Saturday, November 28, 2015

New 7th Edition Tau Codex Review (2 of 2) - New Units and Formations

The last post covered all of the minor changes from this book to the last. This post will be about all of the new stuff. I think we can all agree that none of us expected there to be quite so much new stuff in this book. We expected/hoped for new Crisis suits and Fire Warriors and probably thought there'd be a new big kit but hands up who really thought you'd see Tau scenery!?! Today I'll talk about the new units and where they slot into the army.

Breacher Teams
Costing the same as the newly renamed "Strike Team", the Breacher teams share the same stats and basic equipment as their more familiar cousins. They still get photon grenades and are still awful in combat. Both units now get the option for a Tactical Support Turret too which give you a BS3 missile pod or SMS when you're stationary. They're probably more suited to the Strike Teams but for just slightly more than a Fire Warrior I'd be very tempted. An SMS fires like four pulse rifle FWs at long range and two of them (without Ethereal) at short range. Bargain. Of course, you don't get an extra model for morale etc but if you're taking that Ethereal who cares?

Anyway, for Breacher teams the big deal is their weapon, the pulse blaster. It's an incredibly short range weapon. At anything above 10" you're better with a pulse rifle or carbine but under 5" is where it gets interesting as they're basically marine killers. Don't forget if you're near an Ethereal it'll be 3 shots at 5" too. That means 30 S6 AP3 shots. Throw in a couple of marker hits and that's death to anything with a 3+ save. Don't get too excited though to get that kind of range you either need to be hopping out of a Devilfish or about to be charged. Neither of which will result in a long and prosperous life for your Fire Warriors. Even if you shell out for a Guardian Drone to combine with the field amp relay for a 5++ save, they're still just Fire Warriors. Personally I say keep them cheap as possible and make a bee-line for something juicy. I'm thinking Deamon Princes for example.

I think they're an interesting unit though and I'm going to give them a go with a bit of proxying before committing to any models. They bring back the good old Fish o'Fury from the good old days and that's no bad thing in my book. The problem comes in subsequent turns. You'll either have to saddle back up and move onto to the next target or hope that something is daft enough to come close. It's very easy to avoid them after that first punishing fusillade.

Ghostkeel Battlesuits
This most important thing to note here is that, either in a CAD or Hunter Cadre (as part of the Hunter Contingent), Ghostkeels compete with Riptides and Crisis teams. That's already a pretty big ask but then I suppose it depends on your playstyle (and whether you're using formations or not).

Ghostkeels are T5 MCs with four wounds a 3+ save. On its own that doesn't sound like much but throw in the included Stealth Drones and things get interesting. There's a bit of debate about this but personally I think the Ghostkeel gains Stealth AND Shrouded as a result of the drones, whereas the drones just get Stealth. Throw in the electrowarfare suite and that's a 2+ cover save over 12" and 4+ the rest of the time. Assuming there's no Ignores Cover for your opponent (which is a big assumption), the Ghostkeel becomes pretty durable. The drones can be thrown in harm's way too as ablative wounds. Even with both drones gone the Ghostkeel gets a 3+ cover save. That's not all though, once per game they get to force a unit to fire Snap Shots at them. That could make a huge difference against say, grav-gun toting bikers. Defensively they look pretty interesting then.

For that chunk of points though I'm going to want some offensive capability. First off they've got a twin-linked flamer but I think I'd probably always be paying the price for the twin-linked fusion blaster. The main gun though is the fusion collider which is a blast fusion gun. That makes for a pretty decent anti-tank combo albeit at close range. That means either deep striking or trying to JSJ across the board and survive long enough to get close to a tank. Of course, like any melta equipped unit they're going to work well against heavily armoured infantry too.

Alternatively you could throw on a twin-linked burst cannon and the cyclic ion raker and go after infantry (or light vehicles for that matter). A six-shot auto-cannon isn't awful and the option to overheat for a S8 large blast is nice too. It's difficult to say which combination is better really. I suppose it depends on the needs of your army. I can't help but think that other units fill this role perfectly well already though. I'd lean towards the melta option as I think Tau can often struggle against targets they can't just bring down with weight of fire.

