Sunday, August 25, 2013

Know Your Enemy - Tau Empire in 6th Edition

Thought I'd resurrect a series that I started a long time ago. I've still got to write up the apocalypse game but it seems like a mammoth task that I can't be bothered to start at the moment. Anyway, the Know Your Enemy series is intended as a guide for people to better understand the armies they're likely to face on the battlefields of the 41st millennium. The previous posts in this series entitled "Know Thy Enemy" are a bit dated now so I thought I'd slightly change the name so that the tags will help people limit themselves to the up-to-date stuff. As I'm playing with Tau a lot recently I thought I'd give people some tips on how to beat them.

The Basics
With the update to the codex back in April, Tau have gone from a mediocre dated army that only a handful of diehard players use to a top tier army that can really pack a punch. The basic mechanic of the Tau hasn't changed a great deal. They still deal a lot of damage at extended range and their basic weaponry is S5 instead of the usual S4. They still suck in combat (for the most part) and the majority of the heavy firepower comes from crisis teams.

Unusually in 40K, Tau have a mixture of toughness and strength values. Their standard profile is T3/S3 but their suits are mostly T4/S5 (or T6/S6 for riptides). However, their other stats are pretty uniform with most units having BS3, WS2 and Initiative 2. The most notable exceptions to this are commanders who have improved BS/WS as you might expect.

Strengths and Weaknesses
On the face of it Tau are a gunline army. However, don't expect them to simply sit back and shoot. Of course they can do that, and do it well, but their real strength lies in their unexpected mobility. The main things that set Tau apart though are a prevalance of both Skyfire and Interceptor, Ignores Cover thanks to Markerlights, Storm of Fire from the Ethereals (making Fire Warriors devastating at close range) and Supporting Fire. The last one of that list has gone some way to addressing their weakness in combat.

There's no doubting one of the main weaknesses of the Tau is combat. However, you may not get there. Slogging your way on foot towards a Tau gunline is pretty much suicide but dropping in from the skies or outflanking won't help you much. Expect your reserves to be targetted as soon as they arrive. If you can get into combat then they'll fold pretty quickly but it's worth thinking about Supporting Fire. Manipulation of Overwatch is pretty key for defeating Tau, more on that below though.

There are two other important weaknesses too. Firstly, Tau troops really aren't good at taking objectives, never mind holding them. You can throw fire warriors in devilfish but they're pretty expensive which takes away valuable points for other toys. Kroot may be able to Outflank but they fold under the slightest pressure. The second weakness is their ability to deal with AV13/14. The majority of their firepower is either S5 or S7 and their melta weaponry is limited to select units.

5 Units to Watch Out For
1. Riptides
The most notable addition in the new book, these towering battlesuits are capable of some serious damage. The standard loadout is an ion accelerator (3 S7 AP2 shots or a large S8 AP2 blast), fusion blaster (18" melta), early warning override (Interceptor) and velocity tracker (Skyfire). What makes the riptide deadly is the ability to take out entire units as they arrive from reserve. The main gun has a 60" range so there aren't many places a unit can arrive and be out of range. If they can get their hands on a couple of markerlight hits then that unit of marines will be losing their cover save. The nova reactor turns an already deadly unit into a disgustingly good one.

The combination of interceptor and skyfire is also pretty deadly. Some Tau players will incorrectly try and fire both weapons in their opponents turn when actually a multi-tracker only allows for two weapons to be fired in the Shooting Phase. Even so, position your flyer within 9" (melta half-range) of a riptide and be prepared to lose it. A lot of Tau players are now taking 2 or even 3 riptides due to their ability to dominate flyers and deep strikers alike.

2. Broadsides
There are some horrible lists with broadsides in. In the previous codex Broadsides wielded S10 AP1 railguns but they've down been downgraded to S8 AP1 heavy rail rifles. However, they also have the option of  the S7 high yield missile pods and these are what you're likely to find most broadsides equipped with. The choice is then between Skyfire and Interceptor (a broadside can't have both as standard). Most players go with Interceptor and rely on twin-linkage and shot volume to compensate for Snap Shots against flyers.

