It’s been a week or so since I mentioned the Tau, and I’m clearly getting withdrawal! I’ve been giving a lot of thought to them, though, and think it’s time to try to get things straight in my head. I’ve also been doing some historical research through the previous Tau books, which has been quite interesting! But let’s not digress too far just yet!
Here is the list that I am currently working on getting painted.
It’s going really quite well, even if I do say so myself. I’ve been working on getting the Commander painted since I finished up the Fire Warriors at the end of February, and it hasn’t yet been a full week and I think I’ve made some really great progress with this guy! The armour is pretty much done now, so I need to work on the functional bits and pieces, getting the gyros painted and all the lenses, then the weapons and basing! Makes it sound so easy, but it will hopefully only take another week or so. I then want to get the Ethereal painted up, a project I’m hoping may not take me too long, after which I guess it’ll be on to the Crisis Suits! So that’s not bad at all, really! At that point, then, I’ll have the full list painted, the only issue then being that the list isn’t necessarily a good one.
I think it’s been interesting, the way that I’ve approached this one, having started with two groups of Pathfinders because of the fact that’s what I had “in stock”, so to speak. If they were a troops choice, then that’d be fine, but being fast attack, it does leave me with a bit of a hill to climb in so far as getting an army to go around them. I do have some of the more utility troops now though, so where does that leave me, army-wise?
So, as I think I said before, I’m playing these chaps as Sa’cea Sept when I get to my first game with them, as that is the colour scheme that I am using. Sa’cea gives my infantry Dense Cover when they are targeted from more than 12” away (Dense Cover is -1 to hit, so that’s nice). Vehicles get the same when they’re targeted from more than 18” away, though I don’t yet have any vehicles in the list. Finally, Vehicles and Battlesuits can fire heavy weapons in close combat with no penalty, which is also irrelevant just now as all of my Battlesuit units are equipped with Assault weapons. But anyway!
For the time being, I am considering this force to be working around the Crisis Team. I’ve talked many times in the past about building an army around a unit or group of units, and for the time being, my Crisis Team is that unit. These guys can move 10” and, thanks to the suite of weapons that I have equipped them with, I’m hopeful that they will be quite a deadly mobile threat. Two guys have got plasma rifles and burst cannons, missile pods and multi-trackers, and the shas’vre has a cyclic ion blaster, fusion blaster, early warning override and missile pod. From the missile pods, that is 6 shots with a 30” range, S7, AP-2 and 2 damage each. So that’s quite nice for some high-toughness models if I need to clear them out. There are 12 burst cannon shots, which are only S5 and AP0 D1, but that’ll be good for going against some marine equivalent types, and is the reason for bringing the multi-tracker on those guys, as that piece of kit gives exploding 6s to hit when targeting a unit with 6 or more models. So those two pieces of kit go hand in hand quite nicely, I think. The sergeant equivalent here, the shas’vre, has got a cyclic ion blaster which is three shots at S7 AP-2 and D1, but it can be overcharged for S8 AP-2 D2, much like a plasma gun for the Imperium. It’s only 18” range, but with each model having 4 wounds, it might not be too much to worry about overcharging it at least once in the game for some additional damage. I think that I see myself targeting characters or monster-like creatures with that the most, as it has a potential for some high damage output and stuff. And it’s a similar story for the remaining weapons, really. Plasma rifles have a huge threat range of 30” and, while only one shot each, they are firing that shot at S8 AP-4 and D3. So it has the potential to put some serious holes in things. On top of that, the squad leader has a fusion blaster, which is the Tau equivalent of a meltagun, 18” range with one shot at S8 AP-4 Dd6, though that increases to d6+2 at half range. So there is some degree of lethality among the more suppressive-fire style of weaponry. In total, 24 shots will be coming out of the team, with exploding 6s from the two guys.
Now, the elephant in the room of course is that Crisis Suits are hitting on 4s. However, I’m bringing two Marker Drones for them to use, which will potentially grant +1 to hit against the unit hit by the markerlight, so I have two possibilities with having the two drones, but remember I’m backing the army up with 2 groups of 10 Pathfinders, who together are firing 15 markerlights. So I’m thinking that Pathfinders will be the key element in lighting up the field at the start of the turn, especially as they have the vanguard move, and can fire markerlights at the end of the movement phase, to keep that mobility.
