A Statistically Perfect Spread of Results

After a month's hiatus, caused in part by a personal matter and in part by the last tournament's being way up at 2500 points, I headed back up to Black Knight to once more throw my Tau's lives away on the field of battle. The game was set for 1500, a point level I much prefer, and I went in cautiously optimistic. After all, I had a major win in the team tournament, and a minor win on my own at the game before that; it certainly seems like I'm getting better. Hope springs eternal, if nothing else!

My army:
Shas'el w/Airbursting Fragmentation Projector, Missile Pod, Multi-Tracker
3 x XV8 w/Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod, Multi-Tracker
3 x XV8 w/Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod, Multi-Tracker
3 x XV8 w/Twin-Linked Missile Pod, Flamer
8 x Fire Warriors w/Devilfish, Disruption Pod, Flechette Discharger
8 x Fire Warriors
5 x Pathfinders w/Devilfish, Disruption Pod, Flechette Discharger
Piranha w/Fusion Blaster, Disruption Pod, Flechette Discharger
2 x XV88 w/Advanced Stabilization System
XV88 w/Advanced Stabilization System
Hammerhead w/Railgun, 2 x Burst Cannons, Disruption Pod, Multi-Tracker

I don't usually go with unbalanced units; call me anal, but they just bug me.  But I had a feeling I'd need more anti-tank this game, and the fusion blasters on my shas'el and Piranha have never really been what you'd call reliable.  Also, they're criminally short-ranged, meaning they're basically suicide weapons.  So, one XV88 in, eight Fire Warriors out.  Let's see if I turned out right, or if I could have used those extra Fire Warriors more, after all.

Round 1: Mark Hillman (Chaos Space Marines)

Kharn the Betrayer
4 x Terminators w/Heavy Flamer
5 x Terminators w/3 x Meltas, Chainfist, 2 x Lightning Claws
10 x Chaos Space Marines w/Flamer, Lascannon
10 x Chaos Space Marines w/Flamer, Lascannon
Land Raider w/Possession, Combi-Melta
Land Raider w/Possession, Combi-MElta
Predator w/Twin-Linked Lascannon, 2 x Lascannon Sponsons, Dozer Blade

Deployment: Dawn of War
Major Objective: Capture & Control
Minor Objective: Big Game Hunter (1 point for every HQ unit, vehicle, MC and walker)

Ahh, my old enemy; the Land Raider. In all the games I've seen those behemoth metal boxes on the other side of the table, I have managed to down exactly one of them. And this, despite pouring quite liberal amounts of railgun fire into their heavily armoured hides. For all that people talk smack about these things online, I've personally found them nothing but trouble to deal with on the tabletop.

Mark won the roll-off to deploy first, and opted to push one of his squads clear up to the midway line, aggressively encroaching on my deployment zone, while the rest of his army hung back off the table edge. In response, I left my entire army off the table edge, and this time thankfully remembered not to try to seize. Mark brought his Land Raiders in together on the right side of the board (all 'sides' will be from my perspective, for the record), both loaded with Terminators, and Kharn bulking up the four-strong squad, his Predator in on the centre and sent his other Chaos Marines to the left, towards his objective. In response, I walked my XV88 duo on to the right, with the Fire Warriors clumped in front of them, the Deathrains to their left and the Piranha moving flat-out up the right board edge, while my 'el jumped up behind a ruin, on the far side of which was Mark's aggressive side, along with a squad of Fireknives, and the two Devilfish screened the second Fire Warrior squad and the Pathfinders while they hustled for a trench, the other XV88 and my Hammerhead anchoring my left flank along with the second Fireknife squad. The Night Fight rules turned out not to be much of an impediment, given how forward Mark had sent his one squad, and a torrent of close-range fire knocked four Marines out of it right from the start. In response, Mark managed to take out one of my two XV88s with lascannon fire, and that was it, everything else either falling short of seeing their targets or being blocked by disruption pods and cover. Unfortunately, that favourable exchange did not remain in force for long.

I blame the Land Raiders. I don't know what witchery enchants them, but they seem proof against all I can throw at them. My Piranha even managed to get close enough to give them a shot for once, and even scored a hit, only to roll a grand total of 4 on 2D6 for penetration. So much for the unstoppable power of melta! I did drop the forward Marine squad down to two models, who broke and ran, and shot the other squad down to just three Marines. Unfortunately, the Land Raiders, assisted by the Predator, managed to kill off all my XV88s, my Deathrains, the Piranha, my right-hand Fire Warrior squad and immobilize one of my Devilfish, while the four Terminators chainfisted the other Devilfish and shot up the left-most Fireknife squad, with Kharn himself making quick work of my 'el. While I still had a respectable amount of army left on Turn 5, with a full-strength Fire Warrior squad stuck in their immobilized Devilfish, the full-strength Pathfinders hiding in the trench, and my untouched Hammerhead, along with most of a Fireknife squad that had managed to reduce the weaker Terminator squad to half strength, Kharn was sitting on my objective, the three remaining unbroken Chaos Marines were on Mark's, and my Hammerhead didn't have the range to contest before the game ran out. Having lost control of my own objective and failed to shift Mark from his, I'd conceded the major objective, and with his unscathed Land Raiders and Predator compared to an exploded Devilfish and Piranha, I'd lost the minor objectives, as well. Having done a better job of playing to the mission than I, Mark walked away with a Major Win, and started me off with an inauspicous Major Loss, against one of the oldest and least well regarded codexes in the game. It wasn't WD-Sisters or Chaos Daemons, but still...

