Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Epic 3K: Tyranids vs Tau round 2

Another game of Tau against the Tyranids. In contrast to the list I used last game, and the game before, this time I took  no bio-artillery, Harridans or Hierodules.  Instead I used a heavily armoured assault list, with the huge clawed Carnifexes and Haruspexes, Exocrine "tanks", a gigantic Hierophant and a few sneaky Lictors making an appearance. This is the sort of army that doesn't sit back but gets up close in the enemies face! I haven't used any of these units before with this new Tyranid list, so I wanted to try them and the different style of Tyranid army they form. Once again, Andrew has supplied a great in character report from the Tau perspective, appended to the end of my own report! Alright on with the details!

My Tyranid List was as follows:

Tyranids: 2990 POINTS 
Hive Fleet Onachus Tyranids (10.2)

Dominatrix, Termagants, Hormagants, 4 Gargoyles

4 Termagants, Hive Tyrant, 3 Carnifex, 2 Hormagants

4 Termagants, 3 Carnifex, Hive Tyrant, 2 Hormagants

4 Termagants, 3 Haruspex, Hive Tyrant, Zoanthrope (745.M41), 2 Hormagants

4 Termagants, 3 Haruspex, Hive Tyrant, Zoanthrope (745.M41), 2 Hormagants


6 Exocrine

4 Lictor

Andrew's Tau list was as follows:
  • Fire Warrior Cadre [225], 6 Fire Warriors, 3 Devilfish
  • Fire Warrior Cadre [225], 6 Fire Warriors, 3 Devilfish
  • Fire Warrior Cadre [225], 6 Fire Warriors, 3 Devilfish
  • Broadside Group [325], 6 Broadsides, 2 Gun Drones
  • Pathfinder Group [200], 4 Pathfinders, 2 Devilfish
  • Pathfinder Group [200], 4 Pathfinders, 2 Devilfish
  • Recon Skimmer Group [175], 4 Tetra, 2 Piranha
  • Recon Skimmer Group [175], 4 Tetra, 2 Piranha
  • Recon Skimmer Group [175], 2 Tetra, 4 Piranha
  • Recon Skimmer Group [175], 2 Tetra, 4 Piranha
  • Tiger Shark AX-1-0 Squadron [375], 2 AX-1-0s
  • Barracuda Squadron [150], 2 Barracuda
  • Orca Dropship [150]
  • Orbital Support [200], Protector

Andrew has also started painting up his first Kroot, using the Avians from Onslaught Miniatures, though they didn't take part in the current battle. Nice work anyway!

Turn 1

Here's the deployment. Andrew's Blitz objective is behind the ruins to the right rear of the photo, while my Blitz is in the centre of my baseline. The two Take and Hold objectives I am after are on the right of the photo, and Andrews are on the left. Andrew has a few Recon and Pathfinder formations garrisoned forward, but most of his force is back behind cover. I'm spread out across my deployment zone with nothing to my flanks.

An aerial view of deployment.

Andrew wins Strategy Roll, and makes me activate first. I march a Carnifex swarm up to the middle right ruins, forced to stop just outside the zone of control of Tau Recon units ahead.

Andrew then activates his Protector Spaceship. In the standard Epic Tournament scenario, armies are allowed up to one spaceship which can fire once per game, this representing an attack from close orbit. The Protector flies overhead and targets the Dominatrix with its two Titan Killer Weapons! They both hit, but I manage to make my invulnerable save (roll of D6 needing a 6!) stopping one of the blasts. The other heavily wounds the Dominatrix causing it to loose 3 of its 4 damage. If I hadn't saved the Dominatrix would be dead! (Note: it's been pointed out this was actually a rules slight mistake, I should have rolled vs each point of damage the blasts caused, so five rolls needing 6's on at least two of them to avoid death - either way it was not good odds!).

My turn and I scuttle the Dominatrix into the centre of the woods to try and hide it from further danger this turn. It has the ability to regenerate 1 hit point a turn so it's worth trying to keep her alive!