That’s pretty much going to be the beauty of having so many Pathfinders on the board. While I do have some of the fancy tech in those teams as well, I am predominantly using them for the markerlights, with any shots that they can put out being bonus. They have three rail rifles between the two groups, which are nice one shot S8 AP-4 D3 weapons that dish out mortal wounds on a successful wound roll, and two ion rifles which are similar to the cyclic ion blaster, though unfortunately Heavy rather than Assault. 30 pulse carbine shots will be good for harassment though, and I think that’s going to be my secondary use for these guys. Each squad also has a Recon Drone, which comes with a burst cannon, so depending on how I’m able to string everything out in the battlefield, the Pathfinders have the potential to be quite a disruptive unit, while simultaneously providing the support for the big guns from stuff like the Crisis Team.
Adding to that level of disruption is the new tech on the Pathfinders, one piece of which is the Neuroweb System Jammer. This simply makes the unit available to use the stratagem of the same name, which gives one unit within 18” of it -1 to hit until the start of my next shooting phase. It’s all about being annoying, but I think this is a good place to start talking stratagems. There are some fairly decent ones in here that should be very useful throughout the game. Dynamic Offensive stands out for me as a perfect fit for my Crisis Team, as for 1CP I can advance them a straight 6” and they don’t suffer the penalty for advancing and firing Assault weapons. So straightaway I’m getting a 16” move with them, and some of those guns had a 30” range to them, meaning that unit is one that you have to take notice of. The Coldstar Commander does allow them to advance a straight 8”, though without negating the penalty. The Repulsor Impact Field can be useful in a pinch, shortening charge moves against Battlesuit units by 2”, so if a unit had only just made a charge, I can turn that off for some defensive capability. Jet Pack units also have a fire and move stratagem for 1CP, so I could move the Crisis Team the 16”, shoot, then make a normal move of 6” afterwards. Wow!
There’s an interesting stratagem that effectively allows you to catch a unit in a crossfire: pick an enemy unit, and two friendly units that are within 18” of that enemy and visible to it. They can only attack that unit, but they improve the AP by 1 for that attack. It might not be something that I lavish on the Crisis Suits, or even the Pathfinders, as they have specialist weapons and whatnot. But when I have a second group of Fire Warriors, I’ll be absolutely aiming to set this sort of thing up, for pulse rifles or pulse blasters shooting at AP-2! On top of that, there is the Relentless Fusillade stratagem that allows a Strike Team to make double the shots regardless of rapid fire range, and improve the AP. And that doesn’t take account of the Mont’ka Philosophy of War that improves AP! 20 shots from what you thought was a basic gun, coming at you with AP-4? What’s not to like there! Finally, there’s another interesting one, Shocking Firestorm, where each model destroyed by a shooting attack counts as two models for the purposes of Morale. I think that could be useful where I’m only targeting the unit with a couple of guns, so I’m not expecting too many great things. Interesting options, though!
I mentioned the Fire Warriors just now, I don’t think I’m going to be doing a great deal of anything too fancy with them, as they’re basic troops (albeit with S5 AP-1 D1 guns). That leaves the two HQs. The Ethereal on Hover Drone has got his Chaplain-like Invocations ability, where he can intone one of the two Invocations he knows. Storm of Fire allows a nearby Core unit to shoot without any actions failing, and Zephyr’s Grace gives -1 to hit against a nearby Core unit. He’s a handy utility guy, with some melee capability, though I don’t think I’m going to be throwing him into close combat!