Round 2: Graham Wilson (Grey Knights)

Brother Champion
5 x Purifiers w/Halberds
5 x Terminators w/Psycannon
10 x Strike Squad w/2 x Psycannons, Psybolt, Rhino
10 x Interceptors w/Psybolt
Stormraven w/Twin-Linked Lascannon, Multimelta
Dreadnought w/2 x Twin-Linked Autocannons, Psybolt

Deployment: Pitched Battle
Major Objective: Seize Ground
Minor Objective: Moral Victory (destroy the opponent's most expensive Troop unit)

I'd been looking forward to a rematch with Graham, a friend from the old Mohawk anime club, since he just managed to squeeze out a Major Victory on me last game with a fair bit of luck. And having suffered a crushing defeat of his own first round, it seems we'd both been matched up against each other in the lower tiers of the competitors, which was just fine by me. Graham won the roll off and opted for his side, with a bastion-tower and maze-like ruin flanked by smaller ruins towards the edges of the table, while I got a tall radio tower, a shallow arc of three-storey ruins, and a loading dock full of to-scale boxes and shipping crates. All told, this was not a bad deal for me, since the radio tower and the ruins both provided excellent vantage points for my XV88s, and the shipping crates were just the right height to completely shield a trio of battlesuits. Graham wisely set up in as much cover as he could, his Rhino with the Strike Squad (the Moral Victory target) hiding in the maze-ruins, his Terminators, Dreadnought and Stormraven with embarked Purifiers behind the tower, his Interceptors off to the right in a bit of ruin there and his Vindicare down in the ruins on the left. As mentioned, I put my two XV88s on the multi-storey ruin, with the Pathfinders on the floor below them, and my lone XV88 on top of the radio tower, with a unit of Fire Warriors. The Hammerhead hung out on the left-most board edge, while in the centre my two Devilfish and the Piranha served as a wall of cover for both Fireknife squads and my 'el, with the Deathrains off on the right, behind the shipping crate. Lacking anywhere good to put them, and worried about shunting Strike Squads, I left my second Fire Warrior squad in reserve. We both rolled up two objectives, which we placed in areas of heavy cover close to our respective edges, and with my failure to seize the initiative, Graham made his moves.

The game started off with a fairly even trade. He managed to pop one of my XV88s and suppress most of my vehicles thanks to his psybolt-enhanced Psycannons, stunning a Devilfish and immobilizing and weapon-destroying a Piranha; in return, I shot down his Stormraven, blew up his Rhino, and killed a guy in the explosion. Unfortunately, the Purifiers who'd been in the Stormraven used their Deep Strike disembarkation to actually scatter ten inches closer to my Hammerhead, but for the rest of it I was pretty satisfied. The only problem? With the Rhino gone, the Strike Squad were now hidden behind a wall just a little taller than themselves, making them impossible to target. So much for the minor objective this round! On the other hand, with the Strike Squad completely obscured they couldn't shoot out, either, which meant two fewer Psycannons to deal with. Graham and I continued to trade fire, with my Fire Warriors taking three turns to get into position and put down that Vindicare, my solo XV88 actually taking three turns to do anything at all to the AV12 Dreadnought (though it was wrecked once I finally did), and my Deathrains and 'el popping up to pepper the Interceptors. The Interceptors opted not to sit back and get shot, however, and advanced into midfield, intent I suspect on shooting my 'el to death (his indirect-fire weapon could theoretically have picked away at the Strike Squad, and with some truly awful luck on his part even have taken them to half-strength or briefly broken them off the objective), shunting up to annihilate my Deathrains, and then sitting on my objective and forcing me to dislodge them, a difficult task. I say I suspect, however, because they didn't really get past step one. Exposed by their advance, the squad was blasted to pieces by both Fireknife squads, leaving my Deathrains unmolested and my own objective free for a Devilfish full of Fire Warriors to cruise over and claim. Graham's last chance came in the form of his Purifiers, who attempted to advance around the radio tower and climb the ladder to contest the objective on top, and despite the best efforts of two pairs of Gun Drones and both of the remnants of the Fireknife squads, it looked like he might just make it. But then, he failed to get close enough to the ladder to make it clear up, leaving him out of position when the game ended on Turn 5. With both of us sitting on two objectives, and neither of us having managed the minor victory (he only lost the Rhino and one guy, I didn't even lose that much), it was a straight draw, clean down the middle.

A word on the game's MVP; it really has to be Graham's Dreadnought. That thing took round after round of railgun fire, only dying in Turn 4, and before it went it helped dismantle most of my floating cover (my second Devilfish and Piranha) and clipped one of my Fireknife teams, taking out a member and nearly breaking them. More importantly, however, the damn thing tied up my sole surviving XV88 for almost the entire game, distracting it from putting railgun rounds into the Terminators on top of the bastion tower. While I did manage to pick off one or two with other weapons, I could never quite marshal the firepower necessary to deal with such a distant threat. Yes, it's important to play the mission, but you still have threats you have to address, too.

