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.


  1. I think you are missing the massive effect that the stormsurges can have with stomp. If I were to build one it'll be full bells and whistles. Shield gen, ewo and advanced targeting system. Taken in a cadre with breachers, devilfish of course :) they really do enable you to get close and toe to toe with most opponents. Devilfish pulls up, drops drones and breachers, dfish drones and breachers use coordinate fire for bs4. Could be quite nasty.

  2. Yeah, I've been seeing people using StormSurges as Counter-Assault Units as well. For a Gargantuan, the actual combat stats don't matter much, because the Stomps are doing the real damage.

    Firebase Support Cadre not being replaced by the new version: None of the Dexes say that they replace the previous version, either. If you don't just go with each release replacing whatever its previous incarnation was, things start getting really weird, really fast.

    Formations: I like the concept, but GW's execution is hit or miss, as usual. Formations that buff weak Units without requiring them to get re-written (e.g. the Helbrute Dataslate Formations) are great. Formations that take already good Units and then buff them further with no restrictions are bad for the Game.

  3. I'm with WestRider in that the Firebase is replaced by the new one.

    As I've found Tau struggle with high AV, not being able to use target lock to target multiple units with tank hunter is a pain (the formation says all models not all units like coordinated firepower have to fire at the same target). Now having Monster hunter is great against Wraithknights and Bloodthirsters, but like the using Coordinated Firepower it may be overkill as the whole Firebase formation has to fire at the same target to get it.

    I'm going to try out going down to units of 2 Broadsides (with 4 Missile Drones) to afford some of the other interesting formations (eg. Stealth Cadre). Like you I think the Stealth Cadre is interesting, but means getting units dangerous close to the enemy.

    Have you got any games in with the new rules yet ?


  4. I think as a general rule I don't like formations. some of them are quite tasty, and even good, but others just aren't. I understand the business concept from GW, but I agree with you Alex, its just making things massively complicated!


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