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In writing an article on my army, it's impossible not to mention the Agrippa Sector. Agrippa Sector is a campaign based in Toronto, with 40+ players, six or seven plot-lines, a million secrets, and an excellent website at http://www.triafata.org/agrippasector/.
HistoryThis army exists for the campaign and is very heavily "fluff" based. The current Shas'O, Tam'ya, started life as a humble Fire Warrior, just one of the shas, and survived through five real-time years in the campaign to lead the cadre. For those of you who have never played in a campaign, I recommend it. Most of the things that are wrong with 40K vanish in a campaign setting.
The Tau entered Agrippa Sector in 2001. Five players decided to enter the campaign together as an Expeditionary Force launched from the Tau Empire to the spinward marches of the Damocles Gulf. Mysterious forces (we're only just learning about their nature in the campaign) plucked the unwary, and psychically ignorant Tau across the Warp to Agrippa, which is almost one hundred eighty degrees off axis from the Tau Empire. We agreed to pay as a team, under the leadership of a player in New Jersey who represents Shas'Ar'Tol'Agg'ra'pp'a (SATAGAP) who makes all strategic decisions for the race.
One of the five initial Cadres deployed as part of Shan'Al'J'Kaara (Aun J'Kaara's Expedition) was Tess'en Cadre. It's worth a little aside here that all of our first generation Cadre's were viewed as commanded by their Ethereals rather than their Shas'el or Shas'O military officers. Tess'en, a older, female Aun'O, led a new Cadre formed out of recent inductees from Kel'Tyr, a world settled by the Aun "saint" Aun'Shi.
Tess'en Cadre was formed as an entirely mechanized cadre and took the field as such. In the initial conquest of the "Aachen Sector," Tess'en Cadre fought in more than a dozen orbital assaults. Lack of Orca Dropships forced the high command to use Devilfish launched straight from Mantas to seize landing zones, which could have proven very costly indeed in the face of united opposition. However, the Tau faced only Planetary Defense Forces in Aachen. The professional soldiers of the Imperium, both Guard and Marine, were already facing the might of the 13th Black Crusade at Cadia and its tendrils in the southern quadrant of Agrippa. The crème of the Guard troops had been moved away to Cadia. Better yet, from the Tau perspective, the first Imperial enclaves encountered were agrarian worlds run on slave economies. The Tau were quick to recruit human leaders and use agents of influence to start fifth-column insurgencies throughout the sub-sector. One of the most famous regiments in Agrippa, the Levelers, was raised by the Tau (as Gue'la auxiliaries) during this period.
[gal_img]1289[/gal_img]Immediately following the Peace of Anvil, Tess'en Cadre was sent as the core of Uash'el Tess'en H'bern'ya. With the better part of three cadres and fleet support, Tess'en was assigned to support Imperial troops facing massive Chaos forces in the Hibernia system. This force (know to Imperial forces as the TEF or Tau Expeditionary Force) was ruthlessly used by the local Imperial Warmaster to assault strong points and break Chaos opposition - ;as the Warmaster hated the Tau almost as much as he hated the ruinous powers. Despite heavy casualties and occasional severe setbacks, Tess'en Cadre developed a doctrine, rare among Tau, of mobile assault. At the same time, Shas Tam'ya rose first to command a battle suit team, and later to command his own independent cadre. He also developed a close working relationship with the sector's Marine Contingent (12ers) during the Secondus Assault. Appreciation of Marine tactics of fire and movement further enhanced his, and Tess'en's, doctrine of mobile assault.
After a bloody and indecisive interlude chasing the pirate Exeter, Tess'en was recalled by SATAGAP when it appeared that the "loyalist" faction in the Blodsburg parliament would revoke the Treaty of Anvil and attack the Tau. The TEF was broken up. Tess'en was assigned to seizure of Inkion, a well-defended post close to the homeworlds of House D'Hauteville. Furthermore, the post was defended by one of Agrippa's ablest officers, General Tarleton of House Dukas.
Inkion saw the first large-scale deployment of human auxiliaries, or Gue'la, against other humans. Tess'en deployed the entire Leveler Regiment, three full battalions of ex-slaves from Aachen, carefully drilled and issued a mixture of Imperial and Tau equipment.[Played on the IG Doctrines list, and subject of a future article]. Tess'en used her own cadre and Tam'ya's fledgling cadre as shock troops and fought most of her battles with her humans. In addition, and entire "cadre" of Kroot was hired and employed under the notorious "Grishnak." General Tarleton fought well, but received no support from his home world or from other Imperial forces in the vicinity, who concentrated on the defense of the d'Hauteville home planet. After a six-month resistance and reduced to no ammunition and the consumption of shoe leather, Tarleton surrendered. The Convention of Inkion allowed his troops to withdraw with honor to fight any Imperial foe except the Tau.
Tess'en was immediately able to unleash her forces on the critical world of Dummonia, d'Hauteville (and the loyalist's) capital world. In an epic battle (36K points a side) the Tau and their human allies and auxiliaries broke the back of Loyalist resistance and re-established the Treaty of Anvil, as well as widening their economic dominance of the Agrippa Sector.
