Part 5: Gunline Tau
One of the quickest ways to lose a game is to implement this strategy improperly. You need victory points to win a game of 40k. To get enough of those victory points, you need objectives AND some of the other bits like line breaker, first blood, etc...
The true gunline is an overly defensive strategy and is extremely difficult to pull off, especially if you create a futuristic version of the Maginot Line or the trenches of World War I, and your opponent starts dropping pie plates and deathwing termies on you.
I will go out on a limb and say that while a pure Gunline tau Army may be a beautiful thing, and may be fun to play, a pure Gunline Tau Army will lose every game --unless you have a really dumb opponent.
First, we need to understand that the term, "Gunline Tau" is a misnomer. That name for this strategy calls up images of bunkers and fortifications with little blue guys walking the trenches... this is not that type of gunline.
In fact, the gunline is only half the army.
We should call it "Hammer and Anvil Tau." (see where I'm going with this?)
So here is the strategy (and remember, this is for large games, 2000+ points).
The short story? Defend your own objective, creep out to your second, and pop in unexpectedly on your third. Now for the details.
But before we start building up your army to create the perfect gunline, we need to work on some strategic training.
So your next purchase? I highly recommend getting the old Assault on Blackreach box game. I know, it's old, but you get two very tough opponents (Orks and Marines) in that one with which you can practice various techniques in your garage when no one else is looking. You don't always have to try new things under live fire. Do what the real Marines do, learn how to assault beaches and blow stuff up on Camp Pendleton BEFORE you need to know how to do it in some far off land.
You can probably get them fairly cheap on eBay right now. The new Dark Vengeance box set would work in a pinch, but the variety of the units is not great. Marines, or evil marines... meh.
Ok, so we have a training ground. Back to business.
Step one. Build your firebase
This will be your Kau'yon. This will be the anvil. This will be your gunline. This will be the hard spot upon which your enemy will surge. And this is where their bodies will pile up (metaphorically, of course). Best if it is on top of an objective. You should have one in your deployment zone. This really works well if it is in a building or in cover, or at least something. So when you place it, guess where you should put it?
Work with me people...
This is your battlefield for this exercise. It doesn't always work out this nicely, but hey, this is an engineered lesson so work with it. The pink oval is the ideal location for your gunline. The objective is close enough to your troops that it can be easily claimed in the deployment phase, and the hedges provide cover for the ends of your firebase/gunline.
This gunline focuses more on luring your opponent in, or toward your forces rather than the aggressive onslaught of the Mont'Ka. Use upgrades and every boost to firepower and range you can afford.
In your gunline you will need the following units.
If you can find the points, four squads. You can make this one big mob on or near one objective, or two ½-sized mobs (one in each corner of your deployment zone). Be sure to add markerlights to your squad leaders. As each squad fires, they can cascade the markerlight down the line for an improved BS for each firing unit. This isn't easy, see my tips below for practice.
Aegis Defense Line with Quad Gun
Yep, you need it. I hate it because it looks so Imperial, but you do need it. On a side note, I have been working on making my own with resin casting, but they all look like crap so far. Chapterhouse games is also working on a really cool Tau'ish one, but depending on how you feel about that... GW is rumored to come up with army specific terrain and fortifications in the future, but I can't wait until after the new Sisters of Battle codex to get one...
You may even consider a bunker/bastion. The quad gun will help with anti-aircraft.
backing up your mobs of firewarriors should be a passle of pathfinders. I would recommend about a squad per two squads of firewarriors. Their markerlights will come in handy, and they can also benefit from ethereal blessings in a pinch.
Pathfinders can bring in a couple of useful drones. The pulse accelerator drone extends the pulse weapon range six inches. And the Grav-inhibitor forces your opponent to subtract D3 nches from his charge roll. First one is good, the other... meh.
Two if you can swing it. He will give each of your warriors another shot, plus he has a markerlight he can fire at anything he wants at BS5. You could also have him man the quad gun at BS5. Yeah, he is a good thing.
