Empire vs Khorne Tactica Part 2

TaleOfTwoArmies copy

In Part 1 of this Tactica, we covered which units to take against the pure combat focus of a Khorne army and with an idea of what your list includes, let’s now look at deploying and using them effectively.


I’m a firm believer in having a strong core at the heart of your army with everything else flowing around it – the expendable stuff, and that word synergy is at its most prominent at this point as you will want as many of your units as possible to benefit from your ability ‘bubbles’ and not have to spend time shuffling about after the game starts to get into range.

By keeping your core intact you can still win even if the rest of your army gets smeared into a fine red paste, which is still a very real possibility no matter how well you’ve prepared.  This core will of course tend to be your slower foot troops who don’t tend to move much, backed up by their support elements which make them better, and the simple diagram below shows that by deploying them in a compact line with the Celestial Hurricanum behind them, all three infantry blocks will be benefitting from the +1 to hit in combat.  The white squares in the Greatsword unit represent characters which can also then spread their influence to these units – namely the re-rolling of Leadership tests provided by your Battle Standard Bearer and the increased Leadership of 9 provided by your General in the shape of an Arch Lector. This entire group is now re-rolling its Leadership tests on an unmodified Ld of 9 (through Steadfast and Stubborn) whilst hitting back on 3’s with a ton of Strength 4 and 5 attacks. The Lector is also granting Hatred to the Greatswords and can also cast a prayer on them either increasing their chances to wound or improving their survivability. It would take a brave enemy General to charge headlong into that and he will bleed for the damage he inflicts – and seeing as you have around 110-120 wounds in that formation he’ll be hard pressed to outlast you.

Empire Tactica fig 1

Once you throw in your Archer Detachments that can range in front of your line, you should be able to divert enemies units looking to charge you and set up favourable flank charges for when you do want to step out of formation.  This core also has the benefit of accounting for a significant proportion of your points making it harder for your opponent to achieve a victory and easier for you to avoid defeat.

Some of your more combat capable units can also act as powerful deterrents to those who think themselves strong enough to break your core.  For example, a Steam Tank makes a brilliant protector of this formations flank, it’s hard as nails and unbreakable letting you focus on what’s in front of you.  A counterattacking unit of Demigryphs or Knights can also fulfil this role.

If circumstances are permitting, always endeavour to get a unit of Demigryphs in a position to flank the enemy. This doesn’t have to be out on a flank necessarily, simply using a piece of terrain to hide behind waiting for the enemy to come past is just as, if not more useful.  At worst it delays your enemy as he doesn’t want to get flanked, at best you get to pull off a devastating charge that can roll right up a battle line.

You should always try to place your cannons out on the flanks and this is for two reasons. Many opponents forget to look sideways across a battlefield when moving their army forwards and often assume you will shoot the unit directly in front of the Cannon in an effort to keep them alive. Whilst this is an option, shooting across the battle field into the flanks of units of Skull Crushers and Chaos Knights is far more damaging to your opponent.  Your Cannons’ days are numbered as your opponent will do much to remove them as a threat as quickly as possible, so their only job is to inflict as much damage as possible before they go. The other reason to put them on the flanks plays into this.  They’re a great distraction and buy the rest of your army time while they’re being dealt with – and if they’re way out on a flank it’s even longer before their disposers get back into the fight.  I usually deploy the small halberdier units with my cannons to buy them another turn or two of firing to really soften up the enemy before they go and make sure my opponent has to commit a significant unit or two to deal with them – playing even further into reason two.

In the compressed battle line below, you can see the core formation in the centre – although it can be positioned anywhere – supported by the Steam Tank and unit of Knights protecting its flanks. These, and any other units, moving to assist the centre also have the advantage of coming under your ability bubbles too, further adding to their potential.  The Cannons are way out wide supported by the small halberdier units and the Demigryphs are well placed on either side to support either the centre by arcing around or the flank if necessary, or even to advance forwards and punch a hole through vulnerable points through the enemy line.  You can also see how a simple copse of trees can be hidden behind to set up a trap for any unit advancing on the core formations, with the screen of skirmishing archers being used to pull enemy units into favourable positions for flank or dual charges.

Empire Tactica fig 2

By angling the archers correctly, you should be able to ensure a flank charge at least somewhere along the line and your opponent will likely be hoping to pass his Ld tests to stop his frenzied units charging into your traps.  Don’t be afraid to advance your skirmish screen aggressively to take the initiative away from your opponent who is used to having it when playing with such an offensive army. By getting those archer units high up the board you can clog up his approach with unexpected combats or slowed units trying to avoid getting into combat with them, and then overrunning into your lines unsupported.

The elements not visible in the diagram such as the Helblaster, Outriders etc. can be placed where they are needed as your enemy deploys.   If you can see he’s going to try to rush your core in force, put your Helblaster down in the centre to really make him suffer – or even abandon his plan. If he’s emphasizing (refusing) a flank, you should have an opportunity for your Outriders to find a prime firing position. A lot will depend on how your opponent deploys so try to keep your best stuff until the end. Things like Halberdiers and Knights aren’t going to hold many surprises with where they go, but the likes of Demigryphs and Steam Tanks are crucial units so try to get favourable match ups across the board to maximise their damage potential – and your opponent will be doing the same as he will be fully aware of the danger these units possess. Steam Tanks need to avoid anything with multiple high strength attacks like Slaughterbrutes, Dragon Ogres and tooled up characters. Demigryphs should simply avoid wasting their offensive power on grinding down units in multiple rounds of combat.  They are the point of the blade and if applied correctly should be able to take on almost any unit if they avoid a frontal charge.

The army is also surprisingly offensive when needed, with three mounted offensive units plus a Steam Tank battering ram, you can really take the initiative when the time comes and launch a crippling counter attack to carry the day.  Look for gaps or vulnerable points in the enemy line, as charges are made these holes will appear and capitalising on those moments to get a unit in behind his line will create a real headache as to how to deal with them – all the while you’re pounding him with black powder and magic.

Don’t be afraid to feed your expendable units into his to buy you the time you need to whittle him down with your shooting and get into position with your best units.  Expendable covers everything that isn’t in your core formation – even things like the Demigryphs.  As long as they are buying you an advantage with their sacrifice, you know that by protecting your core (which accounts for around half your victory points) you can still win.

