PantsOptional’s Road through Crusade, Part 4: Too Many T’au

Cast your minds back to last month when I revealed my decrepitude vis-a-vis the “newness” of the T’au. After some thought I came to the realization that even after all this time, I don’t think I’ve ever played against T’au. Some Higher Power must have heard this because every game I played in Chapter 3 was against T’au. This is the price I pay: having been caught, I must now smoke the whole pack.

This makes a certain amount of sense in terms of the campaign. The Outcasts, flush with victory and drunk on the blood and glands of mortals, paid little attention to their surroundings and wandered right into the territory of the Desperate Alliance. This is exactly why you need a Chaos Lord, someone to keep the warband focused and on task and – this is imperative – not walking directly into a trap like tourists bumbling around Times Square with their faces in their Google Maps. Instead, the Outcasts are led by two evil space wizards who are constantly fucking up and scheming against each other, and if sci-fi has taught is anything it’s taught us that particular relationship is as unstable as I was in June 2020.

For Chapter Three the special tertiary objective is a search for teleportarium key codes which are hidden in a series of tunnels throughout the planet Gnurn, and please don’t ask me to pronounce that. Each mission has four tunnel entrances which can be entered by Infantry units during the movement phase and there’s a chance to run into enemy units in the tunnel and start a sideboard fight on an 11×17” minimap. This is all well and good, but while reading the rules for exiting the tunnels I realized that they follow the rules for standard disembarkation, meaning in this case that as long as any enemy units are outside 3” of a tunnel entrance I could pop one of mine out up practically next to them for a rude surprise. If I could pull this off next to some Fire Warriors or Kroot this pretty much guaranteed their conversion into something resembling Cincinnati chili. I will not taste either of them for comparison.

Apologies to our friends at Bolters at Dawn, but I think I’d rather eat the Fire Warriors. Credit:

Ready, Set, T’au

This match was a Recon Patrol mission against Dexion, the player with the all-Kroot team, and they are just as glorious in person. Recon Patrol’s special rule meant that half of our armies had to start in reserve so this meant that I certainly went through the motions of careful planning, but in the end we both kept most of our big hitters off the board at the start.

This also meant that almost everything that we deployed was worryingly fragile, so I resolved to use my tunnel teleportation as soon as possible in order to protect my Khornate melee Legionaries. One of the Kroot Carnivore squads also went into the tunnels and before long they were fighting which went badly for the chickens. In the meantime, up on top my Cultists got leafblown off the table within the first two turns leaving my Sorcerer and Helbrute under an awful lot of pressure and leaving me without anything to hold objectives as my new shooty squad of Legionaries was still in reserve.

For me, the play of the game happened on Turn 4 when Scyzhar the Venomcrawler finally got a chance to stretch all its horrible little mechanical demon spider legs and put in some work. The Confluence of Traitors Stratagem for Black Legion, reflecting the fact that Abby’s boys (and mine in particular) are often a weird mishmash of defectors from other Legions, allows you to switch one unit’s Legion Trait for the round once per game. Suddenly my Venomcrawler remembered it was a Red Corsair and could both Advance and charge, which was a dangerous situation for just about everything else on the table. It scuttled off at breakneck pace to Rip and Tear the Broadside apart and feast on the Extra Crispy guts stored inside.

This “Krootside” was a threat to everything on the table, until it very suddenly wasn’t.

It was at this time that Dexion did a thing so true to my own personal idea of the game that a tear came to my eye. T’au have a Fail-Safe Detonator Stratagem that forces a destroyed battlesuit to explode. I don’t know why they don’t do this normally; frankly I think everything in the game should have a chance to explode when killed. Tanks, bikes, artillery, grots all exploding – wouldn’t the game be better this way? Anyway he blowed his Broadside up real good but failed to hurt the Venomcrawler and almost killed his Shaper in the process. It was at this point that I began to wonder if maybe we might be related.

In the meantime while all this was going on, Dexion was occupied with… lemme check my notes, says here “winning the game.” Huh. Is that something you’re supposed to do? Turns out it is, and he cleaned my clock in terms of the score, 55 to 15. I came away from the experience with a couple of Battle Scars and a couple extra Wounds for the Venomcrawler as a treat for being such a murderball. Dexion, on the other hand, racked up seven Battle Scars across his army and though he was able to recuperate some of those away, that’s still far too many for comfort.

