Thursday, December 10, 2009

7 November 2009 Woodbridge NJ Tournament (Intro)

What did I bring?
I brought 1850 points of my “Slann”-themed Tau Empire army again – lots of little Tau models and suits, with lizard heads and other modest conversions here and there.
  • HQ: “Fourth Servant” Shas’el with Missile, Airburst, Flamer, Target Lock, Multi

  • Elite: 3x “Ranger” Crisis Suits with Twin-Missile and Flamer
  • Elite: same

  • Troop: 12x “Brave” Fire Warriors with Shas’ui (Ld8) upgrade and Bonding
  • Troop: same
  • Troop: same
  • Troop: same
  • Troop: same

  • Fast: 8x “Scout” Pathfinders with Shas’ui (Ld8) and Bonding upgrades, in Devilfish transport with D-Pods
  • Fast: same

  • Heavy: 2x “Hornsuit” Broadsides with Target Arrays, 1x T-lock, and 2 Shield Drones
  • Heavy: same
For this tournament, I had pretty much finished painting the army list I had been putting together for some years now. I’ve a few ideas (and models) to further expand my list, but what is here works pretty well in most games – enough firepower to stop (and clean up against) most opponents. The Pathfinders not only make the heavier units more accurate, but provide transports to give some of the scoring Troops choices more mobility. That said, this is probably the last time I field the Slann in this particular configuration, as it’s clear that there are certain inefficiencies in the force above that can’t be fixed without a rather significant redesign of the army list.

5 November 2009 Woodbridge NJ Tournament (Preview Game)

Opponent: Steve Coyne (“Deadhead” Dark Angels). Steve has been a long-time member of the Warmonger Club in New York City, and his “Grateful Dead” motif has been a consistent theme in all the armies he has done. I had the day off from work, and so visited the Warmonger Club two days before the tournament to do a last-minute ‘fine-tune’ of my army, and Steve was also looking to try out a new Ravenwing/Deathwing mix. As he informed me, the trick was that he not only had flexible unit sizes (with the Ravenwing), but that the bikes AND the terminators were all scoring units. Wow.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • 1x Ravenwing Special Character
  • 1x Deathwing Special Character
  • 12x Ravenwing Bikes (fielded in 3 squads of: 3, 3, and 6)
  • 2x Attack Bikes, one with MMelta, one with HBolter
  • 2x 5-man Deathwing squads (one with HFlamer, one with AssCannon)
  • 4x Speeders (HB, 2xHB+AC, MM+HFlam)

Mission: Seize Ground (3 objectives) and Dawn of War (12” deployment and initial Nightfight)

Terrain: Ruined cityscape, with huge three-story LOS-blocking complex on the right side of the table between our deployment zones, and scattered smaller ruins (half of them also large enough to block LOS to vehicles) throughout the middle of the table. Both Steve and I also had two smaller ruins in our deployment zones. Two objectives were on the ground just outside a building in each of our deployment zones; the last was next to the massive LOS-blocking complex on the right side of the table.

What happened?
Steve won the roll-off for deployment, but chose to set up and move second. I set up two Troops choices – one on top of a tower next to the objective on my side of the table, and one on my side of the large complex on the right flank, a move away from claiming that second objective. I placed my HQ with the unit on the right. Steve placed his units second, and deployed his large (6-man) unit of Bikes on my left flank, making a Scout move forward toward the objective I had a unit of Troops sitting on -- and placed a unit of Deathwing (backed by the Deathwing HQ) in the center, near the third objective – the one nearest his deployment zone.

At the start of my first turn, I walked the rest of my army onto the table: both units of Rangers (Crisis Suits) on the left, backed by the three remaining Troops choices, and the two Transports (Devilfish). The Scouts (Pathfinders) and Hornsuits (B-Sides) rolled up the middle, taking a run move to get into position in a low two-story ruin near my table edge. Then I opened fire, and even with the Nightfighting rules in effect, I was able to see the unit of Bikes that had just made the Scout Move up to within 6” of the objective on the left. With so much firepower (48 Pulse rifles, 2 Burst Cannons, 6 Missile Pods, and 4 Pulse Carbines), the bikes simply evaporated.

Steve shook his head in disbelief, but gamely moved his five Landspeeders (including the Ravenwing HQ, of course) onto his board edge, keeping them behind the large behemoth of a terrain feature on the right-hand side. He also deep-struck his second unit of Terminators INTO the building, near the Troops+HQ that I had lurking in there. Although he lost three (!!!) Terminators to the dangerous terrain test, the surviving Heavy Flamer was more than sufficient to kill nine of my thirteen models. D’oh.

I responded by shooting down all four of his non-HQ Landspeeders as the sun rose on Turn 2. The combination of Markerlights and LOS was deadly, denying the vehicles any chance of a cover save for hiding in and around ruins. Realizing that the two remaining Bike units (and both Attack Bikes) were outflanking, I hurriedly moved units away from the flanks, and settled in to see what Steven’s response would be. Steve reserved his bikes in (all four units came in on Turn 2) from both flanks, but apart from killing one of my Transports, and sniping at my Scouts (Pathfinders), not much happened.

I cheerfully killed all but 3 of his bikes (leaving a unit of 2 on the right flank, with a Heavy Bolter Attack Bike behind them), and most of his Terminators, leaving just three (including the HQ) hiding in the ruins next to an objective by the bottom of Turn 3.

The next three turns were a bit of a dance. I still had nearly all of my army left -- I had lost three units by this point, and ultimately would lose just three more, finishing the game with 9 surviving units at nearly full strength! But Steve still had his very nasty Master of the Ravenwing zipping about, I only controlled one objective, and he could still win (or draw) the game unless I dug his final three Terminators off that objective on his side of the board!

So I carefully moved up units, got a little careless with some suits and lost three to the Bikes in turn 4, but finally pulled the surviving Deadhead Bikes and Terminators into assault, and surrounded them (but importantly, did not assault) with enough separate units (four) to make it impossible for the Deadheads to kill all of them in a single turn of combat. Although one Bike and one Terminator survived to the end of the game, they were very neatly bottled up contesting one objective with me, leaving me able to hold one, contest the third with the Master of the Ravenwing, and win the game 1-0.

Turning the Tables
Steve’s biggest mistake at the start of the game was probably that Scout move that basically threw away his largest unit of bikes. Going second was a good decision given his superior mobility, but leaving units exposed to my firepower was not. Similarly, he wasn’t careful enough with how he moved his Landspeeders onto the table, and left them visible. Even without Markerlights and with a cover save, a visible vehicle can be killed, and the best defense for them probably would have been to keep them entirely out of LOS in the first place.

Steve also spent several turns whittling away at a unit of my Pathfinders – by the end of the game, between his Master of the Ravenwing, and an Assault Cannon Terminator, he had wiped one of my two units out. But by that point in the game, the Markerlights weren’t having much of an effect, as I was basically only shooting at Terminators in cover – and I still had a second unit with LOS to nearly everything the first unit did! The Dark Angels would have been far better served using that firepower instead to (a) kill my limited mobility, and/or (b) kill my heavy hitters. Going after my Crisis Suits, for example, would have accomplished both.

