Saturday, 14 November 2015

A tale of four gamers - 1000pt round list building

Hi all, so after lots of thinking about the new tau units and formations, and trying to figure out just what I want to do with my list using the new codex, I come to this - my list for the next round of games against Mj, Ryan and Martin in the MAD tale of four gamers.

So, where to start? 

Well first off I think it's sensible to be cognisant of the armies that you'll be facing. That's not to say I can (or want to) tailor my list particularly, since 1) I don't know what my opponents are going for and 2) there's plenty of variety already in what I'll be facing simply because of the armies chosen.

So, the other three armies in the tale are 2 space marine lists and a chaos list. Of the two marine lists one is using iron hands tactics and the other imperial fists. What can we take away from this that's going to be useful then?

1. I'm going to have the worst armour save around - with the exception of cultists even my fire warriors are largely outclassed in that department. It also means that having ap3 weapons is going to be useful indeed.

2. I can't scrimp on anti tank firepower because all three opponents are capable of bringing plenty of vehicles.

3. I'm going to have to face flyers, and therefore bring some AA power myself.

On that basis therefore, I had a choice to make, do I stick with the combined arms detachment I've used so far, gaining objective secured for my troops units, or do I use the formations in the codex, foregoing obsec in the search of greater damage potential?

I think the key deciding factor in my decision is this - the codex does not refine the points costs of the units in it. At all. So, fielding a combined arms detachment, whilst extremely useful for obsec, grants me precisely zero additional power over the old book, with the exception of giving me access to the new units. In that respect I found it quite disappointing, but to my mind the formations make up for this, bringing quite a lot of increased firepower and utility to the army.

So, formations/detachments it was to be. Question is, which?

Well there were two key things to bear in mind here. First, sadly, is funds. I've got until the end of December to get all this stuff built and painted, so I was going to have to build off what I've already got in my collection to an extent - I may have generous relatives but money given for my birthday wouldn't pay for a whole new army. Second, is the individual costs of the formations, many of which have quite a high entry points value to them, such that I'd be able to include a maximum of two in my army.

As you may have seen from previous posts on the subject, I've toyed with several options for lists, but in the end, my mind was made up by something I read on Advanced Tau Tactica the other day, and that is just precisely what implications the Hunter Cadre formation has in respect of the use of Piranhas in particular.

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself though - I bemoaned the poor BS of the Riptide in the last round, rarely being successful with getting it on target. As such, I figured using the hunter contingent was going to be a big plus, making my units BS4 if I concentrated fire with them (which let's face it is a sensible thing to do anyway).

As a minimum therefore I needed to include a Hunter Cadre and an auxiliary formation. Thankfully, one of the auxiliary formations consists of a single unit of drones of whatever type you desire. So there was my first choice made, 4 marker drones would give me the maximum amount points to pour into a Hunter Cadre to make it viable.

The basic Hunter Cadre then operates on a similar basis to the CAD, but has greater minimum requirements in exchange for some pretty nifty benefits. First, and the big hurdle for me, is that it needs three troops units. Now as you may have picked up from my other articles on the Obsidian Enclave, I wanted all my troops units to be mobile and therefore transported by a devilfish. This was going to be tricky, since at 80pts each they would eat up 25% of my allowance before I'd even pulled a trigger. First compromise therefore. I would take 2, and one unit of fire warriors on foot. Second question was what troops units to take - Kroot were out for fluff reasons, so I was left with strike teams or breacher teams. The strike team is the fire warrior unit we all know and marmite. The breacher is the new unit that I reviewed as a test bed for my new review format. I have to say, I'm a big fan, they're definitely high risk/reward, but bearing in mind the likely need for AP3 weapons they seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I stuck in a pair of them at their minimum unit size with no upgrades. 10 shots even without a boost to my BS would give them 5 hits and that should average out at at least 4 wounds with no armour save most of the time. Their highish strength of 6 would also allow me to use them against lighter vehicles as well.

Next I needed a heavy support unit. Ideally I'd have taken the skyray but for some reason (ok yes I can see why) it's not selectable in the Hunter Cadre. For those of you out there who are wondering, the Skyray has networked markerlights, so would easily allow a large combined fire unit to benefit from them. With my previous point about power armour in mind, I figured that the Ion Cannon Hammerhead was probably the next best choice. I considered the railgun variant with submunitions but to my mind the potential AT of the railgun is offset too much by the AP4 on the submunition shell.

I next needed an elite choice. Now I've already got a Riptide as we know, but at 210pts he's still a big chunk of my allowance on one model. Granted, he should be more reliable this time with all the BS improvements there would be available, but I felt he unbalanced my list too much last time, and wasn't going to get burned twice by the same mistake (we learn from our mistakes you know, honest). Instead therefore I toyed with the idea of a Crisis Squad but in the ended opted for the Ghostkeel. Reasons! I hear you say, what are your REASONS? Well, put simply they are thus. Crisis teams are great, I do love them and I want them very much in my army. How I want them however, is as part of the Retaliation Cadre so that I can guarantee their arrival on turn 2, with increased BS, possibly by as much as +2 without recourse to markerlights. I was also extremely nervous about the potential number of tanks I'd be facing from the Iron Hands list, particularly in the form of a trio of vindicators, so I figured I'd take possibly my new favourite model in the line, the Ghostkeel. With a fusion collider and twin fusion blasters it has good anti tank potential, and by adding an early warning override and a velocity tracker it could target flyers early too. It's got an unbelievably good cover save, and if the worst did happen, it's also got the option to force a unit that has declared they will shoot at it to snap fire, and thus would completely negate the apocalyptic ignores cover blast from a vindicator squadron for a turn, hopefully long enough for me to deal with it.

