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Remember how the Vespid unit was the subject of so much speculation, anticipation and hype before the new Tau codex was announced.
Now it seems the weight of opinion is that the Vespid do not appear to have lived up to the hype they generated. I suppose the question is why and more importantly, is the negative press they receive justified?
To try and answer both those questions I thought I would undertake a little unbiased study of this much-lambasted unit. I want to do this by looking at what they can do, their weaknesses and strengths and the abilities offered by their stat line and equipment etc.
Ok where to start? I think a look at their basic stat line is as good a place as any.
Ballistic Skill of 3, this ranks quite high in the list of weaknesses of this unit, a 50% miss rate is less then ideal for a unit that relies so heavily on the infliction of damage in the shooting phase to:
(a) Reduce the volume of return fire
(b) Reduce the number of opponents if an assault is needed as a finishing move
Obviously this lack of BS skill can be mitigated by the prudent use of the Marker light. However this means:
(a) Taking Marker lights (dohh)
(b) Either talking enough Marker lights to ensure you have enough to provide for the Vespid without compromising the rest of the lists performance (by using a Marker light token that another unit needs or having to take more Marker lights and thus compromising another part of the list).
Point B above has to be considered very carefully. If you take Vespids they will inevitably need Marker light support and this will mean another unit will go without the ML help.
If you take other units that rely heavily on ML help (Fire Warriors, Hammerheads, Piranhas etc) then think very carefully before taking the Vespid.
However it must be stated that just one Marker light token is enough to really help the Vespid perform. In fact the performance enhancement is that much better I would never advise using the Vespid without Marker lights.
Assault stats, a reasonable initiative seems a real bonus at first glance, however the poor weapon skill mitigates this somewhat. A Vespid needs 4+ to hit a Marine in CC and with the poor strength of the Vespid we are talking 5+ to wound.
So to perform effectively in the role that they are intended for (Marine and MEQ killing) they need to achieve a few things:
(a) Inflict as many casualties as practicably possible with their shooting
(b) To get the charge
(c) To have enough numbers in the squad to make the shooting effective and have enough attacks in an assault (linked inextricably to (a))
So (a) is only achievable if the unit has enough models to be effective (I will discuss this later) and if possible has Marker light support.
(b) Is vital as the Vespid unit needs as many attacks as possible in the first round of combat to ensure that they do not get punished when the target unit retaliates.
So lets say a unit of 5 Vespid with a strain leader shoots a 9 strong Marine unit and achieves 3 casualties (generous) and then decide to charge, they will be lucky to inflict one casualty in the ensuing assault (the success rate is 0.66r against a Marine unit with 3+ saves).
The only real plus point for Vespid is their toughness, however this advantage seems yet again to have been somewhat nullified by a very poor save. However with the decent initiative and the strain leaders good leadership a unit of Vespid can (with luck) tie up a unit in CC for a few turns.
So as can be seen the Vespid are not well equipped for taking MEQs in assaults and need to inflict heavy casualties in the shooting phase to have any chance of success. This again means Marker light support is needed for Vespid and this has to be considered when taking Vespid units.
Vespids are however much better equipped to take down units like Imperial guard and other lower initiative, mid toughness, average WS opponents in an assault, especially if they get a good round of shooting in first.
Leadership, at first glance the Vespid seem well served in this department, however something does need to be considered.
The Vespid are totally reliant on the strain leader for decent LDS, OK seems fine until you consider the fact that a Vespid unit is an considerably expensive option.
To take a full unit with Strain leader will cost 182 pts so most tend to keep the numbers down to 5 or 6 with a strain leader. Great until you remember the rules for wound allocation. The strain leader is a unique model due to its helm and this means that you have to allocate it wounds if enough wounds are inflicted on the unit. Any wounds allocated on the Strain leader must be saved by the strain leader and if it fails an armour save (not hard with a 5+ save) it dies. You then have a unit with very poor LDS. The only way to alleviate this problem is to take a large Vespid unit which makes it an expensive option but this also brings other problems (discussed later on).