Finally, I’m not certain what outflanking his bikes accomplished in this game. It simply meant that two of his units came onto the table almost fully exposed (on the left flank) to quite a few of my units that had excellent LOS (due to height above the table), excellent cover, and nothing else to shoot at. The Deadhead Marines would have been better off coming onto the table on Turn 1, and choosing which flank to overwhelm me on. After all, they had superior mobility, and given that I had unbalanced to the left during my first turn, Steve could easily have unbalanced to his left (my right) and hurt me badly while I was still scrambling to get my slower-moving models on the left flank into range to support the rest of my forces.

7 November 2009 Woodbridge NJ Tournament (Game 1)

Opponent: Jim B. (Mechanized Witch-hunters). Fielding a mounted Sisters of Battle force with a solid core of troops choices, and a number of specialized support units, Jim’s army was fairly mobile, and also came with a fairly nasty (if somewhat fragile) punch in the form of the Penitent Engines. As a side-note, Jim had converted his Inquisitor’s ride into a beautiful Sisters-of-Battle Land Raider, complete with custom side-turrets in place of sponsons, etc. Combined with his fantastic paint-job, and it was the centerpiece to an amazing-looking 40K army.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • 1x Canoness with Sword, Cloak, Book, and Mantle, with 5 Celestians in a Rhino
  • 1x Priest (tagging along)
  • 1x Canoness with Book
  • 1x Junior Inquisitor with Tarot, 2 Mystics and a Multimelta Gun-servitor, in a Land Raider
  • 3x Sisters squads with Veteran + Book, H-Flamer, Melta, and Rhino
  • 2x Exorcists
  • 3x Penitent Engines (in squadron)

Mission: “The Citadel” Tournament Scenario: defender sets up first in middle of table (in 5 pieces of AV-12 cover), attacker chooses two adjacent board edges (long + short) of their choice to deploy 6” in on. Defender goes first and must defend their 5 pieces of cover. Attacker must destroy as many of those objectives as possible – the “secondary objective” was basically just the fifth of the five objectives.

Terrain: Five pieces of AV-12 cover in the center of the table, and some (very very sparse) bits of trees and low walls around the table edge.

What happened?
Jim won the roll-off to determine attacker, and chose to attack – the sensible choice, given the mission objectives, and his load of melta and other firepowery goodness. I castled-up nearly all my units in/around the largest piece of cover, on one corner of the “Citadel”, in layers. Jim chose to set up on the long table-edge nearest to my set-up (no dummy, he!), with Penitent Engines in the center, two Rhinos on each side, the Land Raider behind some cover in one corner, and Exorcists and Inquisitor (and spare Canoness) behind some cover in the other.

I moved up all five units of the Brave (Fire Warriors), blocking up all easy access to my heavier guns, and opened fire – destroying all three Penitent Engines, killing three Rhinos, stunning the fourth (no extra armor on these Rhinos!), and killing a handful of Sisters as well. Jim was aghast at the damage I had done, but moved up with his units of (now foot-slogging) Sisters, killing 2 of my five units of Troops (and my ‘sacrificial’ HQ suit) between his Heavy Flamers and assaults, and destroying two objectives with long-range fire.

In turn two, my guns burped again, and I wiped out three of the four units of Sisters (including the uber-Canoness), leaving just one unit of Sisters on the table, and killed one of the two Exorcists (stunning the second). Jim’s shooting from his Land Raider was ineffectual, and I followed up in the next turn by wiping out the last of the Sisters (as well as the Inquisitor and his retinue in the far corner). But with an Exorcist and Land Raider still operational, Jim managed to kill a third objective, meaning that my only chance of winning the game was to table him.

I figured I would need the fourth and fifth turn to manage that, but I had lost only three units (two Troops choices and my HQ suit), and after one-shot-killing his Land Raider with my first Railgun shot in Turn 4, that left plenty of firepower for the Exorcist and last Rhino. I had a four-turn table, and still head nearly all my forces on the table.

Turning the Tables
This particular scenario was very favorable to the attacker, and only two defenders managed to win it in this tournament – myself, and an assault-happy Chaos player (John, who I played in game #2). In both cases, we did so by tabling our opponents, and not worrying about trying to protect the very fragile objectives.

In Jim’s case, however, there were several things he could have done to make his forces a bit more durable, and rack up a few more points for his own tournament score. First, he chose to start with all of his Rhinos, and all of his Penitent Engines, out in the open. He could have instead chosen to start with his entire army in Reserve, thus denying me the opportunity to get ANY shots off before jumping on me from anywhere along the two table-edges he chose.

Even if he wanted to start with his models on the table (bad idea as it was), he could still have arranged them a bit differently. For example, even though there wasn’t a whole lot of cover on the table, 6 inches deployment is still enough to create a Rhino screen for, say, a squadron of Penitent Engines. Or for another Rhino.

Second, Jim spent an entire turn (basically, his ONLY turn) shredding two of my infantry units with four of his. Though probably quite satisfying, this was (shall we say) an inefficient use of resources. With three meltas in his units, and four powerful long-range support units, he should have been doing everything possible to go after mission objectives. Even after the first turn, it was pretty clear that he simply didn’t have the firepower to match what I could put out – that in a straight up fight between 27 Sisters and 90 Slann/Tau, with his mobility gone, odds were against him. Going for mission objectives was the far better bet – there was a good chance that, had he done so, he could have racked up all five objectives and the maximum mission points by the end of the second turn, regardless of what I did to him then or later.

7 November 2009 Woodbridge NJ Tournament (Game 2)

Opponent: John (Mechanized Chaos Marines). John and I had been the only two players to be in the “defensive” role in the first scenario, and win the game by tabling the attacker. As a reward for such outside-the-box thinking, we ended up facing each other in the next round. With a very nasty 5e Chaos army that didn’t include very much extra fat or fluff at all, John’s force was going to be a real challenge to face.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • 1x Nurgle Demon Prince with Wings and Warptime
  • 1x Greater Daemon
  • 1x Chaos Lord with Daemon Weapon, + 9 Chaos Marines (including Fist and Melta), in Daemonically Possessed Land Raider
  • 1x 10 Plague Marines, including Fist, Melta, and Plasma, in Rhino with Extra Armor
  • 1x 10 Khorne Berzerkers, including Fist, in Rhino with Extra Armor and Dozer Blade
  • 1x 3 Obliterators
  • 1x Daemonically Possessed Vindicator

Mission: “The Fortress” Tournament Scenario: “Dawn of War” setup, with defender setting up first with up to 1 HQ, 2 troops, and all Heavies. The Attacker must start with all units on the table, and the defender has the first turn. The side that controls the objective (= “the Fortress”) at the end of the game wins. The “fortress” (a reinforced gate, with towers on each side, and a crenellated 6” wall on each side beyond that) is a terrain piece that is all within 9” of the defender’s board edge. As a secondary objective, if you slaughtered any one of your opponent’s HQ choices (including full retinue if it had one), you received bonus mission points.

Terrain: Apart from the monstrous Fortress on my table edge, there were a few small copses of trees on the far edge, and two low hills that really didn’t block much LOS at all in the middle of the table.

What happened?
John won the roll-off, and chose to be the Attacker, setting up under the cover of night. Being the idiot that I am (see “Turning the Tables, below), I set up my HQ and Heavies (all of them suits) in the Fortress, then used two units of Troops to “push back” John’s deployment as far as possible. The Troops essentially set up as sacrificial units midway across the table, giving John only 6” to deploy on his table edge. He “hid” his two units on foot (Demon Prince, Obliterators) behind vehicles to start the game, but had everything ready to drive full-speed across the table from the get-go.

