Further to the last battle, we decided to face-off the Tyranids against the Tau for round two. Unfortunately, all the pretty cover is currently over at Devilin's and I need to borrow some for match-ups. Hence why this is the defence of Legoland. We agreed an unconventional board setup of 3 foot wide and 3.5 foot deep. This would potentially give the Tau a better chance for shooting down those nids.
After the experience of my last (close run) defeat, I had decided on going all out with a leaping monster of an army...
*** Prologue ***
Shas'El Ke'Vak was relaxing in his study when the alarm warbled throughout the bunker complex. He had just been completing his daily update report for Shas'O Clearskin and had taken an all too brief moment to consider the growth of his blossoming children, not nearly fully grown at a sturdy seven years. Soon they would enroll with the planetary fire caste hub for their first stage training.
He knew that Jad'Ui, his eldest son, would blossom in such a competitive environment - he was a crisis commander through and through, but he worried after his second child, a daughter called Fei'den and whether she would weather such challenge. He at least could see her right with the pathfinders, she was forever running off after all.
He was just smiling at such banal concerns when the low resonant warble of the perimeter defence mesh went into high alert. Ke'Vak placed down his view-monitor and looked up a a young fire warrior mustered into the room. The warrior was quivering with excitement, and smiled a nervous grin at his commanding officer. The warrior dropped to one knee.
"Shas'El, forgive me. I felt that the alert should be raised immediately and I forgot my place. I was stationed on routine duty in the drone overview area when I noticed an anomaly. I actioned a head count, and we'd lost 23 drones without triggering an alarm." He paused for breath, and the Ke'Vak nodded that he continued, his own face mirroring the grim humour that had gripped him. The kneeling Shas'Ui gulped down air. "The last loss was 4 minutes ago at a bare 1.5km. I felt that the pattern warranted immediate response." He glanced into the Shas'El glowering face, concerned for the response writ large.
Ke'Vak shook aside his personal impatience and frustration that this warrior had not sought guidance. He had acted in the greater good, making action of what he thought right. Maybe he was impetuous, but his instincts were good. The ageing commander placed a firm four fingered hand on the Shas'Ui's shoulder.
"Nephew, I am glad you were on duty. Your clarity has given us pause. Well done." The younger crisis suit pilot beamed at such praised from his famous uncle.
"Thank you, Uncle." he stammered. Behind him, a large grissled fire warrior slipped into the room and stood to attention. Ke'Vak straightened and motioned his nephew to stand.
"You should make haste to the suiting room, nephew. I suspect we shall have an interesting day." The fire warrior bowed quickly, a short nod of familial clarity and backed out of the room. As the door softly swooshed shut behind him, the grizzled veteran smiled wryley.
"Shas'Ui Fn'Vak seems right sir. We have reports from the pathfinders of Tyranid lifeforms. We've identified a small host, sir. Maybe two score organism, doesn't look like a significant brood, but we shouldn't underestimate them." He paused. "The pathfinders are returning immediately, they haven't sighted any of the larger beasts."
The Shas'El glanced down at his monitor and fired off his report. "I never underestimate these monsters. Update the Ethereal and get his honour guard topside. We'll need their support, the duty roster at this base is too small. And tell those pathfinders to get back here." He looked sternly at bodyguard, a friend of a decade of expansion. "And put Fn'Vak on a meditation course. His instinct are good, but his damn hair trigger responses are risky."
The veteran nodded, pressing the door activator. "Let's suit up."
Tau - a similar force to that which had succeeded last time but reducing the number of stealth suits in preference of more fixed fire power in the ethereal and his bodyguard.
HQ - Shas'El Ke'Vak: Missile Pod, Plasma Rifle and Flamer, hard wired multitracker, Hard Wired Target Lock. plus;
Shas'Ui Bodyguard: Fusion Blaster, Plasma Rifle, hard wired multitracker.
HQ - Ethereal with 2 close combat weapons, plus Honour Guard Fire Warriors.
Elite - Crisis Suit Monat Fn'Vak: Fusion Blaster, Missile Pod, hard wired multitracker and shield.
