Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Playing Tau and having fun with the Screamer Star

If you enjoy playing competitively and your local gaming group has one or more Chaos Daemons players, then you more than likely have come across the list build known as the "Screamer Star".  To say the least, I was really impressed by this build, it incorporates, maneuverability, synergy, overwhelming firepower, and a defense that is nigh indestructible.  For many players that are looking to have fun, hearing that a player is fielding a screamer star list is enough to just not play.  Considering that in the last several months, players have refused to play me because they heard I play Tau, while all throughout 5th edition I had players climbing over each other hoping to get an easy win against Tau, I have found that the only way a player can guarentee not having fun is to simply not play.  Some of the greatest moments are from breaking an "unbeatable build", so I decided to put together some advice for my fellow Tau players on how to play against this build.   

What is the Screamer Star?
If you have no idea what the screamer star is, then here is a quick summary of it. The build requires Chaos Daemons players to take 2 HQs and one fast attack.  Fateweaver, 3-4 level 3 Heralds of Tzeentch on discs, and a unit of screamers.  By taking a one per army item and rolling for divination psychic powers until they get the 4+ invulnerable save power, and then thowing the rest of the powers into the lores of Change.  What does this mean?  A unit of jetbikes that, can throw out between 8D6 and 16D6 S6 BS4 Twinlinked AP4 shots that ignore cover.  The unit also has the added benefit of re-rollable 2+ invulnerable saves. 

Why play against Chaos?
For those who argue that competitive lists are not fluffy, you really need to ask yourself this question.  "Greater Daemon of Tzeentch, Heralds of Tzeentch, Horrors of Tzeentch, Flamers of Tzeentch, Screamers of Tzeentch, Soulgrinders dedicated to Tzeentch.  When you couple this with the fact that these servants of Tzeentch have the edge over an army that struggles to even understand that there is in fact an exsistence of the warp.  How is this not consistent with fluff?"

When a player refuses to play because he/she doesn't want to lose, she runs the risk of indirectly saying 2 things:
1.  I play only to win, fun comes second.
2.  I admit that someone else was able to outhink me before I even start playing.
If you are like me, neither of these statements is acceptable.

Finding the weak spot in the armor. 
For those of you hoping for a FAQ or an Errata to destroy this seemingly impossible to overcome build I want you to provide for you a little perspective provided to us from the history of the world.  A little under 2000 years ago, Rome outlawed the possession and production of the crossbow, claiming that "the weapon is powerful enough to destroy the world".  In response to this, Saxon warlords, took a hold of the technology and made it standard issue.  The world is still here, in addition to the fact that I can walk down the street to my local convenience store and purchase a crossbow at a reasonable price.  Whether we want to recognize it or not, the screamer star is still being used.  Using the tools we have at our disposal we can still put up a fight. 

What not to do
1.  Build your list around your opponent.
If you want to build your list to specifically take on the screamer star, then your victory (if you get one) will be short lived, as most competitive builds will then be able to exploit the fact that your list was not made to handle anything but Chaos Daemons Screamers. 
2.  Play to your opponent's strength
One of the bad habits we Tau players have developed this edition, is the notion that whaever we focus fire on will eventually be dead.  If you plan on taking out your enemy using massed pulse fire and missile pod spam, then you need to realize that before you can even BEGIN hurting the Heralds, the average amount wounds you will have to inflict on your enemy (successful to hit and to wound) is 648, and then another 72 wounds just to take down a single herald.  I know that it may be a hard thing to grasp, but after your opponent has thrown out his 2+ re-rollable, your best course of action would probably be to focus fire somewhere else. 
Surrender the 1st turn
Unless you can 100%  guarentee that you will seize the initiative, you must never allow your opponenet to take the first turn.  Your opponent may try to place troops to counter your deployment, this is okay, as long as you can fire first, which can prevent a lot of the nastiness from the daemons gaining momentum quickly.

