40k: Battle Summary - Eldar vs. Tau! A game of hard lessons...

Thanks again to Majestic Chicken on DeviantArt.com

 NoName1 here, with another written Battle Report (gotten a few of these in recently!) this time against the upstart Tau. This was a game of hard knocks, and one that taught (or reminded me of) a number of lessons in how to field an army
 *This report is picture heavy, and there's some exposition, but it's light on details as I didn't do a good job of taking notes in this game, sorry for that. Also, I was sad - so it's definitely on the "oh woe is me!" side of things. Skip if you're sensitive to those things.

 Now, I've been playing Eldar since 5th Edition (I know, I'm still a n00b), and there are three armies that I have found particularly unforgiving to play against, for different reasons:

 Blood Angels, because they are *so good* at getting to and in Assault, an arena where my army, particularly my lists, struggle a lot.
 Orks, because there are just so many of them, and I can't let any of them get close or they run me over. And they walk all over me on Tactical Objectives.

 And, Tau, because they can effortlessly strip me of my most obvious advantages.

 That is, first, speed - the Eldar are *fast,* but Tau armies are full of deep-striking or jumping units that are particularly good at opening firing lanes and hitting enemy units no matter where they run or hide at nearly any range.
 Second, Cover. Eldar are really good at getting into cover and getting reliable Cover saves, but Tau have unparalleled ability to Ignore Cover with basically every unit in their army (Markerlights, Battlesuit Commanders). Losing cover on Jetbikes and Wave Serpents seriously hurts (oh poor suffering Wave Serpents!)
 Third, armor. Eldar are known for being squishy, but in the grand scheme of things they actually have remarkably good saves, stacking up well vs. even Space Marines for sheer amount of 3+ saves. Tau, however, have alarming quantities of low-AP weapons that cut it to ribbons - while Ignoring Cover.

 The other challenge with the Tau is that the only place Eldar really excel against them is in short range, particularly short-range shooting, but also in assault. Eldar superior armor (in general) and much better stats favor Eldar up close, while their shooting is generally short-range.
 The reason that's a particular challenge is that it's opposite with nearly every other opponent Eldar face in the game - just about anyone else and you don't want to get close! So if you're building TAC (Take All Comers) lists, this is an odd duck to factor in.

 This last game against the Tau was my first game playing against them since 7th dropped. What was fascinating about it was that I've been playing 7th for a while now against a number of opponents, and this was the first game where the way my army played against an enemy army was *totally* different.
 Here's what changed:

 Vehicle Toughness. My Wave Serpents were easily able to survive the entire game, which would have been impossible in 6th. Between the improved Jink and the softened Vehicle Damage Table, Eldar tanks are downright beefy now.

 Which leads to:
 Damage output. Because of the changes to Jink, my Wave Serpents, Jetbikes and Crimson Hunter had almost zero impact at range, vs. back in 6th where those three were some of my hardest hitters. Being forced to snap-shot in order to get cover saves so often made my own gun line largely ineffectual.
I remember the first moment I unloaded my mighty Crimson Hunter's full armament (Snap Shots, of course), and my Tau opponent waited calmly for me to fire "the rest of its guns." When I told him I was done, his response was "…that's it?"
That was a little heart-wrenching. Yes, my expensive Flyer is rather seriously lacking teeth.
 In past games vs. the Tau, my Serpents were practically vaporizing a unit of Pathfinders in a single round.

 And finally:
 Psychic Powers. I really like the 7th Edition changes to Psykers, but it does mean completely re-thinking how I play against Tau. The powers I was able to get off were less impactful than in 6th (many of them were re-written, such as Telepathy's Hallucination). But, in general, I was able to get off about a third as many powers as I'm used to because of failed tests. And of those, half were Denied this game - something Tau couldn't do in 6th (or at least had less chance). That was a little shocking. In the end only maybe two individual casts went off and had any effect at all all game.

