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: Kroot

As I focused on the Fire Warriors last time, it only makes sense that I cover the Tau Empires only other troop choice, Kroot. Some fans may have been disappointed that the option to have a Kroot Mercenary army doesn’t exist*, but I think that the unit still have their place in the army and even have a few new roles with the codex.

First off, lets see what you get for your points. The biggest change to Kroot is that they have lost strength 4, but they get a better combat weapon, the Kroot rifle giving them AP 5 in combat. Stealth and Move Through Cover keep with the theme that these guys are hunters. And they get proper Infiltrate this time, which is awesome! Less amazingly, they get a 6+ save for free now. Just what I’ve always needed.

This should be a signifier to most people that their role has changed from assault powerhouse of the Tau army to something a little different. Still, it’s possible to bulk up on the squad and add additional Kroot Hounds and Krootox and throw them into combat as a sort of buffer between the enemy and your more important units (read: everything else in the army).

A squad over 30 in number is still pretty rare in 40k, so there will be a significant psychological impact on you opponent seeing that many models get plonked down in one go. Just don’t expect them to remain that size by the time they reach combat.

Now, on to their more interesting uses. For 1 point a model, Kroot can take sniper rounds, which gives the Kroot the option to fire their rifles with the sniper rule if they remain still (or hitting on 6s if they move thanks to snapfire). Sniper rifles have always been a pretty underrated aspect of the game due to not many armies having units with access to them, but think about it. Kroot can now wound everything on a 4+ (if it’s less, they can switch back to the normal profile of the Kroot Rifle and rapid fire things to death) and have rending.

Kroot squads just gained the ability to topple even the mightiest of creatures in the 40K universe. Which will certainly surprise someone the next time they take their all Monstrous Creature ‘Nid army!

My best advice would be to stick a small squad of 10 in cover (to maximise the benefits of cover and make your opponent doubt if it’s worth targeting them) with a few Kroot hounds for combat purposes. They give the unit Acute Senses, which is very useful if you plan to have a bit more control over just where Kroot will pop up if you plan to outflank them close to an objective.

Kroot are going to fulfill a very similar role to the one they did for me last edition.  Sitting in cover near objectives and moving to claim them late in the game, or else just hugging terrain and acting as an irritant all game, or the ‘Eldar Pathfinder’ effect as I call it. They still can have a role as a counter assault unit, but the changing of the units focus is a clear indication of how the designers see them being used this edition. I’m not sure they are vital to a Tau army, but for one that wishes to be aggressive and keep an opponent of the back foot, Kroot squads will help you achieve that for a minimal cost and provide you with a unit that can reliably advance on an objective and hold it.

As such, despite what some parts of the internet may believe, I view the Kroot squads as very much alive and kicking in the new book. If an opponent isn’t careful, they may take their legs off.

See you soon for another Short Tau Tactica.

*Players with a predisposition towards “count- as” may note that due to the slight change of wording in what effects what in the Tau book, it’s entirely possible to proxy a Kroot Mercenaries army.

A Short Tau Tactica: Fire Warriors

Continuing a look at units of the Tau Empire codex, I’m going to focus on a unit that actually represents the entire army very well, Tau Fire Warriors. They look deceptively simple and underpowered yet have so many synergies with the rest of the army list that it can put out a surprising level of damage.

Just don’t let this happen

First of all, lets discuss what you get for your points. Fire warriors have pretty average stats for 40k (though as so many armies have a Space Marine stat line this actually makes them a little below  average), with a 4+ save and the best gun of any troop choice in the game, the pulse rifle. Range 30″ alone means that you can start popping off shows at an opponent’s units in their deployment zone. Taking a pulse carbine is tempting, but with the high level of Ld most armies have, pinning tends to have little to no effect, so I prefer the range every time.

However, for all the strength of their gun, that’s really all you are buying them for, which makes them hard to use when taking objectives, the most important part of the current game in most scenarios. So that means you need to get aggressive with Fire Warriors (or take Kroot, but I will cover them another time) which where the synergies start to come in.

Tau Fire Cadres add an extra shot to any unit they join using pulse weaponry, which is a very cool special ability. Combine this with an Ethereal’s Elemental power and suddenly Fire Warrior will be advancing upon the enemy hoping to get within rapid fire range!

Combine them with the pulse accelerator drone (which perhaps make it worth taking two pathfinder squads- one to flank and one to support the main line) that pathfinders can take and all of a sudden you have a solid base of Fire warriors with range 36” guns, with one unit putting out 2 shorts (4 at rapid fire range) a turn, plus whatever bonuses your pathfinders can give them from lighting up an opponent’s unit. I’ve seen terminator squads downed this way, even if it was a bit of a desperate tactic.

