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This article is a cross-post from ATT. I am looking for more feedback on it, so feel free to rip it up to your hearts content as long as it stays constructive. Started on a dare, ended with me liking the unit so much more, here we go...
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 to equip it, they come standard.
2) The 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.
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) Most importantly, they are a Fast Attack choice, competing with the well-established Piranha and the much-feared Pathfinder squad.
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%). 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 (like an enemy unit that has already been badly mauled or to contest an objective in an emergency). 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.
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 kill off the leader. This will virtually guarantee a Fall Back from the remainder of the squad, and 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 is usually enough to produce a noticeable stream of enemy casualties. 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 a shade less 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 4-man 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 the 3-rifle squad specified) 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 notably 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. 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 that 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, thanks to the people posting in this thread and the original over at ATT for corrections and ideas, as well as encouragement.
Last edited by PsyBomb; January 26th, 2009 at 20:10.
I fight for the Greater Good. Too bad for you it's MY Greater Good.
Snow Forces of T'olku W/L/D : 3-4-2... I like to think I'm learning, though.
Very nice article, well done.
However (we knew there would be one however didn't we). You have missed one extremely important point.
I keep hacking on about the new wound allocation rules but I do so for a reason. The new rules make it very difficult for a lot of units and Vespid are among the worst affected. Why? you ask, well show some patience for christ sake and I will enlighten you .
Vespid have a massive weakness (amongst many) the strain leader. The SL has a different LDS value and a unique piece of equipment, the communion helm. So we have a model with a 5+ save, average TGH and 1 wound that makes him unique and thus he must have wounds allocated to him and he must take his own saves. You cannot palm of his wounds to the rest of the squad.
So we take a 6 man unit, all it takes is 6 wounds and the Strain leader has to take a wound, with a 5+ save the odds are not good that the leader will survive. We then have a unit at LDS6 with no access to Marker lights. Even if the unit only takes say 3 or 4 wounds it is still not good because you will lose Vespid and the number of wounds needed goes down.
The same applies in assaults as well.
I tried the same thing a while back with my own thread on how to make Vespid useful, unfortunately it failed badly. Vespid are simply to expensive and taking smaller units simply makes them more vulnerable and less offensively useful (unless ML's are taken and they need to be in LOS and range and the Strain leader needs to be alive).
The major drawbacks I have with the unit is they are to cover reliant, to expensive and to reliant on other units to perform. There is nothing in my list I would lose to take them. All the units I have in my list can perform to a high standard without the crutch of another unit and without having to rely on cover. Vespid simply cannot do this and they simply do not do the job well enough to justify losing something else for.
Another thing is that the cover advantage applies to the opponents forces as well. The new cover rules mean that the predominance of cover saves really hits weapons like the Neutron blaster and Plasma.
The above however does not take away from a great guide and I would Rep you if I had not done so earlier.
Thanks for pointing out about wound allocation, Rikimaru. I'll make sure to edit that in on the next revision.
As for cover, I won't deny that it has an effect... but the ability to move 12" before firing is not to be underestimated. An incautious opponent or one who doesn't know what the bugs can do will settle for hiding BEHIND terrain, which (especially for previously-mauled squads) makes them bait for anything that can get around the cover. A cautious one will stick closer to or inside of cover, and this will hamper his movement in most cases.
As for relying on other units, the same can be said for darned near everything in our army list. Tau work best when they're working together, in all cases. The Vespid form a unique set of abilities on our battlefield, which just means that our tactics need a unique kind of twist to utilize them.
Before you ask, no, I still don't take them in competitive lists. As you said, they are too expensive and fragile for that. However, I do now take them in most of the REST of my lists, and my playtests show them to be much better than people have been giving them credit for (not hard, I'll grant, but still).
I fight for the Greater Good. Too bad for you it's MY Greater Good.
Snow Forces of T'olku W/L/D : 3-4-2... I like to think I'm learning, though.
If you don't mind Psy I will clarify some of my points. The reliance on other units! well no what you say is not really the case. Take for instance a unit of XV8's (whatever config takes your fancy), they can work all game JSJing, hitting units and work effectively without once needing the help of another Tau unit. Same goes for Stealth's, Kroot, Sniper Drone teams, HH's and a lesser extent XV88,s etc etc. The Vespid can be used to support other units but that really is negated by their inability to perform well alone.
Vespid only work well if they have a list of things happening:
(1) Large team (with the cost implications) of Vespids because they need to inflict enough damage to ensure they do not take return fire or get assaulted
(2) Marker light help if possible (see above) which means reliance on another unit
(3)Sufficient cover to allow them to get into favourable positions (this is a biggy and I will explain why later)
(4) Support from other units either to add fire-power or to finish of in assault, this is needed because the damage infliction is usually not high enough to ensure they will not be attacked next turn. They cannot move away and have very poor saves which makes them vulnerable.
