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.

Summoning the summoners

This was another practice game for me, using the same army as I did against the Necrons.

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My opponent was using a gene-stealer cult force. It was an interesting force to play against. He had two progenitors, leading his tyranids. One was in a formation, leading a very large swarm. The other was only leading a small force of gene stealers. There were 3 tanks with the exterminator configuration, las cannons and heavy bolter sponsons (although one was nor wysiwyg). He also had two sorcerors leading squads of cultists. The force was made from 2 CADs. In total he had 4 psykers and two of them were summoners.

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We were playing a total war, purge the alien game with straight kill points.

Turn 1:

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Fortunately my opponent rolled a 1 on his cult ambush for his big formation and set up by his board edge. I raced my transport forward and blasted at the tyranid horde with my hammerhead, missing. The horde raced forward and the tanks shot at my transport from all directions, but it jinked out of the way.

Turn 2:

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My reserves started to arrive. The drones came down, close enough to the stealth suits to avoid scattering, ready to blast the tyranid horde. I underestimated how hard they would be to kill and held the breachers in the transport, fearing an ambush from his reserves, rather than deploying them too. This proved to be a mistake. I did deploy the other drones,  from the devilfish, to lend their support. My bomber came in and, net being able to overshoot and bomb the horde, lent it’s firepower to the same target. Between them they killed most of the tyranids, but their 5+invulnerable save got a lot of lucky roll.

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My opponent brought in a squad of cultists and his other progenitor, with the gene stealers. However, the two units with the sorcerors both failed their reserve rolls. Progenitor 1 rushed forward to attack the drones. Progenitor 2 came in close to my hammerhead.

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The tank on my left flank blasted the drones, destroying many of them. The cultists also shot them with their pistols. The progenitor and tyranids then charged in, losing a couple of gene stealers and reducing the warlord to 2 wounds from overwatch. They then ripped my drones to pieces, taking a kill point and first blood. Amazingly my warlord made his morale roll with a -5.

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The other tanks blasted my transport, but only succeeded in inflicting one wound and destroying the gun.

Tyranids 2, Tau 0

Turn 3:

This turn my crisis suit tank killers arrived. They dropped down close to the central tank, but scattered further than 9″ from it. They still scored two hits, one of which caused it to explode. My bomber raced forward, dropping a bomb on the cultists, killing several. The stealth suits shot a few more, leaving only 1 alive. The drones detached and moved behind the tank, to shoot it in the rear. My tank moved away from the gene stealers and tried to blast them with a large blast and its smaller missiles, killing three of them.

cofHowever, I was very stupid and forgot to fire any of the attacks at the left tank, from either my drones or my flyer. I jumped the crisis suits towards the right lank, but also forgot to do the assault phase for my commander.

My opponent rolled double 1s for his reserve roll. Neither summoner appeared. He pulled back his lone cultist and the second progenitor into rolling reserve, having them go back into hiding. One tank shot my flyer drones, destroying them. The other tank blasted my crisis suits, but only inflicted a single wound. The tyranids and progenitor attacked the warlord, but failed to kill him. He struck back, killing one of them.

At this point an hour and a half had passed. Had we been in the tournament, we would have ended the game. He had 3 victory points, I had line breaker, giving me 2; however my opponent also had 4 squads and 3 HQ in reserve, giving me an extra 7 victory points. It would have been 3:9 victory to me, due to the bad luck he had on reserve rolls, and most certainly not due to any good tactics on my part. However, we continued.

Turn 4:

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I had very little left to shoot at. My stealth suits moved a bit closer to the tank, shooting it with a fusion blaster, but doing nothing. I should probably have sent my flyer into rolling reserve, but did not know at the time that if he left the board, he would come on again the next turn. My crisis suits managed to get close enough to the tank on the right to destroy it, although it did not explode. I then foolishly forgot to jet pack them back towards the main battlefield.

This is when my opponents luck improved. All his reserves came in. He then rolled well on his psychic powers. The summoners summoned a 10 man squad of cultists, fully equipped with assorted heavy weapons, and a 20 man squad similarly equipped. With all his forces back on the board and hundreds of points extra, the battlefield was completely changed.

He fired h vast number of shots at my stealth suits, killing two of them. He then gunned down my two drones and shot up my transport, fortunately having little effect.

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The Tyranids then finished off my commander; something which was long overdue.

GSC 6, Tau 2.

Turn 5:

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My tank blasted at the newly arrived troops, targeting a squad with a summoner. His main weapon took out a couple of men and the smaller missiles took out the rest of the squad. The fire-warriors then gunned down the sorceror. My stealth suit killed the lone cultist. This scored me 3 more kill points. At the back of the board, behind the ruins, a newly summoned squad of ten were hiding in a crater, left by the first destroyed tank. My breacher team deployed and blasted them, gunning down most of the squad, but as they went to ground I only killed 7 of them. I then messed up the rules and assaulted them. We both forgot that after deploying they could not assault. I only realised my mistake when writing this battle report. They killed the remaining cultists and rallied in the crater. I also tried to blast the warlord with my flyer, but only took out another tyranid. Being far removed from the main action, I completely forgot to either move or jet pack my crisis suits.

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My opponent summoned another small unit of troops, over near my tank.Most of his troops advanced on my breacher team, gunning most of them down, but not wiping them out, as they had gone to ground in the crater. His warlord monster assaulted my last stealth suit, killing it.

