Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thoughts on Tau

One of the other projects I'm looking at is taking up a Tau army. I'm not sure about whether I'll do this, Chaos, or an AdMech army out of the Guard codex. It depends. So, a look-through at Tau units...

Crisis Suit Commander
I have to admit, this is probably what I'm going to run with. 50 points base for the Shas'O, or 75 for the Shas'el. Since melee is really not what we're after, the biggest difference is that the Shas'el has an extra wound and an extra BS. Since I can buy +1 BS with wargear, I don't see a reason to drop 75.

A full discussion of Battlesuits will wait for the Elite entry.

50 a head. Benefits include being able to bring a BS4 Fire Warrior squad (but, not your compulsory squad). His unit is Fearless, and anyone with LOS to him can re-roll leadership tests. On death, the army (all Tau units, anyway) eat a morale check and gain Preferred Enemy.

Cons....well, a BS4 Fire Warrior unit isn't really that hot, and while the leadership test thing is nice, most of our lead tests will be from losing melee. Or, perhaps, shooting casualties. Either way, if we're mech-tau, we won't be taking a lot of leadership tests, and we lose some of the benefit of mech if we leave him in the open.

As is, I don't think the Ethereal's abilities are bad, but I'm not seeing a good way to make use of it, and I'm seeing his death as a MAJOR problem, since a failed morale check can mean units breaking off the table.

XV-8 Crisis Suit
The Crisis Suit is kind of the big thing with Tau. It's a 25pt unit with BS3, and the ability to pick up some neat guns. It can fire two weapons a turn with multi-tracker, which is all of 5 points. Not a bad deal, there. The other innate ability of the Tau suit is the jump-shoot-jump; it has a Tau Jet Pack which gives them a 6" move in the movement phase, and a 6" move in the assault phase.

Deep Strike
XV-8 suits can deep strike. However, I'm not really into this option for a few reasons.
1) Any turn it's not on the board is a turn it's not shooting
2) XV-8's have access to decent range
3) A bad deep-strike can leave them in the open, and then you've lost them
4) the ONLY way a deep-striking unit can get any better accuracy in the Tau army is to be in LOS of a Pathfinder's Devilfish, and in that case, it can only re-roll.

Picking up two weapons is really the big pro here. Suits can pick up a pair of the same thing and count them as twin-linked, or two separate ones. In that case, the key is to come up with the most useful set of weapons.

Airbursting Fragmentation Projector-
G18", S4, AP5, no cover saves
Short range, requires upgrades to the commander to get it, one per army. Otherwise this might be neat, but we have other ways of getting around cover saves.

Burst Cannon
18", S5, AP5, Assault 3
Falls somewhat short due to range, but there's a decent volume of shots. It's workable anti-infantry fire.

Cyclic Ion Blaster
18", S3, AP4, Assault 5, Rending (but only on toughness values)
High rate of fire, but low strength, AP not really worth speaking of, and special-issue. Range comparable to Burst Cannons. I fail to be impressed.

Template, S4, AP5
It's a flamer. It's hellishly short-ranged, but it's a flamer. It IS cheap, at least.

Fusion Blaster
12", S8, AP1, Melta, Assault 1
It's a meltagun. I've used these before. It's short-ranged, and a Crisis Suit can only pull off one shot with it. It requires one to be VERY close to really get the most out of the gun. Crisis suits don't have the speed to get close, and they don't have the deep-strike accuracy to use it well enough.

Missile Pod
36", S7, AP4, Assault 2
Medium-weight gunfire out to range. This is the best range that a Crisis Suit can get, and it's suitable for engaging anything short of AV14. Honestly, I think it's one of the most useful and versatile choices you can put on a pod.

Plasma Rifle
24", S6, AP2, Rapid-Fire
Low-AP fire. This is the only place in the Tau Army (outside of Broadsides) that you can get plasma rifles. Additionally, XV-8's can crank out rapid-fire shots as though they hadn't moved.

Phew. Quite a section, that.

