It’s all for the Greater Good

We are coming up to my anniversary. That’s right its been nearly a year since my re-insertion into the hobby. Which I imagine to be a bit like being reinserted into the Matrix but a lot less sinister and somewhat more enjoyable. 

A lot has happened in the last 12 months and a great deal of that has been in the last 3 – 4 months if I’m honest. You may recall I had played a couple of games of Mordheim which I’m sad to say didn’t reach any higher than a couple. But there have been other distractions and lately I have found myself less in love with my warband than I was before. I was never 100% taken with them. I suspect a combination of rushing to get something together on the cheap, which meant using models I didn’t like and being so rusty with my painting that I made a hash of a couple of them. This following on from a mishap with a can of basecoat (people it is really important to shake the can well and make sure it’s not cold). With no inspiration for a colour scheme or the background the other guys had behind themMonty’s Bastards have languished in one of my now numerous carry cases. Until last week when the poor perverted sociopath has found the dust being brushed off his unpainted shoulders and being put straight on eBay. He and his merry band of mentalists are being replaced with a warband I’ve wanted to do since before my departure from the hobby a decade ago. A heavily themed Beastmen force. I won’t go into too much detail now but I am genuinely excited at the prospect of fielding some hairy stinky Beastmen, with a slight humorous twist, and I get to have an Avatars of War Minotaur because frankly they are awesome. 

I am also now the proud owner of a small Sorylian fleet for Firestorm Armada all thanks to my wife being very generous, and not too judgemental, on my birthday. Although have you ever tried to explain to your other half why a Dreadnought (space shotgun) made from resin is so damned expensive? No? Well I have and she still doesn’t get it. Much like many of my other models: the fleet is currently sitting in a carry case in a very much unpainted and un-played with state, but I am slowly adding to it and I know my colour scheme so it’s just a matter of getting round to it and I look forward to seeing how the Sorylians do in a game. 

Now those other distractions I mentioned, are primarily the Star Wars X-Wing Miniature Game by Fantasy Flight Games. If you didn’t know already Phil and I have a massive hard on for this game, which does border on the slightly unsavoury side from time to time. I run the Imperials and Phil as you may be aware is fielding the Rebel scum. I have to say I didn’t take much convincing to pick this one up, I had been looking at it but didn’t know how to take the plunge. Phil, being the enabler that he is,saw to that. I am now the proud owner of a small but growing Imperial fleet which includes 5 TIE Fighters 1 Tie Advanced and recently Slave 1 (you may have seen my rather gushy review). We have yet to get down to pitting Slave 1 against the Falcon but I am very much hoping it’s soon as I have a bit of a score to settle and honestly it would be nice to maybe win a game. [Never! – Ed.] This new love affair has kicked off many thought processes that revolve around Star Wars but again these are things that will I’m hoping become more apparent in the not to distant future. 

Dreadball… okay so I have dabbled here a little bit and while I’m not as hot for it as Neil, I do still love it. I never really got on with Blood Bowl but Dreadball is everything Blood Bowl wasn’t which is good, fun and fast, (all opinions expressed in this article are purely my own and are just that only an opinion). Now I haven’t actually played a straight game of Dreadball just yet, but I have played Ultimate against 3 other opponents and it was brilliant, I was slightly concerned as I have a Judwan team (yes I field the pacifists in space). Despite the fact they only have strikers and can’t perform any physical attacks they performed really well. Except against the Maruader player who decided he wanted to squish everything on the board and Judwan are particularly squishy. But I enjoyed my game so much I have actually started to paint my team, and after a couple of pointers from the painting guru that is Lee, I have to say I’m rather happy with the results. I am yet to finish them but so far so good. 

Before I get onto the subject that this article was named for, I have a few other bits I want to mention. Firstly being I now own a copies of Dreadball & Sedition Wars, rule sets for Battlefleet Gothic, Necromunda, Adeptus Titanicus 2 and I’m now on the look out for Epic Armageddon rules… So a busy boy, I know. Having recently played a game of Battlefleet Gothic (battle report with spangly pictures coming soon) with my Necrons (God are they broken) I have once again got the bug to sail the warp and blow the shit out of Imperials, BUT not with my Necrons. And Phil gave me a copy GCT Studio’s game Bushido to read and review too! I’ve always been into Japanese culture, and this mixes plenty of that with some great looking models and so far decent looking rules.