However, in the bleak far future, there are no happy endings, only war. As I write, Tess'en Cadre, Tam'ya Cadre and the Levelers face two new threats - ;an insidious insurgency led by mysterious forces with bizarre and alien technology (Necrons) and a more conventional stand up war to regain territory lost in the Tau's initial incursion by the Eldar. Tess'en cadre, currently serving as cease-fire monitors on Inkion, have been attacked twice in the last five weeks by Necron forces.
On a more positive note, Earth Caste engineers finally managed to re-open the Slann Warp gate at by which the Tau initially arrived in Agrippa, and through the gate poured reinforcements of shas, material, and technology, which has led to a complete re-evaluation of the combat doctrine of the Cadre.
DoctrineAs mentioned above, Cadre Tess'en and her descendent Cadres began with a "Mech-Tau" doctrine. A typical force included three or four full squads of Fire Warriors in Devilfish, each with a full load of seeker missiles, as well as a squad of Pathfinders (two in larger games) and a minimum of suits. Tess'en found that suits were expensive and difficult to replace; in addition, repeated conflict with IG and Marine armies showed the utility of the markerlight/seeker missile combination.[gal_img]1290[/gal_img]A pair of XV-88 Broadsides, limited Stealth suit teams (one team of three) and as few as a single XV-8 Crisis suit (TL Plasma) rounded out the earliest pattern of the cadre with a single maximum sized squad of Kroot. Fire Warriors and Kroot fixed the enemy in position, and careful fire choices and allocation of seeker missiles usually carried the day (18-4) until the cadre was utilized repeatedly to assault positions held in strength by Chaos Marines.
After a few spectacular and costly failures attempting to take ground at Secondus, Tess'en and her new Shas'el, Tam'ya, elected to emulate the Marine tactics of the 12ers. Tam'ya adopted a bodyguard squad; all armed with TL Plasma, and added a Monat (flamer/plasma) suit, as well as a Railhead, replacing the Kroot (who proved politically unreliable) and the XV-88s altogether. When points allowed, drones, both heavy and light, were used in independent squads as spoilers. In the new assault configuration, the Shas were still deployed from Devilfish (although often one squad was deployed on the ground) supported by a small squad of human auxiliaries with a markerlight. While the basic firing line gradually wore down enemy strength, the Shas'el would choose a point in the enemy line and overwhelm it, usually concentrating the armies fire to eliminate a full squad in a turn to make a breech. Into the breech would pour deep striking elements with empty Devilfish for cover. This combination helped clear Secondus hive and changed Tess'en's whole approach to making war. Never again would she sit and shoot. (16-2) Tess'en occasionally flirted with a second railhead at the cost of some precious infantry, but was never pleased with the result.
The fairly major technological changes introduced since the end of the civil war[i.e. the new Codex] have reinforced rather than changing the doctrines Tess'en has developed. The current cadre configuration follows, although it is Tam'ya's cadre with Aun'ui Fio'Vash J'kaar'a Tess'en Lok'il as the ethereal. Tess'en rarely sees combat these days. Rumor is, too many Gue'lachocolates have made her fat.
Army ListAun'ui Fio'Vash J'kaar'a Tess'en Lok'il
W/ 9xFW, 1x Shas'ui, ML,Definition: Missile Launcher Target Lock, BSF, Mounted in DF*
[gal_img]1291[/gal_img]Shas'el Kel'Tyr J'kaar'a An'shi Tam'ya
XV 8 Crisis Suit, TL Plasma, Shield Generator, BSF
La'Rua M'Yen Mont'yr
10xFire Warrior, 1x Shas'ui DC BSF, 1x Marker Drone, Mounted in DF*
La'Rua V'ral Mont'yr
10xFire Warrior, 1x Shas'ui DC BSF, 1x Marker Drone, Mounted in DF*
La'Rua Tsua'm'an Mont'yr
7xPathfinder, 1x Shas'ui DC, 2x Gun Drone, Mounted in DF*[Gun Drones vice SMS]
La'Rua Sho'vah Mont'yr
2xXV15 Stealth suit, 1x Shas'ui, all BC, all TA
La'Rua Sho'Shi Mont'yr
XV88 Broadside, XV88 Shas'vre, both Smart Missiles and Rail guns, both ASS, Shas'vre DC, two Shield drones
La'Rua Sho'Shi Run'al
XV88 Broadside Monat, ASS, RG and SMS
9 units total=1699 points
* All Devilfish fitted with Target Array, Multi-Tracker, Decoy Launcher, 1x Seeker missile, and SMS
Old and New TacticsThe old tactics can be summarized as follows; a saturation fire by all available marker lights, all placed to fire on the first turn regardless of consequence, followed by a salvo of all "lit" seeker missiles (turn one). Second turn, repeat. Once all the DF have fired and are empty, all DF charge the enemy line, tank shocking where possible and placing themselves in front of the Shas - sometimes in the "Fish of Fury" line, and sometimes simply attacking the enemy at close range.