I know, two fireblades and an ethereal are three of your HQ choices, but that's ok. This game is over 2000 points right? His buffs are awesome against enemy units approaching your gunline. Be sure to keep him in a devilfish to protect him against crack shots and snipers. You can also load up a bunch of firewariors later to rush out and claim an objective.
Just remember to give yourself enough game time to disembark as you cannot claim with or from within a vehicle, even if it's a dedicated transport. And you can't disembark the ethereal, embark the warriors, move flat out to the objective, and disembark the warriors all in the same turn. Play smart.
You probably ened one for every squad of firewarriors. 4 squads? 4 broadsides. Just a rule of thumb for scalability. Two units of two should be good here. One unit armed with Heavy Rail Rifles, the other with High Yield Missile Pods. And both should load up on their missile drones. Properly gassed up they'll light the skies up. Let these boys deal with your helldrake and other aircraft spam.
A unit or two of these for each gunline should be able to help alleviate assaults by adding theirs to your overall firepower (they benefit from your ethereal's buffs as well as the supporting fire USR).
And secondly by their ability to rush out in front and park right in front of the bad guys who are most likely going to assault your gunline next turn. Be sure to make this move in the assault phase so you don't blow your regular shooting.
That's that. Your anvil is built. Avoid leaving space behind your troops, you may get assaulted from behind. Yuk. No one likes that except for the person behind you.
Step Two: Design your hammer (hammers, hammerheads, whatever...).
This is the Mont'ka or crushing blow portion of your fighting force. These are the units that will beat the bloody hell out of your opponent and make your gunline look like candyland to their battered forces, their huddled masses yearning breathe free, and for a nice place to die.
And two body guards. Jetpack into wherever, tear shit up, jump back and hide. Rinse and repeat. Gribbleys hate this. Greenskins hate it. 'Oomies hate it too. Do it anyway. You could fit a Farsight bomb here if you wanted to, or maybe a Shadowsun shit-storm (go ahead, say that five times real fast).
Same as above, and at least 2 units of three. The Crisis Battlesuit can be taken as a single suit unit, or in squads of three. They provide some of the most versatile firepower in the game, capable of tackling infantry, vehicles, and buildings with ease, but they are not indestructible. Use them wisely, padawan.
Two. Cruise around and shoot people in the face with your 10-inch... railgun. Rinse and repeat. DO NOT park one of these behind your gunline for fire support. It will get stuck and lose part of its cover save (based on movement). Give 'em some space to slide around, just remember to keep your front armor pointed at the bad guys and your butt close to the board edge to discourage deepstrikes behind you.
And lastly, Step Three.
Apply lube. Doesn't fit the hammer and anvil analogy, but trust me here, you're gonna need it. These are the units that help you get that elusive third objective that tau always seem to struggle with, or taking down that third Black Templar or CSM Land Raider.
A unit of Kroot with a hound can walk onto the field late game and grab an objective. They could also hole up in terrain (using infiltrate) until they're needed. And they're snipers. And they're troops.
In a pinch, and if they're close enough to the enemy ,they can run out and assault a unit closing on your gunline and tarpit the bad guys up for a turn so you can shift assets around.
If you can slide in a unit of these babies, go for it. They are nice to harass and distract or slow down a determined foe and they can actually bring down that Land Raider coming up behind building three...
If you didn't use any with Shadowsun as your warlord, snag a unit for here. They are expensive, and don't do much, but for some reason their stealth ability which makes them difficult to kill will make your opponent slobber like Pavlov's dogs until he can take them out.
And trust me, sometimes you need any distraction you can get. Any distraction that delays an inevitable assault on your gunline is gold. Once your gunline is assaulted, you will not only lose all that beautiful firepower tau are so famous for, but your blue man crew will melt like butter and you won't get them back.
That said, it is important to remember that units die, and you have to be willing to let them go in the name of the Greater Good. The firepower your enemy wastes on the distraction guys is less he has available for your actual hammer and anvil units.
That is it.
How you employ it effectively is the topic experience or at least the topic of another post, and I will refer you to the appropriate tactica.
Oh, and you can click on the battlefield maps for better views.
I play Tau.