Monday, 16 March 2009

The Tournament of Six (small) Armies, part two.

By Suneokun.

In the final battle of round one, the intrepid Tau were seeded against the Nids. While the Tau have faced the Nids a few times, Devilin was blushing like a prom Virgin - after all, he'd never played Tau, and he'd never faced Tyranids (except in third edition and that doesn't count, too many 'spell-cards' after all!)

What shocked Dev most of all was the number of Nids on the board. By trimming the nids back to the bare essentials, the nids fielding 45 models at 500 pts. As a reminder here's the nid list:

Tyranids: No-frills troop horde with tyranid warrior support.
  • Tyranid Warrior team, one with scything talons, enhanced senses and devourer. One with rending claws and deathspitter. One with rending claws and spine fists.
  • 10 Genestealers with rending claws and flesh hooks.
  • 16 Hormagaunts with flesh hooks.
  • 16 Termagaunts with fleshborers.
The second shock for Dev was that the Tau force was squarely focussed on fire warrior fire power. The list didn't have the perpetual Crisis Suit commander, but was instead fielding an honour guard and ethereal...

Tau: troop focused firepower backed up by a Crisis Suit and Stealth Squad.
  • Ethereal and 12 Honour Guard.
  • 6 Fire Warriors.
  • 6 Fire Warriors (with pulse carbines).
  • Crisis Suit Team Leader, Fusion Blaster, twin linked missile pod, hard wired multitracker.
  • Stealth Team [3], Fusion Blaster with target lock and 2 Burst Cannon, 2 gun drones.
From my own perspective, this six way battle was my last 'do or die' for what was increasingly appearing to be the demise of the Ethereal. Despite the ethereal governing over two Tau victories, he'd not particularly enarmoured himself in either engagement - and despite painting a pretty model, he was starting to look like a blueskinned liability.

Objective: Seize Ground
Deployment: Pitched Battle (again??)


Throwing caution to the wind I decided to throw everything I had at the Tau. I won the toss, but gave the first turn to the Tau, forcing him to deploy first. Dev deployed his troops on a layered hill with plenty of cover in his deployment zone. The crisis suit held the left flank and the stealth suits the right. I was surprised to see both elites on the board - and delighted, as this meant I could charge his lines knowing my Tyranid warriors weren't about to be ambushed.

Dev's never faced the Tyranid Horde's charge before... in the past he's mainly held the ambushing army (Eldar, Orks etc) and he was very quickly suffering from what I like to call the "Gunline Jitters" - checking run movement, quibbling over movement through terrain et cetera. I've been there before so I know how he felt. I decided that the hormagaunts should close as quickly as possible, They could move up to a wood and then (with a little fleet of foot luck) could hop skip and jump into the Tau lines. Hopefully, Dev's attention would be focussed on these critters, which would allow my Genestealers to fleet without range and start chewing up his lines.

I decided early on to simply ignore the crisis and stealth suits - as these could only offer punitive firepower damage and would distract me from the real target, the troops around the hill. The whole Tau battleline opened up on the Hormagaunts on turn two and despite a 4+ cover save they sustained 10 casulaties. The rest of the army approach untouched - surprisingly Dev hadn't thought to target the Warriors.

On turn two six hormagaunts leapt straight over Dev first defensive line (fire warriors with carbines in cover) and attacked the second squad who were in the open! The fire warriors fought bravely, killing a single hormagaunt - but the nids cut down four fire warriors. At this point the fire warriors would normally have run - but thanks to the Ethereal and his inspiring presense (rerollable leadership), the Tau stuck in it. Worst luck.

The hormagaunts had leapt well out of 12" Synapse range and so leapt back out towards the warriors. Remembering my rules, I moved the warriors over the hill - keeping their toes behind the hill (I know, jammy, but those are the rules, and warriors ain't monstrous creatures!) The warriors, and tergamaunts managed to shoot down the other 6 man fire warrior squad, leaving the honour guard exposed and only contesting the hillock objective.

Meanwhile, the Genestealer had done a sterling job and managed to catch a gundrone of the stealth team. With only one stealer lost to enemy fire on the way in, they hit the stealth team, only to be hit first! The stealth team (with S4) managed to kill one stealer, meanwhile the stealers killed 2 gun drones and a stealth team member. Again the dice were rolled, and yet again the Tau (unfortunately for Dev) passed! Genestalers live.

So by the start of turn 5, Dev had one free Crisis Suit and a 13 man honour guard (perhaps that the mistake, it's not a good number) facing down 8 genestealers, 10 termagaunts, 3 tyranid warriors and 5 Hormagaunts (all within charge/shooting range). Facing imminent mincing the Honour guard target the warriors, but only achieve one wound. The crisis suit (circumventing the cover saves) manages to plant two hits and two wounds with his missile pod - one warrior down.

The genestealers and hormagaunts pile into the Honour guard at the end of turn five, killing eight in combat and a further 3 in fearless death rolls... this guy is a liability! If Dev rolls a 1 or two, it will be a draw as Dev will at least contest his own objective... he rolls a 4?!?

Needless to say the Genestealers score 2 rending hits (killing the remaining honour guard and wounding the Ethereal) and 9 normal wounds (which makes the Ethereal dead 4 1/2 times over, which was thoroughly justified). The warriors and termagaunts went 'Crisis-hunting' - but the crisis suit cannot claim the Tyranid objective and suffers a wound for his troubles.

Munch, munch, munch, munch, munch ... ad infinitum.

Resounding victory for the Tyranids: 3 pts.
Goal difference: 435 points versus 202.

Conclusion: Ok, so the ethereal is a LOT of a liability. He's not even that cheap?!? This battle feels like a perpetual nail in the coffin of this great model, he has little strategic use, he's a liability to combat both for his squad and for others - and if he dies, it all goes pearshaped!?! For the 74pts difference, I can buy a half decent Shas'El with twin linked missile pod and a flamer. He would have given Dev better options against this horde. Dev didn't really put a foot wrong, except for the Stealth suit team being within charge range.

That said, why didn't Dev target my tyranid warriors? The whole army can afford so many models because its dependent on the synapse creatures - which are a weak link. I believe that Dev had seen the lethality of the Tau gunline and simply assumed it would carve right through the smaller beasts. The problem was that the termagaunts and hormagaunts were fearless.

The Tau army wasn't the best for this fight, but he could have infiltrated his stealth team and deep struck his crisis suit, if they had targetted the tyranid warriors from turn one, I could have lost badly. Also he should perhaps have spread his line wider. A speedbump, or juicy target (like stealth suits) may have given him another turn or even two - or potentially given him enough time to kill the warriors or even simply delayed part of my 'charge' isolating the enemy.

I felt I played well, effectively denying Dev his first turn through deployment and despite the reckless charge - constantly forcing Dev to make difficult choices. In one turn I forced him to choose between shooting at 16 termagaunts in the open, 5 'running' hormagaunts which would rally next turn, 9 genestealers in cover or three warriors in cover. Despite the heat associated with the Warriors, Dev opted for maximum kill ratio on the termagaunts.

Unfortunately for Dev, by retreating into a corner he only offered one choice. It was just a case of who got there first.