Tau Vs Sisters Double-Header, Part 1

Shas'ui Bork'an Nohei raised the viewfinder of his markerlight to his eyes and scanned the wide grasslands that surrounded he and his team on every side. He and a pair of supporting sniper teams had taken up a forward position into sector H7, with the purpose of scouting out any possible enemy formations.

The mission briefing had stated that this area of the planet was still in Gue'la hands, but for a sector that was supposedly 'heavily defended', he had been here for almost a week and seen scarcely a hint of occupation. There were a few overgrown bunkers, and the odd ruins of some ancient tank, but nothing to indicate a significant enemy presence. He sighed, and ducked back behind the ridge where he and his men were taking cover.

One of his 'La passed him a canteen. "Anything, Ui?"

"This place has less action than a Por'la pit fight." Nohei grumbled, taking a sip of water. He then opened a channel to the main cadre group. "Ferocity, this is Lilypad. Negative enemy signals at grid mark alpha five. Negligible seismic, negative thermals, negative visual. If they're out here, they're on foot and in tents, confirm?"

The weary voice of Shas'el Honjik crackled over the channel. "Confirmed, Lilypad. Ferocity continues to move in irony."

The channel went dead, and Nohei returned to scanning the horizon. He kept this up for another ten minutes, trying desperately to stay awake, before he finally heard them.

It was strange that he should hear them before he saw them, he thought. He looked to his team--they had heard it too. They were readying their weapons and adjusting their rangefinders as they slowly got into defensive positions. But what was coming? The sound was soft and harmonious, like a choir holding a long note. As it grew louder, Nohei managed to confirm this--it was singing! Not just a few singers, though, but a massive chorus of voices, stretching on for what seemed like forever. As the alien voices grew louder and louder, Nohei had to fight down the urge to call for a retreat. Whoever they were, there were a lot of them, and the words they spoke weren't in any language Nohei knew. In fact, they sounded suspiciously like...

"Gue'la, Nohei--hundreds of them!" Shouted Ui'Radka, one of the drone-spotters.

A few seconds later, Nohei saw them, too. Stretching as far as he could see, and advancing in a single line, were hundreds of armored Gue'la females, their voices raised in song. They were heavily laden with a variety of small arms and heavy weapons, and didn't look as though they were coming to make friends.

Quickly, Nohei got on the Comlink with El'Honjik. "Ferocity, this is Lilypad! Numerous enemy contacts, all infantry, advancing on this position. Request back-up! Repeat, request back-up immediately!"

Before Nohei could hear the reply, the Gue'la added the sound of bolter fire to their chorus, and it was all Nohei could do to cling to the earth as the sky sung with death.

We are running this hex-based campaign around here, and I had the option this turn of attacking my friend Spooky's Inquisition forces through a secured border *or* simply attacking the border. As I like to play it fast and loose, and I have a pretty good win ratio against Spooky, I decided to attack through the border to see if I couldn't sieze his hex on one turn instead of two. Each of us had to make up a 1500 point army list prior to play, and after that Spooky would pick whether we would play a Alpha, Gamma, or Omega game of Seek and Destroy. Not really paying much attention to these trivialities, I made up my army list and showed up to game. The army lists were as follows:

Tau Hunter Cadre

HQ

Shas'el w/Cyclic Ion Blaster, Plasma Rifle, Targeting Array

Elites

6 Stealth Suits w/Team Leader, Bonded
3 Crisis Suits, Fireknife

Troops

10 Firewarriors w/Shas'ui (markerlight, target lock, bonding), photon grenades
12 Firewarriors w/Shas'ui
in Devilfish (Decoy Launchers)

Fast Attack

Piranha w/Burst Cannon, Targeting Array, Seeker Missile
Piranha w/Burst Cannon, Targeting Array, Seeker Missile

Heavy Support

2 Sniper Drone Teams
Hammerhead w/Railgun, Burst Cannons, Multitracker, Target Lock, Decoy Launchers
Hammerhead w/Railgun, Burst Cannons, Multitracker, Target Lock, Decoy Launchers

Sisters of the Library of St. Lucius

HQ

Palatine w/Stormbolter

Elites

8 Celestians w/meltagun, flamer; VSS w/Book of St. Lucius

Troops

10 Sisters w/Meltagun, Flamer; VSS w/Book of St. Lucius
10 Sisters w/Meltagun, Flamer; VSS w/Book of St. Lucius
10 Sisters w/Meltagun, Flamer; VSS w/Book of St. Lucius
10 Sisters w/Meltagun, Flamer; VSS w/Book of St. Lucius
10 Sisters w/Meltagun, Flamer; VSS w/Book of St. Lucius
10 Sisters w/Meltagun, Flamer; VSS w/Book of St. Lucius

