The learned Dr. Shiny is among my longest-serving opponents. Our respective armies – Skaven and Vampire Counts, Eldar and Chaos Space Marines, or Khador and Cryx – have been battering each other with startling ineptitude for something like fifteen years now. In all that time I’ve heard nothing but complaining out of him; his troops are inept, his dice hate him, his rules are outdated and his tactics are largely based on the certainty that everyone’s going to die. However, his ceaseless whinging is at least entertaining, and so I have allowed him to live thus far.
He hasn’t played any sixth edition 40K yet, having been distracted by Bretonnians, and since I was at his end of the country for the New Year festivities I thought it might be high time to rectify the situation. It was going to be a spot of WFB, but play was rained off due to my lack of time or, to be honest, enthusiasm for repainting and restoring a Vampire Counts army I’m not even sure I want to play games with.
We settled on 1200 points – this would give us a game which even we could finish in a few hours, despite the inevitable banter, confusion, rule-checking and general shenanigans. This would also give us a game in which every model was fully painted, and you can’t say fairer than that of a Sunday afternoon. It helps, of course, that we were throwing down in the cavernous and well-equipped gaming paradise of The Giant’s Lair in Plymouth, a superlative venue with a decent shop, quality boards, lots of space and a neat line in fried foodstuffs courtesy of host and legend Swabs. Photographic services were provided by Hark’s shiny new phone, hence the marked improvement in the image quality and the capacity of the photographer to surprise Shiny and actually get him in shot for once.
HQ – Tekeshi the Decapitator – Destroyer Lord – sempiternal weave, resurrection orb, tachyon arrow
Troops – 10 Necron Warriors
Troops – 10 Necron Warriors
Troops – 10 Necron Warriors
Elites – 5 Flayed Ones
Fast Attack – 5 Necron Destroyers
Fast Attack – 3 Canoptek Wraiths – particle casters
Fast Attack – 5 Canoptek Scarab Swarms
Heavy Support – Canoptek Spyder – twin-linked particle beamer
Heavy Support – Canoptek Spyder – twin-linked particle beamer
In a game of this size I find it difficult to justify spending the usual 400+ points on an Overlord and Royal Court, and so Tekeshi’s fly-around-hitting-things body comes out to play. The upgrades on the Destroyer chassis were mostly there for the sake of trying things out, and sneaking at least one decent-Strength shot into the list somewhere; the same logic applies to giving all my Wraiths and Spyders the gun upgrades to weaken my dependence on Gauss shots and free the infantry up for destroying other infantry. There’s a lot of melee chaff in there – too much if I’m honest, and the Flayed Ones were only there because they were painted and I didn’t have anything else on me to fill the points – but I’ve tried to make it chaff that does something interesting.
HQ – Shas’el Aloh’ka – missile pod, plasma rifle, 4+ Invulnerable Save
Bodyguard – 2 Crisis suits with missile pods and plasma rifles, Drone with markerlight
Troops – 6 Fire Warriors – pulse carbines
Devilfish – stabilising fires-like-a- Fast-vehicle thingie
Troops – 6 Fire Warriors – pulse rifles, markerlight
Troops – 10 Kroot Warriors and 10 Kroot Hounds
Elites – 3 Stealth Suits
Fast Attack – 5 Gun Drones
Fast Attack – Piranha with fusion blaster
Fast Attack – Piranha with fusion blaster
Heavy Support – Hammerhead – railgun, stabilising fires-like-a-Fast-vehicle thingie
Herr Doktor has in many respects resurrected his old Eldar tactics with this one – much of the army moves around at a credible 12” per turn, zapping away from a safe distance, and where possible things duck back out of threat range in a fashion that second-edition old hands like what we are insist on calling ‘pop-up attacks’. I counselled that he consider Kroot as bubblewrap for a firebase, but his general use for them seems to be a little more aggressive than that – I think it’s partly because he hasn’t been able to source any Broadside suits to constitute a static firebase, and he’s reluctant to not move his vehicles around.