Take Two: Action

Round two was against my fellow Administratum moderator, Starman. This felt a lot more like what I understand a traditional T’au match to work like, with the enemy shooting phase delivering a sphincter-tightening amount of shooting and then the big mecha performing the much-maligned Jump Shoot Jump where they move up, unload their guns on some innocent and unsuspecting Chaos forces, and then fly away again to hide behind cover. I was very glad to see that this is now a Stratagem; back in the day this was just something that any unit with a jet pack could do. Imagine playing against them back when anything in a battlesuit could take a potshot at you and then just disappear. There were a lot of reasons that we drank in college.

Most of my forces ended up funneling through to the objective on one side of the map, which is where they ran into the Crisis suits and pretty much stopped dead in their tracks as they were unable to effectively hurt the mecha. At the same time I was able to keep resurrecting Legionaries thanks to the Master of Possession casting Pact of Flesh, so up until the point that I could waddle the Helbrute into threat range it was a lot of sound and fury for both of us. Eventually some Stealth Suits popped out of my backfield tunnel entrance, much to the surprise of my Cultists who were only just coming to grips with the recent gift of incoming artillery fire, and my forward advance was blunted even more effectively as I had to double my melee murder Legionaries back to deal with those.

This Vegas-themed Coldstar Commander had a name, but to me he will always be Lemmy.

Over on the other side of the board the Venomcrawler barely held on to dear life as it raced up across the map to give special hugs to the Broadside and the Pathfinders. This thing did its job and then some, putting a lot of pressure on that side of the board and forcing Starman to dedicate more of his units to stopping it than he would have preferred. It lived long enough to make a little space for the Obliterators to warp strike in and wipe out the Pathfinders on that side. Before long they were charged by some Vespid, an Ethereal, and a Coldstar Commander who were all eager to beat them into smithereens. The pivotal moment of the game came when one of them had died and I was able to command reroll an invulnerable save for the other one to keep its last wound which allowed me to cast Pact of Flesh on them, healing the survivor and bringing his partner back to mulch everything around it and claim the objective, winning the game for me.


That’s not really what happened.

I’m not trying to get all Rashomon and/or Rian Johnson on you here. The events above occurred as described, but when I went to add the game in Administratum I tried to figure out what needed to be done to work around the Obliterators’ pain in the ass Battle Scar that prevents them from gaining more than 1 XP per game and I had a horrible realization.

Disgraced: You cannot use any Stratagems to affect this unit, nor can you use the Command Re-roll Stratagem to affect any dice rolls made for it.

The Obliterators have had this Battle Scar since getting their asses kicked against Mike’s semi-Chaos back in November. I even mentioned it at the start of the game to Starman and that he should hit me with something like a rolled up newspaper or a tack hammer if I tried to use a Stratagem on them. They couldn’t have made that save and the rest of the match couldn’t have gone the way it did. Honor required me to contact Starman with this news and the two of us worked out the theoretical rest of the game like NTSB agents reconstructing an air crash. In the end the match went to him and I had some serious thinking to do.

One of my Big Rules since my second match has been that I won’t remove Battle Scars unless they’re truly awful. This one not only cost me a match but it covered me in shame. While that’s usually my natural element, this aggression will not stand: I gotta get rid of this thing. Moreover, their other big Battle Scar that keeps them from getting more than 1 XP is just killing me here. It literally kept them from getting that big promotion from the boss to the next rank and if I had won I would have lost out on 6 XP. It’s gotta go too.

Speaking of shame, my Cultists finally leveled up much to my disgust. Cultists get their own special little table with upgrades that let them pretend they’re real people and these guys got the upgrade that gives them the Legion Trait. To me, this means that someone in the Black Legion brass did the math on how many points these guys scored on objectives and gave them a shiny gold star sticker. Good job, guys, now you can hit on 3s and pretend you’re almost like Marines. I’m sure that when the points revamp comes through in the next chapter I’m not going to toss your unit to the wind and replace you with Traitor Guard, not even a little.

Dawn of the Final Game

My last T’au match of the chapter was against Bo, playing Farsight Enclaves. Again, I don’t know as much about the T’au as I might like but it’s my understanding that Commander Farsight found a special sword that helped him win an unlikely victory and not too long after that he realized that his society was fucked at the core which prompted him to fuck off and make his own society with blackjack and hookers. History repeats itself, even in the 41st millennium, to the point that I’m pretty sure the number one rule in the grimdark future should be to nuke all magic swords (and knives) just to be safe.

