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Tau and IG: real world comparative
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Old 20 Nov 2006, 15:24   #1 (permalink)
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Default Tau and IG: real world comparative

OK, since I tried to generate discussion on this topic and people led it down the path of getting the thread locked, let me try again on a different tac.

Shooty armies are more realistic (though far from the actual thing) in terms of tactics and modern warfare than CC centered armies. This I think is also one of the reasons why some choose shooty over assaulty: Historical inclination. Both, of course, are scifi oriented, but the more assaulty an army is, the less realistic the tactics and race itself.

Leaving off the incredible, I'd like to turn the discussion to the two most shooty, less magical races for a comparison: Tau and IG.


Basic Tau tactics such as the Fish of Fury, Jump Shoot Jump, and skimming fast are all translatable to modern equipment and tactics.

Jump shoot Jump = modern attack helocopters. The apache helo now comes equiped with a radar dome above the rotors that allow it to remain hidden behind terrain while observing the enemy. When the target is aquired, it rises up fires, then drops back behind cover. All fires are the modern equivelant of meduim range, like missile pod, and are usually effective against meduim armored targets moreso that heavily armored (underground bunkers) or light infantry.

Fish of fury = mechinized infantry and/or air assault infantry. The basic premiss to all of these tactical manuvers is that the transport acts also as a weapon platform to support the troops. It provides transporting cover to the battle, weapons platform support to add weight of fire, and it can provide cover if needed. While helos are not going to land for the last one, I included it becuase of the nature of Tau Devilfish; like a helo, the DF doesn't want to land and make itself a better target, and it also doesn't need to remain in the area to operate.

Skimming fast armor = modern tank tactics. Because the Tau tanks can be made to skim fast, thus shoot at 12" moves, they resemble modern tank tactical doctrine: always move and shoot, never halt. Also mounting weapons systems capable of extreme penetration power, the combination is in effect the modern theory of armored warfare.

Imperial Guard

The weapons the effective tactics of the IG are those of the World Wars. There are basically two effective ways to run Imperial Guard: Stand and shoot with weight of numbers, or rely upon slow tanks with large guns. Most people game somewhere between the two, but these extremes are equated to World War I or World War II.

WWI based armies may have armored vehicles, but the majority of firepower comes from the infantry squads and command support squads. Like the WWI armies in micro, these armies can bring a huge volume of relatively ineffective fire upon any single point. Heavy bolters, autoguns, and lascannons attached to squads, as well as heavy weapons squads of the same, mean that each squad is in effect a "meat shield" that keeps the guns going. The resulting army, usually outnumbers the enemy by 2 or 3 to 1. Additional supports like a single Leman Russ, or a bassilisk or two, also add to wieght of fire. Doctrines that make this style of IG army effective also are derived from the carnage of WWI: Iron discipline, close order drill, sharp shooter. This sort of army MUST remain stationary, in fixed possitions of cover, in order to be effective. A squad or two moving means critical heavy weapons out of play for a turn. Losses of infantry are expected and accepted, but loss of heavy weapons fire is unwanted.

A WWII style IG army is slightly different mainly by the inclusion of more vehicles. Maximum Leman Russ tanks, chimeras to transport troops--these are the hallmark of the WWII style move or shoot system of armored warfare. Yes, in the game both can move and shoot, but the LR is penalized for shooting ordinance weapons if moved. Noteworthy that the chimera is not, but the lack of effective firepower on these transports--as well as lack of speed or armor--means their value is reduced as a combat support vehicle like a modern AFV. Although a WWII style army can and will include infantry, these are not always tied to heavy weapons and thus my move about in support of the tanks. Doctrines such as Hardened fighters, Grenadiers, drop troops, and mechinized are very much ways to support this style of IG army.

In the next installment: Tau vs IG in combat effectiveness.