So the strain leader has an 84% chance of failing the save and the Vespid are suddenly left with a LDS value of 6 (ouch) and remember Vespid have no access to Bonding knives, so if they run they will keep running.
This means that you have to be incredibly careful with a Vespid unit and this can lead to nervousness using them. The Tau player is going to have to be selective in what he targets with the Vespid and especially careful that after the unit has finished attacking that it is not left in range of any unit that can pour substantial amounts of firepower into it.
One last thing the Vespid cannot use an Ethereals 'inspiring presence' rule ever or Shadowsuns 'command link Drone' if they do not have a Strain leader.
Ok so we have had a look at the basic stats. Lets now look at the other abilities and the weapon.
The Neutron Blaster, ‘cool’ strength 5 and Marine killing AP, Ok but we have the range to consider. The simple fact of the matter is that whenever you are in range to shoot with Vespids you are in range to be shot back at. To make it infinitely worse you are also in rapid-fire range of the Marines most common weapon 'the Bolter'.
The worst thing for the Vespid is that any return fire from any weapon up to and including AP5 will offer no saves. Any return fire is going to hurt. The other thing is they are not exactly cheap and knowing they are so fragile can really result in a player being nervous committing them offensively.
Remember we are talking about a 16pt model here with a 5+ save and each loss really adds up.
On average a full unit of 11 Vespid will kill 3.66r Marines a turn at BS3, with BS4 this goes up to 4.8 (or 5 if we are generous). This is great if you are fighting combat squads but not so good if your targeting full units because even 4 or 5 survivors will really put a dent in the Vespids when in rapid fire range.
Unless you assault (which as already discussed is not a brilliant option) or do exceptionally well with the shooting then your Vespid are pretty much guaranteed to get shot to pieces in return.
So we have to look at how to maximise the weapons usage and the best way to do this is to use the Vespid as a support unit. By this I mean using the Vespid as a mopping up unit and as a support team with Kroot, Drones, Stealth and XV8 units.
The Vespid are able to provide an effective back up to all these units by virtue of their large movement rate and when used with Marker lights the Vespid weapon can finish of the last few members of a unit very effectively.
The bonus to using them in this manner is that the unit size can be kept down to reduce cost and they are less likely to be shot in return because a Kroot unit can assault any survivors (which has the added benefit of proving some cover for the Vespid) and in the case of the other supported units, the opponent has to decide to shoot the XV8, Stealth’s or the Vespid.
Either way the opponent struggles because either unit will be able to severely damage the opponents unit in the next turn.
Another good use is as support unit for a transport killing XV8, if the XV8 has Fusion and successfully hits a non-skimmer transport (Marines and Chaos do not have skimmer transport) the passengers will auto disembark. This leaves them open to the Vespid, who with ML support can really hurt the unit. Also with any luck the unit will be entangled which means no return fire (Note: this is obviously effective against non MEQ units as well).
I am considering play testing this tactic with my HQ XV8 Helios and Drone squad because usually the Marine squad will either be pinned or wiped out.
Movement, so we know that the Vespid are jump infantry. What does this mean, well it means:
(a) They move 12" in the movement phase or they can use a normal 6" infantry move
(b) They have a 6" assault move, which MUST be carried out on foot (note this is a proper assault move and NOT the Tau free assault move)
The Vespid have the ability to re-roll dangerous terrain tests, this does make the odds of surviving jumps in to dangerous terrain very good and really reinforces the point that this unit needs to be pretty much tied to cover to have any chance of surviving.
This however can be tactically limiting because as soon as the unit ventures out of cover it is basically nearly as vulnerable as Kroot. Having to rely on cover means large swathes of the table can be pretty much ruled out for movement purposes with obvious resultant limitations to tactical flexibility.
Also the point about being as vulnerable as Kroot raises another problem. If you take a couple of units of Kroot (which a large majority of Tau players do) then you are going to be struggling to provide usable cover for all the units that need it.
