The meeting between the Stormbringer Space Marines and the Tau Cadre had not started well. Water caste members had struggled with the truculence of the Space Marines. Only the intervention of their own Captain had kept the meeting civil.
Maybe civil was the wrong word, thought water caste member Gia'la brushing down his blue demi-silk robes, perhaps unbloodied.
The Tau Cadre had been dispatched to the Ko'Het system in response to a distress signal from a Kroot enclave. The name for the enclave translated loosely as 'good visibility, strong prey, good hunting', but with more emphasis on the ground walking prey. Kroot had a lot of words for prey. This Kroot community had based their enclave on the ruins of a previous Imperial structure.
While no Gue'la presense had been notified by the Kroot, water caste Gia'la suspected that the Kroot hadn't been entirely honest in their 'specification' of kills. On entering the system they had been advised by the locals that a Gue'la was also waiting to meet with the Kroot. This had seemed strange to the Tau, but they're meetings with Gue'la or humans as they called themselves had been interesting in this sector and the offered hand wasn't turned down.
Gia'la felt that the Stormbringers would have been less charitable if it was not clear that the Tau outnumbered them ten to one and had arrived with a full armoured interdiction force, as the Shas'O had rightly suggested.
The position the Gue'la Stormbringer captain highlighted was of some concern. Apprarently a enemy group of Gue'la earth caste (or this is how Gia'la translated in, as the Earth caste were forever ferreting around with technology and 'creating' things, half of which made the water caste jobs harder, although the suspension seats were good.) had arrived many weeks back in the frozen tundra to the north.
They had apparently identified an ancient warhound titan (a giant cumbersome broadside battlesuit the height of ten such machina), what they also discovered was a hidden horde of Necron. The Tau had had some dealing with these evil creations.
The stormbringers were unclear how it was possible, but believed that the Adeptus Mechanicus forces (including the now-operational Titan) plus a unit of brother Gue'la, the Space Wolves (some large canine, Gia'la believed) had become enthralled of the Necron menace. To the Tau present, this was all too familiar, typical Gue'la...
Shas'O 'Clear Thought', student of farsight, decided quickly that this threat to their interest was sufficient to warrant significant force. The Shas'O instructed his water caste advisors to negociate this planet for the Kroot enclave in exchange for this obligation.
The water caste were surprised when the Gue'la agreed readily, either this was a truly horrific threat - or the Gue'la preffered the Kroot to occupy this world - blighted as it was.
Originally this was going to be an 8000 pt a-side dust up. However, three players dropped out and Hutch agreed to step into the brink with his legion of Necrons (hence the very weird army combinations fielded below!) Unusally for an Apocalypse game, only one superheavy came to the party ... but what a beast! A warhound Titan ... just arrived from ForgeWorld and painted up by the guys at minipainters...
Unlike previous battles we also had a 'gamemaster' - I'd certainly recommend it for games as a GM can keep an eye on the clock, impartially advise and make rules decisions and to top it off Ant did a great job and got the inside line on every dirty trick combo in play (there were quite a few)...
Necron Alliance: Necrons-Space Wolves-Guard (With a Titan)
- C'tan Deceiver
- Several Necron Lords (all with toys)
- Four large necron squads (20 each!)
- 12 Necron Immortals
- 3 Necron Destroyers
- 2 Necron Monoliths
- 4 Space Wolves Special Characters (including Lukas, Arjac, Bjorn and Njal)
- Bloodclaws (lots)
- 10 Terminators
- 2 Rhinos
- Warhound Titan (no wonder the spacewolves were happy!) with Turbolasers and enormous plasmacannon death gun!
- 2 Leman Russ and a Demolisher
- 3 Vendettas, 2 with melta-carapace vets and 1 with 'Black Templars?!?'