The trick is to get him to underestimate your army.  Let him think he can roll over any unit you’ve got without consideration with his hulking combat monsters, ignoring the risks of charging across the board as fast as he can [With a Khorne army one doesn’t have much choice in the matter. – Ed].  Capitalising on his overconfidence and haste in avoiding warmachine fire will let you dictate where the combats happen and with who. Constantly deflect his best units, either into flank traps or off the board to waste their time, and only taking them on when the circumstances are in your favour.  Do this and you will win the battle.

Empire vs Khorne Tactica Part 1


TaleOfTwoArmies copyAs we near the end of our ‘Tale of Two Armies’ series, I thought it would be helpful for those interested to put the lessons I have learnt into a Tactica article of sorts – but one that focuses on tackling a specific opponent. This is the first part of that article which will cover general army selection against a foe which favours combat over all else, with the second part moving on to deployment and tactics.



I’ve enjoyed a large amount of success in the series of games Phil and I have played out, only losing once in the first game – to a total bloodbath where but a single Chaos Warrior was left standing at the end, a Pyrrhic victory if there ever was one.  This was in stark contrast to how I thought the series was going to go after the decision was taken to do it and getting my hands on the army books.  I still stand by what I said in my Empire Army Book review, the subtleties of the changes in the Empire book still leave a slightly sour taste in my mouth knowing what the author’s motivations were, and the fact that the list suffers from significant imbalances corroborates my opinions when paired with the Chaos book.

I feel a large portion of my success was actually down to Phil’s choice of which Chaos God to theme his army on as much as it is to my playing ability. Playing as Khorne is certainly a limitation – at least when it comes to playing the Empire.  I’m sure it would have been harder for me to succeed if I was playing against say, an Undivided list, with all its magical gizmos and tailoring potential – it has a hideously powerful potential in the hands of someone willing to throw any kind of theme or fluff out the window. The lack of any shooting or magic are both huge advantages to an Empire player as you don’t have to invest any of those precious points into protecting yourself from those elements and can focus more on directly dealing with the biggest threats you know you’ll face. But anyway, on to what I’ve learnt which will hopefully benefit those budding Empire General’s out there for the times when they’ve run into an army of Khorne frothing at the mouth.

Army List Selection

Games of Warhammer Fantasy Battle can be won and lost before a dice is even rolled, the choices you make in building your list will have a significant say in how easy or hard your games will be to win.

Frenzied Khorne units are like lawnmowers when it comes to the green grass of the Empire.  Most of your soldiers will die horribly by the wagon load in a stand up fight – you will typically be striking last, with inferior weapon skill, lower strength, and with far less attacks. You will need numbers, and it will be crucial to get your units working together – synergy is a term used a lot with Empire armies and harnessing it is the key to victory.

For your Core, you will need at least one, maybe two, big blocks of State Troops to act as both an anchor for your battle line and an anvil to break the enemy on.  They will need to hold their ground in the face of the whirlwind of death that will inevitably hack its way to them, at least 40-50 bodies if you’re going down the single block route.  I personally prefer to go with two units of 35-40 but that’s what works for me against my opponent and it can be hard to maintain character support across the two of them which we will come onto a bit later.  Which type of State Troops to use for this depends on your style of play, but there are some definite good and bad choices when it comes to deciding which to field.

Swordsmen are the most durable being able to make full use of shields that also provide them with a parry save, plus having an extra point of WS meaning Marauders and Hounds only hit you on 4+ instead of 3+ adds to their durability. They are great for absorbing attacks but will kill very little in return, particularly against anything wearing Chaos Armour.  They are an ideal choice for a true anvil with which to hold the enemy against, but are also the most expensive in points per man.

Halberdiers can actually kill something occasionally, but will die doing so. The extra strength helps with causing wounds and also getting through the thick armour you’ll face. However, the inability to use a shield at the same time as a Halberd means they die very quickly. For a mere 6 points they are generally considered to be the best all round choice in any Empire Army – shields are only worth taking against armies with lots of shooting so leave them behind against Chaos and take more bodies instead.  They are probably the best choice against Chaos.

Spearmen give you many attacks – albeit with very little chance of success against the high toughness and armour saves.  The Spears also make them very static and completely defensive as they only work if they don’t charge. They are the worst choice against Chaos, limited in their usefulness to only the weaker units, which are few in a Chaos army.

To back up your block/s you can add in detachments if you so choose – although there is a lot of debate as to whether they are worth it anymore after the changes made to them. My opinion is generally no, with one exception. There is a definite use for smaller 10/15/20 man units in the army, for sure, but now without the benefit of the auto flank counter charge rule, attaching them to parent units means they often just provide additional squishy bodies for your opponents superior troops to kill and gain yet more combat resolution with – that goes double for Chaos units, and triple for Khorne.  Add in all the Psychology involved with having them in amongst your line means I rather have the flexibility of taking small units on their own.  Independent 10 man Halberdier units (cheap) are fantastically useful and can be used as warmarchine protectors, charge redirectors, speed bumps, flank protectors etc.  Easily worth the measly 60 points they cost per unit.  The exception is for the lowly Archer – they’re brilliant.  They can range in front of the army and become a very irritating distraction for your opponent who must overcome their charge redirecting and blocking. Panic isn’t a problem when they die as they are out in front and the fact they can shoot is just a bonus which lets them soften up the hounds which are usually tasked with removing them.  Costing as little as 35 points in units of 5 makes them invaluable at buying you time – they are one of the most important units available to the Empire.

The rest of the ranged State Troops unfortunately are poor.  They are now very expensive for what they do and against a Khorne army with no real shooting or magic to worry about the more fragile Outriders are a much better choice.  10 Handgunners costs you 90 points for 10 shots, 5 Outriders cost you 105 points for 15 shots – all at the same equivalent BS.  Plus the Outriders get a free move at the start of the game to get into a better position, and also have horses for if they ever do need to move again – which you should avoid.

Knightly Orders are decent. The 1+ armour save is still very hard for even Chaos Warriors to get through, just stay away from Chaos Knights, or worse Skull Crushers,  who will still make a mess of them. You can also choose to equip them with Greatswords as you’ll be striking last anyway, but losing the 1+ save is a big decision as it’s their biggest strength. They won’t win in a head on charge against most units but get them in a flank and they will be hard to shift – particularly the Stubborn Reiksguard who can pin a unit in place almost indefinitely.  Their problem is they struggle to deal out enough damage and need character support if you want them to charge through units of any significance – mounted Warrior Priest’s help them massively with their Hatred.

