Tag Archives: mont’ka

Growing to 1850

I prefer playing 40K at the 1500-point level; there’s a balance of army size, power level, and time requirements that just hits my gaming sweet spot. However, that’s not to say that I’m not looking to expand my horizons. I’ve never gotten too heavily into the tournament scene – I’ve only played in two since starting up in 2007 – but I’d rather be prepared for the possibility of another tournament than to discount it entirely. Of course, over here in the States, 1500 points isn’t a standard tournament size. Instead, 1750- and 1850-point tournaments are common, and 2000-point games are starting to be all the rage as well.

So, what can I do to expand my existing 1500-point list? The method is pretty simple: take what it already has, and just add more of it. A little duplication, and a little swapping around of points to fit, and I can come up with something like this:

HQ: Commander Shas’el (92pts)
Comamnder Shas’el (Missile Pod; Plasma Rifle; Multi-Tracker; Hard-Wired Target Lock)

Elite: Crisis Battlesuit (141 pts)
3 Crisis Battlesuits (Flamer; Twin Linked Missile Pod)

Elite: Crisis Battlesuit ( 141 pts)
3 Crisis Battlesuits (Flamer; Twin Linked Missile Pod)

Elite: Crisis Battlesuit ( 186 pts)
3 Crisis Battlesuits (Missile Pod; Plasma Rifle; Multi-Tracker)

Troops: Fire Warriors(145 pts)
6 Fire Warriors
1 Devilfish (Disruption Pod; Gun Drones)

Troops: Fire Warriors(145 pts)
6 Fire Warriors
1 Devilfish (Disruption Pod; Gun Drones)

Troops: Fire Warriors(145 pts)
6 Fire Warriors
1 Devilfish (Disruption Pod; Gun Drones)

Troops: Fire Warriors(145 pts)
6 Fire Warriors
1 Devilfish (Disruption Pod; Gun Drones)

Fast Attack: Piranha Light Skimmer (70 pts)
1 Piranha Light Skimmer (Fusion Blaster; Targeting Array)

Fast Attack: Piranha Light Skimmer (70 pts)
1 Piranha Light Skimmer (Fusion Blaster; Targeting Array)

Fast Attack: Piranha Light Skimmer (70 pts)
1 Piranha Light Skimmer (Fusion Blaster; Targeting Array)

Heavy Support: Hammerhead Gunship (165 pts)
1 Hammerhead Gunship (Railgun; Two Burst Cannons; Disruption Pod; Multi-Tracker)

Heavy Support: Hammerhead Gunship (165 pts)
1 Hammerhead Gunship (Railgun; Two Burst Cannons; Disruption Pod; Multi-Tracker)

Heavy Support: Broadside Battlesuit (170 pts)
1 Broadside Battlesuit (Team Leader; Hard-wired Target Lock; Targeting Array)
1 Broadside Battlesuit (Targeting Array)

Total: 1850 points

It’s got more blocking, thanks to having one more Piranha and one more Devilfish, one more Troop to sit on an objective or to act as a buffer, and a bit more Railgun thanks to the the Hammerhead. I’ve also swapped a unit of Fireknives for a unit of Deathrains, and vice versa for the commander. There’s a bit less plasma, but the trade-off gets me a bit more consistent missile fire. Alternately, I could drop the target lock from the commander and swap one Hammerhead for another unit of two Broadsides. The army would become slightly more static, but it’d have another railgun.

The downside to this list is that I don’t have everything I need. I’m about four Crisis Suits short of this version, as I only have three Deathrains assembled and painted (as opposed to six Fireknives), and I only have one unassembled Crisis Suit left, which I’ll probably make into a Deathrain commander for my 1500-point list. I’m also shy a Devilfish – technically, I do own four, but one of them lost the tabs that hold on the engine nacelles in a drop, so it’s unusable. Depending on where I shop, three more suits and another ‘fish is going to run me between $70 to $110. It’s not a bad investment if I plan on playing in any tournaments, but not something I’m likely to do on a whim. (Of course, if I go that route, I might as well buy Broadside #4 to open up the 2×2 Broadside option for the list).

In the meantime, I have a third Piranha to assemble, and two more Devilfish to paint!