- Armoured Interdiction Cadre Formation: 2 Skyrays and 3 Hammerheads with D3+1 markerlight allocated per turn (LoS only, no maximum range)
- MIRAGE Pathfinder Formation: 3 Pathfinder Squads with 4 Devilfish, all gundrones on devilfish upgraded to markerdrones. MIRAGE confers 'stealth' ability as defined in codex:Tau (2D6x3 to 'see' them) to all friendly models within 12". 3 markerlight hits on a target plus LoS (no maximum range) to formation results in 'precision strike' on target (all friendly forces can hit the target on a 2+). 3 railrifles with pathfinders.
- 2 Fire Warrior Squads of 12 with photon grenades and Shas'Ui.
- 4 Fire Warrior Squads of 9 with Shas'Ui and markerlight.
- 2 Kroot hordes of 15-20 models, master shaper formation (Shaper with a witchblade)
- Stealth Team #1: 5 XV25, 5 gundrones.
- Stealth Team #2: 3 XV15, XV25 leader with fusion blaster.
- Shas'El (with firewarriors) with missile pods
- Shas'El with 4 gundrones and bodyguard (flamers/AFP/Plasma)
- Crisis Suit Team with Plasma, Fusion and Missile Pods
- Crisis Suit Team with Missile Pods
As in previous Apoc posts I'll divide the action up into the board sections where it all went down! The sections consist of four 4' by 8' boards - so plenty of space to be getting on with ...
Area #1: The Tau Home Territory Defence
The Tau home territory was the furthest away from the enemy. As such the other Tau commander and I felt this was the perfect position for our firewarriors. The 6 squads of firewarriors deployed across the board in bunkers and buildings with a strong line of sight to eachother. Our biggest concern was deep striking Wolves or Vendetta drops flanking our position. As it turned out we met both.
In turn one, a drop pod crashed into the earth a bare few inches from the home objective ruin and a small horde of blood claws (led by the mighty Ulrik "Very Deadly and must be shot immeidately") The claws managed to shoot up and kill a few firewarriors from Dustin's 12 strong group in the bottom of the objective ruin.
In return the firewarriors fired. We had a total of 4 markerlight (on the squads Shas'la (sergeants)) within 36" and managed 2 hits. The hits were given to the two largest squads within 12" and they opened fire. Despite a blistering fusilade of over 78 shots, the luck was with the wirey warriors and only 4 died, but we did manage to put a wound on Ulrik. This left Ulrik and a good 8 warriors attacking the 10 firewarriors in the bottom of the building. My 9 man firewarriors squads had markerlights, Dustin's had proton grenades.
Despite refusing the spacewolves any additional attacks, the noble Tau were cut down by the bunch of nutters in turn two. The Tau responded by repeating their previous turns fusilade, this this they massacred the space-puppies to a man. For the majority of squads in area #1 that was the total excitement of the game. The only addendum being in Turn 5 where a Vendetta, devoid of its cargo of veterans reverted to 'skimmer' mode to challenge the objective. Unluckily it had positioned with its rear armour facing 9 firewarriors. A markerlight hit later, the firewarriors score over 12 hits and 1 glancing and 3 penetrating hits. The penetratings rolled all 5's and 6's as the firewarriors shots sheered through the fragile interior of the Vendetta and evicerated the flight crew. Mark rolled for his 'saving throw' - first roll, a 3 ... oh dear. The Tau firewarriors held their objective and held of all comers.
Objective 1-0 to the Greater Good
Area #2: The countryside
Across the ravine from the Tau homeland, the grassy plains were onarmented with trees, a ruined church and a farmstead. This tranquil setting was infiltrate by two large Kroot carnivore hordes and 2 smaller squads of stealthsuits.
The larger Kroot unit were led by a master shaper (complete with 30pt upgrade witchblade!) and held the objective (the church), the other Kroot unit nestled in the courtyard of the farmstead, supported by a small squad of XV15 stealthsuits, led by their XV25 fusion blaster Shas'ui. The other larger XV25 unit had ranged out with its gundrones, and was looking to challenge the other objective.
These brave natives were subsequently attacked by none other than The spacewolf Psyker uberdeath man AND the uber dreadnought of death too! The farmhouse Kroot took two turns of shooting and then feld. The XV15 stealthers and a group of stingwings scored multiple kills on the bloodclaws accompanying these behemoths and even managed to destroy Bjorn's Assault Cannon.
