Monday 10 November 2014

Epic 4K: Steel Legion vs Vior'la Tau

My Imperial Guard Steel Legion force went up against Andrew's Vior'la Tau the other night. The Tau fielded two giant Mantas! Meanwhile I was fielding nine super heavy tanks. Who would prevail - read on!

My Steel Legion list was the following, lots of super heavy tanks with artillery and four companies of infantry in support.

4000 POINTS 
Steel Legion (NetEA Army Compendium v20120208) 

Supreme Commander, 12 Infantry, 7 Chimera, Hydra

Commander, 12 Infantry, 7 Chimera, Hydra



3 Manticores

3 Basilisks

3 Bombards




2 Thunderbolts

Commander, 12 Infantry

Commander, 12 Infantry 

Andrew's Tau list included two Manta Gunships. These are huge units capable of transporting other formations, and of resisting and dishing out fearful destruction. Amazingly Andrew had made these models out of wood in a laser cutting machine! Only one had it's camouflage painting finished at the time of the game.

Tau Forces, 4000 points:  Vior'la Tau Developmental v 1.2
FW Cadre:  12 Fire Warriors, 2 Pathfinders, Ethereal, Bonded Team, Cadre Fireblade, 4 Devilfish, Skyray [675 pts, BTS]
Crisis Cadre:  4 Crisis Suits, Shas'o [325 pts]
(Deployed in Manta 1 at start)

Crisis Cadre: 4 Crisis Suits, Shas'el [250 pts]
(Deployed in Manta 2 at start)
Broadside Group: 6 Broadside Suits [300 pts]
(Deployed in Manta 1 at start)

Broadside Group: 6 Broadside Suits [300 pts]

Stealth Group: 6 Stealth Suits, 2 Gun Drones [250 pts]
(forgot to take the Gun Drones out of the box)

Recon Group:  3 Tetras, 2 Piranhas [150 pts]

Recon Group:  3 Tetras, 2 Piranhas [150 pts]

Recon Group:  2 Tetras, 3 Piranhas [150 pts]
(deployed in Manta 1 at start)

Recon Group:  1 Tetras, 4 Piranhas [150 pts]

Manta [650 pts]

Manta [650 pts]

Turn 1

Here's the battlefield setup. Given the lack of blast area weapons available to the Tau, many of my formations cluster close together behind cover. Two infantry companies are deployed forward of the Imperial line in forests. 

A photo showing the setup from the Tau perspective.

The Tau win the Strategy Roll, and the Manta sweeps forward in a coordinated fire mission involving Broadsides and Crisis Suits against my infantry garrison. My Infantry company in the woods here opens fire from overwatch, but only places a blast maker on the heavily armoured Broadsides. In return my Infantry company of 13 units is completely vapourised! Wow, I don't think I've ever seen an entire Imperial Guard infantry company in cover completely destroyed so quickly before... 

The other Manta then retains initiative, advancing and blasting a Shadowsword, heavily damaging it (2 damage), and breaking it. Broadsides finish off this Shadowsword later in the turn before it can recover. Only two Shadowswords left and they are my main defence against the Mantas!

My activation, and a Shadowsword rumbles forward and lines up the Manta. Boom! One damage which is also a critical hit knocking out the deflector shield for the rest of the game! See what happens when you don't paint the camouflage in time for the game Andrew?

I retain initiative with the other Shadowsword, driving into the wood ahead to seek some cover and passing the dangerous terrain check. This Shadowsword opens fire and inflicts another 3 points of damage on the Manta (they have 8 damage capacity total - same as a Warlord Titan!). 

More fire is exchanged including a Bombard barrage upon the Manta and Broadsides which finally breaks the Manta. Undaunted the Manta uses its break move to advance even closer, unloading Crisis suits into the woods.

Tau recon units attempt to take out my Basilisks, but despite two rounds of shooting and four hits on them they all survive! I decide to concentrate all my fire on the broken Manta, including most of my artillery and all my Baneblades.I can't afford to let it rally and deliver another round of fire!

Success - the Manta crashes into destruction!

End of Turn 1, showing overall positions. I've lost an Infantry Company and a Shadowsword, but one of the fearsome Mantas is destroyed. Not a bad turn for the Guard and I'm feeling slightly confident. My Supreme Commanders Formation has advanced a move still hugging the craters on my left flank.

