Tau Pathfinders – A Review

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Those that read my review of Codex Tau Empire back in April will know that I was rather taken with the grey skinned bastards. So much so that I’m doing a little 1,000 point allies force to go with my two companies of Ultramarines. And those that read my review will also remember that I was rather taken with the Pathfinders. So it’s really little wonder then that I’ve got hold of a box and giving them the once over. For the greater good you understand…

TauPathfinders01_873x627Even before I read the Codex I was pleased when I heard that Pathfinders were going to be plastic as even when the Tau were first released the Pathfinders were a useful unit to have on the board, but the fact that they were metal and came in blisters of 3 and units of 6 meant that those that didn’t buy the big army box rather missed out. It was doubly true over the years metal models became increasingly expensive and the use of Pathfinders, especially with the introduction of railrifles, became more important.

The third iteration of the Codex has made at least one unit of Pathfinders a compulsory choice in all but name because they’re so damn good. Their options, especially the pulse accelerator drone (which increase pulse weapon range by 6″) means that although vulnerable in the open, they are a heavy hitting unit that can take on medium infantry as standard and then bring the pain on Terminators and the like with the handy addition of the aforementioned railrifles. To be fair the plastic models aren’t any cheaper than the metal ones were but you do get variety and lots of drones including the fooking massive recon drone. But more on that later.

So what’s in the box? Well two – which seems to be the norm these days – sprues that are crammed full of components.

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I do have to hand it to the Games Workshop, although they’ve been pissing gamers off left, right and centre these last few months, they have really upped their game with getting the most out of the plastic. This arguably should make the models cheaper, but as I said – they piss people off. But I digress. The sprues are crammed with bits including some dudey pulse pistols, some pretty decent bare heads – at long bastard last – some spare pulse clips, bonding knives that don’t look lame and some other gubbins. Most importantly, you have enough bits to make a ten Tau squad armed with pulse carbines with bits enough to swap out three with railrifles or ionrifles or a combination of the two. So plenty of ptew ptew for your buck.

Although the fatigues on the legs are a little thin on detail and feel a bit more baggy than a recon unit would probably wear – and the poses are a bit shifty – the rest of the components are ace. The helmets have been refined and have improved comm aerials – just be careful trimming them free. All the weapons are crisp and the separate markerlights allows for the a degree of choice in how you build them. My small force doesn’t have them so the option of not sticking them on is good news for me. Although I suppose if you can be bothered and find magnets small enough you can make them removable.

Truth be told, the quality of the casting of the Pathfinders or the fidelity of the helmet antenna – especially compared to the Fire Warriors – or the quality of the weapons or the cool accessories, or the staggering lack of mould lines don’t steal the show. It’s the drones. They’re awesome. I mean. Awe. Some. The tits. The business. The dog hairy gonads. The recon drone is huge and may as well be Thunderbird 2 for all its whistles and bells including the pokeball grenade dispensers, a burst cannon and some nice detail. Plus the fact that you can mount it on a Devilfish is way cool.

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But, importantly, it doesn’t feel like an after thought like accessories and ‘bonus’ often do. The only bummer is that, aside from the recon drone there’s only enough drone domes to make two drones. But if you’re not bothered about giving your fire warriors drones then you can make the set which does give your Pathfinders a pleasant amount of versatility.

The Pathfinder kit is one of the strongest unit boxes Games Workshop have done in a while. The arm poses coupled with enough accessories means that you’re knocking on the door of variety that the Space Marine tactical squad offers. Not quite mind you, but pretty close. But the sheer volume of cool shit makes up for it. And having the railrifles cast in lovely crisp plastic rather than metal just makes them as cool looking as the boltgun.

Throw in the fact that Pathfinders are frigging nails in the game and it’s pretty much an essential purchase if you’re collecting Tau. Unless you take a butt load of flyers, but that’s a story for another day.

Tau Pathfinders are available from Firestorm Games priced £18.