Taking down the Screamer Star

"So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak". - Sun Tzu

 With both a large footprint and being able to remove almost any other enemy unit at will, it is kind of difficult to see past the main unit.  But one thing to realize when taking down the screamer star is that, the invulnerable save has 3 separate sources that it relies on.

1.  Fateweaver
Unless you are playing a game of double FOC, Fateweaver will be your opponent's Warlord.  With a 4++ save and T5 you are much more likely to take down Fate Weaver, granting slay the Warlord, and increasing the porbability that while rolling for the Grimoire your opponent will go from having an 11% chance of reducing the unit from 2++ to 5++ to a 33% chance.

2.  The Grimoire of True Names.
While this item grants an enormous buff (+2 to invulnerable save), it also is one of the units biggest weaknesses.  One thing to realize about the grimoire is that it affects the entire unit except the model bearing it.  meaning while the rest of the unit benefits from a 2++ re-rollable, the herald wielding this item is stuck with a 4++ re-rolling 1's only.  The rest of the unit has a 97% chance of shrugging off all wounds, the grimoire herald will only ever have a 58.7% chance (75% if Fateweaver hasn't used the staff yet).  If you remove the grimoire, you don't immediately stop the rest of the unit from having the 2++, but you do prevent the unit from being able to use the buff in following turns, think of it as an investment kill.  The next question you need to ask yourself is, "If the enemy surrounds himself with screamers, how will I be able to single out the Herald?".  The first answer that comes to mind is "Precision Shot", with Kroot, Sniper Drones, and ATS, no other army can spam precision shots like the TAU.  But with each Herald being a character, the Herald has a 2+ "Look out" roll.  The two ways a Tau player can overcome this is through the Warlord Trait, Precision of the Skilled Hunter, or through spamming Look out sir rolls with "Barrage Sniping".  By using the Airbursting Frag projector, you can spam LOS rolls.
If the Grimoire ever fails, your opponent is likely to turbo-boost the unit out of LOS and into cover, because the save will have been dropped from 2++ re-rollable to 5++ re-rolling 1's.  In order to counter this the Tau have a number of weapons that can avoid LOS and cover, being mobile and long range the Smart Missile System and the boosted Ion Accelerator will be the bane of your opponent.

3.  Forewarning
For simplicities sake, some Daemon players will make 1 of 2 mistakes:
- Place Forewarning on the same model that has the Grimoire
- Stop rolling for forewarning, on other Heralds once one has it.
 If the enemy ever places Forewarning on the same Herald as the Grimoire than you can use the above mentioned tactics, in order to guarentee that the screamer star will be dropped from a 2++ to a 5++.  If your opponent takes forewarning once (or is unlucky enough not to roll it), by removing the Herald with Forewarning, you will drop successful saves from 97% to around 78%. 

"The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him". - Sun Tzu

There are also other ways to exploit the Screamer Star, that will often leave your opponent dumb struck.
1.  Take the First turn
2.  Drop Misfortune
3.  Break the Golden Rule.
4.  Play around the star

Taking the First turn
If you are lucky enough to roll higher than your opponent for seeing who gets the first turn, never concede it in favor of deploying counter to his lines (Most intelligent Daemon Players will just reserve half the units in order to counter-counter-deploy).  If your opponent places the star on the table, he will more than likely place it out of LOS.  Exploit this by pressing forward with Smart Missiles, Seeker Missiles, and Barrage.
"What if the enemy places the Star in reserve?"  Then use this opportunity to scratch off scoring units and threats (the screamer star is 800+ pts. invested by the enemy, this usually leaves the rest of the army very vulnerable).  Forewarning being a blessing, means that any unit that arrives from reserves goes from having a 97% chance of shrugging off wounds to a 78% chance of shrugging off wounds, meaning that the unit has made itself vulnerable by placing itself in reserve.  

Another way to make the unit vulnerable is by using a Farseer.  If you are lucky to roll "misfortune" when rolling for powers, do not trade it in.  By succesfully dropping it on the star, the 2++ is no longer re-rollable, making wounds 6 times as likely to go through.