Another Go With Stealth Suits, and Re-Evaluating the Mobile List

On Thursday, I gave the Stealth Team another try, this time against my friend Dan’s Salamanders army. Now, his list needs some work – Dan’s the one whose army has been entirely gifted to him and is mostly made up of Black Reach boxes – but he can still manage to put up a fight, and he’s working on trying out new things. We also only managed to get in a couple of turns, but the first two turns are possibly the most important, so I still consider it a valid test.

Once again, the mission was Seize Ground with 5 objectives, but instead of Spearhead, we ended up with the traditional Pitched Battle deployment. Dan spread out his forces, so I wanted to concentrate mine on one flank. However, terrain was such that it was hard to squeeze into one corner, so my firebase ended up a bit more stretched out than normal. This led to my line of screeners being deployed a bit differently, ending up a little farther forward and in the middle than originally intended. This also cut my safe distance a bit, and ended up countering one of the strengths of the Stealth Team, the Stealth Field. By turn 2, he had marines within rapid fire range of one end of the unit and was able to spot and fire upon them with no problem. A few bad rolls on my part, and my screeners fled the board in one massive jump. Yes, they have more mobility – and this time, it bit me. That’s a lot of points to lose from one bad morale check. Score another point for Kroot.

But I’m not here to talk about Kroot today. I’m here to talk about skimmer walls again.

The same day I was gaming with Dan, Stelek over at Yes The Truth Hurts was suggesting something different with Tau – namely, trying an army without Kroot walls, just to mix things up. Now, regardless of your feelings about Stelek, his attitude, and his delivery, he can definitely put forward solid ideas. Seeing him trying his hand at a 5th Edition mobile Tau list piqued my interest. However, his list is about 500 points too high for my typical play level, and he has a lot more Deathrain suits in his list than I even own (one day, I’ll have magnetized suits, but not yet), so it’s not something I’d just pick up and run today. But what can I do with it? The result ends up being… not all that different than what I already play.

HQ: Commander Shas’el (77pts)
Comamnder Shas’el (Flamer; Hard-Wired Target Lock; Twin-Linked Missile Pod)

Elite: Crisis Battlesuit (141 pts)
3 Crisis Battlesuits (Flamer; Twin Linked Missile Pod)

Elite: Crisis Battlesuit ( 186 pts)
3 Crisis Battlesuits (Missile Pod; Plasma Rifle; Multi-Tracker)

Elite: Crisis Battlesuit ( 186 pts)
3 Crisis Battlesuits (Missile Pod; Plasma Rifle; Multi-Tracker)

Troops: Fire Warriors(145 pts)
6 Fire Warriors
1 Devilfish (Disruption Pod; Gun Drones)

Troops: Fire Warriors(145 pts)
6 Fire Warriors
1 Devilfish (Disruption Pod; Gun Drones)

Troops: Fire Warriors(145 pts)
6 Fire Warriors
1 Devilfish (Disruption Pod; Gun Drones)

Fast Attack: Piranha Light Skimmer (70 pts)
1 Piranha Light Skimmer (Fusion Blaster; Targeting Array)

Fast Attack: Piranha Light Skimmer (70 pts)
1 Piranha Light Skimmer (Fusion Blaster; Targeting Array)

Heavy Support: Hammerhead Gunship (165 pts)
1 Hammerhead Gunship (Railgun; Two Burst Cannons; Disruption Pod; Multi-Tracker)

Heavy Support: Broadside Battlesuit (170 pts)
1 Broadside Battlesuit (Team Leader; Hard-wired Target Lock; Targeting Array)
1 Broadside Battlesuit (Targeting Array)

Total: 1500 points

Unlike my typical army, though, I wouldn’t keep the Fire Warriors in reserve. Instead, I’d probably gunline them up, and use the Devilfish and drones, along with the Piranhas and their drones, as blockers and screeners. It would have issues with melta, true, but if I can at least slow down the enemy with skimmers, then they’ve done their job.

Now, what tweaks could be made to the list, assuming that I had any models I wanted (or at least could magnetize my army retroactively)?

  • Changing the Fireknife suits to Deathrains would give up my plasma shots, but I’d gain more consistent fire and 90 more points to spend. Easily enough to throw in a third Piranha with points to spare.
  • If I had a fourth Broadside suit (I only own three), dropping a Disruption Pod from one Devilfish would give me enough points to run two identical squads of Broadsides. Granted, it would slow down my railguns and force me to run a more static form of play (although with Fire Warriors on foot, it’s rather static already), but getting a second railgun for only 5 points would be worth it.