One of, if not the best units available to you will be the Demigryph Knights – they are the one truly combat capable unit available to the Empire and can eat their way through almost anything if you play them right – just don’t forget you’re playing Chaos who are also very combat capable.  If you’re careless with them they will die just as quickly as anything else in the Empire army. Their armour-piercing beaks are tailor-made to beat Chaos units, get them in a Flank and watch them go – its carnage. Take two units if possible.

Warmachines are fairly straight forward.  The Steam Tank is a beast and you should always take it when possible.  Its hull mounted cannon is a bonus but it’s the D6 plus D3 impact hits per steam point used in moving when it charges is where the real use is. Plough it into units like Chaos Knights and Warriors and watch it mangle them – but stay away from Dragon Ogres unless you’re confident of crippling them in the impact.  Their S7 Great Weapons can do a lot of damage and at 4 wounds each are still durable despite the lack of decent armour or high toughness. The steam turret is still useful against Chaos despite their smaller units and generally high toughness.  One bad roll for armour saves can still be crippling if you ramp it up to S4 so keep an eye out for opportunities to use it.

Take at least one Cannon, preferable two – there’s multitude of fast-moving units with either high armour or multiple wounds running around for you to shoot at: Skull crushers, Dragon Ogres, Chariots, Chaos Knights, Slaughterbrutes etc. Back these up with a Volley Gun and Engineer (he’s a must).  Chaos players are terrified of the Helblaster and rightly so – it can and will remove entire units when it fires using the Engineers BS and re-roll, and will also act as an area denial weapon.

A few other things I’ve found useful are Greatswords and the Celestial Hurricanum.  Greatswords are a 50/50 for a lot of Empire players as they’re expensive, but against Chaos Warriors their weapons can wreak havoc against their tough units. Put a Battle Standard bearer in the unit and they will (almost) never ever run away. Cold blooded, unmodified leadership 8 with a re-roll is nearly impossible to break and it’s easier to just slay the entire unit, and although expensive they are very hard to get points out of because of this.  The Hurricanum enjoys the benefit being something of a wild card as well providing some reliable effects. The +1 to hit 6” bubble is valuable beyond measure for your troop blocks and means that when you do finally get to hit back, those numbers you’ve sunk your points into will do some serious damage.  It also provides an extra power dice to help get those all-important spells off, and that means the random weather spell is a bit of a bonus afterthought really – you’d take it for the first two reasons alone.

And last but no means least, we have the characters – Empire armies rely very heavily on them and thankfully they’re cheap.  First up is a Captain upgraded to a Battle Standard Bearer and he really is non-negotiable as it will be the rock of your entire army. Back him up with as with a few Warrior priests where you think you’ll need them and you should have a pretty formidable formation all benefitting from each others abilities. After you include the previously mentioned Engineer for the Helblaster, you just need some Magical firepower in the form of some wizard levels – Level 2 or more, it’s up to you really. As you don’t have to worry about any spells coming back your way you can put as much or as little into magic levels as you want. Lore of Metal really hurts Khorne with their sky-high armour saves so I take at least one Wizard with that lore in my army. The biggest choice you will face in your character selection is who to make your general.  A Wizard Lord gives you access to the very desirable Ld 9 and can hang back from the battle line relatively safe.  Another good choice is to make one of the Warrior Priests an Arch Lector, who can sit in your battle line and benefit the whole formation with his leadership and prayers – just remember to protect him adequately.

Things like Grand Masters and Generals are good but typically being mounted they tend to move away from your force so the army doesn’t usually benefit from the leadership bonus.  Sitting still in units are a waste of points for what a cheaper character can do – and if you do want them to go charging off to plough through enemy units you really have to invest the points in his unit and his magic items – which all significantly weakens the rest of your army.  Besides, who’s stupid enough to actually go chasing a Khorne army?

So based on what I’ve gone over, in a 3000 point list you should have a unit roster looking something like this:

Captain – BSB



Arch Lector/Warrior Priests/s

Halberdier Block  x2

Small Halberdier Unit  x2

Inner Circle Knights Block

Archer detachment  x2

Demigryphs  x2

Greatsword Block


Great Cannon  x2

Steam Tank

Helblaster Volley Gun

Celestial Hurricanum

Don’t be under any illusions, its hard work getting it all to fit – there just never seems to be enough points when making Empire lists – but it can be done. Some sacrifices will need to be made depending on how many magic levels you want or how many points you wish to invest in magic items.  A few things can easily be trimmed to free up points like the Outriders or one of the small halberdier units, but by including at least most of the units above you should have a flexible and tough army that your opponent will struggle to do any meaningful damage to.

In the next part we’ll look at deploying the army to get the maximum benefit out of each unit and how to use them once battle is joined.


X-Wing: Collecting a Rebel Fleet

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesThe addition of a second Y-Wing means my Rebel fleet for Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing Miniatures Game is starting to take shape. With a few games (and wins) under my belt I’ve started to get to grips with the tactics of fighting with a Rebel fleet.

To be perfectly, brutally, honest you can pick up the basics for my approach from reading the X-Wing novels but as that’s 10 books it may just be quicker to read on.

So the Rebellion’s main strength has always been the quality of its pilots. You can put a crap pilot in an X-Wing and they’ll end up dead. Perhaps not as quickly as a crap pilot in a TIE fighter, but still. So when it comes to collecting a fleet your first thought should be to the quality of the pilot you’re putting behind the stick over what the hardware can do.

Granted this is quite limiting at the moment thanks to the woefully slow release schedule Fantasy Flight are working to. There’s various hooky cards floating around the internet and it’s sorely tempting under the circumstances. But the point is, that ability to fire first is vitally important to the often outnumbered Rebellion.

And top tip; try to keep your points under the agreed limit, or at least less than your opponent. Possessing the initiative and the higher pilot skill is too good a combination to pass up.

Rebel Fleet

Profile cards aside the other issue is whether or not you collect a fleet with your heart or with your head. Given the choice, I’d happily collect all X-Wings. Their all round performance means that they’ll be able to go toe to toe with just about any other snubfighter with the exception of the TIE Defender. However the durability and weapons of Y-Wings and the savage speed of A-Wings make them both invaluable to a squadron sized force.