XV-8 Loadouts
Damn if there's not a lot of ways to kit out a Crisis Suit. What hops out at me:

Plasma Rifle + Missile Pod + Multi-tracker
It brings the low AP shots, and high-strength shots. The weapons mesh well; as the enemy closes in it gets worse. 2 S7 shots out to 36"; two S7 and an S6 at 24", and at 12", two S6 and two S7. It IS on the pricy end, at 62 points.

Twin-linked missile pods, Flamer
Long-range dakka; close-range support. Cheapish at 47 points.

Missile Pods, twin-linked flamer
Cheap at 43 points. Better at the BBQ, but still has issues with actually getting to USE all that close-range firewpoer.

In Summary on the XV-8
The real issue is loading them out involves having an idea of what you want in the army. I do find myself liking the plasma/missile/multi-tracker config since it's good at shooting and brings me the low-AP fire I want/need.

Stealth Team
30 a head. Bs3, units of 3-6. One in three can drop the burst cannon they come with for fusion blasters. They have the jet pack like other Tau Battlesuits.

The biggest pro is that they have a Stealth Field that means you have to roll 2d6x3 to see them. Now, this sounds neat until you realize that the average of 2d6 is ~7, and 7x3 =21, which is close to the max range of the jump-shoot-jump.

Overall, I'm not exactly sold on these guys. They CAN break out a lot of anti-infantry gunfire, especially if one or several folks take gun drones. However, at 6 folks at T3, 3+ saves? I'm not really sold on the things.

Fire Warriors (1+ choice)
Well, they ARE compulsory in the army. They have NO melee ability, with the almight WS2, S3, I2. BS3 on top of the pulse rifle looks decent; the Pulse rifle is S5, AP5, 30", Rapid Fire. Warriors are 10 a head. While Fire Warriors CAN take defensive and anti-tank grenades, I don't see a real point. Fire Warriors want to shoot things.

At Max Range, a full 12 fire warriors crank out 12 shots, hit with 6, probably wound 4-6 times. With armor saves, or cover, that's a max of 3 dead. In close, just prior to the charge, that might be as many as 8-12 wounds.

What do we take from this? Fire Warriors cannot really shoot well.

The Devilfish
This is what the Fire Warriors get to ride in. It's 12/11/10, BS3. 80 points base. Comes with a Burst Cannon and pair of Gun Drones. For another 20 points, it can take a Smart Missile System in lieu of Gun Drones, which cranks out four S5, AP5 shots to 24", that do not need LOS to the target.

Other upgrades of note include:
-Disruption Pod (5pts)- If fired on from outside of 12", vehicle is obscured and thus gets a 4+ cover save. ...why you wouldn't take this? I don't know.
-Target Lock (5pts)- Each weapon system may target a different enemy unit.
-Multi-Tracker (10pts)- Vehicle may fire as if it were a Fast vehicle.

Right now, an upgraded Devilfish with Smart Missile System, Disruption Pod, Target Lock, and Multi-Tracker runs 120.

Fire Warriors in a Devilfish are a fairly durable scoring unit, and the Devilfish is likely to have a bigger impact than the fire warriors.

This puts a Fire Warrior troop unit at about 180; 120 for the Fish and 60 for the minimal Fire Warrior unit.

Kroot Carnivore Squad
Minimum of 10 Kroot at 7 points each, for 70. Kroot are funky; WS4, BS3, S4, T3, I3, one attack, and no armor save. They're not terribly durable, but pack what's basically a bolter AND two close combat weapons. They have no armor save, but get +1 cover save in forests. Still, in cover, they're reasonably durable.

Kroot Hounds may be taken at 6 points a head; they have I5 and 2 attacks.

The low point of Kroot is that they're Ld 7.

Still, Kroot can probably be used as screening units, and are pretty cheap. 10 Kroot is an amazing 70 points, and since they're not here to actually SHOOT, hounds can get you wounds for cheaper.

Fast Attack
Gun Drone Squad
4-8 drones at 12 points a head. BS2, twin-linked pulse carbines. I don't really see the point to PAYING for one of these, as they are not particularly effective at shooting. It seems more like it's the entry for when your vehicles crap out drones.

