Tuesday, April 30, 2013

40K Battle Brothers - Day One Battle Reports

Here's the first three games from our weekend at Warhammer World. I posted our list up yesterday for those who are interested.

Game One - Titanic Fenrisians vs. GK/DA
Our opponents, Chris and Elliot, were also fielding a similarly equipped dreadknight (no sword) supported by 5 GK terminators with a grand master, 5 DA scouts behind a quad gun aegis, 5 DW terminators and 5 DW knights with Belial. The GK terminators wouldn't do our dreadknights any favours if we got too close thanks to psyk-out grenades and the deathwing knights would be no picnic either as they'd be likely to "Smite" a dreadknight down.

We were playing Crusade (5) on Hammer and Anvil. Our opponents won the first turn and deployed with terminators on each side and the scouts within the aegis line in the back corner. Belial and the DW knights would be deepstriking. We deployed with our two dreadknights either side of our strike squad hoping they'd jump the dreadknight far enough for us to get in combat and bring it down turn one. They didn't take the bait of course.

Belial and co. dropped in behind our lines on an objective. With Coteaz having rolled the Misfortune power we were pleased when they landed in his line of sight. Sadly they triggered a booby trapped objective and decided to run to get out of the blast range meaning they were now totally obscured by a building. Instead Coteaz was able to misfortune the GK terminators and with Prescience his strike squad was able to force 17 saves with re-rolls. They failed 7 killing all but a single terminator and taking the grand master out for First Blood. My drop pod came down and through total fluke and support from a heavy incinerator the hunters managed to kill 4 DW terminators! Needless to say we felt like utter bastards already having caused so much pain so early.

We were keeping Belial and co. at a distance but the remaining terminator and dreadknight charged into combat with my Space Wolves. They killed 4-5 grey hunters between them but thanks to denying a challenge from the dreadknight I was able to spare my rune priest. The grey hunters killed off the terminator in return but were unable to hurt the dreadknight. Luckily one of our own dreadknights was in the vicinity so we managed to get some knight on knight action. Ours managed to get a single wound through and instant deathed theirs. In response theirs also got a single wound through but rolled an 11 to activate the force weapon. Gutted.

From then on we were able to incinerate the scouts with the other dreadknight and then the wolf priest arrived to kill off the last terminator before he and his squad claimed two objectives between them (as he'd become scoring thanks to warlord traits). We baited Belial with some acolytes who came on from reserve which left him in the open and easily gunned down. The acolytes were cut down to a single man but somehow managed to regroup just before the board edge.

All that was left now were the DW knights who sadly failed a charge against our recently teleported dreadknight. This left them within 3" of an objective and when we charged they were unable to finish off our dreadknight (even with Smite) and were still locked in combat when the game ended on turn 5. With one objective contested and the knights in our deployment zone were able to claim 4 objectives and 3 secondaries to give us a 15-1 win. Had we gotten a further turn, both the strike squad and second dreadknight would've been in with the DW knights and I'm sure we'd have claimed all 18. Can't complain at such an excellent start to the day though. Thanks to our opponents for staying in good humour as they removed models.

Game Two - Titanic Fenrisians vs. Tyranids
When we saw 2 tervigons and two carnifexes we were almost embarassed that we'd got Jaws on our rune priest. Our opponents, Emmy and Peter, also had 3x17 hormagaunts, 20 gargoyles, deathleaper and a mawloc. We'd be playing the Scouring on Dawn of War deployment.

Our opponents took turn one and advanced forwards (of course). We landed our drop pod behind the advancing bugs and were properly ashamed when we realised our opponents had never heard of Jaws. Sure enough the rune priest was able to cut down a tervigon (the other had been quite literally corked so would spawn no more termagants) and one of the carnifexes with a single strike. Elsewhere the dreadknights incinerated a handful of hormagaunts and the same of gargoyles whilst the strike squad gunned down the remaining carnifex with ruthless efficiency. The deathleaper appeared near the rune priest's squad waiting to pounce whilst a squad of hormagaunts charged the grey hunters cutting down a whopping 5 marines! The response was brutal though with 9 tyranids dying and without synapse they fled. The gargoyles could do nothing to the dreadknight who cut them down in combat. The other dreadknight might be in trouble though as he was fighting something like 30 hormagaunts with the remaining tervigon making them Fearless.

Sadly for our opponents Matt was on form with his 2+ saves though. The rune priest lined up to Jaws both the deathleaper and second tervigon but both passed their initiative tests with 2s. The tervigon was shot at by the recently arrived wolf priest and his squad who, with help from the strike squad, brought it down to two wounds. The dreadknight incinerator then charged some spawned termagants too. The drop pod fired at the fleeing gaunts killing one and forcing them to run again, taking them off the board.

The mawloc appeared directly under the wolf priests squad who I'd stupidly bunched together costing me 7 grey hunters. They ignored the MC though in favour of charging in to clear some hormagaunts
from the dreadknight who was now down to a single wound. A third Jaws attempted failed on a roll of 11 but the tervigon was gunned down by the strike squad and the other dreadknight killed off Deathleaper. Our opponents now only had a Mawloc and half a dozen termagants. In a somewhat dirty move we decided to hold off on charging the Mawloc with our dreadknight to buy us some time to get our troops onto another objective to give us as many points as possible from the game. The strike squad killed off the termagants in combat and consolidated onto the 4-pointer whilst our acolytes finally made it to a 3-pointer. Both dreadknights then charged in and killed the Mawloc, ending the game. Apologies to our opponents for the horrible tactics and equally nasty Jaws. With a 4, 3, 3 and 2 point objective, 3 secondaries and a bonus for killing a Fast Attack choice we'd scored 16-0 but felt dirty doing it.

Game Three - Titanic Fenrisians vs. Space Marines (Red Scorpions)
We were convinced that in some sort of karmic retribution we'd be facing triple Heldrakes to balance out the lucky draws we'd got in the first two rounds. We were pleasantly surprised then to face Space Marines. Sam and David had Lysander with terminators in a raider, a vindicator, 5 scouts and three drop pods with a tactical squad, sternguard and dreadnought. We'd be playing Big Guns on Vanguard Strike.

Once again we failed to get first turn which probably helped as our opponents only had a couple of things to deploy and it allowed us to get cover from the vindicator. In a jammy couple of rolls Matt got a scatterfield on both objectives meaning, with Night Fighting, that our dreadknight and strike squad were getting 2+ saves to the vindicator meaning it was unable to kill anything turn one. They brought in the tactical squad and dreadnought either side of one our dreadknights and despite hitting with the multi-melta on snap fire they were unable to harm the dreadknight with it's jammy 3+ cover saves.

We brought our pod in behind the vindicator and wrecked it with melta, bolters and lightning. The dreadknight and strike squad combined to gun down the tactical squad whilst the other dreadknight smashed the dreadnought in combat. You may not believe us but yet again we felt pretty terrible! The exciting thing was that Sam managed to roll a dice that landed on it's corner which seemed to have a devastating effect on the mind of Coteaz who rolled double 6 followed by double 1 for his powers leaving him with a single wound.

The land raider advanced and spewed its occupants out but unfortunately, after gunning down a grey knight with the raider's guns, they found themselves outside charge range. The response was brutal with the strike squad and heavy incinerator combining to kill a couple of terminators and badly wound Lysander. The dreadknight challenged Lysander and finished him off. Elsewhere the sternguard had arrived and somehow didn't kill the other dreadknight. A combination of fire from the rune priest's squad and dreadknight incinerator then charge, finished them off. The wolf priest and his squad arrived and started to gun down the scouts despite their 2+ save. In the next round of combat the dreadknight killed a terminator and the others broke and managed to get away.

Coteaz decided to try and Misfortune the remaining terminators but double 6'd killing himself! Luckily he wasn't our Warlord. The terminators were then gunned down anyway without the need for Coteaz to have killed himself. Elsewhere, one dreadknight wrecked the land raider whilst the other teleported to incinerate the remaining scout allowing the wolf priest's squad to claim the objective. The drop pods were finished off with shooting leaving our opponents tabled. With two heavies killed, all four objectives and 3 secondaries we'd scored 17-0 this time.

An incredibly lucky day for us. We know our list is great against some armies but weak against others and frankly we got the right opponents in all three games. We didn't play our games badly but I'd say all of our opponents felt it was an uphill struggle. We'd like to thank them for being in good humour despite what we were doing to their armies. This is where the random pairings that GW employs doesn't actually create a friendly atmosphere. It worked great for us but our opponents probably had miserable games. That's the thing with 40K. If you're tabling people then often neither side enjoys it.