Now let us look at the damage potential of two units, one with 6 and a full team.
6 man team with +1 to BS from ML hit will take down 2.6 Marines a turn
6 man team no BS boost will take down 2
Now as can be seen above this is not a massive improvement for the investment of a Marker light hit (and the unit carrying it)
Full team with +1 to BS from ML hit will take down 4.9 (rounded up)
Full team with no BS boost will take down 2.75 a turn
Even if all the shots hit and the normal wound ratio applied the casualty rate would still only be 7 for a full unit.
You see the problem, unless the unit has ML support, a full team and another unit to add fire-power then it really is in trouble. Ok you can assault but you said yourself the unit is only average and you risk losing an expensive unit (even a 6 man team costs 102pts). A comparable unit of Kroot (118pt with 10 Kroot and 8 hounds) can infiltrate, have bolter equiv weaponry, have good cover bonuses and most important of all they are good in assault. Without any support the Vespid WILL take damage next turn. A 6 man unit will struggle against a 5 Marine combat squad and will die if they take on a full squad and lets face it this is what they are supposed to be used against.
The other major problem I see with Vespid is their utter reliance on cover. We all know that cover placement should be changed for each game and the problem is what happens if the available cover is nowhere near where we want it to be. It is all well and good saying that the Vespid are fast and can flit from cover to cover but it is hardly conducive to have a unit running from cover piece to cover piece trying to gain position and avoid being shot (I have seen this and done it myself).
If you play a fixed terrain table all the time then your opponent will get wise quickly and negate the Vespid. If the terrain changes then you run the risk of Vespid with no where to go without significant risk.
No other unit apart from Kroot are cover reliant to that extent (and Kroot are not as cover reliant because they have the option to infiltrate and assault). XV8's and Stealth's can use their assault move to get out of range (and Stealth's of course have their stealth field), Fire Warriors can utilise the Devil fish and have better saves plus the benefit of a longer ranged weapon, Sniper Drone teams have the stealth field and range to help keep them safe, Hammerheads have the skimmer rules and god armour plus a massive range advantage. Piranhas suffer from the same problem, they are to fragile and need cover or to be kept in reserve.
Oh and if you fleet to cover ground you cannot shoot, which is a large set back for a unit that relies on its guns.
Reserve does offer some hope for Vespid, especially with the Pos relay and the Path finder Devil fish. I rarely use Deep strike (even with Pos relay etc) because it is simply to unreliable. In the case of Vespid it is compounded by the pitiful range of their weapon. Deep strike mishaps can see your opponent placing the unit (and all the associated pain that causes) or you losing the whole unit. Even with the re-roll from the DF the odds are you are going to scatter some where less than favourable simply because you need to be within 12" of the target unit and remember jump infantry cannot assault in the turn they land so this option is closed from them.
However all that said keeping a cheap unit in reserve to bring down late in the game to objective contest could work nicely. However again we have the reliance on two units to work effectively (Pos relay model and DF).
I really wish that I could find something positive to say about the Vespid (honest). I have tried myself to inject some positiveness into the unit and you have gone to extraordinary lengths to create a brilliant guide, yet they simply are not that good a unit. I would not advise taking Piranhas in a competitive list (I/E tournie, advanced club level) but I would say use em in other lists because they can be fun and do perform some time. Vespid however I simply cannot ever recommend. The models cost an arm and a leg (in money and points) and once you realise just how good the other Tau options are then they will simply gather dust on a shelf. You even said it yourself you do not use them in competitive lists and their has to be a reason why.
I would be interested to know exactly how you do use them because if you find a valid, consistent use for them then that is great. I class a unit as valid if they can be used in the majority of mission types, variable cover distribution, perform well on their own and with other units and against a range of armies. If they can do this then they are worthy. If they only perform in certain games against a limited opponent pool then that is simply not enough to recommend a unit (not saying this is the case with you Psy).
Note: Please see this input for what it is (not you Psy because I know you will see it for what it is) an honest discussion of Vespids. Before anyone accuses me of negativity I would ask you to check this thread out and see just how hard I tried to get some support for the Vespid >>http://www.librarium-online.com/foru...-bad-long.html I really tried but unfortunately the Vespid are one of those rare units that can be dismissed unless you really like the models and play for the sheer fun and I really hate dismissing units because it is not good for the game as a whole.
Last edited by Rikimaru; January 28th, 2009 at 00:17.