That said, I immediately flubbed one of the biggest Dawn of War mission rules – although, in my defense, this mission was so badly written that nearly everyone in the tournament messed it up one way or another. I left the rest of my army in Reserves, instead of immediately bringing them onto the table on Turn 1. That could have made a big, big difference, but instead, I faced John’s entire (very assaulty) army with far less than half of mine.

I couldn’t see anything in the first turn, while John’s searchlights lit up one unit of Hornsuits (Broadsides) and lascannon fire from Obliterators killed some shield drones. At daybreak on Turn 2, I killed a Rhino (the Plaguemarines’ ride), and he ran down my two units of sacrificial Troops, who died ignominiously. My Reserves didn’t start to arrive until Turn 3, and only in drips and drabs – outflanking Scouts (Pathfinders) managed to immobilize the Chaos Vindicator, but it wasn’t going to shoot anyway, and risk killing his units busy chopping away at mine.

By the bottom of Turn 3, it was clear that I was playing for a draw, at best. All of John’s assault units were on or near the Fortress, all my firepower was dead, and what I had left were the units still in reserve, as well as a unit of Scouts (Pathfinders) well out of position that he’d been ignoring thus far. By careful use of reserves, and a few lucky breaks, I managed to slaughter one of his three Troops choices (the Berserkers), send one of them fleeing toward his table edge (the Chaos Marines and Lord), carefully herded by some drones, and tie up the Plaguemarines much too far away from the Fortress for them to claim it by the end of the game.

But no matter, because the game ended up going six turns, not five, and in that last turn, John rather decisively slaughtered the last of my units; he couldn’t claim any objectives, but he’d tabled me and gotten the automatic victory. At game’s end, I had killed one unit (the Berserkers), three vehicles (the Vindicator, and both Rhinos), munched through most of the Plaguemarines…and not much else.

Turning the Tables
There were two glaring mistakes I made in this game, which ended up being far closer than it really ought to have been given how foolishly I had screwed up. My first big mistake was choosing to deploy my starting Heavies and HQ on the objective – the one place on the board that was *guaranteed* to attract John’s units. I’d have been far better off deploying my forces into one or two firebases to either flank, well away from the Fortress, but with clear LOS to nearly everything within. That at least would have forced John to make some decisions about what he was and was not going to do with his vehicle rush.

Second, I completely flubbed the Reserve rules for the scenario. Instead of having ALL my firepower set-up and available in Turn 2 (moving in on Turn 1 as per standard Dawn of War rules), with John’s army out in the open after his first turn movement and ready to be slaughtered well outside assault range, I misunderstood the scenario rules and kept units in traditional Reserve. As it was, only the fact that I rolled so badly on my Reserve rolls gave me any shot at a draw at all – it meant that I was able to keep moving units onto the table and frustrating John’s attempts to secure an objective right next to my entry-point.

Perhaps if I had a more aggressive, assaulty army, a traditional Reserve would have been in my favor. But with a shooting-dependent list like the Tau, I desperately needed to have as much firepower as possible from the earliest possible moment, and my inability to do basic eighth-grade level reading comprehension led to some Epic Fail on my part.

7 November 2009 Woodbridge NJ Tournament (Game 3)

Opponent: Chris (Tyranid Horde). Although Chris knew that a Tyranid Horde list wasn’t terribly optimal under the 5e rules, he was a die-hard Buglover and wanted to field a ton of bugs. I admit that I was somewhat curious to see if I had the firepower to stop a Tyranid bug-wave, and this game gave us the chance to test things out.

Army: (1850 pts)
  • Hive Tyrant with 2+ armor, wings and Scything Talons
  • 1x 10 Genestealers with BROODLORD and Feeder Tendrils
  • 3x 10 Genestealers with Scuttlers and Feeder tendrils
  • 2x 20 spinegaunts
  • 1x 14 hormagaunts with toxin and adrenal glands
  • 1x 5 Tyranid Warriors with +WS+I, leaping and the kitchen sink
  • 1x 4 Tyranid Warriors with the same
  • 2x Zoanthropes with Warp Blast

Mission: “Onslaught” Tournament Scenario with Pitched Battle (12” in) deployment. Each ‘corner’ of the table had to have one objective in it, with no objective closer than 8” to any table edge or other corner (basically, each of four objectives was in the center of each corner of the 4’x6’ table). As a secondary objective, one Troops choice in your opponent’s army (nominated by him) was worth bonus mission points if killed.

Terrain: A pair of tall (12” high) towers with a reinforced gantry/cat-walk between them on my right flank was the perfect location for me to set-up some units – and one objective. The height would make it even harder for the Tyranids to assault me. Some industrial piping and low ruins completed the terrain on my table edge. Chris’ table edge had some large, LOS-blocking hills (each with an objective), and some industrial tanks. A few sparse bits of jungle terrain did nothing to block LOS in the middle of the table, but one such bit of jungle scrub on my left flank included the fourth and last objective.

What happened?
Chris won the roll-off to set-up and move first (the third time in a row in this tournament that I lost that roll-off). He dropped a unit of Spinegaunts behind each massive rocky hill, effectively capturing two objectives for the Tyranids unless I went over to his board-edge to dig them out. He also placed Warriors, Tyrant, Zoanthropes, and Hormagaunts, but kept all his Genestealers off the table, intending to outflank with them. I responded by putting a unit of Hornsuits (B-Sides) and Scouts (Pathfinders) on the 12”-high-off-the-table gantry/catwalk, and spreading out the rest of my forces in/around cover in the middle of my deployment zone, well away from either table-edge.

In the first turn, Chris moved up with everything he had deployed, save the Spinegaunts (who lurked on objectives), and I responded by Markerlighting and wiping out his brood of Hormagaunts and one of the Tyranid Warrior broods. I also created a “Transport Wall” on my right flank in case of possible Genestealer outflanking, and fired the rest of my heavy guns into a Zoanthrope…doing nothing, as it made every cover save. Oh, well.

Chris picked his jaw off the floor, and reserved one of his four units of Genestealers onto the table, right up against the Transport Wall I had created on my right flank. In my turn, I dropped the Hive Tyrant, cleaned off all the Genestealers on the right flank, and reduced the Tyranid Warriors to a mere two, thinking I still had another turn of shooting to deal with them. Foolish me for not having read my opponent’s army list more carefully, as the LEAPING Tyranid Warriors made it into the safety of close combat with one of my Troops units…and the silly beggars refused to run. Two more units of Genestealers also flanked onto the table, well out of assault range on my left flank.

I shredded the fire-support (Zoanthropes), and loaded up two units of the Brave (Fire Warriors) on Transports (Devilfish) to go evict some Spineguants from objectives on the far side of the table. With very little else to shoot at, I spent the next three turns (4-6) killing Genestealers (and Broodlord, when he finally appeared) at my leisure, dropping the last two Tyranid Warriors, and tank-shocking Ld5 Spinegaunts off their objectives. The final score after six turns was 3 objectives to none, with Chris having only two Genestealers left on the table; by contrast, I had lost just two Troops units and my (perhaps suicidally brave?) HQ in total.