Great start with 48 pts from day one but I was even more sure we'd get triple heldrakes on day two!

Monday, April 29, 2013

40K Battle Brothers - Tournament Aftermath

Once again, Matt and I were down at Warhammer World this weekend for the 40K Battle Brothers (which replaced GW's doubles events). After toying with taking a Tau/GK list, we tested it out against Graham and Andy from Claws and Fists and decided that it wasn't as good as we thought. Therefore, we returned to our old faithful Titanic Fenrisians (GK/SW) with the following list:

1500pts of Titanic Fenrisians
10-man Strike Squad (Psybolt, 2 Psycannons)
2 x 3 Warrior Acolytes
1 x 4 Warrior Acolyes
Nemesis Dreadknight (Teleporter, Heavy Incinerator, Greatsword)
Nemesis Dreadknight (Teleporter, Heavy Incinerator)

Wolf Priest (Saga of the Hunter, Plasma Pistol)
Rune Priest (Runic Armour, Jaws, Lightning)
10 Grey Hunters (Plasma, Melta, Wulfen, Standard)
9 Grey Hunters (Melta, Wulfen, Standard) in a drop pod

Not a huge difference from the previous incarnations of our doubles army. The thunderwolves are gone sadly but they're replaced by a Rune Priest and the Purifiers are swapped for a full strength Strike Squad.

As you can see, some lists would be no problem for us whilst others, particularly flyers, would be almost impossible for us to beat. Flyers don't bother us too much though as they're mostly geared up for killing either other flyers or else ground vehicles. The only exception being Heldrakes with baleflamers which would totally decimate our army if we met them in multiples.

After our previous issue with an army list error I made sure I checked this thoroughly. For those wondering, Space Wolves can still have two HQ when taken as allies (see FAQ). Pretty sure I haven't missed anything else.

As you can see from yesterday's post we somehow managed to win the event! No-one was as shocked as I was though! We knew we'd done well of course but we've been in that situation before and come away with nothing thanks to the scoring system.

We'd been talking to some friends of ours (who we met/played at previous doubles) who'd been scoring similar numbers of points to us. Nick, one of the organisers said during the ceremony that it'd come down to favourite game votes. We knew we were 2 VPs behind at least one team who'd won all five games like us and had been told we'd received favourite game votes by one of our opponents. When they announced second place we were sure we'd missed out again but despite them spelling it wrong it was amazing to see Titanic Fenrisians appear on the screen as champions!

As you might recall from one of my other doubles events write ups I had a massive whine about the inclusion of favourite game votes into the overall tournament scores. In a previous event this had dropped us from 2nd to 4th as we hadn't had any votes. This time around we managed to achieve 5 out of 10 votes somehow despite winning our games. This gave us the win over second place who'd scored 3 votes. I have to say a huge thanks to our opponents who voted for us because quite literally we couldn't have done it without them.

Favourite Game Votes
So have I changed my opinion of fave game votes as they allowed us to win the tournament? Short answer, no.

I can understand that the atmosphere that GW want to create is one where people don't feel put off from coming because they're worried about power gamers. It therefore makes perfect sense from their perspective. However, I think there are other ways of minimising the competitive element. At the end of the day it's a tournament and we know from bitter experience what it's like to have a near certain podium finish taken away in that manner.

Battle Brothers uses VPs (6th style) as the scoring system. Some people don't like this as it can mean you annihilate all but one model but still lose the game. Personally I'd say that it's clear from the start how it'll be scored so people should play in a way that minimises the chance of that happening. The favourite game votes are worth 3 VPs each meaning there's a whopping 30pts available on top of the usual VPs. That's huge. In fact looking at the score sheet that's the difference between 1st and 25th!!

So they're worth too many points but the other issue is that it's almost totally out of your control. Sure you can try not to be too anal about rules but whether someone enjoys the game against you is totally random. If you have some jammy rolls that might piss them off. You could have a fantastic, close game that was a lot of fun for both sides but the guys you play give it to their first opponents because they bought them a beer. Not to mention not everyone votes! Granted this time it looks like the vast majority did but that doesn't mean to say people didn't vote for their mates etc.

It feels like no matter how well you play your games you're still at the mercy of an effecitvely random system. I suppose you could argue that's 40K in general though.

I know what some of you are thinking. Only I could win a tournament and still bitch about the scoring system! Fair enough but I think it'd be pretty hypocritical of me to whine about it when it works against us but sing its praises when it works for us.

In some ways I feel like justice has been done for the time when it went against us. We genuinely did our best to be friendly despite doing horrible things to our opponents' armies. All of the games had something cool happen which made them memorable but I'll be writing in more detail about that over the next couple of days.

For now, I just want to say another huge thanks to our opponents for giving us 5 memorable games but I'd also like to thank the staff (doubt they'll read this), since no matter what they do to try to make the event better people still bitch. It's a great event that I'm determined to attend as often as I can. We've got a title to defend after all....

Sunday, April 28, 2013

40K Battle Brothers Tournament Result

I'd just like to share a photo with you all.

Battle reports to follow tomorrow!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

FTF Editorial - Campaigns, Scenery, Tau for Blog Wars & 40K Battle Brothers

In a blatant rip-off of Natfka from Faeit212 I'm going to try and write an (almost) weekly editorial post where I collect together some random thoughts I've been having over the last week or so. So often I have things I want to talk about that aren't worthy of a full post. Therefore I'll make a note of them and collect them together in posts like this and hopefully they'll be interesting.

You may have read yesterday's post about my campaign warm-up game against Jamie. The interesting thing for me was to play against Tau instead of using them myself. They're pretty horrific to face as there's a huge volume of fire coming your way. Add to that the relatively low-cost units and it's a difficult proposition for "elite" armies to face.

I've always been keen to make my casual 40K games more interesting. Matt and I attempted a campaign a while ago with mixed success. Since then we've never returned to the idea as we seem to be always testing out new armies or trialling things for upcoming tournaments. I think the reason our first campaign as a little lacklustre is the same reason that I've enjoyed the campaign games with Jamie. The narrative element really adds to the atmosphere of the game. I enjoy competitive play as much as the next gamer but it often ignores the rich background of the 40K universe. I wouldn't particularly consider myself to be a fluffy gamer but it certainly makes the battles feel more worthwhile if there's a story to them.

I'm currently taking part in Jamie's campaign with his friends Rob and Dan where an Imperial world is being assaulted by a Tyranid hive. It was because of this that Jamie and I have started out Tau/DA campaign and we've got plans for a Tau vs DE/Eldar for when the new Eldar book comes out. Matt and I haven't managed to get a campaign going yet but we were thinking of DA vs Chaos.

Finally, I've always wanted to play a planetary empires style campaign with multiple players all fighting battles against each other to grab territory. This could either work as an Imperium vs Xenos campaign or every man for himself. Might just be a pipe dream but who knows, I might get round to it!

Speaking of things I don't get around to, I've still not made much progress on my scenery. However, my new plan is to start from the ground up. The first stage of this is to rebuild my gaming table to give my shelving underneath to store my scenery and for models, dice, books etc to be stored on a ledge so that they needn't been on the table top and get in the way. I'll post some pictures up when I get round to making a start.

Once the table itself has been renovated I'll be moving on to working on my modular gameboard. I was really pleased with it at the time but it's looking a little decrepit now and needs some love. I'll start off my filling all the holes in and then it'll get a few cosmetic repairs before I repaint it with a bit more variety to the colour.

Finally, I need to get my plastic scenery sorted. I made a start on this but then things ground to a half when the Dark Angels book was followed by the Tau one in quick succession.

Tau at Blog Wars
I was originally planning to take Dark Angels to Blog Wars and this plan succeeded in one thing at least, giving my pressure to get some models painted. Sadly with the new Tau book out my Dark Angels are getting neglected in favour of my rekindled love for the fish-heads. These make sense as a choice for Blog Wars as they won't need a lot of work to get them ready and will be nice and easy for me to use on the day whilst trying to run the event.

Of course, there's always the risk that I won't end up playing if there's an odd number but at least I'll have a Tau army fully painted!

Battle Brothers
Finally, Matt and I are heading to Warhammer World this weekend to take part in the 40K Battle Brothers event again. For those who don't know, Battle Brothers replaced GW's old doubles events. Two players take a 1500pt army between them using the standard allies system. We've been to several of these events now and despite the high ticket cost I've always found them worthwhile. There's been controvesy over the years but they've never failed to be a great way to spend a weekend.