At the moment I'm not really rushing to buy one or more of these guys. Mind you, I wasn't blown away by the Riptide when I first read the rules (and I still maintain they can be hit and miss). Perhaps then, the Ghostkeel will grow on me.

Stormsurge Battlesuits
Being a Lord of War there's no competition for the Stormsurge (outside of FW). The only question is will you fork out the hefty price tag for a model with a 3+ save?

The main temptation with the Stormsurge is it's damage output so let's start there. For starters, being a gargantuan creature means firing at multiple targets. This means you can be peppering a couple of objective grabbing units with shots from the cluster rockets, AFP and SMS whilst taking on an Imperial Knight with the main gun and destroyer missiles. Speaking of which, you need some sort of markerlight support to use the Stormsurge to it's full potential. You could easily destroy an opposing super heavy if you got enough hits. You'll be wanting quite a few hits though to give you enough to boost the BS and fire the missiles at strength D.

The anchors are an interesting idea. It's a shame you can't start the game "anchored" though. Having at alpha strike on turn 1 would be nice. The issue with the anchors is that your opponent may just keep out of range. Perhaps that's a good thing though as you'll be keeping out of combat. I think I'll need to play a couple of games with mine to decide.

I think you'd always want to stick with the pulse blastcannon over the pulse driver. If the driver was AP1 I'd be more tempted but since it costs extra I really don't see a reason to ditch the D, even if it is short range (childish snigger). Again it depends on the role though. The driver does allow you to sit back and hammer vehicles at long range and therefore protects you better in combat but I think the role of the stormsurge is to sit front and centre and hammer stuff as hard as possible whilst taking the brunt of the enemy firepower. I can't see them surviving a lot of games but their presence will probably keep the rest of your army alive.

How long will it survive though? Well T6 is pretty poor for a gargantuan creature. Riptides aren't that difficult to drop and they have a 2+/5++ save. Chucking on a shield generator is probably a good idea. It may push the stormsurge above 400 pts but I think it's necessary. Don't forget you'll be getting FNP of course and a semi-immunity to poisoned. There's a chance that your opponent might ignore the Stormsurge completely and focus on the rest of your army but I think that's unlikely.

Tau Tidewall
Frustratingly absent from the codex, the Tidewall is a complete new range of kits like the Wall of Martyrs that can be used in various combinations. Kauyon has some formations for them but the basic rules are in the box. I picked up a set and it's great kit.

Rules-wise I'm not totally convinced. Having a re-roll of 1s would make a huge difference to anything standing on it that has been boosted to BS5 by markers but it does force you into a (reasonably) static playstyle. That's not going to be a big deal for Broadside spamming armies but I prefer a pretty mobile cadre. Hold on a minute though, seriously, this will be disgusting for Broadside spam lists. They're already pretty horrific and now they'll be behind a 4+ cover save and hitting more accurately. Joy.

I really love the kit and it'll look great when I eventually get around to doing my desert table (my winter table hasn't exactly flown of the production line mind you). I'll probably use it as scenery though rather than as a part of my army.

The Hunter Contingent & Formations
So the Hunter Contingent is the Tau version of what was started with the Necron Decurion. It's basically a shopping list as far as I'm concerned but let's take a look anyway. The Coordinated Firepower rule is the reason to take this detachment as it gives a massive boost to markerlights. You only need a handful of hits for a huge portion of your army to benefit. It also means that other rules will carry across too. Correct me if I'm wrong but a buff-commander could boost half the army in this way? If so, that's obscene even before you factor in the +1BS for 3 or more units. Normally you'd be forced to take a unit that you wouldn't normally but with Tau that isn't an issue. The Hunter Cadre basically has everything you'd want to take anyway. Sure you might not want three units of kroot/fire warriors but generally speaking that's what I'd be putting in my list in a CAD! The detachment also let's you get around the problem with the bodyguards moving to Elites too by including a Contingent HQ.