Mission – Purge the Alien
Deployment – Vanguard Strike
Warlords – Tekeshi the Decapitator (Legendary Fighter… again); Shas’el Aloh’ka (Conqueror of Cities)
Preamble – Shiny picked the deployment zone that had the tower in it, which left me with a distinct lack of hard cover on my side of the board. This, in turn, encouraged me to let him be the First Player – once I’d seen where his scary guns were, it shouldn’t be too hard to face them down with stuff that either had a save against them or was capable of matching their firepower, or both in the case of the Destroyers.
Shiny kept a lot of stuff off the board – the Kroot outflanked, the Stealth Team infiltrated, and the Drones deep struck – but everything I was actually worried about went down. After considering my side of the board, I decided to leave the majority of my Troops in reserve; their Scoring duties wouldn’t be required for this mission and if I set them up at the start they’d probably be too far back to achieve anything and just get blown away by the longer-ranged Tau guns without contributing squit. If they were in reserve, they’d have to endure fewer turns of being shot at, and maybe the action would come sufficiently close to my board edge for them to actually do something when they turned up. I always leave the Flayed Ones in reserve too – again, the idea was to target something that would benefit from their tender ministrations rather than set them up and walk forward trying not to get killed. The Destroyers and Wraiths represented my best shot at dealing with that Hammerhead and Command Squad, so they were set up to plough forward and do just that, while the Scarabs and Spyders were placed fairly centrally so they could either close the trap or chase any Tau that tried anything clever.
Good job most of the squashier Necrons were off the board, too, as I failed to Seize the Initiative…
Round One – Tau 0, Necrons 0
Without Jet Packs, this army will cease to function.
Fortunately, Jet Infantry are actually better than Herr Doktor remembered them being, and consequently the Tau were able to fan out in quite a dramatic fashion, with the Piranhas moving up to block me in and the Devilish drifting out to join up with the Stealth teams and enfilade me. I was somewhat confused at the choice of moving both Devilfish and Hammerhead the full 12”, and looked up the effect this would have upon their accuracy, and when I’d finished, Herr Doktor pointed out that it didn’t matter – they counted as Fast for shooting purposes anyway.
Not that it mattered much; the Stealth team killed a couple of Warriors, the Hammerhead missed a clear shot at a Canoptek Spyder, and the Command team managed to take down a Destroyer with their missile pods. This was not the spectacular punishment I’d been expecting from the prophets of the Greater Good.
Let’s see if I can poop out any Scarabs.
I did, although it cost me a Wound in the doing, and I began to move the Necrons forward with the mandatory “wwwooooooom” noises. The Warriors who’d been shot at last turn couldn’t see their assailants to return the favour – stupid Stealth suits and their stupid non-universal special rules – and the Wraiths only managed to strip a Hull Point and a fusion blaster off the nearest Piranha. Tekeshi lined up her tachyon arrow on the Hammerhead and, of course, rolled a 1 to hit… and it’s just occurred to me that she has Preferred Enemy, so I should have re-rolled that. Probably would have missed anyway, but still. It might have stopped Shiny drawing little fireworks around the 1 in his notes for this report, anyway.
Anyway, the Wraiths charged the Piranha and did what they do best to it and when the smoke cleared I was two Victory Points up – one for First Blood, and one for eliminating the one-model squadron.
Round Two – Tau 0, Necrons 2
Shiny’s Kroot put in an appearance, Outflanking from the table edge nearest the Wraiths and clacking their beaks with ominous glee. I did point out that they wouldn’t be charging, but apparently he had no intention of charging with them. The Command team joined them, lining up for shots on the Wraiths, while the Hammerhead advanced more cautiously and the Devilfish dropped off its cargo before flying away from the Scarabs a bit. Meanwhile, the surviving Piranha flew into a very narrow gap between a big rock and the Spyder – I wasn’t entirely sure why until the shooting phase, when it transpired that Shiny thought the Spyder was a vehicle.
Needless to say, it didn’t die from the single wound the Piranha managed, although several Scarabs did; the Fire Warriors and Devilfish scraped several wounds off them. Then there was the matter of the Hammerhead…
I’ve never used the large pie. Let’s use the large pie.