Heavy Support

10 Retributors w/4 Heavy Bolters, VSS w/Book of St. Lucius
10 Retributors w/2 Multimeltas, VSS w/Book of St. Lucius
1 Exorcist

So, there we have the armies. My largely varied, partly mechanized force of Tau, against a veritable horde of sister squads. This, in and of itself, was fine. However, since he had the option of picking the game type *after* the lists were made, he picked Omega. Omega meant escalation, which meant my unmounted FWs and my sniper drones would get to deploy versus *his entire goddamned army*. Ugh...this was going to be an ugly game.

Terrain and Deployment

Since the hex we were fighting in was marked as a 'plain', the terrain consisted of sparse hills and a few rocky ridges scattered around the board, with the only LOS-blocking terrain being a large hill in the NW corner and another, similarly large hill in the S-Center portion of the board.

Spooky won the table edge, so I wound up with the southern edge and deployed first. Deciding that I'd try balancing the concealment special rule with the ability to deploy 15", and therefore compress his own deployment, I placed my markerlight FW team behind some cover 12" in, and the two sniper teams atop the central hill along the southern edge about 13-14" in.

Spooky's deployment was long but predictable, with the sisters forming a line from one end of the table to the other. They were mostly deployed in long rows of one-sister deep. Not having 89 sisters in his collection, Spooky proxied pretty heavily with some space marines and even a bunch of Star Wars Stormtroopers miniatures who were of the approximate scale of regular 40K infantry. The Palatine went in the sister squad directly opposite my FWs, and the Retributors with Heavy Bolters deployed behind her, also opposite my lone FWs. His Exorcist, being his only non-infantry model, deployed off the board.


My Deployment...


His Deployment...

Turn 1

Okay, so standard strategy for dealing with massive footslogging hordes usually involves clustering your firepower in a corner and then punching a hole in one flank, then using that toe-hold to eat up the enemy from the side. This works great, and I've done it before. Unfortunately, in this instance, there was just one teeny problem: my entire army wasn't on the board yet. If I got really lucky on my reserves rolls, maybe I could still pull it off, but at the start of the game I was between the rock and a hard place.

To make matters slightly worse, Spooky wins first turn (bringing my record to only 2 first turns in something like 10 games). He shuffles his entire line of crazed nuns forwards with the exception of the Heavy Bolters, which try for an improbable shot at my FWs, sitting practically 27" away. He, of course, manages to roll a 27 for his spotting distance, and guns down 3 FWs (thanks, cover saves!).

In my half of the turn, and with concealment expiring at the top of turn 2 anyway, I decide to do my best to ready Spooky's western flank for my upcoming assault in future turns. The Firewarriors take aim at the Geavy Bolter Squad and forces 4 saves, all of which are passed, and score a markerlight hit. The Sniper Drone teams both attempt to shoot at the Heavy Bolters, but both fail their target priority tests and fire at the closest sister squad (should have sold that damned markerlight token from the FWs to ignore the roll!), which is the one at dead center. A couple markerlights and rail rifles later, I manage to hit exactly once. My entire round of shooting accounts for a single dead sister. Way to go, me.


Only 88 to go!

Turn 2

This turn sees Spooky's centermost squads stop moving so they can get in some long-range shots at my troops while the flanks continue forward. A cavalcade of bolter blasts kills two sniper drones in one squad (which stays), one in another (which runs), and the remainder (along with the Heavy Bolters) wipe out all but one of my Firewarriors. He stays...

...until the beginning of my half of the turn, at which point he runs away on a failed Last Man Standing roll. I think you are beginning to see how my luck for this game is going. My reserves rolls go partly well, or partly terrible, depending on your point of view. I get one Hammherhead, the mounted FWs, and one Piranha. Another way of putting it is that I get half of my remaining forces to show up. This is better than nothing, I guess, but with only half my firepower present, punching a hole in Spooky's power-armored lines wasn't going to be very easy.

All of my troops move on from the SW corner. One group of sniper drones rally, while the other fires its markerlight at the westernmost sisters, which hits, after which the rail rifle misses. Meanwhile, the Hammerhead's burst cannons, the dismounted FWs, and the Piranha+drones drill the far western sister squad, killing several and pinning them to boot. Yay! Finally, the Hammerhead's submunition slams into the Heavy Bolter squad, killing 2.


Half of the cavalry arrives.

