Tau investigations, part one

Hey everybody!
Following my previous blog, where I very excitedly talked about the decision to start a Tau army, I’ve been reading up a few things about the space communists as I try to get to grips with the units. As with starting any new project like this, the thing that always baffles me most is just what the army is trying to do. I’m not a fantastic strategist, and so don’t always immediately see the synergies among units. It takes a while of reading around things for me to form a plan, and then that becomes the basis of which I can change and adapt as required. Waffle aside, though, I’ve been reading the article series on the Community website that talks about each of the Sept specific traits from the upcoming codex, as well as talking about specific units and what they do now. So I thought I’d talk about that here, and give some vague preliminary thoughts on what I’m going to be doing!

Coming first, of course, we have the T’au Sept itself. I should start talking about T’au, but as with my Dark Eldar, I think I’m too used to the older names. I’ll try, anyway!

I think everybody is referring to these things as Chapter Tactics, basically you pick a theme for your army – be it Space Marine Chapters, Necron Dynasties, or T’au Septs – and you receive an army-wide effect. The tenet of the T’au Sept allows all models from the T’au Sept to fire Overwatch on 5+. I think this is possibly the only thing that affects Overwatch in the game, and it sounds fabulous – just the thing Tau models need, given that they’re primarily a stand-and-shoot army, so end up being charged a lot.

Meanwhile, Bork’an Sept get to add 6″ to the maximum range of any rapid fire and heavy weapons they’re armed with. Pulse Rifles, Rail Rifles, Plasma Rifles – all of these things are rapid fire weapons. Oh, and Markerlights are heavy weapons. Markerlights at 42″? Well, why not! Furthermore, Bork’an have a specific stratagem that allows them to re-roll one dice when determining a random number of attacks, such as the heavy D6 of a Railgun with submunitions. Very nice when you manage to roll a 1!

While most T’au armies don’t want to find themselves fighting in close quarters, the Farsight Enclaves aren’t quite so bothered. I mean, sure, they’re still mainly a ranged force, Farsight himself quite likes getting up-close and personal with his Dawn Blade. Their tenet allows you to re-roll wound rolls of 1 against enemies within 6″, so either during Overwatch or else from Pistol weapons in close combat. Oh, and what was that about the Dawn Blade, it has increased from a mere Strength 5 to Strength 8! Crikey!

Dal’yth Sept is all about being sneaky, and they have the hilarious tenet of being able to claim the benefit of cover, even if they’re out in the open, provided they did not move in any way during their turn. Considering you’ll likely rarely be moving when going for the T’au gunline strategy, this could be very useful – as the article says, it gives Fire Warriors a 3+ save out in the open, which is nothing but useful! Perhaps not something to plan the army around, of course, but a Strike Team that wants to get within rapid fire range is going to be getting perhaps a little too close to the enemy anyway.

Vior’la Sept, the white one you see on the new box art, can treat rapid fire weapons as assault weapons, and do not suffer the -1 penalty for advancing and firing assault weapons. Now, most of the T’au arsenal is assault weaponry, it seems, so this can be incredibly useful for getting away from a steadily advancing force. Fantastic stuff!

As well as all the Sept Tenets, we have had a look at some of the changes from Index to Codex, and while I have no experience of using the Index, it does seem that the Codex has made everything so much better, overall.

Let’s get things straight from the top: a lot of folks are pretty miffed about the change to Commanders. Basically, you can now take only one Commander per detachment, and I think that’s absolutely fine. There was a thing called Commander Spam (ingenious, I know), about which this blog post goes into detail for the Index. While I love the toolbox-HQ, I don’t think I would ever want to take more than one, anyway. I plan on sticking a Cadre Fireblade in there for a second HQ slot if I want that Battalion detachment, or a pair of Fireblades for the Brigade (if I ever get there!) They have some interesting options available, these Commanders, and I think the limit is sensible if GW doesn’t want things getting too out-of-hand.

As they say in the preview, the Coldstar Commander has been much improved by being able to take a wider array of weapons than in the Index. Previously, you’d get a missile pod and burst cannon, and you’d like it. Now, he can take up to four weapons like his Enforcer counterpart, which is quite exciting as he retains the 20″ movement and 20″ advance. Given that the Vior’la tenet can allow him to advance without penalty, he’ll be zipping all over the battlefield with impunity! Hopefully…

I really like the sound of what Riptides can do. Weight of fire seems to be quite important so far in 8th, and adding 4 shots to the heavy burst cannon feels like a nice improvement. Taking a mortal wound from the Nova Reactor in order to add a further six shots feels really nice – and for one command point, you can use the Branched Nova Charge strategem to charge 2D6″ as well, either lining your Riptide up perfectly for the next turn, or else getting him out of harm’s way when you need it most! Oh, but don’t forget, a Bork’an Riptide will be firing that heavy burst cannon at 42″ anyway…

Longstrike, the tank commander of the T’au, is really quite useful in that the Hammerhead Gunship he is poking out of treats enemy models as having +1 Markerlights on them than they actually have. Markerlights are quite the T’au thing, I suppose, in that a model equipped with them can choose to shoot them instead of any other weapon for its turn, allowing another friendly unit to gain some sort of bonus depending on how many Markerlights are on that unit. Markerlight effects are cumulative, and I think the magic number is 5, so only having to shoot 4 times and freeing up another model for another task is quite useful!

The Wall of Mirrors stratagem is an interesting addition that allows you to redeploy Stealth Battlesuits from near a Ghostkeel Suit anywhere else on the board. I can’t quite decide if it would be good to get the Stealth Suits close to the enemy, drop their homing beacon down (which is only destroyed if the enemy moves within 9″ of it, not if it is placed within 9″), then getting something out of a manta hold much closer to the enemy. Everything that goes in a manta hold to begin with (Crisis Suits and Commanders) doesn’t really want to be in melee… I suppose if your Stealth Suits have taken Markerlights, then it would allow you to move them into a better position to fire them? Hm.

All in all, I’m very excited for the new T’au codex, and have been busily building up my army ready to try it out as soon as I can. I’ll be back soon enough with my thoughts on my first army list and, hopefully, reports of how they have fared on the tabletop!

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