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Old 20 Nov 2006, 15:42   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Tau and IG: real world comparative

This was a good read.... much better than the other post. Very interesting, I look forward to part 2.
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Old 20 Nov 2006, 17:10   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Tau and IG: real world comparative

Tau vs IG in combat effectiveness

For this topic, I'm not going to do a game benefit analysis of the 3 styles of army, as much as I want to focus on how the combined elements that make these armies feel psuedo-historic representations.

Tau are most effectively employed in a modern combined-arms approach. If we think of dismounted infantry setting up positions, armored vehicles and supporting weapons platforms in the form of crisis suits, and fire control centers in the form of pathfinders, then we are able to draw a comparrison to the modern approach to ground warfare. In the modern combat zone, armor and infantry work together to sieze or hold ground with the help of short range artillery (mortars, TOW Missiles) and fire direction centers (FDC).

The basic elements work in conjunction to both move quickly, cordon off sectors of operation, create interlocking fields of fire, and actively concentrate fire to suppress enemy strongpoints. The Tau are most effectively employed in exactly the same way. Firewarrior squads supported by crisis suits focusing mainly on enemy infantry and light skinned vehicles have the same battlefield role as modern infantry. Hammerheads and broadsides (like modern TOW) focus on enemy armor and strongpoint suppression or reduction just as modern armor and cavalry forces do. In neither case is one effective without the other, since specialized roles in both cases provide the coverage necessary to disrupt enemy movements/concentrations/entent. In order to do this, Tau rely upon mobility to create localized concentrations just as modern forces do. Range of weapons systems is a distant secondary concern if most targets are well within range of basic weapons, but the ability to traverse latterally allows Tau to use terrain to block LOS from enemy units while achieving localized fire superiority against a selected target.

IG, like Tau, have specialized roles, but because of the lack of mobility they have to concentrate more on likely avenues of approach to achieve the same effect. In order to do this, the IG player must become a master of reading terrain and deploying troops to take advantage of "fire lanes".

In WWI, and WWII, armies focused more on establishing "fronts". The front is a line that separates the enemy from friendly sides. Maintaining or breaching a front were primary concerns for all combat operations. In order to maintain a front, an WW army had to consider fire lanes as a way to concentrate firepower for maximum effect. Since WWI IG essentially "dig in" to a position, it is especially critical for effective play. Fire lanes are, by default the most likely avenues of enemy approach. By maintaining large volumes of fire selectively upon these lanes, the cost of breaching the front is increased and the IG chances of success at stopping an attack are greater. In breaching an enemy front, IG of the WWII style also have to use the self same "firelanes" as the most direct path to the enemy.

The problems faced by the IG player in maintaining and/or breaching enemy possitions along these lanes are problematic, and as such are the main focus of the IG gamer just as for the WW captain. Tau, like modern armies, ignore most terrain for moving purposes, but for the IG terrain is at once necessary and confining. Great open spaces are areas IG gamers and WW field commanders recognize as "kill zones". As in, if I send troops there, they will be killed, and if he sends troops there I will kill them. Unfortunatelly, these kill zones are often also the avenue of approach and the fire lane. Other terrain, such as woods, building, and level 3 hills are areas IG players wants to position his squads in, but like the historical WWII equivelant he finds these areas limit his field of fire, harbor enemy positions, and allow the enemy to approach while remaining concealed and covered. To counter this, IG players have to create secondary sectors of fire. But as resources (squads with weapon systems) are dedicated to covering terrain, the decrease in fire concentrations along the fire lanes means greater chance of success for the enemy to breach his front. Thus the more possibe avenues, the greater the need for additional firepower, thus the need for more troops, thus the resulting WWI style army. This is why possitioning is so critical; terrain determines effectiveness of an IG army. A table with no terrain will get squads killed off quickly, and a table with too much terrain will keep the squads from bringing enough volume of fire to keep the enemy from closing and thus killing off the squads.

The overriding difference in gaming these two armies are fundamental, just as the differences in real warfare. While both have the same sort of equipment in the form of tanks, infantry, heavy weapons, and transports, the capabilities differentiate how these tools are used completely.