We've been taking out Titanic Fenrisians (GK/SW) for the last few events now but were determined this time to use the Tau codex to add some much needed anti-air firepower to our list. However, when we tested against Andy and Graham (Claws & Fists) we found that our proposed list wasn't anywhere near as good as we thought. As such we're returned to our beloved SW/GK combo which is total shite against flyers but a lot of fun against pretty much everything else. Here's hoping the prevalence of Broadsides means people are put off from taking flyers or at least that we don't meet 2+ Heldrakes!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Battle Report - Redemption & Retribution Campaign Trial Game - Tau vs DA

Jamie and I have been talking about running a campaign for some time now and finally got round to it last weekend. Jamie has written 6 scenarios for us to play through with the first 5 games affecting the outcome of the final apocalypse sized game at Warhammer World. In order to get a feel for balance in the campaign missions we played a trial run of the first scenario to see what needed tweaking. For a full rundown of the rules head over to Jamie's blog here. He's also written a brief battle report.

Essentially the mission involves a Cadre Fireblade, who starts inside a bastion, needing to make it to one of 6  inactive Devilfish, board it and drive it off the table. The Dark Angels want to interrogate the Fireblade so must "capture" him by killing him in combat. I'll run through it in picture form and then give some thoughts afterwards. Jamie is controlling the Tau with me returning to Dark Angels.
Tau deployment. The inactive Devilfish are screened by Piranhas. The back field is densely packed behind them making deep strike tricky.

Dark Angels forces arrive behind enemy lines. The tactical squad splits into two as it emerges from its drop pod. One squad of terminators is delayed (deep strike mishap) and the Chaplain's command squad scatters wildly out of position. 

Aftermath of turn one. The Dark Angels manage to kill a good number of Tau infantry but it isn't enough to stem the torrent of fire that comes their way. One terminator squad is annihilated whist the DW knights and DW command squad are depleted including the loss of the standard of fortitude.

More terminators arrive in the distance with support from a Nephilim. Thinking I'd be using it to engage ground targets it gave it a mega bolter which means it fails to harm any of the devilfish.
Elsewhere the second drop pod arrives and one combat squad is able to destroy a  Devilfish. Meanwhile the command squad fires its plasma cannon and immobilises a second Devilfish. Both cyclone launchers fail to do any damage to the transports.

The Nephilim is downed by missile broadsides whilst the sheer weight of fire from the piranhas is enough to kill off one of the terminator squads. The tacticals blow up another Devilfish but it's looking like too little too late. With neither cyclone termiantor team making it into combat with the tanks the fireblade is almost certain to escape.

The game is pretty much over by this point. With only a handful of tacticals and a couple of terminators left I'm never going to get to the devilfish before the fireblade does.

When I was first planning my army for this game I'd totally missed the point. I should've geared my army to maximise it's anti-vehicle firepower to down the Devilfish. With those out of the way I'd win automatically. My plan was to take out as much firepower in the first turn to allow my terminators to run riot. Sadly Jamie made all of his leadership tests even on Ld 7 and therefore my terminators had to make far too many saving throws. In hindsight even with my sub-optimal list I could've still won the game had I gone for the transports straight away. My terminators would only need to make it into combat with them for me to almost guarantee their destruction assuming I hadn't droppped them with fire from the heavy weapons.

We're going to play through this scenario again with a couple of changes. The Tau will have their piranhas and crisis suits in reserve (as they're out on patrol when the attack happens) which will significantly reduce the fire coming my way. The piranhas were devastating in this game. They pump out 8 shots each for just 40pts and can cover ground very quickly. Throw in a couple of markerlight hits and my terminators didn't have much of a chance.

It's always difficult taking a low model count army against an army with massed firepower. Even if the individual weapons aren't that powerful the torrent effect soon forces a few 1s on the armour saves. I had to maximise my chances of getting into combat alive which is why I brought most of my terminators in at once. Had one not mis-happed then things could've been different. I also could've used my drop pods better as they can deep strike pretty accurately and I could've probably used the guys inside to down more transports.

I'm looking forward to the replay followed by the rest of the campaign!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New FAQs on the GW Website

Most people will have probably seen them by now but yesterday GW posted some new FAQs for the current collection of codices. It might be coincidence but it seems that they always release them the week before I go to one of their doubles events. Anyway, as usual here's a rundown of the most significant changes. Nothing too exciting except for the Tau thing at the bottom.

Stats can be modified to 0 except Initiative which can't go below 1. Wounds from blast markers need to be kept separate as they're capable of hitting models that the firer can't see. Makes sense I suppose as a high explosive round could still hit those guys round the corner of the building with shrapnel.

Split fire can't be used to blow up a vehicle for the rest of the squad to fire on the occupants. Pretty obvious I'd have thought since units have to fire their weapons simultaneously. Allied models can be hit by psychic powers/blasts by accident i.e. if it scatters.

You've got to move around friendly models, which I thought everyone did anyway? Swarms are clarified so that blast weapons that would cause instant death don't remove two bases per wounding hit. Everything else is either pretty minor or pretty obvious. However, interestingly you don't need to destroy a fortification to table someone. Not that it'll make much difference but worth remembering.

Chaos Daemons
Nothing major just wording on the chariots taken by heralds making them Dedicated Transports. Big thing for Daemon players is that the flamer chariot hasn't been fixed!

Chaos Space Marines
Abaddon can't be turned into a spawn or daemon prince by rolling on the Boon table. Otherwise nothing of note.

Dark Angels
Quite a few interesting changes here. Courage of the Lion only affects friendly DA units which is hardly surprising. Stasis anomaly (and vast one too) can only reduce initiative/WS to a minimum of 1. Asmodai has found a bolt pistol but he's still not worth having.

Ravenwing Command Squads can now take two extra black knights to bring them upto a squad of 5. Makes them a bit more survivable but I was getting used to just 3 models and I'm not sure it helps them that much. Standard of Devastation definitely affects bolters on bikers too. Sadly they haven't FAQ'd RW grenade launchers though.

Sadly for Deathwing you can't have more than half of your army in reserve. Kinda shits on pure DW builds but it's in line with other armies.

Dark Eldar
Reavers now use the final position of the unit for wound allocation with their bladevanes. Pretty big change as you can now get at those juicy models your opponent thought were safe at the back. Brings them in line with screamers.

They've also FAQ'd Lelith's rules so that only her CC weapons ignore armour saves. Presumably people were sticking here on a quad gun and trying to claim it for those shots. Sigh.

Mind War allows cover saves and look out sir rolls which is frankly stupid but I'm not even sure why they're FAQing when Eldar are getting updated soon.

Imperial Guard
Camo cloaks now add +1 to cover saves. Seems to imply therefore that if they get Stealth & Shrouded they could effectively have permanent 3+ cover saves unless I'm reading it wrong.

Imotekh can now hit zooming flyers and swooping flying MCs with his lightning strike thingy.

Space Marines
Models arriving from a drop pod count as arriving from reserve for the purposes of targeting them with models/weapons with the Interceptor rule.

The most significant change of everything comes in the Tau book. The new FAQ states that crisis suits can now take weapons as either twin-linked or two separate weapons. This is a huge thing as it means twice the number of shots instead of giving them twin-linked. Expect to see plenty of suits with dual missile pod or missile pod & twin-linked missile pod then!

Might not sound like much but it has significant implications when considering suit builds. I'll cover it all in more depth in a full post about equipping and using crisis suits.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New Tau Codex Unit Reviews - Vespid, Drone Squadrons and Piranhas

I've already talked about the new flyers and the revamped Pathfinders. Therefore I've got three more units to cover to complete my review of the Fast Attack section. This is a pretty bloated section of the book but most people will be looking at Pathfinders over the rest I reckon. Anyway, here's my thoughts on the comparative underdogs of the Fast Attack slot.

Vespid Stingwings
I don't think I've ever seen these models in the flesh as no-one ever takes them and I never bought any. If these guys were Troops then I think we'd see them more thanks to their mobility and AP3 weapons but as a Fast Attack choice they'll nearly always lose out. At 18pts a piece they stand out as being expensive in this book. For that you get a fairly decent statline though. They may be BS/WS 3 but with T4 and I6 they aren't totally useless. They're almost a combat unit with Fleet and Hit & Run but with only a single attack each I wouldn't get too excited. The normal Vespid are Ld 6 which means a Strain Leader is a must. With Stealth (Ruins) they could be difficult to shift and likely to get ignored anyway. S5 AP3 shots aren't bad for killing off small marine teams but I think you're paying too much for the privilege and hoping those marines aren't in cover.

