillus, an hour before the second battle of the Bonville plains

Ben made a few adjustments to his army list and decided to try to use the deep striking and tunneling abilities of his tyranids to better effect this time.  My force remained mostly the same, but instead of the scouts in the speeder I took Lamachus’ close combat dreadnought.  (Five of my troops had been promoted to replace the badly maimed or dead veterans and five scouts had taken their place in the tactical squad.)

Rolling for campaign, we were fighting another annihilation game, deploying along the long sides of the board.

Turn 1:  Lamachus arrived in a drop pod to find an empty battlefield, with no sign of tyranids.

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Turn 2:  The tyranids appeared.  Ben had hoped to have the trygon create a tunnel through which everything else could attack.  However all his units, except the trygon, arrived on the second turn.  Most of them came in from reserve on his board edge.  He was so disappointed at them all arriving before the trygon that he forgot that the gene stealers could infiltrate and instead brought them on from his board edge.  However his mawloc came up under my tactical squad, smashing through them and killing four of them.

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Turning our weapons on the mawloc and making use of our hellfire rounds and missiles we brought down the mawloc, whilst Lamacus advanced on the gene stealer horde.

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Turn 3:  The gene stealers and tyranid warriors rushed across the battlefield and a trygon appeared, exactly where the mawloc had died.  It unleashed its lighning on the sternguard, killing two of them.  My marines were getting a strong feeling of deja-vu.

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My troops opened fire on the trygon, but I underestimated it.  I had Teucer advance out of the way of the snipers and fire at the gene stealers, to support Lamachus.  Due to some unlucky roles the trygon was left on a single wound.

Lamachus fired his heavy flamer and assaulted the gene stealers, crushing three of them. They were barely able to get a glancing hit, merely preventing him from firing, and were routed by him.  He chased the fleeing unit, killing them all.

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Turn 4: Realising that his warriors did not have rending claws and that none of them could possibly harm Lamachus, the tyranid warriors ran around the drop pod, trying to advance, whilst keeping clear of my dreadnought.  The trygon blasted my tactical squad and assaulted them, wiping the out, but failing to injure Camillus, who was part of the squad.  Camillus failed to injure the trygon.

My devastators fired at the advancing warriors, killing a couple.  Teucer moved to assault the trygon, despite having no close combat weaponry, but failed to injure it.

Turn 5:  The trygon continued its assault on Camillus, failing to harm him, but finally falling to a blow from his crozius arcanum.  The remainder of my troops opened fire on the tyranid warriors, killing all but the tyranid prime.

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turn 6:  The game didn’t end, but we didn’t even bother playing this out.  The tyranid prime was unable to get into melee range or to escape and was most certainly gunned down.

The man of the match this time was Lamachus.  A dreadnought seems to be an extremely effective way of stopping a horde army that has little or no anti-armour melee capability.  He pretty much took on all the troops single handedly, leaving the rest of the army free to kill the big critters.

The trygon is an effective unit, but unless there is a very large force of tyranids in reserve, the subterranean attack ability cannot be relied upon.  It was the most effective unit opposed to me, but even it barely managed to take out its own points worth of troops.  My total casualties were 12 troops, worth 240 points.  Deep striking with some units is definitely the way forward and if he remembers to infiltrate, then the gene stealers will be a lot more dangerous.  The trouble Ben’s tyranids seem to have is with the warriors.  They are very effective in close combat, but it is only in the later stages of the battle that they can get close enough.  They haven’t been able to properly unleash their killing potential, and it is not obvious how they might.