Today's topic of consideration: Tau troops. We all know troops are important for objectives, and 2/3 of the missions out there, well, you have to claim objectives. As such, the question is how to keep troops alive, and ideally have them contribute something.
Tau have two troop selections: the good old Fire Warrior, and the Kroot. They can both be configured a few different ways. I'll detail some of those options.
The Fire Warrior Team
Fire Warriors are 10 points a head. For that, you get WS2, BS3, T3, I2, a 4+ armor save, and an S5 AP5 gun that's rapid-fire with a 30" range. You also get leadership 7. Now that's really going to keep you in place. Teams may be from 6-12 warriors, so the basic cost is 60 for 6 Fire Warriors.
Anyone can turn in their Pulse Rifle for a Carbine, which is an Assault 1 gun with 18" range, the same S5/AP5, and Pinning. Theoretically, you could give everyone a carbine and have them walk around and shoot at will, but S5 is strictly anti-infantry. You may give them Photon and/or EMP grenades at 1 or 3 points per model respectively. Photon grenades are Defensive grenades. EMP grenades are anti-vehicle, and have fixed damage results rather than a strength value: 1-2 is nothing, 3-4 is a glance, 5-6 is a penetrating hit.
If you want to fix the leadership of the Fire Warriors, you have to pay 10 points to upgrade one to a Shas'ui, who then gets access to the armory. He may also pay 10 points to pick up a markerlight. The armory lets you basically look into a Drone Controller and/or Bonding Knife. The Bonding Knife lets you regroup if you're below half strength, and a Drone Controller can get you shield drones, marker drones, or gun drones.
Fire Warriors just aren't that durable, to be honest. They do their best when far, far away from assault, as they generally are hit on 3's, wounded on 3's or 4's, and strike back last needing 4's and 4's or 5's to wound. Bottom line? Fire Warriors lose combat get run down. Fire Warriors are not that durable against shooting either, as their leadership is similar to the Imperial Guard's.
Fire Warriors are also incapable of harming vehicles; they've only got access to S5 guns. You could pass out the EMP grenades, in which case you're paying for 13pt Fire Warriors. Hey, aren't marines 15-16 points a head, depending on whether we have Loyalist or Chaos ones? Yes. They are, and they are a LOT better. Plus, you have to get close to tanks to actually slap EMP grenades on them. So, in conclusion: technically you can hurt them, but you jack up the price on fragile, low-leadership troops.
Against infantry, a full dozen fire warriors (at 120 points) with no upgrades throw out 12 shots if they're ranging infantry outside of rapid-fire range. 6 hit, and 4-5 wound. Figure most enemies can get a cover save, and you might drop a couple enemies with an average turn of shooting. Now, you could spend markerlights to boost your accuracy and get 8-10 hits, which ups you to 6-8 wounds. Is that really your best use of Markerlights, though? I'm not so sure.
If we're rapid-firing this squad, they throw out 24 shots. 12 hits, 8-10 wounds, and some decent death. Oh. Hey. Look. Now you're in range of potential counterassault. You're a bit fragile, did we mention? If you're going to commit to rapid-firing Tau, you're investing in a Devilfish (not necessarily a bad thing, mind you) and advancing. Well, the Fish isn't that fast, and the thing is? A Fish's best defense is being more than 12" away from anti-tank fire, and Fish of Fury is going to get the transport close: exactly where it doesn't want to be.
So, then, Fire Warriors can rapid-fire infantry to death, but the Devilfish doesn't like it, and unless you kill the target dead, you might lose them and/or the Fish. I'd rather use plasma/missile Crisis Suits to look at hurting infantry, and I'd rather nuke infantry transports before they get closer to me.
As such, there are a couple ways I'd really, honestly, think about using Fire Warriors.
6 Fire Warriors (60 points)
Devilfish w/ Smart Missile System, Disruption Pod, Multi-Tracker (115)
You pay 175 for this arrangement. Chances are you get the Devilfish with Pathfinders for at least the compulsory Fire Warrior team. What do these intrepid Fire Warriors do? Hide in the Devilfish and find an objective to claim. The Devilfish is so configured in order to deny the enemy the Kill Points from the Gune Drones, and to put out a hail of S5 shots at infantry that close.
6 Fire Warriors; Shas'ui w/ Markerlight, Drone Controller, Marker Drone (110)
This is a suggestion for a pure foot Tau list. You take several of these teams so you have troops. Their job is to provide markerlight support for the rest of the army, and in a pinch contribute pulse rifle fire. More accurately, they should be used with massed Crisis Suits and Broadsides, who proceed to rain down missiles, plasma, and rail guns on anything and everything until there's nothing but a gooey paste, smouldering ruins, and fine red mist remaining of your enemy.
