Objective: Seize Ground
10 x Sternguard Veterans w/Drop Pod
10 x Scouts w/Sniper Rifles, Camo Cloaks
10 x Tactical Squad w/Combi-Melta, Meltagun, Drop Pod
Land Raider w/Multi-Melta
5 x Terminators
Ironclad Dreadnought w/Heavy Flamer, Drop Pod
For the last game of the series, a Space Marine player decided to drop on my head, in several senses of the word. The player, Brad, had ceded his territory earlier, leaving his single token to deploy 'from space'', dropping down onto any space on the board. Having decided to take a run at me, he then opted to drop with his pods, aiming to start as aggressively as any drop pod-based Marine army ever does.
Brad won the roll-off and opted to go first, deploying his scouts on their objective in a ruin to really maximize their invulnerability to my shooting; ten models with a 2+ invulnerable against all but four weapons in my army (only the AFP and my Deathrain's flamers will ignore cover saves) are pretty much as safe as houses against Tau. His Land Raider, on the other hand, deployed right up on the 12" boundary from the centre of the table, filled with the Terminators and Vulkan. In return, I went with my usual drop pod-denial deployment, Hammerhead and Devilfish along the outside, then the Firewarriors and XV8s spread out inside that ring, as wide apart as possible to blunt the damage of flamers and maximize 'shooting through squad' cover saves. The only exceptions to this were my Pathfinders, who deployed in a nearby wood just outside the circle, and my second Firewarrior squad, which went into reserve just in case. I set my own objective down, stupidly outside my drop pod-denial circle, failed to seize the initiative, and we were off.
And off I was, right from the start. Because when I didn't put my objective inside my circle, Brad seized on the mistake, and put his two drop pods down around it, immediately contesting it. His Ironclad trundled out, melta'd one of my Devilfish and flamed a couple of Firewarriors to death, while the Tacticals split into two coming out of the pod, the melta gunner and combi-melta-wielding sergeant taking the Hammerhead to pieces on their first round of shooting. The Land Raider raced forwards and popped smoke, while the Scouts, not wanting to be left out, took a shot at the Pathfinders. Sadly, the Pathfinders promptly broke and ran off the edge, a bad start on the very first turn given how good my shooting had to be. And unfortunately, it was just the start of my trouble. While I did blast both halves of the Tactical squad to pieces with my two Fireknife squads, it wasn't until Turn 2 that I actually wiped them out, with two of the survivors of the first round of shooting going to ground against more plasma fire and, astoundingly, making two of three 6+ cover saves. The Ironclad shrugged off my Deathrains' fire, while the XV88s only managed to stun the Land Raider, which at least didn't have extra armour.
Of course, Power of the Machine Spirit still left that pesky multi-melta free to fire, so in Turn 2 Brad microwaved one of my Fireknives to death, while his Dreadnought did the same to one of my Deathrains with its meltagun. Astoundingly, both squads actually broke and ran clear off the table, a crippling blow to my force that, frankly, it was impossible to recover from. Shoddy Tau leadership strikes again!
After that, it was mostly a delaying action. My second Fireknife and my commander managed to put down the Ironclad and one of the Drop Pods, but once the Terminators trundled out of the Land Raider and both units clobbered my XV88s, well, that was that. The Land Raider was now invincible, given that my strongest weapon left was S7, and capable of just driving onto my objective and sitting there, immovably contesting it. But while there was no way to aim for a win, I hadn't lost track of the objective. My second Firewarriors had piled into the surviving Devilfish and raced across the board, hanging out on the edges until, on Turn 5, they cruised up, disgorged the drones who ran and assault-moved clear onto Brad's objective, contesting it in turn. A 1 one the die at the end of my turn meant the end of the game, leaving us in a draw, not bad considering what a ferocious beating his army had given mine all game long.
Oh, and Lysander and his Sternguard? You might have noticed they didn't rate a mention. That's because the drop pod scattered clear off the table when Brad tried to drop it in behind my shattered cadre's lines, and while I would've been happier with them being destroyed for it, I was still satisfied with placing the pod in the far corner of the board, taking the squad completely out of the game even with some reliably high run rolls.
So, the last of the six-game series ended up in a tie, putting my series results at three losses, two draws and just a single win. I never held more than two tiles, and with the draw lost one of those (both attacker and defender 'bounce out' of a tile on a draw), leaving me with just a single tile left on the board flying my cadre's colours. My series points total was 32.5, good enough to put me in 9th place. Breaking into the top ten was quite the pleasant surprise, though the spread between me and first place was over twenty points, so there was still some ground to make up. Still, for a Tau player, one of just two in the thirty-four player series, to manage to squeeze into the top ten is no mean feat, and I'm entirely happy to celebrate it for what it is, even while I aim for the top five next time around.