“Fish Tank Phooey!” Tau vs Raven Guard 1500pts Battle Report

Hello there fellow warmongers!  Having been super busy with work recently, I have scaled back with the old wargaming a bit.  However I did manage to sneak in a battle with my Friend Simon and his rapscallion space marines last week.

Although they may look like Ultramarines, don’t be fooled! Oh no, those sneaky Raven Guard are up to their old tricks again, aiming to confuse the enemy by borrowing another chapters heraldry!  Composed of a Talon Strike Force, the Raven Guard in this detachment are looking to get right up in the enemy’s face asap and overwhelm them.  We are also playing Maelstrom, so the Drop Pods will give them a bit of objective control (provided they land on target of course!) while the jump pack troops, bikers and land speeder should give them a bit of maneuverability.

Talon Strike Force 1500pts

Pinion Battle Company
– Captain, Armour of Shadows
– Tactical Squad (10), Meltagun, combi-melta, meltabomb, Drop Pod
– Tactical Squad (10), Meltagun, combi-melta, meltabomb, Drop Pod
– Tactical Squad (10), Grav Cannon, Drop Pod
– Devastator Squad (5), 4x Lascannon
– Assault Squad (10), Jump Packs, meltabomb
– Scout Bikers (5), Locator Beacon

Shadow Force
– Captain, Artificer Armour, Bike, Swift and Murder
– Vanguard Veterans (5), 2 x Storm shield & Lightning Claws, 1 x Power fist
– Sternguard Veterans (5), Rhino
– Land Speeder, 2x Multimelta

For those of you unfamiliar with the above formations, I’ll try to summarise their advantages. The Pinion Battle Company formation allows the scout sergeants to give Ignores Cover to a unit within 9″, and also allows them to ‘lead’ a unit out of reserves with them if they outflank.  The Shadow Force formation units get Acute Senses, Scout and Move Through Cover, and can also reroll run moves and flat out an extra 6″.  The Talon Strike Force Detachment then allows all units in reserves to arrive from Turn 1, and allows the player to re-roll mission choice / deployment zone roll / deploying 1st roll, and the marines can choose to fail morale checks.  Add to that the Raven Guard Chapter Tactics – Shrouding for non vehicle units T1, +1 to night fighting roll, jump packs that can be used in movement and assault phase with rerolling of hammer of wrath – and it is a bucket load of buffs for the boys in black.


Proxies – bikers are scout bikers, land speeder does not have typhoon missiles

I have decided to go back to what I know for this game, and am fielding my Tau.   Here is my list:

Tau Hunter Contingent 1500pts

Hunter Cadre
– Commander, Fusion Blaster, Plasma Rifle, VRT, Gun Done, Shield Drone
– Crisis Team (1), 2x Fusion Blaster, 2x Gun Drone, Bonding Knife
– Crisis Team (1), 2x Plasma Rifle, 2x Gun Drone,  Bonding Knife
– Fire Warrior Team (6)
– Kroot Squad (10)
– Kroot Squad (10)
– Piranha
– Broadside, EWO, HYMP, SMS

Armoured Interdiction Cadre
– Skyray, SMS
– Hammerhead, Railgun, SMS
– Hammerhead, Ion Cannon, SMS
– Hammerhead, Ion Cannon, SMS

Infiltration Cadre
– Pathfinder team (6)
– Pathfinder team (6)
– Pathfinder team (6)
– Piranha, Fusion Blaster
– Stealth Team (3)
– Stealth Team (3)

Now if the Marine’s formation is buff-tastic, then the Tau’s is no slouch either.  +1 to BS if three units in the Hunter Contingent Detachment target the same unit, the Hunter Cadre also gives 12″ supporting fire and allows units in this formation to run/flat out and shoot if they are within 12″ of the warlord.  The Armoured Interdiction Cadre also gives rerolls to hit within 6″ of a designated spot, while the Infiltration Cadre brings all reserves in the turn after a unit from this formation is destroyed (it also gets a free seeker missile hit for each 3 marker light hits, but that didn’t come in to play in this game).


Proxies – both black hammerheads have ion cannons.  One gun even falls off during the battle, so look out for the devilfish throwing out pie plates!

So once more I have tried to keep my list quite fluffy in that there are no death stars or units I would consider OP – No Stormsurges (as it is, don’t own one), Riptide wings, crisis bomb or massed Broadsides here.  I only took one of the latter in the Hunter Cadre because I ran out of other heavy support options.