Breaking the Golden rule
Too often, I have heard other Tau players say "never assault".  But when engaged in an assault the star can't drop rediculous amount of flicker fire.  The trick is, staying alive.  Being able to strike at S5 AP 2 means that most screamers will eat Tau up.  The best way to counter this is with the FNP Riptide.  By boosting it's shield, you have now made it so that each Screamer has less than a 5% chance of inflicting a wound.

Play around the star
The most important thing to remember while playing the screamer star is, if you are not playing the scouring, it is not a scoring unit.  Meaning that you will still gain points, for slay the Warlord, First Blood and Line Breaker.  Target the Daemon players Troops and Fateweaver, capture objectives and split up your forces to minimize the effectiveness of the star.  

Thought For the Day
In competitive play, most players will fire both the SMS and HYMP with their broadsides while using interceptor.  The multi-tracker seems to only work during the shooting phase.  If this is allowed, how is firing both weapons while using interceptor legal?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

From Under Dog to Top Dog... and back again?

Several months ago the Tau Empire (as well as the Eldar allies) received a much needed update.  Within weeks, it had become obvious to me while browsing through the 2 new codices that, "My advice will no longer be needed as Tau and Eldar have become rediculously powerful".  My thoughts came to fruition as Grand Tournament after Grand tournament posted results where the majority of the top 10 armies were Tau, Tau/Eldar, or Tau/random ally.  My favorite local gaming store went from having 2-3 hardcore Tau players (each week you will easily see over 50 different armies) to over a dozen riptide and Missileside heavy Tau players.  I have to admit that with the mixture of real life (wife is pregnant again in addition to me taking over a small business) and the over saturation of Tau cheese, I have been putting my Tau on the back burner.  Lately I have felt that skill and narrative gaming have both been lost on playing Tau.  For the meantime I decided to apply my skills into other armies that are underdogs and require odd strategies to win (i.e. Wood elves and Beastmen in Fantasy).  For nostalgic purposes I would occasionaly play a game with Tau or visit different Tau forums and blogs.  But the other day I saw something that lifted my spirits like none other.

Dual Con

Now why am I excited?  How can I possibly be excited when Tau are losing, more so when Taudar players are providing joy to other players when they are complaining about losing? 
1.  Like many other players I enjoy winning, but I enjoy having fun and making "you remember that one time" moments more than anything.
2.  When people throw things like "cheese", "terrain", or "unbeatable army lists" onto the table I don't see a pointless battle, I see an enjoyable challenge.
3.  People always gravitate towards the path of least resistance, it's why 6th edition Tau is much more popular than 5th edition Tau, you don't get a real feel for how good an army does in the tournament scene when half of the players at the same tournament play the same army.
4.  Tau have always been a popular army to hate.  There has never been anything more satisfying than an opponent challenging you to a competitive game expecting an easy win, just to have to work at trying not to be beaten by a large margin.

Although I was looking forward to "The glorious rise of the Tau in the Third sphere expansion" and an increase in Tau players, I wasn't expecting a change in fluff (Barracudas taking the back seat, experimental heavy suits going from unreasonable to a staple in every army, Kroot becoming horrible in CC, and Broadsides struggling to do anything to Imperial Tanks).  Narrative gaming has been pushed behind over competitive spamming and death stars. 

Tau have always been about options, and tactical flexibility, perhaps with the terrain taking on a greater level of importance, players that have already purchased Tau armies will learn to play to have fun rather than play to win.  Either way I look forward to the next couple of months within the Tau community, and I will try to post some reviews, history lessons, and tactics that you will enjoy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Changes To Tau: 1. The nerf bat

Getting the codex in hands yesterday, I heard a lot of talk on major Forums, and one thought that kind of stuck with me was how their was a sentiment that the new codex was resurrecting old fluff from the original codex.  So I would like to bring up my favorite pieces of fluff from the original codex that wasn't featured and show how it would have appeared if it were in this codex. Original excerpt from Codex: Tau pg. 3, 2001

"Shas'O Vior'la Kais. Fire Warrior Commander, watched dispassionately as the Gue'la began the long trek up the hillside.  Their crude armored vehicles lumbered forward on clanking metal tracks...  He turned to one of his bodyguards, a smooth helmeted warrior in a pale coloured battelsuit.

