Monday, April 13, 2009

TAU versus Dark Eldar

Game: Warhammer 40,000 4th edition
Opponent: Gary
Mission: Secure and control
Level: Omega
1st turn: Dark Eldar
Points: 1500
Location: Nomolos, Sub Sector 6, Skolarii sector
Background: The following is an anecdotal account of an engagement between those Xenos aliens Tau and Dark Eldar. It was reported to rogue trader Cortez during his lengthy negotiations with a Tau member of the water caste, upon the hell-hole that is Mangalore. If this story is true then Tau have indeed infiltrated into the Skolarii sector and the Inquisition must be contacted at once. What is certain is that Imperial shipping has been disrupted in sub sector six and a number of ships have gone missing in recent months. Perhaps these Dark Eldar are involved. Navy commanders must be alerted.

The Tau mining world of Nomolos, in sub sector 6 of the Skolarii sector, has been subject to piratical attacks from Dark Eldar raiders. Supply convoys have been harassed to such an extent that less than 25% of all ships sent get through to Nomolos. Although regular sorties were made the Eldar specialised in hit and run tactics and were never caught in action. The Tau needed to stop the Dark Eldar at source and find their hidden base.

In despair, and to protect the lives of his starving workers, Colony Commander Varn'ko lured the Dark Eldar fleet into a trap. The Dark Eldar bit and attacked the lone ship, quickly overcoming its drone crew and fleeing back to their hidden base with their booty. Tracking devices had been secreted within the ship however, and a messenger drone escaped from the Dark Eldar base carrying vital co-ordinates. Eventually the drone made planetfall on Nomolos and Varn'ko led his cadre to recover it. But as they arrived the Dark Eldar suddenly appeared.

The hunter had become the hunted.

  • Shas’O’Tau’Ko’Vash’Varn'ko
  • Shas’O with plasma rifle, fusion blaster, shield generator, hard-wired multi tracker, Shas’Vre with plasma rifle, missile pod, multitracker, bonded
  • Aun’El’Tau’M’yen - Ethereal
  • Shas’Ui’Tau’Ho’Lu’Demlock - 2 Crisis battlesuits, bonded, Shas’ui with plasma rifle, missile pod and multitracker, Shas’ui with flamer, missile pod, target lock
  • Shas’Ui’Tau’Ho’Lu’Vemlock - Shas’ui with twin-linked plasma rifle, missile pod
  • Shas’Ui’Tau’Kais’Mal’Coar - 5 stealthsuits, bonded
  • Shas’La’Tau’Han’Dan - 10 Fire warriors, all with pulse rifles, bonded, Shas’ui with markerlight and hard-wired blacksun filter
  • Shas’La’Tau’Mont’Yr - 12 Fire warriors, all with pulse rifles,bonded, Shas'ui with markerlight
  • Murabla - 16 Kroot, Shaper
  • Shas’La’Tau’Tam’La’Mo’Town - 6 Pathfinders, photon grenades, bonded, Devilfish with decoy launchers and two seeker missiles
  • Shas’Ui’Tau’Yu’Rang - 2 Broadside battlesuits, bonded, Shas’Ui with twin linked railguns, smart missile system and shield generator, Shas’Ui with twin linked railguns, smart missile system and target lock
  • Kaikown - Krootox
  • Shas’La’Tau’Or’Es’Mont’Ka - Railgun, smart missile system, multitracker, blacksun filter, decoy launchers, seeker missile

Dark Eldar
  • Archon with shadow field, agoniser, splinter pistol, hell mask, combat drugs, 6 incubi, master, raider
  • 14 wyches, 2 shredders, wych weapons, succubus with agoniser
  • 9 wyches, 2 blasters, wych weapons, succubus with agoniser
  • 5 mandrakes
  • 10 warriors, 2 dark lances
  • 10 warriors, 2 dark lances
  • 10 warriors, 2 splinter cannons
  • 5 reaver jetbikes, succubus with poisoned blades
  • 1 ravager with 1 dark lance, 2 disintegrators, night shield
  • Talos

Deployment and terrain

Six possible locations had been designated for the messenger drone, spread across the entire battlefield

The Dark Eldar warriors spring the trap. The two units with dark lances set up in each corner to create a deadly crossfire in the centre of the battlefield, while the squad with splinter cannons are ready to dash for the marker on the hill

The view from the other flank. Note the single purple figures. These are the enigmatic mandrakes, sneaking toward the Tau lines.

