Friday, January 10, 2014

Battle Report - Escalation! Orks vs. Eldar and Eldar vs. Tau

Let's get something clear before I start. The reason Matt and I played these games was to determine whether we'd consider going to tournaments at our local venue (The Outpost) if they decided to allow Lords of War. Most of their events are 1,750pts so that's the level we played at. I'm sure that a single Lord of War in a 2,000+ game isn't too much of a big deal (most of the time) but it's rare that a UK event plays much above 1,850.

So, anyway, our first game would see an Ork army including a Stompa play againsts Matt's latest Eldar tournament list (with minimal Tau), granted not the standard Taudar list but still strong. The second game would be an Eldar revenant list against my tailored Tau list which I was pretty confident could deal with the titan.

Orks (with Stompa) vs. Eldar (+Tau)
The stompa was joined by three squads of 18 boyz with a nob each, a big mek with KFF, Zogwort and a couple of battlewagons. Essentially the hope was that the wagons and the stompas could deliver the boyz safely into combat where they could probably deal with most opponents. In the meantime the stompa would hopefully be ripping open transports and generally being a nuisance.

Matt won first turn but I jammily managed to Seize. The stompa was hugely underwhelming in the first round. The S10 AP1 blast scattered away (despite being a huge template) and the supa-gatler could only strip a single hullpoint from one of the serpents thanks to their shields. In response the Eldar killed one of the battlewagons and stripped a couple of hull points from the stompa. The hordes of orks slowly chewed through some serpents and their contents but the star of the show was Zogwort who turned the Tau commander into a squig, Zzaped a wave serpent and generally causing a nuisance.

The Stompa itself smashed a wave serpent easily in combat before the Wraightknight charged in. The Eldar construct stripped some hull points but in response the stompa cut it in two with it's massive chainsword. One mob of orks charged into the avatar but with Matt challenging the nob every time I relied on scoring 6s to wound and hoping for failed armour saves which never came.

Eventually the stompa was faced with the avatar. Despite surviving the first volley of melta shots the avatar had no problems second time around. We were playing the Scouring so with the nobs being close to relatively low score objectives, Matt managed to sneak the win with a combination of dire avengers holding onto an objective along with Slay the Warlord, First Blood and bonus VPs from the Stompa.

Tau vs Eldar (with Revenant)
With both armies having poured points into a major unit (his titan and my titan-killer bomb), there were very little else on the table. This game would be over very quickly. I'd won the roll off and obviously elected to go first to give me the best chance of having stuff on the board. Despite a discussion about whether he should just reserve the titan and make the farsight bomb impotent, Matt decided to deploy it alongside his four wave serpents.

I was running a pair of riptides, farsight bomb loaded up with fusion, some pathfinders, an ethereal, a trio of devilfish with fire warriors and some kroot. The idea being that this list should still work at a tournament whilst being able to down the titan. Anyway, my first turn was poor. One riptide failed his nova and then could only score a glance on a wave serpent. The other overheated and therefore did nothing. Perhaps I should've fired them at the titan but the wave serpents were also a threat and potentially could give me First Blood.

The Eldar turn was as expected. The Revenant fired one pulsar at the devilfish and managed to also hit a riptide. The devilfish was destroyed but suprisingly the D-weapon only scored 4 wounds on the riptide. It was the same story with the other pulsar which only managed 3 wounds. The wave serpents were on hand to complete the job though and were able to finish both riptides off along with most of the pathfinders. The titan had fired it's missiles at the pathfinders allowing it to charge and hopefully be locked. However, it's stomp attack caused enough wounds and the pathfinders broke.

Thankfully the Farsight bomb arrived on turn 2 and positioned itself for its assault on the titan. With both riptides dead I'd still lose the game as I wouldn't be able to deal with the wave serpents but maybe I could take the titan down as a hefty consolation. The squad was armed with 12 fusion blasters with re-roll to hit and Ignores Cover. With no marker support I scored 9 hits, 5 of which hit the holo-fields instead. The remaining 4 hits all managed to penetrate thanks to Tank Hunter (for 4 HP). I'd now need to roll more than 5 on four D3 to give me the win. Sadly I fluffed the roll and the titan survived on a single HP. Knowing the retribution would be swift I used the Thrust move to spread the suits out as much as possible.

The following turn allowed the titan to fire up its jump jets and blast away. It lined up the suits for some revenge and, despite the spacing, the four pulsar blasts were still enough to kill all but one suit. At that point with no riptides, a single crisis suit and some fire warriors left, I conceded.

