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Vespid Tactica by Helio
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Old 03 Jul 2006, 19:18   #1 (permalink)
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Default Vespid Tactica by Helio

The effective use of Vespids relies on several factors.

Preserve and Protect...

Tau players seem to agree that Vespids have weak armor, and that they are expensive. The Vespid criticism that I object to is that they don't survive. There is a play style necessary to ensure the Vespid can and do survive to make a lethal (i.e. game winning) impact on the game at hand.

Vespid rely more on movement than any other asset in our army list. They are perhaps one of the most mobile elements 40K has ever seen, on par with anything that the Eldar, Dark Eldar, or Tyranids have. Yet they are harder to understand and employ properly.

The first key to keeping Vespid alive is to use your movement to stay out of sight, or, at a minimum, in hard cover (cover that provides a 4+ cover save whenever possible).

The second principle to keeping Vespid alive is to keep them in Reserve. Vespid are one of the two best units (IMO, that is; the other unit is Piranha) to keep in reserve for Gamma and Omega level missions. A Vespid unit is scoring, capable of Deep Strike, and will move on average of 15 inches or more on the turn it enters the game (and each turn thereafter).

Keeping Vespid in Reserve helps maximize their damage potential in several ways:
First, it keeps them off the table. Second, it enables them to choose a suitably safe pathway onto the gaming space, which enables them to choose whether they wish to fire (move plus gun range = 24-inch firing distance) or Fleet move (move plus Fleet = 15 inches on average) or hide. They can find cover to hide behind, or if the cover save is adequate or the threat minimal, hide within. Vespid benefit from "Skilled Rider" special rule, meaning that a single Vespid will only take a wound if the result of two d6 both come up as 1s (that's a 1 in 36 chance, or less than 3 percent per model).

Generally speaking, Vespid on Turn 2 should come in from the friendly table edge, as opposed to Deep Strike, because their inherent weak armor, combined with the restrictions from Deep Strike (no move, no assault) create risk not easily mitigated. If you do Deep Strike, remember that Vespid (at least as far as I know from the Fleet rules) may take a Fleet move in lieu of firing, so there's some ability to get out of harm's way (I may be wrong on this; correct me if I am - Vespid are the first Fleet-capable unit I've ever used).

On Turn 3 and thereafter, Vespid can possibly Deep Strike into a safe rear area of the opponent. Again, this is more risky than coming in from a table edge, but as always, Deep Strike offers certain advantages that can't be had elsewhere. Still, given their brittle armor and limited offensive weapon range, Vespid aren't an ideal Deep Strike unit when compared to Stealth suits or XV8s. Considering how much movement Vespid get per turn, I typically recommend moving in from a table edge over Deep Strike...

One note on coordinating tactics in support of Vespid:

Whenever contemplating a strategy that involves using Reserves, consider using the Positional Relay Special Issue Wargear item on a Crisis Suit. Vespid benefit nicely from a forced delay in their appearance into the battle. Having more than one reserve unit, and on Turn 2 using the Positional Relay to force something other than Vespid to arrive enhances the impact Vespid can have in subsequent turns. I've found that on Turn 2, more often than not, less information is known about the game than is necessary to make a wise choice on Vespid deployment (this goes for all Reserves, actually).

I can't omit, however, that the Positional Relay is only ideal in Gamma level missions (Alpha does not permit Reserves, and Omega requires any crisis suit equipped with a Positional Relay to start in Reserves, such that on Turn 2, all Reserves, including Vespid, must be rolled for, and the Positional Relay cannot be used since it is off-board at the start of that turn).

Remember that even if your Vespid arrived on Turn 4 from a friendly board edge, they would still be guaranteed 36-inches of movement, which, when combined with even 1-inch of a a single Fleet move on turn 4, 5, or 6, is just enough to contest your enemy's deployment zone (i.e., it's enough to contest any victory objective in any game in a standard mission).

In moving Vespid, I am reminded of a "mantra" used by armored Reconnaissance elements in modern warfare. Armored reconnaissance elements have very light armor, enough to protect against light ballistic weapons only, yet their role on the battlefield is essential. They remind themselves that "If you can be seen, you can be hit. If you can be hit, you can be killed." The trick is not to be seen.

As a fairly new Warhammer 40K player (roughly two years now), one of the key strategies that escaped me in many of my losses was knowing when not to do something. Just because you can do something doesn't mean it's a good idea. The clearest example of this is the Pathfinder "Scout" move. Just because they can move doesn't mean they should, and many a Tau player laments the early death of their Pathfinders when their demise was caused by moving forward with a Scout move though such a forward move was completely unnecessary.

Just as Pathfinders need to rely on the 36-inch range of their markerlights, and use distance to protect them and enhance their effectiveness, Vespid need to rely on their strength: Maneuverability.