"Do you see the armoured beasts, Shas'vre? asked Kais formally."

"Yes Commander. This should present no significant problem.  This presents a serious problem.  The Shas'la have marked them clearly for the Broadside battlesuit squad's railguns  Heavy Rail Rifles."

The commander of the Fire Warriors nodded.

"Then you may begin, Shas'vre," he intoned softly.  The Warrior nodded reverently and spoke quietly into his helmet mike.  Almost as soon as he did so, three Gue'la vehicles eploded and lurched sideways, black smoke pouring from neat holes in their front and rear armour.  three Gue'la vehicles were struck, but shook off the rounds like they were nothing...

The Gue'la scattered, stunned at the death of the iron machines. cheered, inspired by the resilience of the iron machines, praising the Emperor that the pitiful Heavy Rail Rifle could never penetrate the front armour of their vehicle with a single shot.  It was unfortunate that they would have to die, but to stand in the way of the Tau's destiny was to invite death, but certainly not by the hands of a Heavy Rail-rifle if you were a Leman Russ, Monolith, or Land Raider.  It could not be helped...

Then from out of the smoke inside a piece of terrain came fired the Kroot.  Tall and lithe with powerful mediocre muscles corded around their arms, they charged fired into the mass of Gue'la.  Blasts from their vicious sniper rifles pitched several to the ground. Kais knew that they were the lucky ones.  They attacked with a high, ululating battle cry, spinning their rifles and slamming the thick blades on the butts of their guns into Gue'la flesh.  Their Shaper beheaded a Gue'la with one sweep of his blade and howled, shaking the long quills on the back of his head free in triumph as the rest of the enemy fled before him.  The Kroot continued to fire from behind cover as The the Battlesuit teams now moved down the hillside, firing into the disordered Gue'la troops... The Kroot were useful and Kais valued their strength numbers, but he had hoped was glad that the continued contact they were having with the Tau would have had purged them of some of their baser instincts by now.

Of course this was done for humor.  There were plenty of positives but I just wanted to point out some of the nerfing with humor.

6th edition Tau tactica: dominating your opponents assault phase

One of the first new rules that one might encounter if reviewing the codex from beginning to end, would be "Supporting Fire".  Where one might think that having a couple BS 1 shots is next to useless, you need to remember the main Tau principal, "synergy".  There are no stand alone death star units in the Tau army, but there are devastating combinations.  These combinations can make a good unit even better.

Maximizing the number of shots
1.  Use an Ethereal, with the Etheral new power invocation of fire you can grant all units within 12" of the Ethereal an additional shot while shooting at an enemy within rapid fire range.

2.  By taking four squads of fire warriors and inter locking them into two separate sets you can increase the number of squads that can benefit from each other's supporting fire.  For a diagram of how to interlock squads click HERE.

3.  Upgrade all of your vehicles to have "Point Defense Targeting Array", allowing your vehicles to overwatch as well

4.  Realize that you may use supporting fire on all tau units and vehicles as well as Battlebrother units and Battle brother vehicles.

Maximizing the number of hits
1. Use markerlights.  Markerlights can now affect snap shots, meaning that you can enhance the BS of firing models.  Make sure that when selecting which order to fire your units in you use units with markerlights fire.  Although the firing unit will not benefit from their own markerlights, any units following may use the markerlights to enhance their own shooting (including their own markerlight shots)

Synergizing to increase the effectiveness of Markerlights.
One of the popular ways people are building their army lists is to include drone squadrons with nothing but Marker Drones granting a pretty decent 12 marker lights.  By including a commander with a drone controller and two marker drones you can have a unit that is pumping 14 BS 5 marker light shots each turn.  By including a command and control node and drone controller, you can have the equivalent of 14 BS10 markerlights during the Tau shooting phase.  If you include a commander with a drone controller and a counterfire defense system you can fire 14 BS 2 markerlights as supporting fire.

