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"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

AbusePuppy Screws Up With Tau: An 'Ard Boyz Battle Report, Round 1

So, here is my delayed 'Ard Boyz report from the semifinals. As you may have guessed from lack of any word up until now, I didn't win- and, in fact, I didn't do all that well. I can blame any number of factors, but the simple truth is that I made quite a few mistakes during play (not helped any by not getting enough sleep) and wasn't experienced enough with the army I had brought. Still, it was a good lesson in how to deal with things and I think I am starting to better get a feel for Tau.

So my list was something like this:

Shas'el (Fireknife)
2 Bodyguards (Fireknives, one with HW Blacksun)

3 Crisis (Fireknives, Team Leader with HW Drone Controller and a Gun Drone)
3 Crisis (as above)
3 Crisis (as above)

6 Fire Warriors
6 Fire Warriors
6 Fire Warriors
10 Kroot + 4 Hounds
10 Kroot + 3 Hounds

8 Pathfinders + Dumbfish (Disruption Pod only)
8 Pathfinders + Dumbfish
2 Piranhas (one with DP, Fusion, and Array)

3 Broadsides (ASS, Team Leader with HW Drone Controller, Gun Drone, Shield Drone)
3 Broadsides (as above)
3 Broadsides (as above, but no Shield Drone)

So a list with some pretty ridiculous firepower, but limited scoring units and reliant on sacrifices to hold the enemy back. Modeled largely off of Stelek's advice, naturally, but with some small changes. I really like Pathfinders and was too scared to drop them, despite the scenarios- as luck would have it, they worked out just fine for me, so I feel somewhat justified in keeping them. Otherwise a pretty standard Tau list that intends to shoot guys up.

So upon arriving at the store after a very early start (almost four hours drive time), I am pleasantly surprised to see that it is rather spacious and has plenty of tables for play. This is good, because there are thirty-six of us here today for the semis, probably the largest simultaneous set of games I've ever seen of 40K. The store is actually a large warehouse that has been insulated, etc, in order to make it livable and is literally piled to the ceiling with gaming, anime, and other nerd items of all descriptions by the thousands. The tables themselves are fairly well designed- there is storage space underneath for units that have been killed/are in reserve. Signup is well-handled and well-organized; with a shop this big, it's no wonder, as they seem used to managing a herd of geeks and have a P.A. system installed to shout over the noise. They also are intelligent enough to issue rulings on major issues before the tournament starts, most of which are eminently reasonable- Doom doesn't affect guys in transports, BA Vindicators are blasts, etc. One odd clarification/ruling was that when a vehicle explodes, the area of difficult ground is the area of the explosion (i.e. the hull size + d6"), which meant that for a lot of games, the field quickly became covered in difficult terrain.

The tables vary a lot in quality/amount of terrain; about half to two-thirds are pretty normal, but the remainder vary from "basically nothing" to "jesus where am I going to have space for my models." I pray for one of the former as they start naming off pairs.

Huzzah, I get a table that is pretty much empty! There are a few small hills scattered about the map and... one bridge? Off to the side, where it doesn't really get in the way at all? Yikes, I feel kinda bad for this dude, but now is not the time to be complaining. He's got a semi-painted army, doesn't look too bad, which puts my primered white mess of models to shame. List was pretty much:

2 Daemon Princes (Lash, Mark, Wings)
1 Terminator squad, three strong, with Combi-Meltas (with a Land Raider transport)
2 Dreadnoughts (Las/Missile)
4 Thousand Sons squads, all seven strong and with Bolt of Change, in Rhinos (with Havoc)
1 TriLas Pred
2 Defilers
a singular Chaos Spawn for comedy, one assumes

I glance over his list, not being terribly surprised. Standard plan: down his couple of threats, namely the Princes and Defilers, and then pick the rest of the army apart at leisure. Night Fighting is going to be a pain, but with any luck it will fade away, and my suits all have Acute Senses. The long-range guns on the Raider and Pred could be annoying, but if I can't outshoot him, my dice must have something wrong with them.

