Thursday, 30 August 2012

Tau in 6th - Part 2

This is the post I mentioned where I will tentatively put forward a theory of how Tau might get much better in 6th edition, which has little to do with how various units are better or worse.

My theory is that the biggest change in 6th to benefit a Tau general is the ability to pre measure. However, to explain why that is I need to first explain why I think the “traditional” way to play Tau – the static gunline, is dead.

Death of the static Gun Line

Classic tau gun lines were “delayed” gun lines i.e. they were reasonably static, and  used bubble wrap and blocking units (Kroot and Piranhas) to stop assault units killing the suits. I’ve written a lot about blocking in the past. Now to be fair some Tau Generals disagreed and played a more mobile version of the gun line (I was moving that way myself)  but, IMHO, the delayed gun line was the most effective variant. The problem is, in 6th,   blocking and bubble wrapping is harder..

The biggest problem is the new cover rules and, in particular, focus fire. In the past I could leave 6 members of a 12 “man” Kroot squad in cover, and string out the other 6 members to create my bubble wrap. Because of the “50%  in cover = all in cover” rule, the whole squad had cover. However, in 6th, all my opponent has to do is “focus fire” on the Kroot in the open and they will easily punch a hole through the bubble wrap. Bubble wrap is not dead, but it is far less reliable (BTW for those that haven’t seen them, there are, as usual, some excellent articles on bubble wrap in 6th ed at 3++ is the new black, which illustrate this far better than I ever could).

Also, blocking with vehicles is trickier.  In 5th, if you moved Piranhas flat out in front of a unit that unit was hitting them on sixes, and (usually) glancing them on 6s. Then you had the 5th ed  vehicle damage chart to get round. They were surprisingly resilient. Now they are hit on 3+, and 2 glances and they die….! Couple this with Piranhas only having 2 hull points, and it makes them pretty fragile. It can still work, but it’s harder.

Another problem for a static gun line is the new wound allocation rules (which in my limited experience are stupid, stupid, stupid, and by far and away the worst thing about 6th ed). If you put a multi wound character, with a 2+ save  out in front of a unit it makes that unit very resilient (I’ve seen this referred to as a “tanking” character). They will be in your lines before you can put them down.

For all these reason I think it will be much harder for the static gun line to kill units before they get into assault. I suspect the way forward for Tau is a much more mobile gun line army, able to out manoeuvre their opponent, shoot and run, and get round the side of units with “tanking” characters. Which is great, ‘cause the static gun line was getting pretty dull to play!

And all of this is made much easier by the ability to pre-measure anything at any time.


More than any other army I play, Tau need to hover at the range limits of their weapons – they need to be able to shoot to maximum effect, but avoid any counter assault, and if possible, any counter fire. This is no more true than with rapid firing plasma XV8s. The number of times I’ve misjudge range and been caught in the assault is embarrassing! Being able to place your XV8s  exactly 11.9” away from the assault terminators breathing down your neck is golden. Of course, random assault range, and random jet pack assault moves,  limit this to an extent, but it’s still pretty good. 

The problem in the past with this style of play was that it was very easy to make a mistake with range or movement. Misjudge 12”, or get caught in a corner, and your suits were toast. As a result static gun line was easier and safer.

However, the ability to pre measure will make a more fluid and mobile style of play much easier and more reliable.

There is one final element to this equation – the new deployment rules. Tau are the masters of long range fire power (guard general’s may disagree, and they might be right!). I always loved playing spearhead deployment with Tau – the further away my enemy was the better. Well, now 2 out of three deployments put your enemy further away. The result is you have much more space in which to manoeuvre.


So, if I’m right and (i) the static gun line is dead, (ii) this forces a Tau General to adopt a more mobile play style, (iii) pre measuring makes that easier and more reliable, and (iv) the new deployment rules also benefit a more mobile play style - will we see a boost to the Tau Empire’s performance on the table top?

My first reaction is “ yes and no”. The problem is Tau troops will still struggle to take and hold objectives and that is even more important in 6th than it was in 5th.

However, that’s what allies are for! More on this in future posts.


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Tau in 6th - Part 1

I have hesitated for a long time before posting this. It’s probably obvious, but Tau are my “main army” in the sense that it’s the one I’ve played most, and probably the one I’ve enjoyed playing more than any other…..until relatively recently.

I become frustrated with the Tau codex – I just couldn’t get them to do what they needed to do to be competitive. Which is why I moved to BA towards the end of 5th. With the advent of 6th edition I had high hopes for my Tau (and still do), but I’ve not really had enough time to test them. I’ve only played 1 games with my Tau -against Little Geek’s Demons (he well and truly thumped me!).. Not nearly enough to come to a conclusion on how the new rule set affects them. So this is really by way of a “first impressions” type post.