We had a quick chat about suitable targets for the Hammerhead, in the absence of any vehicles in my army or line of sight to the Scarabs, and concluded that a gun which gibs Necron Warriors on twos might be worth firing at Necron Warriors. In retrospect this may be considered slightly dubious advice, as it’s only in the report-writing calm that I’ve remembered how much Scarabs dislike blast weapons… mind you, it did earn Shiny a Victory Point as the Hammerhead did indeed gib the five Warriors it hit, while the Stealth suits capped the last two.
The Wraiths, leering ominously, shrugged off everything the Kroot had to throw at them but did manage to take three wounds from the hail of dakka that the Command Team threw their way before flying off like the cowards they are. The Stealth Suits, lacking anything better to do now that there were no Warriors to shoot, ducked behind some nearby trees and hoped the Spyder wouldn’t notice them.
Both of my Warrior units turned up, waddling onto the bottom right corner and cracking their knuckles at the prospect of Kroot Fried Material in their immediate future. I ummed and ahhed a bit about what to do with the Destroyers this turn – whether it was worth peeling Tekeshi off and going for the Hammerhead, or keeping her in the Destroyer squad so she was safely insulated until it was time to go after Aloh’ka. In the end I decided that sending her out on her own would be tantamount to suicide while the Hammerhead and plasma rifles were still a factor, and had the Destroyers shoot up Aloh’ka’s Command team instead, killing one and wounding another. The Wraiths pulled the last wound off that one with their happy little particle guns, and the two Warrior squads killed seventeen Kroot – the last three were evidently out of range, and didn’t care much that their comrades in arms had been turned into unpleasant, garish strings of reformed meat product.
Why not multi-charge? It’s sixth edition, after all!
One Spyder charged and splatted the Stealth team – how I love my Monstrous Creatures and their capacity to Move Through Cover – while the other charged and immobilised the Piranha. The Scarabs did less well, whiffing on both the Devilfish and all but one of the Fire Warriors, and actually losing the combat by two! At least they outclassed the surviving Wraith, which dismally failed to reach Aloh’ka and resigned itself to hot plasma death.
Round Three – Tau 1, Necrons 3
Shiny’s Gun Drones turned up and deep struck with clinical accuracy, landing between a Necron Warrior squad and the downed Piranha, while the Devilish, rejoicing in its lucky escape, dodged away from the Scarabs… but toward the Tomb Spyder, which I thought was rather odd. Shiny also neatly overlapped his Kroot and Hammerhead, with the one closing the distance on some Necron Warriors – I really don’t know why, unless he was wanting to fire burst cannons at them, since the tank’s main gun totally outranged them and could have blown whole squads off the board from the other side of the table with equal ease – and the other moving up to protect its squashy back armour from the marauding Wraith. Needless to say, Aloh’ka back-pedalled away from the Wraith and Destroyers, no doubt filling his waste chute in nervous terror.
Right, now, before you start shooting… look for the Victory Points!
The Piranha, being a vehicle, couldn’t be locked in combat even while immobilised; the Spyder, being in base contact with a vehicle, couldn’t be locked in combat and therefore could be shot at, even by the immobilised vehicle in base contact with it. WHOOSH went the fusion blaster and BANG went a Sypder and DING went Shiny’s second Victory Point. The Drones and Hammerhead concentrated all available fire on one Warrior squad and downed seven, although two passed their Reanimation Protocol rolls. The Devilfish, lacking the range to join in (I might have flown it over the Scarabs and into the middle of the board to go Warrior-hunting, now that I think about it) went for the remaining Spyder and took a wound off it.
Despite receiving Markerlight assistance, Aloh’ka couldn’t quite manage to finish off the Wraith – in fact he missed with all but one shot, and the Wraith shrugged that one off, as it did the assembled efforts of the Fire Warriors. The Kroot declined to open fire, going for the charge and drawing a combat instead while Aloh’ka snuck off around the back of the tower and the Drones just didn’t move very far.
Moving the Hammerhead may have scored a few kills for Shiny, but it left the unfortunate tank within Rapid Fire range of ten Necron Warriors, which stripped its Hull Points off in a flurry of sixes; the five survivors from the other squad took down three Gun Drones. My Spyder did an ineffective job of shooting up the Devilfish, and the Destroyers gave chase to Aloh’ka as best they could, dealing a wound and taking out his Marker Drone.