Turn 2

Tau Stealth Suits appear behind my Supreme Commanders formation, and Tau win the Strategy Roll again. The Manta advances catching my formation in a deadly crossfire with help from Stealth Suits and then the Broadsides.

My devastated Supreme Commanders formation falls back to my Blitz. My own formations fire back reasonably ineffectively, though they do break some Tau recon formtions. Both my remaining Shadow Swords are damaged and broken.

End of the turn and both Shadowswords and the Supreme Commanders formation have rallied. My Thunderbolts finish off a Tau recon formation. Other shooting is less effective.

Turn 3

Tau win Strategy Roll again, and the Manta advances ominously, lining up the Supreme Commanders formation. Only one unit survives the barrage, fleeing only to be shot down by more Tau Recon units. My Shadowsword lines up the Manta but must have panicked at how close it is, rolling a 1 and missing. 

My artillery hits the Tau broadside formation on my right flank. They have been taking artillery rounds each turn and are now down to half strength, though still not broken. I'm trying to clear a path through here for my Baneblades to get to the halfway line and the objectives.

My Infantry Company in the left wood fires on the Tau Stealth suits ineffectually before being crossfired by them and broken with heavy losses.  My other Shadowsword damages the Manta but is then broken in turn. I concentrate more fire from an Infantry Company, a Baneblade company, and artillery upon the Manta at close range. It is damaged further and breaks...

However the Manta sweeps over to my right flank as its retreat move and Crisis Suits deploy here. Too late I realise what is happening. Recon and Crisis suits are blocking my advance with my other Baneblade company, so I am trapped in my half of the table unable to get the Baneblades into enemy territory or to contest the objectives that the Tau now hold!

My Thunderbolts fail their activation roll. Out of frustration the Baneblades sustain fire upon the Crisis Suits in front of them. I inflict 12 hits, but the Crisis suits save them all!

End of Turn 3. With the failure to secure ground or objectives and loss of their largest formation, the demoralised Guard army breaks and the battle is over. Tau have won 3-0 with 'Break Their Spirit', 'Take and Hold', and 'They Shall Not Pass' objectives! 


A fun game, where I underestimated the flexibility of the Tau approach, and was so focused upon the Mantas that I neglected my positioning and was unable to contest the objectives or ground at the end of Turn 3. By the time I had realised that I was in trouble it was too late! I should have driven some Baneblades forward earlier to contest the half way line and objectives, but the first action of the game where my Infantry Company was annihilated induced had made me too hesitant about advancing. I was also too cautious and failed to attempt to retain initiative when I should have done so several times. My Supreme Commander was also a "Break Their Spirit" objective which generally isn't done, and probably I should have spread my eggs across more baskets in this regard, shifting this formations Hydra to a Baneblade formation perhaps. This last point was a minor detail compared to the other mistakes though. Anyway, well done Andrew!

Andrew has also done his own superb report again from the Tau perspective! See below:

Tau After Action Report 2014.11.07

After-Action Conference [Foot notes]

Shas’o Sav’lynu [lit. Commander, Steadfast in the Future], newly promoted and recently returned from the Bork’an Shas’retha [Fire Caste military academy], drew the assembly to order.

“The teachings of the Vior’la [lit. Aggressive Being] Sept guest Fire Warriors instructors on Bork’an certainly shaped our response to the most recent Gue’la [lit. Lowest Beings, viz. Humans] encroachment [1].  The improved fire fight skills associated with the Fire Cadre training were not put to the test [2].  And to be honest the superbly integrated performance of the Battle Suit Cadres along with their attached Mantas probably owed more to the XV8 Shas’vre Cadre’s intensive simulator time while returning aboardKor’vattra Transport Craft [3].  Recent losses amongst Tetra and Piranha crews made the smaller Pathfinder Formations a necessity, rather than a deliberate desire to emulate the Vior’la [4].” 