I can't help but think that if they'd just made their guns Assault 2 or given them some sort of CC weapon they might've been useful. As it is they're a strange combination. I6 makes you think assault but they've got a single S3 attack (plus HoW). Their jump packs given them mobility but then they get Stealth meaning they want to stay in cover. They get Move Through Cover to let them land in ruins without dangerous terrain at least. They don't really excel at anything though which is why I'm unlikely to pick any up even if I did like the models - which I don't.

Drone Squadrons
Essentially these can be thought of as either a Fire Warrior or Pathfinder unit that trades BS for mobility/survivability and increased cost. Gun drones put out the same amount of fire as the same number of Fire Warriors but are 5pts more. Assuming no marker support, 12 gun drones get around 13 hits which is one more than 12 carbine Fire Warriors. Even with marker support they still only score one extra hit compared to the foot sloggers but have an effective 24" range for two shots each. They're T4 and Jet Pack based though so they're more likely to stay alive and can reposition more easily.

The marker variants will put out a lot less marker hits than the same number of pathfinders and will be 30pts more. Being able to Jump-Shoot-Jump is great for markerlights though and means they have greater range and they're more likely to be around in the later turns. They also have T4 and 4+ to the Pathfinders T3 and 5+.

Tacking on a commander with drone controller could be great but will make either unit very expensive. Ultimately it's a play style consideration again. Drones are probably more likely to be overlooked by opponents though. More on drones in a different post (I keep saying that!).

This is probably the most underestimated unit in the book I reckon. In the previous codex they were mainly used as blocking units to shield your army from assaults. There's still a place for them in that roll especially in a large unit. The big deal about Piranhas is how much of a bargain they are now. In the old book a Piranha would set you back 60pts. They're gone down by a third which is a huge amount. Not only that but with carbines being two shots and burst cannons four they've got an extra 3 shots over the old version.

Running them totally vanilla is a possibility. For the same price as the bomber you can have 4 Piranhas with burst cannons. That's 32 shots at effectively BS3 (drones are T-L BS2) meaning about 17 S5 hits. Not bad at an effective 24 inch range. They're certainly a good harassment unit which is what I used them for in the past.

The other option is taking them with fusion blasters. If you're using them in this roll then I'd recommend ditching the drones pretty early on and having them irritate your opponent whilst the skimmers go tank hunting. With the loss of the S10 Broadsides Tau actually find themselves struggling with AV13+. Piranhas provide a great solution with effectively 21" melta guns. Sadly you can no longer give vehicles +1BS so you'll probably need marker hits.

With the exception of perhaps Sensor Spines and maybe Flechette Dischargers/Point Defence (if you're running them as blockers) I wouldn't spend too many points on the piranhas. Their appeal is their low cost so spending too much on upgrades defeats the point. It's a real shame vehicles can't contest any more....

Drone squadrons are interesting and, in another book, Vespid might be useful but of the three underdogs I think it's Piranhas who are the surprise package. They put out a similar number of hits compared to the same points-worth of Fire Warriors and are a lot more manoeuvrable. They're not too difficult to take down but with everything else in your army posing a similar threat they might be ignored.

Nearly there folks. The final post in this series will be on the Crisis and Stealth suits. After that I'm going to do some specific articles about commanders, drones, crisis loadouts and close combat. At this rate I'll be done in time for the Eldar codex....

Monday, April 22, 2013

New Tau Codex Unit Reviews - Standard HQs

On Saturday I talked about the special character HQ options and for the most part my opinion was that they don't offer enough over their standard version to make them worthwhile in competitive play. So what makes the standard options so great?

Cadre Fireblade
With an identical statline to Darkstrider but a better armour save, the cadre fireblades are already pretty good for their measly 60pt price tag. You still get a BS5 markerlight that can fire at a different target too thanks to the Split Fire rule. His Volley Fire makes him a perfect fit in a big unit of Fire Warriors too. Should you decide to keep things cheap and take a Fireblade and an Ethereal there's the potential for one of your Fire Warrior teams to fire 4 shots each if they don't move. Combine that with markerlights and there's very little that can withstand that volume of fire. The drawback of course is that the unit has to stay still but depending on your play style that isn't necessarily such a problem.

Realistically though you're going to want a Commander so you'll have to choose between an Ethereal or Fireblade. The Ethereal may not do much as a model but the elemental powers have a bigger area of effect meaning a Fireblade will probably be second choice for most people. In mechanised forces a Tau general may decide that neither works that well and avoid both.

That being said, I think we'll actually see quite a lot of this guy (or at least some conversions of him) as he's disgustingly cheap. This makes him a perfect choice for the compulsory HQ in an allied detachment or for the Tau general who wants to splurge on other sections of the FOC. A Fireblade, 12 Fire Warriors with Shas'ui toting a markerlight will set you back 193pts. This gives you two markerlights for a Broadside team in an allied detachment for less than 450pts. Worth considering if your main army lacks anti-air capability like my Space Wolves do.

As I'm sure you're aware by the now the Ethereal is pretty useless as a model in itself. Two T3 wounds and no save means he's not tricky to kill so he's got to be buried in a large unit especially since he gives up an extra VP when he dies. It's worth throwing in a Shas'ui to add another character to accept a challenge on behalf of the Ethereal. I'll talk more about Tau combat in another post but just something to think about for now.

The saving grace for the Ethereal are his elemental powers. Something like 99% of the time you're going to use Storm of Fire but on occasion the others can have their use. Calm of Tides is rarely useful (if at all). FNP 6+ isn't great but if you're fighting Daemons you could end up with a better save if they've used Tzeentch powers! Running then firing Snap Shots could be good if your Ethereal's unit is on its own and trying to stay alive. As I say, Storm of Fire is the clear winner. Arranging your Fire Warriors around the Ethereal's unit will give you a disgusting amount of firepower and make charging your squads a scary prospect with Supporting Fire.

At 50pts it's easy to squeeze an Ethereal into any list but since it's not clear at the moment if his powers can be used within a transport, he's probably only of use in a footslogging gunline style cadre. Hopefully it'll get FAQd but there isn't a convincing argument either way at the moment. Should they FAQ it to allow use within a devilfish then it'll be an almost automatic choice for his unit.

The Commander is the Swiss Army knife of the Tau codex. Crisis suits have always had a dizzying array of options but the current incarnation of Commanders take it to a whole new level. For this reason he's got several different uses within your cadre. I'm going to write a separate post on Crisis teams and their possible builds but for now I think the key thing to think about is getting the most of the Commander's stats.

Essentially he's the same as a Shas'o from the old books (the Shas'el isn't really needed now Shas'vre are Ld 9) but slightly more expensive. In the old book he was 75pts but you'd normally take a multi-tracker which is included now. Therefore it's only really a 5pt increase for which you get some awesome warlord traits and Supporting Fire.

As I say, I'll talk about him in more depth later on but the internet is alive with people considering the uses for the Commander. In my opinion he needs to be with crisis suits. Giving him a Puretide and sticking him with Broadsides is tempting but then I feel you're wasting his abilities somewhat. As an example though, you'd give him a Puretide, Drone Controller (for the missile drones of the broadsides) and maybe a Sensor Suite. It's also possibly worth giving him iridium armour for this roll to keep up with the 2+ of the Broadsides. This incarnation would set you back 153pts before you give him any weapons (I'd give him missile pods and maybe a fusion). This would make for a broadside team that could deal with pretty much any vehicle (or several with target locks).

The problem is you're providing a very tempting unit for your opponent. He needs to take down the Broadsides to protect his flyers but also may as well shoot them as he can get Slay the Warlord at the same time. I'm not saying it's a bad tactic but I just don't think you're getting the most of him for the cost. Having such a good Broadside unit would mean you could just take a single team though and free up some Heavy slots.

Everything else can wait for the full post but I just want to mention the bodyguards here. Being able to take Signature Systems and auto-passing Look Out Sir! is good but I'm not convinced 10pts extra per suit is worth it. If you're struggling to find space in Elites then maybe but otherwise the standard crisis suits are a better option I reckon.

Taking the Special Characters into account as well, I'll probably be running a Commander and Ethereal. It feels like the most obvious combination though so perhaps I'm missing something. If points are at a premium I'd probably take a Fireblade in place of the Commander but that'd be a last resort as I really love them.

Of all of the FOC slots I think HQ is perhaps the trickiest. I'd love to take two commanders like I used to run but Ethereals are too tempting for how much more effective your army is and how cheap they are. As I said in my previous post, it all comes down to the style of cadre you want to run. Mechanised forces have different requirements to gunlines. The good thing about this codex is that both are viable.