Whenever you get ready to move Vespid, know where you want to go. Ask yourself what weapons you don't want your Vespid to be targeted by. With the exceptions of Barrage weaponry, which we cannot control, and also tabletops with minimal LOS-blocking terrain, the Vespid should always be in control of what can hit them, by controlling what can see them.

When I use Vespid, I do two critical things: I do not count on a Fleet move to be higher than 3 inches. If I need a fleet move to protect me, I have to really ask if I want to move that route. If I have to move less than 12-inches to stay out of line of sight, I gladly will if it means my Vespid can't be targeted by direct-fire weapons. The second thing I do (or don't do, in this case) is that I do not worry about the fire output of the Vespid.

You can't shoot if you're dead, so the first rule for Vespid is staying alive. I'll discuss more the offensive fire effectiveness of Vespid in the next section, but the first thing to learning effective use of Vespid is movement - that's their specialty in our Tau army. Stay out of sight whenver you can, or seek good cover if you choose to expose yourself to fire. When in doubt, hide out of sight!

That being said, Vespid are lightly armored. How do they contribute positively to a battle's outcome without awarding maximum points to the enemy. We've discussed preservation and protection, now let's discuss offensive operations.

I call this section:

Adding Insult to Injury...

The Vespid weapon has only one undeniable purpose: to kill MEq's.
It is standard "Pulse" strength, with a far superior, and ever-so-comforting AP of 3. Yum... If you could give that to Fire Warriors for 5 points, wouldn't you, in many circumstances? I would... It is the envy of many armies.

It is limited by a short range and a modest, perhaps even mediocre Ballistic Skill (BS), and of course, by the aforementioned weaknesses of armor protection. Still, that being said, let's discuss the range of this weapon as "effective 24-inches" because of the Vespid's high movement capability.

The Vespid are fantastic finishers in the shooting phase. Only the usual, Sv2+ units will ignore their 24-inch lethal range. But how do Vespid get out and employ their shooting without dying in the ensuing enemy fire phase?

As always in the Tau battle strategy, the key element is to use patience, and employ combined arms toward your shooting goals. All Tau strategy revolves around "the orchestra of fire". We have to employ several elements to engage a single target element and to bring its threat level to our models to zero. Vespid are no different in the overall scheme of using Tau firepower effectively, they just require more patience and discernment by you, the commander.

Here again, knowing how to move your Vespids is key to utilizing their firepower.

If you have watched the battle unfold, leaving your Vespid either in Reserve or out of LOS somewhere, your Vespid should be searching for a flank. The sides of the table generally provide safe protection from your enemy getting around you. In an average 6x4 table, Vespid make great use of the space between 12 and 24 inches from your long table edge, and within 12 or 18 inches of the sides of the table. They can rule that space. And from that space, in a single turn, they can reach the center of the board and fire effectively their lovely AP3, Marine-killing goodness.

When you use Vespid, imagine a 24-inch pie-plate in which you can kill things. To move them effectively, center that pie plate so that you are within 12-inches of what you want to kill, and as far away from anything else that can hurt you back.

Also (and of course) don't forget to crunch your numbers with regard to how much firepower it will take for your Vespid to add the final, last lethal punch of shooting at that unit. Know what your statistics are if you're shooting Fire Warriors at MEqs: how many Fire Warriors are going to hit, wound, and how many Marines are going to fail saves.

For whatever weapon systems your Vespid are working in conjunction with - know what the average kill rate by the other shooters is going to be, and don't ask the Vespid to do more than they are capable of. They should finish off that target, utterly, because that's what the AP3 of their weapon indicates they are for.

Remember that Vespid with a Strain Leader can utilize Markerlight hits, and probably should whenever they can.

Vespid are an ideal unit for the "Patient Hunter" strategy outlined in the Codex. But do you know how to be patient? The Vespid have agreed to fight for the Greater Good, and for the Greater Good, you must learn patience...

Next up, the most under-appreciated aspect of the Vespid...

Snatch the Victory...

Again, being a new 40K player, one of the key lessons I learned was that killing the other guy doesn't guarantee a victory. Indeed, among great players, the hammer blows of back and forth shooting and close combat don't make up the fun of the game. Maneuver and control of territory is what wins games, especially in the tournament settings. I urge all new players to play games from among the five basic Missions, at random difficulty levels. I'd especially urge everyone to play Alpha level missions, because in most of those, the killing of units has no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of the victory, because territory is what is required for victory!

Again, in the control of ground, Vespid rank among the highest (again along with Piranha) in their capability to seize and control (or contest) territory for victory.