Then uber spam cheat death (ED: He's joking, no really he is, honest, he's smiling ... or is that a grimace?) arrived in the form of one squad of 'Black Templars' in a Vendetta which deepstruck onto the objective. Hang-on a minute... I'm struggling with a Necron-Guard-Space Wolf-Titan army. Let alone an army with just one squad of double hitting black templars!?! Smallest crusade in history? Clearly.
The Kroot in the objective gave reasonably good account, but even their multitude of attacks couldn't overcome powerarmour and prefferred enemy and they folded. Meanwhile the larger stealth team had run into a battlecannon cannoner with 20:20 vision and been battlecannoned out of the game.
Dustin had to steal one objective from half a squad of black templars, a mob of space wolves and Bjorn the fellhanded (the Dreadnought one anyway ... just pull anyname from Abba or Beowulf and then add a reasonably ridiculously violent surname ... Grindalwald the wife beater ... you get the idea.)
Dustin called in his reserves of one crisis suit battlesquad. These guys (including drones) managed to shoot up the black templars enough to stop them 'capturing the objective' - meanwhile he played a breathtaking (and I'm sure highly annoying for the SW player) game of cat and mouse with the space puppies and his XV15 team. They then made an 18" move-run-assault move across the whole board to get within 3" of the objective. The team had not lost a single member.
Objectives 2-0 to the Greater Good
Area #3: The City
The city was the part of the battle I had least to do with. This is where the Stormbringer Space Marines targetted their strikeforce. Terminators, grey knights and power armoured forces fought the Space Wolves in this desparate city fight. The Battle Cannons of the Imperial Guard proved as much a hindrance as a help as shot after shot scattered onto the Space Wolves. The battle proved such a challenge, that even the denuded and damaged warhound titan turned his back on the railguns and marched for the objective! The Stormbringers did a classic Space Marine job against overwehelming guard, Titan and Space Wolf adversaries and challenged this objective until the last turn. Despite this, they were cut down and the 'home' objective secured for the enemy.
This board contained two objectives, one the Warhound loomed over for much of the game. The other lay in an abandoned drop pod.
The Tau tried (and nearly succeeded, in the last turn) to turn the tide by rushing forwards with their 'markerllight' devilfish and targetting the Pariahs with two seeker missiles. One pariah bought the farm with no 'I'll be back' thanks to the instantkill. Despite all railguns targetting the Leman Russ holding the objective, and a 2+ to hit. The emporers blessing was on the vehicle and it survived with just a stunned result (despite +1 railguns?!?). The enemies of the greater good held on.
Objectives: 2 held for the Necron Alliance, 2 Held for the Greater Good.
Area#4: The Tau'Va frontline
The Tau had managed to hold their backline with massed firewarriors and stolen a victory from the countryside with stealth tactics. Could the combination of a MIRAGE and a Interdiction Cadre prove enough against Vendettas, Necron Monoliths and a ruddy great Warhound titan?!?
Turn 1: "Execute the Mont'Ka on that titan, NOW!"
Mark (who owned the Titan) was a happy man. They were slightly bemused by the fact that the Tau tanks were so closely clustered ... Sighting up on the multiple battletanks and heavy suits he asked to place his template... and was asked if he could see it.
Princep Marcus Veralius surveyed the ragtag aliens arrayed in front of his mighty warhound. Although only a lighter titan, the warhound and crew were a worthy defence force for the explorator Adeptus Mechanicus mission sent to this desolate world.
After 5 weeks of hearing of rumours of 'savages' and 'natives' from the lowly Guardsmen, all of which reeked of those Kroot mercenaries the planet was famous for. The Princeps now had a truly worthy opponent.
The Tau's technosourcery was impressive. He'd attended an induction, and the photostats he'd seen of the railgun technology was most impressive. That said, he didn't warrant their chances against the might of his turbolaser and void shields.
"Augeteur Finnial, target the enemy formation, 600 yards, medium spread." ordered the Princeps.