Next up I'll finish up the Fast Attack section which is pretty crowded too! Once that's done I think I've covered everything but Crisis and Stealth suits. Getting there!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Blog Wars 5 Update - Returned Tickets Released for Sale

The latest tournament in the Blog Wars series will be on June 22nd in Stockport. Details can be found over on the Blog Wars 5 page but for those who don't know it's three 1,850pt games played over the course of the day. Armies must include a special character but otherwise there are no restrictions. The tournament was originally started as an inter-blogger event but now welcomes anyone who wants to come along. The previous 4 events have been friendly affairs with a great atmosphere and I expect the 5th to be no different.

So why am I telling you all this, the event is sold out right? Well I've actually had a few returned tickets. I've offered these to the reserves but after a week I haven't heard back from them. Therefore I'll put these tickets back up for sale as of now. They're still £15 and there's going to be great prize support. If you'd like one please send £15 to alexjbrown58@hotmail.com at PayPal and drop me an email to the same address to confirm your details etc.

New Prizes for Blog Wars 5
Aside from the return of the spot prizes and raffle prizes, which ran alongside the tournament prizes at BW4, I'm also going to be offering "I want 5th edition back" prizes. These will be spot prizes themed around things that you could've done in 5th but now can't. For example, one of the prizes will be for failing a charge of less than 6" across open ground. Obviously in 5th this would've been a guaranteed combat but as we all know from bitter experience that isn't how it works in 6th!

The prizes will be themed around this as well. Don't worry I'm not giving you my old 5th edition rulebook! I guarantee they'll more than compensate those of you who don't like change!! They'll run alongside the spot prizes which I'm renaming as "booby prizes" as they'll all be awarded when things go wrong. This way they'll take some of the pain away from losing a unit or failing to kill an enemy one.

Remember, thanks in part to the venue change there's a huge prize pot for Blog Wars 5. Assuming we get £40 people attending we'll have a prize pot of £375 even after I've given out the usual tournament and painting prizes! Even though I can't win anything I'm still excited by that!!

Giantkiller Bonus
For anyone who hasn't been to a previous event they've all be won by the same person. No offence to Andy but I'm getting bored of handing him prizes. Now, I've yet to have confirmation from Mr. Humphris but hopefully he'll still be attending Blog Wars after the venue change. Assuming he does I'll be offering a Giantkiller Bonus to anyone who manages to win a game against him. Hopefully that'll work as encouragement for people to wipe the smug smile from his face! Credit has to go to Aaron Shrive for this idea.

Right that's it for now. There'll be more updates as the event draws closer. For now, good luck to anyone who's trying to get their army ready for BW5. You've only got 9 weeks!!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

New Tau Codex Unit Reviews - HQ Special Characters

In a similar fashion to EYIG over at Apostates Anonymous, I'm going to look at the Tau HQ section in two chunks. Firstly the Special Characters and then the standard options on Monday. The most notable thing here is that none of the HQs modify the FOC choices in any significant way. This came as something of a disappointment to the community but personally I'm not bothered.

Commander Farsight
He's always been a bit of a strange one. The new version of the codex has done away with the FOC limitations that he used to impose but otherwise he's pretty similar. His Warlord Trait is key for his role as it gives him a scatter-free deep strike. This is a pretty big deal when you consider the options that his bodyguard could take e.g. fusion for taking down tanks. He's pretty reasonably priced at 165pts given the kit he comes with. Despite having a shield generator for a 4++ save he's not as tough as a normal commander can be with iridium armour. Now I'm sure from a fluff perspective he probably wasn't around when they invented the 2+ T5 armour but from a gaming perspective it seems strange that he didn't get it. Granted it would've undoubtedly increased his cost but he'd have been pretty awesome with it.

The reason I say he's a strange one is that he's one of two close combat orientated (more on the other later) units in an otherwise pure gunline. Crisis bodyguard suits can be alright in combat with their 3 attacks at S5 but with poor initiative and WS they struggle most of the time. So Farsight ends up either splitting off from his unit and diving in or else dragging a shooty unit into combat with him and potentially making them miss a round or two of shooting. Farsight himself is decent in combat though with I5 and 4 S5 AP2 attacks (with armourbane). In a challenge he's got a good chance of killing off most non-EW multi-wound models.

Most people will talk about the "Farsight bomb" here but personally I think it's a waste of time. Your paying out for Farsight just to take more suits and avoid scatter. For the same cost you could have two crisis teams and hit different targets by taking your chances with deep strike. I just can't see me taking him in competitive play when there are much more useful HQ choices.

Commander Shadowsun
On her own he's pretty decent with two fusion blasters, advanced targeting and a stealth suit. The ability to split fire means that potentially you could take her solo as a tank hunter. Throw in a couple of shield drones and she can make the most of her long thrust move to keep safe. Tack her onto a crisis team though and she can be great fun.

She'll give them re-rolls of 1s when shooting and offers them the option to Outflank instead of Deep Strike. This also has the advantage of giving her an effective toughness of 4 too (although her drones can also give her that). Whether with a squad or solo she also has Stealth and Shrouded meaning a permanent 4++ save to shooting which can easily be 2++ in any sort of cover.

She's 30 pts cheaper than O'Shovah and aside from the combat prowess (sort of) and accurate deep strike I think she's a better bet if you're wanting a special character. She still loses out to the normal commander though. When the commander is so flexible it seems a shame to limit your options. That being said I think I'm probably missing something with her. Of the HQ specials she's probably the best.

Aun'va, or "the space pope" to give him his proper title, was an absolute joke in the previous book. He's slightly better in the new book with two Ethereal "powers" and army wide morale re-rolls. However, the main issue with him is that he's not an independent character thanks to his bodyguard. Now this isn't necessarily an issue since you can just hide him out of sight but personally I don't like the idea of a unit hiding and not doing anything (except buffing of course). The Ethereal "powers" aren't all that brilliant and most of the time there's only one to use anyway.

His funky FNP kind of thing is a bit odd as well. Don't get me wrong is a fun idea but it actually makes him more vulnerable to guardsmen than it does terminators?!?! Personally I'd rather save 50pts and take a regular Ethereal who still won't do anything except buff but at least I can hide him in a unit. His warlord trait is probably the least useful out of an otherwise great table but you'd never make him warlord as he'd give far too many points up when he died. Again, perhaps I've missed something but I can't see a point in taking him.

The second of the combat characters in a shooty army, Aun'shi is interesting. He's more expensive than Aun'va at 110pts but has a normal invulnerable save of 4+. He's clearly been designed for challenges when you look at his special rules and potentially could take enemy characters out thanks to I5 and Rending. Realistically though the problem is where to put him. If one of your fire warrior teams is getting assaulted he might kill a character but will still die with the rest of the unit. Otherwise he's stuck there costing you 60pts more than a regular Ethereal. Interesting then but still pretty useless. I'd like to give him a go in a friendly game but he'd never see competitvely play in my army.

He's pretty cheap as HQ choices go at 100pts and if it weren't for Ethereals and Fireblades he'd probably see more use. As it is that 100pts is comparably expensive. He's clearly supposed to be a Pathfinder but he's actually better with Fire Warriors.

Stick him with Fire Warriors and you're getting a BS5 markerlight on a different target to the unit. The problem is that then you're wasting his Structural Analyser which only works on the unit he targets. Therefore his markerlight is likely to be wasted and you're probably better firing his carbine (depending on the situation of course). With his -1 toughness a unit of Fire Warriors will be wounding most things on 2s which is, if you can combine it with an Ethereal and some marker hits, a pretty devastating thing. His Outflank could be useful for getting Fire Warriors onto objectives but then you're likely to be out of Ethereal range. In this capacity the Fire Warriors will be tough to shift though. They'd fire their Overwatch, potentially killing a model or two and then retreat D6" which could make them very tricky to charge. Doesn't stop them being shot at though!

He's a possible competitive choice then but once I start talking about the standard HQ choices I'm sure you'll see why he loses out.

For me the best options here are Shadowsun and Darkstrider. Both offer something interesting and if you tailor units accordingly they could be great in some situations. Realistically I think both will lose out to the standard choices though. I really want to like Farsight but I think he encourages people to drop a whole blob of suits into the thick of it. This can work out great but should they be assaulted by something killy then they're going to be an expensive loss. They could be great but it's a lot of points to spend on a distraction.

