Ahh….now we’re talking. This was always the strength of the of dex (this and XV8s), and it doesn’t disappoint. There are 4 very viable entries, all of which have their place.
In the old ‘dex Hammerheads were my great unrequited love – they really needed to be better than they were for their points… but they were so cool! Well they are essentially the same, although a bit cheaper.
For 125pts base you get a BS 4, Tank, that’s also a skimmer with armour F13 S12 R10 that comes with a S10 AP1 Railgun and 2 gun drones. You can upgrade the main gun with a sub-munitions round for 5pts to give you a S6 AP4 large blast. You can upgrade the Gun Drones to either twin linked Burst Cannons, or TL Smart Missile Systems for free. You can also take all the Vehicle Support options I discussed in the Devilfish Review. Upgrading to the sub-munition round (which was free in the old ‘dex) makes it 20pts cheaper than in the old Codex!
Essential load out IMHO is a D’pd and a Black Sun Filter. In the old ‘dex this came to an additional 10pts. In the new dex it comes to 16pts. So it’s really only 14pts cheaper.
So are they worth it?
Sadly, I’m really not persuaded they are. The question you need to ask yourself is, what can the Rail Gun toting HH do that other options can’t. The only answer really is dealing with AV13+ at range. The problem is they’re one shot wonders. One third of the time it will miss, and, against AV13, it will fail to do anything one third of the time and against AV14, it will do nothing 50% of the time.
The sad truth is that a Railhead is pretty rubbish at killing heavy armour at range. That’s why until now, most Tau Players brought Broadsides.
One option to make it better is bring Longstrike, the special character Hammerhead upgrade. He makes the HH BS5 and gives Tank Hunter and Preferred Enemy IG. That makes the HH much more reliable at killing heavy armour. However he’s 45pts. So your HH now costs 190pts…… and what if your opponent has no heavy armour!
Sorry, but it’s just not worth it IMHO. Which makes me a sad!
The other option is to take an Ion Cannon. This is S7 AP3 Range 60” Heavy 3. Like all Ion weapons you can Overcharge . An overcharged Ion Cannon is Range 60”,S8 AP3 Large Blast, Gets hot. It’s an interesting option. The down side is that Gets Hot is more dangerous for vehicles (stripping a hull point with no save). Might be an option if you aren’t taking Riptides with Ion Accelerators.
Lots of people complained when Broadsides lost the Rail Gun. While this makes me sad, IMHO the High Yield Missile Pod more than makes up for it.
So stats stay the same as before WS2 BS3 S5 T4 W2 Ld8 Sv2+. Basic cost is 5pts cheaper, but they come with Twin Linked Heavy Rail Rifles (HRR) rather than Rail Guns, so Range 60” S8 AP1 Heavy 1. Smart Missiles systems are still standard, but they are now twin linked. You can swap the Rail Rifles to High Yield Missile Pods (HYMP) (Range 36” S7 AP4 Heavy 4, Twin Linked) for free, and pay 5pts to upgrade the SMS to TL Plasma Rifles. You can upgrade one to a Shas’vre (importantly brings Ld9), and each of them can take (sadly only) one support system. Finally, each of them can take 2 Drones, and crucially, thanks to the FAQ, Broadsides are the only units that can take Missile Drones.
I’ve seen a lot of debate on HRR versus HYMPs. Of course it depends on what you want the Broadsides to do. If you want to murder light vehicles at extreme range (36”+) HRRs are the way to go. If you want to kill TEQ, then HRRs with Plasma Rifles are probably better (although there are better ways to do this than HRR Broadsides). However, for pretty much everything else they HYMPs are better.
The thing is, Broadsides with HYMPs and SMS are just so much more flexible. For 195pts you get a unit that spits out 12 S7 and 12 S5, Twin Linked missiles per turn. That’s a lot to high strength firepower. But here’s the thing, add in an XV8 Commander with Iridium Armour and a Puretied Engram Chip and you get a 4 wound, T5 model with a 2+ save to tank wounds, and your Broadsides can have Tank Hunter or Monster Hunter every turn…..! On average, that’s 13 wounds on a Tervigon if the SMS is in range, or 5 glances/pens on an AV12 vehicle.
And here’s the thing…give them a Velocity Tracker and that’s 5 glances/pens on a Helldrake, or 13 wounds on a Winged Hive Tyrant…..!
Here’s what I was thinking about for the ultimate anti flyer unit. Three HYMP Broadsides with Velocity Trackers and an attached Commander. Give the Commander 2 Missile Pods, a velocity tracker a Target Lock, 2 Shield Drones, the Puretide Engram Chip and the Multi Spectrum Sensor Suite (ignores cover USR). Put them behind an Aegis, with the Commander on the Quad Gun.
Here’s the scenario. You’re playing guard and you have first turn. On your Turn 1 activate the Puretide Chip and select Tank Hunter – kill 2 tanks (remember the Commander has a target lock). On his turn 1 he will shoot at your Broadsides. However, you can tank a lot of wounds on the Commander (remember he’s T5 so Lazcannons do not double him out), and you can also pass 2 onto your shield Drones. It would take roughly 24 BS3 lascannon shots to kill the Commander. He’s likely to survive.
On your turn 2 activate the chip again, and kill 2 more tanks. The chip remains active until the beginning of your next movement phase. On your opponent’s turn 2, two Vendettas come in. The Commander fires the Quad Gun using interceptor and Tank Hunter. He’s unlikely to down the Vendetta but he’ll probably strip a hull point or 2. The other Vendetta will no doubt shoot at your Broadsides. But again, chances are he’ll survive. In your turn 3 the Broadsides will probably kill the undamaged Vendetta, and the Commander (using his missile pods, not the Quad Gun) will probably finish off the damaged one.
Not many units that can kill 2 AV12 flyers in 1 game turn. Now of course this is an expensive unit – almost 550pts if you include the Aegis. However, it’s not like you’re bringing it just to kill flyers. Chances are you’re bringing the commander anyway, and your probably bringing the Aegis as well. The Broadsides are good at killing other things, not just flyers. The only things you’re bringing specifically to kill flyers are the Quad gun, and 4 velocity trackers …. 130 pts to kill 2 AV12 flyers in one turn! Seems worth it to me….!
The only problem is range. The Vendettas outrange you. In theory it’s possible for them to come onto the board and be out of range. In practice this would be tricky, providing you position your Broadsides sensibly. In addition it would screw up their LOS, and may even force them to hover. All good things!
Finally, missile Drones. If you really want to load up on S7 hits take 6 missile Drones with your Broadsides. You’re only getting 4 hits on average, but for 72pts, its not bad. They also provide ablative wounds for your Broadsides. Note, that missile drones do not benefit from a Drone Controller, so no BS5 missile drones! If you want to make them more accurate, give the Commander a Command and Control Node to make them twin linked! If you do that, for an extra 87pts, you then have a unit that puts out 30 s7 shots (including the commander and the Quad Gun), averaging 21 hits (that can re roll to wound MCs or to penetrate tanks!). If you put target locks on the Broadsides rather than Velocity Trackers, the unit can target 3 separate units (Commander and Quad Gun, one unit, the 3 Broadsides another, and the Drones a third).
Of course it snap fires against flyers now, but with that many twin linked shots it’s still averaging around 7 hits…… with tank hunter….. and ignores cover … and you could take a Skyray!
The downside is of course the cost… around 650pts, if you include the Aegis and the Commander. But it’s not just the points cost, it’s the opportunity cost … is it the best use of a Commander and all the signature systems tied up in the one unit?
Skyray and Sniper Drones next.