Tuesday, May 3, 2011

In the Beginning…(Part 1 – Choice of Army and Where to Start)

I’m sure all of the 40K veterans out there remember what it was like when they first started out, and how they approached the game. I remember that too, because I really AM just starting out. This article is about how one newbie has chosen to field an army based on limited experience, research, and observation. The other intriguing aspect of the newbie is how well they paint and how they choose to do it. I will cover that in another article.

In the beginning, there was Black Reach. Marines were blue, Orks were green, and a gallon of petrol was less than $1. Okay, I made that last part up, but I digress. I waited a long time to get involved in 40K, and with good reason. I tend to be competitive, for one, so I wasn’t going to play if I couldn’t win. Secondly, I knew I would become very enthusiastic and probably blow a lot of cash. Given both of those factors, I wasn’t going to run just any army. I could handle the balance of strengths versus weaknesses of any army, but I wanted an army with the strengths that played to my style of strategic thinking. My plan was to conceal my army of choice until it was time to field it…and it was insidious.

But soon I said “bollocks” to that idea and just picked one that I liked. My first 40K experience was with Orks (more on that below). I didn’t really like it at first. At range, they went down easy, and they couldn’t hit the broadside of a building with their guns. I have since learned the Tao of Orkdom and look forward to making Orks my second army choice, but it seemed that I gauged strength by ranged combat, and I wanted an army that could shoot a quark off of a gnat’s nose at 2000 yards. The Tau seemed to call out to me. So after my Black Reach Orks, I purchased a Tau Battleforce. At the time I write this, my Tau are untested in battle. I hope to change that very soon. My Tau roster consists of the following.

· Fire Warriors – I have 12 total, and their Devilfish transport. Most are equipped with the standard Pulse Rifle, but I did include some Pulse Carbines in the mix for the pinning effect. Following the recommendation of an experienced Tau player, I’m only planning to field 10 of the warriors, with one of them being a bonded Shas’ui with a markerlight and a drone controller. This adds two gun drones to the team (thus, there would be no more room in the Devilfish for the remaining two warriors) and will allow them to regroup even if they fall below 50% strength. Since I haven’t actually fielded this configuration yet, I’m yet to decide if that’s a good way for me to go. Feel free to comment on this approach.
· Kroot Carnivores – Again, an even dozen comprise the unit. I have no real working plan for the Kroot except to try to have them nearby when that inevitable melee combat lands on my doorstep. I honestly don’t have a lot of confidence in them. They go down just as easily as Ork Boyz (or even easier if there’s no Kroot Shaper in the unit) and I need to keep them in cover to take advantage of their strengths. I am open to any strategy ideas. I did spend the points for a Shaper for the 6+ armor save, and even gave him a gifted Pulse Rifle, for what it’s worth.
· 2 XV8 Command Teams – That’s two bonded XV8 Shas’o Commanders with two bodyguards each, plus accompanying drones. One Commander has the Airbursting Fragmentation Launcher (which I’m looking forward to trying), and the other has the Cyclic Ion Blaster (not so much). Since I wasn’t too keen on the Cyclic Ion Blaster, I bought a second AFL bit before I realized that I’m only allowed one per army. Even still, I have high confidence in this arrangement. There are enough shield generators and shield drones to make them hard to kill and I’m spending the points to make sure they hit what they shoot at. Most of these guys were bought used, so I didn’t have as much choice with their weapons as I would like to have had. For example, one has two Fusion Blasters and a Missile Pod. He can melt tanks all day long, but he’s definitely going to be keeping a shield drone in a job. Thankfully two others came with the coveted Plasma Rifle, which I pretty much field on every XV8 I can. It’s hard-hitting, and has good range. Of course, I will probably mix and match whatever bits I can come up with, so “Fusion Boy” may yet get reconfigured. I have also considered having just one command team and one pure XV8 unit, but if I have the points to spend, I might as well field both commanders, right?
· 1 XV25 Stealth Team with Marker Drone – I’m really looking forward to seeing what these guys can do. Each has a shield generator. Two have Burst Cannons, and the team leader has a Fusion Blaster. The most notable thing about this unit is the paint job. I went outside of Citadel’s paint selection for these guys and went with Testor’s Gloss Black for the entire suit, and Gloss Blue for the eye piece. Their weapons also have some silver for contrast. Simple, yet very effective. They look like Darth Vader’s entourage, and I’m very pleased with the look. But now we’re getting into the subject of the next article…so moving on.
· 3 XV88 Broadsides – If the main strategy of the Tau is to eliminate my opposing force before they can get close, what better way than with a team of crisis suits loaded out with twin-linked railguns and a smart missile system?
· 1 Hammerhead – Why play Tau if you can’t bring Mr. Railgun to the party? Yes, the Broadside team does have railguns, but not “MR.” Railgun. It’s got all the punch I could ask for, and I LOVE the option for the submunition! Obviously, I hope to have great fun with this item, assuming my opponent doesn’t take it out on the first turn.
On that note, I would like to share an experience from my very first 40K games. For my first game, I was playing Orks, loaned to me for the night by one of my opponents. This was a 4-way dining table brawl. I knew nothing about the rules or placement or what my opponents could do. One of the items in my arsenal was a looted Space Marine Land Raider, which I was eager to learn how to use. The player to my right had the first turn, during which he used a Devastator Squad to destroy my vehicle…before I even had a chance to learn what it could do. All is fair in war, right? No sweat. I ended up winning that night by sheer attrition. It was a very casual game and no points were counted up. It was just for fun. Still, I remembered what happened to my vehicle.

Fast forward to my second game. I knew a little bit more than I used to, but still not a lot. It was another casual 4-way battle, and once again I played the Orks on loan. We are sitting in the same seating arrangement as before. I knew enough to not make my Ork vehicles easy targets again. (This, by the way, is the point of contention. In my first game, no one told me, “Hey, you might not want to put that vehicle there” when I knew nothing about how the game is played. Did I mention I tend to be competitive?) Meanwhile, the guy that deprived me of my vehicle in the first game is finally getting to use his Ultramarines Bike Squad. Oh really? [evil grin] I sent a unit of Boyz right at them. I don’t recall exactly how it went from there, or if my Warboss and Nobz managed to get there to help, but in the end, his Bike Squad was done within 12” of where they started. So take heed; I do return favors, and I hear that Mr. Railgun hits hard. :-)

To get back to the contents of my army, I find that Commander Shadowsun and Pathfinders are essential add-ons to what I have. I’m also keen on adding Sniper Drones, Vespids, and maybe an Ethereal with an honor guard. I’m not that eager to go with Piranhas at the moment, but time and experience may change my mind, which I suppose is the whole point of what I’m saying.

The Codex tells you what everything does, and online articles, forums, and fellow players can offer their insights, but it seems there’s no getting around casting fate to the wind and taking your lumps until you have properly learned the Art of War(hammer 40,000). Next time, maybe my Tau will reduce my opponents to smoldering dust. Maybe my friend’s Gray Knights, with their fondness for teleportation and overall lethality, will send me reeling. Either way, I’ll be sure to let you know.


  1. Well done Christopher, welcome to the Wings of Truth, I look forward to reading more from you. Let's see some of your little gray men.

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  3. Thank you!

    I'm going to be posting some photos of my first attempts at miniature painting very soon, and sharing what I've learned as a beginner very soon.