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[Article] Tactica: Vespid
Old 30 Apr 2009, 14:12   #1 (permalink)
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Default [Article] Tactica: Vespid

The Vespid

The Vespid are wasp-like creatures allied to the Tau. The Tau value them greatly for their speed and agility on the battlefield, and for their steadfast loyalty. The PLAYERS of the Tau, though, will often say differently. I'll get to that presently.

1) Biggest here is that the Vespids carry one of only two low-AP weapons sub-battlesuit range, the Neutron Blaster. Unlike the Pathfinder Rail Rifle, it does not cost them a markerlight and extra points to equip it, they come standard.
2) They are the only pure Jump Infantry in the Tau army, meaning that they are the only things other than tanks with Multi-Trackers that can move 12" and then shoot.
3) They are Fleet. This, in addition to to their status as Jump Infantry, makes them incredible at contesting objectives and launching surprise assaults (19-24" potential assault range is something almost nothing can match)
4) They have the ability to reroll failed Dangerous Terrain tests, making them negligible in impact on the squad (1/36 chance to fail a given check). This lets them utilize cover just as much as any battlesuit, and forms a critical part of their tactics (more on that later).
5) They strike at I5, making them tied for the fastest melee unit we have (the other being the Kroot Hound, which cannot be taken alone)
6) Leadership 9 on their Strain Leaders makes them very hard to break
7) They can use Markerlight hits and the Shadowsun Leadership bubble, unlike the Kroot.
8) They are a Fast Attack choice, which traditionally has at least one open slot in Tau lists

This is a lot of good stuff, right? Well, it's unfortunately balanced out by a few downsides.

1) The units are expensive, ranging from a minimum of 70 to a maximum of 182 points
2) They are fragile, with only 1 wound and a 5+ armor save each.
3) Their weapon, though very effective, is stuck with a 12" range, forcing you very close if you want to do anything.
4) Their melee stats are strictly average, largely nullifying the utility given by Fleet of Wing
5) The Leader is just as fragile as his Strain, so if forced to take a save he's likely to die and leave you without many of the benefits of the squad.
6) Kill rates are very poor against anything that has a 2+ armor save, such as Terminator units.

Painful, yes. Enough so that they have been relegated to being mostly unused, house-ruled around, and laughed at by the majority of Tau players. While I don't expect this article to turn that around, I hope to let some people see the light and maybe give them a try or two. With that, let's get to the meat of things, the Tactics. Let me warn you now, there will be numbers. I'll post full calculations later.

Section 1: Movement and Positioning

To begin using the Vespid, you have to understand how they move. They are the only non-Tank among the Tau that move 12" in the Movement phase. This lets them get into all kinds of mischief, since they will nearly always threaten a much wider area than your opponents will give them credit for. This is doubly true if you've been playing the same people for a while, and they get used to Battlesuit JSJ movement.

When deploying them normally (more on the Reserve option in a second), keep their jump range in mind. If you take two teams of the bugs, you can start them several feet apart and in most cases be well able to converge their fire in the opening shooting phase. Due to the Jump ignoring intervening terrain, I've personally managed to pop 16 or more shots into a command squad that the owner thought was perfectly safe as he moved it forward.

Terrain and cover are always important for our units no matter what the type, and the Vespid have it no different. Skilled Flier lets them more-or-less ignore the effects of Dangerous Terrain, letting them land in Difficult without too much difficulty. Just be careful when planting yourself in Area terrain, since shooting out of it if you're more than 2" in give your target the same save you're getting, which negates just about the entire reason for planting yourself there.

Also notable here is that, since they are Jump Infantry, they can Deep Strike. Combined with Skilled Flier, they can land straight into difficult terrain nearby their targets and start shooting literally from nowhere. Combine this with a Pathfinder Devilfish and/or a Positional Relay for extra fun (but that's for other tactica to discuss).

Section 2: Ranged Combat

Yes, we are Tau. Thus, the most important phase to us in our thoughts is always going to be the Shooting phase. Vespids shoot at BS3 with a S5 AP3 gun, which is unfortunately allowed only one shot a turn. This translates to a 1/3 chance to kill a Space Marine. Thus, at the maximum squad size of 11, you can expect around 3-4 kills while shooting. this goes up slightly against lighter infantry units, and drops abysmally low against Terminators. Like the standard-issue Pulse weaponry of the Tau, the good Strength means that it can be used to punch out light armor in a pinch.

Here's where things get tricky. The Neutron Gun's main drawback is its poor range, a mere 12 inches. The wasps have to get into knife range to use their guns, which is often suicidal given their relative fragility. This is combined, however, with the unit's status as true Jump Infantry, meaning that anything within 24 inches of a Vespid unit is being threatened with imminent cascades of fire. Using the 12" jump is also a very good way to ensure that you will always have a shot at side/rear armor on opposing vehicles, which in most cases will be within damage range.