Forge World Crisis Suits – A Review

So regular readers will know that I rather took to the Tau Empire Codex. Followers on Twitter will know that I decided to collect a small 1,000 point force to use as allies with my Ultramarines. Quite what 9,000 points of Ultramarines, including the full first company needs from 1,000 points of Tau I don’t know but I wanted some and didn’t want to break my ‘no new Games Workshop’ army rule.

I started the project by quite impulsively buying the Commander Shas’o R’Alai model at Salute. At that point I hadn’t even written a list and wasn’t sure if I wanted crisis suits because I dislike the plastic models so much.

R’Alia however is just too cool not to use as a force Commander. I just love the look of the model. Aside from being a graduation to a more ‘grown up’ style, it just feels like it was intended for war. Granted, the submunitions rifle helps but still.
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I also loved the fixed sensor ‘head’. Aside from looking far more menacing than the standard block heads I like the idea that the head is purely a design choice and not actually needed for the pilot to crump skulls and mang faces.

The other thing I love about the model is it kinda reminds me of the robots from Castle in the Sky. I dunno why. Maybe it’s the segmented gangliness. Maybe it’s the glowing read eye.

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Although in Castle in the Sky the robot has a laser face. Which is something the Tau should maybe look into.

But anyway, the model is way cool. The design is a little like a Transformer in so much as it looks like it could change into a plane or something at a moment’s notice.

In terms of building the model, however, the coolness ends and is replaced, instead, by misery. The biggest problem with Forge World kits is usually Forge World themselves. They’ re such an excitable bunch of scallywags that they design kits without really thinking about the practicalities of cleaning or building them. Let me explain: to build the model you have to glue the feet, legs, hip joint and body all pretty much at the same time. This is very difficult. It is also made worse by the fact that the feet and the ankle joints don’t fit. At all.

So you’ll have to resort to the time-honoured method of slapping on slightly more glue than is needed and getting everything stuck together before the super glue sets. Needless to say it can result in the pose not being quite what you wanted so if you can, try blu-tacking it all together first, especially as the arms are no better. Although they’re very cleverly designed using a curve and pivot joint which allows quite a degree of poseability but still being straight forward to build.

The story is a similar one with the Shas’o R’myr’s suit which I bought as a unit leader. Although this bad boy is a conversion kit, using the back and feet of the standard crisis suit. The fit between the two torso halves is surprisingly good and does wonders to change the look of the crisis suit that I’m amazed at least a conversion kit wasn’t made available for the re-release of the Tau range.
rymrI also love the head. Again, it’s just a more interesting look and the single aerial on the back makes the whole look sleeker and more menacing. Same for its load out really. Twin-linked plasma rifles and big boss of a shield is nothing to be sniffed at. But, again, the kits is let down by the over ambitiousness of the kit and the often non-existent QA at Forge World.

Aside from the legs coming in two parts hand having to stick to plastic feet, they also had to stick to a body made of two difference materials creating a socket that wasn’t completely flush. Needless to say it collapsed under its own weight more than once in the process of building it. But the icing on that particular turd flavoured cake was that one leg had been soon poorly cast that it was not just warped but transparent. I shit thee not you could see right through the entire joint piece. Granted this isn’t going to be an issue once the model is painted but the brittleness of the joint has got me treating the model with kid gloves. More so than I would normally with the shatter prone resin that Forge World uses.

It occurs to me that you’re almost better off building the models of they’re on flying stands so the pose is much easier to position. Although there’s every chance you’ll have every crisis suit looking like a not-gay Dean Cain taking to the skies on cable from the Adventures of Superman, complete with awkward bent leg.

The bottom line, however, is that the crisis suits from Forge World are immensely cool. So much cooler than the standard GW ones and  if I’m honest they’re worth the higher prices and the frustrating amount of cleaning and build time required. They’re even worth the truly reckless amount of wastage Forge World produces. The models just look ace. They look like they’re designed by a species surprisingly bothered about looking good whilst they kick your face in. Which is absolutely the way it should be.