Let's look at the individual formations now:

  • Contingent HQ/Drone Network/Assigned Air Cast Asset - basically allowing you to take a Commander/Ethereal, drone unit or flyer without taking another formation to do so. No bonuses of course. 
  • Hunter Cadre - as if the bonus from the Hunter Contingent wasn't enough a boost to 12" of supporting fire radius means a massive blow to assault centric armies. Adding in a Tau version of Eldar's Battle Focus pushes it to ridiculous, particularly for vehicles (although it doesn't clarify how many weapons they can shoot at full BS).
  • Optimised Stealth Cadre - Here's the silly one. Giving automatic Ignores Cover and increased BS (again to BS5 probably) is harsh enough. Throw in hitting rear armour and we might actually have found a use for stealth suits.  I do think people are getting over excited about this formation though. They aren't all that tough to deal with.
  • Retaliation Cadre - Probably means quite a chunk of points off the table which would be pretty risky when going second. I'm not sure the +1 BS is worth it, although it would probably mean BS5 for the most part when combined with the Coordinated Firepower rule. 
  • Allied Advance Cadre - if you're already taking three Kroot units in the Hunter Cadre I can't see you wanting 4 more and being forced to take Vespids too. 
  • Firebase Support Cadre - a remake of the dataslate formation sold previously and I can't see anywhere that says it replaces it. To my mind then the other one is still a valid option. Let me know if I've missed something though. Anyway, the new one makes you fire everything at the same target to get a bonus. It does boost markerlight hits but often you'd want to pick separate targets.
  • Air Caste Support Cadre - I do think the Sun Shark is underrated but even so I'm not going to take 3 Tau flyers any time soon. The bonuses here aren't much good when you've got to survive long enough to repair an 11-10-10 flyer.
  • Infiltration Cadre - These are all units that are of debatable value in your army so the special rules would need to be great. I'm not convinced they do though so if you want these units fine but I think there's better ways to field them.
  • Heavy Retribution Cadre - Not far off 1,000 pts including upgrade even if we assume just one of each suit per unit. The sacrificial lamb of a Ghostkeel does make for some potent Stormsurges though. Wouldn't be too hard to keep things in 12" of it with JSJ either. Monsoon of Destruction helps protect the Ghostkeel too. 
  • Armoured Interdiction Cadre - Not sure I'd want to take 3 Hammerheads and a Sky Ray in a sub-2K army but the re-roll to hit is pretty nice. Shouldn't be too hard to pick a point within 6" of a couple of juicy targets either.
There's a general theme with the formations and the Hunter Contingent itself in that it minimises the need for markerlights. You'll still want to take some but they're boosted in effectiveness and therefore less important. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I really hate formations. You can try to convince me they create new and exciting ways to play the game but basically they're just making already powerful armies more powerful in a perverse arms race that makes some of the already weaker armies next to useless. If you need formations to help you imagine ways to combine units for a tactical effect then go for it but I like to come up with my own combinations with just the units themselves. They're an inevitable part of the game though as GW tries to convince people they need more stuff. They're what's putting me off going to tournaments more than anything else though. Not only that but they're adding an unnecessary extra level of complexity to the game.

I don't think any of these new units jump out at me as must-haves. In another army perhaps they would but Tau already have so many solid units. The Ghostkeel is stuck in a no-man's land where it doesn't have a definite role (unless you take the formation). The Breacher team could be devastating but is a bit of a glass cannon and the Stormsurge is only really worth the money if it's got its anchors out.

Ultimately I'm pleased that Tau got some new units to mix things up a bit. It's a shame that some of the silliness didn't get addressed but I think I was being optimistic hoping for that. I've had a mixed relationship with my Tau since the last book. I loved them before the book and struggled with their outdated rules. The new book came along and made them super powered and made everyone assume you were jumping on the bandwagon by fielding them. I think the problem with Tau and formations is that usually you're being forced to take a substandard unit to make everything else in the formation better. There aren't really many even below-average units in the Tau arsenal though so there aren't really downsides to these formations to justify the buffs. I think that all of the formations saying "Restrictions: None" is pretty telling too.