*Notes for Taudar players

-by including a farseer to cast foreboding on this unit that includes a commander with a drone controller you can pump out 14 BS5 markerlight shots during overwatch.

-by including a farseer to cast prescience on a commander with a drone controller and a counter fire defense system you can pump out 14 BS 2 re-rollable markerlight shots during overwatch

-by having your farseer cast both prescience and foreboding on a commander with a drone controller you can pump out 14 BS 10 markerlight shots during overwatch. 

Vehicles are more resistant to assaults and ramming
Flechette Dischargers- strike in the Initiative 10 phase, the enemy unit suffers a number of auto hits that equals the number of models that made it into base contact with the vehicle

Dpods- increase the cover save of all vehicle by 1, meaning that if you moved vehicles fail to ram on a 4+, or if you turbo boosted vehicles fail to ram on a 3+.

Walls of flame and fire
with the enhancements to supporting fire you can use the flamer to inflict D3 auto hits, and because the Wall of flame has no minimum, use your flamer equipped suits after all other units have fired because they don't require marker lights, you can be hitting the very back of a group of boyz.

Punching AV 14 to death
With the new rules you can put a gauntlet on a commander for 5 pts, allowing him to make a single S10 AP 1 attack during an assault phase.  Couple this with the new Puretide chip and you can grant him either tank hunter or monster hunter allowing him to re-roll armor penetration rolls.  Or you can re-roll the to wound on a monstrous creature.

Thought for the day.
Someone was prophetic when they made the prediction that Tau would dominate the assault phase. click this link here and skip to 3:30. WARNING! this video may contain harsh language or images that might be considered offensive to some.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tau-rific 9 day count down

Due to the over exposure of all the leaked picture on all major forums and blogs I think it would be a little repetitive to post them here.With both the American Release of White Dwarf and the pre-order of Tau 2 days away, I feel cursed that the release day is 9 days away.  To sum up how I feel in one word, "exhausted".    I have been getting pumped for this release, my adrenaline has been literally been pumping for this release.  I have been losing sleep, doubling my workout routine, and digging through every little bit of Tau nostalgia that I could find.  I even tried to shake down a GW employee the other day for more information.  For the sake of the sanity of my family, I have been denying all of this to my wife. 

There have been many new re-sculpts as well as a few new additions.  To be honest the only sculpt I was really disappointed in was the commander.  Don't get me wrong, the weapons options are awesome, but they seemed to take the chicken legs and make them more chicken like and then gave it a fire warrior shoulder pad.  This was extremely disappointing after the the 2 forgeworld sculpts and after seeing the new Farsight sculpt.  There are other things I didn't like about other sculpts, tiny head on the riptide and the fixed pose on the fire warrior special character, but those can be fixed with green stuff.  Overall I was really impressed with the sculpts, although I disagree with making a new flyer when Tau fluff clearly states the Barracuda is the most common fighter seen with the Tau.  What's killing me right now is the fact that they haven't published (or leaked) any news on whether they will create new sculpts for Kroot or Vespids or just keep the old ones.  I keep on trying to guess what the new stats are going to be but that is driving me insane.  As far as funds go, I kind of dug my own grave when I told all my buddies that my Sept has an overwhelming amount of Por and Fio keeping the sept up to date with technology.  This means i'll have to get the riptide and new Broadside models in order to keep up with my own fluff. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The "10 year" time capsule.

With a new tau codex coming out I decided to go through the warp (also known as my garage) and see what I could salvage from my old Tau collection.  Now for a digression!