I have heard mention of the tactic of using landed Skimmers (usually Devilfish as Piranhas do not have the option of landing gear) as cover for Vespids. Well to me this is basically so inoperable as to be pointless.
Firstly you have to have a skimmer available (if it is not transporting FW's).
You have to have the skimmer in the perfect position to provide the cover, not block LOS for the Vespid unit and have its front armour facing the opponent (for the DF survivability).
The skimmer also cannot move and then land, so it has to be in the correct position in the previous turn because you declare the vehicle is landing at the beginning of the movement phase and it cannot move, this is going to take considerable tactical awareness, planning and the opponent is going to have to oblige you by positioning his units exactly where you want them to be.
Also you are going to have to take the disruption pod to give the skimmer any chance of surviving.
All things considered a very dodgy way to resolve the cover problem of the Vespid.
Vespid really come into their own in cityfight type scenarios or in battles with lots of building type cover, the saves offered by the building etc offer much improved survivability and the 12" move and re-rolled DT tests make them a formidable asset.
Fleet, fleet has one massive drawback 'you cannot shoot when using it' I know many players put forth the supposed advantage of covering ground quickly, but it is to reliant on luck and cannot be relied on to enable the Vespid to cover ground. You should always be aware that you may be left short by a bad dice roll.
Fleet is totally luck reliant, you can roll a 1 or 2 and you have gained very little for the sacrifice of a turn of shooting. Also the opponent knows that you are probably not going to assault so he is going to have the whole of his next turn to either re-deploy the target unit or reinforce it with other units.
The one advantage it does have is that it can offer good final turn objective taking ability, or the ability to move into a quarter to secure it.
The main thing to remember with fleet is that you must take into account where the unit will end up. It is all very well thinking I am going to move my Vespid up that flank and then roll a 2 to leave you floundering just short of the cover. You MUST ensure that the Vespid unit can reach cover with the minimum 13" move (obvious you would think but I have seen this happen).
So basically the fleet move is very restricted, the reliance on cover is even more pronounced and you cannot shoot in the move you fleet and the opponent will have his turn to respond to the positioning of the Vespid. All in all a quite poor ability, I for one would rather have had the Jetpack move.
So how do we use the Vespid?
Well the Vespid are not a unit you can really go all out aggressive with, they need considered use. The Tau player will really need to consider all the parameters when deciding to attack a unit, more so than with any other Tau unit.
He/She will have to consider:
(a) The amount of damage that the Vespid will realistically dish out
(b) The odds of damage being dealt to the Vespid unit in return from the targeted unit
(c) Which Tau units will be able to offer support (either shooting or assault)?
(d) Is marker light assistance available?
(e) Are any other opposition units going to be in a position to punish the Vepsid unit even if the targeted unit is destroyed?
(f) Is cover available in the next turn if no other targets are viable?
So given the fact that all out aggressive non supported action is at best worryingly uncertain, then the best option is to use the Vespid as support units, finishing units or as defensive units to protect more valuable vulnerable units like Broadside units.
Support and finishing is by far and away the best use for Vespids, however you have to be very tactically proficient to pull this of. One of the best ways to use this is the bait and trap tactic.
The Vespid are fast (even without fleet) and this can be used to great effect, place a bait unit (maybe an XV8 or Pathfinder unit) 16 to 17 inches away from a Vespid unit in cover and when the opponent moves to attack the bait unit move the Vespids in.
The 12" move really catches a lot of players out. However try to ensure you have enough firepower available to finish the unit or the tactic could backfire.
This tactic can be used in other ways as well, in missions where an objective or loot counters need to be captured then the Vespid can use this bait (along with Kroot if possible) to really punish any unit getting close. They can also be used to secure the objective in the final stages of the game.
