Posts Tagged ‘Tau’

I can’t seem to stop buying books at the moment. There’s no reason why I should keep buying them – I still have Jailbird, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, and Volume I of the Complete Short Stories of Philip K Dick to look at from when I moved into the garret, not to mention Collected Stories of W. Somerset Maugham and The Painted Veil which I’ve picked up since. And you would have thought that, upon (finally) finishing The Complete Father Brown Stories, I would have got stuck into one or other of these.

And thus was the plan: I packed the Collected Somerset Maugham into my knapsack ahead of my recent trip away (all right, World War Hulk was in there too, just in case I fancied a change of pace). But I popped into Waterstones to use the loo on the way to the bus station and while I was in there (Waterstones, not the toilet) I found a rather lovely imported edition of The Tale of Genji. So I bought that, even though it is a bulky beast, and not to be undertaken lightly.

Then on Tuesday I found myself in Market Harborough and passed up the various fleshy indulgences of Cafe Nero and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill in order to do a quick sweep of the charity shops. There were the usual large numbers of discarded copies of Life of Pi (one day I will go into an Oxfam or Age Concern and find the bookshelves stocked entirely with 500 copies of Life of Pi). In my defence I will point out I resisted the urge to buy Brave New World and the collected scripts of Round the Horne. Nevertheless I emerged with Canal Dreams by Banksy and Fabulous Harbours, a fascinating collection of mid-to-late-period Michael Moorcock which may yet prove vital in my quest to assimilate the works of the bearded titan. So I ended with three new books over the weekend, and it’s not even as if I’m reading that fast these days (the last book I finished in one sitting was – er – World War Hulk, and I know what that says about me).

You may be thinking that there’s not a lot of wargaming in this supposedly-wargame-related blog post. And you would be right, except that I am attempting to communicate something of the quality of my wargaming experience this week, which – likewise – did not contain a lot of wargaming.

I wound up playing a Tau army at 1000 points, which, as usual, necessitated some mental arithmetic which I cocked up. The dice suggested we play a mission entitled Vertical Envelopment. The scenario is that the two armies line up face to face no closer than 18″ apart, and the winner is the one who destroys the most units in the opposing army.

Now I don’t usually knock the Battle Missions book but this scenario just seems to invite the Tau to set up well back in their deployment zone and just go shooty-shoot-shoot: it plays entirely to their strengths (with the addition that they can bring their piranhas and hammerheads on behind the enemy army if they so choose), and they get the first turn (i.e. shooting phase) on a 2+.

And so it transpired, with the Blood Angels staggering forward through a hail of fire in a vain attempt to engage the Tau up close. When I got to initiate assaults, the Blood Angels effortlessly destroyed whatever they contacted, even though it was only two vampire-marines against a full Tau squad on both occasions. And the downside was that the assault units were left hung out to dry in the aftermath of the assault of both occasions and didn’t survive the Tau counterfire.

Well, anyway, I’m not going to attempt a full blow-by-blow partly because I can’t remember which Tau units shot up which ones of mine (I will say that the Tau do seem to get an awful lot of models at 1K though). And it wasn’t as if I was wiped out by the end of turn 6, when the game ended: I had a tactical marine with a missile launcher hanging in there. Nevertheless I had lost 5 units and only managed to kill some Kroot, some pathfinders, a piranha and some stealthsuits, so it was a 5-4 win for the Tau.

Not, you would think from looking at the score, a terrible drubbing, but still unsatisfactory. The game only lasted about thirty minutes, because the Tau were mainly just using their shooting phase and I was mostly moving and then running. And on the bus home I realised my army had actually only totalled 940 points and I could have given the Death Company their rhino transport. I can’t imagine how this game would have gone if they’d been mobile: as it was they lost 7 out of 10 troopers in the first Tau shooting phase (nearly a quarter of the points cost of the army).

Even before this game I had been thinking that my army relied too much on the Death-and-Meph combo to contest games and this performance only confirmed that (I didn’t take Mephiston; I wouldn’t at 1000 points, it’s just uncivilised). The usual issues: I need more bodies, more long-range anti-tank shooting, maybe some more transports… hrmmp.

So at least I got out of the shop early for once, anyway. After enjoying my chicken royale meal from a well-known fast food restaurant chain, I found I had a few minutes before the bus back to the garret. So I popped into Waterstone’s again for a casual look around and maybe a bit of a browse (no Moorcock on the shelves at all – and they call themselves a bookshop) and emerged, admittedly sheepish, with a crisp new copy of Yippi-Ki-Ay Moviegoer! by Vern. Vern does a good job of appearing to be a complete moron but his film reviews are subtle and extremely funny, and a definite incitement to me to raise my own game. And if I’d had a more satisfying game this week (or, alternately, checked my sums) I might never have bought it. So, you know, silver linings and all.

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Well, what a tremendous game we enjoyed this week, even if it was the type after which one requires a degree of therapy. Let me achieve some kind of catharsis by sharing it with you… Points value was 1500 again, my opponent was playing Tau in the conventional modern style (minimum Fire Warriors, multiple Battlesuit units) and the mission that came up was Mobile Defence.



