Howdy everyone, Severus here. Today I wanted to start a 2 part review on the riptide variants released by forgeworld. I happen to have both and have used them in my lists to good effect. So, I figured I would share my thoughts on them.
Up first, the XV 107 R’varna, or as I call him, Thunder. Fluff wise this guy is awesome. Essentially, there is a sept of tau that is CONSTANTLY under assault from tyranids. A member of the earth caste, Fio’O Ke’lshan Sho’Aun, basically lied to the ethereals. He kept asking for more funds and equipment to build a new stealth unit. Instead he came out with this bad boy, who happens to crush the invading tyranids and save the day. Interesting that some of the best tau stories come from times when a member of the society tells the ethereals screw you and does what they think is best.
After that battle, the ethereals sort of okay the production of the suit. At the time of this writing, it is limited to the planet of Ke’lshan, production wise. Obviously it can be used by other septs, but only in limited numbers since there is only one world producing this variant.
The model speaks for itself. It is a bulkier riptide in terms of it’s armors. It has two awesome gun arms in place of the gun and shield. The guns are pulse submunission cannons. They are as mean as that name sounds. It was relatively easy to assembly (although the little ammo canisters and fins sticking of the gun were a bit fiddly and always worry me when being transported). Recently I had my guy in foam that was to tight and one of the guns actually was warped by it. Cup of hot water straightened it out. Besides that I have no big complaints.
Now for the rules. At the time of this writing, the rules are still listed as experimental and available for download from forgeworld. It is the second set of rules for the R’varna. This does present a bit of a gray area. In theory, they will either put out a book or download with the official rules. For the time being, since they are experimental, I recommend talking to an opponent before using this guy. Use your best judgement guys. Also note, you can only have one of these period. And only in a tau empire army as a heavy support. Sorry Farsight, guess Aun’Shi couldn’t steal one for you.
Back to the unit. He is essential a beefed up riptide stat line wise. Biggest change is he has 6 wounds at toughness 7. He is not a jetpack monstrous creature, just a monstrous creature, so he loses some mobility. He has no options for weapons, you get the 2 pulse submunission cannons and that is it. Wargear wise he has two options: positional relay and stimulant injector. I opt for the stimulant injector, feel no pain on a T7 6W model with a 2+/5++ is just a good investment in my mind. He can also bring 2 shielded missile drones. I tend to pass on these, the firepower isn’t worth it and they lower the unit toughness to 6. Plus, if you lose a drone from shooting you are subject to a moral check. No one likes to see a 300+ point unit run off the table.
Now onto his pile of special rules. First up, how those big beautiful guns work. Each pulse submunission cannon fires a single large blast template with a 60″ range (remember, he has two of these guns). On infantry models they cause a strength 6 ap 4 hit. Very bulky models, bikes, jetbikes, beasts, and cavalry each suffer 2 hits at strength 7 ap4 for each model under the template. Extremely bulky models, monstrous creatures, flying monstrous creatures, vehicles, and artillery each suffer 3 hits at strength 8 ap4 for each model under the template. What this amounts two is these weapons can put a ton of hits on just about anything. The moderate ap value means most targets will get a save, so weight of fire is key here.
The big guns are not the only new toy the R’varna has. It also has it’s own nova reactor. It can increase the invuln save to 3++ like a riptide. It can choose to run 2d6 and gain fleet for a turn (which is handy when you need to re position or get away from a threat). It can do an emp pulse, hitting all models within 6″ of the R’varna with a strength 2 ap5 haywire hit. Last, but not least is volley fire. It allows the R’varna to fire each pulse submunission cannon twice (so for 4 large blasts in total). It can not fire in the following turn.
So, now that that you have the rules under your belt, lets talk about how to use the R’varna. This unit is great for locking down a lane of fire on a table. It can put out an incredible amount of fire power. Even if it can’t ignore 3+ or 2+ armor, weight of fire can bring those units down. Throw a few marker lights on it and he can ignore cover. He can use this weight of fire to drop just about anything. He struggles most with AV 14 (since he can only glance on a 6) and terminator equivalents (causing a single strength 6 hit on each). He flat out can’t handle a flyer (being that his only weaponry is blast). Otherwise it is fair game. I have seen him drop a full health daemon prince in a single volley.
My favorite tactic with him involves his nova reactor. Line up a good target turn 1 or 2. Get the reactor to go off and volley fire the target. 4 large blasts with it’s multiple hits rule can hurt a lot of things. Now you can’t shoot the next turn. Get the reactor off again and choose the 2d6 run and fleet. Now re position you R’varna into another lane of fire and repeat on turn 3 or 4. There is a great fear factor involved here. My opponents have seen this trick and will do everything to avoid presenting a target to the R’varna. You can use him to push enemy targets into line of sight/range of other units in your army.
Now the big question, how do you kill/neutralize this guy? He is actually not as hard to kill as you may think. The standard strategies that kill riptides kill him (large amounts of high strength low ap shooting, grav guns, large amounts of poisoned weapons to force a lot of saves, lock him in close combat). Now, here is the problem with the first three. If you can shoot him, he can shoot you. So you basically need to kill him in one round of shooting or present him with to many targets so that something is alive to kill the R’varna in subsequent shooting rounds. The only exception to that would be if you fire support is on a flyer, since all the R’varna can use against it is harsh language.
Now follow me here. In games I have played so far, close combat has been the most effective way to neutralize a R’varna. If you are crafty and can avoid being shot and get within assault range, you can shut him down. He can’t overwatch with his blast weapons. He has 3 attacks at weapon skill 2, initiative 2. Granted, he will be ap2 as a monstrous creature. Odds are though he will only kill a marine equivalent a turn. So, say you are lucky enough to get a tactical squad in to combat with him. They can use krak grenades to wound him on 5’s and lose a single guy per round. You may not kill the R’varna, but he won’t be shooting for a long time.
The other way to handle him, morale checks. He is leadership 9, so it is a little difficult. The more tests you make him take, the more likely it is he will fail. Odd’s are, he will be close to board edge to avoid anyone getting to close. One bad leadership roll and off he goes. You can also try to pin him, making him snap shoot (which he can’t do with his blasts). Finally, if you ever beat him in combat, run him down.
The last trick up a crafty opponent’s sleeve, blind tests. At initiative 2, he is going to fail the majority of the time. Now, snap shots prevent him from firing his large blasts. Don’t let a sneaky tau lie to you, marker lights are no help. Yes, they can improve the ballistic skill of a snap shot, but they are still snap shots. So, no shooting for the R’varna.
That about wraps it up for Thunder. Hope that gave you a little insight on what this big thing is, where it came from, and how to use or kill it. Up next is the Y’varha, or as I call him, Lightining. Until then, this is Severus saying have a good one and take it easy.