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It's been a case of all-hobby, no-bloggy for the last few months. The new edition of 40k has reinvigorated my motivation to build a...

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Analysis: Codex Tau Empire Preview #2

More leaked rules for the impending Tau Empire release have emerged, and more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle now fall into place. What can we glean from the latest information?

Clunky Drones

Each XV95 Ghostkeel battlesuit automatically comes with two MV5 Stealth Drones included in its base points cost. The Ghostkeel has Stealth on its own, and the Stealth Drones confer Stealth to their unit; however, any models that already had Stealth gets Shrouded from the Drones instead. But since it only takes one model in a unit with Shrouded to share its benefit, the Drones end up getting Shrouded back from the Ghostkeel anyway. These are extremely clunky rules!

Now this could just be extremely poor rules design, but an alternative theory is that the new MV5 Stealth Drones can be taken by other units too—the Drones would buff any Tau unit they join, but are best at buffing their 'parent' unit. If this is the case, these clunky Drone rules would instead represent a great design feature for the new Tau.

This alternative theory is supported by the newly leaked rules for Fire Warrior Breachers and MV36 Guardian Drones. Guardian Drones confer a 6++ invulnerable save to their unit, or a 5++ invulnerable save to any model with a Field Amplifier Relay (each Breacher has one). Breacher squads don't come with Guardian Drones by default—but their squad leaders have the option to take up to two Drones from "the Drones list". Now it would be very strange for Breachers not to have access to Guardian Drones, so we can logically assume that Guardian Drones are present on "the Drones list". It is not a great leap of faith to then assume that other units with access to "the Drones list" could take Guardian Drones (or Stealth Drones) too!

Having a greater variety of Drones available to various Tau units would go a long way to improving their competitive viability and diversity.

The Missile, It Must Be Pointy!

Breacher squads have the option to purchase a DS8 Tactical Support Turret for 10 pts. These Turrets remind me of Eldar Heavy Weapon Platforms from their 3rd and 4th Ed codexes; you essentially get a heavy weapon on an extra 'placeholder' model attached to the squad that shoots but cannot itself be targeted. From what we've seen of their rules so far, the Turrets come with either a Smart Missile System or a Missile Pod for the same 10 pts price tag. They also have BS3, instead of shitty Drone BS2.

In my last post I hypothesised that Missile Pods would be revised to a S5 AP5 random-multi-shot weapon, in line with the missile weapon on the new KV128 Stormsurge (S5 AP5 4D6 shots). I also suggested that Tau basic infantry would be further marginalised if mass S5 became available to other parts of the army list. So how does this new information affect this hypothesis?

On one side of the argument—if missile weapons are not being changed—then giving basic infantry units access to long-ranged S7 firepower is a great boon to the new Tau. For a measly 55 pts you could get an Objective Secured squad with an Autocannon-equivalent (I'll take six, kthxbai). If we assume that the full range of Drones are available to every unit, then for probably sub-100 pts we could add a squad leader and a couple of Missile Drones and enjoy even more backfield Objective-camping dakka. This would provide Tau with excellent MSU potential that they sorely lack in their current book.

On the other side of the argument—if missile weapons are changing to mass S5—then making the Missile Pod and Smart Missile System versions of the turret equally priced (and cheaper than the inferior Missile Drone) would make a lot more sense. It would also cement the role of Fire Warriors as anti-personnel shooters, and prevent squads of Missile Drones becoming the new Scatterbikes.

At this stage, I still think a missile weapon change is more likely than not, but we shall see.

Point Blank Pew-Pew

Both the Stormsurge and Breachers have a weapon with variable profile at different ranges. This oddity used to be reserved for the exotic Conversion Beamer, but the Adeptus Mechanicus releases earlier this year introduced more range-variable profile weapons to 40k. Someone in the design studio obviously likes this gimmick, since it has popped up again in the new Tau rules.

I'm going to withhold judgement on the viability of 'aggressive Tau' at this stage; it certainly seems like you could build a Stormsurge + Breacher Fish of Fury list to get up close and personal with the enemy, but I'm still not convinced that such a strategy would be better than engaging at stand-off range.

I suspect that we will see new Astra Militarum in the not-too-distant future, and that GW are doing this to Tau in an attempt to further differentiate the two archetypical 'shooty Factions'.


So where to from here? I expect that the trickle-release won't last much longer, and that we'll see a new codex within the next couple of weeks. From what we've seen so far, Tau could be getting a really big shake-up. I'm still hanging on to see if/how Markerlights have changed, and what new Formations we get with the new codex and associated campaign supplements. Exciting times!


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