Theoretically you could take larger Fire Warrior teams, but the goal is to maximize the number of markerlights. If you wanted to crank this up to a 12-man team, for example, you'd be looking at 170 for the squad. 60 points for 6 more Warriors is halfway to another spotter team.
Pulse Carbines, FTW?
12 Fire Warriors, Shas'ui w/ Bonding Knife (140)
If you really, really want to use them as a squad that walks around and shoots, you'd better max them out, and keep them more than 12" away from the board edge. You max them out for sake of durability, and because you want as many pulse carbines as you can because they don't throw out that much fire. Pinning is cute, but most things have a better leadership than the average Fire Warrior. I don't think I'd EVER run them like this, as anyone that brings transports laughs at them, then kills them without possibly ever having to get out of the transport. Or, a heavy flamer makes you do the terminal burny dance, since it kills you on 2+.
Fish of Fury
12 Fire Warriors (120)
Devilfish w/ Smart Missile System, Disruption Pod, Multi-Tracker (115) (or 85 minimal for less firepower and more KP with the Gun Drones)
Total: 235 (or 205 for the 'cheap' version; or 255-225 for the Bonding Knife)
Now, what you're paying for is the ability to deliver 24 BS3, S5, AP5 shots into the enemy. Now, this can certainly hurt the enemy, especially if you add markerlight support (but that's kind of a Tau thing. Markerlights ALWAYS help, but you have to use them there instead of elsewhere. Opportunity cost, you see?)
You've still put your Devilfish at risk, and still put your Fire Warriors in a place to get killed. This can theoretically be your source of anti-infantry power, but electing to use Fire Warriors as your infantry killers over Crisis Suits (as three plasma/missile suits are 186) is that you're stuck with S5, AP5. You can do ok against infantry, but there's nothing you can do to armor over 10, and monstrous creatures or tougher infantry can potentially shrug off what you throw at them.
I can see some of the lure of Fish of Fury, but I think a heavy reliance on them gimps you in terms of capabilities. For example, you're shooting at a T6 monster. 24 shots, let's say you give them a couple markerlights. BS5 means you hit 20 shots. You then wound it 6.667 times, and after the usual 3+ save you wound it 2.22 times. It's alive, and within 12" of you. It's in a fine position to multi-assault your transport AND your squad. There's a possibility it'll wing the transport, and your Fire Warriors? They're going to die. Pure and simple. And, if he directs all the attacks at the transport, he'll probably finish the Fire Warriors off during your turn, which keeps them safe.
Overall on Fire Warriors
I think I'd roll with either the 6-man mech score squad, or the 6-man spotter squad. Fire Warriors are not exactly the strongest troop choice in terms of lethality or versatility. At best, they're support troops with markerlights in a foot list, or a compulsory scoring choice. The thing is, you are required to take at least one Fire Warrior team, so you'd best figure out how to use them.
Kroot are an entirely different beast than Fire Warriors. Kroot have no weapon options, but a Kroot Carnivore Kindred can actually take three types of Kroot and an upgrade character. They all have some common ground in terms of rules.
Common Features of Kroot
Kroot have no armor saves. You can buy them a 6+ armor save at 1 point a head, but to be honest? Skip a 6+ save. There's just no point in that. The most important feature of the Kroot Kindred is that they have Infiltrate*. Kroot additionally have Stealth in forests or jungles, but this is of course dependent on what terrain is available in your area.
What's the Infiltrate mean to you? It means you can screen your army. Why is screening important? Assault kills most everything in your army dead. Kroot are the exception, unless the enemy has a solid armor save. Furthermore, your vehicles? They should almost always have Disruption Pods, but if the enemy can do something like deploy meltaguns within 12", they can drop your vehicles without saves. Kroot can take up the space that someone might otherwise deploy short-ranged vehicle-killing weapons into.
Additionally, if you're there? The enemy can't deep-strike there. In short, Kroot are a utility choice because of their infiltrate, and their ability to be taken in numbers. Kroot are also mercifully cheap, ,at 6-7 points a head. They are, though, reliant on cover as they have T3 and no armor save worth talking about. (They can technically get a 6+, but that is not a save. That is...comic relief when you roll a heap of sixes one in a million times.)
Sadly, Kroot have ld7, so are not that great at losing combat and passing morale checks.
The Basic Kroot
The average Kroot is 7 points a head, and any Kroot squad contains at least 10 Kroot and may have as many as 20. What's the Basic Kroot do? Well, he has a WS4, S4, I3, and 2 base attacks. Now, if you read the book, he's got 1 attack. However, the Kroot Rifle counts as a matched pair of close combat weapons, so you really have two attacks, 3 on the charge. The Kroot Rifle is also an S4, AP6, 24" Rapid Fire shooting iron. Not bad, not super.
