Damocles Campaign

Tau rebuff attack by Imperial Crusade – Part 1

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The armored spearhead of the Knights of Altair, just minutes before launching its attack against the Tau interlopers on the Namatos Colony.

The foundation of victory is this: Know where your enemy is, and where your enemy does not want YOU to be.”—General Rachael Honour, commander of the 3rd Imperial Guard Field Army, after her victory over Archenemy troops during the Cromwellian Uprising of 543.M40

* * *

TheGM: Sometimes it’s fun to describe a battle from the perspective of a player. So the opening battle report of the Damocles Gulf Crusade will focus on a small action between the Knights of Altair (my Space Marine Chapter) and the Tau.

The crusade fleet has spent weeks crossing the Void to the rebellious colony worlds of the Timbra Sub-sector. While most of the Crusade heads to the colonies of Garrus and Kleist. the Knights of Altair are tasked with retaking  the nearby Namatos colony.

They encounter a cohort of Tau Fire Warriors—the initial wave of a sizable xeno military force designed to fortify the Tau’s hold on Imperial colonies that have turned their eyes away from the God-Emperor and embraced the xeno corruption. The battle began on 6  089 742.M41.

The scenario is Purge the Alien, and victory points are awarded for every unit destroyed. Both forces max out at 2,000 points. This is a solo game, so I’m wearing two hats: as both the Imperial and Tau commander.

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As a colonial world, the landscape of Namatos consists of mostly undeveloped countryside, with scattered regions of agricultural land and deserted pre-colonial ruins.


Warhammer 40K blogI roll for the deployment setup, and the result is a Vanguard Strike (diagonal deployment zones). There are a lot of units on the table, so I expand the table to a 5-foot-by-9-foot size.

The setting is rural, so I pull out a sizable collection of trees, wood fences and stone walls, cropfields, a stream, and, in the northwest corner of the table, a ruined town. Lots of terrain, just to make things interesting.

The Tau deploy first. I’m playing the Knights as Black Templars (a melee-style army), so the Tau commander (me, of course) realizes it is not the best idea to defend terrain that limits lines of fire. So, the Tau leave that part of the table empty, except for a token force: a Sniper Drone Team. My thinking is that the xenos can use the drones’ anti-grav engines to pop out, shoot, and then jump back into cover.

The majority of the Tau army deploys on the eastern half of the table. To the xenos’ front is a largely open area of fenced pastures, so there is an excellent line of sight for the powerful Tau weapons. 

To give the Imperial commander (also me) something to think about, the woods in the southeast corner are filled with a powerful xeno presence. In these woods are a Riptide, two squads of Fire Warriors, and three fast-moving Piranhas (supported by Tetra speeders) with Fusion Blasters.

This force should pose a nice threat to any Imperial advance.

The Knights set up second, and they have no intention of making things easy for the xenos. They deploy far away from those Tau-filled woods. Their armored column is going to cross the crop field along the road that goes north (see map). There’s a copse of woods to the right of the field, so that’ll mask the Imperial attack from Tau long-range fire.

The Knights’ target is, obviously, the weak west flank of the Tau firing line. It’s only held by a Fire Warrior team and a Broadside Battle Suit. My mighty force of Astartes and tanks should crush the flank with ease.

There is one flaw in the Knights’ plan. It is standard procedure for the Knights, when facing the Tau, to deploy in a tight formation in their deployment zone—and stay there until the xeno reserves arrive.  The Tau have no artillery to speak of, and it’s simply foolish to move forward when there are Crisis Suits in reserve. If you’re not careful, the xenos can drop behind you and hit your tanks in their thinner rear armor.

But the commander of the 5th Company, Captain Martel Vivant, is eager to close with the enemy, and he orders an immediate advance. Whoops, me bad. As I will discover, ignoring battle protocols will cost the Knights dearly.