As ever with Special Characters they're a matter of personal choice. All of these guys (and girl) could be used depending on your style of play. In a competitive environment they don't really offer something that you have to have. Right, after a brief pause to talk about Blog Wars I'll be moving onto the rest of the HQ section.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Light 'em up! - The Use of Markerlights in the Tau Cadre

This post is a bit respite from my coverage of all of the Tau units. I've covered markerlights in my post about Pathfinders but I've been wanting to talk about them in more depth so here goes. As with everything I write, it's pretty wordy but hopefully I'll cover the vast majority of the things to think about with markerlights. Let's start by looking at how we can get them into our army.

Bringing Light to the Darkness
There's a wide array of choices for getting markerlights into your Tau cadre. The most obvious of which is a unit or two of Pathfinders (11pts per model). As I say I've already covered them in detail here but the key things to note are that they're BS3, static and can only light up a single target per unit. This means multiple units (at least two) are the way to go.

Sharing the Fast Attack slot with the Pathfinders is another unit which can bring markerlights. A Drone Squadron can now be completely composed of marker drones (14pts per model). They have the advantage over Pathfinders in terms of mobility as they're Relentless thanks to their jet packs. This means you can pop out from behind a building, light something up and then hide away again. The price for this mobility is BS2 though which is poor for 14pts. We can do something about that though (more in a bit). Once again there's only one marker target per unit though.

Elsewhere marker drones can be taken by various different units (Crisis suits, Ethereals, Fireblades, Stealths, Fire Warrior Shas'ui, Broadsides, etc) for 12pts per model. The issue here is that they've got to fire at the same target as the unit but the unit itself can't benefit from their hits. This means you might waste marker hits as you kill an enemy unit you've lit up with the rest of your firepower. Of course they're still BS2 as well and their mobility is lost if they're accompanying a unit that doesn't also have jetpacks, such as Fire Warriors. Bear in mind they can be used for Supporting Fire though.

A couple of the HQ choices come with a markerlight too. Darkstrider's is BS5 but must fire at the same target as his unit. This isn't such a big deal as it's only one hit we're talking about but if he's with Fire Warriors (which is probably where he should be) then the hit could be wasted. A Fireblade on the other hand can Split Fire with his BS5 markerlight which may come in handy.

Fire Warrior Shas'ui can take a markerlight and target lock for 15pts. This is BS3 of course but frankly you're probably wasting shots from a pulse rifle and only for a 50:50 chance of hitting with that marker too. Similarly a Stealth Shas'vre can take one but despite being more mobile you're paying 35pts for that markerlight and again wasting shots.

Sniper drone teams are an interesting source of markerlights. The sniper drones aren't particularly brilliant but for 84pts you can get 3 Firesight Marksmen with 3 sniper drones. These all fire at BS5 but again are static markerlights. Still it's a pretty reasonably priced BS5 markerlight and with the reputation of the sniper teams they might be more likely to get ignored plus with the Stealth special rule they're harder to shift than the same number of Pathfinders. The Ethereal can also give the drones an extra shot at 24" which isn't bad. Especially against MCs with their sniper rounds. That'd be 9 shots at BS5, wounding on 4s and potentially rending. Meanwhile you're marking up the target so it can be finished off with a nearby Fire Warrior unit. Intriguing, but I digress...

Finally, as I talked about yesterday, the Sky Ray (or Skylight) is the only ground based unit that can hit flyers with markerlights at full BS. The bomber has a markerlight too. Both units boast the only networked markerlights in the book. The Sky Ray may be BS 4 but doesn't add any mobility to the markers as it needs to stay still to fire both. The bomber is probably going to keep that marker hit for itself if it even hits at BS3.

Commanding the Light
So now we know the huge list of places we can get our markerlights from (I apologise if I've missed any). One more point to cover on this score though. Drone controllers can make a huge difference to marker drones. Attaching a BS5 commander to a unit of 6 marker drones means for a minimum of 177pts you've got 6 BS5 markerlights and 5 hits per turn if you roll odds. That's the same as 10 pathfinders (which cost 110pts) but the drones can keep moving and can hide behind a building, only popping out to light something up before hiding again. Some people have talked about taking larger units or a C&C but with only a single target a lot of those hits are likely to go to waste, 6 drones is plently.

By the way, that 177pts assumes you're only giving the commander a drone controller and nothing else. You could give him some weapons and a target lock though so he isn't just a chaperone for the drone party. A missile pod would be the obvious choice as they're the same range as the lights. However, the cost soon starts spiralling. The unit is more mobile and more survivable than Pathfinders but should it be caught in combat (less likely with Jetpacks) it'll still fold. The other factor to consider is that they don't really add all that much to Supporting Fire. They'll be BS1 like everything else (unlesss the Commander has a counterfire system of course) and that means a single marker hit which, although it will help Fire Warriors isn't as good as Pathfinders a lot of the time.

The commander is so useful in other units (more on him in a different post), that it feels like a bit of a waste of his abilities to stick him in a this unit where he'll also be reduced to T3. I'm going to have to give it a go but the likelihood is that they'll be a priority target and then I'll be left with a lonely commander. Of course a commander could be attached to a pathfinder unit and sit there with his C&C node to help them get marker hits but again, that's a waste I think.

Expending Those Hits
In the old book there were several options for how to use your marker hits (although mostly they were used to boost BS). Now you're limited to either increasing BS by a +1 per hit, ignoring cover for 2 hits and firing seeker missiles.

As I discussed in my Sky Ray post yesterday, "Seeker" isn't much of an option. It can come in handy for vehicles or Broadsides to fire their Seekers at a vehicle or flyer but since they can use one hit to boost their BS and still fire the Seeker it seems a bit pointless unless you really need Ignores Cover.

"Scour" on the other hand is excellent. With a lot of units having Shrouded, Stealth or both there are plenty who can claim a 2+ cover save. Just two marker hits can completely remove this. This is also great for skimmers and bikes who'll lose their Jink save. For your Fire Warriors this is only useful against targets who have 5+ or worse armour but for plasma or fusion weapons it can be huge. Dropping that S8 AP2 ion pie plate with a Riptide and knowing it will kill all the marines it wounds is a nice feeling.

"Pinpoint" is probably the most common boost that markerlights will be used for. The simple reason being that you only need a single hit to take advantage of it. Interestingly there's no maximum to how much you can boost BS like there was in the old codex. Those BS10 Fire Warriors are now pretty awesome for 9pts each. This can also be used for Snap Shots but I'll get to that.

The skill comes in deciding how to expend them. Let's say your Pathfinder team gets a bit lucky and scores 6 hits. You could boost a single 12-man squad of Fire Warriors to BS9. Hopefully you don't need me to tell you that's a waste. Even if they're under influence of an Ethereal and firing 36 shots (makes maths easy), they'd get 30 hits with BS5 and only gain a single hit for every extra point of BS you give them above 5. That means those 6 hits would be better spent making 3 squads BS5 instead. If you need to remove cover then two squads at BS4 with Ignores Cover is better. As you can see there are a lot of different combinations and choosing the right one is key. You don't know how your dice will go though so deciding isn't all that simple.

If there's only one unit that can shoot at a marked target, by all means go nuts and fire at BS10 if you like but realistically you should've probably marked a different target. Target priority is just as important for Tau as it is for any other army in 40K.

Snap Shots and Markerlights
This was something that quite a lot of people were excited about. The prospect of lighting up a target and bypassing the enforced BS1. This isn't all that great in the shooting phase mind you as chances are, whatever you're trying to make easier to hit, your markerlight users will also need 6s to hit. It can be interesting in the assault phase though.

The question is, with your Pathinders is it better to use their markerlights or carbines for Supporting Fire or Overwatch. Obviously it depends on how many other Tau units are around but let's assume you've got a 10-man Pathfinder unit sat next to a 12-man Fire Warrior team. You'd be getting a couple of markerlight hits at best. This means either Ignores Cover or BS3 for your Fire Warriors. Assuming 24 shots that'd be 12 Overwatch hits or just 4 without the markerlights meaning an improvement of 8. The Pathfinders using their carbines would probably get 3 hits. Therefore, it probably is better to use markers with Pathfinders on Overwatch if there's something else around for Supporting Fire.

There's a temptation to get excited and think too much about how many markerlights you can put on a target without actually thinking about what you're going to do with the hits. Sure you can get 14 hits on a target with a commander with 2 marker drones, drone controller and a C&C attached to a 12-strong marker drone squadron but what they hell are you going to do with them? Two 12-man units of BS8 Fire Warriors with Ignores Cover I suppose, but really you're wasting hits. Those units firing two shots each would still only kill 5 marines on average no matter how funny it would be to roll those dice!!