The commentary I’ve read so far seems to focus on individual units, and how this and that got better or worse. To an extent that’s true, but I suspect the more profound changes will prove to be more subtle. I’m going to split this post into 2 – first some commentary on how 6th ed affects some units, and then  my (very) preliminary thoughts on a few things that may prove to be a little more fundamental to understanding how a Tau army might play in 6th ed.

So first – some thoughts on various units.

Fire Warriors 
People are getting very excited about how Fire Warriors are better now. Frankly I just don’t see it. Yes being able to fire 30” and move is nice, and a 15” rapid fire range is also better, but they are still BS4, and AP5. While Fire Warriors are better, until they get embedded special weapons, you still can’t say they’re “good”. A full squad in rapid fire range is still only going to kill 2 or 3 marines in one turn of shooting. They might glance a Rhino to death with that same round of shooting, but who cares – that’s what death rain suits are for!
And they are still leadership 7!

One benefit may be that you might get 2 rounds of shooting, whereas before you might only have had one…..but that still doesn’t make them good. I would still rather have Kroot (and they are worse in 6thbecause of the new cover save rules and the prohibition  on assaulting from reserve while outflanking).

Tau still have crappy troops, and that’s even more of a problem in 6th ed.

If people are having great success with 3-4 full squads of FWs please let me know – I would be delighted to be wrong on this (and, FirstName, I do not believe that EMP grenades are the answer….. J)! .

XV8 Suits 
…are still awesome. In fact arguably they are better - cover has dropped from 4+ to (mostly) 5+, one black sun filter (a 3 point upgrade!) gives a whole squad night vision, and with the new wound allocation rules, shield drones make the units way more survivable.

There has been some chatter about giving a Commander Iridium Armour (for a 2+ save), a shield generator and 2 shield drones to “tank” wounds. I’ve yet to try this, but it sounds like something to explore. Also  - vectored retro thrusters to give any unit the Commander attaches to hit and run, sound like a blast – hit and run Thunder Shield Terminators anyone! Again, haven’t tried this but I might – it wound be great on a jet bike seer council for example, allowing them to avoid being tar pitted, which was a problem when I played them in the past.

The one thing that’s worse, is the change to 2d6 for the jet pack assault move. That really sucks. The certainty of being able to move 6” is far more important than the chance to go further than 6”, but perhaps only 2” or 3”. Oh, and no target locks also  sucks!

Finally, a thought – Commander Farsight has become pretty nasty(for Tau!)….! A T4 Character with a 3+/4++, 4 wounds, and 3 base attacks striking at WS5, I5, S5 with a weapon that always ignores armour saves! Maybe not as the commander of a Tau army himself, but as an ally with bodyguard and an elite Crisis Team…..might be interesting.

Stealth Suits 
Everybody seems to be saying they are awesome now, largely due to the changes to stealth. Stealth suits now get  a 4+ cover save in the open, and a 2+ in any cover. Now I’ve never played stealth suits, so I may be way off here, but there are still 2 big problems – first, they have very short range weapons (18” Burst Cannon, or 12” fusion blaster). If you get that close you’re in danger of getting assaulted. If they had access to Missile Pods, then they would be awesome, but they don’t. Secondly, the opportunity cost – they are not XV8s, and I would rather have more XV8s.

Again – if people are having a different experience with Stealth Suits, please let me know. The models are pretty cool and I would love to  use them.

I’ve read lots of talk about suicide Ethereals i.e. getting them killed so you have preferred enemy across all Tau units.

Now, setting aside the morality (!) of deliberately killing your HQ (some have even talked about jumping him of a bastion – won’t work he has 2 wounds!)  I think this is a very risky tactic. Firstly, you are relying on your opponent killing him – why would they -  but more importantly you are taking the risk of your whole army running off the board! Most Tau units are Leadership 7 or 8, and lurk at the back of the board. Taking leadership tests on 3 squads of XV8’s, and a couple of squads of broadsides is a risky proposition. I don’t know the exact numbers, but there is a very good chance you will lose 2 or three of them.

I have thought about this, as preferred enemy on Tau units would be awesome. The only way I thought it might work is if you ran Shadowsun as well. Her Command Link Drone allows all Tau Units within 18” to use her leadership 10. So bunch your units up until your opponent kills the Ethereal, pass all your L10 moral checks (making sure your Fire Warriors are in their ‘Fish so they’re fearless) and blow them off the table…..!

But, frankly, it’s a gimmick and a bit silly…!

Hammer Heads 
HH may be a bit better now (contrary to my initial reaction). While the disruption pod now only gives them a 5+ save, and they can’t contest any more, the change to the damage mechanic will I think help. AV13 is much harder to supress now, and weapon destroyed is randomised, so “one gun syndrome” is less of a problem. Also, if you fit them with smart missile systems, a multitracker, and a target lock you can move 12” and fire both weapon systems at 2 separate targets (and the SMS at something you can’t see if you want!).  There’s still a question mark in my mind over whether this is worth the points, but it makes the HH much more mobile.