Ah, markerlights. Marer lights are a big thing for Tau; they let you single out a unit and drop a bunch of markers on it. Markerlights can increase ballistic skill, lower cover saves, and lower leadership. In short, Tau units should LIKE them.

Pathfinders are the big source for it. BS3 Markerlights. They ARE , though, going to make you take a Devilfish. Thing is, since you have to take a Fire Warrior unit, you might as well make that their Devilfish. This Devilfish lets any Deep-Striking units re-roll ONLY the scatter dice. In essence, it gives units about a 50% chance of not scattering. This really is useful only for vectoring in meltaguns.

BS3 Fast Skimmers. For 65 points, they can take Fusion Guns, and come with a pair of Gun Drones.

This is about the only way to get fast fusion guns in the Tau army. On the bright side, they have AV11 fronts, which means they can actually stand up to small-arms fire. They ARE, at least, a little more resilient vs. heavier weapons, but not by much.

Vespid Stingwings
Jump infantry. They are FAST, with 12" jump moves and fleet. They may also re-roll failed Dangerous Terrain tests. Really, the one big thing they've got for them in terms of lethality is an S5 AP3 single-shot gun.

They have a 5+ save. They get one shot, then they die.

Not really sold on this; 16 a head and 22 for the leader.

Heavy Support
XV-88 Broadside Battlesuit
70 a head, two wounds, 2+ armor saves. They carry a twin-linked Railgun, and a Smart Missile System. For 10pts, they can get Slow and Purposeful. They can also theoretically get Plasma Rifles.

In short? They're accurate rail guns. They are a bit pricy, but can find cover, and Rail Guns are LOOONG range. with 2+ armor saves, they're also in good shape to take advantage of Shield Drones, which will be 2+/4+.

Sniper Drones
80 poitns for a spotter and 3 sniper drones. Spotter gets a markerlight that the unit can use, but in all it isn't a lot of lethality for the price of a Broadside. May take up to 3 teams per the 0-1 heavy support slot you get.

Hammerhead Gunship
13/12/10, BS4 tank. Really, it means it's already got the +1BS upgrade. Primary weapon is either a ion cannon (a heap of medium-strength, low-AP shots) or a rail gun (72", S10, AP1, or S6, AP4 Large Blast). Secondary weapon is gun drones, pair of burst cannons, or smart missile system.

This is a nasty tank, pure and simple. It can hunt infantry or tanks, but the big perk is the rail gun. It ends up a bit pricy after the decent upgrades and a rail gun (something to the tune of 180ish).

Sky Ray Missile Defense Gunship
125 for 13/12/10 tank.
Basically, it brings a pair of networked markerlights, a backup weapon system, and a heap of Seeker Missiles, which are basically krak missiles.

It IS some durable markerlights, but to really get the most out of it, you want to bring more markerlights.

Hammerhead, so far, is a bit more versatile.

Lots of shooty. The real question of the Tau codex is balancing the shooty parts with enough speed bumps.


jabberjabber said...

Wow - thank you very VERY much for this report. I don't have the chance to play against Tau very often, so this has been a very useful digest for me. Cheers!

Raptor1313 said...

No problem. It's based off shooting up some Tau a little...

Reviewing the Crisis Suits is a bit tough, since it looks like you get a lot of the army's personality out of them. They're the only real place you can get plasma guns, meltaguns, and flamers.

The rest of the army is a lot simpler in comparison, and kind of goes one of a few ways...I mean, Hammerheads CAN be infantry hunters with Ion Cannons and such, and be deadly, but they're just as nasty with a rail gun and can hunt vehicles.

There are a couple Tau armies in my area, and I've seen Tau do well. what really worries/impresses me about Tau is their ability to shoot the bejeesus out of vehicles. Lots of mid- and high-strength vehicles. I mean, heavy support can be 3-9 Rail Guns. Vehicles just will not hang with all the S10, AP1 shooting. That's before the crisis suits, and you can get plenty of markerlights.

I mean, sure, you beat face if you get them into assault. Maybe Kroot can beat you up if you get maimed a bit (mostly those Kroot Hounds with that whole 'I5, 3 attacks').