Round 3: Doug Simmons (Necrons)

Anrakyr the Traveller
Harbinger of Destruction w/Eldritch Lance, Solar Pulse, Gaze of Flame
Triarch Stalker w/Twin-Linked Heavy Gauss Cannon
Triarch Stalker w/Twin-Linked Heavy Guass Cannon
9 x Immortals
10 x Warriors, Necron Lord w/Warscythe, Harbinger of Destruction w/Tachyon Arrow
10 x Warriors
10 x Warriors
5 x Scarabs
5 x Scarabs
5 x Scarabs
Doomsday Ark

Deployment: Spearhead
Major Objective: Annihilation
Minor Objective: King of the Hill (objective in the centre of the table)

Ah, Necrons. I don't care what anyone says, Necrons are a good matchup for Tau Empire. As if to balance that out, though, I managed to fail the roll-off for the third and final time, letting Doug decide which quarter he wanted. This table was a particularly sparse, a desert table with a large Imperial military outpost off-centre and some low hills arranged fairly equitably around all four quadrants. Doug's choice was pretty arbitrary, mostly just setting up where he happened to be standing, though he did get the military outpost for one of his Warrior squads, so that worked for him. He placed his Doomsday Ark in the corner with a nice field of view, and arranged the rest of his army along an arc, close to the 12" line from the centre of the table. The terrain encouraged him to break up into two fire bases, with Anrakyr, a Harbinger and an Immortal squad close to the centre, the second Warrior squad in a small ruin just to the right and back from them, and the third squad on the far side of the ruin from me, with a Triarch Stalker on either side of the ruins and the scarabs spread out to go around the military outpost and ruins, poised to sweep pretty much anywhere on the board. In response, I hung back towards the edge, my XV88s in a bit of area terrain along with my Pathfinders, my vehicles arrayed to give cover to everything else. Failing once more to seize, as well, the fight was on, with Doug going first.

The early Necron shooting was pretty ineffectual, with no serious casualties. The biggest thing Doug managed, in fact, was to stun my Hammerhead, which proved more telling than might have been imagined when, on turn 2, he tore its railgun clean off and immobilized it; given the heavy emphasis on 4+ saves in Doug's army, not to mention all those lovely little T3 swarm-style scarabs, the loss of that S6 AP4 large blast was actually pretty serious. And of course, my first round of return fire was pretty weak, with that Solar Pulse forcing Night Fight onto me and some bad rolls crippling my range. I poked away at a few threats, sent my two Devilfish racing off into the two adjacent quarters and hid my Piranha way up in the opposite left quarter. But the loss of my Hammerhead's railgun ultimately proved to be the most telling blow Doug struck that game, and soon enough I was teaching him that ancient weapons are no match for the most modern of technology. My XV88s blasted the Doomsday Ark to pieces on Turn 2, and my XV8s began to lay waste to Doug's squads, wiping out the Immortals, along with an attached Anrakyr and a Harbinger, and chipping away at the Warrior squads. His Scarabs did manage to eat both of my Devilfish, actually taking one of them clean down to AV0 on the back in one charge, with little damage from my flechette dischargers, but ultimately that just left them out in the open and ripe for the shooting. One squad was obliterated by the combined firepower of my 'el and a Fireknife squad, while a team of Fire Warriors forcibly dismounted from the upper-right Devilfish actually charged in to support a lone XV8, the two squads managing to tear through the little metal buggers for only the loss of the XV8, after which they went on to reinforce my duo of XV88s who were also fighting off the scarabs. That's right, not only did I actually charge something with Fire Warriors, not only did I charge something and win, but I then went on to charge something else with that exact same squad, and win again. I could not have been prouder of those guys, I tell you what!

There was relatively little play for the minor objective, until the tail end of the game. Doug had proximity to it with most of his squads, but taking it would mean moving out into the open, something his 4+ Warriors were reticent to do in the face of so many AP4 missile pods. I actually ran a single Fire Warrior, sole survivor of a squad gaussed into oblivion by the Warriors in the military outpost, onto the objective at the end of turn 5, but the dice weren't with me, and he died a totally expected death when Doug started up turn 6. On the other hand, despite putting a full-strength squad of his own on the objective, Doug simply couldn't hold it; with the combined firepower of my 'el, a Fireknife squad and my Deathrains, I managed to shoot the whole lot of them to death over the course of just that single turn. With no squad to reanimate into the Warriors were removed for good, leaving the objective wide open and unclaimed when the dice decreed the game was done. When the smoke cleared, it turned out that Doug had scored six kills, while I had scored seven; combined with Doug's inability to hold the secondary objective, that meant I had scored my first unassisted major victory.  

So, a loss to Chaos Space Marines, a draw with Grey Knights, and a major victory over the brand new Necrons.  You'd think it'd work the other way around, but I'll take my victories where I can find them!

Overall Results: 12th of 16

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