During the Insult Phase, the Spyder ripped two Hull Points out of the Devilfish and Shook the crew to boot, the Wraith messily eviscerated the last two Kroot, and Tekeshi decided that bringing her warscythe to the enemy’s face was not actually what she wanted to do and what she actually wanted to do was just hover there and enjoy the sound-and-light show from her fellow Destroyers. It’s not her most effective incarnation, that’s for sure…
Round Four – Necrons 5, Tau 2
I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. I also hate Wraiths, and wish them nothing but pain. Your Destroyers can have their stupid ‘lives’ and their stupid ‘victory’ and their stupid ‘flying around unmolested while the Tau flee in their path’. I want that Wraith dead!
Although neither the Fire Warriors nor the Drones could put a dent in it, Aloh’ka’s plasma rifle finally did what it had been built to do, and evaporated the offending Wraith. The rest of the Tau turn was uneventful, with the Fire Warriors yet again outmatching the Scarabs and the Scarabs yet again failing to be bothered by this, but I don’t think Shiny cared all that much.
Go back to your pyramid-shaped broom cupboard and languish there in misery!
— attributed to Shas’el Aloh’ka, this Tau insult has probably lost something in the translation.
My Flayed Ones have arrived!
Your Flayed Ones are irrelevant.
When pressed, Shiny explained this hurtful remark by explaining that I’d already won by a comfortable margin – I did point out to him that Tekeshi was worth two Victory Points if he could get to her, and that there was another up for grabs from Linebreaker as well. Mathematically, he could totally still get this.
Not, admittedly, after the half-strength Warrior squad had finished off the second Piranha, the full-strength Warrior squad had shot up the last three Drones, and the Destroyers had killed all but one Fire Warrior with shooting, but it’s the thought that counts. I’d also decided to be sporting (and lunge greedily for three Victory Points) by splitting Tekeshi off from the Destroyers so she could charge and challenge Aloh’ka, but her chassis engines were obviously having a spot of bother, and she stalled in mid-air yet again. Incidentally, the word FAIL is written in large, shaky capitals in Shiny’s notes. He was obviously bitter about the Tomb Spyder immobilising and then destroying his Devilfish.
Round 5 – Tau 3, Necrons 7
Aloh’ka was not accustomed to feeling alone. He was accustomed to being accompanied by his brothers of the Fire Caste, accustomed to the comforting presence of the Ethereals, and accustomed above all to hearing more than two other voices through his in-line communicator. The absence of these things did not please him, and did not appear to serve the Greater Good.
Still! Team Leader Kai’vess was still alive, and that was something. The hovering necron brandishing the horrible, heavy blade seemed to be having some mobility issues, and that was something else. Aloh’ka’s rifle was charged and ready, and that was most definitely something.
“Kai’vess! Mark target!”
A bright spot of light descended from the tower roof, pinpointing the necron leader, and Aloh’ka let his suit lock onto that brilliant point and focus its lenses and fire everything it had. Missiles corkscrewed through the air and cracked harmlessly off the thing’s grimy carcass, but the rifle, ah, the rifle – the rifle spat pure white light, and the necron hissed and shrieked and fumed as steam rose and components evaporated.
At least Aloh’ka would have sold his life dearly – or so he thought, until the steam parted, and the necron drifted forward. Its hull was scored, its right arm hung sparking at its side, but it was still very much operational, and its golden mask turned to face him in silent, mocking triumph.
Also, the Scarabs finally killed that ruddy Fire Warrior.
The Destroyers shot down the last Fire Warrior, which wasn’t terribly interesting even if it did mean another Victory Point. All eyes, ultimately, were on the assault phase…
Aloh’ka fired his jets again, determined to keep some distance, to live as long as possible in the face of this indefatigable terror – but as he lurched backward, his suit’s alarms flared and groaned. The ground was moving beneath him! Even as the jets flared and roared to compensate, he heard something scrape across the suit’s armoured legs, saw the flash of blue that indicated superficial damage.