I have also got ever so slightly further with scratch building my Chaos Titans but that’s a completely separate article. 

So onto the matter of the Greater Good. Some of you may recall last year I started talking about a Space Marine project using Codex Space Wolves, based on Celtic culture and mythology. They never really got named although Moon Dragons was an option, especially for Nate of ODAM fame. I built up a fair few blokes including some Horus Heresy stuff from Forge World. I wrote a background and devised a colour scheme. Now due to the fact they were Celtic themed, they were going to be rather up close and personal and through discussions with Lee & Phil I realised just how badly dicked on they were going to get in the process. And so my Tau allies were born. And this is where it all changed. 

I really wanted my Space Marines to look the tits and I was looking at a mixture of Forge World and Scibor miniatures for the main force. Now this is a lovely idea but it’s just so expensive. I was also concerned that my painting skills would never really do them justice and so it would be a project that would limp on and on and never be finished. So I made the decision this week to sell my Marines and concentrate on the Tau force that had grown beyond a small allied force because, basically, I was psyched by them. 

All this was due to the following: 1. The Space Marine project was prohibitively expensive. 2. One army per system is enough for any man (well at the moment), 3. FOCUS. This is in capitals because that’s the text I get from Phil two or three times a week when I start talking about something cool I’ve seen and how it’s given me a great idea. And 4. It’s all for the greater good. That is to say: Tau are my jam.

So my Tau force grows, which is funny when I think about it, and has been a long time coming. When I first started to drift away from the hobby the Tau had only just been released. So a decade or so. And in my odd drifts back into the fold I have picked up various iterations of the codex but have never got around to acquiring any models. had a massive thing for Fire Warrior on my PS2: who remembers that? [No one because it was shit. – Ed.] And the bit where you come face to face with a Chaos Space Marine… shoot and run, shoot and ruuuuuun. But more recently since coming back to the warm loving folds of plastic crack addiction, Phil was giving away some of his goodies to The Chaps and the Tau Codex was amongst them. Clearly it was fate.

Now I’m not only pulling together a decent force with a colour scheme I’m happy with, and actually have some painted models, but I’m looking at creating a Pathfinder Kill Team and looking at cool conversions I can do too [FOCUS! – Ed.]. I’m currently liking the idea of sculpting cloaks for them and giving them some samurai swords to act as their Ta’lissera bonding knife. Kromlech do some nice Sci-fKatanas that would work really well for this.  

do have to admit I’m not a huge fan of the Kroot or Vespids so they will be left out of my Tau force. I know this may not be the best idea but, frankly, I just don’t care. I’m also not a big fan of the vehicles but that said I’ve never been a massive fan of vehicles in any army and always preferred to go down the infantry route. However after a few conversations with The Chaps I will likely end up with at least one Devil Fish and possibly a Hammerhead. Okay, three. As I realise the need for these and that vehicles have become a much bigger focus since my days of 40K. I also love the look of the Forge World Pathfinder Tetras but that’s going on the possible list as I like the idea of my Pathfinders being sneaky stealth bastards. 

So currently I’m sitting at 3 Fire Warrior Squads, 3 XV15’s, 6 XV25’s with Drones, 1 Small Pathfinder Team, 1 Commander in Crisis Battle Suit, another 2 Crisis Battle Suits as body guards and a hand full of Drones.

Tau have slightly taken over my life as I also currently find myself reading Fire Warrior by Simon Spurrier the book based on the aforementioned game, it’s a great if not wholly accurate look into Tau culture. 

So my addiction continues and is culminating/climaxing* in a trip to Salute in a couple of weeks, which I no doubt will have to write about my splurging of monumental amounts of cash. And hopefully I will get to meet some of you guys there. 

So until next time…

Oooh I nearly forgot Firefly: The Game is AWESOME. 

*delete as appropriate

Short Tau Tactica: Pathfinders

Tau Pathfinder conversion by Douglas Furen

These past few tacticas I’ve talked quite a bit about the synergies of units and how the Tau army works better as a series of units aiding another rather than in isolation. So its time to start covering just how Tau armies can do that. The best place to start? Well, it’s not called Short Tau Tactica: Pathfinders for nothing!

One thing. The unit can do a lot of things and to truly get the best out of them you will have to pick one, because choosing several impedes the units ability to do the others well. When you consider the cost of the unit, compared to others in the list, and just how fragile it is, you will only get a few turns worth of use out of them before they are blown away in a hail of fire from your opponent.