Elite - Stealth Team : 2 burst cannons, team leader with target lock and fusion blaster.
Troop - Fire Warriors 
Troop - Fire Warriors 
Fast Attack - Pathfinders  with 2 rail rifles and a Devilfish transport with disruption pod and multitracker.
Tyranids - much thought went into this deployment, with scuttling and feeder tendrils upgrading the 'bullet proof' genestealers, while leaping all round for the warriors. Leaping 12" in a charge is a remarkable benefit and make the Tyranid Warrior a fearsome opponent. While all the models are "wargear" rich, it's hoped that this will compensate for the lack of bodies on the field (soon to be rectified).
HQ - Broodlord with extended carapace, feeder tendrils, flesh hooks, toxin sacs. Plus genestealers  with extended carapace, flesh hooks, toxin sacs.
Elite - Tyranid Warrior  with Spinefists, Toxin Sacs, Leaping, Rending Claws, Bio Plasma, extended carapace and flesh hooks.
Elite - Tyranid Warrior  with Devourers, Toxin Sacs, Leaping, Enhanced Senses, Scything Talons, extended carapace and Leaping.
Elite - Tyranid Warrior  with Deathspitters, Toxin Sacs, Leaping, Rending Claws, Bio Plasma, extended carapace.
Troops - Termagaunts , flesh borers, scuttlers, without number.
Troops - Hormagaunts  with toxin sacs flesh hooks and bio plasma.
Total: 849 points.
Location: Tav'Ven'Ka - fifth sector.
Deployment: Pitched Battle.
First Turn: Tyranids
Tyranid: With the first turn going my way (for a change), this would give me the added advantage to close the distance to the Tau. My biggest concerns were the troops on the ground. My primary objective was to close as quickly as possible with my opponent and not dally on the way. If I could succeed in destroying the "unreserved" troops in the first two turns, then I could hopefully mop up the deepstrikers and reservist pathfinders when they arrived. My termagaunts were armed with without number, so my bullet shield would provide the cover for my Genestealers. With everything on the board having the 'leaping' ability and everything in reserve flanking, my hope is to catch his Tau between the straight jab and a right (or left) hook.
Tau: In going second, the Tau player Bim judged the ability to 'finish' every turn a better strength than the first strike. Opting to go second, Bim was all too aware that the deployed forces were vulnerable to the flank attacks of Genestealers and Termagaunts. The tau would have to practice the "retreating gunline" approach ... but from what direction?
Turn 1 - Tyranids: Leaping Lizards!
The Tyranid Warriors walk forward across the left and right flank. All three squads targetted the Fire Warriors Honour Guard on the 'big blue lego hill'. The deathspitters on the far left score 5 hits despite their random scattering and killed 2. The devourers were more successful, killing 3. The spinefist Warriors tested their range through firing 12", killing a further honour guard. Bim then smartly removed the only honour guard in range. Both the spinefist and devourer tyranids leapt at the fire warriors, but the Ethereal held them firm as the marauding tyranids came up an inch short.
On the left flank, the hormagaunts weren't so tardy and achieved a 21" movement to pounce on the fire warrior squad in the left building. Thanks to their toxin sacs, the fire warriors were hit 14 times, they were sliced apart, despite Bim making 8 saves on 4+.
Turn 1 - Tau: Keep Firing, KEEP FIRING!
Looking down the maw of death, the Tau had some serious thinking to do. After careful thought Bim judged that the hormagaunts were outside synapse range and gambled that they couldn't cope on their own. As such, she ignored the three death-nid's and 8 Hormagaunts and pointed everything lethal and tau'va (6 honour guard, 6 fire warriors, 3 stealth suits and a crisis suits worth) at the two 'assaulting' tyranid squad. As the pulse fire cleared, the devourer squad was massacred to a model. However, two spine-nids still stood, sharing 3 wounds between them. The stealth suits use their jetpack move (move 6"-fire-move 6") to hide behind the Honour Guard, while the crisis suit decides to hide on top of the LEGO bunker - passing his difficult terrain test.
Turn 2 - Tyranids: What a bunch of flankers.