The Tau retain doing a co-ordinated fire mission with three formations. A Recon formation advances one of its Tetra units so it "Markerlights" the Dominatrix (i.e. it comes to within 30cm of the Dominatrix formation with Line of Sight). Unfortunately I've put the Dominatrix a bit close to one edge of the forest (within 10cm of the edge) and it can be spotted. The "Markerlight" means Tau units with Seeker Missiles (homing missiles) within 90cm can target the Dominatrix without having to see it. Fortunately for me the Dominatrix manages to avoid taking any more damage from an incoming barrage of these pesky missiles...

My turn and my Exocrines advance in front of the Dominatrix and shoot the Tau Recon formation, killing two units and removing the Markerlight from the Dominatrix. 

The Tau move a Firewarrior formation to contest the right ruins, and I counter with my Hierophant which doubles up and spews bioplasma over them. One Tau transport is destroyed.

On the other flank, the Tau advance another Recon formation and Markerlight the Dominatrix again, but cause no damage. I move up my leftmost swarm and fire at the Recon formation killing two of them. My Carnifex swarm then engages this Recon formation in a firefight and wipes them out, losing a Carnifex in the process. The Tau try to activate their AX-10's (aircraft with more Titan Killer weaponary) but fail so they stand down and do nothing for the turn.

On the right I have marched up another formation to the right ruins. The Tau see a chance to firefight the advancing Tyranids with a "clipping assault" (i.e. concentrating against the flank of a formation so it can bring little of it's own firepower to bear). Because they are marching the Tyranid formations will also be unable to to support each other. 

However the Tau get unlucky and the first round of combat is a draw, with the Tau also losing one Firewarrior unit while I lose nothing. Both sides countercharge, and the second Tau formation is drawn into the assault. (Note in hindsight we played this slightly wrong moving some units with high speed 10cm when they should only go 5cm because this counts as countercharging rather than charging). The Hierophant now also provides some support fire.

The combat goes catastrophically wrong for the Tau. I hit many times, they hit once, and both Tau formations break and retreat losing 11 units total! Bad luck for the Tau losing a combat where the odds started significantly in their favour.

On the other flank, a Pathfinder formation performs better. They advance into a crossfire position and kill both the Zoanthrope and a Malefactor from my swarm (plus a gaunt stand but who cares about gaunts?). 

This is followed by an air transport mission from the Orca. The Broadside Battlesuits also crossfire the swarm, and when the smoke clears a single panicked Hormagaunt stand is all that remains...

The Hormagaunt flees over the hill to the comforting influence of another Hive Tyrant and the Hive Mind. This Swarm has also taken bit of a battering from Tau fire though, only having a single Carnifex left of the three it started with.

End of the turn, and the Tau control the left side of the table, while I'm taking control of the right side.

A view from the left table edge.

Turn 2

Tau win the Strategy Roll, but fail the initiative test and the AX-10's stand down again! Failures of command checks and lack of a Supreme Commander are really hurting the Tau. I take advantage and engage and wipe out the Tau Recon formation that was holding the central outpost (nice models from Dark Realm Miniatures  incidentally, that I haven't quite finished painting yet).

I retain initiative and advance another swarm on the right towards the Tau Blitz, firing and killing three units from another Tau Recon formation which breaks and runs.

A co-ordinated fire mission against the Dominatrix fails again, and I assault the remaining Tau defenders near the Tyranid Blitz. Once again I roll spectacularly well and the Tau roll poorly and I wipe them out. There's my seven firefight dice needing 5's to hit to show what I mean.

My Dominatrix feels some concern for it's nest and shuffles back to be within 15cm of it, still hugging the woods and waiting to regenerate more damage.

The Tau Markerlight my swarm near my Blitz, and kill the Hive Tyrant!

End of turn 2, and I hold the right side of the field, while Tau hold the left side.

Turn 3

I teleport my Lictors (right of photo) in a line to help slow down any moves by the Tau that might retake or contest their objectives.

