The Tau Codex has been out for a short while already, though it’s taken me some time to get to grips with it – as with pretty much all these 9th edition codexes that I’ve had my hands on so far, it feels very much like there’s a lot to wrap my head around, given the way that they’re presented. A lot of it is an improvement, of course, grouping the Sept-specific stuff together on one page to allow for easier evaluation of the different sub-factions, but the rules are so often presented in that kind of legal-speak that it can sometimes make things dense to read through.
At any rate, I’ve been having a leaf through, and I think there could be some fun times ahead!
To start with, I don’t have any plans to get myself a Hammerhead Gunship right now! The massive fuss over the rail gun being a Knight-killer seems to have died down at last, which I’m glad about as it was getting a bit annoying. 145 points is good, but it’s a one-shot weapon that hits on 4+. I actually prefer it for the Submunitions stratagem that allows it to dish out up to 8 mortal wounds by rolling a 4+ for each model in a unit. It’s a wonderfully dangerous unit, but I don’t think it’s worth the hype.
It’s been a while since I played Tau, of course, so I don’t think there will be too many comparisons with “back in the day” and so forth! Back when I had a Tau army, though, I was playing them as Bork’an Sept, which granted +6” to rapid fire and heavy weapons. Now, all ranged weapons get +4”, and target units get -1S if the weapon’s S is 7 or more. So, plasma rifles, fusion blasters, rail rifles and ion rifles are the key targets here – Pathfinders and any Suits will be the greatest beneficiaries. That said, I’ve moved away from the idea of Bork’an Sept, and have been painting my models in the Sa’cea Sept colour scheme.
But I think Battlesuits in general are really buffed out in this book, making them the deadly pieces from the army that they should be. When you read how utterly devastating a Crisis Suit is in the fiction and the lore, it’s nice to see that reflected on the tabletop. Battlesuits can fire into close combat now, so mobbing them won’t neutralise them. It’s nice, because these units are iconic to the faction, and something that I plan to use in my army list when I get there! It’s nice to have the infantry of course, but I do like the Crisis Suits, and I’m picturing a Riptide as the centrepiece of the army. So it’ll be nice to have durability there.
For the Greater Good has gone, so there are no more Overwatch shenanigans coming into play with the army. From what I can tell, it isn’t even hiding as a Sept tenet or a stratagem, it’s just gone. I do quite like that, because it’s something that used to make fighting Tau quite oppressive, and could lead to a very slow game as the Overwatch step just carries on forever. The Master of War ability, where a Commander could declare Kauyon or Mont’ka has been completely re-worked into something that doesn’t even resemble its earlier form. Now called Philosophies of War, it’s a bit like the Grey Knights Tides of the Warp where you select an effect to last for a battle round. Mont’ka can be used during the first three rounds, and allows you to move and shoot without the movement impacting, and improves the AP of those shots within a set range, depending on the battle round number. Kauyon overlaps on round 3 and lasts for the rest of the battle, and allows you to both fall back and shoot (with -1 to hit), and gives exploding hits that improve as the battle wears on. Some pretty powerful things there, for sure!
Let’s look at some changes though, since the last time I played. Markerlights are a big one, as they seem to be very much streamlined since the days of 8th edition. Back then, there was a Markerlights table, a cumulative list of effects that range from re-rolls to denying cover, but this has all changed. Fire Markerlights is now an action that begins at the start of the movement phase, and is completed at the end – except for Pathfinders, who start and complete the action at the end of that phase. Vehicles and Drones can also move without the action failing. You pick an enemy unit within 36” and roll a D6 for each Markerlight in your unit; on a 3+ you hit, and the enemy unit gains a Markerlight token. Unlike the GSC codex, though, we don’t get a fancy set of tokens with this book. With the tokens on the board, friendly Tau Empire units get +1 to hit against a unit with a token, and then the token is removed after each shooting attack. Interestingly, you don’t remove the tokens until the firing unit has finished making all attacks – so a Crisis Suit with four different weapons can get +1 to hit with each one, before that token is removed. I initially thought it meant you remove it after each weapon is fired, but anyway. I guess that Hammerhead will be hitting on 3s after all!
So Markerlights are different. Drones are different, too. Time was, you could pass off any wound to a drone within 3” on a 2+, the so-called “saviour protocols”. Well, that doesn’t exist any longer. Instead, Drones in 9th edition are almost like unit upgrades, some of which bring extra guns to the table. They don’t count as part of the unit they’re attached to for almost any rule that cares about starting strength, overall toughness, etc; their loss is ignored for Morale tests, and any drones docked on another model then the Drone doesn’t count as independent of that model, so you cannot allocate wounds to it that way either. However, because Drones are now attached to the unit properly, that does mean that Shield Drones with 2W and 4++ are going to be handy to have around. They are slightly more expensive than the other two types of Tactical Drone, though, so I don’t know if those extra points might get in the way of their inclusion. It’ll be interesting, though, to make lists from here on out!
