Escalation in Alpha Prime - Week 1

Black Knight has offered those daring enough to wage war in the grim darkness of the far future a new opportunity to test their mettle; Escalation in Alpha Prime, a six-week league event. The league starts at 750 points, and adds 250 points each week, ultimately ending up at a full 2000 points. The main scoring determinant seems to be win-lose-or-draw, of course, but the league also provides a small, standardized list of milestones to reach over the course of the series. Some of them are easy (play 4 games, roll a 6 when you need to), and some of them require a little more persistence (kill a model with 4 wounds, kill two HQs twice). They haven't actually announced what impact the sheets will have on the overall score, but since it seems unlikely they'll have none, a smart general would do what he could not just to win, but to win in a way the meets the demands of the sheets.

For the first week, I took what I thought was a pretty basic Tau cadre, with the caveat of course that I still don't care for Kroot. At 750 there's not really any room to get fancy; no Fortifications, no Allies, nothing but the basic options in the codex, and not nearly as many of those as usual, either.

Shas'El w/Twin-Linked Missile Pod, Airbursting Fragmentation Projector, Hard-Wired Multi-Tracker, Hard-Wired Blacksun Filter
2 x XV8 w/2 x Plasma Rifle, 2 x Missile Pod, 2 x Multi-Tracker
2 x XV8 w/2 x Plasma Rifle, 2 x Missile Pod, 2 x Multi-Tracker
8 x Fire Warriors
8 x Fire Warriors
XV88 w/Advanced Stabilization System
Hammerhead w/Railgun, 2 x Burst Cannons, Multi-Tracker, Blacksun Filter

This was actually the first game I'd played at this particular points level, so I went into it with a certain amount of concern. In the past I've had trouble getting my cadre to perform in the 1000 points range; would they have what it takes to get the job done with even fewer tools at their disposal?

Well, there was only one way to find out.

Opponent: Aaron Plate (Orks)
Deployment: Vanguard Strike
Mission: Big Guns Never Tire

Old Zogwort
19 Boyz w/Nob, Power Klaw
19 Boyz w/Nob, Power Klaw

Usually, Aaron goes for the Nob bikerz, but I suppose if he couldn't rationalize cramming them into this points level. Instead, I found myself facing off against an Ork foot list, with a couple of flyers for support, something I haven't seen in quite some time. Usually the Orks in my neck of the galaxy are backed up by Killa Kans, Deff Dreads and Battlewagons, and nowadays looted Imperial Guard hulls and grots with lasguns and flak vests. The chance to test my guns against nothing but hardy Ork constitutions made me cautiously optimistic, as did my successfully defeating Aaron in the roll-off to go first. We rolled up four objectives, with each of us basically depositing them in our deployment zones, and got down to the business of murder.

I deployed in my customary spread-out fashion. The lone XV88 and a unit of Fire Warriors claimed the top floor of a ruined building, and the objective I'd placed there for them, while the other Fire Warriors took up position on a hilltop beside the Hammerhead, near the centre of my zone. My commander joined one of the units of suits on the far right edge, while the other two suits took the far left wing, deploying well up from the edge of the table. Hemmed in, Aaaron deployed his two mobs, one with the Weirdboy and one with Zogwort, towards the rear-centre of his zone, trying to get as much cover as possible. He attempted to seize, and failed, he checked for Night Fight, and succeeded, and the game commenced.

And almost immediately ended. Manoeuvring for advantage, I managed to align the Hammerhead and the commander's squad with the Weirdboy's squad, getting both units nice, clear shots through gaps in the terrain. With Blacksun Filters on each the cover of darkness did nothing to protect the Orks, and between six missile pods, two plasma rifle shots and a submunition that landed dead-centre in the middle of the mob, those twenty Orks very quickly disappeared. Throw in a bit of supporting fire from the central Fire Warriors on the hill and the other Fireknife squad, both managing a few kills even with the Night Fight saves, and there was no chance of Mob Rule carrying those Orks through the end of my shooting phase. Reduced to their own lousy leadership, which is not unlike my own lousy leadership, the few ragged survivors promptly struck up their heels and bolted for the table edge, giving me First Blood. Turn one, and half of Aaaron's ground forces were dead before they'd had a chance to move. Not that they actually accomplished anything once they were given the chance, though, with Aaron sending them shambling forwards, though not nearly as quickly as he'd hoped given a lousy Run roll. With Night Fight no longer an issue, and the Orks even closer to even more guns, there was a very real chance that I could win the game on Turn 2, by simply killing everything on the board.