Strategy Roll is a draw, and because Tau won it last time I win it this time. My Dominatrix does a sustain fire action on the Broadsides, and once again my dice rolling is great and the Tau not so. I kill three Broadsides.

The Tau AX-10's finally activate, flying on and targeting the Hierophant (my Break the Spirit victory condition). They hit twice with Titan Killer weapons, but once again I save one of the hits with my invulnerable save (needing a 6 on a D6!) and I only take 2 damage. The Tau retain with a coordinated fire action against the Hierophant with three formations, which does no extra damage but does break the Hierophant due to all the blast markers. It remains sitting where it is. 

I then advance my swarms, spreading out to try and prevent the Tau contesting their objectives. The Tau are running out of formations to do so. The Tau Orca flies in to launch a desperate and somewhat suicidal assault to try and contest the objectives and stop the game being over this turn.

It is not to be though, the Orca is destroyed. I win 2-1 having achieved the "Blitz" and "Take and Hold" victory conditions, while the Tau have only "Take and Hold".


Well the Tau played a much better game this time. I don't usually mention luck in after game reports but this game really did see superb rolling on my part and terrible rolling by the Tau, to the point that I was feeling quite bad for Andrew and guilty for my own undeserved success! Despite this the Tau still managed some devastating coordinated fire and crossfires that wreaked havoc and more that should have done so, without me being able to respond effectively. Good to see Andrew gradually getting the hang of the Tau. He spent a fair bit of time considering moves this game, given it is a new army and also one that requires some particularly clever coordination of formations to get the best use from them. No doubt it will become more intuitive over time.

The new Tyranid units I used this game seemed ok, though I'm not sure the Hieorphant is as generally versatile as the Hierodules. More fun to be attacking than sitting behind a rock relying on bio-artillery at any rate!

Next, here is Andrew's Tau report - much better than I could do! 

Tau After Action Report 2014.01.21

Preceding operations on Planet MO led to significant command staff losses: Aun [Ethereal] and Shas’o [Supreme Commander], Shas’el [Battlesuit Commander].  The only significant ground forces able to extract from the previous encounter with the Y’he [Individuals without number, Tyranids] were pathfinder cadres under the command of Shas’vre Shas’len’ra [Cadre Leader Cautious Warrior]. 

Additional intelligence was extracted from intercepted Space Marine communications.  This encounter proved the presence of new breed of hardened projectile throwing bugs, Dactylis with a greater range.

Planning notes for engaging the Y’he [Tyranid hordes],
Senior Fire Caste Commander, Pathfinder Shas’vre Shas’len’ra. 

Forces under command:

The complete destruction of all Crisis Suit assets and the previously reported loss of commanders dictated the less than ideal force composition.  I managed to find time to paint the previously photographed work in progress reinforcement Broadside units so the Air Cast could deliver them during the battle!

Combat Pre-Planning

Analysis of previous Tyranid swarms indicated that Fire Warrior Cadres should be able to successfully assault bugs. Incidentally I misread the Synapse Mind rule “Synapse swarms ignore brood units for the purposes of determining formation strength during tiebreak” as saying during an assault resolution, so perhaps this was slightly optimistic on the part of my Shas’len’ra persona.  None-the-less I still think that well prepped, and supported assaults remain viable.

Kor’elan [Air Caste Strong/Sturdy/Support] performance in the previous encounter was further strengthened by the addition of titan killer [TK(D3)] weapons platforms.  The two pin-point attacks from the spacecraft should reach the out and touch the Dominatrix supreme commander anywhere on the battlefield. Follow-up attacks from the AX-1-0s were planned to finish off any extra supporting bio-titan elements in the formation.

Astute observers would notice that the Tiger Shark AX-1-0s are the break-their-spirit [BTS] objective so would require delicate handling over the battlefield; both shot down and they count, survive and fly off, and they don’t count.  Therefore the presence of a 45 cm, AA5+, MW attack on the Dominatrix was to be countered by ensuring the Dominatrix formation had at least four blast markers before the airstrike was called in. Pathfinder formations will target Zoanthrope units with sniper fire to further degrade the relatively light Tyranid anti-aircraft cover.