And talking of lists, I have started to think in general about how I would like to build out my force. As I’ve already mentioned, I have two full units of Pathfinders now, and I’m working on my first batch of Fire Warriors. My next purchase is definitely going to be a Commander – I know I have talked about buying stuff then painting it, and I’ve got the whole Start Collecting box still to work through, but now that I have the Codex, I want to try and get games in, and so I think I will need a big lad to lead the team. Coldstar Commanders have been somewhat nerfed – gone is the 40” advance across the board, instead we’ve got a model that moves 14”. Ah well – I still like the model, and so I’m still thinking I’ll use him! What I find interesting is that everything seems to have become more deadly – I think we all know about plasma rifles going from S6 AP-3 D1 to S8 AP-4 D3, but stuff like the airbusting fragmentation projector has an increased range and AP, the high-output burst cannon has got more shots, the fusion blaster has got more damage output, etc etc. It’s all just that much more deadly now, and I like it!
I am looking forward to adding the Crisis Suits into the mix, because I think the unit is just so iconic. All-plasma is a very tempting prospect, though I also like the cyclic ion blaster for the number of shots. However, I’ve gone for a bit of a mix in my plans, using the Shas’vre as a hopefully more lethal threat, backed up with a pair of Shas’ui who are a little more utility-focused. The cyclic ion blaster is a bit like an Imperium plasma gun, with the standard/overcharge profiles, and the fusion blaster is the Tau equivalent of a meltagun. The other two guys each have burst cannons and plasma rifles, giving them a spread of shots as well as a focused attack, and I’ve given each of them a multi-tracker to help with damage output – my thinking here is that the burst cannon being Assault 6 will be better suited to bigger units, so the support system having exploding 6s to hit when a target unit has 6 or more models should be handy. The plasma rifle is probably overkill against the same kind of unit, but could still have a place when dealing with sergeants or something. All three models also have missile pods, which are a handy little piece of kit to hopefully throw out some additional damage. To finish, I’m using two of each type of tactical drone, simply for the flexibility.
Support Systems are worth a mention here, also, as some of them have had a small change here and there, and others seem to be wildly different to what I remember them doing! The positional relay is back as a thing, and allows you to bring in reserves in round one; target lock now removes cover from target unit; early-warning override is nice in that it now allows for Overwatch on 5+ and you don’t need to pay the CP for it; the advanced targeting system auto-wounds on 6s. There are some big changes here, which I suppose reflect the changes to the rules in this edition. Drone controllers and shield generators are basically the same though. I think it’s really cool that they have not only kept these things, but improved upon them in certain circumstances.
Much like the relics and whatnot, it’s stuff like this that makes list-building in 9th edition a very tricky business, and as I said when talking about my Genestealer Cults army, I think it’s something that I need to just play games with, to see how it works out for me!
As it stands currently, then, I have 848 points of Tau planned out. The force will be led by the Coldstar Commander, who is toting a high-output burst cannon and airbusting fragmentation projector, along with missile pod and shield generator. He’s the warlord, and his warlord trait allows for re-rolls of both hits and wounds. I’ve upgraded him with internal grenade packs, which allows him to bomb enemies as he flies over them, so I’m quite excited for that!
I also have an Ethereal on hover drone. Ethereals are a bit like Chaplains and Priests now, in that they have Invocations they can choose to attempt each round. Mine knows Storm of Fire (allowing nearby units to shoot while performing actions) and Zephyr’s Grace (-1 to hit if the unit targeting nearby units moved that turn).
For the time being, I’m sticking with Sa’cea Sept, the colour scheme that I have chosen, which allows for some defence as when my infantry are targeted from more than 12” away, they are treated as being in Dense Cover, something that I like. I’m also using the Sa’cea signature system for my Commander, which gives enemies targeting him -1 to hit in the fight phase.
I think there’s going to be a delicate balance to be struck here with defence and offence, but hopefully I’ll be able to have a few good games with these guys once I have them ready to go. I’m going to concentrate now on getting my Fire Warriors finished, then it’ll be time to work on the Ethereal and the Commander, probably during March now.
I am extremely tempted to pick up something else to try and push the points up to 1000 so that I can get some games played, but with 150 points of stuff needed to get there, I think I need to rein myself in a bit first! It’s very tempting to just build it up so that I can play, especially now that I have the book in hand, but in all honesty I do need to control myself. I really don’t want to be drowning in plastic, especially since this is what happened last time I built a Tau army, and I ended up getting rid of it all!
Having some degree of self-control is actually good, though, as it’s making me properly evaluate my purchase choices and ensuring that I only buy what I want in the army. Last time, I had a multitude of stuff, and I don’t think I could have fielded it all outside of an Apocalypse game. Buying just what I want for the force, and painting it steadily as I have been, is definitely a good way to go about this sort of army-building!