Both changes would end up making the list look more like a little version of Stelek’s. Of course, I don’t have the minis to do it at present – I’d be looking at another $130 or so to pick up what I’d need – and I’m still a bit wary about losing the plasma rifles. Still, it’s worth trying out.

A Hybrid Hybrid: First Tests

Tonight, I got a chance to test the Stealth Team screening idea suggested by Aloh’Nan’El against my friend Jon’s Space Wolves. I wanted to see if that unit could play defense comparably to a similar line of Kroot, and if its strengths – the stealth field, the increased mobility, and the decent armor saves – would prove to be a benefit. The unit was set up as such:

Stealth Team (215pts)
3 Shas’ui (3 Burst Cannons; 3 Drone Controllers; 6 Gun Drones)
Team Leader (Burst Cannon; Hard-Wired Target Lock; Bonding Knife; Drone Controller; 2 Gun Drones)

The target lock was there because I revised the list somewhat and ended up with a few points to spare. It only came into play once, though, to negligible effect, so it’s hardly a necessary add-on. Normally, I would run without it at 210 points. Without getting into too much detail about the game itself (Sieze Ground/Spearhead, 5 objectives, Jon went first), here’s what worked:

  • Stealth Field: On Turn 1, Jon tried using his Long Fangs to punch holes in my defensive line so that one of his 3 Rhinos could plow through. The Long Fangs were perched on a hill in one of the far corners, and the combination of range and my Stealth Field made him waste a turn of fire, even with a reroll from Acute Senses. Everything else in my army had a cover save or was out of LoS, so it was one of the few shots he could take, and he lost it.
  • Mobility: After said Rhino was wrecked by a Missile Pod shot from my commander suit, Jon started footslogging towards an objective with the unit, and I was able to move my Stealth wall up take fire at them. I was then able to jump back and keep them out of assault range, leaving his troops out in the open for more firing. On the next turn, I was able to shift them into a shielding position to protect my other troops from assaulting Terminators after taking shots.
  • Armor Save: When Jon did get to fire on the Stealth team, they weren’t reliant on cover (and there was little to be had on the table; there was no area terrain, and everything else was LoS-breaking hills or ruins) to survive. Instead, the 4+/3+ saves on the drones and suits allowed them to withstand fire with few casualties.

And here’s what didn’t work:

  • Just One Unit: Jon took a risk and tried dropping Logan and a unit of Wolf Guard Terminators into my backfield, and managed to avoid scattering all together. Had I had a second screening unit, I could have filled that space with models and made it difficult/impossible to easily insert deep strikers. As is, I chose to screen off his Rhinos. I ended up losing both a unit of Fire Warriors and a team of Fireknives because of it. The rest of the army shot the unit apart, and the wall locked up the remainder until the bottom of turn 4, but it would have been better to force him to drop ahead of the screen.
  • Weak in Assault: The Stealth team ended up locked with the Terminators for 4 rounds of combat, finally getting that last wound in by virtue of numbers. Had I had Kroot with Hounds, rather than Stealth Suits with Drones, I would have had more attacks and better initiative, which might very well have tipped the combat in my favor sooner. Also, against Terminators with power weapons (in this case, Wolf Claws), the Kroot’s lack of an armor save was a moot point; my Stealth Suits would have fared no better.
  • Unable to Claim: At the end of turn 5, I managed to have units capturing 1 and contesting 3 other objectives, but ended up less than a half-inch short of contesting the one Jon was holding. The remnants of my Stealth team were sitting happily on the objective in the middle of the field, but as they weren’t troops, it wasn’t enough. We were tied on objectives 1-1, and I won the tiebreaker on Kill Points, but if that Stealth team had been a unit of Kroot (or even Fire Warriors), I would have clearly won 2-1. Now, whether or not they would have survived to the end of the game is debatable, but if even one or two models had survived, it would have been enough.