I have tried to encapsulate the theme of Kauyon in this list – the idea being that the infiltration cadre will start on the table with the fire warriors (the ‘bait’ to draw the enemy in), and everything else will come in from reserves (to spring the trap).  Hopefully a pathfinder unit will go down in the marines first turn and my entire force will be in T1!


We decide to play Maelstrom before hand and rolled on ‘cloak and shadows’ from the BRB, which is the one where you start with 3 objectives every turn but keep them secret from your opponent until scored.  The setting was a ruined Imperial city, with an abandoned fortified position at its centre.  The blood still looks fresh….

Space Marines win the roll off and decided to go first.  They set up spread across their deployment zone, with assault squad and land speeder on the left flank, the other assault squad and devastator squad + captain on the right flank.  scout bikers, rhino with sternguard embarked and vanguard + biker captain start along the middle. Drop pods are in reserve.

The Tau deploy minimally as planned, but also to mitigate the impact of the Marines alphastrike.  Pathfinders and a stealth team go on left flank, while fire warriors and the other stealth team go on the opposite flank.  In the centre, two pathfinder teams and the solitary broadside occupy the ruins

Tau roll to seize – and fail, despite the +1 from their warlord trait

Turn 1:

All three drop pods come in for the marines (two automatically and one on a 4+ thanks to the formation).  Two land in or near objective three, while the other one goes after the lone broadside.  Everything except the devastators moves forward to support – the scout bikers and sternguard joining up with the drop pod in the centre, while the vanguard and biker captain move up to support the left flank drop pods

The broadside opts to intercept as he suspects he may not be around much longer, but only kills a solitary marine.  The grav cannon returns the favour and, granted Ignores Cover by the scout sergeant, blows him away for First Blood. Annoyingly, his glorious death does not count for the purposes of bringing in my reserves as he is in the wrong formation.  Elsewhere the pathfinders are hammered by enemy fire, but not destroyed.  Two units break but do not make it off the board, meaning no Turn 1 reserves for the Tau.

The Marines score 2vps for easily achieving Supremacy, and along with First Blood open up a 3 point lead

Tau draw Ascendancy (Ha!), Hold Objective 6 (no chance) and Multiple Distractions (have an enemy unit in both DZs – a bit of a gift thanks to the space marine devs holding their line and drop pods in mine).  With all space marine units bar one being near or in the enemy deployment zone already, The Tau are in real danger of being over run very early on.

To make matters worse, both broken pathfinder teams fall back off the table edge, although this does now trigger the arrival of all reserves next turn.  However, the meagre remaining fire power is concentrated on the scout bikers and manages to kill 4 and sends the last one fleeing

Tau score one VP for Multiple Distractions, but decided not to discard any objectives. core is 3:1 in the marines favour

End of turn overview


Turn 2:

This maelstrom mission makes it particularly difficult to track you opponents objectives, so I apologise if it gets a bit sketchy at times.  The land speeder and rallied scout biker drop back to score Hold the Line, while the vanguard and biker captain score Hold Objective 1.


Shooting kills off the last pathfinder team in the ruins, and reduces the stealth team to 1 (who would hold his ground).  Two assaults are lined up – the right flank assault squad easily wipe out the fire warriors, but lose two in over watch.  On the left flank, the assault squad takes down two stealth suits, but are held up by the third

Marines score 2 more VPs to make it 5:1

The beleaguered Tau have hung in there, and now the Kauyon trap will be sprung!  I draw Secure Objective 1 to complete my set, and with a bit of luck a big score will be on the cards this turn.  Both units of kroot outflank on the right, one going for the devastator squad while the other comes on and shoots up the assault squad, killing two and send the remaining guy packing

The commander drops into the centre and shoots the sternguard off Objective 1 to score it, while the fusion suit sticks the landing on top of the building to score Objective 6.  He takes out the land speeder too, just for kicks.

All the tanks come on and target the blob of marines around the rhino.  Two pie plates later and the sternguard are reduced to one, while the grav cannon team are reduced to two and flee.  The railgun fluffs against the rhino though.  Both piranhas also flat out onto objectives to give me Ascendancy.  Commander assault jumps up onto the ruin, while the lone stealth suit hangs in combat for another turn

I roll 3VPs for Ascendancy, reversing the deficit and bringing the score to 5:6 in the Tau’s favour

End of turn overview


Turn 3:

The marines scramble to contain the Tau reinforcements, but take out an ionhead straight away with the devastators who Ignore Cover thanks to the lone scout biker (who must die!).  Elsewhere, the grav cannon and biker captains squad take out a crisis suit and the drones, as well as put a wound on the commander.  The Captains squad then fail the charge however, and take an overwatch wound on the captain for their troubles.