The support option is also a valuable option. A Vespid unit can really be useful in putting the final kybosh on a unit. Kroot are again a fantastic unit for the Vespid to team up with. You can either, shoot with the Kroot and Vespid and use the Vespid to finish of any stragglers in CC, or you can shoot with the Vespid and use the Kroot to assault and hold the unit while the Vespid depart next turn.
If you are going to use the Kroot to assault then make sure you take hounds.
Another useful tactic is using the Vespid to finish of any passengers in a transport vehicle. For this to work you need to be hitting the vehicle with AP1 weaponry to ensure disembarkation. So either Hammerheads or Helios XV8's are the units of choice.
The beauty if this tactic is that the transported unit has a very high chance of being entangled and when an HQ XV8 Helios is used with a Drone squad then the Vespid are pretty much guaranteed to remain safe (if the transported unit in fact survives).
I have also seen Fusion Piranhas used to attack with the Vespid in support, the Piranhas can be use to form an effective assault screen. The only problem with this tactic is that the Piranhas are very fragile and can be destroyed.
Devilfish transported Fire Warrior units are also a nice support option. The Devilfish, Fire Warrior unit and Vespid can pour out a devastating amount of firepower (especially with ML support) and the Devilfish provides a much tougher anti assault screen. The opponent also has to pass a target priority test to shoot the Vespid and if needed the Devilfish can land (next turn) to provide line of sight denial to the Vespid.
The Vespid unit also have the speed to keep up with the Devilfish.
All things considered a quite useful tactic.
Protection, a quite limited role but one they can be good at. The main role is as Broadside unit guards. To be truly effective the Vespid need cover (preferably LOS blocking cover) and to be within 18". If a unit gets to close the Vespid can shoot them first and if the attacking unit is still a danger then the XV88's can finish them of. I would always use the Vespids shooting first because if they do the job the XV88's can still do their main job rather than finishing of the attacking unit.
If worse scenario results the Vespid can assault.
Also when the XV88's have done their job and no armour remains then the Vespid can go forth and carry out other roles if needed.
As I touched on earlier Vespid are very good in city of death type battles or in city type heavily terrained games. In fact they are so good they should be considered as one of the must have units.
Lastly I want to discuss cost. A full Vespid unit with a strain leader costs 182 points, when you consider that you also really need to take some Marker light support then the cost for this unit is very high.
Given that the unit will in most cases only be used for maybe two turns of offensive action then you really have to consider if the points can be used better elsewhere.
For 182 points you could take two Piranhas (fully tricked out), a full unit of XV8's, two units of Kroot (10 strong with one unit taking 7 hounds), a full Stealth unit or a fully tricked out Hammerhead. All these units offer much more possibility for offensive action for a higher proportion of the game than a Vespid unit. This cannot be ignored.
A full Vespid unit also has another drawback, they are very hard to hide effectively and for a unit that relies pretty much totally on cover for its survival this is a BIG drawback.
So given the fact that a full unit is both expensive and unwieldy we are left with the option of taking smaller units. However again this has disadvantages.
Even a small 6 strong Vespid unit with stain leader costs 118pts and only puts out 7 shots at BS3 but has a much higher chance of losing the Strain leader to return fire. It is also taking up a fast attack slot and it has to be said is a less effective at providing the support and finishing roles due purely to less shot volume.
So basically you have to consider if taking the Vespid is more productive then taking other units.
Like I said I have not produced this article to berate the Vespid, rather I have produced it to try and discuss if they are actually worth taking and if they deserve their less than favourable reputation. I will leave it to you to decide.
All comments and critiques taken and please feel free to advise me of anything I am have missed.
EDIT: I would be interested to hear of anyones successes or failures with Vespid.
How did they succeed?
What tactics helped to make them a success?
If they failed then tell us why?
What overriding factor contributes to their failure?
Which units helped them to succeed?
Do they need Marker lights?
How do they perform in assaults?
