Friday, March 5, 2010

Deathstar Battle Report

Well, the deathstar got its outing last night against Old Shatter Hands' Tau Cadre. I was trying out a big assaulty unit as a spearhead and OSH was giving pathfinders and firestorms a go.

We played a 1330 points game because I grabbed models in a hurry took more than 1250. My list was:

- Captain with powerfist leading 10 Grey Knights (2 Incinerators)
- MM Dread
- TL-AC Dread
- 10 Tactical Marines (Missile launcher and flamer)
- 10 Tactical Marines (Missile launcher and meltagun)
- Land Raider

And OSH brought:

- Old Shatter hands (Fireknife) with two gun drones
- 3 Fireknives
- 3 Firestorms + 2 Gun drones
- 12 Fire warriors with a devilfish
- 12 Fire warriors
- 8 Pathfinders with a devilfish
- 3 Broadsides with Targetting arrays and 2 shield drones.

The table setup was an urban board and we set it up so that basically I was going to head for OSH's gunline. There was one roadway space for the Land Raider to deploy in and the Tau had plenty of barricades. I was aiming to get as many troops as possible inside OSH's deployment zone. He chose to hold back his crisis suits to deepstrike while OSH and the Broadsides anchored the central barricade. I was nervous setting up my LR in front of the broadsides but there was no choice and I figured that fear was not becoming for marines :-)

So how did it go? short, aggressive movement and poor rolling for OSH meant it was a slaughter of the Tau.

Slightly longer:

I was lucky in my first turn as I moved forwards on all fronts (LR with deathstar in the middle, one combat squad on the right, one in the middle, dreads and full tac squad on the left) and didn't do much firing. OSH used his pathfinders to boost the broadsides and take away my smoke cover save but the railguns only managed to stun the raider. Turn 2 I dropped my deathstar and moved them up. Two incinerators (S5,AP4,no cover or invuln. saves) later and the pathfinders were gone. My other forces carried on sweeping around.

OSH gets both crisis teams in but they both scatter into buildings. He rolls three 1s on the dangerous terrain for the fireknives and loses and wound on the other squad too. One set of fire warriors jump out of the devilfish to rapid fire the deathstar. They are joined by OSH, the broadsides firing SMS and the fireknives. By putting as many plasma shots as possible on the captain, having cover and good rolling, I lose 4 Grey Knights and a wound on the captain. The firestorms don't have much luck on the flanking combat squad either.

What follows is basically a series of nasty assaults from the Captain, Grey Knights and Dreadnoughts to wipe out the centre of OSH's lines. The Land Raider keeps popping shots into the devilfish and Fire warriors, and my full tactical squad sweeps into the deployment zone of OSH. We end the game after 4 turns. I lose 6-7 Grey Knights, my captain and 5 marines. OSH loses himself (bizarre but true), 4 crisis suits, 3 broadsides, a devilfish and a few fire warriors.

Lessons from the match:

- A basic MEQ deathstar is actually quite vulnerable. If OSH had rolled better, or I rolled worse (passed 7 saves on the captain in one turn) then the Grey Knights would have been badly thinned out. Also, their combat success was against Tau forces. A real assault opponent would have been tougher, though striking at S6, I4 is still powerful.
- Land Raiders can be really mean once you have taken out threats to them. By the end of the game it was literally invulnerable to OSH's shots.
- Railguns are not as powerful against AV14 as you might first think. We talked about their effect (or lack of) and then decided that they were possibly better used against Rhinos as they will always glance at the worst. Still, bad luck on this unit was the problem for this game.
- Pinning can sneak up on you. OSH's devilfish popped a tactical marine with a gun drone and the squad then hit the deck, giving me one fewer missile shots during the game.
- Markerlight support is a really key element for many units in the Tau codex. OSH was unlucky to get roasted by the heavy flamer equivalents that Grey Knights have as just boosting his shooting by a little might have spelled the end for my deathstar.
- OSH is one of the most gracious and fun guys to play against, win or lose. We had a fun time and it was so easy to play with someone who knows the rules, doesn't argue over awkward points and just wants to enjoy a game of toy soldiers.

Thanks for the game OSH.

PS: I may have unintentionally cheated at one point. My fearless Grey Knights were joined by the captain when they got shot up. I believe that the addition of such a character removes their fearless status and so I should have taken a leadership check when they got shot up. My bad.


  1. Grey Knights vs Blood Angels seems like it would be a good second test of the deathstar maybe? Trying it against Tau is a good "Can they get there without dying?" and Blood Angels would probably be a good "Can they get the job done once they're there."

    I'm still mixed on deathstar units in 40k. I really prefer more flexibility or at worst having 2 really killer units. It's just too crushing when something goes wrong and the deathstar gets beaten down at least enough to make it more of a TIE Fighter, if no completely useless.

    From the rulebook, page 75, under "Fearless": "This special rule is gained by any independent character joining a fearless unit. However, as long as a fearless character stays with a unit that is not fearless, he loses this special rule."

  2. Absolutely Dhinata. In many ways this was the easiest test for a Deathstar assault unit. Tau will tend to lose out in combat against 95% of dedicated assaulters so this was no surprise. I think the GK will struggle against the upcoming Sons of Sanguinius, their lack of power weapons being the real killer.

