Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tau: how they play

This post will detail my experience with Tau units' performance on the battlefield.

Friday was the first battle I did with them with the new Codex, and also in 6th edition. I think the last time I played Tau was in 4th...

Check my previous post here to see what list me and Dries were playing.

First, some disclaimers:
- I've only played one battle, so I'm sure some of the units weren't tested properly, due to them over- or under-performing or me not using them like they should be used
- I'm not an experienced Tau general, but I think I have at least a basic grasp of what they are about (ie. very shooty, very maneuverable, not so tough...)

The Battle Plan
I knew the Tyranids would want to get to grips as soon as possible, to reduce the Tau fire coming their way, so I deployed accordingly. The main parts of my battle line were deployed slightly back from the edge of my deployment zone: Pathfinders, Firewarriors and Broadsides. Both flanks were pushed forward a little bit with the Stealth suits on the left flank in cover, and the right flank covered by a JSJ-ing XV8 and the Hammerhead.

The plan was to let him advance into the teeth of my guns and pull away at the last moment before assaults could happen using the superior mobility of the Tau. We all know a battle plan never survives contact with the enemy so when the Tyranid reserves popped up in my deployment zone on turn 2 (2 mycetic spores with Doom of Malan'tai and 20 devourer toting gaunts, and a Tervigon), the plan was not so much abandoned but more like obliterated.

For this to work as planned, I need more Devilfish. At least both Firewarrior squads need a transport to get out of dodge and possibly to capture a remote objective. Maybe the Pathfinders need one as well, or maybe they should not hang out in the deployment zone at all... I'll need to reflect on that. (Devilfish are points-expensive!)
Also, not moving  the Riptide away from the Tervigon was a mistake, a mistake I payed with the life of my Riptide. Up to that point in the battle, it was performing admirably. The early warning override really is a great piece of equipment (albeit a bit situational).

Lesson nr 1: Make better use of innate mobility.

I had 2 markerlights in the Stealth squad... I got to fire one, which missed... I forgot the other.

The Pathfinders... hmm... I think I won't be taking a 10-man squad again, but more like 2 separate squads, so they aren't that big of a threat to the enemy. Also, I like the Ion rifles that I gave them, but the markerlights are more useful in battle. Next time, expect to see 2 5-man squads armed with markerlight/carbine.

Lesson nr 2: Don't stick all markerlights in one squad.

The amount of firepower the Tau army can output is massive. Also, it has the tools to destroy any unit the enemy throws at it, as long as you prepare for this during armybuilding (the right tools for the job).

I had 1 Deathrain crisis suit. This guy shoots like 2 Imperial guard autocannon teams but has the added benefit of being able to jump back out of line of sight of the enemy. I really loved this guy in the battle (for the duration that he lived), and will add at least one more to the squad.

Firewarriors do what it says on the tin: fire! I took 2 10-man sized squads of firewarriors, and the 30" range combined with the S5 make these very good horde-thinning dudes, especially combined with a (couple of) markerlights that hit the target beforehand. Also, 20 overwatch shots on S5 is nothing to sneeze at... after that, if the enemy does get the charge in... the firewarriors are something to sneeze at, but more on that later.

The Stealth squad didn't get much shooting in. Although will at least stay in my army list for their troll-ness value (2+ cover save FTW... come too close? I'll just jump out of the way...)

Smart missile systems... the more the merrier. I took them on the Riptide, broadsides and hammerhead. They are awesome, not needing LOS, ignoring cover and being twin-linked. Attaching them to Devilfish costs 10 points, adding to the already big points sink that these transports are, so I'm going to think it over twice before doing that, but everywhere they cost nothing... yes please!

I'm not really sold on the Ion accelerator for the Riptide. The XV104s BS of 3 is a real hindrance when firing the regular profile of the gun... however, the blast profile(s) don't suffer that much from the low BS so I'm in doubt. It does give the Riptide good flexibility though, allowing you to threaten hordes, light vehicles, monstrous creatures and heavy infantry to some degree.
The same goes for the Hammerhead with Railgun submunitions, but that it's more suited to shooting heavy vehicles instead of light vehicles.

The Commander with two plasma rifles... hmm... I don't know what to think of him... in itself, it performs well, but I'm not sure it's good points for value, costing near to 200 points. Will need more testing.

Lesson nr 3: Shoot often, shoot hard, shoot far.

Close combat
Oh my... I'm going to keep this short... if you're finding yourself in CC... you're doing it wrong!
Unfortunately, once half of a Tyranid army is in your deployment zone, CC is nearly inevitable. You can try to use your mobility to bail out but as I said before, I needed more Devilfish for that (and less mistakes with the Riptide). However... bailing out is something the Tau are good at! (hence the surviving Shas'o and Shas'vre at the end of the battle... in the enemy deployment zone no less...)

Lesson nr 4: Don't be afraid to bail out for The Greater Good.

Sharing knowledge for the Greater Good! Anything you guys wish to share about your experience with(or against) the Tau? Leave a comment!


  1. The only times I have beaten Tau (old codex and new) was when the player made mistakes. The sheer shooty of this army is awesome.

    1. They rain down a massive amount of firepower indeed, but I'm a bit worried about objective missions...

  2. Hey dude,

    I am not a Tau player as you know, but I found out most the same things you did; missile pods are pretty awesome raining down death, though the smart has nice abilities, isn't that awesome - needs a 6+ to glance a Rhino, but they do have weight of fire power.

    First game used larger units of Pathfinders, which on average they got three markerlights on a unit, even four sometimes. When using min units they got two markerlights on average for half the points and even sometimes these wasn't used due to destructive Tau.

    Fire Warriors are nice especially with the Ethereal close by. They glanced a Rhino to death in one game and in another seriously depleted a Ravenwing Black Knight unit via overwatch.

    In our first game the Riptide used the ion, which was ok, but it only managed to fire once before dying. Second game it used heavy burst with smart and destroyed a Rhino, 5 x CSM and a Sorcerer. Almost made the points back! lol.

    1. Thanks for the insights... I might have to try an ethereal next time... The commander is a bit points-heavy for my tastes.

      The Heavy Burst cannon on the Riptide sounds like a beast! No problems with overheat?

    2. I think the Commander can be as pricey as you want it to be. In the list I wrote it is about 180 points while the other Commander is about 115 points.

      Nope didn't overheat once, but that's just good luck.

  3. Have you thought about using a support commander? No guns but allows rerolls to misses, ignores cover without markerlights, and then there are the different abilities of the puretide chip.

    1. I've thought about it, but where would I put him to make best use of his abilities?

  4. Depends on your deployment and your opponent. Probably with your broadsides though he could also help a squad of firewarriors with the quadgun. If you set them up closely enough he could just move back and forth between them as you pick through targets.

  5. Early warning system are a beast on drop pods mysentic spores etc broad side unit with one of those if it kills the pod any thing inside pass a toughness test or die kills em all

    1. Hmm... how do you figure?

      The way I understand the rules, the Early Warning Override (Interceptor) kicks in at the end of the opponent's movement phase, so I can either shoot the pod or the squad that disembarked... Am I doing it wrong?

    2. I only ever known it used after the drop pod has rolled to see if there's a mishap when deep striking. I haven't got a rule book atm usually borrow my friends so there's a fair chance I'm wrong


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