So, my quest to play everyone in the gaming group is winding down. There are a few stragglers that have managed to evade me thus far, and I pinned one down again this week. Jeff plays a Tau force and decorates his bases with ‘nid corpses. Could there be a more perfect opponent to play with my last game of 4th edition bugs?
The board consisted of large, square 4” high hills (represented in the battle report as buildings). Pre-deployment we went over the rules for terrain, LoS, & cover, and decided the sides of these cliffs would be treated as impassable terrain—though if you could make it on top, you could move around quite easily. This worked well for Jeff, since practically his entire army was either jump infantry, or was mounted in a skimmer. On the other hand, I had exactly zero flyers, and I had only bothered to buy flesh hooks on a single model in my army—and that was only because I had a single spare point left over after army creation so I threw them on my tyrant guard. The easy win for the Tau appeared to be just hopping on top of the buildings and shooting me down where I couldn’t get to him. Doh!
In game setup, we rolled up long board edges with two objectives. Though I typically don’t care for this particular mission type, I was glad to see it for a change. My force mustered 11 kill points of fairly slow moving bugs—while Jeff only brought 10 kill points of agile (armored) troops to the table. In hindsight, this was probably the best mission I could’ve hoped for against him. Had we played a KP mission, he’d have had an advantage with his long range shooty and maneuverability. Had we played a multiple objective mission, his fast moving army could’ve been a complete nightmare. Fortunately for me, I only had to contend with armored targets that had the ability to become completely untouchable in hand-to-hand. Sure, it was rough, but it was likely the best odds I could get.
I had won first turn, and graciously let Jeff deploy first. As (almost) always in objective gathering missions, I like having the ability to snatch one last objective before the game ends. It’s also handy being able to react to my opponents deployment.
With his mechanized force, his deployment was fairly predictable: tanks stretched across his side of the board, leaving the one tank that I really wanted to kill (his hammerhead) in cover. His crisis suits, being the only unmounted unit in his force, opted to set up on the right flank—away from his objective.
Knowing the mission was simply to hold at least one objective and contest the other, I deployed my entire army on the left flank. My intent was to leave a single squad of gaunts in the back to hold my objective (support by long range dakka), while the rest of the swarm moved forward to annoy him on the other objective. Due to the placement of his objective on top of the hill/building, I would never be able to get up there to hold it, but luckily it was close enough to the edge, that a model could saddle up alongside the hill and contest it.
My ‘stealers chose to outflank, and his stealth suits deployed in the open in front of my horde. Since I’d opted for 2nd turn, I didn’t bother to seize initiative…
Turn 1: Tau
The engines of the empire predictably moved forward and opened up with their guns—though they proved to be largely unable to hit anything. The hammerhead ignored the big bugs nearby and fired at the massed ‘gaunts behind them. Hitting a mixture of 12 gaunts and rippers across three squads, he ultimately only killed three of them. Between rolling 1’s on wounds, and the cover saves afforded me by the wall of big bugs and trees, I came off pretty well.
Meanwhile, the stealth suits started what would be an annoying 5-round tango with my swarm: move forward, shoot, jump away, and then have me fail my night-fight rolls. Lucky for me, they only dropped a single ripper swarm this turn.
Turn 1: Tyranids
Yeah… I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t inspire any fear into my enemies this turn. My swarm of little bugs surged forward and had mediocre running. My zoanthropes tried (in vain) to kill some stealth squads, and set the tone for a lackluster round of shooting.
My Hive Tyrant, with his enhanced strength and a Barbed strangler would prove to be inadequate to crack open the front armor of any vehicle. My warriors were slightly better off, but firing strength 6 guns, they were only able to glance vehicles with 6’s. My carnifexes were much tougher, but for some reason I didn’t give them a BS upgrade, so only were hitting on 5’s. It was not making for a fun game of shooting. With a surprisingly shooty tyranid swarm, pumping out 15 str6+ shots at 24” (or greater), I managed to cause exactly zero damage to his army. YAY!
I’d like to take a moment to talk about deathspitters as ranged weaponry. In the entire life of my 3rd & 4rd edition tyranid force, I’m not sure that I ever took a squad of shooty warriors. Most games, I didn’t take warriors at all, but on those rare occasions I did, I mostly used the winged variety and tooled them up for assault. I’ve never looked at ‘nids as an overly effective ranged force, but the idea in this particular army was to debunk that theory. As a result, I opted for devourers on my warriors. The mindset was simple: I wanted a gun with a long range, and that was the best option they had (aside from heavy weapons, which they’d obviously be limited in taking).