This combined arms approach, coupled with quick draw pilots and durability of those fighters is what makes the Rebels so lethal. And gives you the edge over the oft simplistic and bludgeoning approach of Imperial fleets full of cheap, poorly trained pilots, flying cheap poorly built TIEs. Couple it with the Imperials’ own preferred tactic of mobbing targets and it’s surprising how quickly you can chew through Imperial formations. Concentrated fire backed up by the ability to soak up some real punishment means that, providing you don’t allow your flights to get bogged down, they can take on a fleet twice their size and comfortably and capably deal with it. The trick being to scissor your say through Imperial formations. Try to avoid furballs which allow superior numbers to be brought to bear. And where possible try to plan your moves so you can tuck in behind a target with one element or another every other turn allowing you to hammer everything bar a Lambda Class and Slave 1 with impunity.

The important lesson however is never leave you wingman. A flight of three X-Wings is difficult to deal with. Possessing 9 shots, 6 shields and 9 damage points between them, they chuck out 3 more shots and can soak up 6 more points of damage for the same number of TIE fighters. Don’t be tempted to break one off to finish off a target. Ignore it and move on to the next. By the time the winged target is dead your lone fighter will be two turns away from formation and that’s a long time in X-Wing.

With all this in mind it’s also vitally important to identify threats. Figure out which of your opponent’s ships have comparable pilot skill to your pilots, or a trait that tips the balance in their favour. And then destroy them. Slowly stripping away advantages not only makes your life easier but demoralises the opponent. Plus the Imperial player is going up against a fleet of superior pilots and so target prioritisation almost becomes meaningless to them. You can play to your advantage by applying pressure with different ships at different times which forces them to engage multiple targets, spreading the damage points out.

But let’s not forget the various upgrade cards. Proton Torpedoes are a relative cheap, yet devastating tool. The important this is to not save them. They only work at long-range so fire them off as soon as possible. It’s up to you whether or not you put multiple locks on a single target. If the target gets destroyed by one missile then you’ll just have to wait another turn. The important thing is that you want at least one enemy fighter dead for each flight of two or three ships a turn firing that turn. There are ways this can be improved upon. Marksmanship is mandatory, among one or two others.

And finally: capital ships. Larger, bulkier, and tougher ships like the Falcon serve two vital roles. The first is the obvious magnet for enemy fire. They’re big enough and ugly enough to take quite a pounding. If you’re lucky your opponent will get so distracted trying to bring it down that they’ll ignore the snubfighters scything their way through TIE fighters. The second is their ability to anchor your ever flexing line. It’s 360 degree field of fire means that it will always – assuming you make it keep pace with the rest of your fleet – be able to lend a hand to soften up, or finish off, a problem target. Again, with the right combination of upgrades the Falcon can not only shoot first, but lob out a volley of missiles, repair itself, get a burst of speed or gain the evade ability, which is very very useful.

Ultimately the best advice I can give for collecting a Rebel fleet – assuming all the cards were available – is to go with what you love. Whilst, personally, I wouldn’t recommend a squadron of B-Wings because they’d get danced around more times than the proverbial piggy in the middle, if they’re your jam than take them.

My fleet will, eventually, be 4 X-Wings, 3 A-Wings, 2 Y-Wings, 1-B-Wing, 2 E-Wings and the Falcon. The reason being it offers a near perfect blend of firepower, speed and durability as well as the capacity throw a lot of Ion cannon shots and missiles at my opponents. Seven ships down, 6 to go. Roll on Salute…

The X-Wing Miniature series is available from Firestorm Games from £6.29.

A Short Tau Tactica: Fire Warriors

Continuing a look at units of the Tau Empire codex, I’m going to focus on a unit that actually represents the entire army very well, Tau Fire Warriors. They look deceptively simple and underpowered yet have so many synergies with the rest of the army list that it can put out a surprising level of damage.

Just don’t let this happen

First of all, lets discuss what you get for your points. Fire warriors have pretty average stats for 40k (though as so many armies have a Space Marine stat line this actually makes them a little below  average), with a 4+ save and the best gun of any troop choice in the game, the pulse rifle. Range 30″ alone means that you can start popping off shows at an opponent’s units in their deployment zone. Taking a pulse carbine is tempting, but with the high level of Ld most armies have, pinning tends to have little to no effect, so I prefer the range every time.

However, for all the strength of their gun, that’s really all you are buying them for, which makes them hard to use when taking objectives, the most important part of the current game in most scenarios. So that means you need to get aggressive with Fire Warriors (or take Kroot, but I will cover them another time) which where the synergies start to come in.

Tau Fire Cadres add an extra shot to any unit they join using pulse weaponry, which is a very cool special ability. Combine this with an Ethereal’s Elemental power and suddenly Fire Warrior will be advancing upon the enemy hoping to get within rapid fire range!

Combine them with the pulse accelerator drone (which perhaps make it worth taking two pathfinder squads- one to flank and one to support the main line) that pathfinders can take and all of a sudden you have a solid base of Fire warriors with range 36” guns, with one unit putting out 2 shorts (4 at rapid fire range) a turn, plus whatever bonuses your pathfinders can give them from lighting up an opponent’s unit. I’ve seen terminator squads downed this way, even if it was a bit of a desperate tactic.

Tau Fire Warrior by Bozar 88 of Deviant Art

In fact, this may allow players to recreate an old Tau tactic, the ‘Fish of Fury’. This is where Fire Warriors in Devilfish transports move up the battlefield and use Devilfishes to section off parts of the opposing army, before disembarking the Fire Warriors dealing them a devastating blow with short-range pulse rifle shots. At this point though, you run the risk of spending so many points of fire warriors that the army becomes inflexible and very vulnerable if the initial volley doesn’t kill everything.

Now one think I did mention before, albeit jokingly, was that Fire warriors aren’t that good in assault. This is the counterbalance the army faces for having such a powerful gun. It’s not as bad as it used to be, as at least Tau has a chance of causing a leadership test or reducing numbers due to supporting fire, but don’t count on it doing much. Also, try to stop your opponent from launching multiple assaults into your gunline in one turn, as supporting fire becomes pretty useless then.

Though the common adage for any army that relies on shooting is to hang back and try to win the game by shooting the opponent to death. With Tau this can’t work in the long-term. The army is built to be fluid and always on the move and as such whilst I suggest you do invest in a few squads to form a gunline with whatever other static units you have purchased (traditionally Broadsides, though I have a feeling it will be Sniper teams from now on), at least one squad should be advancing up the board in a Devilfish to keep your opponent flat-footed and on the defence.

