Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Battle Report: Imperial Guard vs. Tau Cleanse

Scenario: Cleanse
Imperial Guard Forces: Darkwing
Tau Forces: Badelaire

The Scenario
In this mission, the scenario was determined randomly at the time of the battle, and after both players had made their army lists. The random scenario was determined to be Cleanse.

Imperial Guard Briefing
Darkwing: For the first time I would playing against my own Tau Army. Now I would get the opportunity to be on the receiving end of the Tau’s legendary firepower. But in this battle I would be fielding an army that is also renowned for its firepower, the Imperial Guard.

When I first started drawing up an army list, I immediately started thinking of my usual “standard” force, being a full infantry company of three platoons of three squads each, with some heavy weapons squads and a Leman Russ in support.

Then I got to thinking about all those pulse rifles and burst cannons in the Tau arsenal, and watching my men get annihilated by all that AP5 weaponry against which they have no defense. This made me rethink my army, and rather than a large, unwieldy force, I decided to go for a much smaller, more elite force. I would give all my infantry carapace armor, giving them a save against the primary Tau anti-infantry weapons, and I also gave them the Sharpshooters doctrine, hoping to compensate somewhat for the low strength of the lasguns with more hits. Unfortunately, this became very expensive very quickly, and I found myself able to get only four heavy weapons squads, two being missile launchers, one squad of heavy bolters, and one squad of mortars. To top it off, I had no points left over for tanks. The elite infantry would be on their own for this assault.

With six missile launchers, I was confident that I’d get a decent shot at taking down the Hammerhead that Badelaire was likely to get, and their AP of 3 would help me take down Crisis Suits. The Heavy Bolters and every squad having grenade launchers (the command sections having three each), I figured I could exact a heavy toll of Fire Warriors from him. Still, my main concern was how small my army was for Imperial Guard, only two platoons of two squads each, with four heavy weapons squads. Soon I would see how they would fare against the Tau’s firepower.

Tau Briefing
Badelaire: Knowing I was fighting the IG, I knew I would be facing tons of 5+ armor saves and several tanks - at least one Leman Russ and probably a couple of Hellhounds (with all my 4+ armor saves, that Inferno Cannon would be priceless). I knew that while my weapons were all very effective against the IG, Darkwing's heavy weapons would be equally effective against me. So, it would become a matter of who could kill whose heavies before losing all of their own.

I decided to use a list quite a bit different from those that Darkwing usually fields when he plays Tau. First, I took no Stealth Suits, and no Pathfinders. The Stealths tend to get in too close, and either shot up or assaulted. Their margin of distance is so slim between ineffective and too close, that I didn't want to risk it. As for the Pathfinders, I felt that they just wouldn't kill enough fast enough before being all gunned down by the IG firepower. Instead, I used the Devilfish to transport a full squad of Fire Warriors, using a technique I've seen referred to online as the "Fish O' Fury" - a Devilfish landing, shielding its cargo of 12 FWs as they all disembark and rapid fire into an enemy as the D-Fish uses its burst cannon and drones as well. That's a lot of shots, and will wipe out an IG squad almost guaranteed.

In addition to the Fish O' Fury, I'd be taking two separate Broadsides and a Hammerhead with burst cannons and Railgun. The broadsides could occupy the flanks and give me flank shots on any tanks that came up the middle, and the smart missile systems would mean that I could even park them behind some trees and have a nice two-foot killzone around them. The Hammerhead's job would be to first kill the Leman Russ, then drop ordnance templates on all the heavy weapons squads. It would probably die if I got too cocky, but its offensive firepower is just too good to pass up.

Beyond that, I would be taking three extra squads of Fire Warriors, two of them full and bonded, one missing a single man, which would be the guard squad for the Ethereal, who would make that unit Fearless. Until the enemy tanks are dead, these guys are probably just going to hide - they won't be my real killers anyhow - I'm saving that for my Crisis Suits. I'll be running four suits, two solos and a team of two, to prevent multiple heavy weapons hits from killing more than one model, and forcing Darkwing to split his fire (the same reason the Broadsides are split up, too). The suits would use their TL missile pods to dance back and forth from behind cover, raining down missiles or burst cannon fire on infantry and against the flank armor of the tanks. It doesn't sound like a lot, but four suits firing two shots apiece, twinlinked, means I'd probably be killing 5 IG a turn, with a very good chance of not suffering any casualties to the suits in turn if they're lucky. I was taking no Crisis Suit commander, as he'd be almost twice the cost of the Ethereal, and for the most part, his job would be fulfilled by the other Crisis suits. In the end, the Morale advantages of an Ethereal outweighed the killing power of an HQ Crisis Suit.

