James (aka Threepwood) sought me out for revenge after I beat him back in January in a 1000 pts game and last night we squared off in a 1700 pt Secure & Control mission, Alpha Level.
10 Scorpions in Wave Serpent
10 Guardians, Warlock in Wave Serpent
5 Warp Spiders
5 Dark Reapers
2 Shadow Weavers
Tau (from memory):
Ethereal with Honour Guard
Commander with two drones and crisis suit bodyguard
6 Steal Suits
8 Pathfinders and Devilfish
3 Sniper Drones and Controller
2 x 10 Fire Warriors
Big-assed mass of Kroot
We deployed in an interesting fashion, both of us refusing a flank. My advancing red wave (jetbikes, scoprions, vypers, fire prism) faced off with delaying forces of empty Devilfish, piranha, and kroot in the middle occupying a large forest, while his main shooting base occupied the other corner facing off against my Farseer, Reapers, Pathfinders, Shadow weavers, and Guardians.
It was a good tactic and held lots of promise for success except for one little detail: those Dark Reapers refused to be moved without the use of a tactical nuclear weapon.
The game started badly for me. James got first turn and proceeded to blow up a vyper, jetbike, and the wave serpent with guardians in it, losing two guardians in the process. I returned with destroying the piranha and blowing away all of the Tau commanders shield drones and bodyguard.
The Tau commander was not to be dissuaded though and continued his advance through a hail of Reaper, Pathfinder, and guardian shooting with one wound left the next turn allowing him to charge the guardians and dispatch them in short order, then consolidating into the Reapers and Pathfinders. The Farseer charged in but whiffed on his attacks and the Tau Commander killed two pathfinders winning combat. The Farseer's nerve broke and he ran, and the Pathfinders decided to find a better shooting position and they ran, but the four Dark Reapers remaining (one died to shooting last turn) stood firm. And then the most inspiring moment in the game happened.
The next assault phase the Dark Reapers took their weapons and used them as clubs to beat the Tau commander to death. Then they repositioned, and I picture one of them standing on the broken corpse while doing this, and opened fire on a Fire Warrior squad totally annihilating five of them and breaking the squad. Just awesome.
On the other flank the red wave rolled on. The kroot were assaulted by the large scorpion squad and discovered the pain that is mandiblasters combined with Stalker (aka Move thru Cover) combined with Plasma Grenades. I'll give you a hint, it equals kroot kebabs. With the kroot removed as an obstacle the large scorpions came out of the woods to discover the pathfinders, sniper drones, and a squad of fire warriors right there. They charged and eviscerated the pathfinders, but rolled a 2 when they needed a 3 for consolidating into the other two squads. Left out in the open James made them pay and wiped them out, but the jetbikes came roaring around the forest and the small scorpion squad snuck out and together killed the sniper drones and fire warriors while the Dark Reapers were doing a number on the further away fire warrior squad and the Fire Prism jumped out for a side armour shot on the Hammerhead that found a weak spot and blew the top off.
With that the Tau were in full retreat. James attempted to go for the tie vai objectives (Alpha means controlling the four loot counters is the path to victory) but the advancing Eldar firepower was overwhelming and when the Fire Prism hit and destroyed four Steal Suits in a forest near an objective late in the game, James accepted the defeat.
Unit of the Game: Dark Reapers took massive amounts of fire warrior, Hammerhead, sniper drone firepower over several turns and lost only one model. And then beat off the Tau Commander in close combat before lending their firepower to help break the Tau resistance. Let's here it for 3+ armour (4+ cover) saves combined with Fortune from the Farseer.
Runner up: Tau Commander broke the Guardians, Pathfinders, and Farseer in close combat, singlehandedly. This was after crossing the table through two turns of shooting from Dark Reapers and Pathfinders.
Second Runner up: Fire Prism nuked the Piranha, Hammerhead, and most of the Steal Suits to seal the deal.
Third Runner up: Both scorpion squads combined killed the kroot, pathfinders, and one fire warrior squad before ending the game holding an objective.
I think James had a decent plan in playing the opposite refused flank strategy. It reduced the effectiveness of my flanking force for the first couple of turns giving them very little to engage. But he made the mistake of thinking he could removed the Pathfinders (3+ cover save) and Dark Reapers (3+ armour, 4+ cover both rerolled) with shooting alone. Sure I was moderately lucky with the rolls and a bad roll or two could have caused trouble, but its worth noting that one gimped Tau Commander was able to removed two of three squads from my fire base in close combat. Lesson learned: one unit of Fire Warriors in a devilfish could have helped overrun that position and turned the game into much different situation.
In the end, I think that was the difference: my flanking force was fast and hit hard against the units arrayed to slow it down and then chewed into his flank in the later turns. His flanking force was mostly static and when faced units that refused to be moved by shooting, his only option was more shooting.
All that being said, a couple of lucky rolls going the other way could have made this a much closer battle. But you know what they say: you gotta be good to be lucky. ;)
Shot of the game: almost forgot about this. The Shadow Weavers were coming under fire from the Smart Missiles of the Hammerhead or Skyray, but the shots were mostly hitting and failing to penetrate the artillery pieces instead of the crew. Getting worried about the advancing Tau, they fired off a salvo at the grouped Fire Warriors, Sniper Drones, and Pathfinders. It landed perfectly hitting all three units and killing at least one model from each. Pinning Checks! The Fire Warriors and Sniper Drones both proceeded to fail their tests giving me a break from their firepower for a turn. I don't think it was game-turning, but it was inspiring and helped to build my momentum.