For a change of pace I set up a friendly game with Stewart at a local club. I was looking for something a bit more fluffy than my usual tournament list and Stuart plays Grey Knights which suffer horribly to that list so I had to change it down some.
As Tau and Grey Knights have next to no reason to be getting into a fight I decided to try out something new - a Commander obsessed with the trans-dimensional threat he survived at Arthas Moloch. He has loaded up with all the best Tau technology there is that might let him beat off big daemons in close combat. He is off searching for tools to fight this strange inter-dimensional menace when he runs into a weird bunch of Warp-abusing humans who look a bit like marines of some sort.
The list was intended to be toned down so none of the really nasty stuff that is in variations of my tournament list (Void Shield Generators, Culexus Assassin) were going in this list. The drones are sent along to "help" the commander while keeping an eye on him to make sure he does not get too obsessed with his quest, meanwhile he cannot persuade a proper Tau Cadre to join him on his mission outside their area of space but Kroot Mercenaries are not so fussy. As always all the battlesuits in my army have kroot pilots and the pathfinders are modeled as kroot.
Farsight Enclaves CAD
HQ and Warlord
Commander, Iridium, PEN, stims, Talisman, Fusion Blades, VRT.
20 kroot snipers, shaper, hound
20 kroot snipers, hound
10 kroot snipers, 3 krootox
2 Crisis suits, 2 CIB each
1 Crisis suit, 2 Fusion Blasters
4 vespid with Strain Leader upgrade
Riptide, Ion Accelerator, Fusion Blasters, EWO
Broadside, HYMP and SMS, EWO. 2 Missile drones
Drone Net VX1-0
4 gun drones
4 gun drones
4 marker drones
4 marker drones
All coming in at slightly under 1500 points
Stewart has already laid out a table with lots of ruins when I get there a bit late. I am happy with this, Tau on a bare battlefield is boring to play and nasty to play against. His army looks something like this
Librarian Lvl 3
Terminator squad in a Land Raider with various upgrades
5-strong Paladin squad with lots of upgrades
Full strength Interceptor squad with upgrades.
Nemesis Dreadknight loaded down with all the toys.
Somehow this also adds up to just short of 1500 points
He has first turn. It is dawn of war and Crusade scenario with 3 objectives representing deep demon secrets we both desperately want.
He deploys mostly towards his right, the Paladins and librarian are going to deep-strike in.
I deploy my krootox squad on my left flank, mobile drone and commander squads across my centre with the vespid. Then my broadside in ruins towards my right screened by one of the big kroot blobs.
The land raider rushes directly forwards and the interceptors move up to some ruins in the centre. His Librarian and friends teleport in towards my left flank but scatter back just enough to be out of Cleansing Flame range. The hit-and-miss riptide intercepts with marker light support and misses, some shrubs had a really bad day. He unleashes witchfire (denied, after perils) and firepower (tanked) on my commander who shrugs it all off like a complete champion. The land raider takes a pot-shot at my broadside killing a drone.
Everything but my krootox team in the corner makes a rapid shift to the right away from the incoming threat. I sadly wish my kroot better luck in their next life. My shooting on my left flank does...nothing. My ability to roll lots of ones gets commented on. I did put one rending precision shot on his wounded Warlord but he makes the invulnerable save. On my right flank the kroot snipers annoy his interceptors as does the broadside. Then something remarkable happens: the vespid kill 2 of them. They never did that before in all my games with them, I know in theory they are allowed to kill stuff but its never actually happened.
The land raider moves up more slowly and Terminators pile out close to my doomed kroot. More witchfire against my commander, denied again. He decides to concentrate his shooting on those kroot in the corner; killing over half of them and the remainder fail morale and fall off the table. On the bright side this leaves him nothing to charge with all his nasty choppy guys although he does score first blood. The land raider takes another pop at the broadside, a drone makes its cover save. His tattered Interceptors move back out of range of my kroot.
I keep backing off from the onrushing threat and am wheeling anti-clockwise round the table. To compensate my second kroot blob and a gun drone squad outflank into the far left corner. My Orca is running late with the crisis suits. The hit-and-miss riptide hits, the Paladins are still quite bunched up and make a perfect target. The tattered remnants of the unit are picked off mostly by the kroot and drones that just arrived. That is Slay the Warlord. My vespid are in hot pursuit of the Interceptors, that was not their job this battle but I was getting carried away by their success.
His surviving terminators and interceptors decide to take some revenge on those outflanking kroot while his dreadknight teleports behind my retreating warlord. The kroot take 30% casualties and fail morale, falling back towards the middle of the table. The dreadknight unloads everything into my warlord again - he tanks it all again although a stray bit of the incinerator does kill a pathfinder. The land raider shoots the broadside again and kills its last drone.
The Orca arrives and my crisis deep-strike in, the fusion crisis perfectly on target while the CIB suits scatter but are still in range. Now I should have had the vespid close so the Strain Leader could have been challenge chump for him to assault the Dreadknight but they had other ideas. They were off killing 3 more of the interceptors, the last one falling to the CIB shots. I manage to roll some non-ones on marker lights helping my fusion crisis to blow up the land raider. Everything else shoots the dreadknight but my sniper kroot in particular have the curse of the bad dice and between 20 of them at BS5 do nothing; I put 2 wounds on it with the commander and riptide.
Not much left for the GK so he begins to move towards two of the objectives - I have been carefully backing away from the objectives so he has to make a choice between hiding his diminishing forces in assault or standing out in the open where they might score something. He is at least trying to win the game.
He tries to kill the broadside with shooting from the dreadknight - it makes its saves.
The vespid begin their traditional end-run onto an objective, it is still 12" away but that is not an issue. My commander jumps over to the blob of kroot nearby and gives them Monster Hunter; this makes all the difference as they finally finish off the dreadknight by simply burying it in both normal and rending wounds. The hit-and-miss riptide goes after the remaining terminators and misses, more incinerated shrubbery. The crisis suits collectively do rather better killing a couple and they fall back.
Nothing for him to do but regroup and go stand on that objective again and kill a couple more kroot to force them to go to ground.
The fusion crisis moves up to contest one objective while the riptide moves over to claim the second and the vespid scoot onto the third. I still have line-breaker from my cowering kroot (and the other squad moved into his deployment zone because: why not?). Everything remotely in range opens up on the surviving terminators, the last unit that can shoot manages to kill the last of them. Opponent tabled at the bottom of turn 5
So there we have it. My close combat commander failed to make close combat because I got all giddy with the success of the vespid and forgot until too late that the strain leader was supposed to help him in assault by taking any unwinnable challenges. The vespid were a revelation - who knew that they were actually able to kill stuff
As always they and the jet-pack battlesuits did their late game objective grab from range, I love this tactic against assault armies as it really gives them hard choices on turns 4 and 5. Stewart asked me a few times why I was not claiming the objectives in the mid-game, I just smiled and waited for his guys to go stand in the open so I could shoot them. Tau are not good at camping on objectives.
Things I had forgotten:
1. Just how good an Iridium/Stims commander is at tanking wounds.
2. Just how mediocre the morale of Kroot is when you do not have Aun'Va on the table