In a six-turn game, your Vespid will move 72-inches minimum; that figure does not represent any Fleet moves or assaults. Simply keeping your Vespid out of the line of fire for 5 turns can enable a small unit of them to seize and control territorial objectives on Turn 6. This is really my favorite ability of Vespid, and it is the reason I feel no regret at having Vespid sit idle, neither moving nor shooting for several turns, in the safety of the shade of a copse of trees or behind the back alley of a building. Especially if I've chosen (or been forced) to move second, my Vespid are always waiting for Turn 6... That's their turn...

Point for point, I will argue with anyone that Vespid can't be beat for safely maneuvering through a battlefield without risk of damage in order to seize terrain on Turn 6. I field units of Vespid six-models strong, with a Strain Leader. Their footprint (the amount of space their bases take on a table) is miniscule, and their movement surpassed only by the Piranha. But Vespid can more easily move through terrain through both Fleet and "Skilled Rider" rules than Piranha.

Don't overlook this aspect that the Vespid bring to the table.

Finally, let's examine what to do with Vespid in the Assault Phase in...

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em!

Vespid are not close combat troops. If you want close combat troops, buy Kroot. Cheaper, with respectable fire output capability, Kroot get 3 attacks on the charge, or they get 2 and I10 if they are assaulted while in cover (which is ultimately the Kroot's real Assault-phase purpose, to be assaulted while in cover).

Vespid have two things going for them in the Assault Phase.

The first is Initiative 5. Only one other model in the Tau army gets this (Kroot Hounds). Against a Close-Combat specialist, I5 doesn't even guarantee you get to attack first. But against the average marine or worse, your Vespid will get first attack.

Second, they get a Toughness 4 boost, but only Strength of 3. This is important because if you look at the Vespid statistically, they aren't designed to win close combats. They are designed to survive them, and win under very specialized circumstances.

Vespid will only win Close Combats when one or both of the following conditions apply:
1) They are fighting S3 models (Guard Equivalents, or GEqs) and outnumber by at least some margin, and/or

2) They are fighting a very small number of models that have a lower Initiative value than the Vespid.

Six Vespid are actually likely to lose a close combat against 3 standard marines even if there are no power weapons to ignore saves (and most MEq players will keep their power weapon alive through the shooting phases). Someone else can do the math (I'll just get it wrong) but here's my shot:

6 Charging Vespid including Strain Leader:
13 attacks *1/2 = 6.5 hits
6.5 hits *1/3 wound = 2.145 wounds
2.15 wounds *1/3 failed save = 0.7 dead marines.

Zero point seven dead marines! You might not even kill one! Let's assume you did kill one, and the marines fight back:

2 Marines including Vet Sergeant (no power weapon):
3 Attacks * 2/3 = 2 hits
2 hits * 1/2 wound = 1 wound
1 wound * 2/3 failed save = 0.67 dead Vespid.

The odds are just about even for the Vespid winning versus losing, even when the Vespid charge (note I assumed you did kill one marine of the original 3, and that there was no power weapon in the close combat. On subsequent rounds, it gets worse for the Vespid.

So Vespid versus MEq in Close Combat is just a bad idea. The only time you should do that against MEqs is if you believe your Vespid have no other chance for survival except if they lock someone in Melee.

Even against a horde of GEq, Vespid are not likely to win that combat, and moreover, to have Vespid tied up in a locked close combat for several turns denies them the ability to do what they do best: maneuver! Vespid should have odds in their favor by at least 2:1 against guard, and at least 4:1 against MEq if they want to win, especially win quickly. Otherwise, your Vespid will need the help of a crisis suit or of kroot to win a close combat.

If you don't like Vespid, I certainly respect that. Their capabilities aren't straight-forward at all, unlike Fire Warriors, or Kroot, or Hammerheads. They are one of, perhaps THE most subtle unit in the Tau Empire codex. I am having fabulous success with them, and I hope some of these ideas might help you have success with them too.

Proudly banned from both Mech Tau Tactica and Advanced Tau Tactica by Kai'Lore. Kai'Lore has no honor and the fact that my mere presence reminds him of this is more than his cowardly person can bear. He banned me from the new site after less than a day. =)
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Old 03 Jul 2006, 19:29   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Vespid Tactica by Helio

good post if i didnt like the models so much i mite use them now that i read your post
Tau wins 38 tie 2 lost 8

Death Guard win 13 tie 0 lost 2

dark eldar wins 5 tie 0 lost 1
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Old 03 Jul 2006, 20:59   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Vespid Tactica by Helio

Helio, you mention in your article reserves over Deep Strke for Vespids, and that's as far as I got.* According to the Vespid entry on pg. 39 of the Codex, there's nothing about them deep striking.* Unless I need to re-read the reserves rules, I'm pretty sure that a unit can't deep strike unless it says in their unit entry that they can.* Other than that, the article looks good!
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Old 03 Jul 2006, 21:16   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Vespid Tactica by Helio