I won’t call this test a failure, but it’s not a success either. The Stealth Team managed to leverage all their strengths as I’d hoped, and they were relatively effective at blunting my opponent’s advance. Unfortunately, all their weaknesses showed through as well. For the same point cost, I could have run two units of Kroot – one at 10 Kroot/7 Hounds, and the other at 10 Kroot/3 Hounds. The Kroot lack the durability, the mobility, and the stealth tricks that the Stealth Team have, but they would make up for it with numbers and the ability to claim objectives. I love the Stealth Team, but in this instance they fell short where it counted – helping me seal a decisive victory.

If they were cheaper – perhaps 20 points a suit instead of 30 – and if there was a way to make them count as Troops, they’d be fantastic. As it is, I still feel like they fit the mobile theme better than Kroot do. In terms of pure effectiveness, though, I don’t know if they’re worth the cost and the Elite slot. I think that even a mobile list that doesn’t maintain a clearly-defined firebase would benefit from having Kroot to fill in the spaces and act as a distraction.

A Hybrid Hybrid

One of the challenges I’m trying to resolve lately has been adding screening/blocking ability to my army without sacrificing much in the way of mobility. Piranhas are an obvious choice, but they’re not enough on their own. Kroot are a common choice, mostly because of their low cost and flexibility, but they can slow an army down by going to ground, and they’re often used sacrificially. But is there an alternative?

Aloh’Nan’El recently suggested using Stealth Suits in the blocking role. He went for a maximum-sized unit loaded with drones to cover as much area as possible, but it’s an expensive unit. At 300 points, it costs more than a fully tricked-out unit of Broadsides, which makes it prohibitively costly, especially in a 1500-point list. But is the concept still workable at a more moderate point level? I think it might be. Besides the point cost, there’s the FOC cost; you’re giving up an elite slot, rather than the more plentiful troop slots. Fortunately, Crisis Suits can be moved into HQ if necessary (although it’s more expensive), so it’s not a huge issue, but it will cost you some of your more powerful guns.

This means making your remaining guns more useful, which means markerlights. That means Pathfinders. Yes, I know I’m not a huge fan, but they’re the most cost-effective solution, and our Stealth Team is playing defense, not markerlight support. This also allows you to trim one Devilfish from your Fire Warriors. Again, not a big fan of this tactic, but it’s a point-saving measure. To give that ‘fish some more punch, it’s upgraded into a Warfish, so it can still manage to put out some firepower as it moves up the field.

Here’s the list. Keep in mind, this is just an experiment, not anything necessarily combat-ready:

HQ: Commander Shas’el (77pts)
Comamnder Shas’el (Flamer; Hard-Wired Target Lock; Twin-Linked Missile Pod)

Elite: Stealth Team (210pts)
3 Shas’ui (3 Burst Cannons; 3 Drone Controllers; 6 Gun Drones)
Team Leader (Burst Cannon; Bonding Knife; Drone Controller; 2 Gun Drones)

Elite: Crisis Battlesuit (141 pts)
3 Crisis Battlesuits (Flamer; Twin Linked Missile Pod)

Elite: Crisis Battlesuit ( 186 pts)
3 Crisis Battlesuits (Missile Pod; Plasma Rifle; Multi-Tracker)

Troops: Fire Warriors(145 pts)
6 Fire Warriors
1 Devilfish (Disruption Pod; Gun Drones)

Troops: Fire Warrior (60 pts)
6 Fire Warriors

Fast Attack: Pathfinders (211 pts)
8 Pathfinders
1 Devilfish (Disruption Pod; Smart Missile System; Multi-Tracker)

Fast Attack: Piranha Light Skimmer (70 pts)
1 Piranha Light Skimmer (Fusion Blaster; Targeting Array)

Fast Attack: Piranha Light Skimmer (70 pts)
1 Piranha Light Skimmer (Fusion Blaster; Targeting Array)

Heavy Support: Hammerhead Gunship (165 pts)
1 Hammerhead Gunship (Railgun; Two Burst Cannons; Disruption Pod; Multi-Tracker)

Heavy Support: Hammerhead Gunship (165 pts)
1 Hammerhead Gunship (Railgun; Two Burst Cannons; Disruption Pod; Multi-Tracker)

Total Cost: 1500 points

The Pathfinders form a sort of fire support base, with the Stealth Team screening/blocking for them and the Crisis Suits as needed. The Hammerheads provide mobile railgun fire, and the Piranhas do their blocking/melta business as normal. At least, that’s the plan. How well it will work, I’m not yet sure. For one thing, the Stealth Team is just shy of the magic number 13. Unfortunately, it’s another 30 points to add another suit to the mix, which 1500 points just doesn’t allow for. I could possibly shed a Deathrain suit and let the commander stand in that slot, but I’d rather have that firepower than one more Stealth Suit.