Turning the Tables
With almost no cover on the table, and with his huge advantage in close combat Chris would have been far better off rushing me with everything, instead of the piece-meal approach he took. Had he set up and moved with three units of Scout-Moving Genestealers, plus infiltrating Genestealers, plus Hormagaunts, plus two units of Leaping Tyranid Warriors, plus a winged Hive Tyrant, PLUS two units of Spinegaunts, he would have very handily swamped me with targets in the first few turns and eaten me for lunch. Instead, four units were placed into Reserve, and two were given objective-holding-duty, thus nullifying them all as a real threat, and I dealt with them at my leisure after shredding the mobile threats in the first few turns.

7 November 2009 Woodbridge NJ Tournament (Postscript)

The quality of armies and painting, and the caliber of game play at this tournament was very high – I admit being a bit surprised at how competitive the environment was for what I had thought was a relatively casual tournament and venue. However, given the clubs in the region, and the sponsors and organizers of this tournament, I’m not too surprised – there were representatives from a number of very hard-core Northeastern gaming clubs in attendance, including the Warmongers of NYC (of which I suppose I am now a reserve member, given how little time I can find to game anymore).

I admit to being a bit unhappy with how poorly I did in my second game, but I was very pleased with the gaming skill, maturity, and knowledgebility of the people who attended. I placed in the middle of the pack out of about fifteen or sixteen players in attendance, and was generally happy by how well my army could do. I also noted how heavily mechanized everyone was (Tyranids excepted), and even saw a few rather nasty “Alpha Strike” lists, including one IG list chock-full of Vendettas and Hydras that promised all kinds of pain to those that faced it.

My first opponent, Jim, ended up winning the Player’s Choice for his amazing Sisters-of-Battle army, and my second opponent John was the eventual tournament winner. Ah, well, I’m glad that my total annihilation was helpful, and John was certainly nice enough about it.

Philosophical Musings:
After another tournament with my Slann/Tau list, and having had a repeat of the frustration that comes from trying to shoot down Plaguemarines when they get armor saves and Feel-no-Pain saves, I immediately remodeled my Ranger (Crisis) Suits to have Missile+Plasma combinations. I also dug out and cleaned up the Kroot-equivalent conversions I put together years and years ago, and which were actually the original inspiration for my Slann army theme. In 4e, of course, Kroot were pretty lousy, and as a result, I never finished up my conversions, nor painted them. But now in 5e, they may have some more uses, and I think it’s worth experimenting a little in the coming months to see if I can ‘tweak’ the army list design of my Slann a little to make that happen.

In the meantime, however, I’m headed to another tournament, this time back down south of the Mason-Dixon, courtesy of the Inner Circle gaming club of Maryland. Having had three tournaments (and one gaming event) in a row with the Slann, I’m going to start fresh with something complete different – mechanized Sisters of Battle. I’ve had the miniatures, courtesy of my younger brother and some fine fellows at the Millenium Gate Messageboard, for many years now, but I haven’t played them since the days of 4e when I ran them with no transports and plenty of bodies on foot. This will be a change, and I’m looking forward to learning how to make the adjustment, in the steep-learning-curve environment of a tournament. Huzzah!

Until next time, then.

Friday, October 30, 2009

17 October 2009 FRAGtoberfest Tournament (Intro)

Mike (aka St. Omerville) of the Frederick Area Gamers had invited a bunch of the denizens of the Millenium Gate forums down to Maryland for the weekend, for a 4-game, 2000 point 40K tournament at the Glen Burnie Battle Bunker. What follows is a short series of entries about the games that I played.

What did I bring?
I brought my “Slann”-themed Tau Empire army – lots of little Tau models and suits, with lizard heads and other modest conversions here and there. The fluff itself comes from the original Rogue Trader (40K v1.0) book, way back in the day, and the army was inspired by a conversation I had years ago with Wandering1 (aka The Tactical Parrot) from the forums.

  • HQ: “Fourth Servant” Shas’el with Missile, Airburst, Flamer, Target Lock, Multi

  • Elite: 3x “Ranger” Crisis Suits with Twin-Missile and Flamer
  • Elite: same

  • Troop: 12x “Brave” Fire Warriors with Shas’ui (Ld8) upgrade
  • Troop: same
  • Troop: same
  • Troop: same
  • Troop: same

  • Fast: 8x “Scout” Pathfinders with Shas’ui (Ld8) and Bonding upgrades
    In Devilfish transport with D-Pods
  • Fast: same

  • Heavy: 2x “Hornsuit” Broadsides with Target Arrays, 1x T-lock, and 2 Shield Drones
  • Heavy: same
  • Heavy: “Stoneship” Hammerhead with Railgun, D-Pod, Multitracker, and Target lock
This is essentially the finished version of my list, at 2000 points (the addition of the Hammerhead is the main difference between this and the 1850 point list). There will undoubtedly be some more tweaking and refitting of units, but the overall dimensions of the army are pretty much established, as are the core models and corresponding conversions. I’ve enough models (and points) to field an Apocalypse list of 3000 points if necessary, but some of the units (Stealthsuits, for example) are currently “in storage”, as the 5th edition rules are not very kind to them.

17 October 2009 FRAGtoberfest Tournament (Game 1)

Opponent: Chris M (Witch-hunter Arbites) I’m a big fan of the Adeptus Arbites fluff, and love the “Judge Dredd” color scheme, even if the original source material is a bit too gratuitously violent for my taste. I’ve a number of Arbites models from way back in the day, and have always wondered how well they would work as a 40K army. Facing Chris was an opportunity to see just such an army in action!

Army: (2000 pts)
  • 3x Arbites squads (double meltaguns) in Chimeras
  • 2x Guard squads (grenade launchers) in Chimeras
  • 1x Inquisitor squad (Lord with Crusaders and Acolytes) in Chimera
  • 2x Command Squads with Sniper Rifles (on foot)
  • 2x Guard Squads with Missile Launchers (on foot)
  • 2x Units of 3 Scout Sentinels (with Multilasers)
  • 1x Leman Russ (+3 heavy bolters)

Mission: “Bloodbath” Tournament Scenario: 4th edition alternating set-up in 12” deployment zone, combined with 4th edition Victory Points. Secondary objective: kill the most expensive enemy unit.

Terrain: Hills in all four corners, a line of woods on Chris’ side of the table, and a giant LOS-blocking skull in the middle of my table edge.

What happened?
I set up my army in three ‘commands’ – a unit of Hornsuits (B-Sides) and Brave (Fire Warriors) on each corner hill on my side, and all my Ranger (Crisis) Suits hid behind the giant skull in the middle of the table. I backed up my right wing with the Stoneship (H-Head), and backed up my left wing with a second unit of Brave and both units of Pathfinders, including their vehicles. My last two units of Brave started off the field.

Chris spread his Chimera through the treeline, with Infantry hiding behind the wall of AV12, anchored his right flank (my left) with his Inquisitor and Leman Russ, and backed them up with one unit of Scout Sentinels. The second unit of Scout Sentinels started in reserve, ready to outflank me.

My plan was to deploy both units of Pathfinders with their Scout move, then mount up Fire Warriors and cause some problems, but Chris stole initiative, and shredded my Pathfinder units, greatly reducing their effectiveness for the rest of the game. I compounded things by foolishly wasting firepower on his Leman Russ in the first turn, instead of more wisely blowing away Chimeras when I had the chance.