A tactical squad assaults the lone piranha, easily destroying him, while the lone assault marine on the right flank charges the remaining ionhead but whiffs with his krak grenade.  The marines don’t manage any points this turn.

The cards are kind to the Tau, as they draw The Greater Good (capture an objective previously held by your opponent), Hold Objective 6 and Kingslayer.  No.6 is in the bag, so the crisis suit stays put and melts two marines below.  The skyray and railhead move in to surround the biker captain, who goes down to their combined fire to give up Kingslayer. The commander then jumps down  to claim objective 1 (previously held by the captains squad) to score ‘For the Greater Good’.

The final scout biker goes down to the fusion blaster piranha, while the last assault marine on the right flank is mopped up by the kroot.  The left flank battle royal continues as the stealth suit survives a fourth round of combat!

The Tau score 6 VPs this turn, rolling 2VPs on both Kingslayer and For the Greater Good as well as picking up Slay the Warlord.  Score is now 5:12 to the Tau.

End of Turn overview


Turn 4:

Both sides have taken a beating, but despite being behind on the points the marines are weathering the storm a little better – they just need some luck with the cards!  On the left flank, the three remaining marines get their revenge by killing the drones and forcing the fusion crisis suit to break.  In the centre, the Grav Cannon continues to dish out death and finishes off the commander for Slay the Warlord.

A Tactical squad also sneaks up behind the skyray and destroys its SMS, leaving it weaponless and on a single hull point, while the hand to hand battle of the left flank continues into its six round!

Marines score another VP for ‘Prioritise and Destroy’, thanks to the warlord kill, and bring the score to 7:12

Tau cards are not so great this turn, with only ‘Patient Hunter’ really gettable (destroy an enemy unit with a unit in your DZ).  Railhead zeros in on the rhino, and blows it away to score the VP, while the crippled and jinking skyray also flat outs for the opposition DZ to try and stay alive for line breaker

The kroot fail their charge on the devastator squad and remain stuck at the bottom of the building, and the stealth suit finally succumbs on his 7th round of combat, freeing up the assault squad to pursue the fleeing crisis suit next turn

Score comes to 7:13

Turn 5:

The Marines are still behind on points, but there is a chance they could now table the Tau.  The devastator squad easily finishes the skyray, while the assault squad up their game and defeat the fleeing crisis suit in one round of combat.  The grav cannon fires on the Railhead, but only forces him to jink his way out of trouble

The marines score ‘Strike from the Skys’ (kill a unit using jump infantry) and Big Game Hunter for the skyray, closing the gap to 9:13

Tau draw Secure Objective Four, which they get by moving the kroot up. The last stealth suit takes out the Grav cannon, while the jinking Railhead heads for cover from the Lascannnons.  Having remembered there is a captain marshalling the Devastator squad, the kroot decide to not charge them after all and give them a volley of fire, picking off the sergeant.

Tau get one more VP to keep the score board ticking over, bringing it to 9:14.  We roll to see if the game continues….. and it does!

Turn 6:

The Marines are desperately close now, with only a hand full of Tau units left on the table, and even less VPs between the sides.  Unfortunately, a lot of the marine units are out of the game on the left flank and are unlikely to make a contribution to the effort.  A Tactical squad does move up to grab Objective 6 for a VP, while the devastators charge the kroot.  They win easily, breaking and sweeping the kroot to score ‘Psychological Warfare’ for another VP.

This brings the Tau unit count down to 4, and the scores up to 11:13

The Tau are desperate for the game to end now, but also draw the achievable Ambush (destroy/rout an enemy unit).  The railhead hops into the building, passes its dangerous terrain test, and duly blows away a drop pod to score the VP.  The Piranha also moves into a hidden position to score line breaker if the game ends

We roll to see if the game carries on…. but it doesn’t, the battle is over!


The aftermath


Final score was 12:15 in favour of the Tau, which I think fairly reflected the kind of game it was – frenetic scoring, lots of action and plenty of bodies and wrecked vehicles littering the battlefield.  A great matchup, and the Marines pushed the Tau all the way – another turn may have even seen them tip the balance back in their favour, provided the thus far fickle card gods were feeling more generous.

Decisive moment:  Tau turn three, where they not only scored a hatfull of points but also tore the heart out of the Marines right flank and centre.  It was done at a high cost (losing the commander and skyray next turn), but it isolated the marines left flank and kept them out of the rest of the game.