The point is that, whilst it's important to focus your fire on something until it dies, you don't want to waste shots. It's more crucial to be able to mark up several different targets. Despite all of the excitement about marker drones at BS5, I still think Pathfinders are the best choice. Doesn't mean you can't throw in a few other markers here and there though.

Any opponent worth his salt will realise the importance of shifting your pathfinders early. The advantage of markers is that as long as you can see your target it doesn't matter what's in between. Therefore feel free to surround your Pathfinders in a Kroot bubble or deep within terrain. Since their death is pretty inevitable, make the most of them and don't be too tempted to put them on the back line as you'll regret it when their markers aren't in range. Don't be too sad to lose them as hopefully they'll have done their job and in the meantime everything else is still alive.

How you use those markers is pretty much a 50:50 choice. It depends largely on your target. Ultimately, the point is that if you aren't using markerlights in your Tau cadre you're seriously missing out.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Tau Codex Unit Reviews - Sky Ray Missile Defence Gunship

Continuing my seemingly relentless series of unit reviews we're onto the much maligned Sky Ray. Let's get something out of the way first, it's by far and away my favourite Tau model and that includes the new Riptide. I never open my model cupboard without looking at it and smiling (OK that sounds wierd). For anyone who's ever played EVE Online it makes me think of the Caldari Raven, not in looks but in how I picture it spamming missiles at enemies. Missiles are cool kids.

Sadly for the humble Sky Ray, it's been somewhat overshadowed by it's brother with a bigger weapon. Essentially both are the same tank. Where the Hammerhead has a railgun (or ion cannon) the Sky Ray has 6 seekers, two networked markerlights (which are like gold dust now) and a velocity tracker. It shares the support weapon options with the Hammerhead. However, even with a disruption pod it only comes to 130pts.

Let's take a quick whip through the Vehicle Battle Systems. Take a disruption pod and ignore the rest. I did say it would be quick! The advantage of the Sky Ray over the Hammerhead and Broadsides is its low cost. Otherwise it kind of struggles to be honest.

The Sky Ray is always touted in the fluff as an anti-air platform and by giving it a velocity tracker, GW has at least paid lip service to this. Sadly the rules for seekers mean that (despite the description in the fluff on p.51) only the Sky Ray can fire its missiles. In the past a Sky Ray could be hidden behind a building and a unit could use markerlights to fire missiles off. Now the description of markerlights says something like, "can fire seeker missiles if it has any".

All is not lost though. Some are calling it the Skylight as it has two markers that can hit flyers on 3+ which is better than any other markerlights. In the previous book GW actually rulled that you'd need to hit on a 6+ then fire the missile on a 6+ which was frankly ludicrous. Now you can fire them at BS4 by default or BS5 with a markerlight. Wait a second though, that sounds just as bad. Fire a markerlight at BS4 and then a missile at BS5, that's only slightly better than BS3 right?

Well that's if you're using the "Seeker" rule for the markerlight hits. Odds are you're going to get at least a single markerlight hit. Remember they're Networked so fire BEFORE your missiles. If you use "Pinpoint" you can now fire all of your missiles off at BS5 not just one. That means you can probably alpha-strike an AV12 flyer. However, you'll then have very few missiles left. This can be good or bad though. With no missiles you aren't perceived as much of a threat meaning you'll be free to markerlight other things including flyers to help out the Broadsides. Not bad, but far from excellent. It's worth bearing in mind that if you do choose to fire your missiles with the "Seeker" markerlight rule they'll get Ignores Cover which could help.

Sadly, I still feel like the Sky Ray needs a bit more love. The biggest issue is that it needs to remain completely still to get to fire all of its weapons. With the loss of the "defensive weapons" rules it can only fire one of its weapons at full BS if it moves including markerlights. This wasn't such a big deal in 5th as not only did the disruption pod allow you a near permanent 4+ save but also your Fire Warriors could fire seekers from the Sky Ray by expending markerlight hits. Now though it means your Sky Ray has to stay put to be effective. This is crap for a skimmer as it means if you can't find a building to stick it behind you're only getting a 6+ save from the disruption pod. Gone is the upgrade to make it a fast vehicle too.

It's a bit of a one shot wonder. For that volley against a flyer it could be a near automatic kill but after that it's left feeling impotent. Perhaps I'm missing something but it feels like GW were a bit lazy with the Sky Ray. Since it's parts are now boxed together with the Hammerhead (and always were for the savvy Tau player) there's not much need for them to make it appealing. It seems they looked at it and thought "it's meant to be anti-air so let's give it a velocity tracker" and then moved on to something else.

Now, the best thing about writing these posts is the feedback I get from you guys. I don't claim to be an expert in the new Tau book by any stretch and hearing the opinions of others will help me towards that goal. Am I missing something about the Sky Ray? Is there a redeeming quality I haven't spotted? I want to field one but I simply can't persuade myself.

That pretty much rounds off Heavy Support. I'll talk about Sniper Teams in a post I'm planning about markerlights. Next up in this series is the hotly contested HQ slot!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

FTF Editorial - Flexibility for the Greater Good & Chaos Daemons

In a blatant rip-off of Natfka from Faeit212 I'm going to try and write an almost weekly editorial post where I collect together some random thoughts I've been having over the last week or so. So often I have things I want to talk about that aren't worthy of a full post. Therefore I'll make a note of them and collect them together in posts like this and hopefully they'll be interesting.

The Tau Codex
I may have alienated some of my audience by this incessant talk about the Tau codex but I can only hope people will bear with my as my enthusiasm for the book doesn't show any signs of letting up. This post will at least be a break from my relentless Unit Review posts. One of the things that keeps coming out of the comments sections of my posts are the sheer number of interesting and effective combinations that can be created.

At the centre of most of these is the ultimate in 41st millennium Swiss army knives - the crisis suit. The commander has such a bewildering array of options that I think it'll probably be the year 40,000 before we've worked out all of the possible uses for him. The most obvious route, the one I went for initially, was simply to stick him with a crisis team and use him as a tank. I now feel pretty daft for my naivety! For starters I hadn't twigged that the puretide chip can give him Tank Hunter/Monster Hunter which can be shared with his unit. This opens up a huge array of options and its probably an auto choice for 15pts. More on this guy when I cover HQs but my mind is racing with ideas of what he can be used for.

What's clear is that this codex is far from a monobuild book. For me the thing that ruins a codex is units which are pretty much automatic choices. This leads to boring armies and that feeling of "oh I'm playing Necrons in my next tournament game oh well that'll mean plenty of flyers and wraiths!". The beauty of 40K for me is that no two armies need be exactly the same. Of course as more people play games and write lists we all gravitate towards an "optimum" build but it's nice when that isn't obvious and overnight.

My problem with the Dark Angels codex was that vast chunks of it were simply never going to be used. Sure you can field a pile of greenwing but why would you when there's more fun to be had with the black and cream portions of the book? I'm struggling to write an interesting and competitive mixed wing list which leads me to the pure Ravenwing style army. The issue here is that whilst the bikes look awesome, they're reduced to a gunline by the bolter-banner. Not taking it feels like a missed opportunity though.

The Tau cadre doesn't have this problem. They're supposed to be a gunline and in actual fact, whilst you can build a gunline, you can also make a devastating dynamic force. I'm excited to play against some Tau armies in tournaments and learn more about my own army in doing so.

Chaos Daemons
With all of the hype surrounding the Tau release the Daemons book may as well have been released years ago. There were a lot of detractors who said that there was far too much randomness in the book to make it competitive but personally I disagree. Sure you have a chance of ending up with a ludicrously strong force or a pathetically weak one but most of the time you'll get something decent.

One thing is for sure. Flying monstrous creatures in numbers is nasty. Most of the greater daemons are good with probably the best being the Lord of Change. Couple him with some more FMCs and there aren't many armies than can deal with them. Even if they crash (which isn't all that likely - especially when Matt is rolling for it), they're still able to fly again next turn and will probably have covered enough ground turn 1 to be in combat turn 2.

I have little or no interest in the Daemons but the thing that might pique my interest is the randomness. Sure it's gutting if you don't get the rolls you want but the thrill of knowing how good something could be is worth it I reckon. Granted some of the randomness seems a bit excessive but otherwise it makes them more interesting. Are they still competitive? Only time will tell. Certainly they benefit from some CSM allies or being taken as allies themselves.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

New Tau Codex Unit Reviews - Hammerhead Gunship (incl. Longstrike)

As I mentioned in the Broadside post. The Hammerhead Gunship is now the only place you can find the iconic S10 AP1 railgun that defined the Tau army for the last couple of editions. The Heavy Support section of the Tau FOC is pretty hotly contested but most people are likely to take a couple of Broadside teams supported by a Hammerhead or Sky Ray. The Sniper Teams simply won't get a look in I'm afraid. They're not awful but the other choices are brilliant so they'll lose out.