He wins the roll-off (sigh, par for the course for me) and takes the only side with any cover. Everything lines up behind the bridge and with the Raider shielding some of his guys, being prepared to move a lot of stuff into the fog. All the 1K Sons are in their Rhinos, except the one squad by the Raider. I line up mostly along my back table edge, with the Crisis pushed slightly forward to try and hit early targets after he moves in near me. Kroot and Pathfinders deploy aggressively, aiming to draw attention and be ready to light targets up respectively. With no Seize, we go to...


Our deployment, roughly speaking. Light green areas are "hills"... about half an inch high. Those, plus one tree in the lower right and the arched bridge (represented here by the enlongated house) are all the terrain we have. The three "shields" in the middle of the field are our three objectives.

Turn 1
He does exactly what I expect and moves the Princes, Defilers, etc forward. Two Lashes drag the poor, poor Kroot forward into charge range; the Dreadnoughts peer through the mist but can't see anything. Land Raider and Predator move in and go pew pew at me to no effect. He gets his first of many tastes of the 4+ cover save and seems surprised when I claim it for just having a unit in the way. Does... does he not play cover saves that way? He doesn't say much about it, though, and we keep on. Princes and Spawn charge the Kroot, end of Kroot, well done Kroot. He consolidates forward.

On my turn I trudge forward, jetting half my Crisis into the fog, and pull the 'Fish up behind the Kroot/'Finders in preparation for embarking some Fire Warriors when they arrive. Piranhas zoom forward, as they are wont to do. For shooting, the northern 'Finders get a super-lucky spotting roll (ten or eleven, don't recall which) and manage to see the Defiler through the smoke; this is bad news for him. They get a bunch of hits while their brothers down south do the same to the Raider. (The Predator has moved in behind it, denying me an easy target.) The Broadsides open up on his northern Defiler and I burn a token to succeed the Night Fight check- he asks to see the relevant part of my codex, and I oblige, as it's not exactly something that Markerlights get used for a lot. I burn the remainder of the tokens to bump up BS and ram all three shots down its throat, killing it. Other Railguns hit the Raider, shaking it, and fail to do anything to the Predator. Crisis open fire on the Demon Princes, killing one and pushing a wound onto the other one. Crisis jet back a bit in case things clear up. Pretty happy with the way things are going, I pass the turn.

Turn 2
We roll for the fog, and I get lucky- both of them dissapate; good thing I backed those Crisis off, otherwise they'd be meat. Rhinos roll forward along with the remaining Defiler. Raider and Pred stay still to shoot, Dreds advance. He rolls Fire Frenzy on one of them and aims for my Piranhas; I point out that he has lots of other units closer, but he says they aren't in LOS; alright, sure, whatever. Chaos Dreads are bad enough without extra crippling limitations, so he opens up and gets a couple hits. One they shrug off, one downs the naked Piranha. Aww, poor sacrificial units. The remaining Prince lashes my Pathfinders and charges them, along with the Spawn; Pathfinders die, also having done their job already. Raider and Pred put shots into my suits, which take down a drone but are otherwise ineffective. He starts dropping Havoc launchers on me left and right, pinging away at the remaining Kroot; he does this pretty much the rest of the game, but I manage to pass enough cover saves and morale tests to basically laugh it off. This is a consistent theme for the army, along with never winning the roll-off for first and always missing with melta weapons. The Defiler drops a blast but it scatters off the table; I breathe a sigh of relief. Every chance to dodge making Leadership tests is a godsend for Tau.

Coming back to me, my 'Fish tuck up slightly to take shots and my Crisis continue their advance. The Piranha rushes up in front of a Dread and the Kroot edge up over the hill. Shooting sees something like six Markerlight hits on the Raider, at which point he calls a judge over. (Oh, that's right, another good thing: they had four roaming judges to answer questions. It was a nice change from the policy at my FLGS, which is "shout out a question and hope someone knows the answer.") He asks if you can take saves or otherwise do anything against Markerlights- the judge says no, and I breathe another sigh of relief, as a retarded ruling there could have wrecked me for the rest of the tournament. He grumbles a little and I put two sets of Railguns into his Raider, eventually killing it. Melta misses the Dread, the remaining Railguns wreck the Defiler, silencing my worries about losing a squad or two in a single shot. My two Crisis squads near the Prince take advantage of their proximity to rapid fire his flying behind right back into its carry case. The Devilfish are unable to off the Spawn by themselves and I'm forced to use the Crisis to ensure that it doesn't charge me and tie up anything important. More scooting along the table edges with Crisis ends my turn.


