Sunday, 14 April 2013

Desperate Alliances

Today I've so far only managed to assemble the crew for my Skull Cannon of Khorne but since the Tau release I've been doing some serious thinking about the short comings of a Daemon army and how to get around them. The main issue with the Daemons is that they lack decent range. Sure there's the Soul Grinder and the Skull Cannon but almost every other army has access to a hell of a lot more destructive fire power and enemy armies will be trying to kill your close combat monsters as quickly as possible using that fire power. Because of this I've been looking into allies for the Daemons that would make up for this deficiency (which I assume was the point of the Allies rule) and today I plan to look at an alliance that may have been overlooked until recently; the Tau. Now as a tactical analysis it's long and not ridiculously detailed because I've only looked over the Tau Codex for a short time to get a feel for the army so if you want in depth analysis of how each unit can interact with every other unit in both armies then this isn't the place to go. I say again this is a long article so if you're not in the mood to read a lot then I'd probably move onto one of my shorter articles.

From a fluff perspective I'm not sure how or why the Tau would work with the Daemons (unless maybe Tzeentch has manipulated a Tau commander or two into thinking that the Daemons will help out the Greater Good) but the Allies chart states that they can form a desperate alliance. Maybe the enemy was giving more resistance than the Tau could handle or maybe the Daemons just materialised and the Tau thought to make the best of a bad situation but whatever the reason may be these armies are able to work together. So what exactly does that mean on the table-top? Well I've managed to find a PDF of the new Codex (I'm not trying to con GW out of their money I just wanted to see if the pairing was viable before I go spend a fortune on an army I'll never actually use if it didn't work) and while I've only given it a cursory glance the Tau seem to actually fill the gaping hole in the Daemon army; hefty fire power that can't be killed by a Deny the Witch roll and that won't confer FnP (always a danger with Tzeentch units). Not only are the Tau weapons pretty damn strong they also have some excellent range with the shortest range gun having a range of 12". Now you may be thinking that the Daemon ranged attacks have a longer range but when you consider that a decent amount of Daemonic ranged attacks are Psychic attacks they invite a lot of variables that could cause a shut down of all ranged attacks if that's what you rely on. Yes, the Soul Grinder is pretty hefty and the Skull Cannon is high strength but if they're included in your army then the enemy is likely to go straight for them for those reasons. Flamers are good but if they get stuck in combat they're likely to die fast and even if they don't they might end up giving your enemy Fnp which for now looks like it stacks. Against models with a low toughness value that isn't too high a risk but when you're talking high toughness units then you may end up inadvertently giving a really high FnP to a unit you really don't want to. Imagine if you try to beat down a Terminator squad and accidentally give it FnP which ends up stacking to 2+. Those things are there and they're staying there and you've basically just handed the game to your opponent on a plate because barring some very VERY unlucky rolling then they will simply shrug off even the most devastating weaponry anyone has. The Psychic attacks have similar problems (For Tzeentch units at least) but they add more variables; firstly a Psychic test must be passed, then the enemy can DtW (More effective for some units than for others) and then you have to resolve the attack in the normal way so any wounds caused can still be saved and it all becomes dangerously unreliable.

The Tau don't actually have Psychic powers so there's no danger of a successful DtW roll removing your attack potential and like I said they have some pretty decent range and power. Now the Tau are well known for two things, their previously (and often) mentioned fire power but also for their lack of close combat ability. The Kroots can hold their own and there are a couple of units that can get stuck in on an assault but for the most part the Tau are meant to be kept out of combat which is why they have such huge range on their guns, or at least I assume that's why. They have some pretty huge models too and their special rules are... Interesting. For example an Ethereal can use Invocation of the Elements to give friendly units some pretty decent boosts. There's only one that I can't really see being used that often and that's the Calm of Tides which gives all units the Stubborn special rule. I guess if you're in danger of being assaulted then it could be handy but other than that... The most interesting of the four is Zephyr's Grace which allows a unit to Run and then fire off snap shots. On it's own this is useful but if there are two Ethereals on the field then this combined with Storm of Fire and the Counterfire Defence System can get some decent movement and a decent amount of damage going.

