Troops are the core of any codex, and in the old ‘dex Tau troops were particularly weak (I once read a forum post claiming that Fire Warriors were the best troops in the game, yes really! Arrant nonsense. Fire Warriors were pretty poor, they got better in 6th edition, largely because of the changes to rapid fire weapons, but better isn’t good!).
There are 2 troop choices – Fire Warriors and Kroot. They’ve changed a little, but not by much.
Four things have happened in the new Codex that make Fire Warriors better (maybe even verging on good!). Ironically only one of them actually happened to Fire Warriors!
Basic stats stayed the same – WS2 BS3 S3 T3 W1 I2 A1 Ld7 Sv4+. They still come with a Pulse Rifle as standard but now also come with Photon (i.e. defensive) Grenades. They can upgrade to a Pulse Carbine for free and can get EMP grenades (which interestingly now count as Haywire Grenades) for 2pts per model. They can get a Shas’ui for 10pts who can take a target lock and a markerlight for 15pts, and a couple of Drones. Finally they can take a Devilfish transport.
The first thing that makes Fire Warriors better is the points drop to 9pts. I’m not persuaded that Photon Grenades are a boost. If my Fire Warriors get charged I want them to die horribly so their buddies can rapid fire the assaulting unit next turn. EMP grenades are intriguing. Some Tau geeks talk about EMP Commando Squads – fire warrior squads who assault vehicles with EMP grenades. Now that EMP grenades are proper haywire grenades these squads would be better, but the problem remains getting them close enough to assault the vehicle in the first place.
The second thing that make Fire Warriors better are the buffs to their shooting provided by the Fireblade and the Ethereal’s Storm of Fire power. With these buffs they can push out a horrible number of shots.
The third thing is the change to Pulse Carbines. They increased from Assault 1 to Assault 2. While this doesn't necessarily make them better than Pulse Rifles, they are at least an option now. In particular if you're running a mech Cadre with F’warriors in D’fish, being able to jump out and fire 2 shots up to 18” with the Pulse Carbine, rather than rapid firing 2 shots at 15” with the Pulse Rifle, is something to think about.
And finally, the forth thing is that the Devilfish got slightly better.
One of the major disappointments in the codex is that D’fish didn’t get a price drop. They did get better (marginally) but they should IMHO be 10pts cheaper. The ‘Fish is a Tank, Skimmer, Transport BS3 F12 S11 R10 HP3. It comes with a Burst Cannon (R18” S5 AP5 Assault 4) and 2 Gun Drones as standard. It can take up to 2 seeker missiles for 8pts each and swap out the Gun Drones for a Twin Linked Smart Missile System (SMS) (R30” S5 AP5 Heavy 4 Ignores Cover, Guided (i.e. does not need line of sight)) for 10pts. It also has access to the Vehicle Battle Systems list.
· Blacksun Filter. Give night vision (for 1pt!)
· Decoy Launchers. A 4++ from interceptor shots.
· Automated Repair System. Repairs stuff on a 6+ i.e. pretty pointless.
· Sensor Spines. Move through cover for 5pts…. Yes please!
· Flechette Dischargers. At initiative step 10 a unit with at least one model in base to base with the fish takes a S4 AP- hit for each model in base to base.
· Point Defence System. The vehicle fires overwatch with S5 or less weapons, and has the Supporting Fire rule (i.e. can fire overwatch at any unit assaulting a friendly unit in 6”).
· Advanced Targeting System. Any to hit roll of a 6+ is a precision shot.
· Disruption Pod. Now just stealth rather than shrouding and 15pts rather than 5. However, it is no longer cancelled out if the shooter is within 12”.
There are 2 things missing that really irritated me. You can no longer buy a Targeting Array to boost the BS to 4, nor can you buy a Multi Tracker to allow the fish to fire like a Fast Vehicle.
Lets be clear from the outset, taking a Devil Fish is probably a "style" choice. By that I mean it depends on the sort of army you want to play. If you're asking me whether taking one builds the most effective Cadre, I suspect the answer would be "no". Putting Fire Warriors behind an Aegis with an Ethereal and a Cadre Fireblade is probably more effective. Leaving the D'fish behind gives you more points for other stuff. You really only need D'fish if you want to play a mechanised Cadre, pushing F'warriors forward.