Also of note is that, as long as your Strain Leader lives, the Vespids can benefit from Markerlight hits on their targets. This turns them from moderately dangerous to VERY dangerous for anything MEQ or lower, since even one hit turns the 1/3 kill rate to just under 1/2, with two hits bringing it to about 56%. Thus, an 8-wasp squad can expect 4-5 kills if it utilizes a couple of markerlight hits.

The biggest trick here is to utilize terrain extensively. Though their armor is poor, Vespids can dive into cover and shoot from there, protecting against both return fire and the near-inevitable counter-assault. Skilled Flier means that you will lose few if any of your own men. If you're good at estimating ranges and get yourself at exactly 12", then a unit that must go through cover is unlikely to reach you for assault (11/36, 30.5%). Just be careful not to put yourself too far into the terrain, or you'll give your opponents the same saves you're benefiting from. For the rest of us mortals, a 10" range leaves us a poor chance of escaping assault (27/36 chance of them making it, 75%). Thus, we move on to the next section, Melee.

Section 3: Melee Combat

Ok, so the low range of your guns has left you with little choice but to charge or receive one on your coming turn. Bad news first: the Vespids are not that much better than a Tau in close combat. They do have the additional WS and T plus spectacular Initiative, but that's all. Their Armor is a point worse as well. Good news, then, is that this is at least decent, and the arrangement of the unit makes it very easy to get the charge.

Please note here that the Vespid are NOT Melee units and should never be treated as such. They may be half-decent at hand to hand, but it's only half. Charge them in only to deny a charge to your opponents, or in certain rare tactical cases. The main examples of this are an enemy unit that has already been badly mauled,to contest an objective in an emergency, or to tie up an enemy to keep it from charging or shooting allies. Never have them assault a vehicle except to get some emergency movement out of it. S3 will not do anything. If you can contrive a situation in which the Vespids will win combat reliably, then they will nearly always beat the enemy on the Sweeping Advance due to having I5.

The main way to reliably win combat is to swarm like their namesake wasps. If your numbers are even and you're facing anything tougher than a Guardsman, then you're likely to suffer. However, if you outnumber them 2:1 (counting by wounds remaining) then anything less than a Terminator is likely to die. One trick here is that the Vespid Neutron Gun is an Assault weapon, allowing you to follow through with your ranged attacks with double that number in close combat. It is perfectly logical to jump them into knife range of a squad that's about to receive a serious pounding, fire into them in tandem with everything else in your army, then charge the broken remains of the squad to finish them off.

Another thing to consider is where you allocate wounds. Most Vespid have poor Leadership at a 6, with only the Strain Leaders clocking in at the excellent 9. If you are going to lose combat by a couple of wounds and want your Vespids to break off (for example, during your opponent's turn and you want to be able to shoot the offending unit), then don't be afraid to assign saves to the leader. He will usually die if forced to take a save (5+ armor and one wound), and this will virtually guarantee a Fall Back from the remainder of the squad. At I5 they are very likely to make it out alive. When they attempt to rally, they'll get back up to 6 on Leadership, giving you decent odds of making one of the Leadership rolls within the next few turns (15/36, 41.6% per turn) and keeping the unit around.

Caution! The Vespid have no equivalent to the Bonding Knife, so if the squad goes below half strength and they break, they will not recover. In addition, losing the Leader means you will lose the ability to utilize Markerlight hits and Shadowsun's leadership bubble, so do not make this choice lightly. If the squad is below half strength and you do not have a compelling reason to leave your opponents out in the open, then leave them in to do what damage they can.

Section 4: Overall Usage

So, we have so far a decent squad overall that has severe drawbacks to each of its modes of play, while possessing several traits unique within the Tau alliance. From personal playtesting, they seem to be best suited for two things.

1) Make a general nuisance of themselves, bleeding away points and tactical options until your opponent dedicates the time and resources to swat them. They can harass units and contest objectives out of nowhere, and are especially annoying when they have a unit that MUST stay still for some reason (a heavy weapons squad or one on an objective, for example)
2) As the knife delivering the killing blow. They are very good at finishing off weakened forces on the battlefield, freeing up time for your other squads to take out more pressing targets. Their speed lets them catch wounded squads running from battle or hiding where their owner hopes they won't take further fire, and the Skilled Flier rule lets them pursue at top speed through anything the ground can throw at us.

In order to do these things, the minimum squad size of 4 won't cut it. I prefer running 5 Vespids plus the Strain leader, since 6 guns will usually be enough to produce a noticeable stream of enemy casualties and 6 claws are enough to reliably swarm under 1-2 particularly stubborn Space Marines. This unit also has a small enough footprint to be able to utilize cover effectively, and at 102 points it's not TOO bad of an investment, clocking in at only a shade more than a traditional Fireknife'El (which is used by a very wide range of players). I rarely use more than 7 plus the leader, due to cost.