Fortunately for me, Chris was relatively cautious with his advance, and after two more turns, I had killed all his Chimeras, save for the Inquisitor’s (which was still hull-down in the treeline next to his Leman Russ). I also shredded virtually all his infantry, although a lone Stormtrooper sergeant survived to make it to my right flank, and hacked apart a unit of my Brave (Fire Warriors) before being pummeled by the nearby Hornsuits (B-sides). The last few turns of the game were fairly fast, as I tried to maneuver units into position to hurt his last few remaining units – in the end, all that was left were the Inquisitor and his ride, and two of the foot-slogging Guard units that had spent the entirety of the game lobbing (and often missing with) rockets at me from long range.

Turning the Tables.
The Arbites were far too cautious with their approach – instead of gunning their Chimeras and rushing at me full-speed, they chose to advance cautiously and use their firepower to whittle down some of my numbers first. Against most opponents, this is a solid move – but not against Tau. Even with my colossal blunder of not shooting at his Chimera transports as soon as I could (instead wasting fire on his Leman Russ), I still had sufficient firepower – and time – to wipe out the transports before really being threatened by anything. Had the Chimeras jumped me straight-away, things would have been more touch-and-go in the middle part of the game. Even a single Storm Trooper Sergeant was more than enough to Put Paid to a unit of my Fire Warriors – imagine if a more ‘fearsome’ opponent like an Inquisitor Lord had shown up!

However, Chris’s decision to devote much of his first-turn fire at my Pathfinders was the right move – it dramatically reduced the effectiveness of my shooting for the rest of the game, and was something he could have taken serious advantage of, combined with a more dedicated transport rush.

17 October 2009 FRAGtoberfest Tournament (Game 2)

Opponent: Pete/Pierre (Mechanized Eldar) Mechanization is the way to go in 5th edition, and Eldar vehicles remain just as difficult to knock down as before. Pete’s mechanized Eldar list was designed to sit back and sting people to death, with occasional swooping disembarks (courtesy of Fire Dragons or Dire Avengers) to shred exposed units, and a late-game rush to grab objectives. This was going to be a serious challenge for me, and no mistake.

Army: (2000 pts)
  • 1x Farseer with Spear, 2x runes, and DOOM
  • 1x Autarch with fusion gun
  • 1x10, and 1x9 Fire Dragons, with Crackshot Exarch w/Flamer
    Both in Wave Serpents with twin Shuricannons and Spirit Stones
  • 2x10 Dire Avengers, with Bladestorm Exarchs with twin Shuricats
    Both in Wave Serpents with twin Shuricannons and Spirit Stones
  • 1x10 Eldar Pathfinders
  • 3x Fire Prisms with Holofields and Spirit Stones
Mission: “King of the Hill” Tournament Scenario: modified Dawn of War set-up (most of army automatically in reserve, and reserve rolls starting on Turn1), with a single objective in the middle of the table. Secondary objective: get at least one unit into the enemy deployment zone.

Terrain: Large elevated rocky ridge in the middle of my table edge, extending toward objective; and a half-dozen scattered ice crystal formations providing cover but virtually no LOS-blocking around the table. Otherwise a completely open killing field…gleep.

What happened?
Pete won the roll-off to set up, so I chose to start with two “sacrificial” Troops choices on the table, near the objective, and nothing else. After Pete infiltrated his Eldar Pathfinders into a nearby crystal formation, I stole the initiative (!) and the game began.

My first turn saw most of my army show up right away: both units of Hornsuits (B-Sides), two more units of Brave (Fire Warriors), and a unit of Ranger (Crisis) Suits. I had been hoping to Deep-strike them behind Eldar vehicles, but straight up the middle works fine, too, I suppose. This proved excellent for me, and less so for Pete – he had to come onto the board into the teeth of my formidable firepower.

I made the second turn even more exciting by flanking with two units of Scouts (Pathfinders), right into the rear arcs of two of his Fire Prisms. Pete did a lot of swearing, as this bit of good luck on my part rather badly crippled his firepower right from the very start. Deep-striking Ranger (Crisis) suits also blocked up the door to his Autarch’s ride very nicely, forcing the Autarch and his bodyguard of Dire Avengers to perform an Emergency Disembarkation when their Wave Serpent was downed, where they would sit quite uselessly for a turn or two.

My exuberant willingness to sacrifice my Troops choices, however, began to swing the tide toward the Eldar. By the end of the third turn, Pete had lost both his Fire Dragon squads, as well as nearly all of the unit of Autarch and Dire Avengers, but I had lost three of my Troops choices (with a fourth still off the table in Reserve), as well as a unit of Scouts (Pathfinders) and Rangers (Crisis Suits). I was badly hurting the Eldar, but having difficulty crippling his transports – and after a lucky Fire Prism shot forced a unit of my Hornsuits (Broadsides) to test Morale, and fail and run off the board, it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to drop his vehicles fast enough.

In the end, despite the carnage inflicted, Pete simply had more mobility left – with five units clustered on the objective (not including three still entirely-alive transports), while I had just two near enough to contest, and not nearly enough firepower left to drop those darn Eldar tanks. Mechanized Eldar for the (very) decisive win!

Turning the Tables.
There were three things I did in this game that were problematic, and which done differently may have had an effect on how things turned out. First, I essentially sacrificed a unit of Crisis Suits (and their mobility AND vehicle-killing firepower!), in exchange for the chance of auto-pinning (via Emergency Disembarkation) several of Pete’s units in Wave Serpents. In previous editions, the auto-kill of a unit (or two) from blocking the hatch would have made the trade worth it, I think, but in this case, there was no point. I would have been better served Deep Striking my Crisis Suits into the rear arc of those Wave Serpents – but much further back.

Secondly, I chose to use my Pathfinders as flankers, instead of moving them on from my table edge from Reserve. True, they were able to hurt Pete’s Fire Prisms when they came on from the flank, but that was a combination of Pete forgetting that I was flanking them, and good luck on their part. They would have been better off being relatively safe on my table edge, making it easier for me to kill Pete’s tanks (by negating his vehicles’ cover saves), instead of being isolated on his lines and getting munched by his reserving units.

Finally, I simply did not pay attention to the mission objectives until very late in the game – playing instead as if it was a straightforward “sweep the table of enemy units” kind of mission. As a result, I sacrificed too many units, and particularly some of my mobile units, for what was undoubtedly insufficient return on investment.

17 October 2009 FRAGtoberfest Tournament (Game 3)

Opponent: Mike (Thunderwolf Cavalry Space Wolves). Not the same Mike as my host “St. Omerville”, this was a fellow from another local Maryland gaming club “Inner Circle”. Mike’s army was a no-nonsense, run-up-the-middle-and-SMACK-you kind of army. Two chunky units of Thunderwolves each led by a hero, a swarm of ablative wolves, some distracting Lone Wolves, three units of Rhino Rush support, and four Lascannons with lots of protection. It’s not the nastiest of Thunderwolf bum-rush armies (he could have brought more ablative wolves for his cavalry, for example), but it was still going to hurt if it hit you.

Army: (2000 pts)
  • 2x Wolf Guard Battle Leader on Thunderwolf, with 2+ save, Storm Shield, and nasty killy bits, each leading 3 Thunderwolves with Storm Shields and nasty killy bits, plus 2 ablative doggies.
  • 1x8 Doggies by themselves
  • 3x5 Grey Hunters with meltas and powerfists, in Rhino
  • 2x Lone Wolf in Termie Armor, with Storm Shield and 2 ablative doggies
  • 2x3 Long Fangs with lascannons, in Rhino
Mission: “Annihilation/Pitched Battle” (Kill Points and 12” Deployment). Two secondary objective “beacon” markers near the center of the table.