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Imperial Turn One

It’s a quick turn. All but one armored vehicle roars up the northern road or the nearby crop field to the east of the ruins. These include an ancient Sicaran Relic Tank, a Vindicator, and three Rhinos—two of which carry Crusader Squads (the third is a sacrificial screen).

The remaining vehicle, a Predator tank, albeit one with two sponsons with lascannon, remains behind. It anchors the Imperial’s east flank by deploying behind a stone wall, which will provide much needed cover against what presumably will be heavy xeno fire.

To the left of the mechanized column racing north, two small Assault Squads use their jetpacks to advance through the ruins. They’ll attempt to take out the Sniper Drone Team before catching up to the tanks.

A Skytalon gunship, two Land Speeders, and Captain Vivant, along with five Vanguard warriors and Chaplain Allyr Numa, are in reserve.

The only shooting occurs after a drop pod falls from the sky and lands in front of the Tau Broadside Battle Suit. When the drop pod’s doors open, a dreadnought, Ancient Brother Quillicus, stomps out and opens up with his weapons. Although the mighty ancient warrior hits the combat suit with a multi-melta, the xeno walker’s damnable 2+ armor save proves impossible to overcome.

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A lone Predator tank was assigned the critical mission of anchoring the Knights’ rear flank and stopping any attempt by the Tau to get behind the advancing armored column. It was hard-pressed throughout the battle.

Tau Turn One

It dawns on me . . . err, I mean the Tau commander, that the Tau deployment is a bit flawed. It was likely the Space Marines would forego advancing up the open meadows in the table center (especially with a Riptide threatening the Imperial flank), but the forces holding the Tau’s west flank really aren’t sufficient to defend the flank.

In fact, the Tau army is too spread out to provide mutual support, and it’s clear that five armored vehicles, filled with Astartes, are in a great tactical position. What was I thinking?

Another problem: The Riptide and Piranha in the woods are now so far away from the action that it’ll take them half the battle before they can bring their firepower to bear. (Clearly the Tau commander is no better than Captain Vivant when it comes to deploying for battle.)

Still, it’s time to act. The Piranhas are ordered to go Flat Out! and get out of the woods. They’re told to head down the east-west road, take out the Predator—and then see if they can hit the rear of the Knights’ mechanized column.

The skimmers have no problem with the terrain. However, the Riptide rolls two 1’s for moving in difficult terrain, and a 1 for running. That means the giant walker is mired in the woods, which will keep the powerful gun platform out of the fighting for yet another turn. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

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During the battle, the Imperials confronted a weapons systems never previously seen among the Tau. Classified as a “Tetra” skimmer, this fast but lightly armored vehicle was never seen to fire a weapon at the Knights but instead appeared to use Markerlights to facilitate Tau fire.

The Tau’s Hammerhead tank is deployed behind a copse of woods by the eastern stream. It moves forward, hugging the banks for some cover. When two Tetra skimmers, a new addition to the army, lock their markerlights on the Predator tank, the tank commander—a tank ace (stats of Commander Longstrike)—takes a shot with his mighty Rail Gun.

It is an accurate shot. Alas, the stone wall in front of the Predator blocks the high-velocity projectile.

The rest of the Tau line is stymied. Its ranks of Fire Warriors, armed with long-range pulse rifles, have no target. Nor do the two Pathfinder teams with their supporting Markerlights.

Seeing the massive armored column approaching the xeno’s west flank,  the Fire Warriors on that flank slink into the woods . Unsupported, it would be suicide to stand out in the open against such a massive force.

The Tau do what they can. The Sniper Drone Team targets a single Assault Squad warrior who is partially visible, but the drones fail to strike. The Broadside Battle Suit stands its ground and targets the dreadnought with its high-yield missiles. The thick armor of Ancient Brother Quillicus holds true against the bombardment.

This was not a good turn for the Tau. Their advantage is their weaponry, but bad luck, a less-than-inspired deployment, and the terrain have left them impotent.

Click here to read Part 2 of this battle report.

The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.

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