Also, make sure to use the metagame to your advantage. Anyone who knows anything about the Tau usually know in how low regard we hold the bugs, and will often ignore them to focus on more traditional units in your army. If they know a lot about the army, though, or if they've seen what they can do, be ready to use them as bait. Drop them into cover and make your enemies use up more time and resources swatting them than they're really worth, and pound them for their mistakes with the rest of your army. As mentioned in Movement, having a couple of strain squads spaced at about two to three feet apart will allow you to threaten most of the field between them with an absurd number of potential attacks. if your opponents realize this, then you're controlling the area. If not, then they get to walk into the threat and find out that these wasps can sting.

Section 5: Unit Comparisons

But still you ask: "Can't our other units do these roles, but better?" To this I respond: "Let's see". For my examples here, I will use my personal favorite Vespid arrangement: 5 Stingwings and a Strain leader, clocking in at 102 points. In each case, I'll compare this team to another of our units that can have a similar role (IE weapons with 12" range or better, AP3 or better).

1) Vespids v. Rail Rifle Pathfinders
-Let's start in the same Force slot. A Pathfinder team is capable of bringing 3 Rail Rifles to the table. These are a point stronger than the Neutron Gun and have three times the range (making it more range than even the jump then shoot) plus have pinning... but cost a lot to equip (78 points for a minimum size 3-rifle squad) and are Heavy weapons, meaning that the team cannot move and still fire its MEQ-killers. Also, These weapons suffer from the abundance of cover this game provides, a drawback that can often be averted by the mobile Vespid. In addition, equipping a Pathfinder team for this purpose makes them unable to perform their traditional duties, that of Marking targets for the rest of your army. All of this ignores the expense of the Devilfish, assuming that it will be used by a Fire Warrior squad. Notable here is that the squad can Infiltrate and Scout Move, and so can be sniping serious threats on your first phase. Ignore this choice, people, you have other things in your army that will do the job far better, Vespids among them.

2) Vespids v. Hammerhead
-The first thing I'll say is that an Ionhead is a viable choice, assuming you know you'll be facing MEQs all day (but then, Vespids are picked for the same purpose). In that role, it can be absolutely evil. 3 shots with a 60" range at high strength is an awe-inspiring weapon for relatively few points, a properly-equipped Ionhead coming to around 120 points. It can even move 12" then shoot this weapon assuming you have the MT equipped, making it the only choice other than the Vespid which is capable of doing so, and it's good AV plus the Disruption Pods make it a real beast to kill. However, these tanks take up what is by far our most important Organization choice, that of Heavy Support. It will normally be called on to take the almighty Railgun and dedicate itself to hunting enemy armor or taking massive chunks out of lesser troop choices. Also, the 102-point Vespid squad will actually score about the same number of wounds per turn on average against MEQ units as an Ionhead tank, and more than the Railhead. Also, everyone KNOWS how big of a threat our tanks are. Every gun your opponent has that is capable of scoring damage against AV 13 will likely be firing into it at every opportunity. Though it will come into play less often, another thing to consider is that one lucky shot can wreck the tank or take off its main gun, which won't happen to the Strain. I call this about even, but the Vespids remain cheaper in this case (odd, when one of the main complaints was their cost).

3) Vespids v. Sniper Drone Team
- Let's go see what an upgraded version of Option One brings, eh? A Sniper Drone team is directly better than the aforementioned Pathfinder scout team, except that it's negligibly more expensive, takes a Heavy Support choice, and cannot Infiltrate/Scout. In return for this, though, their markerlight becomes Networked and at 1 more BS, you can grab up to three in a single FoC slot and leave your other spots clear, and most importantly come with a Stealth Field Generator. These guys will end up much more accurate and difficult to harm over time than their Pathfinder fellows, while also retaining their range and power. Many of the same drawbacks apply, though. They cannot move and fire, and the abundance of cover nowadays makes their AP useful only some of the time. Also notable here is that if your spotter goes, so do all of his remaining Drone friends. Overall this is a strong choice, but the immobility is still a problem. Most solve this by taking two or three teams to cover the entire field in rifle range, but the number of wasps you can put out for that many points will likely still put out comparable kill numbers, though the snipers are more difficult to kill for the first couple of rounds.