Terrain: Hills in the both my corners, a row of trees on my side of the table. Mike’s side of the table had a heavily wooded ridge protruding toward the center of the battlefield, and a large, heavy bunker on his left flank (my right flank), but out of his deployment zone. He placed his objective in that bunker, and I placed mine in the trees on my left flank.

What happened?
Mike won the roll-off, and after choosing table edge, deployed his Long Fangs, still in their protective Rhino transports, on and within that heavily wooded ridge. He also deployed both units of Thunderwolves – one on his right flank, along one side of the wooded ridge, and the other on his left flank (my right), partially in cover behind the heavy bunker. For some reason, he left his six (!) other units in Reserve.

I responded by deploying everything in a castle formation on the hill on my left flank, packed in tight because Mike’s army had no area-effect weapons. Then I lucked out, and stole initiative, and the game was basically over.

In Turn 1, I destroyed one unit of Thunderwolf cavalry. In turn two, I killed all but one body (the uber-killy Wolf Guard Battle Leader) in the second unit of Thunderwolf cavalry. Mike then blew his reserve rolls at the bottom of the second AND third turns, and a total of just one Lone Wolf came wandering on (in Turn 2). I spent the start of Turn 3 blowing the Long Fang Rhinos away – and the Long Fangs, being no dummies, promptly hid behind the wreckage. That meant that given the lack of ANY other targets in range, Mike’s lucky Lone Wolf got to suck down 70 Tau weapon HITS (in other words, I hit that bad boy 70 times), but a combination of lousy to-wound rolls and amazing save rolls kept him alive for two turns of punishment before that resilient doggy bastard finally gave up the ghost in Turn 4.

By the time the three Grey Hunters units and the unit of Wolves finally reserved onto the table in turn 4, the Long Fangs had crept around to a well-hidden shooting position, the last Thunderwolf was prowling about in cover over 24” from my lines, and everything else was a corpse. Mike tried a late-game Rhino rush, but had his Rhinos blown out from under him in turn 5 just as the game ended. Ultimately, I lost one transport (Devilfish) and accompanying squad of Brave (Fire Warriors) when it moved a little too close to that uber-killy T-Wolf hero, and lost a unit of Hornsuits (B-Sides) to several more turns of sustained lascannon fire from 4 Long Fangs. Mike, on the other hand, had lost 8 or 9 units worth of stuff, and never really threatened my forces.

Turning the Tables
Granted I won initiative and shot the Space Puppies up before they could move, but even then it made very little sense for Mike not to begin the game with all of his mobile assault units on the table, itching to jump all over me. Facing just two units of Thunderwolves, one of which was a turn further away from my lines than the other (remember, I got to set up second), my target priority was very easy. Had I been facing SIX fast-moving assault units – because even a unit of 5 Grey Hunters would have totally pwned everything in my army – I would have had a much bigger headache. Particularly if the Space Wolves had gone first, as they were very likely to do.

17 October 2009 FRAGtoberfest Tournament (Game 4)

Opponent: Terry (Nurgle Marines) Fielding a very characterful and resilient army, Terry’s Nurgle forces featuered a single large unit of lesser demons – a monster unit of 20 models (!!) in all. However, it was the four units of Plaguemarines that I was worried about most, as the combination of T5, 3+ save, and Feel No Pain means that they take forever to drop when I’m shooting at them with Tau. Terry, on the other hand, had only played Tau once before – against another Tau army list in the same tournament – and was still unsure as to what they could do.

Army: (2000 pts)
  • 2x Nurgle Demon Princes with Wings and Warptime psychic power
  • 3x7 Plaguemarines with Powerfist Champion, Icon, and 2 Plasmas
  • 1x7 Plaguemarines with Powerfist Champ, Icon, and 3 Meltas (including Combi)
  • 4x Rhinos, one with Havoc launcher
  • 2x Demonically Possessed Vindicators

Mission: “Cleanse” Tournament Scenario with Spearhead (Table Quarters) deployment. Each of the four corners of the table were an ‘objective’, with only Troops choices able to control but all units able to contest. Secondary objective: kill the highest ranking (ie: player picks before the game if there is more than one) HQ.

Terrain: A large trenchline along the long table edge, in my corner, as well as a heavily fortified building on my left flank. The far table corner had another trenchline, and the terrain between was a combination of large craters and trees. I got to choose corners, and promptly chose the one that offered the most open ground – and most crater-like obstacles to my mechanized opponent – for my firepower-heavy army.

What happened?
Although I had a very nice trenchline to set up in, I actually only deployed two units within the trenches (one unit of Hornsuits (B-Sides), and one of Scouts (Pathfinders)). The remainder of my forces I deployed in an arc in the open ground between the trenches and the fortified building on my left flank, with three units of Brave (Fire Warriors) starting the game in reserve – they would be out of range at the start of the game anyway, and starting in reserve would give them a chance to grab table corners..

Terry chose to lead his vehicle rush with two Vindicators, screened by a Rhino, with his other three Rhinos further back and clustered with his two Demon Princes. I was perfectly happy to let him come at me in two different assault waves, and after keeping the initiative, spent the first turn blowing up his first assault wave: both Vindicators AND the Rhino screening them, as well as most of the Plaguemarine squad within them.

Terry was stunned. I later learned that this was the first time my opponent had ever seen Markerlights in action.

With his options limited, Terry threw his second assault wave forward, but this second wave was a good two turns distant, and with that much time (and no suppressing fire to speak of to keep me ‘honest’), things were going to be messy for them.

Turn two, I killed two more Rhinos, and immobilized the last one. Turn three, I wiped out the huge 20-man unit of demons that had been summoned onto the table, killed the last Rhino, and picked off some Plaguemarines. Turn four, I killed both Demon Princes in a torrent of pulse-rifle fire (jumping out of transports at close range and blazing away with Markerlight support) – and then got too cautious with my Suits, and left them out of position to support some nearby units of Brave (Fire Warriors), who got eaten by vengeful Plaguemarines for their trouble. But by this point, it was clear that the game was all coming down to mission objectives; there was no realistic way the Plaguemarines were going to dig my firepower out of my corner of the table.

Realizing this, Terry threw his four Plaguemarine units into cover, but of course the Markerlights made that harder for him. The game ultimately went six turns, with just one badly battered squad of Plaguemarines surviving; I had lost a total of two Brave (Fire Warrior) units, and claimed or contested all four table quarters.

Turning the Tables.

Terry might have had more luck rushing with all his units at once. Granted I had initiative and went first, but this meant that he had the ability to set up his deployment in response to mine. With his assault split into two different waves, it made the target priority very easy. Had all four Rhinos AND the two Princes AND the two Vindicators all been in a single wave, I would probably have ignored the Vindicators in the first turn in favor of killing Rhinos – giving them at least a few shots. Plus, the Demon Princes wouldn’t have been isolated on their lonesome this way. It probably still would have been a tough game for the forces of Nurgle, but as it was, they really were relying on the Tau to have truly horrible dice rolls in order to have a shot, and that’s not a good place for a 40K army to be in.