"Target aquired, Princeps." his Augeteur indicated. "Power redirected, weapon capacitors ready."
"Very well, Augeteur." said Marcus Aurelius. "You may unlease ... what the hell?" The enemy formation, all those close ranked armour. Had vanished.
"Reaquire!" Yelled Aurelius. "Reaquire!" The view-relayed still appeared blank, only a group of guardsmen, five terminators and a dreadnought now challenged the might of his titan. The princeps could feel his skin crawl as if he could sense the eyes of a multitude viewing his position.
Far below the titans lofty height Shas'Ui Kor'Vak watched the Titan's ugly canine head weave back and forth across their lines. Behind him the comforting hum of the MIRAGE stealthship brought a satisfied smile to his face. The stormbringers had doubted the Tau capability to face a warhound, recommending a close attack by their 'terminators', but the Shas'O had overruled.
"Not all power is obvious..." The shas'ui whispered, in recollection of the Shas'O's words. He actioned his commbead and contacted the broadside cadre. "MIRAGE is engaged, you may fire when ready..."
So much for the Stormbringers fears...
The MIRAGE granted the stealth ability on every unit within 12". This meant that the Titans turbolaser shots were wasted as he couldn't see the target. Venting somewhat (ED: titan or owner?) the monster turned its ire on the Marine Dreadnought with twin lascannons. The Dreadnought quailed as the titan shot, but the shots only managed to immobilise the walker.
Subsequently the other ability of the Tau combo was put into action. Using their D3+1 markerlights from the Interdiction Cadre, and multiple shots from the pathfinders markerlights. They lit up the two groups of necrons and the warhound with 3+ markerlights each.
Susbsequently, a precision strike was declared on all three units (IE: 2+ to hit) - the Titan owner was astounded, and this is where having an independent and discreet 'gamesmaster' is useful as such powerful combinations can be 'pre-vetted' and approved... The Stormbringers started up, peppering the warhounds void shields with lascannon shots.
Everything hit, we then discovered that the crafty Necrons had empowered an energy bubble around the landing platform the Necrons were on. This gave all the models (including the Warhound??) a 4+ invulnerable save... the Stormbringers luck held and they managed to strip away all the Titans void shields and even put a structure point on the monster.
Mark (who owned the Titan) now sweated profusely as 7 railguns (4 twin linked) lined up the titan. However the 'luck gods' had turned in his favour and despite the 7 hits thanks to the precision strike, he rolled for his life and saved all.
Encouraged by this, the Stormbringer bikers let loose on the necrons and downed a couple - but the necrons recovered.
NB: The combination of the MIRAGE and IC (Interdiction Cadre) was striking. The titan had got 'lucky' in turn one and this impact severely shook the confidence in the titans domination. Subsequently the 'landing platform bubble' proved a hindrance, as only this had thwarted the Titan's loss, and subsequently the Titan player was cautious of moving out of its benefit and subsequently into 'view range' (2D6x3) of the MIRAGE. This reduced the titans efficiency to a fraction of its potential.
At this point the Tau'Va were looking mightily smug ... we were in for a surprise.
Turn Two: 'Keep firing, keep firing!'
The Titan player rolled for his void shields and regained one.
In the enemy turn, they turned the tables on the Tau'Va combo as two Necron Monolith deepstruck directly into the middle of the formation - shunting everything about. Necron Monoliths have a dirty deepstrike, that allows them to effectively 'shunt' everything out of their way and ignore every 'deepstrike' rules on enemy models. Their still vulnerable to impassable terrain, but Hutch was lucky with his rolls.
The arrival of the Necrons burst the 12" bubble, forcing the MIRAGE out of formation. Subsequently the two Necron ships let rip with a double strike of gauss nastiness hitting everything within 12" twice with D6 gauss hits (glancing on a 6).
The resulting hits caused one devilfish to come parking down, stripped the two gun drones from the Broadsides and killed several pathfinders, and caused shaken results on 2/3rd of the Armoured Interdiction Cadre. To top this off a Vendetta also dropped in and shot at a Hammerhead, thankfully the Hammerheads disruption field caused real problems (and is a real advantage against a flyer (who is automatically 12" away!).
