This was my fourth Apocalypse game, and things were starting to fall into place for many of the players around the table. Subsequent to the previous games, we'd learnt the following things:
- Deploy close together, there's nothing wrong with point blank range and starting 24" apart guarantees carnage from turn one.
- Don't bother with strategic assets. Perhaps for more experienced players this was essential, but for the most of us strategic assets are ridiculously overpowered. Denying flanking/deeps strike wholesale.
- Don't fear close combat monsters... after all there's always another band of unlucky plebs to throw in the way.
Apart from my own diminutive force, 7 other armies made up the forces on the battlefield. They were as follows:
Forces of Good
- Mark: Wielding Superheavies AND 3 Vendettas, Marks Imperial Guard.
- Dustin: Railgun Heavy Tau with lots of kitted out Crisis Suits in a huge Apocalypse formation.
- Jack: Originally bringing grey knights, Jack flipped back to his normal space marines to avoid Deamon spam-death. Jack took control of the Superheavies too.
- Suneokun: Overall commander (for my sins) and bringing lightweight Tau with many Stealth and Crisis Suits.
- Adam: Awesome Ork force including Gazza, Big Meks and a borrowed Stormlord.
- Ant: Chaos Marines of all factions, including Typhus and Teminator Bodyguard and multiple Rubix Marines squads.
- Dave: Monstrous Creatures abounded with Dave Deamons, Soulgrinders and even a Brass Scorpion.
- Penfold: A simple force ... 5 Eldar Grav Tanks, an Avatar and A HUGE *#^^?# Eldar Revenant Titan - good grief...
What follows is an extremely partizan view of the Apoc battle, like Ciaphas Cain I'll ignore the titanic firepower and gigantic prizefights going on (many because I wasn't involved in them) and focus on the strategic capture points - which the Tau played a brilliant role in capturing.
Troop selection - Tau
My main tactic was to field a 'non-threatening' force. The idea being that most of the gigantic vehicles would be involved in trying to batter eachother, and I could slip in quietly.
The core of the force was built around two squads of nine firewarriors. These I equipped with EMP grenades - expensive, but I was very aware of the lack of penetrating AT firepower these units held. Plus I felt that the goal of the fire warriors was simply to make as much of a nuisance as possible. I gifted both the squads with a pathfinder devilfish to enable their movement.
After reading throught the Tau tactica I struck out with a Vectored Commander complete with Flamer and Plasma Rifle. My plan was to use him like a mobile pester power. He could run in, shoot things up at close range and then 'hopefully' batter the survivors into mush with his 4 S5 attacks.
Secondly I took a Shas'O and Bodyguard. These guys were kitted up for a mixed role, giving them good AT and AP firepower. Two gundrones would cover their backs, and the little addition of a 'kamikaze' to the 'expendible' double flamer member would mean that any close combat these guys failed at would end with a nasty S8 AP3 large blast surprise for the attackers.
Next I chose a single fusion blaster and missile pod Monat. He would hopefully play tank hunter, using his move-fire-move abilty to avoid returning fire.
The next option was simple. I selected 2 Stealth teams, one of four members and one of five. The four member team gained a couple of drones and a fusion blaster and were sent off for a deep strike. The other unit of 5 burst cannons were accompanied by a huge number of gundrones (10). This uber-unit would strike fear into the hearts of the enemy and hopefully cause some real problems.
On the heavy side I selected two teams of pathfinders with a rail rifle each and I also got a Broadside with two gundrones, a marker and a shield and the ability to move AND fire.
I quickly constructed 12 Kroot, 2 Kroothounds and a shaper. These boys would flank and cause some misery.
Finally, to soak up the points I took my vaunted Ethereal (who is very good at dying) and 8 bodyguards.
The Battlefield, in Classic "Gifts for Geeks" tradition, was about as non standard as it was possible to have it. Effectively a giant U shaped board with each commander's BASE deployed at each end of the U stalk. These represented the first two of five objectives, with the warhammer pub the hotly contested objective on the front line.
In either corner lay objectives, for the 'evil' deployment zone this was placed squarely on the newly released landing platform. The good side had to stump for placing their objective on an abandoned shrine ... exposed and vulnerable.
A Battle of Three Parts
The following battle report is broken into three sections:
- The Evil homebase defence
- The Good homebase defence
- Middle Ground
PART 1: The Evil Home Base Defence
The Evil base (a bunker complex) was being held by two squads of Thousand Sons Rubix Marines and a group of Havocs. In addition, one ShadowStorm and one BaneBlade Superheavy held sway over this side of the board, both equally capable of launching a brissling counter attack against anyone foolish enough to try and assault this complex.