At the beginning of 2003,  I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life.  Without dragging you through a sob story of what was happening, i'll just tell you what I did to cope with it.  I looked back at the year 2001 which was a wonderful year for me, The release of Tau, I discovered both Red Bull and the female physical form, Van's Warped Tour was at it's peak, Free Media seemed to be taking over, and I was getting good at pushing a plank (Southern California is the perfect location to live if you love, Surfing, Snowboarding, and Skate Boarding).  Well I decided to make a time capsule.  I spent the next several weeks getting a couple of things off ebay, garage sales, surf shops, etc.  I labeled the aluminum tin "DO NOT open til  DEC 2011".  I was hoping to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of 2001. Now back to my garage rummaging.

After being distracted by all the books I found, I eventually came across a box that my parents had put together after I had moved out.  The first things I came across were an old gas mask and an old school Fat gray Game Boy.  After going inside and playing with my still functional piece of video game history, I made my way back to the box.  I pulled out an odd shrink wrapped tin with blue painter's tape serving as the label.  Reading the faded description I realized that I had hit the jackpot.  I don't know how I forgot about it, maybe because I had duplicates of the two GW models I had put inside.  It could have also been that I had changed highschools twice, enlisted, gotten married, had two kids, went to college, and moved half a dozen times.  Honestly, 10 years ago I saw plenty of Hobby stores come and go within the span of a few months. If you would have asked me I would have told you that "GW will fade into memory by 2011".  I unwrapped the shrink wrap and took the clips off the tin.  It was like uncovering King Tut's tomb.  It was like I crawled into the mind of a an overly hormonal teenage boy.  Among the contents were the following:
- ticket stubs to the 2001 Van's Warped Tour
- some music I had scratched onto notepad paper
- a Hook-ups sticker (skate board brand with questionably dressed anime girls)
- a Red Bull wrapped in a Zip-Lock freezer Bag (I won't drink it)
- a couple burned CDs
- a bra from a teenage girl (pink with black polka dots, by the way she's now an adult)
- an expired gym membership to 24 hour fitness

there was also a reminder in the form of a picture of my God Father with the words, Happiness can always be found among the overwhelming reality of tragedy.  I come from a long line of American Military Veterans (all the way back to before the French and Indian War).  My God Father's office was located on the side of the pentagon that was struck during the 9/11 attacks.  Fortunately, he decided that he was going to make an impromptu visit to Quantico that morning (The man has escaped death more than he can count). 

Finally there were 2 Games Workshop miniatures:

*Note: The codex was not in the capsule, I thought I would include it in the shot for Nostalgia purposes. The models are also in original packaging. 

This really got me thinking.  As I sit here typing this to you, i'm drinking a silver edition Red Bull, listening to some Punk Rock, and occasionally looking up at my beautiful wife.  I think about how I would have never guessed the girl living next door to my highschool back in 2001 would become my wife, Red Bull was not outlawed, media pirating has both advanced and received lots attention from governments around the world, and I haven't touched an instrument or a board in a long time.  I am also surprised with the Tau, 3 editions later we have a playstation video game, a Forgeworld Expansion, a spin off White Dwarf codex (Kroot Mercenaries), an additional playable ally (3 if you include BFG), and soon a 3rd codex. 

Thought For the Moment
How do you think your Tau army will change in the next 10 years?  Will you be playing Tau at all?  Do you think you'll be playing Warhammer a decade from now?  Please feel free to share your answer in the comments below.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Tau Helpers is back

For those of you that have noticed, there has been very little going on for over a month with Tau Helpers.  Unfortunately my back up computer had died and I was left with little more than my cell phone, not the ideal platform to write articles on.  But SO MUCH has happened in the last month. With the approach of the new Tau codex coming, i'm going to have to put reviews and tactica on hold.  But this has given me an even greater incentive to do some history lessons.  I'd like to apologize to the loyal followers for being absent, but like to assure you that were "Back into the fray".

Thought for the moment
Broadsides will have larger bases and an option to choose from different loadouts for a main weapon.  Will this make old models illegal on the table?