So to sum it up, my first priority would be killing Darkwing's armor, using the Broadsides, Hammerhead, and pop-out attacks against flank armor with my Crisis Suits. Once they were gone, I'd focus on the heavy weapons teams, then start mopping up the infantry squads. My Fire Warriors would be there to take objectives and mop up . my Hammerhead, Fish O' Fury, and Crisis Suits would do the bulk of the killing for me.
The Forces
Imperial Guard Forces (1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Rgt) Points
Command Platoon: Command Squad (5)566
Command Platoon: Anti-Tank Squad (Missile Launchers) (6)
Command Platoon: Anti-Tank Squad (Missile Launchers) (6)
Command Platoon: Fire Support Squad (Heavy Bolters) (6)
Command Platoon: Mortar Squad (6)
1st Infantry Platoon: Command Squad (5) 325
1st Infantry Platoon: Infantry Squad (10)
1st Infantry Platoon: Infantry Squad (10)
2nd Infantry Platoon: Command Squad (5) 311
2nd Infantry Platoon: Infantry Squad (10)
2nd Infantry Platoon: Infantry Squad (10)
Total Points:1202
Tau ForcesPoints
Ethereal (1) 50
Crisis Battlesuit (1) 61
Crisis Battlesuit (1) 61
Crisis Battlesuit Team (2)122
Fire Warriors with Devilfish (12) 220
Fire Warriors (12) 130
Fire Warriors (12) 130
Fire Warriors (11) 110
Broadside Battlesuit (1) 75
Broadside Battlesuit (1) 75
Hammerhead Gunship 165
Total Points:1199
Turn 1

The Imperial Guard Army advanced, attempting to make use of all available cover. Heavy Weapons Teams moved into the trees, as did the Command HQ squad, while others sprinted behind other clusters of trees, hoping to get into good firing positions. The mortar squad, already in position behind some rocks, fired at the Crisis Suit Team, which was in position behind another set of rocks, but the shells landed far from their targets. Two of the Grenade Launchers in the Command Section of the First Platoon (C/1) fired on the Crisis Team, and while two grenades hit, the Suits' armor protected them from destruction.

The Imperial Guard battle line
The Crisis Team leapt out from behind the cover of the rocks and opened fire with their burst cannon, killing one member of Missile Launcher Squad 2. The two Broadsides held their ground and fired their Smart Missile Systems from behind cover, and killed three more from the same squad.

The Hammerhead moved into the open and fired a submunition at Missile Launcher Squad 1 and the Command HQ Section (C/HQ), killing three from the Missile Launcher Squad, and one from C/HQ. The other Crisis Suits fired their missile pods at Missile Launcher Squad 1, killing two of them.

The guardsmen were still moving into position, and they had already lost most of their anti-tank weaponry without it firing a shot.

Turn 2
The guardsmen continued to charge forward to claim good firing positions. Both surviving Missile Launcher crewmembers elected to stay and attempt to avenge their comrades. The both fired their missiles at the Hammerhead, and both hit, but failed to penetrate the gunship’s armor. Again the mortars fired at the Crisis Team, but were narrowly off-target, ineffectively hitting a nearby Broadside. The Grenade Launchers in C/1 fired on the Devilfish, but both missed.
 Tau Fire Warriors take cover in the trees
The Hammerhead skimmed forward atop the central hill, taking a commanding position. The two Broadsides set off their Smart Missile Systems again, aiming to take out the last two Missile Launchers. One of the guardsmen survived the missile onslaught, while the other was killed three times over by the barrage. The Devilfish fired its carbines and burst cannon on C/1, killing two of them, while the Crisis Team fired on them with their Missile Pods, killing two more and leaving only the officer alive. Angered beyond rationality, he continued on with the fight.

The Hammerhead fired its two burst cannon on the last Missile Launcher, and between the two of them, managed to kill him. It then fired its submunition at the Heavy Bolters, who were still scrambling ahead to get into a good firing position, but it failed to hit its target.

The two remaining Crisis Suits both aimed their twin-linked Missile Pods at the Heavy Bolter Squad, and killed one of the crewmen.

Turn 3
The guardsmen continued to advance under the very dubious woodland cover. The Mortars fired at the Crisis Team behind the rocks, and as usual hit nothing. The Grenade launchers in the 1st and 2nd Squads of 1st Platoon (1/1 and 2/1) fired on the Devilfish, and both missed, apparently forgetting their sharpshooter training. The Grenade Launcher in 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon (2/2) managed to hit one of the broadsides, and even better, managed to wound it.

The Tau, recognizing that they had gained the advantage, began to advance. The Devilfish drove forward and disembarked its unit of Fire Warriors, well within close range of 1/1. The Devilfish aimed its weapons at 2/1, which was moving up to support 1/1. The Burst Cannon killed one of them, and the Pulse Carbines killed another, and pinned the unit. Now 1/1 was in the open, in close range of the disembarked Fire Warriors, and looking very vulnerable. The Fire Warriors opened fire, killing five of them, but the unit weathered the fire and did not break. The two Crisis Suits fired their Twin-linked Missile Pods on 1st Platoon’s officer, who was running alone in the open, and despite being hit by the missiles, they both failed to wound. Dusting himself off, the officer let out a few oaths at the Crisis suits as he ran forward with his power sword and plasma pistol.

The Command HQ unit, with its two plasma guns, were exposed as they tried to get in range of the Hammerhead. A team of Fire Warriors had advanced to the crest of the hill and fired on them, killing three and leaving a single guardsman with a plasma gun as the sole survivor.