Tau Fire Warrior by Bozar 88 of Deviant Art

In fact, this may allow players to recreate an old Tau tactic, the ‘Fish of Fury’. This is where Fire Warriors in Devilfish transports move up the battlefield and use Devilfishes to section off parts of the opposing army, before disembarking the Fire Warriors dealing them a devastating blow with short-range pulse rifle shots. At this point though, you run the risk of spending so many points of fire warriors that the army becomes inflexible and very vulnerable if the initial volley doesn’t kill everything.

Now one think I did mention before, albeit jokingly, was that Fire warriors aren’t that good in assault. This is the counterbalance the army faces for having such a powerful gun. It’s not as bad as it used to be, as at least Tau has a chance of causing a leadership test or reducing numbers due to supporting fire, but don’t count on it doing much. Also, try to stop your opponent from launching multiple assaults into your gunline in one turn, as supporting fire becomes pretty useless then.

Though the common adage for any army that relies on shooting is to hang back and try to win the game by shooting the opponent to death. With Tau this can’t work in the long-term. The army is built to be fluid and always on the move and as such whilst I suggest you do invest in a few squads to form a gunline with whatever other static units you have purchased (traditionally Broadsides, though I have a feeling it will be Sniper teams from now on), at least one squad should be advancing up the board in a Devilfish to keep your opponent flat-footed and on the defence.

Even then, when your opponent’s assault units or objective takers move into your half of the table, don’t be afraid to leap your squads forward and abuse that rapid fire range. This edition is a lot more about manoeuvring than prior editions and being timid won’t win you games.

Still, don’t over stretch your mark. Fire warriors are still toughness 3 with a 4+ save so dedicated firepower will bring them down. Keep them protected.

The Tau face a unique challenge this edition. They have to keep up with the big boys and are far more reliant on the army working together as a whole to put them on a competitive edge with the more powerful codices (as it should be!). Through a mixture of caution and bold movement, fire warriors can become a troop choice to be feared and once you master their use, the army will open up its secrets to you and you will become a better player for it too.

See you soon for another Short Tau Tactica.

A Short Tau Tactica: Stealth Suits

Hello there. My names Reece and Phil has kindly let me be a contributor to The Shell Case (the poor, poor fool). I’ll mostly talk about topics in the wargaming industry that interest me, along with the odd review, interview or tactica.

To get things off to a flying start, I’m going to post tacticas over the next couple of weeks which look at the usage of one of my favorite armies; the Tau Empire. Each tactica will focus on one unit and how they perform within the framework of a balanced tau force.

The first tactica will look at a unit that may have as well have been invisible (ha) in the last codex and I still think gets over shadowed by the more flashy units: Stealth Suit teams.

XV15 Stealth Armour painted by Dark6LTM of DeviantArt

In the last codex, I can understand why. They were in Elites, when Tau needed Crisis suits to give the army flexibility. Their stealth rules were a bit naff and they seemed a bit too expensive to be worth it, despite being toughness 4 with a 3+ save and a range 18″ strength 5, Ap5 weapon. But this has all changed in the new book for 3 reasons:

1.Improved Rules
We got a glimpse of how the designers were approaching Stealth Suits with the Tau Empire 6th edition FAQ last year, when instead of having the old Night Fighting rules, they were given Stealth and Shrouded for a total of a 4+ cover save even when in the open. This was, much to my joy, carried over to the new codex along with all tau suits having Night Vision as standard. Their Burst Cannons are also now Assault 4. This means that 3 guys are now putting out as many shots as a 12 man fire warrior squad and are more maneuverable  and capable of surviving return fire to boot.

The tau army is almost spoilt in what to do with many of its units, which can lead to rather unfocused army. Stealth Suit teams don’t have that option. They can take a few fusion guns to allow for tank and monstrous creature killing duty, but they are primarily all about killing infantry. Which is wonderful. The unit doesn’t really require much support either, so you can send them off to complete an objective on the battlefield confident that if you play well they will achieve it. Add Commander Shadowsun (so they can infiltrate) and watch them carry out a few sneaky tank kills followed by annoying the hell out of your opponent for the rest of the game.

Tau Stealth Suit Team painted by Burkhard of dhcwargamesblog

3. Surprise
Most opponents I have played in the past have never encountered Stealth Suits before due to their past unpopularity and certainly aren’t used to lots of units with jetpacks. They also tend to get overlooked on a battlefield when more flashy units are in play like Riptides or Crisis suits.

Use this to your advantage. Keep mobile and near cover, just off of an opponents main path of advance. If your opponent ignores them, then expect a wailing and gnashing of teeth when they suddenly find their important units gunned down and tanks blown up from the rear – because strength 5 rocks! If they choose to target them, a 2+ cover save and 3+ normal should mean they can shrug off the most determined shooting or assault, which means less heading for the rest of your army. Either way you win.

In summary, Tau Stealth suits are a great addition to your army and greatly aid its ability to disrupt and interrupt your opponents plans. They are not an over powered unit, but one I think opponents will underestimate at their peril.

Give them a try sometime and see you soon.