17 October 2009 FRAGtoberfest Tournament (Summary)

In all, this tournament had a good mix of players and armies, and I was very happy with the good sportsmanship and game knowledge all my opponents had. In the end, I placed in second place by one point (with a +3=0-1 record), buoyed considerably by my excellent scores for conversion in painting. I was very pleased both by how well my army did, and by how I was able to do it.

The overall tournament winner was a Nidzilla (Tyranid Monstrous Creature) list, with the two very mean mechanized Eldar lists – my opponent Pete from game 2 and my host Mike – beating each other to a bloody draw in the final round and cleverly denying each other the tourney victory.

All in all, there were 14 players in the tournament, fielding the following lists:

2 Chaos:
Mechanized Khorne Marines
Mechanized Nurgle Marines (Game 4, Terry)

6 Imperials:
Drop-pod Blood Angels
Imperial Guard Armored Company
Kitchen-Sink Space Marines
Mechanized Adeptus Arbites (Game 1, Chris)
Mechanized Sisters of Battle
Thunderwolf Cavalry Space Wolves (Game 3, Mike)

6 Xenos:
Chrome-tastic (mech/drone/suit heavy) Tau
Gunline “Slann”-themed Tau (me)
2x Mechanized Eldar (including Game 2 opponent, Pete)
2x Nidzilla Tyranid Monstrous Critters

As noted, the overall winner was fielding a Nidzilla list. My game 2 opponent Pete won the Best General (most battle points) award. I believe the Best Army (appearance) award went to the IG Armored Company, with Best Sportsman going to the “kitchen-sink” Space Marines player. The last was one of the youngest players, and he had stayed commendably gung-ho and positive whilst playing with an army that was probably made up of every model he owned (to get up to 2000 points), and one that was struggling mightily to compete with the other armies in the tournament.

Interestingly, there were no Ork lists at all, nor any Salamander lists. Also missing were Dark Eldar, Necrons, and Grey Knights (all less surprising, but for different reasons, of course). As has been noted elsewhere and ad nauseum throughout the 40K world, there’s an increasing emphasis on mechanization in 5th edition, as demonstrated by virtually all of the army lists that showed up at the tournament – excepting the Nids (of course), my rather gunline-heavy Tau army, and the “kitchen-sink” Marines.

Philosophical Musings:
Having run the Mathhammer, as well as having experienced some frustration shooting at (for example) Nidzilla and Plaguemarine lists, it’s pretty clear that the Missile+Plasma combination is the way to go with my Ranger (Crisis) Suits. The twin-Missile and Flamer option is a good deal of fun, and I think it’s still a solid combination at smaller points-values because of its low cost and versatility (slightly more effective at killing light transports at long range), but it simply doesn’t scale up to put out the kind of firepower against really tough units that the suits COULD be putting out at 1750+ points.

However, first things first – I still have three units to finish painting (one unit of Suits, one of Fire Warriors, and one of Pathfinders), and several vehicles to finish detailing. Once I’ve done that, I can do weapon swaps – or more likely, weapon additions, because I **really** like the look of the twin Missile Pods on my suits. Probably a result of much too much Japanimation – that Japanese Mecha anime really does love its missile racks and crazy missile smoke trails.

Once I’ve finished with this army, I’ve two 40K army ideas that are keeping me excited. One is a mechanized Sisters of Battle list that promises to be truly, truly evil in a way that makes me cackle with truly, truly evil laughter. I love me my flamers. Now…how many can I fit into a 2000-point army list? Bwahahahaha…..

The other is a Chaos Demon proxy army made up entirely of nifty non-GW miniatures, solely for the opportunity to buy, paint, and use a bunch of nifty non-GW miniatures that wouldn’t easily fit into (say) my Imperial Guard list because they look just too weird and fantastic. A combination of War Machine, Urban Mammoth, and AT-43, plus one or two other pieces from other lines, should make for a very nice looking – and completely GW tournament non-legal (of course) – miniatures collection.

All of this was originally inspired by Urban Mammoths cyborg Sumo Wrestlers. I grew up a kid in Japan in the 80’s and early 90’s, so given the chance to field Chiyonofuji (if you’ve never heard of him, think of him as roughly equivalent to the “Joe Montana” of Sumo Wrestling) and Konishi (the heaviest sumo wrestler in modern history) and Terao (a perpetual journeyman throughout his long career, but a personal favorite of mine growing up) was irresistible.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Warmonger Club 40K Tournament: Slann vs Mech IG

Opponent: Pete

Army: (1850 pts) -- Russ Squadron (2xLR and 1xDemolisher), H-Hound Squadron (3xBanewolf), 3xVeterans in Chimeras, Creed + Squad in Chimera, Inquisitor + 2xMystics in Chimera

Terrain: A desert board with many low ruins and low hills scattered about the middle of the board. Neither Pete nor I felt a huge need to move the terrain about, as it gave us both plenty of cover and didn’t really block LOS in any direction.

Mission: Pitched Battle, Annihilation

Summary: Pete won the roll-off to go first, so I set up in a class ‘refused flank’, with my entire army facing his softest flank, the one with the three Banewolves. I also placed most of my Fire Warriors in Reserve, as against all-mech, there was very little they could do at the start of the game.

Pete then used his Scout move (courtesy of Creed) to move his Banewolves right up to my firebase. I had completely forgotten that they could do this. What can I say? I was very tired. I failed to grab the initiative, and so I got a load of Banewolf love in the first turn, losing a Fire Warrior unit, and killing 1/3 of my Crisis Suits before the game even started. Fortunately, that was all that happened – Pete managed to immobilize one Banewolf getting the other two into position (did I mention that there was a lot of terrain?) and so I only had to deal with two in the squadron.

Freed of any worries because of the conviction that I had lost the game already, I spent the next several turns going after all his AV12 vehicles, while his Russ Squadron slowly (ever so slowly) whittled down the Shield Drones of one Broadside team. Note: a 2xBroadside, 2xShield Drone team is ridiculously resilient. I didn’t lose a single Broadside in my army all game, though I did take wounds and lose most of my Shield drones.

Demonstrating the sick amount of firepower at their disposal, the suits had destroyed all of Pete’s vehicles by the end of the fourth turn, and wiped out nearly all of the infantry units as well. All Pete had left at the end of the game was Creed himself, and the Inquisitor’s small unit that he joined for safety’s sake (yes, we know now that Creed isn’t an IC, but we’ve been gaming since 3rd edition and didn’t know that things had changed) -- but both characters were down to their last wound. The Fire Warriors in reserve walked onto the table just in time to shred one Chimera, before being chased off the table by a unit of Veterans. Oh, the shame! In the end, it was a slaughter, and Pete was almost totally tabled – but because I had lost all my ‘expendable’ units – commander, fire warriors, and devil-fish, it was a tie on Kill Points.

A tie. Ay, caramba.

What Should I Have Done?: This last game demonstrated rather conclusively how sub-par Fire Warriors have become in the new edition – they are the weak spot of the Tau army list. My Suits were astounding, performing like real champs, and pretty much doing all the damage (supported by Pathfinder markerlights, of course), but the notion of “sacrificial units” no longer works in 5th edition the way it may have worked in 4th edition. Although my list did perfectly in wiping out the enemy, I gave away far too many Kill Points, and in general trade off too much firepower.

In other words, if I want to go with Tau firepower, I really need to concentrate on an “Alpha Strike” mentality, and pour as many points as possible into suits, and use the Troops slots purely for mission objective grabbing. Which seems to be what the 5th edition army design philosophy appears to be in general.

