Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Army to the Tactics

Lately for me the gaming side of things has slowed down considerably. Summertime is just a time to be outside, not cooped up inside throwing dice. That said, I am doing a lot of theory-hammering in my head, thinking about how to make Tau work in the swirling world of Warhammer 40,000 5th Edition. 

One the problems that a Tau player faces is a codex that is seemingly over-costed. I say seemingly, because I've got my 2,000 point Tau army on my bookshelf, ready to be unleashed at the NOVA Open and it doesn't look small by any means. But the codex seems overcosted because new players tend to dump lots of points into Fire Warriors and neat kit for their Devilfish that they've got little points left over for what you actually need in the army: Missile Pods, Plasma Rifles and Railguns (both vehicle mounted and otherwise). This is why I have been  strong proponent of minimized Fire Warrior squads for quite some time. You need points for firepower, not Fire Warriors.  

Second problem comes when you actually start playing games. If you're suffering from the first problem, it's very likely that you are now in-game dealing with the second major problem with Tau. Your firepower is doing the damage, you envisioned beforehand. Your shooting phases are shorter than they should be. Now it's turn 3 and your opponent is about execute the killing blow, not you. His prize units are about to wreak havoc amongst your lines and you don't have the speed of Eldar to get away. nor the counter attack ability to hit back. You're about to lose half your army and unless you're really lucky, you've lost the game as well.  

This is something I've faced time and time again, with a variety of coping mechanisms that just barely got me by, winning with Turn 5 objective grabs and sneaky moves my opponent wasn't expecting. I've learned of late that this doesn't cut it in a tournament with those really competitive gamers out, fielding lists made to kill mercilessly.

To cope, I naturally started doing was forming a castle on a flank, then as the enemy hits, feeding units to the assault, allowing them to get wiped out, then blasting them to bits when the enemy is caught in the open. This works well, but only if you've built a list around it. I was playing this way but without the right tools. I would often end up feeding XV8 squads to the enemy, one by one, to keep my scoring units safe. My army would get neutered. With the XV8s gone, what heroes of the Empire are left? Not good. 

My lists simply weren't matching the tactics. Fritz, at Way of Saim Hain, posted a article a couple months ago called "army to the tactics not tactics to the army" and this is extremely relevant for the Tau Empire. You need to build your list to suit your tactics. It needs to honed finely to meet your plan. My most recent list, which I may or may not post here, has plenty of defensive units in the form of Kroot, Drones and Piranhas. 

Here is a quick collection of articles I think are very much worthwhile to all you fledging Tau Commanders and even for veterans. These should explain, in better words, what I am talking about. 
In fact that whole series of Tau article is probably the most important set of articles for a Tau that you can find on the internet. 

I've taken the sample lists there and put my own spin on them, to complement the way I plan to play, to the tactics I plan to use but the core is the same. Maximize your strengths and build your defense. 


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the links - the army list that he summmarizes at the end of the series is WELL thought-out and especially good for newbies: It maximizes Dakka and mobility and minimizes questionable-needs special rules stuff - no Blacksun, no bonding knives, no extra leadership.
The one diffficulty is that it's light on markerlights and has few (if any) seeker missiles. Those can be extremely helpful in taking out that one last termy or HQ unit...

Pete W said...

Hey, that first photo came out really nicely. I've nabbed it to add to the battle report on my blog.

Those were some good articles you linked to and I think that building your army to tactics is very important. I probably come at things a bit the other way since I get the models I like the most and then figure out which tactics I will use with my shiny toys but it made me think to read them.

I'm not totally sold on the standard fireknife-as-the-only-choice that Kirby puts out as his crisis suit discussion but he did make some good points. I think I would trade some multitrackers for Targetting Arrays after our game, but each to their own.

ehemkeh said...

I've read those articles and found them to be pretty good. I would like to see more BatReps on his site though. You can theory hammer all day, but I want to see the lists in action. Personally, I'm still running a Farsight mid-field deathstar as my screening unit and having decent success in my FLGS tournaments. Also, I still like a group of Deathrains with flamers. I have never been let down by the TLMP and the flamers have saved me a couple of times against Nids and Orks.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

As my first post here, I thought to announce myself ~ I am Marshal and Shas'O Wilhelm, depending on me being on the B&C, YTTH or ATT.

OSH, don't tell us you are sipping Kool-aid for Kirby and Stelek! ~ lol
Is that allowed as a high-up from ATT? ~ lol

Anonymous; I think Seeker missiles are a bit blah actually. 4+ then 2+ to hit is actually 3/6 x 5/6 to hit.
15/36 or 41.67%.
Not even 2/3rds of a Marine HK missile. Not great for a one shot weapon with s8 ap3.
How do you kill TEq with that?