If we can pinpoint successes and how they succeeded but also narrow why they fail when they do, then we may be able to provide some useful info on how to best use this maligned unit
Last edited by Rikimaru; June 23rd, 2009 at 11:10. Reason: Updated for 5th
Very nice Technical Report on the Vespid's gaming performance Riki, It really highlights the advantages and disadvantages of such a powerful squad
I'm really interested in the Vespid, and i think that they are not an overall loss, I usually field them with a squad of Pathfinders and maybe a Skyray.
the reason for this is that, Vespid can also have access to ML hits. All you'll need is two ML hits at least to improve that pathetic BS to a very nice 5. A full squad of 11 Vespid needing 2's to hit, 3's to wound wound make any MEQ quake in his little space boots.
the best place to have these guys is to mop up weakened MEQ squads for a garanteed chance to wipe them in one fell swoop.
See? Vespid arn't a loss after all,
Vespid Rule 8Y
I agree that Vespids do need Markerlights but as I said this can cuase problems. The Skyray is a good answer to this as it can light up two seperate targets a turn, so the Vespids should usually get the benefit of one ML token and even BS4 is still a worthwhile improvement.
However there is never a guarantee of mopping MEQs up, so they do need to be careful and have some support (from Kroot is the best option) if things do not go to plan.
Seriously though why do you really think they are so bad they should be dismissed out of hand? I have had a very negative view of them (as we all know) but surely it cannot hurt to really think about some way to make these work. The Tau list has little enough variety as it stands and finding a use for the Vespid would at least add a bit of diversity to our army.
At least by nailing down their strengths and weaknesses we can at least make players aware of pitfalls when using them.8Y
I've gotta say, Rikimaru, that, while your analasys was quite well done, it did little for me aside from reinforce my belief that Vespid are, basically, not worth taking. Almost everything you said about them seemed negative, pointing out how they could do this, but not very well, or do that, but not reliably. You mentioned that they can kill some marines with shots, but perform badly in combat against even the remainders of a squad. You mentioned how they die to bolters and, ultimately, perform badly in firefights against marine squads.
Basically your conclusion seemed to be that, when used in conjuction with those (oh so precious!) markerlights their shooting could be brought up to a reasonable standard, and that they were a pretty good unit for 'mopping up'.
I guess I just fail to find that these two things, not sucking when aided by markerlights and being able to kill those last few marines fairly reliably, just don't make for a very good case for their use.
I'd stick to Kroot for alien auxilia--Kroot are undeniably awesome for their cost.
Once again, the conservative, sandwich-heavy portfolio pays off for the hungry investor!
I guess the Vespid were dismissed by most but a lot of time has passed since the codex was released and players have come up with new ways and techniques for the Tau. Maybe it is time to have a re-think and go back and look at the Vespid and see if any of the newer tactics, unit uses etc could incorporate the Vespid.
All the stuff I mentioned, such as performing badly in assaults are not my opinion but stone cold facts. When a STR3, WS3 unit goes up against a TGH4 WS4, SV+3 unit they will never come out that well, thats not negative its just cold facts. Players need to be aware of all aspects of a units performance to assess how useful they are. I have tried to provide that honestly and in an unbiased manner.
I am not trying to persuade or dissuade anyone from using them, I am trying to give an honest overall view so we can maybe see some use we missed or a tactical use for them.
Kroot are awesome this is true, but they have a very different usage to Vespid and cannot really be compared. They can work together well however.
So why do I think Vespids should be dismissed out of hand? Principally because I feel they're the weakest Fast Attack choice and I can't see any game in which I'd prefer taking them over drone squadrons, pathfinders or piranhas. It's really a matte of priority of choice and I feel they are the least useful of the FA choices. Sure they're fast and have a fancy gun, but that fancy gun is still only BS 3, has a 12" range and but a single shot.