More specific to this game, it was real dumb of me to forget that Creed allows one unit to have a Scout move. I was very lucky that Pete’s Banewolves didn’t do far more damage to me than they did.

Warmonger Club 40K Tournament: Slann vs Bugs

Opponent: Lee

Army: (1850 pts ) -- MC Tyranid list: CC Tyrant + 3 Guard, Shooty Tyrant + 2 Guard, 5x shooty Carnies (2 with 5 wounds, all with 3+ save), Zoanthrope with Synapse, 2x8 Genestealers, 2x8 Without-number Gaunts

Terrain: A ring of hills and woods and a HUGE open area (over 24" wide and 48" in length) in the middle of the table. Lee wanted to alternate placing terrain with me, and I took advantage of his decision to do so. There were four objectives -- two in what was ultimately my deployment zone and two in Lee's.

Mission: Spearhead, Seize Ground

Summary: There was a single ruined building in the table corner I chose to start in. A multistory monster, it was a perfect location for my four Broadsides, and two units of 3 Crisis Suits (as well as Shas’el commander in suit), well outside of any outflanking assault that Lee’s Genestealers might be attempting. I also piled 3 units of Fire Warriors into the building, and made sure that there were no juicy ‘stepping stone’ units for his Tyranid assaults.

Lee piled his monstrous critters as near to the center of the table as possible, with the CC Tyrant and his guard providing cover for everyone else behind them. With the first shot, I opened up, and was reminded of the importance of picking the correct order for firing all weapons – I started with Railguns, which was a mistake, as all those wounds got allocated to the Tyrant Guard. Once they vanished, the surviving Shooty Tyrant simply shrugged off nearly all the wounds with his 2+ save. Oh, well.

Lee’s Barbed Strangler shots were remarkably ineffective all game, but he made up for it by making significantly more armor saves than average. By the end of the game, I had wiped out everything except his Zoanthrope (hiding out of LOS) and his “without number” Gaunts, which were, of course, without number. Lee, on the other hand, spent the entire game wiping out Fire Warriors, without which I could claim….nothing. Final score: me with one objective and most of my army left (but only one unit of Fire Warriors), and Lee with two objectives courtesy of his Gaunts. D’oh! What’s more, I had given up so many kill points wiping out most of his army that he nearly counted as having Massacred me.

What Should I Have Done?: Keep my Fire Warriors alive. I don’t regret sacrificing two of my Warrior units (and the Devilfish they were riding) to keep the Carnifexes from getting close to my firing line of Suits, but that means that I should have been more clear about what I was planning to do with the OTHER units of Fire Warriors, and I failed to plan for that until the bottom of the third turn, when I realized what Lee was up to.

As a result, I had to dramatically shift my targeting priorities, and attempt to use my Crisis Suits to contest my opponent’s objectives (which I failed to do, as there were too many Monstrous Critters in the way!). The Tyranid build I saw was clearly the sort of pattern I need to reconfigure my Slann to emulate – small units of Troops dedicated to mission objectives, and everything else into Big Guys – in my case, Broadsides or Crisis Suits and their accompanying firepower, who were all-stars in this match.

Finally, it wouldn't have hurt to keep a better idea in my mind of where to place my two objectives. One was right next to my firebase, but the other was completely in the open in the middle of the table -- which helped Lee's shooty Carnifexes just as much (or even more) than my units.

Warmonger Club 40K Tournament: Slann vs IG

Opponent: Steve

Army: (1850 pts) -- “Grateful Dead” Imperial Guard. Maxed Command squad, 3x Vets, 1x Platoon (Lt, 2xInf, 2xSpecialists), 2x Psyker Battle, 2x Leman Russ, 2x Rough Riders. Lots of Grenade Launchers, Plasmaguns, and Meltaguns throughout all the infantry squads, but only two infantry heavy weapons (Missile Launchers) total.

Terrain: A ring of ruined buildings surrounding a small (18” wide) open area in the middle of the table. Plenty of cover and LOS for all involved.

Mission: Dawn of War, Secure & Control

Summary: I got the first turn, but between Steve and I both having to move all of our infantry from off the board, we only got three turns into the game. I deep-struck all my Crisis Suits onto his gun-lines, but they deviated badly, and I got exactly zero flamer shots off before most of them were overwhelmed. Although I managed to shred both of his Rough Rider units, immobilize and de-fang his Russes, neutralize nearly all his long-range fire, as well as wipe two of his other infantry squads, the game ended up as a draw, with the tie-breaker coming down to Kill Points. Steve had the edge: 5 of my units wiped, to four of his.

What Should I Have Done?: I essentially threw away my Crisis Suits in this mission; they would have been far better served coming to provide long-range support from behind, rather than simply deep-striking wholly unsupported into the IG lines. They ate a faceful of lasguns for their efforts, and despite my amazingly good armor saves, there’s only so many armor saves you can really roll before going down. My decision to deep-strike them was where I decisively lost the game.

This was also a reminder of how poorly my fourth-edition tactics of “sacrificing units” works in the mission objectives of the new edition of the game. Even had Steve and I continued all five turns, it would have been a comparable result – after losing my Crisis Suits, I had few units that could shred infantry as well or as reliably as they could, and certainly no units that could realistically contest his objective, which was neatly within his “castle” formation on the far side of the table from me. I had demonstrated how effectively I could destroy any units in the open (his Rough-Riders), but there were only so many Markerlights that I could use to “strip” IG cover saves, and only so many IG units I could target with them each turn (=two).

Warmonger Club 40K Tournament (19 Sept 2009): Overview

I brought my 1850 point Slann army (basically, converted Lizardmen-esque Tau Empire list), with the following configuration: 7 Crisis Suits (all with Missile Pod and Flamer), 2x2 Broadsides with Shield Drones, 5x12 Fire Warriors with Ld8, 2x8 Pathfinders with Fish

I learned a number of things in this tournament: first, that my Slann (Tau) list does exactly what I designed it to do: sacrifice throwaway units to keep opponents away from my gunline, and shred enemies quite handily. Second, that the 5th edition rules no longer allow me to do that and win the game. I nearly tabled two opponents, and still ended up losing because of objectives, and the lack-of-resilience of my Troops units. Plus, using my Troops as sacrificial throwaways didn’t help…

It looks like the Slann (Tau) will have to rather dramatically retool. I think I’ll be doing this as a long-term project over the next year or so, given the different time commitments I have, but having been pointed in several directions, I find that I’m convinced by the army construction advice given by Stelek at

In short, to modify my existing philosophy somewhat, by relying more heavily on Elites and Heavies, and shifting the sizable chunk of Troops points to more effective sacrificial units (Kroot), and to aim to table or near-table opponents and simply nab objectives in the late game with minimal-sized Fire Warrior units who are lurking in Reserve at the start of the game (they would load into a Devilfish when they first show up).

In the meantime, I went 0-1-2 in the tournament (1 tie, 2 losses), and have some incentive to finish painting the list – at long last, after literally years – because I’m planning to attend another tournament in November ’09. I think I’ll play the same list there that I did here, and try out some table-top adjustments rather than army-list adjustments. I expect to get massacred, but it’ll continue to be a learning experience!

A quiet return

A quiet return to the Internet; after a multi-year hiatus, I finally have some free time in my life again.