The missile pods are pretty short range but it isn't difficult to position them so that they can cover most of the board. Broadsides can also take missile drones for even more S7 fire at lower BS. For this reason they're often joined by a commander to boost the drones to BS5. The commander can also be given upgrades to allow a squad of broadsides to ignore cover and/or re-roll armour pens (or wounds against MCs). They can also fire their S5 secondar weapons at the same time. Each squad of suits can put out a sickening volume of fire that few opponents can withstand. All this from a suit with two wounds and a 2+ save.

3. Crisis Suits & Commanders
Whilst crisis suits are incredibly versatile with a wide array of different weapon options the most commonly used weapons are missile pods (more S7 fire), plasma rifles (S6 AP2) and fusion blasters (18" meltas). They often deep strike into enemy lines to enable them to bring down vehicles and heavy weapons teams alike.

What they're infamous for though is their "jump-shoot-jump" manoeuvre. This allows them to hide behind cover, pop out to shoot and then hide again afterward. They can even do this on the turn they deep strike now. This makes crisis teams incredibly slippery. The commander can be given a 2+ save too which enables him to act as a tank.

4. Fire Warriors
Not as popular as kroot (see below) but worth mentioning due to the combination of large squads of fire warriors with an ethereal. If they're joined by one of these guys then at 15" each fire warrior can put out 3 S5 shots. Combine that with some markerlight hits to boost BS and you've got a deceptively deadly unit. Bear in mind they can also fire that number of shots on Overwatch (or Supporting Fire). They aren't particularly good at holding objectives though and crumble in combat if you survive the Overwatch.

5. Kroot
Pretty weak but nevertheless their cheap as hell. At just 6pts a piece most players will take these over fire warriors for the simple fact that their a scoring unit that doesn't prevent them from affording more riptides and broadsides. The key trick for Kroot is to Outflank onto objectives and hide out in cover. They can also deal with weaker units like cultists, guardsment, termagants who may be holding objectives. It's important to remember this when placing your objectives.

How to Beat Them
Tau can really hamper your gameplan, especially if that plan relies on flyers or deep strikers. However, the key is to adapt your playstyle to compensate. For starters it's worth bearing in mind that their Troop choices are weak and pretty easy to take down. As with any GEQ army flamers (particularly heavy ones) are your friend. It's easy to overlook the troops when you've got to concentrate on things like riptides but with most games based around objectives you should concentrate on their troops if you can.

If your opponent has a mass of fire warriors with an Ethereal then you should make the Ethereal a priority target right away. It's crucial to remember those precision shots for sniping him out of the unit. Not only will killing him dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the fire warriors but he'll give you a bonus VP too.

Taking out those broadsides can be a pain. They can be dealt with pretty easily by things like TH/SS terminators but any decent Tau general will priortise them as soon as they appear. However, a land raider (which some Tau armies would struggle to take out) with some terminators inside, may be a solution.

Markerlights are a big deal for Tau. In a similar way to Imperial Guard orders, if you can take out the source you can drastically reduce the firepower. Pathfinders are pretty easy to deal with and, although slightly more slippery, marker drone teams aren't too difficult to deal with if you can get them at an angle where the commander can't tank.

With Tau there's a tipping point. Expect to lose a lot early on but in later turns as you get into combat you'll start to turn the tide. The key to getting into combat is manipulating their Overwatch. Trying to approach a Tau gunline head on is foolish as theres likely to be a network of Supporting Fire. However, by picking off units on the edges of the formation you can minimise the amount of fire coming your way. If you're charging with multiple units the order in which you declare the charges is important too.

Tau can be incredibly tough for some armies to beat. There are some top level builds that are pretty difficult for any army to deal with so don't be disheartened if you lose to them. The important things to remember are that their troops are weak and that you shouldn't feed your units to them one at a time.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ideas for Army List Restriction at Blog Wars 6

At some point I'll write up the apocalypse battle so keep an eye out for that but for now I wanted to discuss some thoughts I've been having about Blog Wars 6.