They were beneath him. Little more than a mass of knives and skins still wet with cobalt blood. They were beneath him. He couldn’t see how many, but it didn’t matter. Aloh’ka levelled his rifle down as his suit bobbed him upwards, and despite his conditioning a snarl of rage escaped him.
“For the Greater Good!” he cried – and then the suit’s alarms flashed another warning and he raised his arm just in time to deflect the sweeping scythe of the necron leader, ascending with a whine of tortured systems to meet him in the air.
His communicator stuttered and crackled, and a voice spoke to Aloh’ka as he desperately kicked sideways to avoid the blast of his exploding missile pod.
“Y-y-your evil is-is-is my good,” it purred. It was a cold, alien and self-satisfied voice, a voice that brought with it an eldritch green glare from his suit’s systems. Strange characters danced across Aloh’ka’s visual field, flickering back and forth into the blues and oranges of Tau’va as his onboard software fought back against the intrusion. He brought up his rifle and fired point-blank – it would have been a killing shot had the necron not jerked its chassis and knocked him off-balance with the force of whatever field kept it aloft. The voice intruded on his consciousness again, and again his vision turned green, and this time it took all his strength to move the suit’s arms himself, and catch the necron’s weapon by the hilt. “Y-y-your only greater purpose is ex-tinction, your only hope oblivion,” and on that word its voice fell deeper than the deepest darkest oceans of the home-world, and then rose again as if offering an afterthought, with the cold slickness of spilled oil. “Oblivion… or servitude.”
“I serve the vision of my leaders, and the Greater Good!” Aloh’ka howled, swinging his rifle around in anger. Static filled his ears, and the scythe swung up to shear the barrel from his weapon, coating his visual field in blissful white heat.
“You think y-y-you have a choice,” the voice hissed. “How… endearing.”
Round Six – Necrons 9, Tau 3
Fortunately, unlike many of my games, the Random Game Length didn’t kick in, and the challenge went on long enough to be resolved. In both turns of fighting Aloh’ka managed to put a wound on Tekeshi and on both occasions it was only the sempiternal weave that saved her, but at the end of Tau turn six she managed to sneak a wound past the Shas’el’s Invulnerable save and that was that. Slay the Warlord, Legendary Fighter, Linebreaker and a Victory Point just for killing him.
Final Score – Necrons 13, Tau 3
Victory to the Necrons – or, as Shiny put it:
Congratulations, you’ve tabled me.
Naturally, the winner buys the cheeseburgers. It’s only fair.
It’s quite difficult for me to analyse this one, since virtually everything I tried to do worked, and the things that didn’t work mostly made the Narrative more worthy of Forging. You can’t beat a climactic duel to the death between commanders, especially not when there’s a very real chance of the alleged victor actually going down and awarding a moral victory to the other chap.
I do think that holding the two Warrior squads in reserve was the right thing to do, certainly with this deployment type. “If you don’t know where to put it, put it in reserve” seems to be a decent approach, certainly better than putting things on the board and then shuffling them around in unwise fashions, blocking your own shots and getting your troops killed to no particular end. I also feel that Shiny made some rather unwise choices – closing in with the Hammerhead seemed spectacularly dim given that its main gun outranged everything in my army several times over, and that Devilfish could have spent its last turns in midfield, potentially finishing off another Warrior squad instead of running toward Canoptek Spyders that it didn’’t really have the capacity to take down.
For his part, the good Doktor has been asking about list changes – what does his Tau army need? I was tempted – irresistibly so – to suggest ‘allies’, or rather a tougher primary detachment into which he can ally his Devilfish and Hammerhead and Crisis suits and Piranhas. Those Tau bits can address the targets to which their firepower is suited, and the ‘primary’ detachment, on which he’d probably be spending fewer actual points, can do the holding of ground and the torrenting of fire and the being resilient. The problem is he has this fixed aversion to Space Marines, but it’s that magical 3+ save that makes their Troops different from and arguably superior to his Troops. Maybe Guard would be worth a go – it’s less that they’re resilient and more that their sheer numbers and cheapness allow them to hold ground and soak up shots. It’s not like they couldn’t be justified as Gue’la auxiliaries or something.
What do you think, folks?