I'm not sure I'll pick up much of the new stuff but of course, thanks to the lovely Blog Wars competitors, I'm off to build my new Stormsurge now so we'll soon get some after action thoughts! Perhaps I'll feel differently then.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

New 7th Edition Tau Codex Review (1 of 2) - Spot The Difference!

Apologies for the delay in reacting to the new book but thanks to the fantastic people who come to Blog Wars, I'm now the proud owner of a copy of the new Tau codex and a Stormsurge battlesuit. Expect to see more of the latter in upcoming posts but it's the former I want to talk about today. Whilst we've had several 7th edition books that don't feature massive changes, this new Tau codex is the first to see hardly any changes to the existing units. I had a discussion with Gareth Newton-Williams (who kindly organised the whip-round at BWX that bought me my codex) and I was saying that I couldn't really justify buying it. With the rules for the new units published in WD (or in the kits themselves) and pretty much every formation from the codex leaked online it seemed unnecessary. GW also took the strange step of saying you could buy the Kauyon campaign book to get all the new rules instead. The campaign book that costs £45 instead of £30 for the codex. What is a pain in the arse though is that the Tidewall isn't in the codex but does appear in Kauyon but that's no accident let's face it.

Don't get me wrong I'm tempted by the campaign books in their own right but don't try to sell them to me as an alternative to a codex! Anyway, moving on. This will just take a couple of posts rather than my usual several posts since not a lot has changed.

The Book
The cover art is just a recoloured version of the beautiful Raymond Swanland piece that adorned the "old" book. The spines are identical and the inside cover is the same artwork but red instead of blue?!? The most noticeable difference inside is the switch from predominantly ochre Tau to the white colour scheme of the Vior'la sept. Personally I think it's a nice change to break up them monotony of the yellowy-brownness. I like how the new kits look in white and I only wish I'd persevered with white Tau instead of copping out and going for grey. Otherwise the big change in the book is the now familiar switch to dataslates. I've already expressed my views on this but I'm slowly coming round to them. There are also some of these 2D colour scheme pictures which are essentially page fillers as far as I'm concerned.

New Models
It's great to finally have some new kits for Crisis suits and the Commander. The interim new commander kit that came in finecast was a bit of a disappointment for me. I bought one but never assembled it so it went on
eBay. The new crisis suits are great though. I was worried they'd change to the more curvy aesthetic of the FW suits but I'm pleased to see the same basic look with a few minor tweaks and a lot more pose-ability. I'm tempted to buy a set and magnetise them for every weapon just to replace some of the incredibly static poses I created with the old kit thanks to my poor early modelling skills.

The Ghostkeel and Stormsurge are taking Tau even further down the road towards Gundam etc. I'm actually a big fan of both of them and I think it's a great touch to be able to see the pilots. Without that you can start to feel that these suits are just monstrous creatures and forget that they're immense feats of technology. Finally, the new Fire Warriors are again a subtle improvement and I like the look of the new Breacher team. I'll probably playtest them a bit with pathfinder proxies before I commit to any but they're certainly nice to look at. I defy anyone to tell the difference between the Strike team models and the old ones without a thorough inspection. Still, it's nice to see GW update some tired kits and it gives me hope for some other models that need it (here's looking at you, CSM).

Changes to Existing Stuff
The Kauyon book has a handy guide to the seven minor changes to the book. There's nothing particularly earth-shattering here.