So, with that out of the way why is the fish better? Well because the Burst Cannon is Assault 4 now, rather than assault 3, and because the Pulse Carbines on the Gun Drones are Assault 2 rather than Assault 1. That means the standard fish gets 8 S5 shots rather than 5. In addition, even although you can’t get the Multi Tracker, you can still move 6” and fire both the Burst Cannon and the Drones, because the Drones fire as embarked passengers.
As for the Battle Systems, I think the only one that’s a must have are the Sensor Spines. Being able to ignore terrain is great if you’re moving forward aggressively with your Fire Warriors. The D’pod is not the must buy it used to be, but a 4+ cover save is better than a 5+, particularly now that it's not ignored for firers under 12”. That was a big draw back in the last ‘dex, if you were moving forward aggressively with your D'fish.
The only 2 other systems I might be tempted with are Flechette Dischargers and the Advanced Targeting System. If you’re moving forward with your Fire Warriors, and getting them out to shoot, then you’ll be using the D’fish to support them and block assaults. The Flechette Dischargers and beign able to Overwatch with the ‘Fish might help.
Then again, a ‘Fish with Sensor Spines, D’pod, Dischargers and the ATS would cost 120pts……!
In the past I ran D’fish (when I did run them) with a D’pod and sensor spines. In the old ‘dex that cost 95pts in the new one 100pts. For those extra points, I get almost twice the fire power, but one point less on my cover save, although I get it all the time, and not just outside 12”.
So like I said, slightly better, but still not good!
Kroot got cheaper by 1 point, but lost an attack and a point of strength. They gained a 6+ armour save (!). Kroot hounds also got a point cheaper and also lost a point of strength. You can add up to 3 Kroot Oxen for 25pts each. The Kroot Ox is S6 and comes with a Kroot Gun (R48” S7 AP4 Rapid Fire). You can upgrade one Kroot to a Shaper (most important thing is that he gives them Ld8, up from Ld7). And finally, for 1pt per model you can make their Kroot Rifles sniper rifles….! Better still, they can choose which round to use every time they fire, so can still move and shoot their Rapid Fire rounds, rather than teh Sniper Rounds which are "heavy". Even better, their standard rounds are "pulse" rounds which means they are affected by the Ethereal's Storm of Fire power.
All Kroot come with Infiltrate, Move Through Cover and Stealth (forests). The Kroot Hounds come with Acute Senses. Squad sizes are 10 – 20 Kroot to which you can add up to 10 Hounds and 3 Oxen. One of the most bamboozling things in the new 'dex is that Kroot Hounds are Beasts....but you can only buy them in squads of Kroot, which are infantry! What's the point in that!
However, the more I think about Kroot the more I like them. They are still good at what they excelled at previously – bubble wrap, blocking and just getting in the way (and they are 1pt cheaper!). They still infiltrate, outflank and score. That’s pretty much all I used them for in the past. Any idea that they were an assault unit was an illusion – on occasion they did extraordinary things (have I mentioned I once killed a Greater Demon with a squad of Kroot!), but their job was to die for the greater good. So, to the extent that they can do everything they did in the past, and are a point cheaper, I’m happy. However, they can now do so much more!
First of all, with only one Hound attached, they can re-roll the side they come in on when they outflank. One of their key rolls is to come in off a board edge and grab an objective. Being able to more or less choose which side them come in on is pretty good. Next you can now bring along 3 S7 AP4 rapid firing Kroot Guns when you outflank or infiltrate. While you could always take Kroot Oxen in the past, you couldn’t infiltrate or outflank with them. Now you can, and they are 10pts per model cheaper.
Lots and lots of possibilities present themselves – infiltrating sniper teams with Kroot Guns picking up marker lights from Sniper Drones, big packs of Kroot (with some hounds) outflanking on pretty much on any side you want. Teaming up with infiltrating stealth suits with a Positional Relay to bring the Kroot in on your opponents board edge. Maybe this is the army to take Shadowsun ….. attach her to a big pack of Kroot to give them a 2+ cover save!
Yet again, Kroot are the ultimate utility players.
IMHO Tau troops got better, but I'm not persuaded (yet) that they're "good". However, they are cheaper and way more flexible than they were before.
My initial impression is that there will be broadly 3 ways to play them - Fire Warrior gun line, with Fireblades and Ethereals, a Mechanised Cadre, with Fire Warriors loaded in D'fish moving forward aggressively, or a Shadowsun Ghost Cadre, with loads of Kroot, and maybe a couple of squads of F'warriors in the back field.
Which is better, remains to be seen - but at least we have choices now.