Turn 3

In Spooky's turn, the Exorcist drives onto the board in the NW corner and stuns my Hammerhead with a salvo of missiles (two hits and two 5s on armor penetration). His Heavy Bolters then blow the Piranha to bits (3 6s on their armor penetration--sheesh!). While the rest of his army lamely walks forward towards nothing in particular, his western flank advances a bit further towards my troops. The next-westernmost sister Squad sidesteps their pinned allies and get off a few choice shots at the firewarriors, for little damage (killed maybe one), and that was about all.

Feeling as though the initiative was tentatively in my hands, my next batch of reserves bring in everybody but the second Hammerhead. The next Piranha shows up behind the sniper drone hill to get a possible side-armor seeker missile off at the Exorcist. The crisis suits and Shas'el deploy behind the Devilfish and Hammerhead in order to press the small advantage I had there. Finally, the Stealths drop behind the NW hill, between the exorcist and the Heavy Bolters, but hidden from the rest of the Sister army. In shooting, a markerlight from one of the sniper teams launches the piranha seeker which destroys the Exorcist with one fell swoop. The Stealth Team then guns down another 3 Heavy Bolters, but they still don't break. The Devilfish tankshocks the pinned sister squad (evading the meltagun, to save me the Death or Glory), but they don't break. The rest of my firepower is focused on the pinned sister squad and the next-closest squad. I kill the pinned ones down to two models--the VSS and the meltagun--but they still don't break. The Crisis Suits roll like Orks and hit only 3 times on 9 shots which, with the two squads I'm shooting at being invulnerable, doesn't count for a hell of a lot. Even though I kill enough of the next squad to force a leadership test, I *still* don't break them. When the smoke cleared, I still was looking at two active, though somewhat smaller, sister squads on my flank.


The stealth team drops into the backfield.


Pushing forward, but still haven't broken through...

Turn 4

The fourth turn starts poorly for me, as the two sister squads in the far west that I failed to break shuffle forwards. The first one--with only the VSS and meltagun left--takes aim at the still-stationary Hammerhead and penetrates it. The result is a 5" explosion that kills the meltagunner herself along with 3 firewarriors. Ouch. Then, the second sister squad takes a long-range melta shot at the front armor of my Devilfish, scores a glancing hit (yay Skimmers Move Fast!), but still rolls a damned 6. Kaboom Devilfish. Let it be known right here that *every single shot* Spooky has directed at a vehicle of mine thus far has managed to damage or destroy something. Finally, the Heavy Bolter sisters turn their remaining guns on the Stealth Team and, with a little help from Divine Guidance, killed 4 of the 6. Fortunately for me, the guys decide to tough it out and don't run. Oh yeah, and the whole rest of Spooky's horde moves up, but as they aren't in range to much of anything, they don't do much.

My fourth turn begins with my typical rotten luck for my game: the second Hammerhead fails to show up. Evidently there was a red-tag sale at Macy's they just couldn't miss. Anyway, I try to make the most of my bad luck thus far by moving my Crisis Suits and FW around the west side of my smoking wreck of the Devilfish, so as to shield myself from heavy bolters and other firepower from the rest of Spooky's line. My Piranha scoots over the central hill to aid in the push on the west flank, too. In shooting, my FWs, the Piranha, the Shas'el, and the Crisis Suits all fire their weapons at the sister squad that had done-in the Devilfish. The Crisis Suits largely miss, the Piranha fails to wound (on 2s!), and the Firewarriors and Shas'el kill 3, so let's hear it for them. Not wanting to waste a lot of firepower to kill the single remaining sister in the furthest west squad, I aim a few rail rifles at it from my remaining sniper drones. They fail their target priority test, of course, and manage to miss the squad they *did* shoot at. It is evident to me, at this juncture, that these were not, in fact, sniper drones at all, but rather cafeteria drones somebody strapped a big gun to. If I had asked them to make me grilled cheese, I might have gotten somewhere. Finally, the two-man Stealth team drills the heavy bolters again, kills one, and elects to charge their flank, since standing out in the completely-coverless field would just mean they'd be dead next turn. I was banking on the fact that my 6 attacks against his 2 (only 2 sisters in range) might net me a win. It did, actually--I killed 1 sister and he killed no one--but they didn't run away. Come to think of it, out of the 2-3 morale checks I was forcing on him *every turn* thus far, Spooky had only failed one--that pinning test in turn 2. I don't know what they write in that damned book of theirs, but it must be pretty freaking inspiring.


The FWs curl around the edge of the Devilfish


Hmmm...those Retributors look a lot like Blood Angels...

Turn 5

Well, at the start of Turn 5, I pretty much knew I wasn't winning this one. I'd come this far though, dammit, and who knows? Maybe a miraculous streak of luck was in store for me.