As I alluded to on ATT, TA is best for against TEq and perhaps MEq armies, whilst MT works against all armies. But if you are getting fruit from them, use them!

ehemkeh; Kirby thinks on Stelek's wavelength. What one says, is the sentiment carried by the other.
Yes The Truth Hurts has batreps from when Stelek went to Ardboyz and qualified for the finals in Chicago iIrc, but declined the invitation. He did very well with the Tau against diverse foe.


I like you blog, OHS. Even the Teal is soothing to me :D
I will be starting a Tau blog soon *hopefully* and am always encouraged to see sweet blogs.

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Old Shatter Hands said...

@Marshall, the fact of the matter is, in my years as a Tau general, I've tried lots of different army lists tactics, strategies and so far the only one that seems to work consistently is Kirby's. You can adjust it to your preferences as I have done of course, and the good news is that army still has lots of modelling and conversion possibilities in it.

Kirby's blog is great. YTTH is not one I would suggest however. Everytime I visit there, it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

As I get some games in with this list, I hope to post some battle reports and possibly videos about how it is played.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

On a practical note: Batreps with Pictures are always good.
Videos are good - however, not everyone has the capacity to download videos. In Australia, where I'm from, we don't have the infrastructure due to the size versus population problem.

Stelek can play rough, and that hurts his Mission Statement ~ to get people playing wargames at a better level. I have shared that with him a few times. Probably I am already thinking on his wavelength now and so fit in quite well.

With my Templars, I am trying to play all the different styles, eventually, to keep my gaming interest high.

Tau are such a wonderful opposite to the BT that they are always fun to use because of the paradigm shift they need.

Sholto said...

I usually bring Fireknives, but with my 1750 Farsight list I am taking to Counter Attack in August, I have had to have a rethink. At the moment, my Farsight blob has all the plasma in it, and with ML support they are devastating, but all the other suits (all 9 of them) are TL MP and Flamer. I am not convinced by that config, and hope to get a few games in to test.

One of the appeals of Farsight is (the extreme challenge of no Kroot notwithstanding) the abundance of crisis suits, but with the cost of Fireknives, 1750 points is just on the low side.

Old Shatter Hands said...

@Sholto, you might want to field some fire warriors on foot as line defense (i.e. to get charged first and wiped out) or you could consider bubbles of gun drones. They are more mobile, have a decent gun with a chance of pinning and are relatively cheap. If were to include Farsight in my list I would remove the kroot and add drones in their place. The advantage drones have is that they are normally completely ignored by the enemy (if they don't play tau often that is).

Marshal Wilhelm said...

I have never played a Farsight list.

Can you not replicate that list (Suit heavy, I presume) but with the advantage of not having all the restrictions?

Is Farsight and his retinue so powerful that it is worth all those restrictions?

I hope I am getting my point across - lol

So take your Farsight list, trade him for an 'O or 'El and instead of having abundant Fire warriors, you take the much better Kroot and instead of the Sky Ray you take another HH or Piranhas.....?

Anonymous said...

It's a strange thing building a Tau list... in isolation, determing what units should work and what units shouldn't is very easy.

What I found very difficult was establishing a process of classification that identified situations that any army might face and then building the army to be able to deal with those, and adjusting from there.

As a result, my list is somewhat different from what's espoused by 3++/YTTH, but how the army operates is the same, and contains the same basic building blocks.

I agree that offensive skirmishing Piranhas, defensive skirmishing Kroot, and minimal Fire Warriors remain prerequisites in a truly competitive Tau army list, leaving the rest of the points to buy killing power in one form or another.

I also believe that volume of fire is one of Tau's great weaknesses. Therefore, for what it's worth, I very strongly advocate the use of as many target locks as possible in order to effectively increase the quantity of shots, which means bodyguards unfortunately.

Furthermore, Tau can dominate many others in Dawn of War, and for that reason I also advocate as many BSFs as possible, which is another reason I run bodyguards.

Kirby said...

*waves*; thanks for the link backs Shatter. Noticed this blog on my analytics and popped on by! Love the hobby content & understanding of tactical concepts.

In regards to YTTH & 3++, different styles, I'm a lot more laid back and whilst we both Stelek & I may tout a lot of similar tactical styles, we have our disagreements ^^.

I will try and get more bat-reps up as they are the best teachers with concrete examples. Hopefully I can get 5 up from Lords of Terra!

Anyway, keep it up Shatter Hands :).

tau rockstar said...

everyone seems to be using kroot as a defenceive role, i find this impractical because if you get stuck without forests you litterally have no saving throw, they will die defore you get points value back, they are much more effective outflanking and assulting, with your firewarriors in devilfish and anti-infantry battlesuits rushing up for support and fishing off with TL Fusion blaster/Flamer deepstriking over by a Russ vindicator, to disdtract it from you transports and hamerheads

note this is from vs. Gaurd/ dare i say...ork army, probably wouldn't work as well against marines however,