Final score:

Gene Stealer Cult 7: Tau 7

It was a draw, but it didn’t deserve to be. I had made so many stupid mistakes. Some of these cost me badly, such as forgetting to shoot his third tank when it was most vulnerable and bringing my crisis suits back into the action. Some could have favored either of us, like nor assaulting with my warlord, which would have got him killed, but allowed me to gun down the enemy warlord when there was little else on the table. One definitely aided me; assaulting with my breacher team.

As well as they blatant errors there were lacks of understanding. I didn’t realise that detaching the drones would allow my opponent to get more kill points. I didn’t know about the rolling reserve of flyers (this battle was before I fought the Necrons and was my first ever use of a flyer).

In a tournament the clock and the unlucky reserve rolls would have given me victory, but I feel certain that my opponent deserved to win.

Ambushing the ambushers

Last week I had my first game against a gene-stealer cult. I was also experimenting with an army list that I had not tried before.

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My force included a small group of pathfinders with 3 rail rifles, my broadside, a small fire warrior squad with a support turret and my two main squads. The first was a breacher team in a devil fish, led by an ethereal, as this had proved so useful in the past. The other was a squad of gun turrets led by a commander with a drone control link and counterfire defence system. After a lot of reading on the internet and talk with people in store, it seems that this is one of the few combinations that works through a drone controller. Thus my drones all effectively have BS5 and fire overwatch at BS2, twin linked. I had considered getting something to let them ignore cover, but decided against it, as in bigger games I want my crisis suit deathball to have that. I want to see how they get on without it.

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My opponent had a genestealer cult with two Leman Russ tanks and a couple of psychic HQ choices.

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Turn 1: The game started with very little on the board. My opponent had his tanks and one squad behind a building. I had my breacher transport, the small fire warrior squad and the broadside. Everything else was in reserve.

My opponent stole the initiative and his tanks gunned down my broadside. First blood to the GSC. My transport raced forward and there was a bit of shooting at the hidden squad, killing 2 men.

Victory points: GSC: 2, Tau: 0.

Turn 2: Oh no! All my opponents reserves came on.

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Two squads, with the psykers, rolled 5s fhe third squad rolled a 6 and would have been able to assault, but the hail of las gun fire predictably killed everybody in the squad. The tanks shot at the devilfish, but only scored 1 hit, with little effect. Fortunately my other units were not on the board, or things would have been a lot worse.

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Now it was my turn to hit back. My ethereal had a homing beacon, so my commander and the drones could safely drop within 6″. I lined them up so that they could all shoot at two of his squads, including the one with his general. My ethereal gave the breachers an extra shot each and they deployed, ready to gun down another squad. They scored 11 wounds, killing everyone except the HQ, who was badly wounded. My commander got a good hit with his airburst fragmentation launcher, scoring 8 wounds. The drones scored a further 16, completely killing the whole squad and the general.

Across the board, my pathfinders came on and shot a tank in the rear, scoring a penetrating hit, but rolling 1 for the effect.

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Victory points: GSC 3, Tau 3.

Round 3:

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The GSC infantry tried to shoot my drones, killing a few. The lone psyker made the mistake of joining up with them. The tanks turned themselves back to back, to protect their rears. One turned to shoot my pathfinders, killing the three with rail guns and routing them. The other shot at my devilfish, scoring another hit and destroying the weapon.

My commander and drones moved to get a clear line of sight on the infantry squad, gunning them down with the greatest of ease. The breacher team boarded the devilfish and raced across the battlefield.

victory points: GSC 3, Tau 5

Round 4: The tanks concentrated fire on my devilfish, but failed to score a clean hit. The infantry in the building managed to shoot one more of my drones.

I had no weapons which could harm the tanks either from in front or the side. I detached the drones from my devilfish and left them to shoot at the infantry, scoring two lucky hits. The devilfish raced around the building, hoping to get behind the tanks. My drones tried to move across my side of the battlefield, running and jumping to get into more cover, trying to approach the tanks from the opposite side.

victory points: GSC 3, Tau 5 (far enough forward to get 6 at the end)

Round 5: One tank shot at my devilfish, but didn’t destroy it. The other shot at my drone squad, killing several of them. My drones had got around the building and shot at the troops inside, ineffectually. I made the mistake of assaulting with the drones. They were gunned down by very lucky opportunity fire.  I then moved my devilfish forward, hoping that it might survive being rammed, so that the infantry could disembark far enough forward to run around the tank. My pathfinders rallied, but were too far away to do anything useful.

victory points: GSC 3, Tau 5.

Round 6:  It all goes horribly wrong. The tank rammed my devilfish, destroying it. The troops inside made an emergency disembarkation. The tank then gunned down half of the squad.  Instead of gunning down the shattered squad, I made the mistake of trying to run the squad forward, to get past the tank. My commander and the drones moved forward as fast as possible.  The pathfinders just moved to line up with their marker lights.

Victory points: GSC 4, Tau 5.

Round 7: One tank gunned down my breachers and the commander. The three extra victory points meant that it looked like it was all over and we almost called the game. The other shot up my commander, reducing him to 1 wound and killing all but 2 of the drones.

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The commander and the drones shot the other tank in the rear, destroying it completely. He then jumped forward far enough to score line breaker.

Battle ends.

Victory points: GSC: 7, Tau: 7. A draw.

Review: Firstly, I love the drone death ball. Fast moving and extremely deadly. This was a very close game. When the GSC came in so close I was worried, but there was very little for them to kill. If the GSC had not stolen initiative they would have hurt me badly. My aggressive tactics were too focused on the tanks and not enough on victory points. I really should not have ignored those last 4 infantry guys and I definitely need to give the commander a ranged weapon which can hurt tanks.