Friday, February 29, 2008

Battle Report: Eldar vs. Tau Cityfight: Meeting Engagement

Scenario: Cityfight: Meeting Engagement
Eldar Forces: Meliadus
Tau Forces: Darkwing
This was our third Cityfight battle, at 1200 points. To keep things simple we stuck to the Meeting Engagement scenario.

Eldar Briefing
Meliadus: I've been meditating over the Eldar for a while now, but this is only the second time I have actually played this army. I went into this fight considering it a learning experience.

I have a fairly small collection of Eldar figures myself, but I wanted to do as little proxying as possible for this fight. So I kept my selection as close as possible to what Darkwing and I actually owned. The only real substitutions of note were a) using a Vibro-Cannon as a D-Cannon, b) using a Vyper-mounted scatter laser as a missile launcher, and c) treating the Warlock and Farseer as having ordinary close combat weapons instead of Witchblades.

I tend to favor Aspect Warriors over Guardians, but in a fight like this I figured numbers would count. So I compromised: I took two full units of Dire Avengers, one maxed-out squad of Guardians (with Destructor-powered Warlock), and one smaller squad of Guardians.

I was expecting lots of close-range shooting and hand-to-hand fighting. I was tempted to use Howling Banshees, but in the end decided to use Striking Scorpions as my elites -- we had more of them between us, and I figured their better armor would make them more survivable. Running two largish squads would also help.

I figured Dark Reapers would be useless, not being able to get the kind of range and LoS they need to be effective, so I didn't take them. I considered taking Swooping Hawks, but was too afraid they would just deep strike right into a massive Tau crossfire and get eliminated quickly.

I also didn't take any vehicles beyond an ML-equipped Vyper. I figured the Vyper would be enough for Crisis Suit hunting and harassment. A Falcon would be too vulnerable -- it would be far too easy for some Suits to jump up on a building and fire down onto its weak top (i.e. rear) armor.

As for the D-Cannon...the model (or at least a good proxy) was available, so why not try it?


My force was split into two teams. The Striking Scorpion squads would cover the smaller Guardian squad, while the Dire Avengers would cover the larger Guardian Squad. The two teams would each move to contest a table quarter.

The D-Cannon stayed back with the Farseer to Guide it as necessary. I figured the Cannon would be make a nice defensive firebase, especially if I could keep it out of the Tau's line of sight.

The Vyper would hang back and snipe at any target of opportunity that appeared.

I suspected that Darkwing would try to hunker down with lots of Fire Warriors in his quarter, letting me come to him so he could hose my troops at close range with his superior firepower. I hoped that in seizing table quarters early, I would force him to come after me with his Crisis Suits and Drones. If I could wear down their mobile elements, I might have a chance of storming the Tau's quarter later in the game.

The Forces
Eldar ForcesPoints


Striking Scorpions with Exarch (7)180

Striking Scorpions with Exarch (10)222

Dire Avengers with Exarch (10)152

Dire Avengers with Exarch (10)152

Guardian Defender Squad with Warlock (21)188

Guardian Defender Squad (12)96

Support Weapon (D-Cannon)50

Vyper Jetbike (1)70

Total Points:1202
Tau ForcesPoints

Commander Shas'el 110

Crisis Battlesuit Team 1 (3)187

Crisis Battlesuit Team 2 (3)175

Stealth Team (5)165

Fire Warriors (8)98

Fire Warriors (8)98

Gun Drones (8)96

Gun Drones (8) 96

Hammerhead Gunship 170

Total Points: 1195
Turn 1
The Tau were spread out into two main positions, with a Fire Warrior Team and Crisis Team on each flank, and two squads of gun drones in the center. The right flank was heavier with a the Commander, a Hammerhead, and the Stealth Team. The Gun Drones and Crisis Team 2 jumped over the building to land on the roof of the next, bringing the Eldar in sight.

Gun Drone Squad 1 fired their pulse carbines on the nearest Dire Avenger Squad, killing one. Fire Warrior Team 1 fired on them as well, killing 1. Then the Hammerhead fired a submunition at them, and despite them being more or less in the open, only hit and killed single one.

The rest of the Tau fire was concentrated on the Striking Scorpions in the Eldar center.