I totally agree with your idea to keep them "reserved" when possible. You may or may not have read blurbs by myself here and there about Vespid, but I've never found Vespid to be good at being aggressive nor sneaky. They're better when used like Rough Riders, as a counter measure. Their movement is perfect for interception of fast moving assaulters, like Assault marines, perfect for hoping around a Drop Pod and hosing the hiding power armored boys. They're great at catching a Tyrant off her guard as they zip around to find her on a flank, and ignore her fabulous armor save. Vespid can really lay down some law on things that are moving fast and seeking assault. Generally speaking, as you've noted, shooting against Vespid is all too effective. And when they engage a shooting unit, it's expected to lose the Vespid as well. However, Vespid countering an assault unit tends to work quite well. Fast assaulters that are not hordes, generally are low model count, expensive and have decent armor but also, rarely have potent shooting attacks en masse meaning you can survive their shots if they happen. All of which plays to the strength of the Vespid completely. So for that, they're simply awesome interceptors and counters to our opponent's major threats that move against us.

Something to note though:

If you do Deep Strike, remember that Vespid (at least as far as I know from the Fleet rules) may take a Fleet move in lieu of firing, so there's some ability to get out of harm's way (I may be wrong on this; correct me if I am - Vespid are the first Fleet-capable unit I've ever used).
Vespid cannot deep strike that I'm aware of. Jump Pack rules do not allow a unit to deep strike unfortunately. So this eliminates quite a bit of flexibility in terms of uses described. I also don't think fleet works after deep strike, since it's an "additional" move by it's own description, and deep strike states may not move at all. It's arguable for sure, but I would read it as an intention to mean that nothing may move after deep strike without explicit rules that it may (st. celestine comes to mind).

-- Otherwise, good stuff!

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Old 03 Jul 2006, 23:22   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Vespid Tactica by Helio

Sadly I have not had the time to fully read this however it is good to see a tactica on this unit. You also obviously put a lot of work into it and thus I think worthy of a karma cookie. Hopefully Ill be able to read it through and give more thorough comments later. Keep up the good work.

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Old 04 Jul 2006, 04:20   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Vespid Tactica by Helio

Originally Posted by Rogue 7
According to the Vespid entry on pg. 39 of the Codex, there's nothing about them deep striking.
Well, oops! ;D
I have played with them in about 6 games, and I guess I've actually never done Deep Strike with them (I like the Reserves capacity SO much)...

Mal, I'd say my Vespid are precisely what you describe. I actually have a new "rule": If I have broadsides, I have Vespid. I consider my Vespid a bodyguard for Broadsides. Assaulters meet Vespid unless Termies (and the Plasma Broadside you and I both favor deals with Termies themselves...) until turns 4, 5, and 6 roll around. Either the Vespid have died by then (never, in six games), or they know they are free to move toward objectives... FAST.

I've actually never lost an entire unit of Vespid to shooting (no more than two models). To Close Combat, though... there was the sad incident where I charged a single Grey Knight... thus giving birth to the strategem "Vespid aren't assault troops"...

I simply love them, best unit in the new Dex...
Proudly banned from both Mech Tau Tactica and Advanced Tau Tactica by Kai'Lore. Kai'Lore has no honor and the fact that my mere presence reminds him of this is more than his cowardly person can bear. He banned me from the new site after less than a day. =)
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Old 12 Jul 2006, 21:06   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Vespid Tactica by Helio

Great tactica, really enjoyed reading it.
I've just bought a blister of vespid as a result (though the store wee out of box sets > )
Would you use them in games of 1000pts?
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Old 12 Jul 2006, 21:16   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Vespid Tactica by Helio

The most valueble Vespid Tactica I have ever seen.

One question though; can all this be done without a full squadron? Or is it essential to have them maxed out? I've heard they are only effective when at full strength.
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Old 13 Jul 2006, 09:41   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Vespid Tactica by Helio

Great work, I think vespid are also excellent in CoD where they can, like crisis suits, zip out of cover, fire their shots at close range and then retreat and spend the next turn relocating before the inevitable assault.
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Old 13 Jul 2006, 11:47   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Vespid Tactica by Helio

I'll make an educated assumption that one should automatically take a Strain Leader with Stingwings. As I see it, there are two HUGE factors:

1. Stingwings can use Markerlight token bonuses if Strain Leader is still alive
2. Ld 9 for a Ld 6 unit

When you consider this, the SL should almost be mandatory, though I'm willing to see the dissent on this issue.

Excellent strat post, btw.
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