Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tactica: Vs Outflanking Genestealers

About a month ago, Alex asked me about mech-Eldar tactics for dealing with Outflanking Genestealers... especially versus multiple squads and on 4' wide boards. I promised a reply "next week or so", but it took me a while to come up with a response that I was happy with.

Why? Because there's not really a "good" answer. Here's some options to try:
1. Wait a year and hope the re-do of the Tyranid Codex changes things.
2. Swap armies and demonstrate what a wankery thing this is on 4' boards.
3. Point out that there's no model to represent the Scuttling Biomorph and refuse to play against anything that isn't 100% WYSIWYG.
4. Take a tip from The Godfather and slip a beheaded Genestealer into his bed while he's sleeping.
5. Accept your fate meekly and let them continue to rip open your tanks and add your your flesh to the biomass.
6. Accept that the rules aren't always fair, play the odds and beat him anyways.

I'm not really a fan on 1-5... well, maybe #4... but 6 is really the way to go. So let's establish a few basics:
1. They have a 6" move, d6" Fleet, and then a 6" Charge. This yields an average 15.5" move and threat range up to 18".
2. They have Rending, Initiative 6 and 2 base attacks. Getting assaulted by them hurts.
3. They don't have guns. Seemingly obvious, but crucial to beating this.
3. Genestealers aren't cheap. Typically they'll have Flesh Hooks (Frag Grenades) and Scuttlers (Scout); costing 20 points or more each.
4. Genestealers are Scoring.

Outflanking Genestealers are truly a menace. Lictors make them fairly reliable for coming in on Turn 2. There is a small risk that they'll Outflank to the "wrong" side of the field... but that's only a 33% chance. 2:1 odds favoring them is not a gamble worth taking. But the real kicker is one of timing. By coming in from Reserves, your opponent is able to see where your forces are deployed. He can then deploy them to maximum effect for target, terrain, position and even same-turn charges.

A mechanized Eldar player has a few tricks in their bag to counter this.
1. Reserves Denial. Even without an Autarch this is a good method to steal their thunder. You can deny them any easy deployment, moves or targets. However, the effect pales if you are stuck with the first turn. Your opponent can see your ploy before they deploy, you have to start rolling to enter from Reserves first, and generally they're going to have a better ability to adapt to your play. There's also the typical problem with Reserves Denial: your forces won't enter play until Turn 2+. You'll have less time to kill the enemy and secure objectives.

2. Rely on the table. With a 4' board, Outflanking Stealers can effectively threaten all but a 12" strip down the middle. Sit inside of that and you're immune to their alpha-charge. The width of this strip can also be pushed, since Fleet is a single d6 and the only part of the move that ignores terrain effects. The odds are pretty good for you if you don't stray too far and/or can force the Stealers to advance through terrain.

3. Rely on your tanks. When a Serpent has moved over 6", a typical Stealer is only going to destroy your tank 1/24th (4.2%) of the time. Units inside are only hurt when a Vehicle Explodes (1.4% chance). The Stealers don't get a Consolidate move either. So it's perfectly viable to us a tank to bait a large squad into bunching up. Just make sure your hatch isn't blocked, pass a simple Pinning test, and then watch Destructors evaporate Stealers. And even if the worst happens and a Dakkafex shoots down your tank? You deploy your guys on the opposite side of the tank from the Stealers. Good prior positioning and difficult terrain rolls should keep your guys from getting jumped in the Assault phase.

4. Rely on your mobility. This kinda ties into the three items above... but your tanks can move 24". A 4' board doesn't leave you much room to dash about, but you can certainly play bait & switch. Stuck with the first turn? Deploy your tanks near the edges so they stick the Stealers into Outflank. Then use your Turn 1 moves to jump into that safe strip in the middle. Got a bunch of objectives stacked to one side of the board? Deploy a tank in charge range on the other side to lure his attention. It never fails to amaze me how many players will lose a game because they forget strategy in favor of a tactical kill.

Recommended units: Serpent Council, Serpent Banshees, Fire Storm Guardians, and Serpent of Fury. Foot DA, Wraithlords and Spiders can also help in a pinch.

Hopefully this has given you a few ideas. I think the major points come across, but diagrams can be made if needed. Cheers and thanks for reading. (Sculpting Tutorials will resume once the flu has finished the rounds of the family...)

*Image is courtesy the fine guys at the now defunct MacHall. Check out their new work at Three Panel Soul.


  1. Oy. Luck on the flu.

    That Mac Hall is win; though Dorm Hulk was played in my dorms with airsoft rather than Genestealers. Probably better that way.

    I gotta say that the 4" wide table is pretty crap, and DOES give the other guy an advantage with outflanking and the like. A 4x4 table is tiny.