In order to be able to shoot these winged bugs have got to be at 12" and, in order to make best use of their fancy guns, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that they've been taken to sort out MEQs. Assuming again that they make it to 12" without any casualties, they've got 10 shots, half of which should hit. Of these 5 hits, 3 or 4 will wound, making 3 or 4 dead marines (from 10, for the sake of argument). Are the bugs then going to charge? Possibly, possibly not. If they do they've got, say 20 attacks, 10 of which should hit, 3 or 4 should wound, 1 or possibly 2 failed armour saves. Coming back there will 4 or 5 Marines, giving 5 or 6 attacks, giving 3 hits, 1 or 2 wounds, 1 or possibly 2 failed saves. A drawn combat. If the combat continues, the Vespids will probably wear the Marines down in 1 or 2 more turns, assuming no other Marine squad charges in to reinforce, at which point I'd expect the Vespids to be well and truly taken down.
If they don't charge, but stay where they are, they're going to take 8 to 10 bolter shots, 5 to 7 will hit, 2 to 3 will wound, with no AS. Conversely, the Marines might charge, in which case I'd expect the Vespids to lose.
All of this from a squad of bugs has cost more than the squad of marines in the first place.
I don't think there's anything they can do that other troop choices can't do better, either shooting, fighting or mobility. Their speed is certainly an asset, but what do they do when they get there? For the price of a squad of 10 I can take 14 Gun Drones, 26 Kroot, 3 basic Piranha, 18 FWs, 4 Deathrain or even a squad of PFs in their DF. It's a no brainer IMO (even though I have to admit to hating that particular phrase!).
The major problem, as I see it, is that they don't really fit into combined arms concept that is the Tau way; they are just too different and don't really complement any other Tau choice. Oh, and I think the models look just plain stupid too, like something out of bad 60's B movie about creatures from outer space - just to put a final nail in their coffin!
In summary, I feel they are really neither one thing nor another, are pretty expensive for what they are, and there are too many other choices that are much further up my FA shopping list, ie every other FA choice! All of which is why I'll be sending my squad to E. for Christmas (once I finally get around to getting the little so-and-so's wrapped up for their journey over the sea).
That's all, really ... ...
~ Raven ~
Last edited by Ravenscraig; December 10th, 2007 at 18:10.
I understand what you were trying to do, rikimaru. I think you succeeded.
Some people were dismissing vespid "out of hand," i.e. without giving them the sort of careful analysis you gave them, here.
On the other hand, though you did cover their strengths and weaknesses well, the conclusion still seems to be that we shouldn't take them. If I had been dismissing them out of hand before, the only thing that would change from my reading your post would be that I would now be dismissing them for a good reason.
If I knew nothing about them, your post would go a long way towards convincing me to not play them.
As an analysis, it's quite good. As a rebuttal to the people who dismiss the Vespid out of hand, it falls a little short. There is a difference between dismissing a unit out of hand and dismissing them because of an analysis which shows that they actually aren't very good, but either way I'm not going to play them.
Once again, the conservative, sandwich-heavy portfolio pays off for the hungry investor!
If we take your example of 11 Vespids, this means that the Marine squad (say of 10 with no upgrades) will have had the chance to fire 10 shots of which 6 or 7 will hit, scoring 3 or even 4 wounds, with no AS. This means your squad has gone down to 7 or 8, with a morale check thrown in for good measure.
In turn this means you will have only 7 or 8 return shots - not the 11 referred to earlier - giving 6 or 7 hits (assuming 2 ML hits on the target squad), resulting in 4 or possibly 5 wounds with no AS. Assuming the Marines pass their moral test, you then have to face another 10-12 bolter shots, which should kill another 3 or 4 Vespid, leaving you now with only 3 to 5 left.
If you don't have the 2 ML hits to boost your Vespids BS, only 3 - 4 will hit, giving only 2 to 3 wounds, meaning that even more Marines will be returning short-range bolter fire.
All of which means that the Vespids need help from terrain or MLs (which means other units won't be getting those ML hits) in order to pretty much break even.
And remember your squad cost you 182 points in the first place, whereas the basic Marines cost only 150.
Hugely simplistic, I know, but I'd take that squad of 10 Marines +32pts against a squad of 11 Vespids any day of the week.
~ Raven ~