Synopsis: The Evil players started out well, but were unable to bring their weaponry to bear on the stealth suits (thanks to their 2D6x3 invisibility), subsequently 4 crisis suit teams dropped in on the Thousand Sons and the most isolated ShadowStorm. Weathering the incoming fire from lascannons and heavy bolters they managed to reduce the Havocs and Rubix marines down to 2 models. At this point (Turn 2), the uber-stealth squad arrived and devastated the remaining models. Greater Deamons and bloodletters attempted to intervene, but fell quickly to the Tau burst cannons and S7 missile pods (everybody got their assault autocannons? Yes...good!)
The bunker complex was subsequently held by a mixture of crisis suits, stealth suits and Kroot (which had infiltrated into a convenient wood nearby). The uber-Stealth unit was devastated by an uber-pieplate from the Chaos Baneblade, while the shadowsword was picked apart by missile pod (YES missile pod) and Fusion Blaster shots to the rear and exploded. The remainer of the battle (Turn 3-4) was spent trying to destroy both the Baneblade AND the Eldar Revenant Titan which had turned its attention on its home objective. But more of that to follow in Part 3...
Conclusion: objective captured by the forces of Good.
Part 2: The Goodie (goodie..two...shoes) Home Base Defence
With the guards, space marines and Tau tanks rushing into the zone for Part 3 ... it was left to the Ethereal to hold the bastion against all comers. Next to him were the 'other' Tau firewarrior squad with their transport. Further across the board a ShadowSword Skulked (is that possible?) ready to exchange blows with the other two superheavies. Additionally, a broadside battlesuit and some pathfinders held the left flank.
Synopsis: The first surprise was that the five falcons flew the whole board length to target the shadowswords rear armour. Despite withering brightlance fire the Superheavy survived. Following this, the Guard Vendettas went to work, managed to stun, disarm and even down 4 out of 5 eldar battletanks (reroll to hit being really usefull when you need a six!) The remaining 2 Falcons then rammed the hapless devilfish. The devilfish suffered a stunned result, but one of the falcons was immobilised! subsequently, one of the grav tanks was taken out ignominously by the devilfish's two gundrones (rock'n'roll!) and the firewarriors finally took out the immobilised tank after two turns of EMP bating...
Meanwhile a series of Deamons turned up behind the superheavy and met sustained fire from fire warriors and pathfinders. The Ethereal had more on his hands, as an enormous Soul Grinder appeared in front of his bastion. Going to ground saved all but two of his squad and they held together like glue. Popping their heads up in time to see Marks Vendetta's do the double and pop the Deamon-machine with ease. With the Grav tanks destroyed and the Soulgrinder gone, the Good side home objective was secure.
Conclusion: objective held by the forces of good.
Part 3: The Battle for the Pub (and other titanic struggles)
For your convenience I've divided this battle into one of scale.
Part 3 MACROBATTLE: The Eldar Titan proved a devastating foe. The Good superheavies and railgun managed to destroy the Brass Scorpion (much to the owners chagrin, he'd only just forked out for it!) and the Big Mek in battlewagon behind. The rest of the army proved ridiculously durable. The Eldar Titan simply shrugged off those hits that landed, and it's D weapons (instant-penetration) reeked havoc in our superheavies on the offensive. To make matters worse, Penfold had the best run of deviation rolling I have ever seen, missing maybe two shots the entire game. First to die was the Stormlord, followed closely by the Baneblade. By the close of turn 3 only Tau railguns and one immobilised Leman Russ stood in the way of this monstrosity.
At this point, the Eldar titan was distracted in a timely manner by the capture of the Evil Home Base by Tau forces. An adventurous Crisis Suit Team (err...mine actually) got a rude shock when the Eldar Titan Leapt 36" and then Assaulted the crisis team. Some stunning rolling resulted in all the members being killed with no comeback - how's that for overkilled!
The Titan then went to work on the Bunker complex, flattening the structure and killing a few Tau and kroot. The Baneblade brought the pain then, forcing half the defenders to go to ground by the start of turn 3. Luckily for the plucky Tau, the 3 Vendettas came to the rescue, managing to destroy one of the Eldar's Pulsar and immobilise the giant walker. Furthermore, the Vendetta's disgorged 3 squads of melta toting veterans and the combined arms of Vet and Vendetta proved too much for the beleaguered giant and its structure points failed.
Only a single Ork stormlord had survived the superheavy faceoff.
