Saturday, April 06, 2013

First Impressions of the New Tau Codex

Well I'm sure I won't be the only person who posts up about this but hopefully people will find my take on it interesting nonetheless.

The first thing to say is, like the previous three codices (can you believe we're onto number 4 for 6th?), stunning to look at. The artwork is stunning. Now I know there's a hefty price tag for these new books but they're a massive jump in quality improvement over the previous versions.

Anyway, I'll not go into the fluff too much as, as you might expect I haven't had much time to look through it yet. This will instead be a run down of the new rules for units and how I think they'll perform in the game now. I'll work through them in unit entry order. I apologise in advance for the wall of text!

Army Wide Rules
Bonding knives are the same as they were in the old codex in that you can always regroup at full Leadership. All of the suits units, fire warriors and pathfinders can take them but unless you're giving drones to the suits then there's no point as they'll never be less than 25%. Worth considering for the little guys though but do you really want a better chance to save 2-3 guys for about 10pts over a unit?

Supporting Fire is, as we already knew, the ability to overwatch to support units being charged within 6" and pretty much everything has it. Can't really see this having a dramatic effect on its own but combined with some modification from other stuff it might be more potent.

The warlord traits are pretty decent actually. As ever there are better ones and weaker ones but not scattering on deep strike, skyfire for one turn and removing Look Out Sir! rolls could be useful. Half of the traits are a single use only though which, when you take into account the deep strike one only leaves two that apply for the entire game.

Markerlights could be pretty devastating. They haven't changed all that much from before but only needing two markers to totally eliminate a cover save could be huge. Especially against units with steath/shrouded. It appears you could overwatch with markers and then get the benefit from supporting fire too. They can also help boost attempts to shoot flyers. This only really matters for the sky ray when combined with broasides though. Here's a thought for you, 10 pathfinders would get an average of 5 hits. This means a subsequently firing unit of Firewarriors could fire their 24 rapid fire S5 shots at BS6 with Ignores Cover. Good luck to anything with 5+ armour!! Interesting I don't see a limit to the BS boost like their used to be so BS 10 could theoretically be possible unless I've missed something?? Similarly flyers could be hit with BS5 snap shots too!

The other thing to think about is spamming seeker missiles (you could get tons into an army). You could then use pathfinders to shoot vehicles whilst keeping your skyray (or other seeker missile unit) hidden. Interesting stuff.

Still not scoring or denial but there are a lot more varieties now which I'll cover with their respective units. They also don't count towards VPs when taken as upgrades. Interestingly they also don't get removed with the owner but are still destroyed when a vehicle blows up.

The types we're familiar with are back with a couple of changes. All drones are T4 for a start which is nice. Pulse carbines are now two shots so gun drones are well worth their 12pts I reckon. Marker drones don't appear to be networked anymore which is frankly pants. Shield drones are 4+/4++ now instead of taking the save of their respective unit. Missile drones could be fun for adding extra fire power and make a good alternative to gun drones, personally I think you're better taking them over gun drones in most situations.

You can still take squadrons of them but you can now mix the types. Not really likely to see them used like though.

The most notable difference is the Shas'el is nowhere to be seen. Instead we get the Shas'o with the same statline that he had before.

They are leaps and bounds better than they were. They're essentially a walking banner with a 12" morale bubble. Rather than the "whole army legs it" when they die they now give up an extra VP when they die. They then give a 12" bubble of either Stubborn, extra shot with pulse weapons, 6+ FNP or the ability to snap shot when running.

Cadre Fireblades
Decent statline with BS5 and 3 wounds which is already a bargain for 60pts. Frankly these will probably be the go-to-guys for people wanting a cheap HQ in order to take allies. Basically you can pay 114pts for the mininum HQ and Troop and then throw in a riptide and some broadsides. Expect to see A LOT more Tau around! Otherwise they have a markerlight, split fire and give a fire warrior squad an extra shot if they don't move.

Fire Warriors
Much maligned in the previous codex (I was always a fan though), Fire Warriors are now a bargain. 9pts gets you the same statline as before but with photon grenades for free making them effectively 2pts a model cheaper.

Sadly their armour has been cut to 5+ but with carbines now firing 2 shots and the experimental drones they can take, they should make a few appearances. They're 1pt cheaper than before but the big thing for most people will be that the Devilfish is an option now. They keep their locator beacon in the form of the recon drone too but don't require the 'fish to do it. Tank hunting is now possible with AP1 rail rifles but S6 means they're only effective against light vehicles. Still it's an option though, if an expensive one. The recon drone could easily be used to bring Kroot onto your opponents back line too.

Darkstrider is a little expensive when compared to a Cadre Fireblade but isn't all that different statswise. The big thing for him is D6" movement after overwatch but before a unit attempts to charge, combined with D3 reduction to charge range from the grav drone they might be hard to catch.

Automatic rad grenades (-1 toughness) mean wounding on 3s with those pulse carbines. Combine this with an Ethereal for an extra shot and pulse accelerator for 24" range and pathfinders become pretty devastating.