I decide that I need to finish off these Tau in no uncertain, unfortunately the Hormagaunts fail their decision making roll and break cover for the death-nid's. Karma reasserts itself, and the reserves rolls go well for me with both the termagaunts and the genestealers arriving. On the flanking roll, I get the right flank for the genestealers and broodlord and my choice for the termagaunts.
I bring the termagaunts in behind the genestealers. They fire at the crisis suit, but he's out of range. Meanwhile the broodlord and his merry band of genestealers plow into the Stealth team. Despite hitting first, and killing a genestealer, they are torn limb from limb by the broodlord (feeder tendrils are awesome). The brood then consolidate 1" towards the building. The tyranid warriors make combat with the honour guard after whittling their numbers down a further two thanks to the firepower of the gaunt fleshborers and the spinefists. Three honour guard die under the Nid's attacks, but it leave a single fire warrior remaining. This means that the fearless squad gain an important 4+ save for the additional 3 wounds. This means that the ethereal survives intact, but fails to wound his opposition.
Turn 2 - Tau - Run, run as fast as you can...
The look on Bim's face is fairly panicky as she explores her options ... making the reserves roll, the command duo of Shas'El and bodyguard arrive and she places them downfield (well of of harms way) but close enough to damage the 3 deathspitter warriors with both plasma and missile pods.
Meanwhile, all her "slower" force evacuate to the left. The fire warriors aim at the hormagaunts - perhaps they can damage them enough this turn. The rooftop Monat decides to back up his commander and all three crisis suits target the only synapse creatures on the left of the board. The barrage is devastating, with the commander and his bodyguard killing 2 warriors and the monat finishing them off. The fire warriors decide to sell themselves dearly and succeed in killing 7 out of 8 hormagaunts. The Monat, confident in his superiority to a single fleeing hormagaunt retreats to the far left.
Turn 3 - Tyranids: ... You can't catch me, ack ... arggghh ... gasp!
With the loss of a valuable squad of Warriors the genestealers and Warriors get to work. While the enormous brood of Termagaunts bound across the board towards the crisis suits (failing to make close combat, just...) the broodlord scuttles through the abandoned bunker and makes quick work of the six man fire warrior squad. The last man standing is handed to his seven strong brood ... it's messy, I needn't continue...
The Monat thinks himself safe (cocky bugger) when two leaping snipefist armed tyranids land on his swollen head, hehehe! He is dispatch quickly by their rending claws.
Turn 3 - Tau: They are apper-teasing us, oh no, we're all gonna die!
The pathfinders arrive, and manage to land on their 66% chance of taking the hill in the tyranid deployment zone. The devilfish move 12" and drops off his pathfinders, along with the two gun-drones (or sacrificial AI's). The gun drones target and devilfish target the last remaining (and recovered) hormagaunt, leaving the way open for the command crisis team to repeat their firepower on the Spine-nid brood. The remaining warriors fall as the command team skim across the field towards the defensible hill.
Turn 4 - Tyranids: Duh, what are we doing here again?
Suddenly, my mighty force of all conquering nids has been struck down by three squads. I also face a long (and painful) charge back towards the gunline without the benefit of any leaping beasties... hmmmm.
I decide that if I can distract the Tau with my fleeting Gaunts, then my genestealers will be close enough to charge. Hopefully between a fleet charge and the pincers of the genestealers I can pull off a win...
Only one problem, my termagaunts are outside 12" and roll a 10, doh!? They move in generally the right direction, but by heading directly for the genestealers, we're bottling up into a kill zone.
Turn 4 - Tau: Clever manuerves...
The markerlights are finally setup. Out of 6 shots, 3 hit and they are dolled out as follows. 2 go to the Commander and bodyguard, giving them both BS5 and 1 goes to the pathfinder rail rifles, giving them BS4. First up to shoot is the gundrones and the devilfish, who manage to whittle away a couple of genestealers, next comes the rail rifles, but despite two hits, only one is killed thanks to a 4+ cover save for angle. Finally comes the dreaded command squad who manage to kill 3 more, reducing the broodlord's 'brood' to one. On such is a commander judged.
Turn 5 - Tyranids: Dumb...