That’s because, if they aren’t already considered a deadly unit, they soon will be. They are that good.

Use one is to load up on either Ion or Rail rifles (Ion for light infantry and tank killing, Rail for heavy infantry), hunker down in cover and then shoot the hell out of whatever target is needed. If you go for Ion Rifles, its worth perhaps shelling out a pulse accelerator, so as your opponents units get closer, you get an extra turn or two of shooting with a higher weight of firepower from the pulse rifles which are now range 24″. It’s not much, but at the same time, don’t turn your nose up at another 2-14 shots at strength 5 (dependent on unit size).

The other, far superior use of the unit (to me at least), is to use those markerlights. Wonderful little things, they can increase your units BS, strip cover from enemy units or help guide seeker missiles. A unit or two of pathfinders will easily be racking up 4 or more markers a turn, which will equally delight you as much as it

annoys your opponent! Though they can’t be relied upon, taking a unit of 6-8 will produce a decent number of hits a turn, keep them alive long enough to be useful and greatly increase what your units are capable of doing each turn.

However you use them, to keep the unit hanging around longer, it’s probably worth spending a few points to buy a Shas’ui (+1Ld and the ability to buy a black sun filter- yes please!) and, if you have the points left over, springing for the bonding knife ritual so they can regroup regardless of size.

Now the big conundrum to me is if you should bother taking a Devilfish. Whilst they have their uses, being able to scout means you will probably be able to set the squad up in a good position before the game anyway and each turn they spend in a transport is one less turn they are capable of being useful. The option of taking a Recon Drone seems ok, but for the cost (and the rules being a bit unclear as to if it can stay a part of the Devilfish after the Pathfinders have disembarked), I’m not too sure if it’s a good use for the unit, unless you have a strategy that relies upon a part of your army being able to deep strike or appear on the flanks reliably.

All in all, Pathfinders make a great addition to a Tau force. Though forced to be static in nature, in an army that can be otherwise be flexible and on the move at all times, they make up for it by providing such a valuable commodity synchronicity. Also, no need to take markerlights in other units now either, so those units can focus on killing enemy units or securing objectives.

An example of the different approach the Tau Empire take to warfare, Pathfinders will probably make their way into your list at some point. Once used, I’m not sure if they will ever be removed from it.

Just a quick question to the community, how are people finding the Farsight supplement? I’ve yet to read it as I like my hardcover books, but has it affected how people play their armies? Or is it another nice addition that doesn’t add too much unless you like a certain type of list, ala the Iyanden supplement? I’m interested to hear peoples opinions on this, so post in the comments section your experiences.

Anyway, see you soon for another Short Tau Tactica.

Tau pathfinders painted by Kevin Auld

Short Tau Tactica: Broadsides

Broadside Support Team O’ran by Wolfs16

So in my short series of Tacticas on Tau units, I’ve covered not only the bread and butter troops, but the rising stars of the new codex. Now let’s go to the other end of the spectrum: those who lost out. The head of this group? Broadside teams. Once a name to strike fear into mechanised armies and monstrous creatures everywhere, they took a bit of a hit this book, with the dreaded railgun being downgraded from S10 to “only” S8.

This, as with all things on the internet, has resulted in many a person calling them crap and useless. For these people I cry, because it’s not so much they are now useless, it’s just the unit have undergone refinement and now have a different use.  I’m here to show you how to get the best out of them. 

The Broadsides we know are dead and gone. Long live Broadsides!

So, first off. The heavy rail rifle. Admittedly not so much of a threat now to armour 14 vehicles. It’s still fine and dandy with just about everything else though and the gun has remained twin-linked and AP1 to help balance an otherwise average Ballistic Skill of 3. With a range of 60″ ignoring Nightfight, I think its fair to say the unit will still be popping vehicles and monstrous creatures with ease.

The other basic armament, a smart missile system, seems a little mismatched with the rail rifle, so I think its worth swapping it for the plasma rifles to be able to knock off those extra wounds/hull points once an opponents units start to close (and they will, you don’t leave a Tau army to shoot you unless you are pretty sure you can out range or out shoot them). So that’s your basic layout. There are a few more loadouts I can see that will make it worth it.

For one, when choosing your support systems for Heavy Rail Rifle Broadsides, it’s a toss-up between Target Lock and a Velocity Tracker. What with Tau Heavy Support being a contested slot, you probably won’t want more than 1 unit, which means you need them to be flexible so they don’t run out of things to shoot midgame.