Next: Tactical Dogma, luck, and thinking inside the box

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Old 20 Nov 2006, 17:33   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Tau and IG: real world comparative

Good writeup. Interesting stuff.

One problem though, terming is a "WWII" IG army is a bit fallicious. Its only "WWII" in the Hollywood/Romanticized matter of what WWII was. The German army, who most people thing of as the great armored army, still relied on horses and mules to bring supplies to the front. Most of the German army was still infantry in fact and didn't even have trucks to get to battle. After the invasion of France, the German army confiscated a lot of French private trucks to use them as either supply vehicles so that German trucks could be made for Motorized divisions. The same could be said of most armies in WWII except possibly for the Western Allies from 1943 to 1945.

However, there idea of it being a "WWII" army isn't entirely bad. IG is more of what WWII army planners would have wanted as the ideal army for the time and perhaps given the scale that 40k covers (Only a handful of tanks usually) a tank heavy WWII army could simply be the armored speahead of an army since the logistics of using horses to bring supplies isn't relavent to the actual play of 40k, just the background fluff.

So from a purely game perspective, I agree with you. A fluff comparison would become sketchy though. For the most part though, it seems you're sticking to the actual play of the game and not the background of it all, so I'm not entirely addressing what you have. Anyhow, just my thoughts.
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Old 20 Nov 2006, 17:44   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Tau and IG: real world comparative

Thanks, Wanax. The idea behind this one was a lot clearer. You have to be careful with abstract thread titles. They do generate debate, but sometimes it is not the debate you intended. +1

I think you are definitely correct on this one, although I would argue that some IG regiments employ what are much closer to "modern" tactics than others (Elysians, for example). And some (like Krieg), are closer to WWI tactics, while others are closer to WWII (Cadia, Mordia) up through the Korean/Vietnam war (those that rely heavily on Valkyries and Vultures, Catachans). They are a pretty diverse bunch.
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Old 20 Nov 2006, 17:51   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Tau and IG: real world comparative

Originally Posted by Khanaris
Thanks, Wanax. The idea behind this one was a lot clearer. +1

I think you are definitely correct on this one, although some IG regiments employ what are much closer to "modern" tactics than others (Elysians, for example).
Thanks. You mean a lot more sober? :P

I'm working on a simple concept: basic tactical employment. Both armies can get wild with tactical niche specialists, but I'm largely ignoring things like stingwings, ogyrns, roughriders, and stealth teams.

On the WWII analogy, you are right that the armies were still in transition. However, I'm not so much equating the IG with WWII army design as with tactical doctrines. Establish a front with infantry and artillery, use armor concentrations and airsupport to punch through and encircle the enemy frontline troops. since the game is a micro-sliver of any "battle" where basically you have a platoon vs platoon worth of combat, I'm transposing the actual up front active edge of a segment of a battle line. I won't bother with the logistical stuff at all, and thanks for recognizing I'm ignoring fluff entirely.

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Old 21 Nov 2006, 03:54   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Tau and IG: real world comparative

This is good stuff WANAX, BTW what happened to your avatar?
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Old 21 Nov 2006, 06:35   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Tau and IG: real world comparative

I actually totally agree with the Tau vs. modern warfare thing--I've always liked how instead of having infantry squads carry heavy weapons (a truly antiquated tactic) they can instead obtain fire support through laser pointers (like radioing in air strikes and artillery).
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Old 21 Nov 2006, 16:25   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Tau and IG: real world comparative

Oh yes! This is great ;D

If I were a IG player, I might wish to test, how would IG army work as Finnish WW2 army. Encircle and destroy an enemy without tanks, without artillery, without drop troops, and without mechanised infantry. AND enemy outnumbering me 30 : 1(about) but still keeping kill ration 15 : 1 for my advantage... Watch this:


Though you are correct in most points, IG can't match all WW2 tactics. No Ski Troops...

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Old 21 Nov 2006, 16:45   #10 (permalink)
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