The titan suddenly gained targets and wiped out the Dreadnought and a whole squad of fire warriors (the Broadside in the tower survived, thanks to his shield drone).
The Tau cadre scattered, gaining some room to Necrons. Then the combination of markerlights and railguns were brought to bear. One Necron monolith was destroyed by railgun fire from the three man squad, the other Monolith survived. The Interdiction Cadre used their three markerlights to target the vendetta. While we couldn't announce a precision strike on it (specifically excluded), the markerlights could launch 3 seeker missiles at the target.
Tau technology allowed the seeker missiles to hit the skimmer on a 2+, and the flyer came crashing down! Meanwhile, there'd been more than enough markerlights to share out to the titan and the Stormbringer devastators had another bite at the 2+ cherry. While they failed to hurt the titan, they did keep it in check - keeping it at arms length.
Turn 3: "Necrotism..."
20 Necrons swarmed out of the Monolith and targetted the Broadsides as the remaining monolith launched another barrage. The barrage did surprisingly little, stunning a few more tanks, but the 'spread' had helped. The Necrons fusilade of shots killed the remaining shield drones (despite a 2+ save) and the broadsides looked weakened.
The 'spread' didn't help those that had dropped outside the MIRAGE range as the Titan rained down firepower on the heads of it's opponents. Further battlesuits and tanks died. Additionally, the other two Vendettas arrived, and although one set of shots missed - a skyray disintegrated from lascannon shots.
First up, one of the pathfinder groups had targetted the warlord, while the other targetted the necrons. With a huge impact, my Shas'O, bodyguard and another squad leapt in at point blank range to the necrons. The 'pathfinder devilfish' reroll helped and no-one scattered. The three squads they had 7 crisis suits with 3 flamers, 1 twin linked, 6 missile pods, two plasma rifles (1 twin linked), 3 fusion blasters and an air fragmentation projector. The resulting fire, all hitting on a 2+, was devastating. The flamers were particularly nasty, forcing the necrons to roll lots of ones or twos, the last desparates shots from a smart missile system killed the last necron and the unit was destroyed - phew!
With the damage from the warhound more devastating, I decided to target that with my remaining broadsides (spot the mistake) and failed to harm it. We also activated our 'stratagem' which drop a markerlight hits on everything in our deployment zone. Despite hitting the flyer, the seeker missile failed to kill.
Meanwhile Jack had droppodded a squad of sternguard into the line of fire with the enemy and these verterans rapid fired the opponent with AP2 shots. A C'tan joined the immortals and necrons in fighting the Sternguard and Bikers.
Turn 4 "Concentrate all firepower on the superstructure..."
The Monolith spouted forth 20 more necron warriors ... urghhh. This time they targetted the most 'threatening' crisis suit squad, landing lots of hits. Luckily only 4 kills resulted and these were bounced off on the 4 gundrones. The other firepower was more successful, the Monolith shuffled closer to the objective and blasted again, shaking a devilfish. Meanwhile the Vendettas proved dangerous, hitting and immobilising a hammerhead.
The Titan had even more fun, shooting up the outlying area, he double killed the Broadside in the building. The enemy moved closer with Heavy destroyers and a Leman Russ moving up to the objective. The group of guardsmen sneaking along some trenches to contest the enemy objective were ambushed by 3 pariahs and died a nasty death. They did manage to take one down though, but the pariahs were still over 50% and capture capable.
The Tau responded in kind. Assuming the broadsides might actually destroy the monolith this turn, the MIRAGE moved back in. The Tau targetted the Monolith with broadside shots, but these were thwarted by poor rolling. The recurred necrons met with another fusilade, but the reduction in armour and crisis suit deaths due to titanic weapons proved too much and they failed to kill all the necrons. Of the four that survived, 12 rolls their I'll be back rolls... things looked desparate, and even the intransigent Suneokun railed against the impossibility of pulling off a win (not knowing about his own crafty XV15's making a break!) ...