These tactics, which may sound suicidal, are based on modern day missile salvo doctrine. In short - shoot first. The mathematics of diminishing fire returns state that if I can deliver a salvo (unanswered!) on turn one, there will be less to shoot back at me on turn two, and so on. The seeker missile, with it's high kill rate, especially against LAVs, was the ideal weapon for this tactic. With five DF and 20 Seeker missiles, I would dismount a Rhino Rush army on the first Salvo and kill their support armor on the second. In addition to campaign games, I won two tournaments this way. Only experience proved that this tactic required that my opponents come with Rhinos (or equivalent) and that against large numbers of dismounted opponents OR Necrons, the army could be doomed. Even at its best, it was an exhausting combo to play, requiring precise decisions every turn on allocation. Every shot always counted. BUT I learned a lot - including that the seeker missile for one space marine trade would win games.
Those interested in the origins of the tactic should consider a copy of "Fleet Tactics" by Captain Hughes, USN. And yes, I used to be a Harpoon shooter in the USN and it left its mark/
The new tactic largely replaces the Seeker missile with the SMS. The quickest look at the army will show that it now deploys three Rail guns - because the seekers aren't there to salvo. This is a response to the single biggest rules change in the new codex - just 2 missiles per vehicle. Do the math yourself - the salvo size to get a creditable chance of a first round kill on a front armour 14 target is no longer cost efficient in terms of the number of vehicles you'd need to field. On the other hand, the new drone rules and the sheer staying power of the XV88s suggests that they're tough to kill, and the ASS means they can stay out of LoS turn one and emerge to shoot. In addition, somewhere in the hazy days of Secondus, I started leaving my squads, or some of my squads, INSIDE the DF when the "charge" happened, and when the change to the rapid-fire rules took place, this tactic became doctrine. The new tactic is still simple - the "Kauyon of the Hidden Firing Line," or KHFL. KHFL doctrine says that your DF are the firing line and also the safest place for your Shas. There are exceptions, but against most opponents, you set up with all vehicles masked (i.e., no first turn shooting) and emerge to concentrate salvos of SMS on selected targets. At least 2 DF now move - usually on a flank - to point blank range (12") and deploy, firing as they do. Your opponents exposed flak unit (the one you selected) should receive 48 pulse rifles and 14 to 21 SMS and BC shots, enough to eliminate virtually any unit standing and in some cases two. An important point of doctrine - LNOS or Leave no one standing. Wipe entire units off the board in each turn. Sometimes, due to dice, you will fail, but success has two rewards. It is extremely demoralizing to your opponent, and it guarantees that your Shas do not get pinned in h-t-h by stragglers.
[gal_img]1292[/gal_img]By turn three, you should have established a firing line with at least 2 FW Definition: Forge Worldsquads on your opponent's side of the table. At the same time, your Stealth suits should infiltrate and do so where the enemy is NOT, and then use their superior movement ability to avoid casualties while threatening the enemy's pen flank. At times it will be beneficial to coordinate them with the FW Definition: Forge Worldattack - more often, they operate on the other flank. Resist the temptation to DS your Shas'el deep in the enemy rear zone - usually he's best hanging out near the shas providing fire support. Instead drop the drones as a disposable one-shot annoyance. Or perhaps, drop them to trap an enemy unit you can break with firepower.
This is not an army for those players who don't want to think, but just want to throw dice (I have those days too.) This is an army that requires the aggressive spirit of a space marine and the caution of an Eldar at the same time. As one example, I USUALY (that is, almost every game) launch a FW Definition: Forge Worldsquad into h-t-h combat. The Tau do not excel at h-t-h, true - but it can knock an off-balance opponent over the edge, and due to that 4+ armor save, against most opponents you'll find that you last a long time. Stealth suits are expensive, but they are actually pretty good at h-t-h against opponents w/o power weapons. Fire, movement, and limited melee will serve to shock most opponents, who expect a fairly passive defense from the Tau. The lack of suits has an added bonus - many opponents can't count points, and will keep a reserve "to fight the suits" until you prove to them you don't have any.
Caution: I am a decent player. I've won tournaments, and I've won most of my other games. However, I recognize that I am not a tier-one player. Tier One players win Conflicts and Games Day tournaments and the like. I've played a couple - indeed, I play two pretty regularly. Tier one opponents are a whole different kettle f fish. They'll know your army list as well as you do, they won't be demoralized by the turn one extinction of a favorite unit, they won't get mad when dice turn against them or when you or I have a string of luck, and they won't quit until the last las-pistol shot is fired. And they're fun to play, too.
Point being, for all my talk of tactics and doctrine, if you play a gunslinger with this army, you'll need nerves of steel and a steady hand on the dice. A really good player will ignore the pretty pathfinders (who used to be so important) and the Shas and he'll shoot the DF and the broadsides. Once those are gone, your machine is broken. I like to think that with the numbers of each, I've made a mass kill in the early game very challenging, but I know what can happen. And whatever you do, play with honor, and fight for the Greater Good.