Probably best for now in such a target rich environment is to take Velocity Trackers for guaranteed flyer kills. After they go down, the unit can spend the rest of the game ganging up on vehicles that are still around.

There is different option to test out and that is the High yield Missile Pod/SMS combo. 9 shots a turn per broadside is nothing to sniff at and if kept close to the rest of the Tau Line with a Counterfire Defense System, should be able to cause a lot of damage from supporting fire.

Drone wise, I’m convinced it worth taking at least a missile drone or two and perhaps a trusty shield drone for protection from retaliatory fire. Just don’t expect the unit to be cheap after adding them.

So there you have it. Though not the must haves they used to be, Broadsides Teams are able to serve as vehicle/flyer killers as well as be the bane of infantry. An example of just how good the Tau codex is now, the unit can do pretty much anything you want them to, you just have to be careful not to spend too many points on them!

 

See you soon for another Short Tau Tactica

Codex: Tau Empire – A Review

It’s that time again boys and girls. So the Tau have had a badly needed shake up and got themselves a couple of new models and a shiny new book for their trouble.

First of all, the cover is absolutely spectacular. It’s quite possibly the coolest we’ve ever seen a crisis suit.

Tau Codex

Secondly it’s also the best looking Codex of the new wave. The inlay is made of thicker stock but it’s still a little on the cheap side and the fold out was straight this time, but they’re still a pain in the arse and impossible to keep nice because GW aren’t printing that page on undersized A3. And there’s still bloody typos! It started promisingly enough but the further I got into the book they started cropping up. I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times; it’s really very poor form for Games Workshop to charge what they do and not thoroughly check their work.

But anyway, the book is undeniably beautiful and for the first time ever, interesting. I worked for the Games Workshop when the first Tau Codex came out and I blew my lousy keytimer wage on as much Tau stuff that I possibly could. I was swept up in new army fever and before I knew it I had a 3,500 point army – some of it painted – before I realised that the Tau were just a little bit bland. Fantastic army, but I just couldn’t get excited about them and it wasn’t long before they were at the bottom of my considerable stack of figure cases.

So lack lustre was my interest in Tau that I never got around getting the second iteration of the Codex – and the first to be called Tau Empire. Indications are that I haven’t missed much. This new Codex however feels very well-rounded and cohesive. For the first time I feel like that I understand the Tau, their place in the galaxy and their ambitions. And, more importantly, for the first time ever I give a shit.

It’s hard to explain but it’s just interesting. It’s perhaps down to the writing – shoddy proof reading aside – but it’s a surprisingly engaging background. Normally, being a life long Space Marine player, I get mildly indignant when I read in a non-Imperial Codex of the Imperium getting its arse handed to it. With the Tau it didn’t bother me in the slightest. Maybe it’s because the Tau are all so dead huggy about everything. Or maybe it was written without the usual unconscious bias towards the Imperium that Codices usually have.

That said the whole alien auxiliary thing is still massively wooly and I suspect down played because Games Workshop, despite rumours to the contrary, were not updating or releasing any new alien auxiliary units. Which makes me ask the question: why have them at all? The Kroot are fine albeit an acquired taste but the Vespid are shit, being massively overshadowed by the other units available under Fast Attack. And they’re still the only two units in the army and both lack Supporting Fire which is so incredibly handy you’d be mad not to field Tau units. Although is it me or would human auxiliaries make sense? They could have done a conversion kit to Tau-ify Cadian kits. Again, I suppose not worth the investment especially when customers can just buy a box of guard and a box (or two) of Fire Warriors.

The army list itself has had quite a few tweaks with no real additions other than the Riptide. It’s a beast of a model and can pack quite a wallop but be warned, it’s not as tough a nut to crack as it first appears as there’s about fourteen different ways for it to blow itself up. Mainly through the use of Ion weapons which GW have tried hard to make them worth taking with the overcharge function. Unfortunately it’s just not worth it when the standard firing modes are plenty good enough – basically a turbocharged autocannon – and only against horde armies would the overcharge ever be worth it – assuming you don’t blow your own arm off in the process as they Get Hot. And even then poses just too great a risk for the points investment. But despite all that it’s still immensely cool and I’ll probably have to get one just so I can paint it up as Optimus Prime. Because everyone knows Tau are Autobots and Necrons are Decepticons…

But moving on…

There’s now an abundance of Drones, the Tau Empire taking their lead from iPhone ads that must have only just reached their communication network – co-opting as they have Apple’s ethos so they have a Drone for that. This is by no means a grumble on my part as I love Drones. I had to big units in my army of old as between their twin linked carbine and toughness and initiative of 4 they were not only decent at shooting but not bad in a fight either. The variety is sensible and in line with the Tau’s ever-expanding understanding of technology, with certain drones only being available to certain units to augment what would otherwise be a staggering weakness in the theatre of war.