Spooky's turn proved that not to be the case. For one thing, the footslogging hordes finally got within easy rapid fire range of my sniper drones and wiped them off the map. Then, in the west (where the real action was), the lone Vet. Sister Superior from the far western squad--you know, the one the Sniper Drones simply couldn't kill?--charged the firewarriors, but not until the next-closest squad rapid fired them, killing 4. The combat, though, was a draw, so it could have been worse. The stealth team managed to kill another heavy bolter sister for no casualties in return, but the stubborn little girls *still* didn't break. Finally, the squad with the Palatine (remember her?) managed to clip a wound off a crisis suit.

In my turn, a leisurely, oddly-well-dressed Hammerhead laden with bright red shopping bags floated onto the field of battle. It, along with the Crisis Suits and Shas'el, plugged the sisters in the next-closest sister squad for all it was worth, whittling them down to 3. Then, taking a stock of how many sisters there were and how much time I had to shoot them, I decided to see if I couldn't wipe out the remaining sisters in that squad in assault with the Crisis Suits. Things started out well--I only lost the wounded suit, but killed 2 of the sisters in return. Did they run? Of course not. Would it have mattered if they did, what with the umpteen-billion faith points Spooky was sitting on? No, it would not. The VSS and the Firewarriors traded blows, with the FWs losing one, but not breaking. The Stealths stalemated with the Retributors, too.

Turn 6

As the faceless, singing hordes moved up, Spooky's game seemed like it was going smoothly. It was just mop-up time, really. In shooting, not much happened--a few shots were tossed at my remaining piranha and Hammerhead, but nothing happened (marking the first and only times my vehicle's armor had done its job). In assault, my FWs finished off the VSS, and my Crisis Suits killed the last member of the other sister squad, freeing them up for some nice shooting next round. All was not good news, though, as the Stealths finally were beaten and run-down by the superior numbers of the Retributors--but not until they had tied up their shooting for the remainder of the game!


Hooray for Giant Robot Suits!

As my final acts in this very frustrating game, I circled up all the guns I had remaining--a piranha, a pair of drones, my Hammerhead, some Firewarriors, a Shas'el, and some Crisis Suits--and threw the book at the Palantine's squad. The resulting carnage killed most of the crowd, including the Palantine, but, as was the rule for the game, they did not fail their morale test. As a last-ditch effort, I charged them with the Piranha's drones, but they failed in their efforts. So, that was that.

Final Score

Tau:
~1000

Sisters of Battle:

~1600

Post-Mortem

Spooky came away from this one with a solid victory, which was more than enough to repulse me from the hex in our campaign. That said, I did manage to kill his HQ which, due to a special card I had drawn, earned me a couple campaign VPs anyway. Not a total loss, but still...

This game was inordinately frustrating for me. For one thing, my dice luck was simply atrocious. The Sniper Drones failed in almost every task I set for them, the Crisis Suits had clearly attended Ghazkull Thraka's Skool of Dakka-dakka, and I just couldn't catch a break on Reserves rolls, Spooky's Morale checks, or anything else. Furthermore, Escalation screwed me over royally. Spooky had deliberately stacked his army to reflect an Omega mission (which was easy, since he chose the mission), and my force was put at huge disadvantage. Even had my dice been good, it would have been a really tough fight for me.

Tactically, I made a couple errors. First off was deployment--I really should have placed my first couple choices all the way back at the table edge, just to save them the ritual slaughtering during the turn they were waiting for the cavalry to arrive. That said, I don't think I could have predicted that they would have rolled so high on their spotting distance, nor should I have ceded so much of the deployment zone to them (if I wasn't 15" in, he *would* have been). The Stealth Team strike was a calculated gamble that didn't *quite* pay off. It did save me from most of his heavy weapons for half the game, but they didn't manage to kill the unit entirely. Like much else in this battle, had my whole army began on the board it would have been a different story. If I could have actually coordinated my forces, rather than getting them to arrive piecemeal, I am confident I could have ripped that horde list apart.

As a final note, after the battle I asked Spooky if he enjoyed playing such a faceless, mass list. He said that it was pretty mechanical, and not all that interesting. However, he was quick to add that he did enjoy *winning* every once in a while, so he wouldn't discount playing that list again. He went on to promise that in our second game, which we played immediately after this one, he had devised a very different list (stay tuned for *that* report).

Overall, it was a good learning experience. I know not to attack through a secured border anymore, and I am now well aware of how nasty the ability to pick a mission level *after* army design can be. Thanks for reading!