So, how do we change the Tau Codex so I get my dream army?
Remember, what we’re looking for is
“…….. a [army] that’s dynamic, that allows the [Cadre] to play to the fluff – it should have a “special forces” feel to it, fully integrated, very mobile, very hard hitting, but then melt away from the counter punch. It should come at you from all angles, from the flanks, from infiltration, from the deployment line and from deep strike. And it should be fully interdependent, needing synergy among all units to play at it’s zenith!
Hmmm…. a tall order, but I don’t think the current codex needs to change that much to get there.
Firstly I should say that this is far from a codex re write. It’s just me wish listing on how current rules and wargear might change to make my dream army. It also assumes knowledge of the existing Codex.
At its simplest, the whole dynamic of the army is the “beta strike” i.e. you spend the first turn or two setting up a devastating beta strike, hit your opponent hard for a turn or 2, and then fade away to seize objectives. I see 2 elements to the army – the forward element locates, isolates and targets the enemy, taking out key threats, and a second element delivers the beta strike, and then secures objectives . Kroot, Stealth Suits and Pathfinders make up the first wave, , Firewarriors and Hammerheads and Broadsides make up the second.
So how would I change Stealth Suits, Kroot and Pathfinders to provide that forward element?
· Stealth Suits. The problem with stealth suits at the moment is that they do nothing particularly well. They are an expensive and inaccurate platform for marker lights, and they don’t pack enough fire power to do significant damage. At best, they are a distraction unit… and Kroot do that much better. However, the biggest problem is that the compete with Crisis Suits, and Crisis suits are so much better. So first they need a FOC swap to Fast Attack. After that, they need to be really good at one thing, and I think that needs to be a as a Marker Light platform. So let them keep their stealth field generator, and their burst cannons, but give them High Intensity Marker Lights. These are the Heavy 4 marker lights fitted to Forge World Tetras. Because Jet Infantry are relentless the stealth suits can move and shoot the marker lights. Oh and give them BS4 and increase theri toughness to 4.
This would allow Stealth Suits to infiltrate into position and stay reasonably safe from fire until they “light up” targets for other units.
· Kroot. I see Kroot as the ultimate utility players - light skirmishers, who’s main role is to get in the way, protect more valuable assets, and ultimately die for the greater good. For example, they might infiltrate forward with a stealth team, to protect them from assault until the Stealth Team fulfils its role. Or perhaps outflank into the enemy’s rear and target heavy weapon teams. Or infiltrate forward and assault some bubble wrap, clearing the way for a pathfinder team to take out a key target.
To do this Kroot could stay essentially the same, keeping infiltrate and outflank, and keeping their stats. However, to do this well they need to be “customizable”, to fit the role you had in mind. This isn’t my idea, I read it somewhere, but it’s a great one. You could allow the Kroot to get basic stat boosts, or USR’s through the mechanic of attaching a Shaper who has directed them to eat specific DNA giving them stat boosts or USR’s e.g. eating orks would increase their toughness to 4, eating elder would increase their initiative to 4 and/or give them fleet. Obviously there would be a points cost to upgrade in this way.
· Pathfinders. At the moment pathfinders are the main platform for marker lights, but they’re a truly dreadful one. I would scrap that (making stealth suits the main marker light platform), and make them tau special forces, specialising in killing or destroying key enemy targets, before the main force arrives. The idea would be to make them very quick, very fragile, but very deadly. For example, they could have 2 main configurations, a simple Railrifle sniper team, with a black sun filter, and a stealth field, or a commando unit. The sniper team could target key units, perhaps picking out special weapons. The command team could to so much more! For example, you could give them a fast skimmer dedicated transport - AV10 all round, open topped, with a Disruption Pod, minimal weapons but with flechette dischargers they can trigger at the end of the vehicles movement phase, wounding all models within 12 inches of the vehicle on a 4+. The idea is they use the skimmer to launch rapid precision strikes against key targets. Give them EMP grenades so they can assault vehicles, demo charges so they can destroy fortifications, and plasma rifles so they can hit high value infantry targets. So the commando team scouts into position, (weathers the storm of fire if you’re going second) and then zooms up, triggers the flechette dischargers, the Pathfinders jump out and nuke a vehicle, or an infantry unit, or a fortification, before dying horrible for the greater good!