The broodlord decides to charge the gundrones and mashes them mightyly, but only manages a 2" of follow-up... so 1 genestealer and a broodlord are looking down the barrel of how many guns? Meanwhile the termagaunts remember that they're name is all collectively 'Bob from Ohio' thanks to the broodlords synapse and run at the Tau.
Turn 5 - Tau: ... but lucky!
Bim plays things smart again moves the devilfish 7" towards the broodlord and buddy, giving him a 1 in 6 chance of getting boshed next turn ... if anything survives. The markerlights whir again, allowing a further 3 light. 2 are given to the command team and one to the rail rifles. The burst cannon and rail rifles fire first, managing to kill the last genestealer bodyguard.
The broodlord looks awfully vulnerable as the Shas'El and his bodyguard lay 4 plasmarifle, 2 missile pod and 1 fusion blaster (all at 2+ to hit) shots at his door. The attached photograph demonstrates some spectacularly bad rolling, as only two of the plasma shots hit! To add insult to injury on of the plasma shots comes up 2, failing to wound the T5 critter.
All hail the Broodlord!!!
With the end of turn five we roll, but the dice are cruel and we play on...
Turn 6 - Tyranid: Tin Opener?
Without choice or option, the broodlord attacks the Devilfish. He manages to land two 6+ hits on it! With his toxin sacs he only need a 4 to glance, or a 5 or 6 to pentrate. The Broodlord has clearly sucked all the Karma from the room as he rolls a 2 and a 3... scrabble scrabble... The termagaunts get as close to the enemy as possible, but can only move within 1" of the Devilfish - which is blocking the route - 4 termagaunts get in range and manage to kill a single pathfinder.
Turn 6 - Tau: Ok, now settle this!
The devilfish reverse course and parks back up at its original location as the markerlight manage 4 hits. With the rail rifles and the command team all hitting on a 2+, the broodlord is vapourised in a scatter of atoms. The crisis team retreat back behind the termagaunts to see what they will do.
We roll a die - play on!
Turn 7 - Tyranid: ...RUN AWAY!!!
The termagaunts have a serious problem on their hands, they will surely die. They can either attempt to kill another single pathfinder, or risk a Ld test against 5+ to kill the pathfinders in total. With 10 shots, reroll to wound there is a chance. Unfortunately, for the second time in the game, they forget who they are (It's Bob dammit!) and without a synapse creature on the board. They run.
*** Epilogue ***
Ke'Vak looked down at the body of his sisters son.
He had left as quickly as allowed, barely disengaging from the robing room's systems he and his bodyguard had launched quickly across the field. His autoguidance system feeding him detailed information as he sailed far above his Caste's position.
What shocked him was the brutality and sheer speed of the Tyranid assault. His systems reported the Ethereal and honour guard dead, the stealth team (led by the able Shas'Ui, Mak'tu) had been leapt on by a giant genestealer. They had only managed to kill a sole monster before blades and claws filled their viewscreens.
A Jetpack landing is never a subtle thing. The systems board lit up red as the battlesuit came to a dramatic halt. Shas'El Ke'Vak felt his cranium being pushed into his spine, the suit compensated seemlessly, stopping his spine truncating into a single lump. Within a breath, both he and his bodyguard had destroyed a synapse group, their longer organic 'guns' noted with 'extreme caution' on his head up display .
He noted that the Tyranids were cut down by a cross-fire of blazing plasma rifle shots and was pleased to note that his nephew was weathering this alien storm.
"Uncle," came the hoarse voice of his nephew over the direct-comm. "That was well done, the others have only short ranged weaponry and are less of a threat."
"Acknowledged, Fn'Vak! Now get yourself out of..." Ke'Vak never finished his sentenced. With a sickening crunch and a chorus of alien hisses, two giant warriors crashed into his nephews suit.
"Fn'Vak!" He cried, but all that responded was the sickening crack and shrill tear of admantium. And almost inaudibly, a carefree sigh.
"Greater good, uncle."
Now it was over, the scale of the losses hit home to Ke'Vak, with the loss of an ethereal, his career was blighted. The loss of the majority of the defence fire warriors for this outpost left them naked under the dark, alien infested, sky. Who knew how many other creatures were near, either out in space or on this very planet. Reinforcements would take months to arrive from Tau'Va.