The battlefield as of turn 3, with some elements out of time-synch with the rest of the field. (The Fire Warriors in the south, for example.) Note that both my transports are still empty at this point.

Turn 3
Reserves finally start trickling in as his Terminators show up toting their one-shot funguns. He lands them right in front of my Devilfish and gets a hit, so he's right where he wants to be, I guess. The remainder of his forces continue their slow advance, still well out of range of actually shooting my units with anything except Havoc Launchers and such. One of his northermost Rhinos revs its engine and... tries to ram my Piranha? I get ready to roll my 3+ dodge save and he appearantly has never heard of such nonsense and demands I point out the rule. We dig around, find it under the skimmer section and, rather miffed, he gives it to me. I pass, not that there was a terrible risk to many anyways. S5 hits on front armor are not exactly terrifying. He moves on to shooting and magically transforms my Devilfish (thankfully empty) into a piece of terrain with but the wave of a (melta) wand. Meh. More Las and Missile fire from the Dreads- one of them is all crazy and just runs forward- the Piranha goes down. Stupid Piranha, never actually hurting anything. :\

My reserves also start to show up in minimal amounts, with one of my Fire Warriors squads showing up. Only one, though, as I apparently can't make a 3+ to save my life. I send it towards the back corner of the board to threaten that objective, as it's becoming obvious that I'm going to have some trouble claiming them at this point. He's still got practically all of his troops on the table and I'm not in range to be wiping any of them out. I also have more immediate concerns with the Terminators, which need to be dealt with right away. So what remain of my Markerlights (Havoc Launchers have done a couple wounds) go on the Predator and I railgun it and one of the Dreadnoughts to death. My Crisis in the south focus on the newly-arrive Terminators and wipe them out pretty handily despite a slight tic in my plans when he passes more invulns than I would like to see happen. Still, the two squads are enough to do him in, so I can't complain. Up north, I aim at the Rhino to try and shut down his mobility and manage to immobilize it and tear off three successive weapons (with, oddly, my Plasma getting most of the damage results), killing it. His dudes pile out in the shadow of the wreck, trying to deny me easy LOS, which is pretty much successful thanks to the small squad. I scoot forward a bit, wary of those AP3 Bolters.

Turn 4
With no reserves left and increasingly little on the board, he is getting pretty annoyed. He mulls over the movement of one Rhino, changing his mind several times, and I eventually prompt him rather politely to make a decision, as we're starting to run low on time. (He had spent more than five minute trying to move one squad, which seems a bit excessive to me, though it didn't come off as stalling so much as just trying to balance options. Still.) He eventually dashes the Rhino back towards my Fire Warriors hiding in the trees. Other Rhinos move towards my line of Kroot/Pathfinders. His squad up north marches out onto their objective as well. Their Bolters quickly end the Gun Drones that are contesting it, along with their twins over near my Fire Warriors. Yeah, not exactly a surprise. He unloads and drops a template from the sorcerer on my Kroot and 'Finders, killing an awful lot of them, and they both end up breaking. With very little else on the field left to do and both my frightened units running off the field, it comes back around to my turn.

Side note: having been throwing blasts across the table pretty much all game, I have, not surprisingly, been counting hits for him pretty much all game. Now, I thought I was being pretty fair about it- getting 3-4 guys with a small blast is about the best you can really hope for, generally- but was getting increasingly annoyed, about this or something else, and he insisted on coming around to measure everything himself this turn. Whatever, I guess.

