Part 2 on Special Characters.
Commander Farsight is back, and he’s pretty funky! His stats are the same as the XV8 Commander, with 2 exceptions he’s WS5 and initiative 5. Not terribly exciting I hear you say. Well you would be right if it wasn’t for the Dawn Blade which is an AP 2 weapon that strikes at initiative, and has armour bane (remember he’s S5 base). Now, in a world of combat monsters, he’s no Abbadon, but in a Tau Cadre, he’s not bad.
But combat prowess is not why you bring Farsight. You bring him because he can take a bodyguard of up to 7 suits, and his unit can deep strike with no scatter. The Farsight Bomb is back, but is it wise!
I’ll come back to building a Farsight Bomb in more detail in a later post, but the basic idea is that you take as many bodyguard suits as you can afford, tool them up with Plasma Rifles and Fusion Guns, sprinkle in some target locks so they don’t need to shoot at only one target, add a Command and Control Node so they re roll to hit, a Multi Spectrum Sensor Suit so they ignore cover, deep strike them in and kill stuff.
Now I’ve never played a Farsight Bomb in the old codex. The main reason was that he gimped your FOC, restricting other units you could bring. However, I was never really convinced that deep striking over 500pts of suits into your opponents lines was a great idea, particularly in 6th when it put your Warlord in harms way. Farsight is tough, but he’s not that tough.
In the new dex, while the FOC restriction is gone, there is still the issue of whether it’s wise to deep strike over 500pts of battle suits (plus your warlord) into your opponents lines. I think a Farsight Bomb list will need very careful thought.
Commander Shadowsun is also much improved. Again her stats are pretty much the same as the XV8 Commander but with a point less of toughness and strength, with one less wound (so T3 and S4). She comes with 2 Fusion Blasters that can target 2 separate units and a Stealth Suit (giving her Stealth and Shrouding). She shoots precision shots on a 5 and 6, Infiltrates and any unit she joins that have jet packs can move 3d6 in the assault move. She can bring up to 3 Drones (at extra cost), one Command and Control Drone that lets any unit within 12 inches re roll 1 to hit, and she can bring 2 Shield Drones that give he a 3++. Most importantly, she's now an independant character.
I’m still trying to work out exactly what to do with Shadowsun TBH. At first I got excited about using her to infiltrate standard XV8 suits, but then realised that you can’t do that because commanders with infiltrate can’t infiltrate with units that don’t have infiltrate (they deploy at different times). Then I thought about attaching her to a Stealth Team with marker drones for 2 BS5 infiltrating marker lights, but realised that, although she takes drones, she does not have a drone controller so her BS does not confer on the drones. Finally I thought about adding her to a Farsight Bomb to give them Stealth and Shrouding when the drop in, but that just puts way too many points into one unit.
The best I’ve come up with is attaching her to a squad of Pathfinder to give them stealth and shrouding, and a character to tank wounds. Not that exciting really as they can’t infiltrate and everybody’s taking Thunder Fire Cannons these days!
I would really welcome thoughts on how to use Shadowsun effectively!
The “Space Pope” got a bit better, although I’m still not convinced he’s worth it really. His stats are truly dreadful, but that’s not the point. He comes with 2 honour guards who are also pretty rubbish, but again, that’s not the point. You bring the Space Pope for his special rules. The problem is, they aren’t that great either!
He comes with the usual Ethereal leadership buffs, but as well as allowing all units within 12” to use his leadership 10, all units board wide can reroll leadership tests. This is good, but not amazing.
He can also summon the elements, but unlike a normal Etheral, he can summon 2 per turn. That would be good if it wasn’t for the fact that only one of the powers is any good!
He has a weird rule that give him an inverse save – i.e. he gets an extra save based on the AP of the weapon that caused the wound. So if he was shot by a Lazcannon he would get a 2+ save. Odd, but not great – punk him with Heavy Bolters, or Multilazers!
Finally, he has a fixed Warlord Trait that, once per game, allows all units that have gone to ground to jump back up and act as normal. This might be effective for ducking behind an Aegis to avoid a turn one alpha strike, then jumping back up to shoot at an advancing horde, but it’s a bit of a one trick pony IMHO, and again, it’s really for a static gunline army, not a mobile mechanised one.
Not persuaded by Aun’Va. For half the points an Ethereal is better value IMHO.
A close combat Tau Ethereal. For 60pts more than a standard Ethereal he gets weapons skill and initiative 5, 4 attacks, an honour blade (not a power weapon, but gives +2 strength), a shield generator (for a 4++) and all the standard Ethereal stuff. His special skill is that in challenges, he can choose to either e-roll his 4++, or have rending.
Frankly I see no point in taking him over a standard Ethereal.
Darkstrider is the Pathfinder Special Character WS4 BS5 S3 T3 W3 I3 Ld9 Sv5+. For 100 pts he comes with a blacksun filter, and a markerlight. He scouts and outflanks and is an independent character, but can only attach to Fire Warriors or Pathfinders.
His 2 “big things” are the structural analyser, which allows him to reduce a targets toughness by one, and the ability for him and his unit to consolidate d6 inches after they fire overwatch.
Hmmm….I guess he’s another cheap HQ, but he’s not really that impressive. The Structural Analyser is cute, but not really that big a deal. It only affects the shooting from Darkstriders unit, unlike the rad grenades Ravenwing get. I guess you could give the pathfinders Railrifles or Ion Rifles to double out T4 units reduced to T3. The ability to fall back after Overwatch (called Fighting Retreat) is also interesting, but it only effects his unit. Also it’s based on a premise that is I suspect more and more irrelevant – i.e. that Tau want to avoid assault. While this remains true, it’s less important in a game that is focusing more and more on shooting. Frankly T3 Sv4+ infantry die pretty easily to shooting as well!
Summay on HQs
IMHO, the stand out choice is the XV8 Commander, and then the Ethereal. They are relatively cheap (the Ethereal in particular), and bring a lot to the Cadre as a whole. While cheap the Fireblade is limited. He might be useful as a cheap HQ where you don’t want an XV8 Commander (but when would that be?), and you just want to fill the slot. You could sit him in an objective camping squad of Fire Warriors I guess. He’s got a BS5 markerlight and a target lock.
Of the Special Characters the only one that appeals is Farsight, but really only for one particular build (the Farsight Bomb). I would love to find a good use for Shadowsun, but I’m struggling to work it out. The 2 Ethereals are IMHO pretty pointless, I don’t really see the benefit over a standard Ethereal.
Finally Darkstrider – like Shadowsun I can’t help feeling there is a clever way to use him, but I can’t see it. Maybe to outflank a squad of fire warriors into your opponents backfield? With a positional relay you could even bring them in on your opponent’s board edge. But the question remains – then what? Twelve Fire Warriors aren’t really that scary.
Next Troops. Should be done by tomorrow.