Crisis Team 1 fired down the street on them, killing a pair with their missile pods. Fire Warrior Team 2 killed another pair, while the Commander killed 2 more with his Plasma Rifle. The Stealth Team, despite unloading many burst cannon shots, failed to kill any.

The Eldar center, anchored by the Striking Scorpions, and the Guardian Defender Squad on the left flank advanced, while the remainder of the Eldar Force maneuvered into the buildings on its right flank. The Farseer stayed behind with the D-cannon, which remained in the church.

The Striking Scorpion Exarch fired his Shuriken Catapult at the Crisis Suit Team 2, wounding one of them. The other squad of Striking Scorpions fired on the Stealth Team, but failed to kill any of then.

The Vyper moved out from behind the church, and took a long range shot with its Missile Launcher on the Hammerhead at the far end of the street. The missile was on target, but failed to penetrate the Tau vehicle’s armor.
Turn 2
Crisis Team 1 boosted up to the roof of the nearby building, and saw a whole lot of Eldar piling into the ruins across the street. However, the Vyper Jetbike a ways off looked a lot more tempting for their missile pods. Firing away, the Vyper’s engines were damaged, sending it crashing to the ground, a flaming wreck.
The Crisis Team spies the Striking Scorpions below
Crisis Team 2 boosted off a roof and onto the street, opposite the Striking Scorpion Squad moving through the park. They unloaded their flamers and missile pods at the Aspect Warriors, whose armor proved invaluable, resulting in only two casualties. The rest of the Tau firepower made them pay, as the Stealth Team killed one, Fire Warrior Team 2 killed two more, the Commander killed three, and the Hammerhead finished off the last two survivors. The Gun Drone Squads opened fire on the nearest squads to them, but failed to kill anyone.

The Eldar center had been ripped apart, but they still had a very strong right flank, and a Guardian squad on the left that would be hard to get out of the buildings. Dire Avengers poured into the building, charging up the stairwell and closing on the Crisis Suits on the roof.

The Guardian Defender Squad on the right flank opened fire on the Gun Drones with a hail of fire from their shuriken catapults, destroying five of them. The remaining three zipped away to fight another day, leaving the battlefield. The Dire Avengers then opened fire on Fire Warrior Team 1, killing three of them. Apparently that was enough for the remaining five, who turned tail and fled the battlefield. Suddenly the Tau left flank was falling apart.

In the Eldar center, a lone Striking Scorpion Exarch was all that remained in the battle of his Aspect, and he refused to die. He ran forward and assaulted Fire Warrior Team 2, killing two Fire Warriors, while the Fire Warriors retaliatory strikes merely bounced off his Aspect Armor. The Fire Warriors fled, outran the Exarch and escaped the battle. The Exarch then consolidated into the Stealth Team nearby.

Turn 3

The Hammerhead moved to the right, and aimed a submunition at the Guardian Squad in the buildings. Again, the submunition hit and killed a single guardian.

Crisis Team 2 leapt down from the buildings and unloaded their flamers on the nearest Dire Avenger squad, delivering 16 hits and wiping the squad out. The last Gun Drone squad fired their pulse carbines at the large squad of Guardians in the ruins, managed to kill a pair, and succeeded in pinning the unit.
The Tau take up their positions
Crisis Team 1 detected the Dire Avengers coming up the stairs, like fish in a barrel. The three suits unleashed hell down the stairwell with their missile pods and burst cannon at point blank range, literally blowing half the building away with the power and might of Tau firepower. When the smoke cleared, the Crisis Suit pilots stared in disbelief, as not a single Dire Avenger had been killed by the deluge. The Dire Avengers promptly ran up the ruins of the stairwell and opened fire with their shuriken catapults, killing one member of the Crisis Team. Faced with the apparent invulnerability of the Dire Avengers, the other two Crisis Suit pilots panicked and fled off the battlefield. The Tau left flank, which had been showing signs of falling apart, was now nearly wiped out.

The Striking Scorpion had plowed into the Stealth Suits, and it was far from clear that the Stealth Team, outnumbering him five to one, would survive the attack. The Tau Commander was determined to put an end to this annoying Exarch, and assaulted the Striking Scorpion himself. The Exarch’s mandiblaster missed, but the Commander did not, and he killed the Exarch handily.