The curious thing about deathspitters is that they’re all blast weapons. So, when it came time to roll to hit for this game, I’d just choose a single target in an enemy squad, and them roll 6 scatter-dice. Obviously, I didn’t get many direct hits, but it proved to be a fairly slow process because of all of the deviations (of which, the vast majority never hit anything). I wasn’t a big fan of the guns in general—and, in the future, I think I’d stay away from using them in favor of devourers. Of course, with the impending 5th edition codex, that may change…
Turn 2: Tau
Predictably, most of the tau vehicles settled atop their perches of invulnerability, and opened fire on my army. Jeff’s shooting picked up a bit, and this time two more rippers died, along with 3 of my defending gaunts (who went to ground for a 3+ cover save, and stilled managed to fail more than half of their chances). Lastly, two of my warriors died to various tanks—also rolling miserably for their cover saves. It was becoming obvious that leaves don’t provide a solid enough defense against the high-strength weaponry of the Tau.
As I’m sure anyone who’s played against Tau before know, the stealth suits continued their annoying dance, peppering my squads with fire and them backing up. One model in each of his squads had a fusion gun, so only could fire 12”, and each turn he was out of range—which really proved to be a good thing for him. If any turn he was able to fire at me, that would’ve meant I could’ve advanced and fired back—and that was certainly something he wouldn’t have wanted.
All in all, it was a turn of moderate losses for the bugs, but the big thing was that most of his units were aloft in places I couldn’t get to.
Turn 2: Tyranids
Jeff realized the folly of his stealth suits skirting so close to the board as I rolled for my genestealer reserves. Luck was on his side though, for they didn’t come this turn…
Again, the ceaseless advance of the little bugs—and again my shooty opened up on his force. Statistically, if I fire enough shots at a tank, it will go down, right? Well, the odds worked out, and the nearby devilfish was destroyed. His fire warriors rolled out of the wreckage and were pinned. I opted not to fire anything at the squad (since it wouldn’t be affecting me next turn) in the hopes that I could replicate the damage to another tank somewhere else. Unfortunately, it was not in the cards.
The only other damage I managed to inflict was to kill off half a squad of pathfinders that had ejected from their ‘fish last turn.
Turn 3: Tau
Jeff’s plan was to use the pinned fire warriors to contest/capture my objective, and since I’d trapped them atop of a hill/building without means of locomotion, he boarded up his pathfinders again and transported them to the same building. I didn’t know why he’d made the move—until after the game when he explained his thought process. The goal was to kick the pathfinders out on the new roof, and load up the fire warriors in their shiny new ride—in order to accomplish their original objective. The plan seemed logical enough, but I’m not sure why the pathfinders had to move in order to accomplish it?
Whatever the case, seeing that I could actually take out a tank changed his play style a bit. Instead of coming right up the middle with everything, he took a more reserved style and hid behind terrain. Whether this was in response to the destruction of his tank, or as just an attempt to keep my horde from getting to his objective, I can’t be sure, but I suspect it was a bit of both.
In the backfield, he did a number to both of my ripper squads and picked off a few gaunts as well. Thank heavens for synapse—as I surely couldn’t hope to have made that many leadership checks. On occasion, he did pepper shots at my zoanthropes, but his only AP2 (or better shots) came in the form of the crisis suits (who still hadn’t got into shooting range) and his hammerhead (which preferred its massive crapper-killing ordnance templates). As a result, my ‘thropes were basically left unmolested through much of the game.
The good news for me is that virtually all of his troops had left the safety of their vehicles, and I had my templates at the ready…
Turn 3: Tyranids
My horde advanced, and finally got some damage in. My gaunts fired off a volley of 19 spinefists, hitting with 18 shots (16 before re-rolls!). As the spores cleared, we’d only managed to kill three of the fire warriors (who eventually made their leadership check). The nearby Zoanthrope powered up for a brain-blast, but failed a peril’s of the warp check and took a wound (good thing it’s rumored that ‘nids will be immune to this in 5th edition!). The Hive Tyrant was more successful and crushed the devilfish hiding behind the building.
This inspiring action was all it took for my carnifex to open his own little can of whoop-ass. His shots were responsible for vaporizing the ‘fish on Jeff’s objective. Not to be outdone, the last ‘thrope immobilized the pathfinder’s devilfish atop the building.
Whether I channeled the strength of a nearby dominatrix or I just got really lucky in my shooting, this was definitely the turning point in the battle. In one turn of shooting, I had managed to crippled all three of his remaining transports. At this point, he was down to just one tank: his hammerhead.
The Tau commander and his retinue proved unable to make an armor save, and the Carnifex’s massive strength 8+ guns decimated his bodyguard—leaving him alone in a scary world of insects.
In the meantime, my squad of rippers managed to charge his fire warrior squad in cover and inflicted more wounds than the aliens could take. They fled and were mowed down by the endless swarm of roaches.
This turn was certainly the tide-turner. Not only had I destroyed most of his mobility, but I’d also stranded almost all of his units atop buildings where they were helpless to affect the objectives of the game.
Turn 4: Tau
Kabloom! A giant termagaunt squad sized hole opened up in my forces. Practically everything he had opened up on my last scoring unit near his objective and he’d killed it to a man (despite the fact that I missed a single termie in the battle report drawing—ignore him, please).