I knew Bo had a big mecha of some variety from the photos in the previous column, so I decided to do a little recon in Administratum ahead of the game to see what else he had. Most of it was pretty standard stuff – Crisis Suits, a Crisis Commander, some Breachers, some sacrificial Kroot – but one thing stuck out to me and that was the Hammerhead. This was the biggest and scariest thing when it firts came out: its railgun was one of the few Strength 10 guns in the entire game and invalidated all armor saves to boot, its armor was better than most vehicles in the game not named Leman Russ, and a markerlight made that gun hit on a 2+. Thankfully it got toned down over the years but it made me very nervous.

The mission ended up being Behind Enemy Lines, in which each side tries to cross the board to the enemy’s side and score by leaving the map. My Bad Feeling About This escalated when I saw we were using GW’s Option 1 for terrain layout and deploying in a thin deployment zone along the long edge.

Terrain Set-Up 1, Credit:

That vertical lane in the middle of the board was now my own personal Highway of Death; with footslogging troops and only one fairly fragile vehicle capable of moving more than 6” that strip essentially belonged to Bo. We both set up almost everything behind the larger buildings with the exception of the Hammerhead and the Helbrute, who faced each other down the left flank like gunslingers in a dusty old town. You’ll never guess how that turned out.

In what I believe to be one of the deciding factors of the game, the Helbrute and the Hammerhead took potshots at each other in the first round, doing absolutely massive damage on either side. The Mark of Tzeentch saved Abraxas the Helbrute and a quick use of Fire Frenzy allowed me to kill the Hammerhead during Bo’s turn, but there wasn’t much more life in the ol’ sarcophagus and it departed this life on round two.

The other side of the board didn’t see a lot of action and honestly for most of this game my right hand side was just a parade of Legionaries cautiously creeping up when they probably should have been running to exfiltrate while the Ta’u were all looking over at the Helbrute. Speaking of which, both of us realized that the combination of the tunnel system and the exfiltration system worked such that we could literally teleport units across the board and exfiltrate them for easy points. We also both spent some time in the tunnels trying for the tertiary objective and getting into scraps, with the Cultists somehow miraculously killing a band of Kroot in the Fight phase and the Sorcerer taking too much time to kill a Cadre Fireblade and getting trapped in the collapsing tunnels.

Ultimately this came down to a game of cat and mouse as the Riptide stalked around the map like a hungry and angry tabby while the rest of the T’au exfiltrated and the Legionaries tried desperately to avoid being noticed. It was very strange to spend most of a match actively trying to avoid each other, reminiscent of seeing your ex walk into a store that you’re in which makes you adjust your path in an attempt to avoid going down the same aisle and getting spotted. No? Just me? Crap.

Here we see the cunning Riptide stalking its prey.

Bo came away from this one with the W, making it 3 for 3 for the T’au and his team. I’m pretty sure that I singlehandedly ensured that their team won this chapter. Fellas, all I ask is that you maybe put my picture up on the wall of your headquarters, maybe “employee of the month.” Postgame was nice and clean as we both avoided Battle Scars. Bo cleaned up in the T’au minigame, loading up on Diplomat points and coming away with two MVPs and a free Battle Honour on top of conquering a world. The dice were hot and cold for me for my upgrades; on the one hand the actual mechanical effects of the upgrades for the psykers were pretty underwhelming, but on the other hand the Helbrute got somehow even tankier and Kaothol the Sorcerer was blessed by Tzeentch with the extremely metal “Flaming Skull Face.” He is gonna kill next year at Comic-Con with his Ghost Rider cosplay, y’all.

So what have we learned from all this? Nothing, as readers of Battle Bros might expect. Honestly, though, after three games against T’au I can safely say they’re… fine, actually? Twenty-one years of editions and revisions have ramped up the offensive capabilities of most other armies to the point that T’au no longer stand out in that regard. Sure, they have big guns but we now have literal demigods and building-sized monsters in just about every army. T’au are still scary, but so is everything else.

That’s about all we have for today. Three matches in one chapter means I don’t have a lot of gas left in the tank to talk about faction minigames, but we do have some excitement in the next installment. As of about a week from this writing, the campaign is holding a special one-day tournament event where the players come together for games and prizes. I’m personally hoping for a campfire and smores as well, but I’ve been informed that setting fires within stores is “bad” and “illegal.” Whatever happens, you’ll find out next time.

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