The Guardians on the left flank continued to advance through the cover of the building, which thus far had done very well in protecting them from Tau fire. Finding the Stealth Team in range, they opened fire and killed a pair of them.

Turn 4

The Hammerhead Commander, disappointed at the poor results of his firing with submunitions, was determined to score a telling hit this time around. Aiming the Hammerhead’s turret directly at the skulking Guardians hiding in the building, he targeted their position and pulled the trigger. And missed. The Smart Missile System did better, killing a single Guardian. The Stealth Suits advanced on the Guardians, killing one more. These Guardians were showing that they were definitely Ranger material, based on their skilled use of cover. The Commander also fired at them, and promptly missed.

In the center, the Gun Drones on the roof fired on the Dire Avengers on the roof opposite, and cover proved no protection, as no less than five Dire Avengers fell underneath their fire. Crisis Team 2 moved forward and unloaded their flamers on the Guardian Squad, killing five of them.
The Tau Commander takes on the Striking Scorpion Exarch
The Stealth Suits assaulted the Guardians to stop them firing again. The Commander was to assist, but he could not negotiate the rubbled terrain in his bulky suit, so the Stealth Suits had to go it alone. The Guardians did well for themselves, killing one of the Stealth Suits while losing one of their own number, and the fight continued.

The remaining Dire Avengers fired on the Gun Drones, but failed to destroy any of them. The Guardians opened fire on Crisis Team 2, and the overwhelming firepower was too much for the suits, destroying two of them, and sending the sole survivor fleeing.

In the assault, the Guardians killed another one of the Stealth Suits, while the last Stealth Suit did nothing in return. As he turned to run, the Guardians chased him down and killed him.

Turn 5
The last member of Crisis Team 2 rallied and rejoined the fight, moving towards the large Guardian squad. The Crisis Suit killed two Dire Avengers, While everything else that could fire did so against the large Guardian Squad. The Gun Drones killed three, the Commander killed two, and the Hammerhead killed four. That was too much for the squad, which began to fall back.

The Dire Avengers fired on the Crisis Suit from Team 2, wounding him once. The Guardians on the left flank fired past the Hammerhead at the Commander, wounding him twice but failing to kill him.

Turn 6
It was down to the last turn. The Gun Drones advanced to claim one building and contest another. A short while ago the battle had appeared lost to the Tau, and now they made their move. The Crisis Suit leapt to the top of the building, landing in front of the Dire Avengers. Those Gun Drones in range and line of sight of the Dire Avengers fired, killing one, while the Crisis Suit killed the other two with his flamer. That clinched two of the buildings for the Tau, and now the battle was even, with one half of the battlefield in the hands of the Tau, and one half in the hands of the Eldar.

On the Tau right flank, the Tau Commander killed three of the Guardians, while the Hammerhead promptly missed again with its submunition. However, the Smart Missile System once again proved its worth and killed two of the Guardians, leaving three left, who staunchly refused to run.

The Warlock and his Guardians continued to fall back, essentially leaving the three Guardians hiding in the building as the last fighting force in range of the enemy. Ahead of them, the Tau Commander had jumped to the roof of one building, and they saw their opening as the other was unguarded. Breaking cover, they clambered out of the building and into the street. Using their Fleet of Foot, they would need a 6 in order to reach the building across the street and thereby win the game, otherwise it would be a draw. The die was cast…and it came up a six. The last Guardian dove headfirst through the plate glass window with a last desperate leap, getting inside the building and winning the battle for the Eldar.
The Guardians sprint to claim the building and the game

Eldar Debriefing

Meliadus: I was a little taken aback by how few Fire Warriors Darkwing actually took; I should have anticipated that he would take as many Drones as he did (they and Suits both are perfect for cityfighting).

I was also surprised that he had taken a tank. Then again, I didn't have much that could get elevation on it, so it was actually a safe bet. The Vyper might have been able to hurt it, but I was too aggressive with it, and lost it to Crisis Suit fire in the second turn.

