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.