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How to Assault a Tau Gunline with Harlies.

Image result for image tau gunline

Tau are a tough match up for Harlies. They have a huge volume of s5 shooting, which will just blow through our -1 to hit buffs, and 4++ invulnerable saves. However, as always with Tau, once you’re “in” it’s pretty much all over. It’s getting there that’s the problem. 

So here are some thoughts about how to get into a tau gun line. Now, to be fair, this is more of a “thought experiment” than a true tactica. Circumstances will vary so much in execution that a blow by blow “play book” is a bit pointless. However, it’s presented in that form here simply to illustrate at least some of the tools you can use.

(When writing this article a scene from the Lord other Rings keeps going through my head. It’s when the Orks that captured Merry and Pippin are just outside Fangorn Forrest and they fall out. A fight erupts and one of theme shouts “looks like meats back on the menu boys”. Well, I can just imagine a Troupe Master breaking into a tau “castle” and shouting “looks like sushi’s back on the menu chaps”. Anyway, where was I?).

As in the last article, there are 2 stages – list building and game play.

First in list building you need the option to take the Starmist Raiment. It’s the Enigma that lets the bearer ignore overwatch. If you can also include an Autarch with a Banshee Mask that’s even better. Best however is a unit of Skyweavers using the Silent Shroud Masque Form with access to “The Silken Knife”  otherwise known as the “you can’t shoot me in overwatch” Stratagem. 

But let’s not make it too easy. Let’s assume I’m taking the list I’ve been playing most recently, a Shadowseer, 2 Troupe Masters, a Solitaire 5 Troupes with 4 Fusion Guns and Caresses, backed up with a Black Heart Spearhead with 3 Disintegrator Ravagers. For this particular exercise, I’ll make one of the Troupe Masters my Warlord and give him Skystrider (disembarks after movement), and the Shadowseer would take Twilight Pathways and Veil of Tears. The Troupe Master would have Falchou’s Talon (extra 6” movement on his Starweaver) and I’ll spend a command point to take Starmist Raiment on the Solitaire (no overwatch). 

A lot will of course depend on the Tau army, and how he builds his castle. At the moment a “typical” tau list seems to consists of some Riptides and/or Hammerheads, a bunch of Fire Warriors, Fireblades, and some marker lights (usually from Firesight marksmen, and/or pathfinders). Typically they build their castle tight (needing to be within 6” to maximise “for the Greater Good”) with the Riptides/Hammerheads screened by the Firewarriors, with the characters in-between. The biggest danger to Harlies in this list are Heavy Burst Cannon Riptides (particularly if they have Velocity trackers) and Fire Warriors. The Hammerheads don’t really have the rate of fire to make Starweavers sweat. The biggest impediment to getting into combat is of course Overwatch, particularly if they use the Tau Sept, and are hitting on 5s. 

First up is deployment. You need to deploy less important units first, so you can get a feel for where they’ll build the castle. This is because you want to rush them with as many Starweavers as possible to try and “overwhelm” their shooting.  So deploy your  Ravagers using screaming jets. That gives you three drops before you need to set anything on the table. By then you normally have a good idea of where he’s going to build the castle.

Next, you set up all your Starweavers “on the line” ready to rush him. This is a high risk strategy. You’re “betting” on going first (you will most likely get the +1, which with a seize gives you a 62% chance of doing so). You can mitigate the risk if there’s los blocking terrain, which you can hide behind before “pouncing” on the castle. But if there isn’t, unless you want to play a “running away and hiding to get points” sort of game you don’t really have many options – at least if you go 2nd it will be over quickly and you can go get a beer! Lets face it if there isn’t los blocking terrain, and you go second, you’re probably going to lose against Tau anyway, so you might as well “go for it”. 

So, assuming you have first turn, and you’re reasonably close to the castle, the first thing you need to do is assess the defences. What you’re looking for is a plan of attack. Think like a medieval siege engineer – where are the weaknesses? Is the moat narrow at a certain point, is there a weakness in the curtain wall, is the stone work susceptible to sustain attack from a catapult? More particularly

  • Is there any los blocking terrain close to the castle? What you’re looking for is something you can hide behind so the Tau can’t see you when you launch an assault. If they can’t see you, they can’t fire overwatch.
  • Make sure you opponent marks where one unit starts and the other stops. This is important for a couple of reasons – first you need to know which units can fire “for the Greater Good” in support of the unit you choose to charge. It they are too spread out, you might be able to assault one side of the castle and only trigger FTGG from a couple of units. Second, you need to know where the “joints” are, if you want to charge more than one unit.
  • How “good” is the screen? By this I mean, can you get a Starweaver into a gap to target a Riptide or a Hammerhead? If it’s very shallow, you may be able to keep the Starweaver’s base more than 1” from the screen but still get range on your Fusion Pistols. Remember you measure everything from the base, except range on the Fusion Pistols, which is measured from the hull. So you can keep the base more than 1” away from the screen, but pivot the hull so it’s closer to the screening models, even above them if there’s room.  
  • Has he left any “gaps” in the castle your Solitaire can exploit? The Solitaire is a small model on a small base, that can jump across all models “as if they are not there”. With an average “blitz move” of around 22”, plus a charge, he can squeeze into gaps and assassinate characters pretty effectively. If you can take out the Marksmen and the Fireblades that would be a significant blow.