The Hammerhead Gunship has come down in price quite dramatically, well the railgun variant has at least. The armour profile of 13/12/10 has been retained, as has BS4. Interestingly submunition rounds are now a 5pt upgrade for your railgun but I think they should be always taken as it gives the hammerhead some flexibility.

The gun drones can now be swapped for a twin-linked burst cannon (rather than the two burst cannons previously, which doesn't make much difference) or a twin-linked SMS. Both upgrades are free and both put out 4 S5 shots. However, the SMS has much better range, Ignores Cover and doesn't require line of sight. The importance of this will become obvious later. As with other vehicles, Seeker Missiles can be taken but I don't really see the point.  The railgun can be swapped for an ion cannon but since this is the only place to find the railgun now I can't see many people opting for ion, even with the overcharge option.

The Hammerhead can be given Vehicle Battle Systems but, before we look at them, I need to talk about the most interesting thing about the new Hammerhead which is Commander Longstrike. For 45pts a single Hammerhead can have this little fella in the cockpit. Based on my experience of him in a couple of test games he's pretty awesome.

Longstrike makes your Hammerhead BS5 which means hitting nearly every time. He also has the Tank Hunter rule which means you can re-roll to penetrate vehicles which is frankly disgustingly good on an S10 weapon. Throw in Preferred Enemy (IG) and you're getting through Chimeras/Leman Russ pretty quickly. He also gives the tank a blacksun filter (only 1pt to buy anyway). The other cool thing he does is to give his Hammerhead the ability to fire Overwatch and Supporting Fire. Oh and it can do it several times a turn!! This is why the SMS is better as sometimes a unit being charged might not be in line of sight of the hammerhead but still within 6". The SMS can still hit the attackers even if the railgun can't. This makes your hammerhead a really scary proposition in the middle of your gunline.

Personally, I'm only planning on taking a single Longstrike Hammerhead in my armies so let's look at the Vehicle Battle Systems we can give to the tank. We don't need a blacksun filter or point defence targeting relay. The repair system is a bit of waste of time even for 5pts and we aren't going to reserve it so decoy launchers are out. The advanced targeting systems and flechette discharger are tempting but the hammerhead is already pretty expensive. The only upgrade I'd give a Longstrike Hammerhead then is the disruption pod as, if you can find some ruins to hide behind you can claim a near permanent 3+ cover save. Otherwise you're still getting 4+ from Jink.

The tank with submunition rounds, Longstrike and a disruption pod comes to 190pts which is cheaper than a pair of broadsides and probably just as good against ground targets. Essentially whilst it's alive you're killing a tank per turn.

Without Longstrike the tank is still BS4 and can be markerlight boosted to higher but personally I'd rather have Broadsides. Next up we'll round off the Heavy Support choices by looking at the Sky Ray. It's my favourite Tau model but there's stiff competition for it's place in the Tau army.

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Tau Codex - After Action Thoughts

As you may have gathered by now I'm obscenely excited by the release of the new codex. I've already posted my first impressions but over the last week I've played 4 games at 1,850 with them. The first three games were used to try out as many different units from the new codex as possible whilst the fourth game saw me use, what I think is a really competitive list and table Matt's competitive CSM/Daemons force. Here's my experience of the different units so far. I'll be covering each in more detail as part of my Unit Reviews series but these are some after action thoughts.

Farsight - the main reason to take him is the "bomb" of suits he can accurately drop in. Frankly once he's done that he's a waste of points though. He doesn't have Iridium armour (probably because he's an outcast) but this means for me a normal Commander is better. Besides some of the Warlord Traits are just as good as the no scatter one.
Shadowsun - a better option than Farsight I reckon. She gives her unit Stealth and Shrouded and with her twin-fusion blasters and advanced targeting system she's a threat to enemy chars. Once again she's competing with Ethereals and Commanders, both of which can be excellent.
Aun'va/Aun'shi - not had chance to try them yet
Darkstrider - BS5 markerlight is great but better in a fire warrior unit than pathfinders as his -1T rule is wasted when using markerlights. Could be used to devastating effect with Outflank.
Ethereal - weak if not hidden in a unit but Ld bubble is handy. You're pretty much always going to use the extra shot on pulse weapons as it's brilliant for both shooting phase and Overwatch. Question is whether powers can be used from within a devilfish though. Nothing saying it doesn't unless they FAQ it.
Cadre Fireblade - good for ranged shooting with Fire Warriors and has BS5 markerlight but Ethereal gives wider effects. Combination of both could be devastating though.
Commanders - could spend ages working out all the combinations but with some of the Warlord Traits him and his unit can be excellent. Bodyguard aren't really worth 10pts extra despite auto-LoS.

Fire Warriors - same as ever but Supporting Fire with Ethereal can be great with good unit positioning. Big squads are the order of the day.
Kroot - cheap outflanking scoring units are great but don't expect them to survive long

Crisis Teams - team them up with a commander and there are some seriously nasty combinations. Not having to pay for multi-trackers allows more twin-linkage.
Stealth Teams - when they're trying to compete with Crisis there's no contest and 30pts is far too much for single wound models. Sadly they don't do anything the rest of your army can't do.
XV104 Riptide - as I've discussed in my post they're fun but expensive. We'll see them in competitive play for a while but I think people will realise they aren't the dog's dangly bits as they first thought. Certainly nice to have one in friendly games though.

Fast Attack
Pathfinders - love them even more than I did before. No compulsory devilfish means they're much more appealing. Only drone I find useful is the grav one though. Keep them cheap because they'll be priority targets.
Vespid - not tried them but struggle to see a place for them. If they'd been given two shot guns then maybe.
Drone Squads - could add 4 BS2 markers for 56pts but pathfinders are cheaper. Not much point taking them since they can't score/deny.
Piranhas - cheaper than they were but with BS3 they need markers to make a mess of AV14. 100pts to kill a land raider is good.
Sunshark bomber - killed a full unit of cultists with the bomb but most other targets would shrug it off. Drones are great as they give you the ability to fire at different targets with Skyfire.
Razorshark fighter - lacks punch vs AV12 and I think the bomber is more flexible

Heavy Support
Broadsides - I do miss S10 but S8 AP1 vs flyers is good. Nasty even with a single markerlight. Should've done a lot better in my games but I kept rolling 1s on damage table.
Hammerhead - only tried it with Longstrike but he's a beast. More on him soon but without him it still suffers from the same issues and has to compete with Broasides.
Sky Ray - great for hitting flyers with markerlights to boost your broadsides but has to stay still to be effective with missiles meaning it needs cover or else is vulnerable with a lack of Jink.
Sniper Drones - didn't try them but can't see them finding a place in a strong FOC slot

I was worried that I'd find using the new Tau army a little boring as it's essentially roll dice until things die. However, the combination of Ethereal, Supporting Fire and Markerlights takes some skill to get right. Planning your shooting phase can be difficult. Spent most of the games with a grin on my face as I picked up handfuls of dice.

I was mostly playing against AV12 flyers and flying monstrous creatures so given how well the broadsides faired against them they're going to be brutal against AV10/11. Matt only crashed one of his MCs despite one taking 7-8 tests. Had they fallen they'd have certainly been gunned down by massed pulse fire. Old Tau games were very much a see-saw effect where you felt you were doing well early on as your broadsides gunned down vehicles. Later in the game the assaults were crippling though and the game was often lost as soon as your opponent reached your lines.

I have to say I love the way they've sorted Tau in assaults. They should never have become assault masters but needed some kind of protection. The free photon grenades for pathfinders and fire warriors, devastating Supporting Fire volleys and drone shenanigans make them pretty slippery. This can often lure an opponent into the open to try to charge only to find himself out of range and gunned down next turn. Matt regularly had MCs on a single wound and was scared to charge fire warriors for fear of Overwatch. That's a great feeling as a Tau player.

It's a bit sad that the new units (flyer/riptide) aren't better but they're far from awful. The HQ slot is probably the most difficult one to decide. Pretty much everything in there could be good. I'd love to take an Ethereal and Fireblade but a Commander is just too tempting. Next battle I have (probably against Jamie) will be given a detailed battle report.


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