Part 3 Microbattle: With the superheavies dishing it out above their heads, the man sized minitures prepared for a titanic battle. First casualties were, typically, the guard. Pummeled by incoming (albeit inaccurate) Ork fire, they weathered at point blank range. Pushing mud from their eyes, they could see a squad of 10 ork bikers bearing down on their pulped defences. With a hum of technosourcery a Tau Devilfish flew over their lines and deposited 9 firewarriors in a defensive screen in front of the warbikes.
The Tau Firewarriors (foolishly) jump out from behind the Guard - "For the Greater Good!" never ever normally works as a tactic...
The combined fire of the firewarriors, devilfish, Tau commander and remaining guard heavy bolters brought the Ork Bikers down to 4 bikes (thank goodness they weren't Nob Bikers ... otherwise the Guardsmen would have been on their own and lumped it!). To top it off the bikers then charged the 9 Tau and the firewarriors suceeded in drawing the combat. Then to add injury, they proceeded to whittle down and eventually beat the ork bikers (at Toughness 5 I add) in hand to hand. The remaining 3 firewarriors then ran up to the Stormlord and proceeded to jam EMP grenades in it's tracks until hunted down by 12 Ork boys!
Adjacent to the 'Pub' the 'close-combat' Tau Shas'O lived up to his name. Blasting apart an Ork Trukk with his plasma rifle and flaming the occupants, he then charged into close combat. 2 Orks and a Nob stood in his way. For a nervous moment I worried about that Powerklaw, but the Shas'O came good - dispatching a whole truck full of Orks single handed - Nice!
This success held up the advance to the left, but on the right - the guardsmen were less lucky as GazzaGhul battlewagon poured into combat and Gazza Warrghh the boys over the baracades. All looked desparate as all guns (including the Shas'Os) whittled down his retinue. Still Gazza shrugged off fire and stormed through the barracades, pinwheeling guardsmen behind him. Only the timely intervention of sacrificial guardsmen squads managed to keep Gazza distracted and thankfully away from the backfield objective.
Less lucky were the defenders of said objective, a squad of stalwart sternguard (apt really) veterans. Facing down a Skulltaker on Chariot and a group of Felsh Hounds, none other than Typhus and a whole contingent of beautifully painted forgeworld Deathguard terminator jumped on them. They were met by a uncannily accurate baneblade cannon shot at point blank range, killing two - but alike to Gazza, soon Typhus was stomping around the backfield trying to catch any vehicle or unit he could.
Despite throwing everything at these two uber characters (and you don't get any more Uber then these two) the combination of FNP, 2+ saves and Eternal warrior was too much for the small arms and railguns alike... in spite of this, Mark did a brilliant job distracting both the eternal warriors with guardsmen carcasses while AT THE SAME TIME whittling away any supporters or dangerour units. As such at the end of turn three, the supercharacters were having far too much fun to worry about challenging an objective.
The Rubrix Marines of the Thousand Sons were less worried. Following up behind the chaotic orks (which makes the chaos marines look pretty tame to be fair) they were ambushed by a large band of kroot. Despite their numbers and plethora of attacks at S4, the kroot were roundly punished by the marines in the worst showing ever (clearly they resented the fact I had painted them yet) and quit the field in a rout. The Thousand Sons subsequently held the pub ... which must have been a dissapointment for the gretchin staff as they weren't hungry or thirsty .. Ever.
The Shas'O managed to avoid most of the conflict and jumped at the last moment to contest the pub at the end of round four - toasting a few Thousand Sons in the process.
Meanwhile the lowly Devilfish lost it weapon on the way into contesting the Platform and along with a single vendetta contested the final objective.
Final Score: Goodies 3 objectives, Contested 2 objectives, Baddies 0 objectives.
CONCLUSION OF CONCLUSIONS
Despite a valiant effort by the forces of evil the combination of tau mobile firepower and the outrageous squadron of Vendettas proved too much for the base attackers and defenders. The Vendettas were certainly the squadron of the game, proving again and again how effective 9 tainlinked lascannon can be in your backdoor (IE:VERY).
A big shout must go to Mark and Jack for holding up Dave, Ant and Adam (Adam Ant?) in the centre and playing pincushion for penfold's Revenant. I especially applaud Mark's genius distraction tactic on the superheroes in the middle.
For me, I really enjoyed how the Tau performed overall. Unlike to character they proved much more effective up close and personal, throwing themselves into the thick of it and rising dazed from the other side, delirious with survival. They're casulaties were only topped by the guard, but with the superheavies outgunning eachother - the manueverability of the Crisis suits proved very handy (18" per turn at a push) and on a large board they attracted little enough attention to succeed.
What would have happened if the Eldar Titan had decided to charge our lines on turn one would have proved quite different. As it was, our tactic of effectively ignoring it and shooting everything else proved sound.