Turn 5: Endgame
The game for turn 5 was fought heavily in the 'city' against the Stormbringers. The Titan turned away from the Tau front line and turned it's attention to its own objective, confident that we couldn't destroy both the Monolith and the necrons and the countryside was out of reach!
Meanwhile the Sternguard managed to kill the C'Tan Deciever (nice work Gue'la) and found themselves wrapped up in combat with immortals.
In the Tau front line, we noticed that the Monolith was 3 3/4" away from the objective... hmm. This meant that if we could just kill those necron warriors?!? The Necron moved into the building, running and hiding for a 3+ saving throw. The pathfinder devilfish rushed off to finish off a pariah (see earlier) and the broadsides ignored both the warhound and the monolith to target the Leman Russ. The Russ survived, but the warriors were less lucky.
Three crisis suit teams plus all the vehicles and even pathfinder railrifles targetted the Necron Warriors - preparing to fire and then assault the warriors in their ruined objective. The XV8's didn't get the chance as lots of 1's and 2's were rolled and the Necrons died surprisingly easily. Dustin used an assault move to claim the obejctive.
Final Result: Greater Good: 3, Necron Alliance 2.
That was a very difficult battle made especially difficult by last minute changes. Knowing that I'd be maybe be facing Orks or Guardsmen, I'd fielded lots of non anti-Meq Tau weaponry from burst cannons, Missile Pods and Rail Rifles. The shock of finding the army facing a weird mix of Necrons (3+), Space Wolfs (3+) and Guard vets in carapace (4+) made the game a saving throws nightmare.
And what a combination! The Necron codex may creak in the metagame, but in Apocalyse its got the room to really throw its weight around. The weakness of necrons is in close combat against power weapons. Therefore Tau have a real problem as although they have the firepower, they only have three AP2 and 1 weapons and S8 is essential for killing necrons. If i'd been fielding my guard, I would have had so many options to stop them. Without this the Tau struggled.
The 'double bubble' Formation of the MIRAGE plus interdiction proved even more lethal on the table than it did on paper, easily ecilipsing the 'markerdrone' strategic asset we deployed. For 100 points we gained a markerdrones on the devilfish, and for every three hits you could gain a 2+ to hit for all friendly forces. This 'force multiplier' is something standard in 'Hordes' but turned our double bubble into a very durable 'Tau Titan' replacement. Even when split by the Necrons and shot up by the Vendettas, the formation proved highly durable.
On reflection though, we were very lucky. Jack's Stormbringer did a brilliant job deflecting the Guard and Space Wolf forces on the last turn. While I believe we 'scared off' the warhound from approaching our lines, if the reserves had attacked elsewhere - we would have been in trouble.
Imagine if the drop pod had attacked the broadsides? Combined with one Monolith. Or the other monolith had attacked the Tau home objective? Or the veterans had attacked the home objective, firing meltaguns and lascannons at Crisis Suits? If the Warhound had bitten the bullet and come closer while the Broadside were engaged - the destroyer weapons would have reeked havoc on those tanks. If the opponent had targetted our MIRAGE at any point, or the command tank on the Interdiction Cadre... The 'Tau Titan' would then have been eaten up.
Luckily for us, the firewarrior response to the droppod was enough to discourage further visitors. Without those, even flanking we could focus our forces. Added to that, the stealth abilities of the XV15s, XV25 and MIRAGE effectively meant that we could control the combat. The Space wolves only fought firewarriors and kroot. We effectively 'distracted' our way to victory.
On our side Jack did a brilliant job challenging the enemies objective, but shot at the titan with lascannons instead of targetting the leman russ holding their 'other' objective in turn 5. On both sides, the forces split off into 'individual armies', this never works. The most successful forces were those combined where I handed the control of the countryside battle to Dustin, and he gave me the 'Tau-titan' on the front line. The opponents controlled their forces alone, so the Necrons attacked without spacewolves close combating the broadsides. The Vendettas spread themselves too thin and the Leman Russes 'accidentally' blew up space wolves .. which in my opinion, says it all.