Things aren't looking good, but I've got a plan here. The last of my reserves arrive, one squad immediately jumping into the Devilfish, which unfortunately has to get into position for them an thus can't head for the objective this turn. The other squad tries for the near objective, but surrounded by his troops it's not looking good. The rest of my army pushes forward to get LOS- which he is super-picky about it seems, trying to claim that a Dread can completely block off a Rhino/1K Sons Squad, etc. I don't think he plays in a group that actually uses TLOS. So between Crisis and Railguns, I kill his squad in the north, denying him that at the very least; I manage to do some damage to his other squad but don't quite wipe it out, leaving him with one squad taking a backfield objective and one other advancing slowly on the midfield one. I can reach both objectives next turn with any luck (and assuming I can push him off them), so I'm thinking things are okay.

Turn 5
At this point, with just over half an hour left on the clock, he announces that we are going to be unable to finish the turn and should stop here. Somewhat incredulous, since he is not only first player (and thus won't get stiffed on time no matter what happens) and has basically four units to move total, I assure him that we will be fine and that we should easily both be able to take our turns in fifteen minutes at this point. Y'know, because there's not that much left on the board. He's pretty unhappy with this and grumbles about it for several minutes, but eventually takes his turn. Advance onto the two objectives, Dreadnought moves up some more, and shooting wipes out my unmounted Fire Warriors squad. :\ Stupid FWs, why can't you be a worthwhile unit instead? So things aren't great for me, but I still Have A Plan.

His turn, between the complaining and moving everything with what can be described as "less than extreme speed," has taken about ten minutes- for perhaps twenty-odd total models, a not unimpressive feat. So, trying to play relatively quickly, I start rolling. Everything pushes up again and I hop the Drones off of the Devilfish, moving towards the one objective I know I can't claim but he has troops on. He calls bullshit on my movement, so I back up and repeat it, and he again calls B.S. when I disembark my drones with the edge of their base 2" from my 'Fish (rather than completely within 2", which is how he seems to think it should be.) Thinking I'm short on time and knowing I've got the movement to get there, I rolleyes at him and put them as he wants, scooting 6" (and making my Dangerous Terrain test, at his insistence), followed by a Run during the shooting phase, which combined with their 6" assault scoot is enough to contest his objective. The Devilfish then jets north, getting in range of the objective in the middle, and Crisis fire wipes his troops off of it handily. Some cursory shooting at his squad on the contested objective and assault scoots and I end the turn, expecting to take the game 1-0 for a Minor Victory; not great, but could be worse, I suppose.

Turn 6
Wait, what? He starts getting ready to take his turn; we've got eight minutes left and he intends to use him. I call a judge over because this seems like quite a load to me, considering twenty minutes ago he was sure there was no way we could both take a turn in half an hour. The judge says to play on and I realize that I really, really should not have been so quick about my previous turn, as I could easily have been more explicit with my shooting (as I had been in earlier turns) and otherwise not rushed through my turn. His Dread moves in and contests the center objective, he shoots my Gun Drones to death so they aren't contesting, done. Grrr.

I Railgun the everloving bejeezus out of his Dreadnought, repeatedly failing to do anything meaningful to it, and finally (with my second set of Crisis) manage to get a Missile penetration and explode it. I take a brief moment of schadenfreude over this, as he seemed to think "using Gun Drones to contest an objective last turn" was on par with "killing babies in the name of Satan" in terms of shitty things to do to people. With not much else that matters on the board, I roll out some dice and some guys die or something, but fearless + invulns mean that it isn't enough. We draw the game 1-1 on objectives and we go to totaling up kill points.

I unfortunately have a lot of KP to give up, but having damn near tabled him I'm relatively comfident here. After several counts and re-counts, I come out ahead with 14-11 or something like that and we fill out the result slip in near-silence. It's unfortunate the game had to end as it did, as he really didn't seem like a completely awful guy, but his "take another turn/don't take another turn" shenanigans really put things on a sour note for me.


Battlefield as of the final turn of the game. Note his Dread fighting for the center spot and one surviving Rhino still loaded with his Most Expensive Unit, the large 1KS squad.