They may, however, have over egged the pudding slightly with Pathfinders, however, because they’re just sick. Awesomely so if you’re a Tau player but so much so that anyone I meet that doesn’t have at least one unit of Pathfinders in their Tau army I will openly mock. And why? Well, for a start they can take Pulse Accelerator Drones increase the range of any pulse weapons by 6″, boosting the carbine range to 24″ which for a strength 5, AP4, assault 2 weapon with Pinning is utterly horrendous. And all for 15 points for the unit. And that’s not including the drones that the Sha’ui can take. Or drones like the Gravity Wave Drone which can slow down an assaulting unit. And if you’re feeling really flush, chuck Darkstrider in there and all you non-vehicle opponents are at -1 toughness. So Space Marines are suddenly being wounded on 2’s from 24″ away with 20 shots from a full squad, a turn. Anything Toughness 3 gets instant killed. Dreadknights and Wraithlords suddenly aren’t so tough any more. Oh yes, Pathfinders are awesome. And that’s without looking at the other handy-dandy stuff like markerlights, rail rifles – which are awesome – and ion rifles – which are kinda awesome but I prefer rail rifles.

But we can’t have it all ways. The rumour that you could take Crisis suits as troop choices was untrue so gamers will be forced to buy either Fire Warriors which are starting to look a little dated with the shonky detailing on most of the legs, and the fairly inflexible poses, or Kroot which force you into a very specific way of playing. All I can see happening, is gamers buying a single Fire Warrior squad and splitting it into two 6 model units and blowing the rest of their points on the cool shit.

Granted, the Tau army list does encourage a mutually supportive structure but when the main troop choice not only lacks modelling options but load out options as well it’s not all that inspiring and your mind turns to ways of making them all but irrelevant – and with Pathfinders being pimp and all the other units in the game being slightly more awesome than they were in the past it’s not hard. But I suppose it comes down to something I’ve noticed with the all the latest army books and codices; Games Workshop want you to buy as much as possible rather than give you the flexibility within units to do some interesting stuff with a simple conversion. So actually however you choose to collect the army you’re either spending loads on Fire Warriors because there’s not much choice, or buying all the other stuff because you’d rather chew off your own arm than field dozens of the dome headed bastards in your force.

It’s a shame as the Fire Warriors as a unit are awesome, especially with the right use of Drones, Fire Cadre and Devilfish and there’s no denying their combat effectiveness, I just wish the sculpting on the legs was better and the arms not annoying. It’s equally disappointing that the Crisis suit kits weren’t redone but I’m just going to head over to Forge World. Yes it means paying a tenner more per suit but they’re just vastly superior kits.

Codex: Tau Empire is in my opinion the strongest codex to date. Aside from the background being brilliant, the army list reflects it faithfully. The greater emphasis on Drones alongside a more robust feel to the Broadside and the improvements with Pathfinders highlighting the new dangers the Tau face beyond their borders. It’s far too special rule heavy though, literally every unit in the book having something that would make their mothers proud of and it doesn’t always feel necessary. It’s just one more thing that’ll start arguments and slow down play until you learn them all. Some, I admit, are completely justified, others not so much.

To be honest I’m totally sold on the Tau. The variety in the army list allows for some fairly unique armies, beyond the stale core force, and, aside from the awesome design, the flyers in the Tau army feel like the serve a purpose as opposed to the Dark Angels one that felt like a bolt on. Presumably so they wouldn’t feel left out in the cold when Codex: Space Marines comes out in a few weeks time.

It’s not a perfect book, or a perfect army – the characters seem too cheap, the Vespid too dear and the hammerhead way too cheap for its destructive potential and again, the sheer volume of special rules makes my mind leak from my ears but, despite, all that, they’re finally an exciting army with real challenge to forming a force as well as a real challenge to use and face on the board.

Codex: Tau Empire is available from Firestorm Games priced £27 and the Tau range is available from £10.80