 Lists (abridged)-
 Ethereal (Warlord, 2x Shield Drones)
 Fire Warriors (10x, 2x Shield Drones)
 Fire Warriors (10x, Devilfish, 2x Shield Drones)
 Fire Warriors (10x, Devilfish, Cadre Fireblade)
 Fire Warriors (10x, Devilfish)
 Kroot (10x, Snipers)
 Riptide (Ion Accelerator, 2x Shielded Missile Drones)
 Riptide (Ion Accelerator, Skyfire, Intercept)
 Broadsides (2x, Rail Cannons)
 Pathfinders (5x)
 Pathfinders (5x)
 Pathfinders (5x)

 Jetbike Farseer (Warlord, Shard of Anaris, Stone of A')
 Guardian Jetbikes (9x, 3x Cannons, Warlock on Jetbike w/Spear)
 Dire Avengers (10x)
 -Wave Serpent (Scatter Lasers, Holofields)
 Fire Dragons (6x, Exarch, Firepike, Fast Shot)
 -Wave Serpent (Scatter Lasers, Holofields)
 Wraithknigh (Suncannon/Scattershield, Scatter Laser)
 Dark Reapers (4x, Starshots, Exarch, Fast Shot)
 Warp Spiders (7x)
 Swooping Hawks (6x, Exarch, Sunrifle)
 Crimson Hunter

 Tau won First Turn, we played Maelstrom Scenario #4

 This was the Tau Deployment. This particular list of his was a strange one, because he's usually a big fan of Battle Suits (Crisis, in particular) and this list packs a grand total of four suits in the Riptides and Broadsides.
 But, it's a broad line, with a short table - meaning his entire gun line has range well into my Deployment Zone. I wanted to play to Objectives, but I had to play defensively to answer that.

 I deployed in a far corner, aiming for the weaker flank, and hoping to out-range/avoid the Broadsides and at least one Riptide for as long as possible. I should have known they could hit me anywhere on the board and not worried about it. I packed the Serpents side by side, where they could combine fire, and where the one full of Dire Avengers would be closer than (and cover) the one with Fire Dragons.

 Kroot Snipers Infiltrated after Deployment, in a position to Alpha-Strike my Wraithknight. Snipers are scary for him, but the Tau have tried this tactic before, and the results for their snipers were not pretty - wiped without firing a shot. This time, however, going first, he got a volley off.

 Here's the Deployment bird's-eye

 Turn 1!
 I failed to seize and the Tau made good use of some Scout movement to get more in position, then the wall of Pathfinders poured out Markerlights. It sucks that there's no save against those, because the poor BS of Pathfinders doesn't hold them back much...

 A lot of Markerlights went on this Serpent...

 The rest hit the poor Knight.

 I got very lucky though, even with boosted BS and a number of units shooting at him, the Knight proved his resilience by making a ton of saves, losing only a single wound.

 Here's a glimpse of that cursed Riptide in the distance, that rained death on all of these units all game (the Avenger is there just to show who is in that Serpent).

 An especially lucky/unlucky shot from the Riptide nails my Reapers, who are just not equipped to stand up to this kind of firepower.

 It's hard to see here, but this Riptide is straddling two Objectives, although we only had the one Card for the two of them, so 1 pt. to the Tau.

 A snapshot of my army, post movement, Turn 1. The center Serpent Jinked, and still lost an HP, and so I pulled it back out of LoS from that Riptide on the right, the Reapers moved up nearby, hoping for a clean shot at something.
 My Knight, Spiders and Jetbikes moved up to try to catch that flank, but I was being cautious because I didn't want them exposed to the death wall. *The Bikes, at the very least, should have gone flat-out to get as close as possible.

 My only effective round of shooting all game. The Farseer used Psychic Shriek to great effect on the Kroot, but the two survivors made Leadership.
 The Knight's Suncannon did a number on the central unit of Fire Warriors, which also has the Cadre Fireblade in it. The Serpents both did their best, but the Pathfinders on the left (white) made a ton of saves, and the ones in the middle (black) barely took any hits from the Jinked Serpent. In Assault moves, my bikes backed up to be harder targets (which was a mistake, I should have been much more aggressive).