The Hammerhead unleashed a submunition on top of the Heavy Bolters, who were just setting up their firing position. The submunition killed four of them, and the Hammerhead’s burst cannon picked off the last survivor.

The last two Crisis Teams fired on 1/2 and C/2 with their Twin-linked Missile Pods, killed one and two respectively.

Turn 4
The Officer of C/1, after barely surviving the onslaught of the two Crisis Suits, fell back, firing his Plasma Pistol at the Devilfish to no effect. 1/2 fired at the Hammerhead, but missed with its Grenade Launcher. C/2 fired on the Fire Warriors on the hill, but failed to wound anyone. The Mortars opened fire on the Fire Warriors on the hill, and for once they hit their targets, killing two of them.

1/1 charged the Fire Warriors from the Devilfish, killing three of them. The Fire Warriors voluntarily chose to fall back, preparing to finish off the guardsmen with yet another close range pulse rifle barrage. Once consolidated, they opened fire, killing three of the guardsmen. One of the Broadsides, which had stepped out from behind the hill the previous turn, killed one more with its Smart Missile system, and with classic overkill, finished off the last survivor with its Railgun.

The Devilfish skimmed forward, tank shocking 2/1, who easily moved out of the way, but then fired its burst cannon and carbines, killing two of them and pinning them again.

The Crisis Suit Team fired the officer of C/1, who was falling back, this time pounding him with point blank range with their Missile Pods, killing him four times over.

The Imperial Guard survivors flee for their lives
The other Broadside killed three guardsmen from 1/2 with its Smart Missile System. The Fire Warriors on the hill aimed at the same unit, and with a barrage of pulse rifle fire killed five, leaving just the Sergeant left. His reprieve didn’t last long as the nearest Crisis Suit killed him with a Twin-Linked Missile Pod shot.

The Hammerhead then unleashed another submunition shot, killing two from C/2 and three from 2/2. Its burst cannons finished the last member of C/2.

At this point, there was hardly anything left that the guardsmen had to fight with—they had been completely slaughtered without even firing a single lasgun shot. The remaining guardsmen turned tail and ran for their lives, leaving the Tau in command of the field.

Imperial Guard Debriefing
Darkwing: Ouch. This battle was one of my worst ever. My usual dice rolling just compounded the horror I put my guardsmen through—even if I rolled better it just would have prolonged their suffering.

My initial thought upon deploying my troops was that the fight was doable. I would move my troops into the cover of the trees in the two adjacent table quarters, take up powerful firing positions, then hunker down, and dare Badelaire to approach within range, as he would have to in order to claim table quarters. This plan had several flaws to it. First, and critically, the cover afforded by the trees, a mere 5+ save, just really isn’t all that good against massed firepower. Second, Badelaire’s Tau—mainly his Crisis Suits, were able to hop out from behind LOS blocking terrain, fire their weapons, then hop back out of sight, making them essentially invulnerable. His Broadsides were essentially able to just sit back behind cover and unload their Smart Missile Systems in range of my troops without me being able to respond. Third, by the time half my troops made it to the cover, they were already getting destroyed. There were several times when I moved into position, only to lose the entire unit before they got a chance to fire. I also placed my mortars way too far back, so that for most of the battle they could only shoot at the Crisis Suits, and were thus ineffective. In the beginning I was faced with the usual heavy weapon dilemma—move them into a firing position where they’ll actually be able to shoot in a following turn, yet risk losing them, or don’t move them and never have a chance to fire them at all. As it happened, I moved them into the cover of the trees, for all the good it did them, as they were blown away in short order, leaving me with practically nothing capable to damaging Badelaire’s Hammerhead. As it was, it was clear that if Badelaire was a little more cautious with his Fire Warriors, it was entirely possible that he would have won the battle without suffering a single casualty. In the end, it turns out that I didn’t fire a single lasgun the entire battle! My men, running for their lives the entire battle, never had the opportunity.

Tau Debriefing

Badelaire: Well, I guess it worked out! In total, I suffered six wounds while killing sixty of Darkwing's models - a ten to one kill ratio. I faced an army completely different to what I expected Darkwing to take, but between the Hammerhead's submunition and my four TL missile pods, I had enough AP 4 shots to help offset the carapace armor, and beyond that, once I had few worries about taking massive casualties on my own, I was willing to move my own Fire Warriors out into exposed positions to dump their own volleys in. If I had played a little less aggressively at the end, I think it's not beyond reason to believe that I could have played that entire game without losing a single model, as the only time I suffered casualties was when I moved my Fire Warriors out into more exposed positions. If I had kept them back and instead caused my casualties over all six turns, I might have managed a bloodless victory. I was a little worried at the beginning that Darkwing would blow away any unit I stuck out in front of him, but the Broadside's Smart Missile System, along with the Crisis Team doing its Move-Shoot-Move with its TL Missile Pods, ensured that when the Hammerhead did move out to open fire, it wouldn't be facing the full impact of Darkwing's anti-tank squads. In the end, I was lucky enough to wipe out the 20% or so of Darkwing's army that was the most dangerous, and the rest was just cleanup.

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