Now before this becomes a pure Tau tactical analysis lets think about how this can benefit us as Daemon summoners. Firstly (and most obviously) we gain access to some of the best ranged weaponry in the game (for now). Secondly we gain access to some flyers as opposed to FMCs (and more flyers are available than if we allied with, for example, Chaos Marines). Finally we get some decent covering fire for our assault troops. In order to gain access to the Tau heavy hitters and therefore the most powerful and far reaching guns they have we do unfortunately need to invest quite a lot of points into the Tau side of things owing to the fact that we can't just pick a single unit. The allies Force Organisation Chart tells us that we have to take a HQ and a Troops choice and then anything else we take is optional. Now if you're looking for cheap compulsory units so that you aren't taking up too many points before you get to the good stuff then an Ethereal is a basic 50 points and a unit of 6 Fire Warriors is 54 points (random total if you ask me but there must be a reason for it) so there we have the compulsory choices for only slightly over 100 points. If you're playing a 1500 point game and you're giving a third of that total to your allies then you've got just under 400 points to play with so you could take a Drone Squad (56), a Riptide (180) and a Sun Shark Bomber (160) for a nice and neat 500 points. Of course that is all without upgrades of any kind but you still have access to some decent fire power there plus the Riptide has become quite the symbol of fear since the Tau release purely because of the damage potential it has. If nothing else the Tau will probably split the fire between the Daemons and Tau which will limit the damage done to any advancing Daemons and if you look at a Riptide and a Burning Chariot of Tzeentch one certainly looks scarier than the other so it is more likely to get hit. The less fire directed at your Daemons the better and if you're a true Daemon fan then you won't really be that upset when the Tau die because your Daemons would probably have killed them all after the battle anyway.

A small tactical point here, because this is a Desperate Alliance you do have to take a couple of things into consideration. The first being that the Warlord trait of allies cannot benefit one another so no re-rolls for the Tau if Fateweaver is your Warlord. Also it isn't really an issue for Daemons because non-Daemon characters can't join them anyway but normally characters can't join an allied unit and (this one might actually sting a little) the Tau can't be targeted by Daemon psychic powers. It would be a vice versa situation but the Tau don't have Psychic Powers. The most important consideration here is the One Eye Open rule where units from the two detachments are within 6" of one another then they must roll a D6 and if the result is one then that unit can't make ANY actions in that turn. I repeat for emphasis, can't take ANY actions at all. So no moving, no shooting, no assaulting... Nothing. I'm not 100% sure but it's possible that this could extend to Overwatch too which will be really REALLY bad for the Tau because they have practically no CC ability (it is interesting to note that the Kroot have the highest WS of any non-HQ unit and that's 4).

The best way to utilise this alliance is to have Tau in cover at least 6" away from Daemons so that they can lay down some heavy covering fire for the initial advancing Daemons (something with an Icon to prevent or limit scatter). The Daemons, by now way more than 6" away, will be in a position to start bringing out allies and I'd probably start here with Tzeentch so that you can add to the covering fire from the Tau and also start bringing out the Psychic guns. In the next turn the units that you had first and the new unit(s) can start to bring down more units and by using instruments you can bring two units per Icon you have so by this stage you're really causing some damage at range and almost ready for the big assault. Also at this stage you can use some of the original units to start harassing the enemy to stop them damaging your newly summoned units all with the support of the Tau guns. For example you use Plague Drones to bring down Pink Horrors with the Icon who then bring a Burning Chariot along for the ride with their Instrument. The Chariot, Horrors and Drones can all use their ranged attacks alongside the Tau. The next turn sees the Drones make an assault, two other units brought down by the Icons and then bringing along two other units with them if they have instruments. All this time you're still doing damage with the Tau which makes them a high priority target and therefore you're already splitting fire because the enemy can't focus primarily on the Tau otherwise the incoming Daemons (which your enemy will know is coming) will swamp them. If all goes to plan your enemy won't have a clue what to kill first and will try and kill everything at once which will end up killing not very much. If the enemy tries to focus on one thing at a time then you're free to swamp with the rest of your Daemons as soon as they can assault and all the while the Tau are way back from the blood bath simply pulling their little triggers as fast as they can and causing as much carnage as possible. Just remember that no matter what you have got to keep your allied units away from each other or there's the chance that they won't do anything in that turn which can get dangerous for your Daemons.

The basic rule of this alliance (and I mean basic) is to have the Tau kill as much as they can before it can kill off too many Daemons. At the end of the day the Tau are there to fill a hole that the Daemons can't reliably fill on their own (not saying they can't be shooty, it's just not reliable the way the Tau guns are) so use them for that. Just bear in mind all the restrictions on Desperate Alliances, don't forget the roles the Daemons are meant to be playing and don't bother trying to target and of the allies with "any friendly unit" abilities and this alliance will work very well.

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