The Beta Strike
So how would I build the second element? The idea here is that the second element is able to quickly deploy devastating fire power on the targets identified (or exposed) by the forward element. It should stay hidden (either off the board, or very difficult to kill) until it unleashes death on the enemy.
There are 2 ways to do this – allow it to stay of the board for a turn or 2 (i.e. some sort of reserve manipulation e.g. the Positional Relay), or have a cloaking device that makes it very hard to kill. I suspect the designers had this in mind when they gave Disruption Pods the Shrouded USR. AV12 and 13 vehicles with 3+ or even 2+ cover saves are pretty durable. So Hammerheads and Devilfish can “lurk” at the rear of the board until required to deliver the beta strike.
However, there needs to be balance, and I think 5pt D’pods are too powerful. The dynamic I would like to see is that when you deliver the beta strike, you expose yourself. This forces the Tau Commander to plan it very carefully, or be pounded by a counter punch. I would change D’pods to work only if no weapons are fired in the previous turn – so if the Tau general “breaks cover” to deliver his beta strike, in the following enemy turn, all his forces are exposed to return fire, with no cover save enhancements. So he better time that Beta Strike just right!
With this general principal in mind, how would I change specific units?
· Fire Warriors. Along with Heavy Support, Fire warriors need to be the mainstay of a Tau Cadre. However, to do so in the way I want the Cadre to operate, Fire Warriors must be true mobile infantry. The key is some sort of Special Rule (call it “Air Mobile” if you like) that allows the Devilfish to keep out of harm until it delivers its “punch” and then melt away.
Some ideas – perhaps you could allow Fire Warriors to revert to the old 5th edition disembark rules i.e. move 12 inches and get out to within 2 inches. This would extend their reach. You could also allow the Devilfish to take special weapon gun drones (plasma rifles, fusion blasters, and missile pods). These Drones could disembark with the Firewarriors and attach themselves to the Fire warrior team, just as if it were an extra body in the unit.
Finally, if you wanted to make them truly mobile, allow them to get out, rapid fire, and, if they pass a leadership test, re-embark in the assault phase (perhaps at the expense of being able to shoot next turn). Again, this plays to the “theme” of a devastating beta strike, and then a rapid redeployment.
· Hammerheads. Hammerheads need to be more versatile. The solution is easy – simply import two of the alternative forge world turrets,– Plasma Cannons (Range 48, s7, AP3, Heavy 4 Twin Linked), and Long Barrelled Burst Cannons (Range 48, S6, AP4 Heavy 6, Twin Linked). Combined with a (reduced price) Submunition capable Railgun, that makes the Hammerhead a very flexible weapons platform.
· Skyrays. These need to be the main Anti Air platforms. I dislike flyers intensely, so I would like them to mount Railguns with Skyfire and interceptor, but realistically I suspect they are more likely to be S8 AP3 missiles, with Interceptor and Skyfire.
· Broadsides. I love Broadsides. I would keep them just the way they are!
So far I haven’t mentioned Crisis Suits because I don’t’ see them fitting into either the forward element or the beta strike – in my dream army, they can fit into both. A Crisis Suits role is the ultimate Swiss Army Knife, able to do anything the Commander wants it to do.
Crisis suits should not be the mainstay of a Tau army. A Cadre should not deploy (as they do now) with 12 Crisis Suits and 6 Firewarriors! They should play to their name i.e. the suits are deployed in a crisis, when the Tau Commander needs something, somewhere very dead, very quickly. Crisis Suits should be truly Elite units, rare, expensive, rapidly deployable, and utterly devastating. In this role I really like the XV9 rules from forge world. Close support suits, that are put in harms way.
So how would I change them?