Even then, when your opponent’s assault units or objective takers move into your half of the table, don’t be afraid to leap your squads forward and abuse that rapid fire range. This edition is a lot more about manoeuvring than prior editions and being timid won’t win you games.

Still, don’t over stretch your mark. Fire warriors are still toughness 3 with a 4+ save so dedicated firepower will bring them down. Keep them protected.

The Tau face a unique challenge this edition. They have to keep up with the big boys and are far more reliant on the army working together as a whole to put them on a competitive edge with the more powerful codices (as it should be!). Through a mixture of caution and bold movement, fire warriors can become a troop choice to be feared and once you master their use, the army will open up its secrets to you and you will become a better player for it too.

See you soon for another Short Tau Tactica.

A Short Tau Tactica: Stealth Suits

Hello there. My names Reece and Phil has kindly let me be a contributor to The Shell Case (the poor, poor fool). I’ll mostly talk about topics in the wargaming industry that interest me, along with the odd review, interview or tactica.

To get things off to a flying start, I’m going to post tacticas over the next couple of weeks which look at the usage of one of my favorite armies; the Tau Empire. Each tactica will focus on one unit and how they perform within the framework of a balanced tau force.

The first tactica will look at a unit that may have as well have been invisible (ha) in the last codex and I still think gets over shadowed by the more flashy units: Stealth Suit teams.

XV15 Stealth Armour painted by Dark6LTM of DeviantArt

In the last codex, I can understand why. They were in Elites, when Tau needed Crisis suits to give the army flexibility. Their stealth rules were a bit naff and they seemed a bit too expensive to be worth it, despite being toughness 4 with a 3+ save and a range 18″ strength 5, Ap5 weapon. But this has all changed in the new book for 3 reasons:

1.Improved Rules
We got a glimpse of how the designers were approaching Stealth Suits with the Tau Empire 6th edition FAQ last year, when instead of having the old Night Fighting rules, they were given Stealth and Shrouded for a total of a 4+ cover save even when in the open. This was, much to my joy, carried over to the new codex along with all tau suits having Night Vision as standard. Their Burst Cannons are also now Assault 4. This means that 3 guys are now putting out as many shots as a 12 man fire warrior squad and are more maneuverable  and capable of surviving return fire to boot.

The tau army is almost spoilt in what to do with many of its units, which can lead to rather unfocused army. Stealth Suit teams don’t have that option. They can take a few fusion guns to allow for tank and monstrous creature killing duty, but they are primarily all about killing infantry. Which is wonderful. The unit doesn’t really require much support either, so you can send them off to complete an objective on the battlefield confident that if you play well they will achieve it. Add Commander Shadowsun (so they can infiltrate) and watch them carry out a few sneaky tank kills followed by annoying the hell out of your opponent for the rest of the game.

Tau Stealth Suit Team painted by Burkhard of dhcwargamesblog

3. Surprise
Most opponents I have played in the past have never encountered Stealth Suits before due to their past unpopularity and certainly aren’t used to lots of units with jetpacks. They also tend to get overlooked on a battlefield when more flashy units are in play like Riptides or Crisis suits.

Use this to your advantage. Keep mobile and near cover, just off of an opponents main path of advance. If your opponent ignores them, then expect a wailing and gnashing of teeth when they suddenly find their important units gunned down and tanks blown up from the rear – because strength 5 rocks! If they choose to target them, a 2+ cover save and 3+ normal should mean they can shrug off the most determined shooting or assault, which means less heading for the rest of your army. Either way you win.

In summary, Tau Stealth suits are a great addition to your army and greatly aid its ability to disrupt and interrupt your opponents plans. They are not an over powered unit, but one I think opponents will underestimate at their peril.

Give them a try sometime and see you soon.

Kharn the Betrayer

I spotted a fantastic tactics article about Kharn the Betrayer on Bell of Lost Souls. Having developed quite a fondness for the chief mentalist of the World Eaters, and as it’s been a while since I finched content from someone else, I thought I’d share…


Gather round boys and girls – today we examine the meanest, baddest of them all – Kharn.

So what the heck happened to cause this change of heart ? That is what I really want to know. Maybe Kharn simply decided to fully embrace his dark side. What’s interesting to me is that there were other World Eaters such as Captain Argus Brond that remained loyal to the Emperor. I don’t ever remembering reading anything from GW or the Black Library that explained his decision or delved into his specific situation. Certainly Angron must have played a big part in it… That much we know for sure.

So on the tactical analysis now

I’d like to discuss how I use Kharn in my most current Chaos Space Marine (CSM) army. Kharn has received quite a few big buffs since the last codex and received a reduction in points (160 now versus 165 points now).

2+, Better than a Wolf Tooth Necklace

As before he always hits on a 2+ in melee plus he has the Warlord Trait Hatred Incarnate which is Hatred versus everything! The newly revised CSM FAQ from GW tells us that Kharn rerolls to hit on any 1s during initial assaults due to his Hatred. This is really good as he won’t be chopping up his compatriots and can inflict even more damage… Kharn attached to a dedicated melee unit (e.g., Berserkers, Chaos terminators or Chaos Space Marines) can destroy many enemy units during the initial charge so the chances of him slaying fellow World Eaters beyond the first round of close combat are slimmer now and obviously that’s a good thing.

Kharn is base S5 and his favored melee weapon Gorechild, which is a Chaos Artefact, grants him +1S and is AP2 plus it has the special rule Armor Bane (add 2d6 for armor penetration). Kharn also gets to swing his axe at his normal initiative (I5) unlike other power axes… This is very good as well.


Like I said above you should attach Kharn to a dedicated melee unit. This makes him more survivable over the course of a game and he enhances friendly units such as Chaos terminators and Chaos Space Marines since they benefit from hisFearless and Hatred Incarnate special rules. Also it is worth noting if Kharn is chosen for your primary detachment he then makes Berserkers count as a troop choice which is also quite useful.

I currently prefer to use Chaos Space Marines with the Mark of Khorne (MoK) and Icon of Wrath (IoW). MoK grants the special rules Rage and Counter Attack so equipped as such the squad is actually better than Grey Hunters… Of course you’re paying the points for it. IoW grants them the special rule Furious Charge and allows the squad to reroll their charge distance – that ability alone is well worth the price for this option.