It's always my intention to make Blog Wars a fun and friendly event. However, I always want to have prizes that are worth winning too. In the past I've reduced the top prize in order to try and discourage people from bringing a top flight tournament list to this event and easily taking 1st place against lists that simply aren't competitive. Now obviously Swiss Pairs goes some way to match people up with an equally skilled opponent but we all know it's not without its problems. I don't want to insult anyone who's won Blog Wars (that's only two people) but most of the time I've looked at the pairings and known what the outcome will be. Of course you can always do that to some extent but it's a problem when you look at the lists before the event and know who's going to win before any dice are rolled.

Ideally everyone would bring something more on the fluffy than competitive side but you simply can't force people to do that and it would probably put people off. Blog Wars 5 was probably quite an extreme example where there were very few purely competitive lists or players. Ultimately I want everyone to enjoy the event and of course losing is never fun but when you know from deployment how it will go then you're going through the motions for how ever long it takes you to get tabled. I don't personally think it's much fun to play with some of the top lists. Surely if there's no challenge to it then you can't enjoy it?

What I'm trying to get at (slowly) is that I'd like to find some way of levelling the playing field a bit. There obviously isn't anything stopping one of the less competitive players from bringing a competitive list but it works the same in reverse too. There are two solutions that immediately spring to mind. Firstly, remove the "cash" prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. That way it becomes more of a club night than a tournament. I have to say I don't like this idea as I'm a firm believer that a tournament should be competitive and that the prizes should be worth competing for.

The second option is to "comp" the event. Blog Wars has always been sort of "comped" in that special characters are compulsory but what I'm talking about here will go further. Everyone knows that 40K is a system that likes multiples. If something is good, take as many as you can. I'm talking about riptides, heldrakes, wave serpents, flying daemon princes, annihilation barges, etc. To counter this kind of multiplication requires some amount of tailoring. For example, that triple heldrake list won't be much good against pure terminator armies or riptides with skyfire and intercept.

The solution then is to restrict the number of each unit you can take. This means that you'd only be able to take one of each unit in a particular FOC slot. Thinking of Tau for a minute that would mean you could take a riptide, a crisis team and a stealth team in your Elites slot but you couldn't take two of any of them. You could of course take a second crisis team as a bodyguard for a commander. Similarly you couldn't take 3 heldrakes. Of course with the advent of supplements there's the potential to squeeze one heldrake into a CSM list with a second in a Black Legion allied list. This wouldn't be acceptable should I impose this system.

Realistically, unless you make everything scoring, you can't limit the number of Troops people are allowed and several codices have only two options for Troops units whilst others have several. Therefore Troops would be exempt from this restriction as are their transports. Now, I appreciate this doesn't solve every problem. A Necron player can still bring 7 flyers (6 night scythes as transports, 1 doom scythe in heavy). He could potentially still take a unit of deathmarks in a night scythe too. Similarly a Eldar player could end up with lots of wave serpents without breaching the restrictions.

The other problem with it is that people who want to bring themed armies will struggle. Their armies may not be particularly competitive but may still have multiples of particular units. That's probably the biggest problem for me as I always enjoy seeing an army built around a theme.

It's not perfect then and that's why I'm not simply enforcing it without discussion. Of course there will still be dirty lists but it should encourage players to think outside the box a bit more and hopefully generate some interesting combinations.

I really want to hear feedback from people, even if they aren't coming to Blog Wars. Are you all for this idea or do you think it would be too restrictive? Will it even work? Comments and emails on the subject will be gratefully received.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

This is it, the Apocalypse!

Seems like a long time since I posted anything up but I wanted to talk about Apocalypse. Matt, Scott and I are heading down to WHW on Wednesday to play our first game using the proper Apocalypse rules.

We've had a 6,000pt game before but this was essentially just a big game of 40K without any of the rules from the expansion. We never bothered with the old version of apocalypse as we always felt our collections were too small and we didn't own any of the special units in the apoc book. However, Matt used his winnings from the Blood Brothers tournament to pick up a copy of the new version of the expansion. Therefore we simply had to take it for a spin. 

