I haven't played with my Tau army for a year or two now, so when Jeff and his son Connor came over Sunday before last for a game, I was happy to accede to Connor's request and field them instead of my Valhallans or Tyranids or Dark Angels. Connor got a bunch of Tau for Christmas and was anxious to see them in action.
A lot of the time that I should have spent re-reading my Tau codex (or even the rulebook) I instead used to figure out how to put my army list and reference sheets onto my iPad, which I eventually succeeded at. I took this as a small victory for paper usage, and a bigger one for ink cartridge avoidance. I'll never go to digital dice rolling, but the iPad is a great way to cut down the amount of paper I have blowing around, plus I wrote this blog entry and took the pictures with it.
I had the table all decked out before they came, and after some last minute substitutions for missing or unpainted men, we were ready to play. The mission we rolled called for us to come at each other from the long table edges and try to keep a unit in control of an ammo dump on our own side while trying to get another unit into proximity of our opponent's. Jeff's Imperial Guard and Connor's Eldar make a good team for this, combining the Guard's firepower and numerical superiority with Eldar prowess and mobility.
Despite being only 9, Connor has a good handle on most aspects of Warhammer 40,000, and a frankly astonishing grip on the extensive background of that war-torn future. Jeff made it clear that Connor would be responsible for deploying and moving his own units, and even let him choose where to establish their side's objective. He elected to place it beside a hill, and surrounded it with a unit of Guardians. With two Guard command elements in the ruins to his right, and another squad on the hill to his left, they had a fair amount of boots on the ground in terms of defense.
Seeing how many of their forces were arrayed to my right, and with an eye toward seizing their ammo cache early on, I cunningly deployed my forces in a refused flank configuration. This would have worked extremely well if my own objective had been ruse or a fake, but since it wasn't, I left myself terribly over extended and almost completely incapable of mounting a cohesive defense, as becomes evident later. Ah, well! I had left a couple of units in reserve, and since my plan for them was almost certain to fall apart before they arrived, maybe they could shore things up...
I hadn't used my river scenery for a while, and wanted to make a good impression on young Connor, so we ended up playing with a 4 inch wide river with one bridge and one fording point. We could have made things extra difficult and made the river impassable, but elected instead to make it very difficult and dangerous to boot, meaning every model going in, coming out or moving through it had to roll a dice, and would vanish on a roll of 1.
(In answer to your question, yes, it is a little disheartening when a terrain feature accounts for more casualties than one of your supposedly 'elite' units; thanks so much for inquiring!)
Our less-than-epic conflict quickly turned into two separate mini-battles. On the left, my Hammerhead gunship inched forward, supported by my Crisis suit commander and his bodyguard. The submunition rounds from its turreted railgun cut fairly significant swathes of Eldar and humans from the field. The squad of Fire Warriors inched up as well, but I completely neglected to run them in the shooting phase, opting instead to take a handful of dodgy shots with the few pulse carbines in the squad, which meant they would not be in position to take Jeff and Connor's objective away from them before the game ended.
The Hammerhead is not a super durable tank, being a skimmer and all, but it shrugged off 4-6 autocannon shots and one hit from a lascannon thanks to a timely appearance by a '1' on the die. When Jeff's Stormtroopers parachuted directly behind it with both a plasma AND melta gun though, I thought the jig was up for certain. The sole survivor of the command element also brought his microwave tank-cooker to the party via the front of the tank, but not a single melta was able to hit, and the plasma was unable to penetrate even the rear armour of the Hammerhead, so the Greater Good was able to prevail. Soon only a single human stood on that corner of the table prior to his hasty departure.
Once my Stealthsuits finished their flank march and appeared on that side of the table, they 'sanitized' the objective, and moved in to contest it.
The other side of the table was a far different story, however; my reserve Crisis suits got sliced into ribbons by shurikens right after they dropped onto the table, but my contingent of Kroot rushed out of the trees with their loyal hounds and turned Connor's jetbike squadron into just so much fast food.
Unfortunately, this put my savage avians in the path of two of Connor's elite Aspect Warrior units: his Dire Avengers, whose merciless shuriken catapults sectioned up a handful of Kroot like so many broiler chickens, and his Howling Banshees whose psychosonic screamer masks paralyzed them until their powerswords could finish them off. And then the Guard Sentinel strode in and stomped a couple more for good measure. The survivors tried to run, but who are we kidding? There's fast, and then there's Eldar fast. They stood no chance.
In the end, we successfully contested each other's objectives and ended in a draw. Jeff and I only moderately embarrassed ourselves with our rusty rules knowledge, and Connor distinguished himself as both a worthy ally and foe. All in all, a great game, and a wonderful way to end a couple of dry spells!