In vengeance, the spirits of his defeated vehicles (in the form of gun drones) mustered strength and all charged the ripper squad. Eight drones at I4 would prove to be too tough for the rippers to handle—but not this turn. Thanks hivemind!
The Tau commander fired off a volley and destroyed another Tyranid warrior, but ultimately this would prove to be his last act of defiance before succumbing to the sweet role of nourishing the swarm.
Turn 4: Tyranids
You’d think I could roll a 2+ to bring in my ‘stealers, wouldn’t you? Well, after four attempts (all of which were cocked, but they looked to be successful), but on the fifth attempt, the die finally came to a stop on a level surface… and rolled a 1.
Meanwhile the sea of blood continued. One zoanthrope dispatched a squad of stealth suits, and the other tried to follow suit. Something was amiss though, as his blast fell short of the target and blasted a nearby ripper swarm. Luckily I’d already rolled the ripper’s shots (who managed to take out a stealth suit on his own).
In the backfield, one Carnie’s ‘strangler and venom cannon managed to paste the last of his scoring units on his objective—and on the other side of the field, my big bugs made an advance towards the same objective. The zoanthrope over there killed his commander with a strength 10 shot, while the rest of them fleeted forward.
Turn 5: Tau
Fire poured in from the tops of nearby buildings to destroy one of my brain bugs. The stealth suits, likewise opened fire on another—but after failing to kill it via shooting, they charged in order to save the nearby hammerhead from it’s devastating blows.
In the other combat, the last of the ripper finally fell to the tau drones. In the time that it took him to do 9 wounds to me, I’d only manage to inflict a single wound in return. Who knew that the drones were such masters of assault?
Turn 5: Tyranids
With nothing left to shoot at, my right flank fleeted back towards the objective. While he didn’t have much left, he did have a hammerhead and some drones that could’ve come back to contest with. My goal was to cut him off with big shooty and perhaps a lucky “death or glory” attack if it came down to it.
Though it turned it this wouldn’t be necessary. My ‘stealers came on the board automatically, and charged two of the drone squads and the stealth suits—killing them all. The hammerhead was immobilized by a venom cannon, and stray shots from other models weakened some of his other units.
When we rolled to see if the game was over, it was a 1, and the Tyranids sealed their last victory of the year. However, I don’t think it mattered if the game would’ve ended or kept going. At this point, Jeff had two units of fire warriors trapped atop a building and a squad of 2 drones, plus some immobilized vehicles. The only thing he could’ve contested with were the drones, and I could’ve easily ringed the objective with bugs to keep him away from it.
Ironically, the strategy that appeared to be ‘guaranteed win’ for the Tau (putting their squads on top of buildings so I couldn’t assault) proved to be their downfall. Because each of his units became stranded, nobody was available to come down and contest. Of course, this had a lot to do with my luck in supplanting his one squad from his objective as well.
What I’ve Learned:
- There are no guarantees in this game. Time and time again, strategies that are sure to win, fail, and vice versa. There’s a lot of luck in who wins or loses each game—strategy only goes so far. Some people get down on their luck and give up, but I feel it’s important to give it your all until it’s completely over. Had I given up because his strategy seemed obviously superior to mine, I’d have missed out on a great game.
- In my first game against the Tau, I was surprised to find a few things:
- Tau vehicles are skimmers, but aren’t fast moving. I’m sure I knew this at one time, but forgot since I’ve never had to play against them. Because of this, they’re far less effective than Eldar vehicles.
- Tau’s shooty is seemingly ineffective. Their high strength just doesn’t make up for the low ballistic skill. Again, in this regard, they seemed like bad Eldar.
- Tau are in need of some help in assault. Granted, they were never intended to be an assault army, but their low leadership coupled with horrendous initiative penalizes them a little too much in assault. I’m sure any savvy Tau player swears that if you get into an assault, you write that unit off, but the scales seem tipped too far against them.Ultimately, when I read through the Tau codex years ago, my thoughts were that they came across as bad Eldar, with cheesy anime-looking models. While I’ve grown to appreciate the models, my thoughts of them as bad Eldar seem to ring true…
- Tyranids don’t have to be all about hand to hand to win: A shooty army can work quite well–even out-shooting Tau (a traditional gun-line army).
However, carnifexes MUST have increased BS. I originally intended to just give them barbed stranglers and figured I’d save the BS points for something else. Since it doesn’t make a big difference on how often you hit with templates, I didn’t think it would matter. The key thing I forgot is that I also gave them venom cannons—and those certainly benefit from an increased BS.
- Deathspitters… they’re kind of meh. It seems they’d do great against horde armies, but really, the tyranids have enough ways of coping with hordes. I’d really have liked to see them with a better weapon to tackle mech. Here’s to hoping there’s something like that the next codex…