I gambled on getting the first turn (something which would shape the entire battle) and set up aggressively near the centre right with Guardians, Wraithlord, Farseer and Banshees. Closer to my own edge some Scorpions and Dark Reapers occupied a ruined building overlooking an objective. Waaay off to the left Pathfinders deployed in some rocks close to another objective, War Walkers not far off. The entire Tau firebase deployed opposite the bulk of my own army. The first shooting phase would prove key.

And the Tau got the first chance to shoot. This seemed devastating at the time as the Guardians were wiped out entirely, and the Wraithlord and Farseer were both reduced to a single wound. For a while all I did was firefight, throwing the Banshees into the Kroot skirmish line the Tau were hiding behind and pulling the Scorpions deeper into cover. The Kroot were slaughtered but this left the Banshees totally exposed to the Tau plasma rifles and missile pods the next turn.

The Tau killed the Banshees and Wraithlord and then concentrated on trying to mop up the Scorpions and Reapers, diverting a few units off to the left to deal with the War Walkers and Pathfinders. The War Walkers did particularly well in devastating a Stealthsuit unit, but once out in the open could not hope to withstand the Tau railgun fire. (The surviving Stealthsuit mowed down the Farseer – whose singing spear bounced off this unusually resilient individual – before jetting off towards the Pathfinders.)

My keenly tuned tactical brain (yes, I know, this is intended ironically) had recovered from seeing my entire front line massacred and I realised this game was a lot closer than it looked: I almost certainly couldn’t win, but a draw looked very achievable. The Pathfinders holding the objective on the left had a 2+ cover save and the Tau would really struggle to kill them. The Tau had only a single scoring unit left as well, so they would have to deny the Pathfinders control of the objective to get a 1-0 win on objectives.

Bearing this in mind, rather than ramming the Wave Serpent full of Wraithguard into the heart of the Tau army when it arrived, I brought it on in cover behind the Pathfinders. A Tau Devilfish was already contesting their objective with Battlesuits moving up behind it.

For the next few turns the game was poised on a knife-edge – would I be able to keep the Tau away from the Pathfinders’ objective? Despite the brightlances and shuriken cannon on the vehicle, and the Wraithcannon of the constructs, it proved infuriatingly difficult to destroy, and I couldn’t eliminate it until turn six – the dice had already gone my way by extending the game once. Long-range railgun fire had already knocked both weapons off the Serpent and when the Wraithcannon eventually blew the Devilfish to pieces I was very relieved – the only downside was that the explosion cut down the Warlock overseeing the Wraithguard unit.

We entered the final turn with only the Tau Commander and his bodyguard capable of contesting the objective and winning the Tau the game. Their plasma rifles and missile pods battered at the Pathfinders but their camo protected them again. They were just out of assault range. We were left with only my turn to go in what had to be the final turn of the game.

Whether I drew or lost the game now depended on whether I could kill or otherwise roust away from the objective the enemy Commander and his bodyguard. I had the Pathfinders, four Wraithguard and the weaponless Serpent to do it with. I started by tank shocking with the Wave Serpent: the bodyguard, somewhat surprisingly, attempted a death-or-glory attack but was crushed by the tank’s leading edge, and the Commander fell back a little, now alone and exposed to the Wraithguard and their cannon. I made to roll for their advance towards him when my opponent looked at the unit and said:


With the Warlock dead the constructs were now subject to this rule. Briskly I nodded and rolled the dice, and it was with what seemed at the time like genuine physical pain that I saw it land with the 1 uppermost. The Wraithguard froze into immobility leaving me with no realistic chance of shifting the Tau Commander. Possibly I should have gone for broke and assaulted him with the Pathfinders, but I was so stunned at the Wraithguard locking up on me that I wasn’t thinking straight. He rode out their volley of longrifle fire and the game ended in a win to the Tau, but of the closest possible kind.

Well, given I was expecting to be tabled after the absolute hammering I took on turn one, hanging in there for such a close result is something, I suppose. I’m pleased with my ability to focus on mission objectives rather than simply generating slaughter, which was the key to how this game turned out (one I suspect I’ll remember for a long time).

My low opinion of Eldar Guardians has not changed, though this is possibly unfair given that literally all they did in this game was deploy. Certainly Pathfinders seem like a unit with much more going for them, even though they’re three times as expensive – in decent cover they’re normally almost impossible to shift except in an assault. Then again they’re not very mobile and almost useless against even lightly armoured vehicles. Luckily I have plenty lurking in the bottom of my case waiting to be painted.

The other thing that would really have helped this game (other than better dice) would have been an increased ability to take the fight to the Tau at close quarters. Need to get those Harlequins and the Falcon finished. That said, the Tau Battlesuits were spectacular and I had nothing to counter them, either – so there I basically, long-range anti-tank firepower. (Even decent long-range anti-infantry weapons to deal with his Fire Warriors and Pathfinders). I suspect I’m thinking about a Night Spinner, as there’s nothing in the Eldar list that can outrange a Hammerhead or Broadside, and at least the Spinner could shoot without being a target.

Anyway, a great game that I can’t feel too raw about, given how close it went and the great spirit in which it was played. Plenty of ideas of what the army needs doing to it, as well. In many ways I think I’d rather scrape through a close game like this than effortlessly overpower someone… some of the time, anyway.

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