Before starting these games there was no doubt in my mind that the Ork game would be fun and the Tau vs. Eldar game would be miserable. There's no question that you could play a game with Lords of War involved, even at 1,750pts, that both players enjoyed. That being said, both Matt and I enjoy playing with and against Orks so perhaps we're biased. The stompa underperformed a little too as the S10 massive blast scattered off target most of the time. Of course I was pretty lucky to avoid Whirr-Click-Click until the last moment but still it wasn't a game that flattered the Ork gargant.

The Revenant game was a totally different cup of tea. In some ways it was still exciting as I knew I had a good chance of killing it. The Farsight bomb I took was, off the top of my head, the best unit I can think off in the game for taking down the titan. There's been suggestions of various combat units that can deal with it but I'm yet to see how you'd even get in combat with it thanks to it's huge movement range. Sure, you can probably take it down by attrition in bigger games (I'm thinking at least 2,500pts) but in smaller games you've got to be pretty lucky to deal with it. My Tau list was specifically designed to deal with the revenant whilst still having a component that can deal with enemy troops and claim objectives. That's important. A lot of the suggested armies for taking it down don't factor in actually winning the game should you succeed against the titan. This isn't an issue for the Eldar. Even at 1,750 you can have 3 wave serpents and three 3-man windrider squads alongside the Revenant. That's more than enough to win the game against most opponents.

Let's have a look at Farsight's unit in more detail, it has 12 twin-linked fusion blasters. Assuming the Revenant (or accompanying wave serpents) have managed to get rid of any markerlight support, the suits will be BS3 which means 9 hits. Thanks to the holofield thing you'll lose half of them, let's say that leaves 5 to be generous. Thanks to being in melta range you'll nearly guaranteed to penetrate with all 5 shots (needing 4+ on two dice with a re-roll). That's 5 hullpoints straight away plus an additional D3 for each and therefore a dead titan. With careful placement of the suits you're unlikely to lose many (if any) to the blast as it explodes catastrophically. Happy days. Obviously, with markerlight support you can get to a point where you're getting 11 hits and you're near guaranteed to kill it with one volley.

So I was just unlucky in our game then? Well yes and no. If you're playing someone with a Revenant then they'll either reserve the titan (and perhaps include an autarch for reserve manipulation) or else position it in such a way that a deep strike nearby is a huge risk i.e. somewhere an allied riptide could annihilate you. You've then got to factor in that my list had no reserve manipulation of it's own. What happens if the bomb doesn't arrive until turn 4. Are you confident you'll have anything left at that point? If the Eldar player goes first it's not totally unfeasible that you've been wiped off the board before the suits arrive and on their own they're not going to win you the game. If you don't manage to kill the Revenant when you arrive, you're unlikely to get a second chance.

I'm not going to pretend my Tau list is totally optimised but it was certainly a reasonable list for your average Tau player to create. Let's not forget any list that can deal with a Revenant has to also hold its own in the other games in a tournament too. Obviously the farsight bomb in this form has plenty of target locks so you could deal with several vehicles provided they're close enough together but it isn't particularly great without some means of getting Gate.

The main thing for me is that Tau are just about the only army capable of running a unit that can even claim to be "reliable" at killing the Revenant. Now, of course, most armies can take some form of ranged D-weaponry but the Revenant is by far the best. Transcendant C'Tan are also a hell of a problem for the vast majority of opposing armies. Without a Lord of War of your own then I'm not sure many non-Tau armies can even hope to bring it down anywhere near quick enough.

So I hate Escalation then? Not really. The idea of bringing a Stompa, Baneblade, etc to a regular game provides the opportunity for a lot of fun. The idea of a regular army trying everything to bring down a hulking behemoth before it wipes them out is genuinely thrilling. The ork game was a whole heap of fun, in no small part due to the slow demise of the Stompa. The Revenant presents a big challenge to its opponents and to the game in general. Most 40K armies have a Rock-Paper-Scissors thing going on. Some armies you play will simply not stand a chance against you whilst others will crush you almost every time. If the Revenant is "rock" though then there are far more "scissors" out there than there's "paper".

It comes down to this. In casual games Escalation is a lot of fun. I'll never attend a tournament which uses it though as, at this point level at least, the Revenant (amongst others) is a near auto-win and requires me to bring a pretty dirty (and somewhat dull) list to counter it (or try). It's probably no worse than some of the deathstars out there in regular 40K but the difference is there's an easy way to prevent Escalation. Simply don't allow it. If you want to use it in your games then by all means do what you like at home but you can't honestly say it'd be a lot of fun to use a Revenant at a tournament. GW should've left these things in Apocalypse where they belong.

Right, tomorrow I'm off to a regular 40K tournament (they decided to ban Escalation) at the Outpost again tomorrow. Sadly, there's only 10 people playing but it should still be fun I hope. Full report on Sunday of course before I take on the Tyranid codex reviews.

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