    I think the deathstar concept is kinda fun and very different from what I usually play so I enjoyed it. I think it's main value comes in forcing the opponent to respond to the threat and therefore expose themselves to the rest of your army.

    Thanks for the rules heads-up. I knew it worked something like that, just couldn't remember which way around.

  3. The problem for the Tau is that practically every enemy close combat squad is a DeathStar unit, not just the Grey Knights and their equivalents in other codexes. That means Tau need a reliable means of stopping them getting to the Tau lines (if the mission is to stay alive) or to remove their mobility once they get there and wipe out the tasty units (if the mission is to capture objectives).

    For me, the solution is Kroot and Piranhas, one blocking infantry and deep strikers and the other blocking transports. You sacrifice some killy, but gain extra Turns of shooting with what is left. It is a judgement call as to whether those extra Turns of shooting are worth it or not.

  4. Yes, AV14 make everyone cry. When Tau hit they only have a 50/50 to get a pen or glance. Having 3 broadsides can help, but that is still probably only 2 hitting, and 1 actually pinning, not great odds.

    MEQ are fairly vulnerable to mass fire or high AP. The problem is the other deathstars (nob biker, jetseer) you either can't get insta gibbed and have 2 wounds, or they have 4+ re-rollable invul. One solution people have been doing is the SS/TH termies, but then they are dedicated CC and can get stranded easy.

    Pathfinders are great, but the problem is they are Heavy 1. That just puts a really big bullseye on their forehead that says assault me first, and the landraider gets you 20" of assault (12"+2"+6").

    You are okay with joining an IC to a fearless unit, the problem is if the IC was fearless then he loses it when he joins a regular squad. Ignoring psychology is fun, just watch out when you lose combat since you have to take a saveable wound for each point you lost by.

  5. Sholto and Mon-Keigh Reaper, thanks for the comments.

    @Sholto. I think you're right to work on the blocking concept to give that extra firing time to the main Tau line. I like kroot for this against infantry because you shoot with them in your turn and take the assault in the enemy turn. I love going to ground right before I'm charged (if the attackers shoot) as it has no bearing on the fighting ability of the kroot and might just give me those extra CC attacks. Piranhas are great for blocking off parts of the battlefield too so I am looking forward to using them.

    @Mon-Keigh Reaper. AV14 is really a beast for any army to deal with and the Land Raider having it all around lets you really mess with the enemy movement. I can think nothing of turning my flank to the enemy if I need to block a street etc. because it's just as hard to get through that armour as it is through the front.
    I think the marines have a limited Deathstar construction ability overall. The best unit is probably a pimped out honour guard led by Marneus/Lysander. They deliver so many power weapon hits on the charge (10 HG give 41 attacks at I4, Marneus/Lysander add 4-5 S8-10 attacks at I1) and have grenades so they can chop up almost anything. On the other hand, just a few plasma and other low-AP shots at them will take out your expensive unit fairly easily. Multiple wound units is the way to go for staying power.
    I think Pathfinders are great in general precisely because the demand your opponent's attention and are so easy to kill. Putting them in a good vantage point that isn't quite where the enemy wants to be (for objectives etc.) means that you've put them off their game for want of an easy kill. Of course you need to have firepower ready to punish anyone who heads towards the pathfinders but that shouldn't be too hard for Tau. Then again they might get ignored at first until the opponent sees how nasty the markerlight hits make the rest of your army and then they will probably make a late game change of direction.

    We'll see how the pathfinders do in my next game with OSH on Thursday as we'll be playing on a full-sized board at 1850 points.

  6. Gotta say I'm not really sure about the whole Deathstar thing in 40K. I guess I'd have to see it in action more, either in person, or through your battle reports. I say keep up the work with it though, it's bound to be fun regardless!

  7. I agree for the most part Asmo. I think it's a lot harder to find a good Deathstar unit and then use them properly in 40k. Probably the best ones are the heavy hitting bike units (nobs/Seer Council) because of their resilience and the relative ease of multicharging with them.
    I have another game with OSH tomorrow night where I'll be giving the GK another shot. It will be a full 1850 point game on a 6x4 table so we'll see how my techniques come out on the big table.

  8. Well I'll certainly keep an eye out for a report on it! Hopefully it goes well!

    I love the idea of running one- just a big scary, great looking unit. It just feels like it fits the 40K universe too.

  9. Nurgle bikers with 2 flammers, a powerfist champion, and 2 Chaos Lords wielding Daemon Weapons (or powerfists if you don't like the random, but I think it's a bit fun).

    Is he bringing Tau or Blood Angels? (I feel like he's probably pysched up on BAs right now with the impending codex)

  10. I like the idea of a Nurgle biker deathstar (or poxstar as it were) and I think it will hit pretty nastily. Having toughness 4(6) and FNP will definitely up the resilience of the unit and let it bring the pain.

    OSH is bringing his new 1850 Tau list to the game tomorrow and I will bring my updated marines. Overall it will be quite a nasty matchup though I'm worried for my vehicles what with facing 5 railguns, 4 fusion blasters and 7 missile pods.