Tau MVP: Stealth suit hero.  While the self sacrifice of the commander should not be forgotten, for any Tau model to go seven rounds in close combat is an astonishing achievement.  It had little effect on the outcome of the battle, but will warm the hearts of warriors of the empire for many generations to come!

Space Marines MVP: Grav Cannon Marine.  As part of a 5 man Tac squad in the drop pod, he killed the Broadside for First Blood, took down the Commander for Slay the Warlord + ‘Prioritise and Destroy’, totaling three VPs.  Good days work for any marine, well done son!

  • Well done! Especially since the Raven Guard were getting a bonus they shouldn’t have, on at least one occasion: It is specifically only Scout Sergeants or Scout Veteran Sergeants who can grant Ignores Cover, not Scout Biker Sergeants or Scout Biker Veteran Sergeants.

    On the flipside, the Infiltration Cadre’s Intervention Request Beacons were FAQed so they can’t bring Reserves in on Turn 1. They just allow you to automatically pass the Reserves Rolls, not to bring on Reserves on a Turn when you wouldn’t normally have a chance to Roll for them in the first place. Didn’t actually come up in this case, but the more you know…

    • iapedus

      Thanks Westrider, it was a very close game and great fun to play! We played the game just before the Tau FAQs came out – its a shame they don’t come in T1 anymore as it was a great way to do Kauyon. Still, plenty more options in the dex for that :)

      As for the ‘Ignore Cover’ issue, I think it comes down to the good old RAW/RAI interpretations. We read it as including the scout biker variants, otherwise there would be no reason to include them as a possible choice in the formation. But you are right, RAW they shouldn’t get it.

      • Scout Bikers can still lead Units on with Wayfinders*, and they’re the only way to start a Locator Beacon on the table. They’ve got plenty of use, even if their Sergeants are zooming around a bit too fast to spot for other Units.

        *Speaking of which, note how Wayfinders specifically states that both Scout Squads and Scout Bike Squads work for it, while Scout Support takes the space to differentiate between regular Scout Sergeants and Veteran Scout Sergeants, but doesn’t include either variety of Scout Biker Sergeant. They went out of their way to make this clear.

        • iapedus

          Ha ha, oh yes. Didn’t even think to look at the Wayfinder rule for further clarifications.

          You’re right, it is pretty clear when you read them in conjunction with one another, but it was just a friendly game and didn’t have a massive impact on the result so no harm done. Good for future reference though, so thanks for the correction :D

          It also significantly downgrades the formation in my eyes – ignores cover is pretty strong, but at the price of a scout squad babysitting your devastators? Not sure its worth it, unless….. maybe something like Devs with grav cannons coming down in a drop pod next to the scouts…..and an attached independent character in Terminator Armour to give them slow and purposeful? Hmmm….

          • The option for a Cataphractii Captain really helps there, yeah.

            Alternately, a Scout Squad with Sniper Rifles will generally be perfectly usable from somewhere near the Devs.

  • Well played.

    Reserves is always risky, even if you have some bonus to make it easier. You need enough on the table to live, and hopefully do something useful, while the rest of your army waits to enter the game. That being said, I would say your plan worked well.

    That Stealth Suit is a hero. My last game against Tau saw my Daemon Prince charge Fire Warriors. I had 1 wound left, and sure enough, those Fire Warriors got in 1 wound, and I failed the save. Tau in close combat can surprise you!

    • iapedus

      Thanks man – you are right about the reserves, any plan that relies on them coming in before being tabled is super risky (especially since the formation does not work as I thought it did!) but I have to say there is nothing more satisfying than aiming to play something thematic like Kauyon and seeing it come off.

      The main issues with this list was that it relies on loosing a unit to bring the reserves in. This will usual mean giving up first blood, which can be the difference in tight games. Your opponent can also just decide to not kill anything for two turns and take his chances scoring objectives that don’t involve destroying units – if you only have pathfinders on the table your not going to be doing too much damage to him or countering his scoring. This list can definitely be refined though to be less reliant on the reserve manipulation – look out for a Kauyon list in my next post :)

      Oh and I totally agree, some tau units are deceptive in close combat. Stealth suits are great for bullying weak units (even scouts), crisis can do ok but my personal favourite is broadsides! S5 2 attacks base, the 2+ save keeps them in the fight and I have often won an combat by 1 or 2 and broken the enemy unit. The best part is, no one expects them to charge, ever!

      • It worked out, and thematically, but I’d have been sweating it the whole time waiting.

        Broadsides do hold up well in combat, and I agree that nobody expects a charge out of them. Nobody expects a charge from anything Tau these days.

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