Shas'El Ke'Vak felt a shame he could scarce hold within himself. He looked over to his bodyguard, who was conversing with the pathfinders. Most of the pathfinders were checking the bodies of the dead and injured, while a single member tended to their own wounded.
"Sir, pathfinder team reports that the smaller beasts have fled. However, they are unlikely to be alone and they proximity will attract more synapse creatures. What are your commands?" Ke'Vak looked one last time about the field. They had won, eradicating the threat to the base, but at what cost?
"Signal the Earth caste to strike camp. We abandon the outpost in 5 hours. Bring back the reserve pathfinders, be need sentries. Also get the earth caste to activate more drones - that's all we've got. I hope its enough." he clenched his fists within his suit in frustration.
"Signal the Air-caste. We're leaving." He looked one final time at the dead body of his nephew and thought;
- But not forever -
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Final Score: Tyranids 7 - Tau 7, Tau victory (just!)
Tyranids - This is my third outing with this force and I'm starting to get to grip with exploiting its potential. I was pleased with the way the tyranid warriors performed, the ability to leap into combat, although expensive was money well spent. Some of the other biomorphs were pretty pointless, for example, I forgot to use the bio plasma twice. I'm still undecided over whether rending claws or scything talons are best but one aspect proved perfect - feeder tendrils for the broodlord in a must. Equiping him with tendrils AND flesh hooks and the genestealers with flesh hooks means you hit first, reroll to hit and then it's good night vienna.
Tactically the game was effectively two games for me. The first half massacre was then reversed as the pathfinders and command team lay down a withering fire. The broodlord and retinue did well, but consistent fire power withered them and the tau had multiple "non-combat" units like the drones and devilfish to speedbump me.
Synaptically Challenged: While I felt my hormagaunts and termagaunts worked well, I need to practice my synapse range. On four occassions I lost options due to being out of synapse range. I should have been confident enough to leave my hormagaunts put, they were safe in the building and weren't needed. By risking a movement they lost their 3+ save (for go to ground) and died in droves. The problem with hormagaunts and termagaunts (thanks to fleet) is their ability to get outside range very quickly. I will have to work on keeping the intermesh of synapse creatures together.
The benfefit of a horde: I need to cushion my warriors behind the hordes. On multiple occasions my warriors or genestealers were pincushions by AP2-4 weaponry, a "fire through" saving throw would have been helpful. In addition, I missed a trick with my termagaunts. By not keeping them at the front of the army I missed out on much needed body shield. This would have been particularly helpful as the Tau player would have been torn between shooting (and mistakenly killing) my Termagaunt brood or taking the shots at the genestealers.
Playing Alien: on several occasions I would have been better off hiding my hormagaunts, termagaunts and genestealer brood and playing for a win. If the 2 gundrones count as a unit then it was tactically a draw, but I could have hidden away in the second "bout" and left the pathfinders and crisis team behind and with a uneviable task of coming to find me...
If, for example I had simply hidden my troops on the start of turn four, the Tau tactic wouldn't have worked as the score was 6-5 to me... oh the generosity of hindsight. If I hadn't have risked my hormagaunts they would have still been available as a bullet shield for the genestealers AND had the potential of getting into close combat with the pathfinders.
Tau perspective: The only comment I coudl make about Tau play was that a little faith in deep striking could have given me a much harder time. The stealth team, monat and command team could have made life unbareable. Additionally, I don't understand why the ethereal's squad was placed on the perimeter. His team should have held the central bunker - with it's 3+ save and BS4. The two small troops squad could have died heroically while the honour guard massacred on mass. In fact between the stealth team and the 24 S5 shots of the honour guard, the tyranids would have died very quickly indeed.
I hope you enjoyed the battle report, please let me know as it encourages me to play more and write them up - which takes some time...! I promised that by the next matchup I'll have some more cover and more nids - 48 more to be precise. Next up I'm taking on Dustin's Tau again with a Tyranid/Genestealer cult army force. Wish me luck!