So, thoughts? Critiques? Concerns? A horrible idea, or potentially workable?

Mont’ka: We Will Strike the Killing Blow (redux)

After a week in Kauyon education, it’s time to give the counterpoint I should have given.

There’s no denying that trying to stall out your opponent with walls of sacrificial Kroot can be an effective strategy. They can be used to close off routes to both infantry and vehicles, and by being able to infiltrate, they can be placed in response to your opponent’s deployment. With intelligent use of cover, the otherwise-fragile Kroot can be surprisingly resilient. Behind those walls, a mix of (mostly) stationary Broadsides and mobile Crisis Suits can operate with some impunity thanks to the cover the Kroot provide. It’s effective. But is it perfect? There are a number of weaknesses:

  • Tethered to Cover: To get the most out of a Kroot wall, it needs to be able to hide (at least 50%) in cover. With the average wall being between 13 and 17 Kroot (including a handful of Kroot Hounds), it can be hard to both keep a unit in cover and stretched out in wall form. This can also make it hard to move the wall forward and maintain that cover save. This is especially true with one of the common tactics with Kroot, going to ground. It can maximize the wall’s cover save, but it can lock them in place until they fail a cover save. If you’re trying to both keep your Crisis Suits behind the wall and to keep them moving forward, this can hamper your attempts to advance them across the board.
  • Fire Bad: One common criticism Kauyon players raise about the Mont’ka style is that skimmer walls are weak against increasingly-common melta weapons. This is true; most melta weapons are most useful inside the 12″ cover offered by disruption pods. Kroot walls, however, have their own silver bullet – flamers and other template weapons. A well-placed flamer template or two can inflict heavy casualties and flush the Kroot out of their cover.
  • Assault Worse: Kroot are better at assault than almost anything else in the Tau codex, but they’re still unable to go toe-to-toe with most dedicated assault troops. Again, this is a situation where cover won’t aid them, and by assaulting the edge of the Kroot line an assaulter can force the rest of the unit to pile up out of cover, possibly opening a gap in the lines. While this won’t allow another assaulting unit to get past them that turn, it gives the assaulting unit control over where the defensive lines are. It also allows them to assault somewhere where they won’t suffer from assaulting in difficult terrain. Granted, if the Kroot lose, it leaves the assaulter out in the open on the Tau player’s turn, but a smart player will try to consolidate into the very cover the Kroot just lost.
  • Around, Over, or Through: Anything that can move over the wall – jump infantry, jetbikes, and skimmers – or can just deep strike behind it counters the strategy. Outflanking scouts and infiltrators can have a similar effect. The counter to that usually involves deploying the Kroot as a loose cloud around the static firebase. It’s somewhat effective, but it also makes it harder to use the Kroot as mobile cover, as they have to stay in place to keep the area safe from invasion.
  • Fire Lanes Required: Having a static firebase means you’ll need to have clear firing lanes available from the start. Your heavy guns won’t have the freedom to reposition themselves easily, so a good initial deployment is absolutely key to success. In a situation like a Spearhead deployment, where your opponent can put you into a less-than-stellar table quarter, or Dawn of War, where you’re walking your guns onto the board, this can leave you in a bad situation. Advanced Stabilization Systems on your Broadsides can help, but you can’t quickly relocate them as needed. If you have fire lanes available, you’ll be reliant on your Piranhas to force your enemies to use them over alternate, safer routes.
  • Support Dependency: Most Kauyon variants run at least one, if not two, units of Pathfinders in order to maximize their firepower; they may run fewer guns, but those guns are more likely to hit. Pathfinders, unfortunately, need to stay stationary to use their markerlights, which just compounds the firing lane requirement. They also increase the area that needs to be protected behind a wall, possibly stretching the Kroot defense (who also can’t benefit from the Markerlights) a bit thin. A canny opponent will realize that the Pathfinders by themselves are no threat and go after the other guns instead.
  • An Objective Too Far: Finally, the core vulnerability of the Kauyon style is its very static nature. To maintain a solid castled formation, the Kauyon player’s firebases need to remain relatively stationary, or at best move slowly forward. While this can make holding an objective inside one’s own deployment zone very easy, it makes it difficult to capture other objectives. Using troops as ablative cover increases this difficulty, as your units that can capture are likely going to either end up breaking or going to ground. They won’t be easily crossing the field to capture points. A minimum-sized unit of Fire Warriors in a Devilfish can help somewhat, but it’ll be required to go outside the defensive¬†perimeter, where it will lose the benefits the rest of the army is built around.