  • Commanders can now be fielded as a XV86 Coldstar with fixed weapons. That's a 6 shot twin-linked burst cannon and a missile pod to be precise. It becomes a somewhat limited FMC which basically just gives it faster movement and increased durability. I don't think it's worth the trade off for the limited weapons though and forces him to run solo for an extra 70% of his original cost. Think I'll pass.
  • Ethereals can now take recon armour which is meh (but perhaps if you've got 5pts burning a hole in your pocket) and a hover drone which is equally meh. Other than that they've just clarified Storm of Fire doesn't affect Stormsurges! I'm frankly amazed that GW realised this as I'm sure the interwebs would've figured that one out quickly and it would never have been FAQ'd.
  • Fire Warriors as we knew them are now Strike Teams and get the option to take a support turret (more on them in the next post) but are otherwise identical. Well, apart from the minimum squad size now being 5 instead of 6. That might sound insignificant but for those who want to just take minimum troops in a CAD and have more points for bigger toys that makes two FW units 30 pts cheaper than two Kroot units. The Kroot are probably of more use but 30pts is a lot!
  • Darkstrider's Fight on Foot rule is updated to include Breacher teams.
  • Crisis bodyguards move from slotless (effectively) to Elites. This is a bit of a pain in the arse if you're sticking to a CAD. I often used it to allow me to take a crisis team with my commander plus a second team in Elites alongside two Riptides. Both crisis teams and crisis bodyguards can now be taken in units of upto 9 models though which makes things interesting. Not saying I'm going to field 9 of them regularly but might consider 4-5 every so often.
  • Riptides, Hammerheads and Sky Rays can now be taken in units of three and gain the Fire Team special rule. Not that excited about fielding any of these in units. If anything I think it harms them. You don't want your Riptides in a big unit that can be charged and taken out of the game. Better to split them up and deploy them separately. Likewise for the tanks too. Of course the Riptides can be given target locks to help matters but still. Fire Team is a nice bonus but I'm not sure I want two together in a unit, never mind three. Time will tell I suppose.
  • Finally, markerlights got some minor wording changes plus the addition of the Destroyer option. This upgrades the Stormsurges destroyer missiles to D. That's a big deal but more on that in the next post.
Not much has changed really. You might think I'd see that as a good thing. In a way I do but I really think that some things needed to go from the old book. I don't hold with the view that Devilfish need to come down in price. They're 12-11-10 and those extra drones can be a pain in the arse (ask Matt). Likewise I think everything else is reasonably costed with one major exception: Signature Systems. Part of me wanted them changed completely but I'd have also settled for a massive points hike. Compared to every other book's "relics", the signature systems are just too cheap for what they do. I know the MSSS and CaCN stop you from firing but ask anyone who's played against a buff-commander (again, Matt) what they thinks of that. It might sound crazy for a Tau player to be asking for stuff to be toned down but they're just daft at times. They're probably no worse than some of the formations in this book (more on them in the next post) and obviously I'm not being forced to take a buff-commander but it frustrates me that they're pretty much an auto-include.  

Think what you will of the new Necron book but at least silliness like Mindshackle Scarabs and Tesla on Snap Shots was sorted out. People already hate Tau for their ridiculous rules and I feel that this codex isn't going to help matters. It's frustrating when you think back to those heady days before the Necron and Eldar books dropped when it looked like GW might actually find a balancing point. Play Wolves, GK, BA etc against each other and you get some great games. Granted DE was a clusterfuck and Orks still struggle at times but generally speaking they're quite balanced between each other. I welcome the new units for some variety but I fear we'll still just see broadside-spam and other such silliness. 

Right, that'll do for today. In Friday's post I'll talk about the new units (yay!) and formations (sigh). Incidentally, if you're planning on buying any of the new Tau stuff you should check out Element Games who offer discounts and use the banner on the right which helps support From The Fang too. Totally optional of course but I appreciate it.

EDIT: I didn't get round to writing the second post like I intended so it'll probably come on tomorrow night (Saturday) instead.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Blog Wars Feedback Discussion

Normally at this point in the posting schedule following a Blog Wars event I'd be asking for feedback to try and make the next BW better. However, as you've probably already read, BWX was the last Blog Wars event. That means that rather than informing my choices for the next Blog Wars. This discussion will help with what's to come. I'll be announcing my proposed ideas early next week but in the mean time I want to hear your suggestions for what I can make better or do completely differently. I think BW grew from humble beginnings into a brilliant event (if I do say so myself) and it only did so because you guys had a say in the running of it. Going forward I want to continue that system of cooperation.