Meanwhile the Tau deploy in force in the centre with two squads of Fire Warriors on foot and a large unit of Kroot. In the foreground is the Devilfish containing a small Pathfinder squad.

The Pathfinders skim forward, before the game proper, toward a possible drone crash site.

Turn 1

Dark lances train on the Pathfinders Devilfish but they cannot shoot it from the sky

The Devilfish emerges unscathed from the Warrior firing

Turn 2

The first reserves arrive for the Dark Eldar in the shape of Reaver jetbikes. They use the cover of the rock formations well to avoid Tau shooting. In the centre the Warrior squad has uncovered one possible crash site and finding nothing they push forward into weapon range.

On the other flank a Warrior squad looks on as the Archon, and Incubi swoop in on their Raider. They find the drone immediately. Game on! The Talos has also arrived and drifts up behind the Warrior squad to the top right.

The view from the Dark Eldar lines. The mandrake continues its stealthy advance forward.

The Pathfinders have bailed out of their Devilfish after it was smashed out of the sky by dark lances. They race for the cover of the stream.

In the centre the Kroot enter the clinger vines, wary of the Warrior squad ahead. Shaper Murabla has encountered splinter cannons before and knows to give them proper respect. The nose of the lead reaver jetbike is visible, poking out from the rock on the left.

Turn 3

The Archon and retinue have had their Raider destroyed but retain control of the objective. The Archon lost her shadow field as she leapt clear of the wreckage. The Talos continues its advance alongside the warp beast pack which have just raced onto the battlefield. Wyches are just visible beyond them (top left).

The jetbikes break from cover to engage the Fire Warrior squad, peppering them with splinter rifle fire

The Dark Eldar mount a formidable defence. The Mandrakes are revealed and shield the Incubi squad from incoming fire, while the Archon and squad retreat toward safety. Another Wych squad displays their fleet of foot and race toward the drone. At a more stately pace the Ravager moves onto the battlefield to provide covering fire.

Contact! The jetbikes slice the Fire Warriors up in the assault while the Broadside team move onto the field of battle. Will they be next?

Turn 4

A Fire Warrior's eye view of the action. How can they prevail against such a well co-ordinated defence of the objective. Note the Warrior squad with splinter cannons to the right. They have already decimated one Fire Warrior squad and now turn their attention to the Kroot. The Kroot too are ripped apart and fall back under the hail of splinters.

Against all the odds the Fire Warriors fight off the Reaver assault (the jetbikes failed a moral high ground roll and the subsequent morale check). The Reavers fall back toward their own lines.

The Stealth team had advanced down the extreme right flank in the cover of a refinery building. They finally break cover and gun down a large Wych squad, reducing it to a quarter of its original size. The Hammerhead had moved up between the storage towers and targeted the Warrior squad with bright lances, smashing them apart with its sub munitions round. The shattered survivors fall back off the table. With a sizeable chunk of the Dark Eldar army destroyed maybe the Tau have a chance.

The Talos watches as the Tau Crisis suits jet toward the Dark Eldar. The Warp beasts are driven on to hold up the Tau advance. The Ravager has been shot down by the Tau Broadside team.

Turn 5

The Stealth team were assaulted by the remaining Wyches and won through, killing them all. They made a 15" sweeping advance that took them into the heart of the Dark Eldar position.

While the Reavers continue to fall back the Dark Eldar consolidate their position. The Wyches hold the centre along with the two survivors of the splinter cannon Warrior squad. The Archon and retinue (in white armour) can just be made out behind a rocky outcrop. The only worry for the Dark Eldar is the Stealth Team in their midst, but surely the Talos should be able to finish them off?

The Warp beasts finish off one Crisis suit team in assault and then sweep into the remaining team, Shas'o and all.