The Orca would deliver Broadside Group to flanking position to allow them to provide long range fire, occupy terrain, capture and protect an outlying objective. Perhaps most importantly of all this would allow the cautious commander to keep his on-table BTS formation well out of harms way.

Coordinated fire missions would be launched to build up sufficient BMs on the Dominatrix to break an individual, or at least suppress long-range ground and AA fire from the bio-titan. Positioning units for crossfires would be attempted against relatively isolated or end-of-line formations.  My recon formations would be deployed well back from any possible enemy artillery fire.

Game Report

Dec One [time unit approximately 1.5 hours]

Deployment intelligence gathering indicated a complete absence of indirect fire units in the Tyranid swarms. Recon assets were therefore garrisoned forward. Markerlight assistance ensured a coordinate fire mission seriously discommoded [placed 3 BMs on] the Dominatrix at the centre of the Hive Consciousness. The follow-up orbital strike left the Dominatrix with just one damage point left; an invulnerable save stopped one of the hits and saved the bio-titan’s hide.  The behemoth slunk away in the forest and recovered most of its composure [Marshalled and lost all BMs, drat that].  Further pathfinder elements arrived into position to Markerlight the formation, Tau’va [for the Greater Good].

Deployment delays following the orbital strike meant Kor [Air Caste] assets were both stood down. Woe is the commander facing bio-titans without rail cannons.

Pathfinders moved forward on the right flank to markerlight the flanking Tyranid swarm in anticipation of an air landing by the Broadsides. This also ensured a delay in the pace of operations to allow more Tyranids formations to move into range. [OK so another 1 on an initiative roll rather delayed the formation]. Devilfish launched Seeker missiles destroyed the first enemy armoured unit rather than move the right flank Fire Warriors into a supporting fire position [the fourth initiative roll of 1].

On the left flank Marching Tyranids [triple moving] were prepped and set up for a combined Fire Warrior assault. Despite superb positional coordination from the Shas’la [Fire Warriors] they singularly failed to hit anything]. Only one Fire Warrior unit died in the initial round of combat but we were subsequently overwhelmed as further counter-charging units drew the supporting Fire Warrior formation into the combat, thereby further dragging the flanking bio-titan into a supporting position.  The only surviving left flank Fire Warrior formation retreated to ruins protecting our primary objective.

[A big complex assault.  OK, actually the FWs got one hit out of 12 at 5+ and 5 at 6+, but a cover save meant no bugs died. Went into the assault resolution even, Tau +2 no BM, enemy double BMs, Tyranids +2 outnumber by one unit and killed one; dice roll was a draw so we went a second round.  The second FW formation had 3 BMs, and the Hierophant killed several. Lost that assault resolution by 6!!]

The superior training of the Shas’ui [veteran] Pathfinder formations on the right flank was immediately obvious. Doubling forward into a crossfire position the combined pulse rifle, pulse carbine, seeker missile and devilfish gun drone fire was deadly [generally 5+, +1 cover, +1 double, -1 markerlit!!].  The enemy Zoanthrope was hit several time before falling dead [made its invulnerable save].

The Kor’elan finally rolled into action with an drop ship mission to deploy the Broadside Battle Suits behind the left of the Tyranid line.  [The initiative dice fell on the central craters with a one clearly showing on the top face before rolling back and finally settling on a 2.  Leaving me only failing 4 out of 10 activation rolls on turn one]. A lone Hormagaunt unit fled from the crossfire carnage.

A sustain fire mission with 4 hits out of 4 seeker missile shots from the right flank Piranha formation confirmed the effectiveness of smooth Shas’ui coordination.

Despite initial reports that the Dominatrix was staggering in the forest she was subsequently reports as being up and about. [Failed its rally roll but was successful on the supreme commander re-roll].

Dec Two [3rd Hour, turn two]

An early coordinated fire mission targeting the Dominatrix was clearly a misjudgment on my part. The bio-titan was subsequently seem marshaling back towards its primary nesting site.  The lack of command attention spent on repositioning the left flank Fire Warriors left them particularly vulnerable to the on-rushing Tyranid swarms.