“But please, let us get to some greater detail.  Por’el, . . . “

“Broken transmission intercepts from a ‘Beta Company’ in the opening stages of the battle indicated a rapid escalation of concern in reaction to the initial advanced of the Manta Support Team.  The final emergency burst ended in fire and static but clearly rendered ‘Shock and Awe’ as the Gue’la would put it. Xenopsychology analysis suggests that the complete loss to coordinated fire of the lead Company made the Imperial Commander considerably more cautious throughout the remainder of the engagement.” [5]

Shas’o Sav’lynu smiled grimly, “well there was no need for my co-ordinated fire mission as part of that opening encounter either.  There was confusion about what the actual target of our Eoro Mont’ka [lit. To Lead War Stike, viz. first strike] was.  The lead Pathfinders realized the Overwatch Fire from the Imperial Guard Infantry Fire made it impossible for them to get forward and mark the enemy artillery and big gun tanks.  Let us all learn and next time look more clearly through the Mont’da [lit. War Darkness or Fog of War].”  [6]

“Fio’vre [Earth Caste Overseer], the floor is yours, . . .”

“The Shas’el Cadre secured the flight recorders from the Manta that was shot down in the recent engagement.  Analysis of that data and other remnants subsequently recovered from the crash site suggest that a malfunction in the camouflage display system was the critical failure point.  Time pressure meant we were unable to implement the dynamic pattern projectors and even though they were not powered in the engagement they appear to have provided a feedback loop that induced a current spike in the Deflector Shield the first time it failed to completely shunt the Imperial Volcano Cannon projectiles. Analysis of historical data from the engagement with the Gue'ron'sha [lit. Human Engineered Wind or Space Marines] indicates that may well have happened then as well.”   [7]

“That said it may be that lack of a complete camouflage system allowed the Gue’la to actually target the Gravity Projectors of the Deflector system.  The good news is that the camouflage system on the most recently arrived Manta is completely operational, survived the recent battle intact and caused no problems for the Deflector Shield despite the forward deployment of the fish.”  [7]

“I am glad you are making progress with the Da’noh,” [lit. a mystery not yet unraveled by the Earth caste].”  The Shas’o turned to the Shas’vre with the entwined double 8 on his shoulder patch.  “The Broadside Battlesuits appear to have been less effective in battle against the Gue’la.   No, don’t bridle you and your teammates have saved this Colony on many occasions over recent years; is this something new?”

“With the Shas’vre Cadre away when the Black Templars struck,” an acknowledging nod from the Shas’o, “the Broadside Suits were deployed as the main salient on the defensive line.  We were unable to reposition the railguns quickly enough when hit at close range in the flank by an air assault.  Our armour just was not sufficiently effective.”

“More recently the storm of indirect artillery fire destroyed our ability to move and shoot effectively.  The longer range of the engagements meant we needed to move out of cover to obtain lines of fire to distant enemy formations.  The railguns we mount on the suits do not have the striking power or range of their big brothers on the Hammerheads or Mantas.  Early deployment from the Manta gave little protection from enemy fire, being beside the war-engine gave no protection from enemy fire and left that Support Group under the fall zone of artillery fire directed at the spacecraft.  More independent deployment from an Orca and greater dispersion are recommended.”  [8]

“Her’ex Shas’vre [lit. Cloak Commander], your report, . . . if you please.”

“The Kau’ui [lit. Cadre] occupied positions in the crater fields deep in the enemy deployment zone. During deployment the accompanying Gun Drones became detached from Kau’ui control and were not recovered until after the engagement.  There was some tension when the main enemy formation accompanied by their supreme commander moved directly over our positions.  The Her’ex Kau’ui went active providing pointblank marker-lighting and crossfire vectors for the right flank Manta and Broadside Groups.  Regretfully the formation routed before we were able to fully engage them.  A lack of enemy counter action gave us a succession of fire positions that secured the extreme right flank.  Unfortunately power problems with the jet packs meant we were unable ourselves to secure the objectives on that flank.”  [9]

 “Tau’bentu [lit. Wise or Gifted Tau], the Sept thanks you for your efforts.  In the end a full Tio've [lit. Group of Cadres] were required to eliminate the Gue’la Commander’s formation. . . . But eliminate it we did.  Consulate blocking maneuvers by the Shas’el Kavaal [lit. 2nd Commander Strike Group] Manta, Crisis Suits and Pathfinder Groups combined to keep the enemy deep in their own deployment zone, leaving the survivors of my Shas’o Cadre to recapture the power station objectives captured by the enemy on their initial deployment.”