 

A Reflection on Tau Fire Warriors

warhammer 40000 logoSo once again the Tau march across gaming boards around the globe for the greater good of the galaxy. And, as ever, the Fire Caste are at its vanguard, blazing a path through those that will not join in the Tau’s noble undertaking. At its heart are the Fire Warriors, the front line troopers of every Tau military action in its history of expansion.

m490144_99120113001_TauFireWarriorTeamMain_873x627I thought rather than review the Fire Warriors I would more reflect on them as it’s tough to review a box of toys that’s 13 – I shit thee not – years old and that I owned 4 boxes of. All those many years ago when I was a Games Workshop member of staff during, what I refer to as, the Golden Age.

I can remember first opening up a box and pulling out the sprues which are, by today’s standards, very sparsely laid out. At the time they were so far removed from anything the Games Workshop had done before it was a very exciting time to be in the hobby, let alone for an 18-year-old member of staff who could get it all at a discount.

Compared to the multipart plastic Space Marines that had been released 2 years before they were actually less sophisticated with arguably less variety. But what they were was different. And sci-fi. They were the first models in the 40k Universe that felt near future and more in line with the future path that I would argue humanity is on rather than the grim darkness of the grim dark Imperium of the grim dark future. Grim. Dark. Whereas the Imperial Guard weren’t much more than the army 30 years ago with sci-fi guns, the segmented armour over fatigues of the Tau is far closer to the armour worn by soldiers the world over and the future armour currently being developed.

The Tau also won fame for their unintentional Pokeball style grenades and scanners that looked suspiciously like the ones from Ghostbusters. But I like to think that it was a homage along with the obvious 90’s Manga influences that inspired the Crisis Suits.

I think for many, the appeal of the Tau has been their weaponry; not just in game terms but their aesthetic. They feel a little bit Star Trek: lots of interlocking panels that look like they’re held together with magnets and the rail guns aren’t too far away from the technology being developed in the present.

The sculpting is now a tad dated. The laziness of the detailing on the legs around armour plates is by recent standards quite poor but I suppose one must consider their age in the same way that most Space Marine players forgive the corners cut on the multipart Space Marine legs.

In game terms the Fire Warriors are one of the best troop choices in the game. If not one of the best units overall in the game.

Aside from benefitting from armour that ignores the AP of every basic weapon in the game, they also get a 30 inch range, strength 5, AP 5 basic weapon of their own. In 6th edition this spells untold misery for any army with low armoured vehicles but it actually makes them as good as Space Marines as they gain on the wound roll what they lose on the to hit roll. And all for 9 points each.

Granted that 4+ armour save isn’t as good but the option of taking a couple of shield drones at 12 points each affords the unit a 2 4+ invulnerables at a spread out cost of an extra 2 points per model for a full unit. So 11 points a model, which is still 5 less than a Space Marine. And a Fire Warrior will get the first volley off which will include crippling the Rhinos Space Marine players will take to try to keep their blokes alive for longer.

Although the Tau army only gives you two choices for troops, as choices go it’s a bloody good one. Yes the helmets and legs look a little tired compared to other models in the range – even ones as old – but they’re still pretty cool. And at 9 points a model for a model that can comfortably put a dent in an armour 10 vehicle it really doesn’t get much better.

Tau Fire Warriors are available from Firestorm Games priced £19.80.

ODAM Episode 5 – The Vespid’s Knees

Well we’re finally back after a bit of a pause so I could go off an become a daddy. With my progeny safely tucked up in bed I could get down with Jase, Nate, Adam (eventually) and Ashley and wax lyrical on the new Tau, mock the High Elves and all those who like High Elves and contemplate a world with the Games Workshop owned by Hasbro in Of Dice and Men episode 5…

As usual expect adult language and humour from the start.