Speaking of which, how do you deal with a trio of tanks with front armour 13 on turn one, bearing in mind they can then bring the unholy wrath of hell onto you if you don't succeed? Well, this is where the trick I mentioned with the piranhas comes in, and it makes use of both the Hunter Contingent and Hunter Cadre special rules. I've already touched upon the increased BS granted by the Hunter Contingent of three or more units focus their fire on a single target, gaining +1BS and sharing their special rules and any markerlight abilities. That's very important for a unit with native BS3 and a single shot weapon. The real trick though is that the Hunter Cadre allows a unit to move flat out and then shoot, provided it's within 12" of the commander at the start of the phase. As a fast skimmer the piranha can move up 12" in the movement phase, then slingshot itself forward another 18" in the shooting phase before unleashing that 18" melta (9" double dice for penetration). Assuming I want to keep the double dice therefore that gives me a potential range of 39", threatening almost anything on the board on their first turn. They would also nicely fill my requirement for a fast attack choice in the Hunter Cadre. 

So that left me with just one model to fit in - the Commander.

You're pretty limited here as it has to be a Commander, but that really doesn't restrict you much, as they are extremely versatile. They start quite cheap at 85pts, but can get very expensive once you start adding toys!

Now what's really nice I think about the tau book is that where other codices get relics, or rare weapons etc, the advanced nature of the Tau means these are actually more experimental systems and so it's dead easy to justify there being more than one of them in the empire, they're just very uncommon. The key one here I think is iridium armour. It grants the commander +1T and a 2+ save on top of all the normal benefits of crisis armour, so that was in. He needed some guns of his own, so a pair of fusion blasters alongside the obligatory velocity tracker meant that he too could target incoming flyers. I added in a drone controller so that if he joined my marker drones they would use his BS5, making them much more useful to the rest of the army.

With points running short I added a few other pieces of my favourite gear to make him extremely flexible. A command and control node, and a multi spectrum sensor suite meant if he didn't fire, any unit he joined would get re-rolls to hit and ignores cover, and the neuroweb system jammer is a steal for its cost, forcing a single enemy unit in 12" of him to have the gets hot rule applied to their weapons.

Last night I played a test game with this list that illustrated what I think are a few flaws. This mainly revolves around the commander. Partly my over enthusiasm meant that he got exposed and picked on early in the game, with a pair of grave gun bikes and some melta bikes proving that he needs more than just marker drones as ablative wounds. It also illustrated that none of my other units are really suited to him joining them, so he needs to be fairly central in terms of board placement, and his weapon ranges should probably be equivalent to the marker drones so he's more effective. 

I didn't get much chance to use his signature systems but once again, because of him needing to be part of another unit for this to work I was limited as to how I could see them working with the rest of this list. 

So, semi-drastic action required before the games that count get going, what did I learn and what did I change?

Well, first as I mentioned I absolutely need to keep the commander more in the game, without exposing him too much - he's a good tank for the drones, but too much fire and the unit will still disappear. The markerlights are extremely useful though, and their hits meant that on the first turn my piranhas could target my opponents fast skimmers at BS4, ignoring their jink saves, netting me first blood. I want to keep them alive longer so I did away with the Command and Control Node, Neuroweb System Jammer and the Multi Spectrum Sensor Suite, replacing them instead with a pair of shield drones and swapping the fusion blasters for a pair of missile pods. 4 S7 AP4 shots at BS5 never hurt anyone but their target eh?

That gave me a few points to play with, so I beefed up the pulse rifle squad to 10 members and added in a smart missile system support turret. That left me with a couple of spare points so I put the NSJ back onto the commander - it may never get used but there's no sense in underspending on your list.

I'm a bit more comfortable with this list now, I know that the piranhas are a viable tactic, particularly with markerlight support. The Breacher teams performed superbly until they felt the wrath of a storm talon, I perhaps need to be a little circumspect about using them, picking on things and then getting them protected somehow, but those two five man teams took out a pair of bike squads and most of two scout squads.

The Ghostkeel was also brilliant, applying the coup de grace to the enemy warlord, then single-handedly taking out a unit of centurions through a combination of shooting and combat before vapourising a thunderfire cannon and its gunner. My opponent basically didn't bother shooting at it the whole game thanks to its cover save and holophoton countermeasures, so it was pretty much unhindered. The only slight disappointment was the fusion collider (which managed to scatter back and hit myself on one occasion) so I would seriously consider swapping that out for the cyclic ion raker, even with the reduction in anti tank potential.

I was pleased with the performance of the hammerhead too, though it did get shaken a couple of turns in a row, hampering its effectiveness. I still think the potential for a large blast AP3 weapon is worthwhile though, so will be sticking with the ion cannon for now.

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