    I think that the Outflanking Stealers is a brutal pscyhological trick, but not quite as effective as hoped.

    A pair of stealer squads at minimal numbers is 120, plus an 80pt lictor is 200. Pretty costly for not a lot of wounds.

    You keep mobile if you can; especially if you've moved 12" and popped shots? He's hard pressed to hurt you. A stealer squad of 8 gets 24 attacks; hits 4, and...probably won't rend. Chances are you then turn around and blow them to hell.

    And, past that? Thing is, stealers aren't even that bad any more. They're nasty in melee, but if they're in the open, Dire Avengers can probably hash them and take 'em in melee past that.

    8 Avengers pop out. 16 shots, 10.6 hits, 5.3 wounds. Most of a stealer squad, gone. Suppose it's an 8-man squad that has 3 left...9 attacks on the charge, 6 hits, 1 kill, 3 wounds; so about 2 avengers dead. You swing back 6 times, hit 3, wound 2, probably drop a stealer. Pass a Ld7 test about half the time, and if you do? He'll possibly drop another Avenger, you'll probably drop a stealer. Tie. Then you win next turn.

    Granted, they COULD start paying 24 points for Scuttling, Frag-Grenade packing stealers with a 4+ save, but...still. Most folks would rather have more bodies, but there's the cover save.

    Bottom line? I think you're right with stealers = more psych threat than actual. They burn nicely with destructors, and with fortune up, you should probably mince the things in CC, 4" wide board notwithstanding.

    Good writeup, but I kinda expect that outta you. ;)

  2. Slight edit: Broodlord accompanying Stealers don't score. Worth a mention above, IMO. :)

    Perhaps also mention that on a 4'4 you can potentially block a table edge completely? It's a risky and difficult to pull off manoeuvre so maybe not...

  3. Hey thanks for the good advice. I like #4 too but #6 seems more workable. I probably should have mentioned that it is a 4x6 table with each deployment zone being the 4' sections. It adds new dimension to the game because yes the flankers can reach you faster but the rest of the tyranids take longer to travel the 4' from deployment zone to deployment zone. Also his stealers have 4 attacks on the charge and 4+ armor saves (carapace and scything claws?). I think however the best advice and what I will try next is giving him a falcon or serpent to intervene on the one flank and just stay away from the other. This gives me more control and robs him of both psychological and playable advantage somewhat. Failing all that I will just add advice point #7 to your suggestions and run over him with my car before the game to win by default. Try adding goodyear radials to the biomass!

  4. @TKE: Should probably have mentioned, they play on 4'x6', just long-ways. So blocking the edge really isn't all that hot. However, the advantage really goes to the Eldar due to mobility.

    @alex: You had actually mentioned the 4x6' long-way bit and I had been keeping that in mind. A re-read shows that I forgot to mention it though. Bah.
    Given the effects you state, he's at least buying Scything Talons, Extended Carapace, and Scuttling. He's paying at least 27 points a pop then. Ouch. That's really a disservice to the effectiveness of his list, but you don't have to tell him that. Please tell me he's not also paying for S5 or other biomorphs...
    So a thing I forgot to mention: a Holofield protects against CC attacks. So a HoloFalcon is a great bait unit to run as your wingman/bait.
    If you really want to be evil, throw a small foot-Council in there with a few Destructors. Let him bunch his guys up trying to pop your tank. Then jump out, throw down a bunch of templates and enjoy the wounding on a 3+ with no saves.
    A Doom/FortuneSeer in there can make this that much nastier... and the unit's good for regular broods and Nidzilla too. He can also Fortune the tank's while closing (works for SMF saves and cover) and Doom targets. Runes of Witnessing will neutralize any Shadows in the Warp, while Embolden will still ensure your spells work efficiently and that you don't get Pinned if the tank dies.
    All Singing Spears is plausible too, making it a better ranged anti-tank unit but a little lesser in CC.
    Star Engines might be good for the Falcon. I usually don't advocate them, but with the extra 2' of board... it might be nice.

    My suggested run:
    Falcon, Scatter Laser, Holofields, Spirit Stones 175 pts
    5 Warlocks, Embolden, Enhance, 3x Destructors 175
    Farseer, RoWar, RoWit, Doom, Fortune, Spirit Stones 155

    I know this looks like 505 points designed to counter 216 or so... but trust me, it'll destroy well more than a single squad of Genestealers. It's highly mobile, highly durable, fills your HQ requirement and is generally a much heavier weight class than many people believe.

  5. Chin Cannon > Stones. Even with the Rending Hits and H-Fs, they won't Stun you as much as 3 extra S6 hits can put the hurt on them, especially on the non-Flanking Nids, even Fexes.