This unit can be configured just like a squad of Grey Hunters – bolter, bolt pistol and a close combat weapon (commonly referred to as the uber grit) plus they have access to special weapons unlike Berserkers. I prefer to take a flamer since mass infantry is very popular now. Plasmaguns are a bad choice since they can’t charge if they fire it. The meltagun is one shot and while it packs quite a wallop your goal should be to engage them in melee… The flamer helps to soften enemy units prior to the charge.

I’d like to experiment using a squad of Chaos terminators in the future… They are pricey though compared to Khorne Marines and don’t score either. Still I think Chaos terminators could work well in the right list, such as if you’re using cultists for your troops.


Chaos Land Raider
I prefer to run my squad with Kharn in a Land Raider equipped with a Dirge Caster (prevents enemy units from using Overwatch), dozer blades and extra armor. Both the Dirge Caster and dozer blades are made of pure win… I will even go so far as to say they are both mandatory. If you’re feeling a bit daring you might want to use Daemonic Possession instead of extra armor… I would much rather have BS4 for the Land Raider two twin linked lascannons. It doesn’t matter much as the game progresses though since you’ll be moving the transport a lot, which will force you to snap shoot those lascannons.

Chaos Storm Eagle
If you can use Forge World then I think a Storm Eagle is the best way to go and it is superior to the Chaos Land Raider since it is a flyer with an assault ramp and has the capacity for up to 20 models! This is where taking a large squad of Khorne Marines or Berserkers can really pay off (i.e., 15 or more total models embarked inside the Storm Eagle… Take another flamer if you’re running Khorne Marines). The Storm Eagle has the Vengeance Launcher which is excellent for trashing enemy infantry such as big blobs hiding behind an Aegis Defense Line plus you can take an option for two twin-linked lascannons or four Hell Strike missiles. You can also replace the nose mounted heavy bolter with a Reaper autocannon. I prefer the lascannons and Reaper autocannon configuration since these ranged weapons are excellent versus enemy flyers.

Dreadclaw Drop Pod
You also have access to the Dreadclaw drop pod if you can use Forge World. This transport is a cheap flyer with AV12 all around – it also has an assault ramp and frag launchers as well. The Dreadclaw can only carry 10 models and has no ranged shooting but you’re saving lots of points as compared to the Storm Eagle… You can actually take three Dreadclaws for the price of one Storm Eagle – definitely something to consider as this easily lends itself to a very mobile assault army.

Note on the Rhino
I don’t see the Rhino as being a good choice. You can’t assault the same turn you disembark and the Rhino just seems so flimsy now. The last thing you want to happen is Kharn’s transport being shot out from under him before he is in range to launch an assault. If you don’t want to pay the price for a Land Raider or Storm Eagle and can use Forge World then the Dreadclaw is your best option.

Foot Slogging
This is another option but I never use it. It can work though and the points you save eschewing the use of transports can go towards fielding more assault units or simply running them in bigger units. Your army is slower though and will be exposed to a lot more enemy shooting as it moves forward across the battle field to engage the enemy. You can use an Aegis Defense Line deployed at the boundary of your table half to provide the 4++ cover save as your army advances.

Kharn’s Shortcomings

Kharn is truly a melee beast but we need to consider his weaknesses as well so we can better protect him. Kharn’s major shortcoming is his resiliency – he is base T4 and has only a 5++ invulnerable save. This is another good reason to attach him to a bodyguard. Use the squad champion to issue or accept challenges so Kharn can inflict damage into the enemy unit rather than wasting his uber attacks versus say an enemy character armed with a storm shield. This will invariably produce better results overall in melee and you’ll sweep enemy units more often.

Blessing of the Blood God

It would have been so nice if Kharn had a 2+ armor save and was an Eternal Warrior but at least he does Deny the Witch on a 2+ which is very helpful seeing how popular psykers are now with their many deadly maledictions. Kharn is also immune to instant death from force weapons and a lot of people believe this includes Nemesis daemon hammers as well.

The Big Picture

I’ve posted some of my Khorne army lists here before and you can also find them over on my blog Terminus Est. Kharn and his retinue are one of the cornerstones of my army. I use daemonic allies to bolster my numbers and I’m surprised not to see more players doing so. Daemons are an excellent ally for Khorne and there’s lots of solid Khornate daemonic units to choose, such as a Bloodthirster, Daemon Prince, Heralds and Bloodletters. I prefer to run my Bloodletters in packs 16 strong so they can soak up the damage on the way in. I have also used Khornate daemons as my primary detachment with CSM as their ally – it’s brutal and often I find the daemons to be more resilient.

It can be quite the challenge to play an assault army in sixth edition but once you’re stuck in the enemy can quickly wither… You don’t see lots of assault armies now, as bad as assault is now with all the many nerfs they are still a solid contender in my opinion and I do love to exploit the meta.

You’re not going to have a lot of shooting so you’ll need to make the most out of what you do have. This is another reason why I prefer transports such as a Chaos Land Raider or Storm Eagle since they both have some serious long ranged shooting.

Kharn is pretty much a point and click über melee character… He is brutal in assault (obviously) so get him into close combat – he will take care of the business. The Land Raider is your best option as a transport if you have to keep him on the ground… Consider taking a Chaos Storm Eagle or Dreadclaw if you can use Forge World. Kharn needs a retinue to help him survive the battle longer. Finally daemons are an excellent ally so use them.

Dystopian Wars Tactics

Following the game I had with Lee and ahead of the one I have with Ian both of The Chaps I’ve been thinking about tactics in Dystopian Wars both general and force specific.

So here’s what I’ve come up with.

Use Size to your Advantage

The rule surrounding line of sight can be a bit of a pain in Dystopian Wars. If you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing you can find your battleship blocking line of sight of your dreadnought. However, this works both ways. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve you can use ships to protect other elements of your force until such time as you’re ready to unleash them.

For example, a Dreadnought can screen cruisers. This is especially handy if your cruisers are a little on the soft side or, in the case of CoA armoured cruisers, expensive and specialist. Equally, a battleship is large enough to obstruct the view of a dreadnought. Having two, in larger games, means you can keep your dreadnought safe until such time as you’re ready to bring its might to bear.

Unit deployment

To a point this links to the previous comment as sensible placement of units can mean screening your smaller, vulnerable units from the big guns. However the distance between ships in that unit is important to consider. By keeping your ships relatively close together you are able to share Ack Ack and concussion charges. This can leave them vulnerable to mines etc but combined with the added bonus of it makes it harder for the enemy to get amongst you it’s worth it.