4) Vespids v. XV8 Crisis Suits
-You all knew this was coming, don't deny it. Crisis Battlesuits have two different MEQ-destroying options available to them, the Plasma Rifle and the Fusion Gun. An Elite Helios suit (PR, FB, MT) will run you 62 points and get you 3 shots capable of ignoring all armor saves if you're in that kind of range. These shots are stronger than the Neutron Gun as well (in Fusion's case enough to instantly splat TEQ units), and can be used for more than just killing infantry. Finally, they have the JSJ routine to keep themselves safe, whereas the Vespids have to stay there and take their licks. The catch here is that, though the suits can jump back after shooting, they cannot move as far forward as the Vespids before shooting, making cover much more effective against them. Also, they do not have Skilled Flier, making it dangerous for them to try to utilize area terrain. Don't get me wrong, though. These guys are the workhorse of the Tau Empire for many a reason, and this is just one of their strengths. When I can spare them from other duties I prefer them, to be honest. There's the catch, though, they will nearly always be needed elsewhere for something, and are again prime targets for our opponents. This one is up to you, all told

I hope this helps!

-Many thanks to everyone who put me up to this challenge, and to T0nkaTruckDriver for his "Veil of Bugs" tactic inspiring some of my initial tests. Finally, my thanks go out to Mal'Caor, speedfreek, JCunkle, Wolfs16, eiglepulper, Aranarth, Imcrazy, imran_tauyab, Soji (all of ATT), and Rikimaru (of LO) for corrections and ideas, as well as encouragement. This guide would not be anywhere near its current quality without your input.
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Old 30 Apr 2009, 22:14   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: [Article] Tactica: Vespid

Excellent Tactica,

I can't say I like Vespid, or use them much - Because I would be lieing through my teeth! But the above is certainly a very accurate guide on how to play them, there uses and how to make them playable.

The problem with Vespid that I always find is there usage overall. - They can do lots of good things, but they tend to only be worth taking against Space Marines - I just can see a way to fit them in to an All Comers list.

They were designed to be Space Marine hunters - and using the tactics above they will do this well. But what do they do against a Horde of Orks? Or Nids? Or even Guardsman? They just dont do enough damage with a 12" range 1 shot weapon and limited numbers and they are unlikely to do anything in combat.

Then there is the cost - over 180 points for a unit that will on average kill 3 to 4 Marines - compared to just over 100 points for 3 Crisis Suits with 3 TL Flamers. - If the marines are bunched you can DS beside them and get all 10 with a template each - thats 30 hits - Rerolling Wounds. - 22.5 Wounds - Thats 7-8 Dead Marines, and the flamer is even better against light armoured Horde.

Personal preference for me, if I am making a tailored list against Smurfs or an MEQ heavy army I would (and have) used Vespid - and they did an adequate job. But I would never put them in an tourney/all comers list.

Thats just my preference though, as a player of Tau, and that being said, very good tactica which if I wasent stuck in my ways would make even me think twice

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Old 30 Apr 2009, 22:20   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: [Article] Tactica: Vespid

i like this tactica.

i have been playing the idea of buying a squad for my school league games. this has given me more then enough reason to start atempting to use them.

again this is a great tactica

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Old 30 Apr 2009, 23:01   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: [Article] Tactica: Vespid

I'll be honest, I didn't have the models when I started playtesting for this article. And yes, I agree that they have no place in TAC lists. However, I find I like the little buggers (/lamepun) more than when I started, and most of my "for fun" lists now include 1-2 squads of them, just for laughs and the occasional surprise.

It's funny, I've had them literally move over 20"to get a Contest on turn 5, something uniquely within their capabilities (other than the Pirahna). Move 12, Run 3, Assault 6 for 21". I have done more testing since I finished the article (granted in mostly casual games, but still), and they are shockingly good at ripping apart certain mid-hard targets. Daemon princes and certain Carnifex configurations come to mind here, as do most Eldar and, let's be honest, other Tau (imagine the look on his face when he lost THAT XV8 squad). You just have to make sure to keep them away from TEQs and heavy vehicles, and they will go ignored for the most part until you kill something significant.
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Old 30 Apr 2009, 23:21   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: [Article] Tactica: Vespid

what do you think their chances are in a 500pts game where you can't have more then 2 wounds or a 2+ save?
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Old 01 May 2009, 00:18   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: [Article] Tactica: Vespid

This is a cool tactica. I think I will need to do some stand in vespids next chance I get.
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Old 01 May 2009, 00:37   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: [Article] Tactica: Vespid

Buster: Not too sure. 500 points is a tight limit, but if you don't have to worry about TEQs then these guys can be SCARY. Just be wary of heavy tanks. Still probably not the best investment you can get (a hammerhead or perhaps two SDTs would take that particular cake), but probably better than in standard games.
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Old 01 May 2009, 07:02   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: [Article] Tactica: Vespid

Nice tactica.

I plan on fielding a full squad at least a few times. I'm commited to give every unit in our codex a shot (except Ethereals).

Definately has the potential to be a usefull support unit in ninja tau. Can help polish off a marine squad. And if in assault there is only 1 marine left then those Vespids just might take him out! Too bad the Strain Leader does not have an extra attack on profile. Those bugs look like they should have 4 arms. 2 for their Neutron blaster, and 2 more with close combat weapons >
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