Firstly I would make Crisis Suits deployable only in units of one – so a maximum of 5 suits if you fill all your elite slots, and take 2 Command Suits. As a result they should be very tough, and utterly devastating. Your enemy should be terrified of Crisis Suits!
Their toughness would increase to 5, and their BS to 4 base (which could be boosted by a targeting array to BS5). They should have 3 wounds. Other stats would stay the same. Given they are true elite, they would have access to all wargear, including what is now “special issue”. Accordingly they could “buy” a shield generator for a 4++, and take up to 3 drones (of any type) to add additional wounds (and Iridium armour for a 2+, and a Stim Injector for FNP, if you really wanted). They would be Characters, allowed to Look Out Sir wounds to their Drones.
As for offensive capacity lets get one thing straight – there should be no assault suits. It’s just not how Tau roll!
One of the many joys of playing Tau is agonising over weapons load out on your suits (and coming up with weird names for each specific load out!). While it’s tempting to give suits a weapon that fires different rounds (like Sternguard Ammunition, or Commander Ralia’s experimental weapon) where’s the fun in that!
So I would keep the 3 hard point system, each of which takes a weapon. All other support systems would be “hard wired” (i.e. it would not take up a Hard Point). However, taking 2 weapons would not twin link them, rather you would actually have 2 weapons. The “traditional” weapons would stay the same – so plasma rifles, flamers, fusion blasters, and burst cannons (except burst cannons would be upgraded to Assault 4). They could take Heavy Gun Drones that could also take plasma rifles, fusion blasters and burst cannons (albeit Twin Linked BS2).
So you could build a Horde Control Crisis Suit with 3 burst cannons and 3 Burst Cannon Heavy Gun Drones, kicking out 24 S5 shots per turn. Alternatively you could build a “Plasma Storm” heavy infantry killer, with 3 plasma rifles, and 3 Plasma Rifle Heavy Gun Drones shooting 6 plasma shots over 12 inches, or 24 under 12! Or a “Bunker Buster” with 3 Fusion Guns, and Shield Drones so it might survive return fire. Or of course something in-between.
Next would be insertion. Crisis suits could deploy on the board if you wanted to, but more commonly I would see them staying in reserve until needed. They could come in using normal reserve rules. However, If the Commander is on the board and has a specific item of war gear (an enhanced positional relay perhaps?) it would allow him to bring them at the start of any turn (except turn 1) on a 2+, but would also allow him to keep them off on a 2+. To take advantage of this rule they must deep strike, but would only scatter 1d6.
Finally, they need to be able to avoid combat. Allowing them to move 2d6, re –rolling any one dice in the assault phase would help, and allowing them to automatically Hit and Run from assault would also help.
So the dynamic I have in mind might go something like this - the Commander sees a Landraider (or Tervigon, or Long Fang squad, or whatever) that just needs to die. At the beginning of the turn he calls in a Bunker Buster Crisis suit(s) and on a 2+ it deep strikes beside the Landradier blowing it to bits. It then jumps away 2d6 (rerolling one dice) in the assault phase, and, if assaulted, can automatically Hit and Run out of that assault. But say the Landraider is a Chaos one, bubble wrapped by cultists, and stuffed with Berserkers? The commander could call in a Horde Control Crisis suit turn 2 to blow away the bubble wrap, keep the Bunker Buster off until turn 3, and then bring down the Bunker Buster and a Plasma Storm. The Bunker Buster blows up the ‘Raider, and the Plasma Storm hoses down the Berserkers that pile out.
So these are my thoughts on how the game designers might built my dream Tau army. I’m sure they wont! The new Codex will get a slew of new models, some good, others appalling. I’ll get a pathetically useless flyer, Broadsides will be nerfed and I’ll get some over priced Special Character that allows my army to something that no Cadre Commander in their right mind would ever do. Ultimately, the imperium will always get the best toys, power armour is the new lack, and flyers will still dominate the game….sigh!
Tau Codex Kickstart anybody?