The plan of attack will change in detail, but the key is to get close enough to do significant damage, without suffering too much in Overwatch. The plan might look something like this

  1. First move up the Troupe Master’s Starweaver 22” (using Falchou’s Talon), but don’t advance it. With a 22” move you should be able to get this Starweaver into a position to assault turn 1, ideally into 2 of the screening units. 
  2. Hop the Troupe Master out the Starweaver (using Skystrider) and get him into a position to assault. If you can get him into a position to assault a Character good, but a unit of Fire warriors or pathfinders is good too. This would be the unit to get behind some los blocking terrain if there is any. 
  3. Next get your Shadowseer out and advance her.
  4. Move the Starweaver she just jumped out of to within 3” of the Shadowseer. DO NOT advance this Starweaver. You want to be able to assault with this one too.
  5. Get your Solitaire out and Blitz him up the board. Again you want him to be in a position to assault 2 units in the screen, to prevent overwatch on other units. If possible keep him within 18” of the Shadowseer, and within 6” of the Troupe Master.
  6. Next, move up the other Starweavers, advancing them freely. If you can get them into a position where they can target a Riptide or a Hammer head with their Fusion Pistols, great. Don’t forget to use Prismatic Blurr on one of them for a 3++, and Fire and Fade on one if you need a little more distance to get your Pistols in Range
  7. Bring down the 3 Ravagers you had in reserve so they can draw a bead on as many Riptides as possible (ideally within 6” of the Archon).
  8. In the Psychic Phase cast Twilight Pathways on the Shadowseer’s Starweaver. Assuming it goes off, get that Starweaver into a position to assault 2 units. That should be reasonably easy given it’s 32” move. If you can also get it in a position to fire Fusion Pistols at a Riptide or Hammerhead, that works too. Ideally, it should be beside some los blocking terrain (we’ll get to why in a moment).
  9. Next cast Veil of Tears on the Solitaire. This will make him -1 to hit, and with the option to use Lightening Fast Reactions, -2 to hit. The idea is to make him as hard to kill as possible so that your opponent needs to focus reasonably significant fire power to take him down, hopefully preserving Starweavers and Troupes. 
  10. In the shooting phase, fire your Shuriken Cannons first at any drones protecting the Riptides. If you can’t kill the drones, ignore the Riptides and fire at something else. 
  11. DONT fire at your assault targets. The last thing you want to do is have them pull models that make assaults harder.
  12. In the assault phase, charge with the Solitaire first, locking down at least 2 units, preventing them from using FTGG
  13. Next, assault with the 2 Starweavers that can assault. You will probably lose at least one of them, but that’s OK – their job is to draw FTGG fire. Remember, units firing FTGG, can only do so once. So if your opponent uses a bunch of units to kill a Starweaver in overwatch that’s great, because they won’t be overwatching anything else. And it’s good for another reason. The Troupe that spills out the Starweaver can still assault. This is why you want the Starweavers beside los blocking terrain – if the Troupe can pile out of the wrecked ‘weaver, behind that terrain, they can charge with impunity (you can’t overwatch something you can’t see).
  14. Finally, assault with the Troupe Master and any Troupes that fell out Starweavers. HOWEVER, choose your targets carefully. Ideally you want them to charge a unit already “tagged” by a Starweaver or Solitaire (no overwatch) and preferably one that’s more than 6” away from any unit that hasn’t used FTGG. Also, if you’re charging with a Troupe PULL YOUR PUNCHES – i.e. only have one Player able to swing, so you don’t overkill the unit and can consolidate into the unit and hopefully “take a prisoner” so they can’t fall back. Ideally you want all the units that charged locked into that unit, so they can’t be shot by your opponent in their turn (obviously this doesn’t work on units with [FLY].  

If all this works perfectly (virtually impossible, but hopefully enough of it will!) you might have killed one Riptide, and maybe 3-4 units of Firewarriors/Pathfinders, for the loss of a Starweaver, maybe 2, and some Players. However, you’re in his lines, and (with luck) have locked down a unit of Firewarriors and hopefully have a Solitaire, a Troupe (or 2) and a Troupe Master in that combat so your opponent can’t shoot them. You’ll have 3 Starweavers full of Troupe’s “out in the open” but they are all -1 to hit, one with a 3++ and one with an additional -1 to hit from Lightening Fast Reactions …. oh and 3 Ravagers. 

There’s still a lot of fire power coming your way, but with a bit of luck, there will be enough left once the dust settles. 

2 Responses to “How to Assault a Tau Gunline with Harlies.”

  • Nick W says:

    62% is an F in school, showing how unreliable your solution is. Still with the caveats you suggested:

    No Starmist Raiment; no Autarch with a Banshee Mask, No Skyweavers using the Silent Shroud Masque Form with access to “The Silken Knife.”

    It probably is best to go for the 62% chance and total win or total loss. However, if you do take the Autarch, Starmist Rainment or Skyweavers, how would you proceed then? Do you think you’d do something less risky but less winner-takes-all?

  • EYIG says:

    I agree, planning to go first is unreliable. But Tau are a horrible match up because of the huge volume of medium strength shots. However, the real problem is terrain. If there is insufficient los blocking terrain you are always going to struggle going second against Tau …. no matter what you take in your list (BTW I did take the Starmist Raiment in my “theoretical” list).

    If I were to take Silent Shroud Skyweavers going second might be an easier option. If the tau player castled you MIGHT be able to set up out of range, weather Tau’s first turn, and then use Twilight Pathways to launch a long range assault with the Skyweavers. However, the trouble might then be getting enough support there to back up the one unit of Skyweavers.You might be able to hide the Autarch and the Solitaire within range. Those 3 units might cause enough disruption to get the next wave in.

    It’s a tough match up.

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