Logistical issues continued to plague the deployment of the AX-1-0s [another 1 on initiative]. Increasingly accurate seeker missile fire however continued to kill off enemy armoured units.  One of the swarms was seen to significantly stutter as they lost a Hive Tyrant construct.

Dec Three [oops, is it already 5 o’clock!]

Reeling from the Tyranid onslaught on our primary supply objective the bugs continued their advance [Tyranids won the initiative roll-off].  Sustained fire from the Dominatrix seriously dented the composure of the Broadside Group and they were left to marshal forward without being able to position for a firing solution on the Exocrine swarm.  The pair of gun drone units attached to the Group proved their worth by ensuring the formation remained combat effective. [The dice rolled 5 out of 6 MW4+ hits and then three of the Broadsides failed their reinforced armour saves.  But 4 BMs on the remaining 3 Broadsides plus 2 Gun Drones left them un-broken].

The Tiger Sharks finally arrived over the battlefield to target the Hierophant. With markerlight support they achieved two hits. But again one of the strikes bounced off the bio-titan hide [2nd success from an invulnerable save on a TK hit].  We none-the-less broke the titan with BMs and it subsequently failed to rally.

Despite urgent requests to redeploy the right flank Fire Warriors the Shas’la were unable to respond in time to re-establish control of the left flank objectives.  A desperate assault landing by the Orca almost pushed one ring-fence of Tyranids off our take and hold objective.

Despite holding two secondary spawning sites the loss of control of our supply lines meant we were forced to retreat as the Tyranids settled into their dinner engagement.

Pathfinder Shas’vre Shas’len’ra
Senior Fire Caste Commander

Order in Council

Shas’vre Shas’len’ra is promoted Shas’o, effective immediately.
He will be deployed on battlesuit field training for the next two weeks.

By Order of Aun't'au'retha [Ethereal Council of T'au]
Tau’va [For the Greater Good]

Game Notes

I really missed the supreme commanders re-roll. I think that I’ll have to live with the rather high cost of getting a Shas’o: 350 points puts the commander into a 4 strong formation that is fairly vulnerable to BMs but still needs to get reasonably close to be combat effective.  The 1+ initiative combined with coordinated fire on the commander is obviously useful.

Placing 4 BMs on the Dominatrix before it had activated left it with the option to marshal and get rid of them; this Mark quite naturally did!!  That was rather a flaw in my planning which will be fixed next time.  However it did encourage the big beast to behave rather more cautiously so it is not entirely without benefit.

Am getting better at coordinating the Tau. Will need to keep thinking about using Coordinated fire missions to place multiple BMs on the bio-titans, especially when they have not yet activated. With a supreme commander (with re-roll) on the board I’d be more tempted to try and retain and hit the primary target with the heavy weapons on a second activation.

Out of a total of 8 possible TK(D3) hits only two went home, all needed 2 on the dice. Four were lost due to a failure to activate, two AX-1-0 initiative rolls of 1.  Two more were lost to successful invulnerable saves.  This is rather against the run of luck but I realize that it is still a moderate possibility given the relatively small number of dice rolls involved. The TK heavy strategy really needs a supreme commander re-roll to help mitigate this further.

More mobile stronger AT fire will require me to build some Hammerheads or some more Orcas.  Plans for both are on the drawing board.  A greater commitment to securing a crossfire against the reinforced armour Tyranids would probably be needed in the absence of many MWs in the Tau armoury.

The Tyranids did not seem too overpowered.  Making sure that you hit the bio-titans hard enough in a single turn seems an achievable goal, given their relatively low DC values and no screens, provided that you have reasonably hard hitting firepower.  If not I guess that I’d ignore them as much as possible.

On further contact the expendables in the swarms Mark has fielded so far seem rather less scary than they were on first contact. With slightly more robust Fire Warrior formations they are definitely assault target possibilities.

1 comment:

  1. Another great report with some good looking toys. Good stuff!