 Turn 2

 The Tau poured everything they had into the Knight, who I knew was going to be in LoS no matter where he was on the table, so I determined to be very aggressive with him ASAP.
 …Which I should have started doing earlier!

 Massed Markerlights took him down by another wound, but he did very well considering.

 This Serpent Jinked again, but still went down to a single HP, and the Dark Reapers used to be in that big empty space there. Not a good game for that unit...

 Now, the Eldar Turn 2 (forgive the Crimson Hunter, it's not supposed to be there!)
 I knew this turn was critical, I was playing a slow-slog attrition game, and I was losing models/points much more quickly than I was taking them. So this was the turn where I had to make a significant dent, or the game was essentially over.
 My Crimson Hunter came in, and was promptly reminded of the waste of points that an Eldar Flyer is vs. Riptide Tau. He'd parked a Riptide in the middle of the board, with Skyfire and Intercept, of course, and I'd been unable to shift it. As such, no matter where I flew in, he would have a better than good chance of shooting an AV 10 Flyer down without trouble.

 The CH blazed in, Jinked for all it was worth, and took (miraculously) only a single Glancing Hit as damage. Deep sigh of relief!

 I moved up with my Knight as far as I could possibly go. He was down to only a few wounds, and couldn't survive more rounds of shooting, so I made all haste to Assault that Riptide.
 *I could have Assaulted the Fire Warriors, but the unit was so small I assumed the Jetbikes would kill them
Also, just out of frame, I moved my Warp Spiders up into easy range of that Devilfish's side armor - with 14 shots at S7, chance for AP1, I was ready to count the Tau Transport out for this game.

 My Spiders let fly, a blistering salvo that resulted in a meager 4 Glancing Hits (!!), *all four* of which were then saved with Jink. My Knight then fired at the Riptide, causing a single wound with the Cannon. My Farseer also (previously) hit the Fire Warrior unit (and Cadre Fireblade) with Psychic Shriek, only to have them roll three 6's to Deny it.
 *Again, this was a tactical error. My Knight should have shot and charged the Fireblade's unit, with my low volume of Attacks, they may have survived to lock my Knight in combat until my next turn, and protect it from shooting - but I was set on nailing that Riptide
 My combined shooting from my entire army dropped three Shield Drones and one wound off of the Riptide. My Knight then failed Charge Range (granted, I needed 9"+, but I rolled 3"...)
 ...Also, the Knight took two wounds in Overwatch, dropping him down to 1.

 Turn 2 was, to put it very lightly, humbling. Having fired my entire - and largely intact - army at an enemy, with not a single unit unable to see a target or fire, and do a grand total of *three* unsaved wounds, while also doing two wounds to myself (Overwatch) was TERRIBLE. Especially since I'd pulled several hail-mary moves to get into shooting positions that should, by all odds, have resulted in decent enemy casualties. And, worse, were guaranteed to lose me at least one unit. My Spiders were left swinging in the breeze in front of a *lot* of anti-infantry firepower, having failed to bring down the Transport or make their Jump into cover.
 My pictures became a little more infrequent at this point, because I was pretty crushed that my precious army and I had let each other down so badly.

 Turn 3-
 I still have a chance, albeit a slim one, because of how much I still have left on the table. But that last gamble was the line between Glass and Cannon in a Glass Cannon army. My Cannon had fired, and it was going to get some shattering in return whether or not the shot worked - Which it did not, in spectacular fashion.

 My Spiders did their best on their Jet Pack Move, but a well-timed Devilfish coming in from Reserves spelled almost certain doom for them.

 Nearly everything else in this area laid into the Knight (some at my Jetbikes), and brought his last wound down with little trouble.

 My Spiders were also easily wiped out, by the Devilfish and its full complement of Fire Warriors.
 In return I did…  A whole lotta nothing. All of my units left on the table (Jetbikes, Serpents, Hunter) were firing Snap Shots and missing everything, while my Avengers didn't have range on anything.

 So, I still have a single Ace up my sleeve - my Swooping Hawks, with their S4, AP4, Large Blast that Ignores Cover. If I can put a dent in his Fire Warrior blob and expose that Ethereal, I can still do some real damage and put him on the back foot!