Escorts are Deadly

Granted the effectiveness of escorts varies from fleet to fleet, but they are designed primarily with Ack Ack and Concussion Charges. The obvious tactic is to assign them to your big ships. However, because escorts have solid Ack Ack, if sent off in packs they can hold up or even wipe out flanking tiny flyer squadrons. Coupled with the fact that they’re small and evasive makes them a bastard to sink.

Don’t Underestimate Corvettes and Frigates

Although cheap and easy to blow up, their speed and large unit sizes means that they can go screaming across the board and mob carriers, particularly a soft touch like the FSA’s. They’ll almost certainly be destroyed but at the cost of diverting enemy assets to deal with them. A CoA unit of 5 Corvettes will cost 100 points and at range band one can unleash 13 dice. That’s more than a CoA Dreadnought’s particle accelerator at the same distance. But for 175 points less. You don’t need to be a maths whizz to see the advantages of smaller vessels, especially when looking at mass fire power. The Prussian frigates are especially tasty on that front and, en masse, are a bigger pain in the arse than their cruisers.

Use the Psychology of Big Ships to your Advantage

It’s no surprise that battleships and dreadnoughts attract a lot of fire. They’re big and scary and have many many many guns. However, if you can get your deployment right and are able to hold your nerve you can use this to your advantage, holding back enough ships that when you sail your large/massive ship into the teeth of the enemy and they attempt to surround it, you have elements on station ready to counter attack. And providing you don’t leave the capitol ship on its own for too long it should be able to soak up the worst of the punishment whilst your ships get there.

Fleet Tactics

These are some tactics I’ve observed in the fleet lists I’ve had experience with.

FSA – Encircle and overwhelm. The FSA have the best ranged firepower in the game. They can afford to hover at range band 3 with a mixture of Battleships, Cruisers and Gunships and pound their enemy to splinters, with frigates and other support vessels watching flanks and running interference. More over a coordinated strike between rocket batteries and tiny flyers can overwhelm even the most concerted defences.

Prussians – Corral and Capture. The Prussians are fast but light on armour. But they are also devastating at boarding actions. Prussians can use their superior speed to isolate vessels and then use scissoring maneuvers with the larger vessels to weaken and ultimately board & capture the target vessels. But keep on the move. Withdraw out or range or make use of cover. Getting bogged down in prolonged exchanges of fire will not end well.

Covenant of Antarctica – Taking the Fight to the Enemy. The CoA ships are solid all rounders. They are the Space Marines of the Dystopian Wars universe. However, their particle accelerators are devastating when fired. However the 12inch range makes the opportunity difficult to exploit. The Covenant work best in a fighting wedge. Their armour isn’t thick enough to take a prolonged pounding but bringing enough force to bear on a thing point and the CoA can break through, before opening up with broadsides and laying mines.

Kingdom of Britannia – Hold Fast. The KoB are actually a bit shit at the shooting game. Their gunnery at range is incredibly poor and only average at the closer ranges. However they don’t lack for guns and they’re not short of torpedoes. They are by far their most effective at keeping their distance, using frigates and submarines to deter attackers, and softening the enemy up with relentless torpedo attacks. Once weakened or thinned out a bit close as quickly as possible to take advantage of the increased dice at range bands 1 & 2.

Empire of the Blazing Sun – Combined Arms. I’m not too experienced with the EotBS but from what I’ve observed they are all round pretty tough ships and work best in task forces of combined arms with a healthy blend of naval and air elements. This can make them vulnerable to attack but their high critical rating will mean that enemies can only chip away at them and making sure a healthy air presence will give them the edge.

Hopefully this has been helpful and as I dream up more I shall post them up.

Band of Brothers

So I thought I’d talk a little tactics for a change. Specifically about fielding Space Marine Battle Companies in Warhammer 40,000. Regular readers and Twitter followers will know that I have two companies of Ultramarines, the 1st & 5th. How I ended up with over 200 Space Marines is a fairly dull story and, thankfully, required very little expenditure on my part. The important thing is that I didn’t plan on ending up with two full companies.

My Ultramarines army started life like most other people’s 40k armies – full of all the cool shit. I.e. Land Raiders, Terminators, Dreadnoughts maybe a squad of Veterans. However, finding myself with a large Space Marine force and a pile of Terminators in lieu of payment for a painting commission events over took me somewhat. But what I discovered as I worked on each of the companies to capacity was that I liked the fact that I had two very distinctive forces with obvious tactics innate yo each. Or one uber force of face kicking-ness for big games. And so I made the decision that I would only use 1 company or the other in smaller games and only combine them for Apocalypse style games. My reason for doing this was as much to do with the canon as it was the gaming challenge as, simply put, Space Marines deploy by company and only in extreme situations do they borrow from the reserve companies. The 1st company isn’t something other companies borrow from. They’re off kicking the fattests of evil arses, not waiting around for Sicarus, Ventris or Galenus to get on the blower and ask for help.

As a result I’ve been using primarily the 5th company for a year so now with, for the most part, real success. Because Battle Companies are awesome. And here’s why…

Most 40k players make two assumptions about Space Marines. 1. They’re unfairly/unreasonably hard 2. All the cool shit is in the Elite or Heavy Suppirt part of the list (To be fair, from a model point of view, this is kinda true). Both these assumptions are wrong. Space Marines, although awesome, are actually above average, but they are above average at everything . And that’s what sets them a part from all the other armies. An Ork army will have variation but you know they’re coming for you. The same can be said for Nids. With Space Marines a player never knows what they’ll be facing because Space Marines can take a fair stab at everything. Including your face. The second assumption is the most significant in this instance because, actually, all the cool shit is the bog standard Space Marine units as well, for precisely the reason why assumption 1 is wrong.

One of the biggest advantages of a Battle Company is numbers. My 5th company list including the recently added Techmarine and Servitors is 112 models. Not tanks, just pairs of boots on the ground. 108 or those have power armour or better, have WS & BS4 or better. That number includes 16 heavy weapons, 8 special weapons, 9 power weapons 2 power fists, 2 Dreadnoughts, 1 Razorback, 2 Rhinos, a Drop Pod, and a Predator. And all for a little under 3,500 points. Granted that’s a hefty game but, trimming the fat I’ve managed to field 107 marines, 2 Dreadnoughts and a Whirlwind for 3,000 points and I outnumbered my Ork opponent. Really think about that for a second. 107 marines. With a 3+ save or better. Hitting on 3+ or better. Requiring a 4+ to be wounded by most basic weapons. One. hundred. And. Seven. Space Marines. That’s a lot of post-human to chew through at toughness 4.