To give a bit of structure to this let's look at some of the key areas I want to cover:

Scoring System
Of course, the new events may not share the same system but I want to know what you guys thought of the use of the "Fluffageddon" system this time around. Do you think your placings better represented how your day went? Do you still feel like you had good matchups? Do you think it make any difference at all?

I'm keen to maintain the BW-style system where how well you win actually matters. I don't like pure W/D/L as it doesn't differentiate between a narrow victory and a pasting. Equally I want each round to be worth the same number of tournament points regardless of the scenario being played. Hopefully that means the particular matchup you get is less important.

Think back over as many Blog Wars as you've been to (and can remember). What scenarios worked and what didn't? I think those that worked best were ones that only slightly varied from the rulebook missions and weren't overcomplicated. I'd like to try some different things out though so any suggestions or just things you've liked that you want to see return would be great.

Painting Competition
BWX saw the first outing of a single category per player painting competition. There were three categories: Best Painted Army, Best Painted Hero and Best Conversions. I personally think it worked pretty well and rewarded different aspects of the hobby. Best Army obviously goes to a force which appears full cohesive and stands out on the battlefield whereas Best Conversions showcases those armies that feature unique models that have been slaved over before paint even hits them. Best Hero on the other hand allows players to really go to town on a single model and show off their painting and conversion talents to the maximum. Obviously this fits in well with the compulsory SC mechanic at BW. The general impression I got was that people like the new format to the competition (well, everyone except Liam!) but any feedback would be great.

At GW events they've started to introduce several categories for individual models. They have one for characters but also separate categories for monsters and for vehicles. I could introduce these at the next event but my concern would be that there'd be too much to judge in such a short lunch break. I think three categories is probably the maximum but what do you guys think?

Venue and Lunch
I have a good relationship with both Darran (the owner) and Element Games (the in-house shop) so I'm keep to stay at the NWGC but I know it isn't perfect. What could I suggest to the venue to improve things or should I be looking elsewhere?

At the last couple of events the catering has come from Subway which seems to have gone down well. They're pretty good at handling allergies and dietary requirements too. I also think a cold lunch makes sense as then it's not going cold if it arrives too early or the event is running late for some reason. A hot lunch is great but inevitably takes more time. What do you guys think though?

Timings and Points Limits
Part of the reason for having a limit of 1,850 was to allow people plenty of space to include SCs without it feeling like too much of a penalty. I think it also helps to increase the variety of armies showing up. There have been comments before about the timings though and not having enough time for games. There didn't seem to be many games that came down to the wire this time but I obviously can't really tell how many turns people are managing to get through? Would a points limit of 1,750 be more sensible or should I even go as far as 1,500? Given that whatever event I run will have an emphasis on friendly gaming rather than outright competition perhaps a lower limit would allow for more relaxed games in the time? That or I could even up it to four two-hour games perhaps?

What kind of events would you like to attend?
I've flirted with the idea of running different kinds of events in the past but never really got away from the one-day singles format. Would people be up for trying something different like doubles or a full weekend event?

I've shied away from full weekends so far because they're a big drain on my time and for a casual event I doubt many people would commit to a full weekend either. If there's a huge demand though perhaps I can talk my wife into it! Doing something with doubles or teams appeals though. Matt and I have always enjoyed the GW doubles events but since they now allow EVERYTHING, including Unbound, we haven't been so keen. Blog Wars was originally invented in a backlash to the stingy prizes at GW events and the way they were run so perhaps I can take on doubles next? Teams are an interesting idea too. Of course it relies on you having another 3 guys to join you but I could easily take entries for singles and create teams on the day.

It could also be fun to run a smaller points limit skirmish day with say 500pts a piece and a lot more games? I've enjoyed the Summer Skirmish events in the past using this format but you soon grow to hate your 500pts if you realise early on you got the level completely wrong and then have to play through another 7 games!

Anything else you want to throw at me is equally welcome. As far as I know right now BWX went well but if there was something that pissed you off (or that you thought was excellent for that matter) I'd like to hear it. I already have in mind the kind of events I'd like to run in the next year but I'm always open to suggestions for the future. Right, hit me with it!


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