The Hammerhead angles for a shot at the Talos. Even with help from the Broadside team they could only wound it once. The Stealth Team ahead moved up into point blank range of the Archon and retinue and unloaded everything they had into them. When the dust cleared only one Incubi lay dead. Had the Tau blown it?

Turn 6

In the foreground a lone battlesuit picks off a single Incubi visible near the rock formation. The Talos had charged the Stealth Team, killing four and driving the last man off. Note the two splinter cannon Warriors who survived a sub munitions blast from the Hammerhead on the last turn!

Victory! The Archon has the objective well under control and so the whereabouts of the Dark Eldar pirate base is safe.

Result: Loss


So the Dark Eldar are victorious and the position of their hidden base remains a mystery to the Tau. Tau supply convoys into Nomolos continue to be disrupted and the future of the mining colony itself is threatened.

Learning points
  • This sort of smash and grab raid suited the Dark Eldar down to the ground. They won the rolls to choose board edge and starting turn and made the right decision in both. Their supporting units such as the Warrior squads with bright lances and the Ravager had commanding fields of fire and they denied such positions for the Tau. Taking the first turn meant that the Eldar got reserves before the Tau, and using their famous speed they quickly uncovered three markers and discovered the messenger drone. Their incredible speed, through jet bikes and fleet of foot, also allowed the Dark Eldar to quickly redeploy their forces into the area where the drone was found. Of course, landing an awesome close combat unit in the Archon with Incubi squad on the objective helped too!
  • Still, the Tau can inflict heavy damage at a distance and many of their troops could move up to 12" per turn, so the Dark Eldar could not afford to be too bullish. Sensibly the Archon retreated with her prize and used the units of mandrakes, wyches, jet bikes and warp beasts to absorb incoming fire and to disrupt the Tau advance. Men of the match in this regard were the ten man warrior squad with two splinter cannons. They advanced into the centre of the Tau army, took out half of a twelve man fire warrior squad then caused so many casualties on the kroot that they routed! They then survived a battering from the Tau in the shooting phase but passed all of their morale checks and laid down another barrage of splinter shots into a crisis suit unit, softening them up for the warp beasts to finish them off. Finally they survived a point blank shot from a railgun sub munitions shot! All this from a 100 point(ish) unit.
  • The Tau are always at a disadvantage when the mission involves a lot of movement, especially when the Dark Eldar are the opposition. In this rescue mission the Tau were hoping to get the objective first and force the Eldar to come to come to them. But it was not to be and the Tau faced a stiff fight to catch the speedy foe. The Tau lost a lot of shooting effectiveness in trying to move up to the Eldar lines and were harried relentlessly by spoiling attacks from the likes of warp beasts and jet bikes. The only real ray of hope for the Tau were the Stealth suits who advanced on the far flank of the battlefield, safe from enemy fire, and suddenly emerged to all but wipe out a large wych squad. They finished the job in the Dark Eldar assault phase and then swept 15" forward, moved a further 6" in their own movement phase and had the Archon and Incubi in their sights. Their luck only ran out when they only killed a single enemy and were destroyed in turn by the Talos.
  • In the end the stealth team and the Hammerhead were the only Tau units to get into the Dark Eldar lines and this seriously hampered their efforts to recapture the messenger drone. The Tau should have been more ruthless in advancing forward, taking the inevitable casualties, and hoping that an extra two or three models could have swung it for them in the last turn. Perhaps a unit of fire warriors in a devilfish would have been effective in this scenario.
  • All in all though, a very enjoyable battle, hard fought and very bloody. We haven't seen the last of these Dark Eldar I wager...

1 comment:

  1. What a great idea for a battle, steal the 'drone'. I liked the format - although the photo's were quite low detail... It's interesting to see the Dark Eldar in action (rarely seen) and they were surprisingly effective, it's a shame you sold that Tau force - they looked great (hope you got a good price for them!)

    All in all a worthy report. It would have been interesting to replay in 5th edition. The Flanking and deepstriking options give you much more opportunity with the Tau elites.

    Plus I would personally have focussed on buying Gundrones for the stealths and crisis suits. Additionally you culd have loaded up a fire warrior team 1st turn in the PF devilfish and taken that forward instead of the vulnerable pathfinders.

    All in all, nice report, but Tau are more fun now!