Well, that was a big screwup for me in a couple ways. On the one hand, his army had basically no chance of actually doing any damage to me. On the other hand, his large numbers of resilient troops were a serious PITA to deal with, despite him having effectively no firepower for this point total. I probably should have done a lot better, though, all things considered. I really don't have enough experience with this army or with Tau in general and didn't really have anyone I could do any decent testing against, something I'll have to remedy if I can. As I see it, there were a couple major screwups that probably cost me the game:

Mistake #1: Kill those Rhinos first. While the Predator, Land Raider, and Dreadnoughts all had the potential to wipe out Crisis squads, I lost because he killed my Fire Warriors off, not because of Crisis. I should have de-meched his troops earlier in the game to take advantage of their weakness (Slow and Purposeful) to keep them locked up in more convenient places. Lesson learned, hopefully.

Mistake #2: Not being aggressive enough? I'm not sure about this one. Stelek often talks about tabling opponents with his Tau, but I've never really managed to do so; maybe I get bad rolls? But more likely I'm a bad player. I think I should have pushed the Crisis up earlier to get into Rapid Fire range for the final turns of the game, which would have given me a much better chance of blazing out his squads as they arrived on the objectives.

Mistake #3: Too aggressive with the Pathfinders/Kroot. In an objective mission like this, I should have been more careful with jmy troops, especially with him not really able to threaten a charge until extremely late in the game. My northern Kroot should have been well back from him, or even off-board, so as to deny him easy targets for his Lashes. Likewise, the southern Pathfinders should have been back more and spread out away from the Kroot to minimize blast casualties and keep fire on him in the later turns of the game.

Mistake #4: Target Priority. As with #1, I was too afraid of those Lascannons and Missiles on the heavy tanks when I should have been more worried about him getting his troops where they needed to go. Shoot the little tanks first, stupid. You know that's the right way to do it already, now start applying it.

Mistake #5: Call a judge if you need one/watch your time. Although I managed to win anyways, I should have had the game at the end of turn 5 with one objective, no questions asked. Caving on the Drone deployment issue, rapid-playing through my turn, etc, were mistakes made out of controlled panic when I should have been calmer and been keeping an eye on how much time I had and how much was left to do.

Mistake #6: Objective placement. I was too aggressive with placing my objective, it should have been deeper in the empty quartertowards my side, the better to score with some Kroot or FWs.

So there's my ignomious round 1 win battle report. Comments- especially folks pointing out how I royally f***ed up in deployment, strategy, tactics, etc, would be greatly appreciated, as I'm still trying to get the hang of Tau. Actual pictures (albeit not a lot) will come once I can get my phone to relinquish its death-grip on them.

12 pinkments:

The_King_Elessar said...

Yeah, despite never having played Tau, I physically cringed at your deployment. When you said it was fine the Kroot dying in the very first turn, I shuddered. By allowing that to happen, they fail completely at the 'speedbump' part of their role.

Also, while you are completely right about shooting Rhinos, the guy sounds like he doesn't have what I consider basic rules knowledge, the only example of him being above average in that regard being with Walker LOS, a point on which he is absolutely correct. (And well done to him)

I think a mistake not listed was:
"Always slow play the last turn if there isn't enough time for you to get another."
There are many who would possibly consider this a Dick Move, but not I. Essentially, this should really only be done if going second, btw, but it is necessary, as many players simply aren't sporting enough to NOT take a turn more than you. Don't assume, discuss it before the turn, but, if you can't reach some concordance, slow play your way to a result - even if it means you lose, teach them a lesson.

As for your target priority - the Defiler was correctly top. With Fleet, it can chew your suits no problem. I don't recall, Tau Plasma is S6, yes? I would have considered more aggressive use of the suits then to puncture Rhinos - but they have no effect on 1KSons, and get mowed down - so maybe not.

I also think the Pathfinders should have been one unit - because they cripple the list's already limited mobility, and, good as they are, have zero killing power, and zero ability to speedbump.

GMort. said...

Opponents who don't know the basic rules of 40K annoy the hell out of me. I also consider slow-play to be one of the ultimate 40K crimes, It's right up there with over-moving as far as I'm concerned...