ODAM Episode 5

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

My Day at Salute

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So yesterday was Salute 2013, a day that I spend the previous 365 days looking forward too hugely. And why? Aside from it being a massive room full of toy soldiers, games, scenery and even more toy soldiers, it’s a gathering of wargamers from across the country enjoying their hobby. It’s always great fun to see all the different people who are drawn to wargaming and what kind of games tickles their fancy.

I had a rip-roaring day. I always make a point of visiting as many companies as I can that have supported The Shell Case in one way or another. So I stopped by Amera and may or may not have impulsively preordered their new Dreadball Arena. Also spent a huge lump of wonga with Ainsty Castings on a tremendous 4×4 sci-fi installation board so you can expect a review of that soon.

I also managed to catch up with Andy from Heresy Miniatures and Jed from Antenociti’s Workshop – who I must apologise to for not popping back to see him but time ran out. Mantic got some of my pounds as I picked up Dreadball Season 2 and the Judwan team. I also picked up those Troopers from Heresy like I planned.

Two big highlights for me: A couple of highlights for me was catching up with friend of The Shell Case, and all round nice guy, Chris Wraight at the Black Library stand and we talked Horus Heresy and what was coming next. Excited doesn’t cover it.

I also got the opportunity to talk to Mike McVey about what’s next for Sedition Wars which, again, is hugely exciting and I can already see my bank balance shrinking but it’s so cool I don’t care. The shitter was that I was so engrossed that I missed out on the last limited edition Vanguard model that was on sale. But you can’t have em all.

I also got to chat with the guys from Pulp City about their impending second edition. I may have also picked up a couple of their models just because they’re way cool…

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Steel Crown Productions, the dudes behind Exodus Wars, are up to some way cool stuff and are really gaining momentum with the new ranges. By the time I caught up with one of the creators – Tom – there were a lot of empty pegs on their stand. I also came across a company called Ammon Miniatures who do some awesome stuff so make sure you look em up and check out their Indiegogo campaign.

 

An unexpected gem was what KR Multicase are up to. They’re producing wargaming tables and furniture. All I need to do now is get my man cave built in the back garden and I’ll be all set. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to speak to Dayl so I don’t have prices or anything for you but as and when I do I shall put them up.

I did spontaneously buy myself this bad boy from Forge World so it does rather look like I’ll be doing a small ally contingent of Tau to go with my Ultramarines.

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Just to be clear, as it’s allies I don’t break my ‘no new army’ rule. So there.

Obviously one of the highlights of the day was catching up with various #warmongers and sitting down with a dozen or so of them for lunch. There was much showing off of toys and the usual banter one would expect from all lads together.

It was a chuffing brilliant day with lots of good people, piles of money spent and piles of plastic, metal and resin to show for it. All I can say is roll on next yet.

Tau Cover Art

Here it is folks, a blurry photo of the Tau Codex…The commander model reflects this dude but sadly the crisis suit haven’t been updated which is a real shame.

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warhammer 40K Tau Battlesuit CommanderAnd just to make you cry, the price lists…

Riptide Suit £50.00

Sun Shark Bomber / Razorshark Strike Fighter £40.00

Hammerhead / Skyray £35.00

Pathfinders (plastic) £20.00

Broadside £30.00

Crisis Suits (boxed set) £45.00

Cadre Fireblade £12.00

Tau Battlesuit Commander £25.00

Commander Farsight £30.00

Darkstrider £11.00

Longstrike £9.50 

Battleforce £80.00

 

Tau Teaser Trailer

Well I think we can say the…er…Kroot is out of the bag. A surprisingly good teaser trailer but once again GW has only given us a week notice. Although at least this time they waited until most people have got paid.

More Tau Images Leaked

Yep, more White Dwarf snaps of the new Tau stuff. Dribble, drool, or, like me, roll your eyes at the clunkiness of Farsight and go back to your Space Marines.

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