Compare that to a ‘standard’ Space Marine army for the same points. There’d be at least one Land Raider in there. Plus a Terminator squad, that’s 500 points straight away for 5 blokes and a tank that’s going to attract more attention than the slutty chick at holiday camp. That’s not to say they wouldn’t do some damage but it’s rare for Terminators to make their points back because 1. they attract the aforementioned attention and 2. they die too easily, as I bemoaned about the other day. This means you have to take two squads. One to put in the Land Raider, another to deep strike in to bolster the line. That’s now 750 points and you haven’t actually gotten to the elements that’ll win you the game.

I’m the first to admit that fielding a straight up Battle Company has it’s weaknesses. It lacks flanking ability afforded by Landspeeders or bikes. This means that the role falls to the assault troops who are expensive and get no more armour for your points than a tactical squad. They can also lack the ‘decisive’ blow or longevity that Terminators and Veterans can often deliver. If assault marines don’t break the back of a target on the first turn theyvreally struggle. Because they’re not specialists, they’re marines with rocket packs. Also the lack of speed from the tactical elements means that assault marines often have to stay close to home and provide counter attack support. This isn’t the end of the world, however, as 20 assault marines with 31 attacks a squad on the assault will make a mess of most things. Plus the addition of melta bombs is…useful.

Before these ‘problems’ make you give up and start cramming your list with Terminators and Veterans remember this, tactical marines are fucking awesome. Aside from the fact that you can split them into 5 man teams, every squad comes with its own pimpable Veteran, they always rally – which is supremely useful in the core of your force. Fielding 6 full squads gives you 6 heavy weapons, 6 special weapons, 48 bolters (with up to 96 shots) and 6 veteran sergeants that can all take power weapons or power fists. That’s a lot of bang for you buck. And they will, hands down, tackle just about anything but the most ferocious of close combat monsters. But that’s what all the guns are for, and the assault marines lurking nearby. The important thing to remember is that, yes, Vanguard & Sternguard Veterans are way cool and rolling fist fulls of dice in combat usually means there’ll be nothing but mush where your enemy was but they’re 25 points a model and they die just as easily as a tactical marine at 16 points a model. And die they will. Because they’re shit scary. And, little known fact – Veteran Power Armour is made from special bullet attracting metal. True fact.* Plus you can still draw upon the significant muscle that comes with a Captain and fully kitted command squad. Chuck them in a Razorback and not only will you have mobile fire support but a Command Squad can plug the gaps in a line or throw themselves into a fight with a handy fistful of dice that’ll include some power weapons. Always handy. Plus a Chaplain, with an assault squad is just hideous. And Chaplains are insane value for what you get. Liturgies of Battle anyone?

*May not be a true fact.

That many tactical squads allows you to leap-frog your squads whilst maintaining a significant base of fire on the enemy. Plus it’s hard to decide what’s the biggest threat in an army when, 1. it’s uniform and 2. there’s 60 marines all running at you. Using two full devastator squads guarantees a solid fire base as well as concentrated fire on those elements that are the most threatening to those all important scoring/tactical units. Both my squads have 4 missile launchers in them which allows for multi-role fire support. Yes they’ll struggle to deal with Land Raiders and the like but overall, a missile launcher is one of the best weapons in the game. And hugely underrated.

As are, in my opinion, Dreadnoughts. Dreadnoughts, although only armour 12 are immune to enough weaponry that you can ignore large elements of the enemy as a viable threat allowing you to make more effective combat decisions. They offer mobile fire support keeping pace with your tactical squads for no penalty and they get all the tasty guns (so Land Raiders aren’t such a problem). 135 points for a Dreadnought with twin-linked lascannon and a close combat weapon is awesome. Plus, they don’t distinguish between soft squishy flesh and adamantium armour in combat thanks to a Strength 10 close combat weapon. I’ve witnessed a Dreadnought worth 105 points hold an entire flank on its own simply through sensible deployment and liberal use of its power fist. And in a Battle Company you can justifiably take 3. Although 2 is standard. But for 105 points basic, you’ll struggle to find something better.

And don’t forget you have a spare Heavy Support choice that be used for a Predator or a Vindicator which can offer very real amounts of firepower and, again, draws attention away from the rest of your force. A Predator covered in lascannons in the middle of 107 Space Marines is usually delivers just enough despair that your opponent psychologically gives up and goes home because fielding that many of the Emperor’s finest is one thing, being able to afford Dreadnoughts and tanks too is just too much.

The thing about fielding a Battle Company is it’s all about nerve and faith. In that you need huge helpings of both. Because you lack the hammer blow that only Elite elements and heavy tanks can deliver your plans must be tempered by patience. Don’t get drawn out, don’t over commit elements to a fight they’re not equipped for. Just because a tactical marine is more than a match for a Guardsmen doesn’t mean you want to tie up a squad – 10% of your fighting strength – in a losing scrap with a platoon of them.

Using a Battle Company allows you to focus on the plan. You know what your force has. What its strengths are and where it is weak. The trick is turning those weaknesses to your advantage. Don’t worry about your lack of speed, let the enemy come to you, just be sure to know what you’re doing with them when they arrive, be in a position to close the trap. And don’t forget the most important thing; a Battle Company is incredibly intimidating. How does an enemy deploy a force to deal with that many Space Marines as, most likely, they will be staunch believers in those assumptions I mentioned earlier. So it’s as much about having faith in your opponent’s fear as its is faith that you do not.

You will never have an easy game fielding a Battle Company. They lack the heavy hitting elements, but by using all the different squads and weapon combinations in concert it is a formidable force that most opponents won’t know where to start with. Plus its size will make it a real challenge, even for horde armies to overwhelm. And the cherry on top of that particular cakey treat is that they’re still Space Marines. Although, word to the wise; make sure your special & heavy weapon load outs are balanced. 6 lasannons are ace until you fight a horde force.

Ultimately, field a Battle Company and you’ll take a beating but as long as you hold true to your plan, have faith, and don’t over reach you will win the day.