The Coldstar Commander is one of my favourite models in the Tau range, and is coming with a lot of firepower. For starters, I’ve given him the airbursting fragmentation projector, almost because it’s such a ridiculous sounding weapon that I can’t help but like the sound of it! A blast weapon, it’ll be firing at least 3 shots (or “bomblets” as the 6th Edition codex puts it) against a unit of 10 men at S4 AP-1 D1, and you can target units not visible to the bearer. The high-output burst cannon is Assault 10, which I did have to double check when I first came across it, but there it is, and those ten shots are at S5 AP-1 D1. He also has a missile pod for a further 2 shots as already described. You might be thinking, that’s not particularly scary, and in all honesty you’re right; I’ve given him a shield generator for a 4++ and a Gun Drone to get a bit of extra damage out, but he’s not about drawing attention to himself like that. His Signature System has some built-in defence, whereby melee attacks are -1 to hit against him, and anybody in combat with him will fight last. He does have the Prototype System whereby he can drop grenades on top of a unit he has moved over on a 2+, dishing out D3 mortal wounds, so there is a bit more damage output there, and his Warlord Trait allows for a bit more accuracy as he can re-roll hits and re-roll wounds. But while he’s hopefully not going to be a washout, he isn’t screaming “come target me!”
But a model that is pumping out potentially 15-18 shots per round with a fairly decent accuracy must still be taken notice of, which leads me to the over-arching plan for the army: target saturation. If the Pathfinders are being annoying as hell, but they’re on opposite sides of the field; if the Crisis Team is being mobile and deadly, and you can’t keep up with them; if there are 20 pulse rifle shots coming from the Fire Warriors, with the support turret shooting out 4 grenades at units you thought were in cover – where do you concentrate your fire? There is a lot that is going to be coming at you, and with some careful positioning, I think it should be quite horrendous to face Tau in their shooting phase before you can begin to think about tying them up in melee.
Without trying to get ahead of myself, my immediate plans for the army after I’m finished painting the Crisis Team and the HQs is to add in a Breacher Team. While I do like Relentless Fusillade for the improved AP shenanigans, I think variety is nice, and they do have the stratagem to re-roll wounds and negate cover. Their pulse blaster is a shorter range, though can potentially be quite deadly in the unit is firing within 8”. That will also bring the list up to around about the 960 points mark, so I can start to think about planning in some 1000 point games!
As I said at the top, I have been doing a bit of historical research about the army and seeing how it has transferred from 6th/7th edition, through 8th and into 9th edition. As it happens, the cost of this army has come down quite a lot, from 1022 in 6th to 888 in 8th, and now 848 points. Of course, some stuff like the Crisis Suits and the Coldstar have illegal load-outs when you compare them with how they could be built back in the day. What has surprised me the most, I think, is how the Crisis Team has changed in costing, coming in at more than 100 points more expensive last edition. I’m hopeful that they will really be the stars of the show, though, and while I’m fully prepared to see them wiped off the table before they can do anything, I am keen to see how they do in the real world as opposed to all this paper lark!
I suggested at the top that the list isn’t going to be great, and then rambled for ages about how good I think everything is going to work together. Well, that’s still true, I think it will work really well, but it definitely needs something more than I have right now. More troops will definitely be handy, and the Breachers will take care of that. I am thinking that I might get myself a couple of transports for some greater flexibility, plus the Devilfish also has the option for that vanguard move at the start of the game, to give greater deployment capabilities. The true centrepiece of the army that I am working towards, however, is going to be the Riptide. That beast is definitely going to be a distraction for the rest of the army, no matter how he’s equipped. I do like the heavy burst cannon for its 12 shots at S6 AP-2 D2 each, though do I arm him with two plasma rifles or two fusion blasters? Both are very interesting options, but I think it’s going to be some time before I have to make that decision. At any rate, having a Knight equivalent striding around is going to take the heat from the Crisis Team, I think, who will likely still be causing carnage among everything else, so I’m hoping that this will prove to be a really nice army to play, when I get it to the table!
Buying a unit and then painting it has definitely been the way to go for me this time around, though. Even though I have the Combat Patrol box in hand while I’m still working on the other stuff, I don’t feel overwhelmed this time around, and it’s all really quite manageable. Other projects, the Sisters being a case in point, are kinda dragging me down by the amount of stuff that I have for them, and I really don’t have that same level of excitement and positivity about those projects as I do about the Tau. Who knew plastic could have such a profound effect on a guy?!