Sunday, May 05, 2013

Tau Broadsides - HRR or HYMP? There's only one way to find out....

Since writing my article about the rules for broadsides in the Tau codex I've been thinking a lot about which is better between the heavy rail rifle (HRR) and high-yield missile pod (HYMP). I'm going to talk through it here to hopefully help me make my mind up. I've said many times in the past that I'm not a big fan of math-hammer but in this case I think it's necessary to back up what I'm saying.

The Importance (or not) of AP1
When I was originally reviewing the broadsides I talked about the importance of AP1. I still think it's a huge plus for the rail rifles in that, should you penetrate, you've got a 50:50 chance of destroying the vehicle outright. You're always going to Stun it too as a minimum.  Let's look at the two weapons against an AV12 vehicle on the ground.

Having strength 8 means each individual HRR hit has a better chance of penetrating and is of course more deadly when it does. The problem of course is that you're limited to a single shot per broadside with only twin-linked BS3 you're looking at a 75% chance of scoring a hit, followed by a 33% chance of penetrating, followed by 50% chance of destruction. That's only 12.5% chance overall of "one-shotting" a vehicle. Not huge but better than most and not bad for 65pts.

The HYMP may only be S7 and AP4 but your compensation for this is 4 times as many shots. Still, against that AV12 vehicle you're reduced to an 8% chance of "one-shotting" the vehicle. However, each HYMP broadside should strip a hull point. Therefore a squad of 3 HYMP suits will be extremely likely to kill a 3 HP vehicle.  The same number of HRR suits has a reasonable chance of destroying the vehicle with penetrating hits (around 40%) but it's far from "automatic".

As we start to look at AV11 or AV10 vehicles the difference between S7 AP4 and S8 AP1 starts to become less important with the number of shots. Only two HYMP suits are needed to glance an AV10/11 3 HP vehicle to death. Against AV10 there's actually no difference probability-wise between the two different weapons' chance to destroy with penetrating hits but there's a huge difference in HP-stripping ability.

All this of course assumes the vehicle doesn't have a cover save (easily achievable with markerlights) and that you haven't boosted the BS of the suits with markers. It also doesn't take into account the potential of firing both the main weapon and SMS at a target. S5 may not be great but against AV10 or 11 there's still the chance of stripping hull points and with a multi-tracker there's no harm in firing both.

The Issue of Range
Whilst the HRR are reduced from 72" from the previous book to 60" now they've still got a much better reach than the HYMP's 36" range. HRR Broadsides can be placed pretty much wherever you like on the board and they'll find most things to be in range, even in Hammer & Anvil. The same can't be said for HYMP suits which really struggle in H&A and to also Vanguard to an extent.

The lack of mobility from the broadsides means there's no chance of improving their threat radius. Does it matter in most games though? The great thing about the old Tau dex was that you could stop your opponents in their tracks in their own deployment zone. This meant transports were destroyed and the troops inside were slogging across the board as you pelted them with pulse rifle fire.

Broadsides are pretty vulnerable to combat and most opponents will want to engage them as quickly as possible, even if they aren't destroyed they won't be firing. This means you want your suits further back which is tricky with HYMP suits. Obviously if you've got pathfinders nearby then your opponent has to chose which to engage but you don't really want all your good stuff in combat by turn 2.

Anti-Aircraft Fire
The most obvious use of broadsides when the codex came out was to give rail rifle team some velocity trackers and have them gun down flyers. In my experience so far, they're great if there's a single flyer but once you're talking about several they struggle. That's not to mention if it's something like a heldrake then it's already come on, vector struck a unit then flamed something else. What we really want to do is down it when it arrives. That means early warning overrides which simply don't work well enough with HRRs. The 3-man HYMP team is pretty solid in this role though. They should score 3-4 hits with twin-linkage and have a decent chance of downing that flyer before it even shoots.

However, let's not get carried away here. That unit still costs 210pts as a minimum and against flyers it's barely any different to a quad-gun with a BS4 model controlling it. Obviously there's durability differences etc. but it's something to bear in mind.

So HYMP wins then?
That's what I'm coming around to believing at the moment. That's assuming purely anti-vehicle duties. The HYMP suits are pretty good against hordes too but one thing they can't do that HRR can is double out characters. A lucky 6 from a shas'vre can potentially kill off an MEQ character (assuming no Look Out Sir!).

Range is a big issue too. I prefer to try and keep my usual two broadside teams on separate flanks so they can't be targeted by a single CC unit etc. HYMP suits on the other hand need to be central to operate as maximum effectiveness whilst they're around.

This all gets me thinking about another question though....

Are Broadsides still the best anti-vehicle platform?
In the old codex there was no doubt in my mind that broadsides were a must. Two twin-linked S10 AP1 shots from a pair of broadsides was enough to deal with most vehicles including land raiders. The heavy rail rifle's reduction to S8 means that AV14 is pretty much impossible to take down with broadsides in the same way that it was before. HYMPs can't touch AV14 at all of course. Therefore, when trying to deal with AV13+ you've got to look elsewhere. A Lonstrike hammerhead (or even a regular BS4 one) is pretty effective but limited by a single shot per turn. The other options are crisis teams or piranhas with fusion. These both give an anti-tank platform that's durable and highly mobile.

Broadsides are no longer able to boost their native BS with targeting arrays nor can they take advanced stabilisation systems to allow them to move around to get line of sight. This makes them fairly easy to counter. With shield drones reduced to 4+/4++ from 2+/4++ they're also not as durable.

The more I look at the book the more I think broadsides aren't as necessary anymore. They work out pretty expensive compared to crisis suits and whilst they've got a 2+ save their lack of mobility makes this less of a bonus. By not taking my usual broadside teams I could take more crisis suits and use those heavy slots for a sky ray or maybe a second hammerhead.

This is what I mean about the Tau codex having no automatic choices any more. You can build a perfectly viable list without something that was a mainstay of the previous book. Interesting times.


  1. As an avid Tau player for the last year and a half, and owner of 9 old broadsides, I have to say I won't be replacing any of them. With Ion-heads being able to overcharge too str 8 ap 3 large blast (for way less points), skyrays having our only skyfire markerlights, and Longstrikes hammer head being the best Anti-tank option we have now, I just can't find a place in my list for a broadside team that is no longer effective at killing AV13-14 and that takes up a spot that should be filled by one of the other 3. Until I can afford 3 Riptides, I'll be relying on Longshot and a crisis team with farsight attached for my anti-tank capability.

  2. The sun shark has a skyfire markerlight don't forget.

    Its sad that I can't see me taking broadsides now but they just aren't what they once were.

  3. I played at battle bros and had great success with broadsides. What you need to remember with the hrg is the psychological effect it has! If I have an av12 flier I probably am not gonna bother jink if I am hit against missile pods if I am hit by a couple of s8 ap1 shots I am not gonna risk the hit going through. Immobilised is as bad as wrecked on a flier and makes them useless. If your opponent then jinks the flier isn't gonna do too much in the next turn even if it gets lucky and survives. I think broadsides should be mixed load out. I ran 3 with 2 hrg, smart missiles and velocity trackers and 1 with all missiles and target lock, plenty of shots for infantry killing and light vehicles and plenty of fear factor for fliers.

  4. That's an interesting point Brian - the ability to mix main weapon loadout in a single unit with target lock (allowing the odd man out to chose a different target) may be useful - and free up hq slots for railheads and shoot maybe even skyrays. Especially if you have a commander with some buffs applying to the whole unit.


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