Pathfinders are one of the most interesting units in the new book for me and I think it'll take a while before I figure out the potential uses for them.

Same points, same armour, pretty much the same as they were. However, with disruption pods now 15pts you could argue they're 10 pts more expensive but the 12" range has now been removed. Can now transport anything that isn't bulky (e.g. suits). With the burst cannon and gun drones getting an extra shot their firepower has almost doubled. With an SMS which is now twin-linked we might see a return of the good old Fish of Fury!

Crisis Teams
They now all come with blacksun filters and multi-trackers built in which makes them effectively 7-8 pts cheaper than before. The weapons points costs have changed a bit though which means the actual cost of units will be on par with the previous book. The most notable difference with battlesuit equipment is that hard-wired systems are nowhere to be seen. This means if you want a target lock you have to sacrifice something else. Luckily with the multi-tracker/blacksun built in and drones without a drone controller this isn't such a big loss. The big thing for a lot of people though is the disappearance of the Targeting Array but with the abundance of markerlights it shouldn't be as much of an issue. There's a dizzying array of different builds available now which will hopefully create some interesting combinations. I'll be posting about this soon I expect. Finally, it's worth noting that crisis bodyguards now auto-pass Look Out Sir making the commander pretty durable.

The big thing for these guys is, of course, the reduction of their railguns to S8 from S10. It remains to be seen how big a loss that will be but there was no way they were going to give them Skyfire (which is an option I should point out) with S10 no matter how much we wanted it. Elsewhere they get a twin-linked SMS now. The high-yield missile pod with missile drones could make for a ridiculous amount of S7 shooting if you're prepared to sacrifice AP1. It's worth noting they can't move and shoot like they good with ASS before.

Stealth Teams
As much as I like the models for these guys I really can't see them showing up that often. I'm toying with the idea of a full unit joined by Shadowsun though. They're pretty similar to what you got before but their armour has been simplified to giving them +3 to a cover save. If you could make them troops then maybe we'd see more of them. As they are I can't see much use for them sadly. Not useless but next to Crisis and Riptides in the same slot.....

Speaking of the riptide, he's a monster. T6, 5 wounds and 2+/5++ will be hard to shift. He can put out a lot of shots but he's going to be a big target! Pretty reasonable for 180pts. People were saying we'd see 3 of these per army but I'd say crisis suits still have a place. The nova boosts will come in handy when necessary but aren't really needed most of the time, 12 burst cannon shots is tempting! On full wounds it's worth a shot but with a single wound I certainly won't be risking death! The shielded missile drones are cool as a combination of shield and missile drones in one (as the name suggests!) but with T6 too. Essentially extra wounds for 25pts each.

Sniper Drones
Now have a sniper rifle instead of the AP3 weapon from before. They're significantly cheaper but the weapon change, combined with the competition in the FOC slot will probably sound the death knell for these guys.

An absolute bargain for 50pts a piece with fusion. Zipping around with fusion blasters to provide annoyance and anti AV14 is always good. Sadly only being BS3 with no upgrade to that means they're going to lose out  to the new pathfinders and flyers.

New Flyers
Since we already had the rules for these I've pretty much covered them. I don't think either is particularly stellar but then again neither is awful. It's a shame the bomb is AP5 but being able to use it every turn goes some way to compensating. Interceptor drones could be fun too! Not much more to say that I haven't already.

Only place to get your S10 railgun now. Nice to see the submunition as an option too making these things particularly cheap now. Longstrike is pretty fun. For 45pts you get BS5, Tank Hunter, Preferred Enemy (IG)  and multiple Supporting Fire/Overwatch shots. Pretty good I reckon and almost an automatic choice. Against IG it'll be fun to almost guarantee destroying a Leman Russ every turn!!

Sky Ray
Having skyfire and markerlights could make a good combination with broadsides. The seeker missiles can now be fired without markers too which makes for a pretty decent anti-air battery like they're supposed to be. I'm glad I kept mine because I think we'll start seeing them again if people can look away from the broadsides/hammers.

Disgustingly cheap but worse in combat now. They've lost S4 and an extra attack so they're a shooting unit really. You can take a massive blob of them with 20 kroot, 10 hounds and 3 ox for 255pts which could be fun to Outflank onto objectives with! Sniper rounds are interesting if you're infiltrating as they could take out crucial models but then how effective are SM Scout Snipers? They aren't that hard to shift though but you get a lot of models for the same price as a squad of fire warriors in a 'fish. Combining outflank with the acute senses of the hounds makes them great for annoying your opponent behind his lines!

Going to lose out to the other FA choices. It's a shame that for both Kroot and Vespid that we didn't see any new units. Vespid get longer range guns but are more expensive now. Stealth (Ruins) would be great if you could make them troops but otherwise I'm struggling to see a use for them.