As you can see, the basic Kroot is adept enough at melee. They cannot acquire power weapons, but in numbers they can throw a great number of attacks and usually trade blows with both sides needing 4's to hit.
The Kroot Shaper
The Shaper is a 21 point upgrade to a regular Kroot. For those point,s you get a 3-wound Kroot that has Ld8, base 3 attacks, and a 6+ save. The Ld8 is nice, but you could get three more Kroot for the price. To be honest, I'd leave him in the box. If he could do something like take an Eviscerator, (as they could in the Kroot Merc list in Chapter Approved) I might consider them. As it stands, he offers a leadership buff and could theoretically take a Tau gun for another 5 points.
The Kroot Hound
The Kroot Hound shares the statline of the basic Kroot, though it gains a second base attack, I5, and loses the Kroot Rifle. It costs 6 points instead of 7. You may add 0-12 Kroot Hounds to a Carnivore Squad.
Remember that asterisk next to the 'infiltrate' earlier? If you pay 35 points for one of these guys, you lose your infiltration. The Krootox does have 3 wounds, S6, and 3 base attacks. It mounts a Kroot Gun, which is S7, AP4, 48" range rapid-fire gun.
Simply put, I'd skip the 'Ox. You can take 0-3 of them. They kill your ability to infiltrate, and exchange that for a few S6 swings and a BS3 not-quite-autocannon. You kill enemy infantry in melee with torrents of S4 attacks (if you kill them at all in melee), and the Kroot Gun is not exactly that impressive. Plus, for the 35 points you paid? You could get almost six hounds, or five regular Kroot. I'd take the wounds and attacks over the craptastic gun.
Configuring Your Kroot
So, the main purpose of Kroot is infiltrating them into cover, and screening your troops. They are horrifically allergic to any shooting in the open (...funny how lacking an armor save does that to you) and kind of hate flamers as well. Kroot are also not so hot at passing morale checks. So, what's that say to you? Bring lots of them. The enemy has to kill 25% of the unit in a turn to force that ld7 check.
Simple math tells us that at the minimal 10 bodies, it takes 3 wounds to cause such a check. Once you have more than 13 kroot, the enemy must kill 4, and to hit 5 you need 17+ Kroot.
Kroot shooting is also not that hot. BS3 guns with S4? Ok, neat, but you do your damage in assault. Incidentally, Kroot Hounds are cheaper than regular kroot.
So, what'll it cost me to run my Kroot? The basic cost is 70 for 10 kroot. As hounds are 6 points a head, you can get the magic 17 strong unit for 112 points. (10*7 plus 7*6, that is.) Size also allows you to block up more area. If you're unsure, grab 16-17 infantry, measure out 2" coherency, and see how much area you can really stretch that unit over.
Technically, you could also shove Kroot into a Devilfish, but the 10 Kroot cost more than the minimal 6 Fire Warriors. Furthermore, if your Fish explodes? You take wounds on 3+, which means 6-7 Kroot bite it, and you take a morale check, whereupon you probably watch them run off the board. The Fire Warriors might take four wounds, but they can also luck out on saves.
Bottom line? Take lots of Kroot. They're your assault support, and your screen. They are also dirt cheap for what they do.
Well, you have to take at least one Fire Warrior team. You can mechanize them and shield them in Devilfish, which is an option if you want to go pure mech (...beyond Crisis Suits). You can attempt to make them your core anti-infantry, but it's costly, requires lots of support, and can still turn out poorly for the unlucky 'volunteers.'
Kroot, on the other hand, offer much more utility. They are also very cheap. They infiltrate, they can assault lightly-armored troops with a decent degree of success...but you need to take them in numbers, as Kroot are anything but durable. Kroot get durability by bringing lots of bodies. Considering they're unarmored, well, what do you want?
For myself, I play a hybrid list inspired by Stelek. I run my compulsory Fire Warriors in the Pathfinder devilfish, and then run two 17-man Kroot Squads (10 Kroot, 7 hounds). This keeps my Fire Warriors alive, and the Kroot are a utility choice.
At the end of the day, Tau troops are just crunchy, and not that killy. You have to bring them, so get the most you can out of them. That's why I recommend mounting your Fire Warriors up, and bringing heaps of Kroot. I also suggest looking to your other Force Org Chart slots for actually killing things. Honestly, it's not hard to focus fire and remove stuff; Tau troops just happen to be even easier to kill than most. Accept it, work with it, and you should do fine.