I was also far too aggressive with my Striking Scorpions. If I had been playing Space Marines, I never would have sent a tac squad running straight at the enemy guns the way I did -- but I did it with these guys. I chalk it up to lack of experience fighting with Eldar. If I'd been a little more circumspect, more Scorpions might have survived longer. (Sure, that last Striking Scorpion Exarch did some damage, but if he had had two or three running buddies with him....)

Speaking of learning experiences, I learned that 4+ saves, be they armor or cover, are nothing to sneeze at. It's no accident that I lost my big Guardian squad after it charged out into the open street. That the Eldar won by the skin of their teeth is a testament to the potential of the 4+ cover save.

Along the way, I forgot that Dire Avenger Exarchs have a 3+ armor save. Given the number of armor saves my Dire Avengers were failing in the end, I don't think this omission made any material difference. Something to remember for the future, though.

In retrospect, the Warlock's Destructor power wasn't terribly helpful; Conceal would have served better, along with a Farseer to grant cover save rerolls. A Fortune/Conceal combo would have been a big help for the Guardians in the streets, and Fortune alone would have made them extremely hard to kill in ordinary cover.

The D-Cannon didn't fire single shot. In retrospect, the Farseer would have been better off supporting the big Guardian squad, and the Cannon's points would have been better spent on a second Vyper.

Hm, if I had gone with Howling Banshees instead of Striking Scorpions, and juggled points around to take three Star Cannon-equipped Vypers...well, this kind of list would have required massive proxying, but it would have been a very different fight. I'll have to remember that army list....

Tau Debriefing
Darkwing: That was one of the most exciting games I’ve played in a long time. After all the twists and turns, it all came down to one roll of the dice. Of course, if I had remembered at the time, I could have prevented it by any number of means, such as moving the Hammerhead at the last turn to block the Guardians’ path, moving my Commander to assault the Guardians, or at the very least attempt to block them. If I had remembered. But I saw the opening that I had left at the last second, probably right when Meliadus had seen it as well, and then it was up to the dice. He needed a six, and the dice came up big for him right when it was most needed.

Early on, I thought I was taking a risk by giving the flamers to Crisis Team 2, but it turned out to be one of my better decisions. The Crisis Team did very well, annihilating one squad of Dire Avengers, damaging the other, and killing a lot of Guardians. That Crisis Team loadout will definitely make a return appearance the next time I play Tau in Cityfight.

I was disappointed in the morale of my troops—as I recall I failed five out of six morale checks, and every time except one, the units fell back off the battlefield with their first fall back move. In the end, my army actually suffered few casualties—most of them simply ran away. It wasn’t that I was being cowardly—I had moved them forward to face the enemy, but even so, those table edges were too close. Part of that was my own fault as Meliadus wisely placed his Striking Scorpions in the extreme forward edge of the board, thereby forcing my entire army to deploy dangerously close to my own table edge.

I was also very disappointed with the performance of my Hammerhead—in the end I think it killed about five enemy troops, and most of those came from the Smart Missile System. Out of the six times I fired my submunition, I missed completely twice, and for those that I hit with, my dice rolls for the number of hits came up as 1, 1, 1, and 3. I’m going to have the Earth Caste check out that gunship to see if it was supplied with faulty ammunition.

By the end of Turn 3 I thought I had had it, as my entire left flank had fallen. Nothing seemed to be going right. Crisis Team 1 couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn and got their butts kicked because of it. My Hammerhead was failing miserably, the last surviving Striking Scorpion Exarch had caused far more trouble than he was worth, and the Eldar were swarming over the buildings with impunity.

With Turn 4 and Turn 5, things started looking up again, and the Eldar attack began to peter out. It was no thanks to the Hammerhead, but rather my flamer armed Crisis Suit Team again, and those doughty little microchips, the Gun Drones. However, despite the damage I did to Meliadus’ huge right flank, I couldn’t get rid of his pesky, much weaker left flank, and in the end, it was them that allowed him to win the game. With all the one’s I was rolling, I suppose that when it came down to a single dice roll, it just made sense that he would roll a 6 when he needed it.

Despite my loss, it was one of the best games I’ve been in—both sides suffered horrendous casualties, and it came down to the wire—which always makes for a good game. I’ve learned some valuable lessons from the game, so the next time I play Cityfight, I hope to do better.

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