Interestingly, the Kauyon style can mitigate some of these shortcomings by playing a variant Mont’ka game. Some may trade a Broadside unit out for a single Hammerhead, or may drop the walls and instead outflank with the Kroot, keeping their Crisis Suits on the move and hiding behind LOS-blocking terrain whenever possible. However, it can end up being a poor-man’s version of the Mont’ka strategy, depending on how many points are tied into slow-moving/stationary units.

On the other hand, the Mont’ka strategy addresses most of those issues:

  • Making Our Own Cover: With the focus on skimmers, Mont’ka armies depend on disruption pods for cover. While this doesn’t help at short ranges (which is why melta weapons are so strong against the style), it guarantees a cover save even when a unit is wide open. Those skimmers can also be used as mobile terrain for Crisis Suits trying to Jump-Shoot-Jump across the field.
  • Assault Not As Bad: A mechanized army has less to fear from assault for a number of reasons. For one, as long as the vehicles are staying mobile and moving at Cruising Speed or better, enemy assaulters will only be hitting on a 6, which greatly reduces their chance of damaging a vehicle. Also, skimmers can’t be locked in combat, or even boxed in by infantry, but can still tank shock other units off of objectives. Finally, even if an assaulter does manage to destroy a vehicle (keep an eye on power fists and thunder hammers), it’s not considered a win in assault, meaning the unit doesn’t get to consolidate. They’re stuck just where they were.
  • Making Our Own Fire Lanes: A Mont’ka army can deploy first turn in a spot where the enemy can’t draw LOS to it, knowing that it can move to a clear shot next turn. As the enemy moves, the Mont’ka force can easily reposition to maintain clear lines of fire, and (with Crisis Suits) can move during the assault phase to deny the same to the opponent.
  • Support-Independent: Mont’ka armies don’t often run Pathfinders because of their stationary nature. This frees up points for either more troops for capturing objectives, or more Crisis Suits/Hammerheads/Piranhas for hammering the enemy. In actual effectiveness, it’s probably a wash – more shots for Mont’ka v. fewer but more reliable shots for Kauyon – but it also means that the Mont’ka player doesn’t have to worry about keeping an otherwise-harmless unit alive and can focus on pressing the attack.
  • Capture and Contest: While the Kauyon player can have trouble dealing with far objectives, a Mont’ka player has far less trouble dealing with capturing, or at least contesting, points all over the table. Typically, this involves spending the first few turns trying to clear out the enemy, and then rushing in with troops in transports, usually kept in reserve, at the last moment. Of course, the Mont’ka player will often abandon their own objectives in order to go after the opponent’s.

I find the Mont’ka style to be more flexible, especially when oddball deployments come up, such as some of the missions in the Battle Missions book. By being able to quickly shuffle itself about, it can overcome poor deployment options and keep itself alive by constantly moving whenever possible. It is a bit more fragile, as vehicles can be one-shotted, but I consider it a fair trade-off for the resiliency of a more static army. A mechanized list can still castle up, of course, just as a castle style can switch to mobility, but neither will be quite as good at it as an army dedicated to the tactic.

In the end, it comes down to the style you prefer. Do you prefer the flexible, quick-moving style of the Mont’ka? Or the static, tenacious style of the Kauyon? Both are effective, and each can easily take lessons from both – I’m contemplating adding Kroot in my mechanized list as cheap outflanking contesters. Which one works for you? For me, make mine Mont’ka.

And I think that’s my last post for a long while on this entire debate. It’s been a fun week or so, and very educational. I’d like to thank Old Shatter Hands for getting the ball rolling, Aloh’Nan’El for holding my feet to the fire, and for everyone who’s visited and commented during the entire debate!