So on Wednesday we're going to be play an 8,000 pt Apocalypse game on one of the big tables at Warhammer World (it might end up being the same one we used for the 6K game as I failed to book early enough to get the Tau table I wanted. I'm currently debating whether we need 12' x 8' or 8' x 6'. Kind of difficult to know but as you can see in the pictures below my army takes up most of my 6' x 4' board!

Anyway, Matt and Scott will be bringing a combined Imperium force with Blood Angels, Imperial Guard and probably some GK thrown in perhaps. I'll be facing off against them with my "Triumvirate" of Tau, Orks and Dark Eldar. I had thought about using some of my Space Wolves or Dark Angels but decided to keep my theme limited to xenos. Here's a shot of my whole army:

The army is split pretty evenly between the three races. Points-wise there's slightly more in the Ork part, then the Dark Eldar part and finally the Tau bit has the least points. The general idea was to use as many of the apocalypse formations as I had the models for and I also wanted each portion of the army to have a flyer to make things interesting in the skies above the battlefield.

This is the Tau force. There's a Riptide Wing, Counterstrike Cadre and a Rapid Insertion Force. On top of that there's a commander and a Sunshark so pretty much everything is in an apoc formation.

The Dark Eldar force has some reavers that I didn't fit in to the full army shot. They're part of a Dark Olympiad and there's a Kabalite Web Strike since I couldn't resist a webway portal that allows vehicles to emerge. The third formation is Ravager Titan Hunters which will hopefully help with Matt's Revenant titan (proxied by a Wraithknight). The only DE unit that isn't in a formation is the Voidraven which I'd have like to have fielded in a squadron but didn't have access to enough models.

Finally we come to the Orks. My original plan for the apoc army was just to have Tau and Orks with as many boyz as I could lay my hands on but I've limited it somewhat since I don't have enough boyz built up. Even so there's 96 boyz, 4 nobz and a warboss in a single Green Tide who'll be joined by Ghazghkull and a Big Mek to make them punchier. Not sure how I'm going to roll enough dice when they charge something but I'd be surprised if I get even half of them into combat at any one time! They're joined by a dakkajet (again I'd have liked a squadron but don't have the models). Last but not least there's a pair of Stompas as my only super-heavies.

I have to say I'm excited at the though of using the stompas. They'll probably end up dying quickly knowing my luck but at least they're imposing. I've borrowed one from Jamie and the other one took me the best part of a day to build last week.

I would've loved to have the whole army painted in time but that just isn't realistic. The orks will be my next big project (until I get distracted by something else - more on that later) and hopefully in future apocalypse games I'll be able to field a bigger ork force.

This whole thing will be a massive learning curve for all three of us. I'm pleased that none of us have played apocalypse before as no-one will really know what to expect. At the moment I predict it will go one of two ways. Either we'll end up taking ages to get going and barely finish by the end of the day or we'll whip through quickly as waves of my army is dying. I can't say I'm all that confident against the might of the Imperium as I expect there'll be plenty of tanks and I've not exactly got tons of anti-tank fire there.

Still I'm excited about the sheer scale of the battle, I hope it's at least an enjoyable experience that we'll get to repeat fairly soon. Stay tuned for a battle report on Thursday or Friday.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Old Dark Eldar Blog - A Warning!

Just a quick one today about something that a friend of mine brought to my attention. A few of you may remember that I used to have a Dark Eldar blog by the name of Kabalite. I attempted to run both blogs simultaneously but it proved to be futile. I have enough on trying to post regularly on one blog without having a second to worry about. I therefore deleted the blog a few months ago. Until recently when people went to the address they were met with a Blogger logo and "this blog has been removed".

However, presumably in the past few weeks someone has either "hacked" it or started a new blog with the same address (if that's possible?). Either way Kabalite has now gone the way of most of the internet and turned into a porn site. I'd like to point out that this has absolutely nothing to do with me (of course). If you still have Kabalite in your blog rolls/reading lists please delete it immediately.

Strangely when I try it now it seems to bring me back to the "blog removed" screen but it's still a dead blog so you should remove it.


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