The_King_Elessar said...

Piss off! I wrote a great comment, and it's gone. :(

Chumbalaya said...

Bummer you had to play such a tosser. Good report though.

AbusePuppy said...

Pathfinders were 2x8, so no option to combine them. I wouldn't have wanted to, anyways, as I didn't really need the extra FA slot much. Didn't have points for another Piranha thanks to all the suits.

The northern Kroot actually did speedbump for me, eating up the Lashes first turn, but I'm not sure it was necessary with Night Fighting. I was pretty much guaranteed to lose at least one unit there to them, but perhaps I should just let it be the Pathfinders and not worried about it.

Crisis started engaging the Rhinos on T3 (except for the ones killing Termies), but due to the foreshortened game, that wasn't enough. Stupid resilient troops and their stupid invulnerable saves. :(

The_King_Elessar said...

No, Lash isn't too big a deal when that list had nothing to do but assault you. Honestly, should have almost ignored.

VT2 said...

Remember your mantra: take away their mobility, and you get to dictate the flow of battle.

Always shoot transports before anything else.
If you lose a hammerhead, but the opponent is down 5 rhinos and 2 razorbacks, you're still on top of the situation. It doesn't really matter if he has two predators left, because all your key units are out of range or sight for them.

Infantry is ridiculously impotent against tau, so it's in your best interest to make sure he only has infantry on the table.

AbusePuppy said...

Yeah, I know that in theory, but it's sometimes hard to ignore in practice. I had enough drones and cover to soak the Lascannon/Missile hits without too much trouble, but I was over-worried about them.

My thoughts on the Lash Princes were something like this: he was obviously gonna move them forward turn one. With the fog in place, I had to be relatively close to actually get shots off. Tossing the Kroot in as as a sacrifice allowed me to not only soak both Lashes that turn (which probably would have otherwise been on my Pathfinders), but pulled the Princes another ~9" towards my lines, guaranteeing I could apply full firepower to them with Crisis. If I hadn't, I was pretty much guaranteed to lose the Pathfinders + a Crisis squad on turn 2 if the fog cleared, as he would likely be able to Lash both of them into charge range. If I had deployed more conservatively and forced him to close in, I may have been able to avoid the second-turn Lash, but with 24 + 3d6/5d6 (depending on if he focused) + 6 reach, I'm skeptical that I would have been able to pull it off- and I certainly would've wasted all my first turn's shooting with those Crisis, who had no other targets they could reasonably reach.

I still don't know if it was the right decision, though.

VT2 said...

It takes a lot of games before you warm up to the thought of letting the big guns fire for another turn.
It's something all of us tau players eventually have to learn.

The answer to the second part is: better deployment.
I know - it sounds mean, but it's not meant to be.

Get more games in. It's a stupidly hard army to get the hang on.

AbusePuppy said...

Oh no, I am well aware I fucked up the deployment. I figure I largely got the Crisis/Broadsides right, and the Pathfinders felt okay to me, likewise the Piranhas- what would you have done differently with the Kroot? Half the reason I'm posting these battle reports is I'm trying to get a feel for where I'm screwing up my deployments.

VT2 said...

Against chaos, I'd have dispersed the kroot among the rest of my army, since chaos loves deep striking things, and don't have much dakka that poses a credible threat to tau.
This keeps obliterators and terminators away from your vehicles somewhat, and pretty much guarantees you'll have at least some kroot left around turn 4, in case of an emergency.

Alternatively, forward deployment, with actual backup behind. The goal then would have been to destroy his princes and defilers first, then demech him, and let the kroot take potshots at his slow stuff all game long.

The pathfinders are a bit more problematic.
Either conservative deployment, so they'd get to stick around for most of the game, or use them as bait, to split his force into smaller chunks.
Since you actually own two large units of them, you could bait with one, and use the other for the things they're there for.

Da Warboss said...

One of our local Tau players is very aggressive with his crisis suites, and he wins most of his games. Aggresion pays dividens, especailly if your foe has no outflanking/deepstriekrs to get at your Rail Gun troops in the back 40.

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