Broadsides are just as awesome as they were before, perhaps more so given the drop in cover saves and the boost to survivability from the interaction between the new wound allocation rules and shield drones. The only slight nerf was the inexplicable deletion of target locks from the suit armoury! So now a unit of 3 XV88s can’t split fire, which makes them overkill for most things. Three units of Three XV88s is a thing of the past I suspect. Might be better to run 3 units of 2.

I think that’s the big changes – anybody got any others? 


Friday, 24 August 2012

Blood Angles with Tau

I used to run 3 different  BA armies – Razorspam, DofA and tri stormravens.

There seem to be mixed views on whether or not Razorspam BA armies are dead. Most arguments I think focus on Hull Points and how this makes them far more fragile. I think this is probably correct, but to my mind that’s not the biggie. The big issues are being hit on 3+ in combat, and not being able to assault out of vehicles even if they didn't move. I think this kills the army build for BA. Razorbacks may still have a role as backfield support units, where they will be harder to suppress (for example in a SW army), but for BA (who want to get up close and personal), I really don’t’ think they are worth it.

My Tri Raven army flat out doesn’t’ work. Everything would need to stay in reserve which just doesn’t make any sense for the army.

Which leaves DofA. It will need to change. You must plan for most of your army starting on the board. So they need to be resilient. Which brings me to Sanguinary Guard. With Dante to make them troops, priest support, and artificer armour, they are pretty resilient. The big problem would be ranged support, which then brings me to Tau allies. A couple of squads of deathrain suits with shield drones plug that gap.

So the army might look something like this

Sanguinary Guard squad, 2 infernus pistols x3, one of them with a banner.
10 man assault squad with 2 plasma guns and sarg with twin Plasma Pistols

 Priest with jump packs x2
Shas'el Commander + 2 Bodyguards with TL missile pods, 2 shield drones and a black sun filter
3 XV8s with TL Missile Pods, 2 shield drones and BSF
6 Fire warriors

A little short of 1750, but that gives you scope for extras e.g. plasma on the assault squad, chapter banner, infernus pistols on the priests etc.
I actually ran this for the first time last night at our not-a club wargaming night against a foot slogging SW list (long fangs x3, grey hunters x4 with TDA Wolf Guard in each and Rune Priest), and it was OK.... but not great.
The armies mobility was fantastic. While being more expensive than 3 squads of devastators with ML's, the suits were far more mobile and, with Drones, more survivable. The Plasma squad was pretty good - coming in with Dante they pretty much wiped a GH squad on their own, and survived the return fire (Dante taking hits for the squad and within 6 of a priest).
The disappointment was the SG. I seemed to roll far more ones than I should have done (!), and they struggled to chew through the Grey Hunters.
It definitely deserves another outing, but I might try replacing the SG with 4 ASM squads. While not having the 2+ armour save, they have boides in their favour.
Thoughts on the idea in general and the list in particular welcome.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Biker Army

I’ve always fancied a biker army – the idea of zooming around, hitting hard and running away appeals (it’s the Tau player in me!), but I’ve never played one. However, when the Stormtalon came out I thought that this would be a cool combo with a bike army, and when bikes (arguably) got a bit of a boost in 6th, I though – why not?

So an order placed with “Gifts for Geeks” (appropriate don’t you think!), and some furious painting while on holiday for the last 2 weeks and I’m almost there.

The core list is this

Captain on Bike with Artificer Armour, Power Fist and lightening claw.

Command Squad -  2 with Storm Shields and Lightening Claws, 2 with power lances and power axes, and an apothecary.

Bike Squad 1 – 5 bikes and a MM attack bike, 2 bikes with plasma guns and a combi plasma on the sarg.
Bike Squad 2 – same as above
Bike squad 3 – Same as above but swapping melta for the plasma

Stormtalons x2 with Typhoon missile launchers

Should be about 1500pts or so.

At higher points levels I’m thinking about 2 options, first Tau allies, and second, BA allies.

For Tau I’m thinking of bringing a commander and 2 bodyguards in deathrain configuration (TL Missile Pods) with drones and a black sun filter, a squad of 3 elite deathrains with drones and black sun filters, and the obligators fire warrior squad. My thinking is that this will give some pretty effective ranged fire support for the bikes, while giving me a scoring deck chair squad in the fire warriors.

For BA, I’m thinking of dropping the command squad and bringing in a Stormraven full of Death Company with a DC Dreadnaught.



Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Theory Hammer

As I mentioned in my last post, I haven’t been playing much, so I really haven’t got to grips with 6th ed yet. But it’s the internet, and it would appear that not knowing what you are talking about is no reason to keep quiet. So….

I’ve been thinking hard about 6th ed, and reading as much of the online commentary as I can. At the moment I’m mulling over 3 possible armies – a biker army with/without Allies, Tau with either BA or Eldar Allies, and Blood Angels with Tau Allies. Over the next few days I’ll post up my thoughts for discussion, derision, and (hopefully) constructive criticism.