Tau Update First Impressions

Tau IconHowdy everyone, Severus here!  Yes I still live, although my time for writing and hobbying is slim as of late.  I actually had some time this weekend, so I have been working on painting up some tau.  Why?  Because the greater good got an update!  My campaign book, Kauyon, got delivered with some new bases this week, so it’s time for a first impression!

First off, lets talk about the oddity of this release.  It is not a new codex.  It is an update.  So I only picked up the campaign book.  In it, it clearly spells out what rules in it you should use to replace existing rules in the 2012 codex.  I am really happy about this.  Instead of having to buy a campaign book and a new codex, GW saved me 50 bucks for once and was upfront about what I needed to buy.  Yeah GW!

So, like all new releases lately, GW gave the Tau its own composite detachment (similar to the necron decurion detachment or the space marines gladius strike force).  It is named the hunter contingent.  It has the basic setup with 0-1 command formations, 1+ core formations, and 1-10 auxiliary formations.  The formations for the most part are all put together well.  I won’t go through all the little rules with those, just hit a few highlights.

First and foremost, the core formations gives two important benefits.  First off, everything in the core formation gets 12″ supporting fire.  That is helpful.  Sometimes it can be hard to spread out to avoid template fire or bubble wrap a unit but still keep that good supporting fire base.  Secondly, units in this formation may run then shoot if they are within 12 inches of the cadre fireblade or the commander in the formation.  This is great to allow tau to be more mobile, a big problem for most of our foot troops.

The other formation that I really love is the optimized stealth cadre.  It is composed of 2 units of stealth suits and a unit of ghostkeels.  It’s benefits come in the form of one rule.  It allows the ghostkeel and all stealth suit units within 6″ to gain +1BS and Ignores Cover.  When they shoot at a vehicle, they hit the rear armor regardless of facing.  I have always loved the idea of steal suits, but never found them that effective.  This formation changes that!  Plus it is a great excuse for me to pick up a ghostkeel.

The main detachment, the Hunter Contingent, has a very contentious rule.  It is called Coordinated Firepower.  It basically allows the tau player to join multiple units together when shooting at a target “as if they were a single unit”.  If you have 3 or more units doing this, they get a +1BS.  The rule goes further to specifically mention that bonuses from markerlights apply to all units making this shooting attack.  I have affectionately named this attack “the spirit bomb”.

Goku-Spirit-BombThis rule has met with a lot of debate over the internet.  You can look up some articles if you want.  Essentially, the issue becomes that you can stack some crazy bonuses on all models in you army and then target lock off and use those bonuses on other targets.  Personally, I think that is pretty cheesy and against RAI.  RAW though, it looks like that might be the correct interpretation.  I think it is fair to get all those crazy bonuses if you can only target one unit.  It is the tau anti-death star attack.  Target lock allowing you to take those bonuses and shoot other target is what breaks it.

The formation rules out of the way, they added in a few new units and changed a few rules around for some of our standard units.  First off, the commander gain the option to take a suit that makes him a flying monstrous creature (minus a few rules).  I love the idea, but the weapons he is forced to take are not the best.  He also loses access to all the signature system (tau relics).  It looks fun, but I doubt you will see it that much.  The buffcommander build is just as viable as ever.

The ethereal gained access to armor finally (a 5+).  He also has access to a little hover platform that allows for him to ignore models and terrain while moving.  Looks cool, but kind of meh.

They added a new troop choice known as breachers.  They have short range guns that have a scaling strength and ap.  The best they get is strength 6 ap 3 within 5 inches and two shots.  This is about as close as tau will ever get to an assault unit.  Not my favorite choice, because I could take firewarriors with pulse carbines and do about as well from 18 inches away.

The big addition though is that they have access to a little missile turret they can put down.  It looks really cool, and can be a smart missile or a missile pod. Smart missiles are my choice.  It matches the normal strength and range of most infantry weapons, so it matches their usually targets.  Regular firewarriors (now named strike teams) also have access to this turret.

Crisis suit and bodyguard had two important changes.  First off the maximum squad size went up to 9!.  That is crazy!  A good reason to invest in some of those new suits.  They also gave both units access to the previous experimental weaponry (Airbursting Fragmentation Projector and Cyclic Ion Projector).  Nothing earthshaking, but it is a cool bit of story telling.  Like the Tau empire finally finished testing these new weapons and decided to deploy them to the whole army.

Now onto the big new release.  First off, the ghostkeel.  It is a stealth suit on steroids.  I really like the model.  Weaponry wise I am a bit torn.  It gets a giant fusion gun or a giant cyclic ion projector.  I think if you are running them as a unit (up to 3), then I would go with fusion.  If you want to be flexible and run them in the stealth cadre, I will chose the ion gun.  It has some drones that give it shrouded in addition to the stealth rule it already has.  It doubles that bonus when the shooting unit is more than 12 inches away.  So in short, with good tactics, this guy should always have a 2+cover save in the open.  Finally, it has an option once per game to just disappear.  After it has been targeted, it can force the shooters to only fire snap shots.  That is huge.

And finally, the big daddy itself.  The stormsurge, the first tau gargantuan creature.  It looks awesome!  The rules are an interesting bit.  It is really not that tough, only toughness 6 with 8 wounds and 3+ save and no invuln save natively.  So, krak missile spam, plasma spam, grav spam, ect will bring him to his knees.  On the other hand, this guys is packed to the gill with awesome guns!  It cluster rocket system, smart missiles, and support system (flamer, burst cannon, airburst) are great for clearing out light infantry.  Its 4 Destroyer missiles are one use, Strength 8 ap 1.  If you buff them with a markerlight, they become strength D.  That is epic!

Finally, the big main gun.  They have two options.  My favorite is the pulse driver cannon.  Range 72, strength 10, ap 2, ordnance 1.  Nice and simple, yet effective.  The other option is the pulse blastcannon.  It again has that scaling damage.  Range 10 or under it is strength D ap 1 heavy 2.  10-20 is strength 10 ap 3, and range 20-30 is stength 9 ap 5.  It is basically meant for killing other gargantuan creatures, super heavies, or high armor tanks.  The issue I have with it is you already have access to D weapons via the destroyer missiles.  How much D do you need?

There are plenty of rules and formations I didn’t get into.  I am sure I will get back to covering them at some point.  But for now I am really pleased with this update.  It definitely opened up a lot of options for my Tau.  I always wanted a mobile tau force, and now I think it is viable.  The spirit bomb gives me some options against death stars in competitive play.  Until next time, this is Severus saying have a good one and take it easy.