Marginally cheaper but otherwise not really changed that much. You don't have to limit your army choices anymore though which is a big deal. He doesn't change Crisis to Troops like many had hoped but with accurate deep striking and a full squad of bodyguards he's the source of the Tau deathstar I reckon. Somewhat strange that he doesn't come with Iridium Armour mind you!

I'm convinced I can find a use for her in my army but I'm not sure how yet. She's potentially pretty lethal with 5+ precision shots on her now 18" range fusion blasters. Tempting to stick her in a big stealth team but pretty expensive.

Mocked as probably the most useless SC in all of the codices, Aun'va has had somewhat of a renaissance. For 100pts you get him and his guard. Interesting that he has an inverse save against shots in that he ignores AP1 but is more at risk from AP5! He probably won't last long though but whilst he's alive your army is better for it. Tempting to use him instead of the stock Ethereal but he can't join a unit he's too vulnerable I reckon.

Finally, a bit of a conundrum, Aun'shi. He's clearly a combat character surrounded by shooting. Could be interesting in a Kroot unit perhaps? Get's to re-roll his 4++ save in a challenge though so might be fun to try and kill off enemy characters with him. I want to think of him as an assassin but with S5 AP- attacks he isn't unless you get a lucky rend or two!

So that's my initial reaction after a skim through. I'm sure I've missed stuff or got something wrong but I'll be posting a lot more about Tau in the next couple of weeks. In general I can't see any obvious turkeys in the book. Sure there are things that aren't going to be seen very much such as the sniper teams but I really don't think there's anything here that couldn't work. This seems to be a trend with the new books that in general there's a lot of competition for each FOC slot with plenty of things to think about when writing an army.

As with Vetock's previous codex, Dark Angels, there's a ton of synergy in the army. Mostly from Markerlights of course but some interesting combination may come to light that I haven't thought of on this first read through. I think anyone will be able to use Tau but more experienced Tau players will be able to get the most from the book.

On that subject, I think it's a shame how many armies can ally with Tau. As a long time Tau player I don't really want to see everyone taking them as allies. It's a similar thing to the Necrons in that there were a few die-hards who still took them to tournaments whereas now they'll be flavour of the month and all over the place! Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely pleased with the new book but I do think that the abundance of Skyfire is bad for the game. With everyone taking some Tau allies they could potentially severely hamper the use of flyers. I'm not a huge fan of flyers but it would still be a shame to see a game mechanic hampered.

Hope you didn't find that too long and boring. Right I'm off to build my Riptide, Flyer and Pathfinders then. I'll post up some pictures later of course. Tomorrow I'm having three games with the new Tau against a variety of armies from Matt. I'll let you know how they fare!


  1. Great article. Not sure i agree about vespids being useless. S5 ap3 guns seem great to me on jump infantry. They are in my mind a great rapid reaction unit to take down those ap3 assault units that get too close to tau gun lines. 1 unit of these and 2 pathfinder squads will be my default

  2. Just had my first look at the codex as well and I've got to say, you've written a nice rundown.
    I second your thoughts generally, just got some different opinions on some units.

    Shadowsun comes in really handy, as she can still split her fire, even when attached to a squad. This could make getting a fusion gun (?! - not sure with all the terms yet, even moreso since the german terms differ) in an attached Ghost squad firing at the same target more usefull.

    In general the Ghosts are more appealing due to the improvement of the guns. I will definitly give them a try or two.

    I like the new rules for the sniper drones, they are pretty decent given the 48" range. To bad they have to compete with Broadsides (who got a renamed in the german codex btw) and Hammerheads.

    All the HQ choices seem pretty decent to me, even the Etherals. Aun'va not being able to join a unit isn't such a big issue IMO, as he's got a big bubble for his skills and could be hidden out of sight easily enough.

    All in all, I really like the codex, as well as the previous three. They all are written well and offer a lot more possible different armies then previous versions did. Let's hope GW keeps the standard for future releases like that.


    PS: I may even take Tau to BW5... Have to run a few test games to decide wether to go with Dark Angels or Tau. ;-)

  3. Shadowsun is a win unit now. Being an independent character you can drop her into any unit and grant the whole unit stealth and shrouding.

  4. I'm really likeing what I'm seeing from the fish space communists.

    Have you gotten my email about blog wars Alex?

  5. Quick add on:
    I just finished building my Riptide today and have to say, it's a really great kit.
    Having the Option to build it as intended or to remove Pins and Change the pose to your liking is just awesome. Let's hope GW does more kits like that in the future!


  6. Could be mistaken, but I believe you could not benefit from markerlights in overwatch, as they are a heavy weapon and therefore cannot be overwatched and the spendable markers only last until used or the end of the shooting phase that they mark a unit.

    1. You definitely can. For starters you're thinking of blast weapons that can't snap shot and hence can't overwatch.

      Secondly the codex specifically says you can use them.

  7. You write "Automatic rad grenades" for pathfinders? How did you reach this conclusion, I have not been able to find that anywhere in the codex, or on the internet for that matter?

    1. Darkstriders unit treat their target as -1 toughness which is like them having rad grenades. It's in his unit entry.


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