Thankfully, I didn't quite manage that feat. I did, however, kill a heck of a lot of boyz, once more pouring firepower into the Orks and watching as body after body was lifted away. The new 'cover on an individual basis' is frankly brutal for armies like Orks, and makes the Kustom Force Field virtually mandatory if you plan to have a foot list survive to reach the enemy's lines. Old Zogwort survived the fusillade, as did a handful of boyz, and with his slightly better leadership the survivors managed to hold on until the arrival of one of the Dakkajets. Unfortunately, that wouldn't turn out to help much, as the Dakkajet managed to put all of one wound on one of the Fireknives accompanying my commander. Zogwort himself attempted to use his Curse on my commander, only to fail his psychic test. An attempt to charge my Hammerhead also came up short, even with the re-roll, leaving the Orks nothing to do. With the dice having failed him, at this point Aaron could frankly do little but await the end.

Turn three, I managed to put down the Dakkajet with my XV88, giving it its first kill of the game; turn one there'd been trouble with line of sight, and turn two the railgun had whiffed the to-wound roll. It made up for those failures with the jet, however, blasting it clear out of the sky in a single hit, and thankfully not scattering the flaming wreckage onto my own units. I sent the rest of my army to deal with the remnants of Zogwort's mob, save for my second Fireknife squad, who were tasked with making dead certain they were in Aaron's deployment zone at the end of the game, which at this point could come at any second, for the Linebreaker secondary. Rolling up the remnants of Aaron's Orks wasn't difficult, just a little time-consuming, though the appearance of his second Dakkajet did cost me my commander, the sole casualty of the match. At the end of turn 4, however, I'd shot the second Dakkajet from the skies and hunted down the last of the Orks, including Zogwort who provided me with the Slay the Warlord secondary, and ensuring total victory for the forces of the Tau Empire.

Opponent: Jamie Goddard (Tau Empire)
Deployment: Dawn of War
Mission: Purge the Alien

Shas'O w/Missile Pod, Fusion Blaster, Stimulant Injector, Hard-Wired Multi-Tracker, Hard-Wired Blacksun Filter, Bonding Knife, Hard-Wired Drone Controller, 2 x Gun Drones
2 x XV8 Bodyguard w/2 x Missile Pod, 2 x Fusion Blaster, 2 x Targeting Array, Hard-Wired Drone Controller, Shield Drone
2 x XV8 w/2 x Twin-Linked Burst Cannon, 2 x Plasma Rifle, Multi-Tracker
10 x Fire Warriors w/Shas'ui, Blacksun Filter
10 x Fire Warriors w/Shas'ui, Blacksun Filter
8 x Fire Warriors w/Shas'ui, Blacksun Filter

As a bonus for finishing off Aaron so quickly, I was offered the chance to help out a late arrival, who was otherwise opponent-less. Jamie usually gives me no end of fits with his Imperial Guard, but when I saw him fetching out battlesuits I must admit, I was intrigued; I'd never faced other Tau before. Of course, since neither of us were Farsight Enclave, clearly this was just a particularly realistic training simulation. So we rolled up the mission and the deployment, one of the few times I was content to see Kill Points as an objective, and got down to business, with Jamie winning the roll-off and Night Fight once more kicking in.

I'm not going to go into as much detail, this time around, because it was mostly just me chasing Jamie around the board. My Hammerhead accounted for two of his three Fire Warrior squads, while my commander and his squad duelled with the two XV8s, and the other Fireknives and y two Fire Warrior squads did their best to take down his commander and bodyguard suits, and finished off the third Fire Warrior team. My only casualty of the game was my XV88, who surprisingly died not to missile pods, plasma rifles or fusion blasters, but just to a few too many pulse rifle rounds to the face. Still, with all three of his infantry squads down, and me having only lost my XV88, it was a pretty convincing victory, and if the game hadn't ended it just would've grown moreso as my numerically superior force finished off the remaining few models he had on the board. A solid training exercise, and one that clearly indicates a certain shas'el needs to spend a little more time reading the tactical output of the shas'ar'tol.

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