 These guys are dead. With their 4+ saves and T3, both sides of the board covered by Riptides, the center covered by Fire Warriors, they're gone. However, I placed them out of Line of Sight with the Intercept Riptide, and was relying on them to do some damage on arrival, so I risked it.

 At the same time, my Jetbikes jumped up on this terrain to get a decent shot on the mob below, the Warlord is up there as a stand-in for the closest model, the Tau general was concerned about the fragility of models if we tried to pack all of them up there.

 Then, the bad news. My Hawks' bomb landed dead on that Fire Warrior in front of the Etheral, and dealt a whopping 8 wounds. Since they were AP4, Ignores Cover, the Fire Warriors get nothing - but, they had Shield Drones. Oh how I *hate* Shield Drones!
 When the dust settled, he failed two 4++ saves. My desperate effort, despite a very successful shot and wound roll, resulted to the death of a paltry two Shield Drones. The Flashlights the Hawks were packing were similarly ineffective, causing no Unsaved wounds on the larger unit (although they did Blind it, that was a plus).

 The Hawks used Battle Focus as best they could, but wound up not being out of firing range from anyone. I should have used the Grenade Pack then had them Skyleap right back when I saw how little damage it had done.
 On a brighter note, combined fire from my Jetbikes and Serpents (and a freshly disembarked unit of Fire Dragons) finally brought down the leftmost Devilfish, as well as a number of the white Pathfinder unit. Even then, it took a 6-man unit of Fire Dragons and a juiced-up Wave Serpent, and they only just barely took down the Devilfish.

 Turn 4-
 This Tau turn was both very effective and not effective at all. He bunched up, inched forward, and kept trying to make a mess of my Vehicles. Once again, both Serpents and the Crimson Hunter weathered the fire marvelously, taking almost no damage.
 Note in the photo above both the Swooping Hawks and the Dire Avengers (bottom center). Both of those were obliterated, but nothing else suffered much.

 Lots of shots, my Jetbikes survived nicely, as did all of my vehicles.

 Fire Warriors shot the Hawks down to two models, they failed Leadership and ran for the hills.

 Turn 5-
 It was getting late (and the game wasn't really going anywhere) so we called this the final turn

 I got crazy with both Serpents and the Jetbikes, my Hunter flew off the table, my Hawks (predictably) ran off the edge.

 I had the Objective "Kill an enemy Character," so my Bikes went hard for the Cadre Fireblade's unit, and actually did significant damage to the unit, bringing it down almost entirely, but it wasn't enough to take down the Fireblade. I hoped the Charge would be more successful!

 This is my final picture, demonstrating that that charge did not go any better. I lost a bike or two to Overwatch, but all in all it was a very lackluster end to a tough game.
 That was about the sum total of Casualties for the turn too, I was very proud of my single-HP Wave Serpent - a Riptide got behind it and let fly with everything it had on its rear armor, but then the Serpent made all of its Jink saves! Payback for the Devilfish earlier I suppose.
 I lost the game, not by as much as I could have, but still lost in terms of Victory points. The more crushing loss, however, was the total sense of powerlessness from my scary super-army. This is one of the nastiest lists I've ever built (avoiding Knight or Serpent Spam as much as possible) and it just failed utterly in this game.

 Tactically speaking, I should have realized early on that hanging back was going to lose me more than it gained, and I should have been far more aggressive in the first two turns. Especially with the Knight and Jetbikes.
 The other key mistake was forgetting that my Serpents are not gunboats. They can be, but if they're Jinking and have powerful units embarked in them, they're Transports first and foremost. Getting those payloads in range gets the most out of them, and increases the number of targets on the board, giving them a better chance of getting those shots off.
 Also, deploying all in one corner was a mistake. I should be sure to split my army more often and have it operate as two independent halves striking at two different flanks.

 I've made some tweaks to the list, and will try to remember those tactical lessons. But, I'm also crossing my fingers for hotter dice rolls in future!

 That's my rant. Thank you (and I'm sorry) if you made it this far. More chipper news next time!