“Tau’va [lit. For the Greater Good].”

Foot Notes

[1] Decided to help with a play test of the Vior’la Tau List.  Mark kindly agreed to keep his Baneblades as their standard version for an approved list.  The Vior’la list let me augment a Fire Warrior Cadre with enough points to make if sufficiently expensive to qualify as the BTS formation in a list with Mantas. Taking two Mantas, now possible at 4000 pts due to the price drop to 650 pts, without either of them being the BTS.  Making a much more aggressive use of the machines possible without risking an objective.

[2] Only had one Fire Warrior formation, fully tooled up as a BTS, and deployed as a Blitz guard to keep it (BTS and Blitz) safe.  Including an Ethereal made the formation Fearless and Inspired.  To protect him I planned a shell game with Devilfish.  As it turned out I probably should have pushed this formation forward somewhat.  The Pathfinders were there to allow them to spread out to mitigate the effects of heavy artillery templates.  The Vior’la list has no limit on the number of upgrades you can take (standard Tau restrict to three) but you can only take each one once.  Different flavour but not too extreme since the list of upgrades is not soo long.

[3] Using the Tau Jet Pack rule to re-board the Manta (transport) after getting out to fire was something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  Keeping the Crisis Suits in contact with the Manta also gave them cover (I assumed).  It gave the small Crisis Suits significant protection from the enemy artillery; my suits are frequently broken with BMs or ridiculously expensive.  The move with Manta and then disembark and shoot also gave an extra 5 cm to the engagement range making it more likely I’d benefit from the Fusion Blasters (15 cm, MW4+).  Integrated use with the Manta also secured Markerlights in this engagement envelope.  Ultimately the ability to dismount if the Manta broke or was engaged and still retain the passenger’s activation was an additional enducement.

[4] Not certain about the smaller sized Tetra/Piranha formations.  Don’t mind them, they seem a little more efficient (points cost, model purchase, mix of Tetras and Piranhas) but unsurprisingly have rather fewer models once broken and are then less efficient at the blocking (broken double to tie up enemy lines of advance) role they then adopt.

[5] Shock and Awe, hmmmm.  Actually my increasing impression with Tau is that you are loaded for bear but frequently don’t get into a position unleash the firestorm.  A key part of securing success with Tau seems to setting up the shots and being able to cope with the string of ineffectual pin-pricks that is your more common lot.  And not over exposing more powerful formations in your haste to secure the Mont’ka.

[6] OK, I’d planned to try an alpha strike to hit the Guard Artillery park.  But realized after rolling for the activation that the Imperial Companies on Overwatch would shred my (5 strong) Tetra Pathfinder and probably break the formation before Markerlighting the enemy.  As it turned out a loaded Manta, activating on Init 1+, with integral Markerlights and carrying a couple of high firepower formations IS EFFECTIVELY a coordinated fire mission anyway!!  Live and Learn.

[7] OK, wargamer’s superstition.  The Manta I first built has not yet had a camo pattern painted on it (took hours on model two).  In both the games this bird/fish has now participated in the first DC of damage inflicted on the Warengine has caused a critical hit, loss of the Tau Deflector Shield.  Next lot of incoming fire also caused 5 DC on the next significant enemy activation!!  A little more time with the paint brush will doubtless improve its luck.

[8] My Broadsides have been rather more heavily targeted in the last couple of games.  This has led to them being broken (vs Guard) or wiped out (vs Black Templars).  Imbedding Broadsides in the Fire Warrior Cadre (with the Standard Tau List) was one option.  The different flavour of Vior’la will doubtless see me returning to attaching extra Gun Drones. 

[9] I’d promised myself I’d not use the Stealth Suits so aggressively “next time”.  As it was the chance to target the Guard BTS was too tempting.  My usual planning is to have several Stealth Suit formations so using them aggressively is more plausible.  But a lack of points in this build.  Using them as an engage force to wipe out broken formations was a plan but I realized ahead of time that killing the one remaining Fearless Commissar Unit was always going to be a problem.  Foolishly I forgot that the Suits moved 20 cm and also missed a trick by not Tau Jump Packing the formation within 15 cm of the available objectives.

[10] Great game thanks, Mark.