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Themed Army Ideas
Tau War Journal
 Part 1 <> Part 2 <> Part 3

Tau War Journal: Part Two by Patrick Eibel
In the first installment of this series, I stated my intent to build a Tau army from scratch.  Since then, I have been busy buying and painting figures, and perusing the newly acquired Codex: Tau Empire.  I will talk about collecting and painting figures in future installments, so I can focus on reviewing the new codex and creating an army list in this one.  We have a lot to get to, so let’s get started.

Meet the New ‘dex, Same as the Old ‘dex
The Sixth Edition Codex: Tau Empire was released in April, 2013; a new edition was released two years later, and is even being called more of a tweak to align with Seventh Edition.  Games Workshop has even made it so you can get the goods on the new stuff from the Kauyon campaign book (not that buying that instead saves you any money). 

The real question players want answered is whether the Tau have been upgraded enough, through new units and Formations, to compete with the current round of codices.  I will try to answer that question in my review, and then discuss how I made a list from the new rules that I think will be a fun army to play.

Much of the background information is the same as the last edition, if a little more condensed—though it has been punched up nicely with color graphics.  The descriptions of all of the Tau units fill up a lot of page space, which I guess is useful to newcomers who are unfamiliar with the army.  

Unlike the previous edition, all of the rule-related stuff is in the unit listing in the back, so the write-ups here are purely for fluff.  I think the only thing useful about the unit descriptions is the drones page that shows what each type of drone looks like.

Next, there is a very useful section showing squad markings, ranks insignia, and general color schemes for different Septs.  This section is in line with the other new codices, and is probably one of the more useful things GW has added.  Most of the pictures feature the two most common color schemes: the orange-and-brown we had before; and the white, black, and red that seems to be used on all the new boxes. 

There are pictures with figures painted in the colors of other Septs represented later in the codex, but they are few and far between.  After the section showing the different color schemes, you would think the ‘Eavy Metal boys could get a few more different models painted.

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter: the actual army list.  I will set aside discussion of the Formations for a moment to look at the units.  If you want an indicator of how close this book is to its predecessor, here are some statistics:

  • 3 new units (Breacher Team, Ghostkeel, and Stormsurge);
  • 8 units with important changes over the old codex; and
  • 17 units that stayed exactly the same. 

This is not necessarily bad, as the last codex fared pretty well until other armies were updated and passed them by. 

Really, the success of this codex must be measured by what the Formations give you, which is how each army is judged in Seventh Edition, anyway.  First, a note to the naming geniuses at GW: calling the MEGA BIG SUPER DETACHMENT the “Hunter Contingent,” and the required basic formation the “Hunter Cadre” is just asking for confusion.  To avoid said confusion, I will refer to the MEGA BIG SUPER DETACHMENT as MBSD. 

The MBSD, like in other recent releases, is the platform from which you can build a custom fighting force.  Choosing to use the MBSD over the Combined Arms Detachment (CAD) from the big rule book depends on what extra benefits you want to get, and how much you are required to take to unlock the other Formation goodies. 

Fortunately, the Tau MBSD has lots of options of good things that will all work together, and the units get a bump to their Ballistic Skill if they coordinate firepower (this will stack with other benefits given by other Formations, so you could potentially be looking at BS 5 Broadsides, Riptides, etc.  Let that sink in for a minute).  Here is the unit breakdown for the Hunter Cadre (the core formation of the MBSD):

  • 1 Commander (the Crisis Suit big guy you were taking anyway);
  • 0-1 Cadre Fireblades (these are very useful, as you will see when I talk about building a list);
  • 3-6 units chosen from Breacher Teams, Strike Teams (the old Fire Warrior units), and Kroot;
  • 1-3 units chosen from Stealth Suits, Crisis Suits, Ghostkeels, and Riptides (and with Riptides now a unit of up to 3, that could be a lot of Riptides);
  • 1-3 units chosen from Pathfinders, Piranha, Vespids, and Drones (Vespids suck, but the other choices make up for it); and,
  • 1-3 units chosen from Broadsides, Hammerheads, Stormsurges, and Sniper Drones (consider that you could field three individual Riptides and three individual Stormsurges for 1,620 points, and use the remaining points to fill out the slots).

The other Formations find ways to mix and match other units to get added bonuses, usually a Ballistic Skill-bump.  Probably the best Formation is the Optimized Stealth Cadre, which requires a Ghostkeel unit (between 1-3 Ghostkeels) and two Stealth Teams (between 3-6 Stealth suits per team). 

Optimized Stealth Cadre: now you see them, now you're dead

The units in the Formation can network their weapons together, and all models within six inches of the Ghostkeel get Ignores Cover; a +1 to Ballistic Skill; and can strike vehicles on their rear armor regardless of actual facing.  That can be a devastating ability when you consider that Ghostkeels can come with a fusion collider and twin-linked fusion blasters (an upgrade you want to take), and that one in three Stealth Suits can also have fusion blasters.  That means a lot of melta-weapons striking at the rear armor of vehicles in range.

One thing I should mention is that the rules for the new Tau scenery pieces are not in the codex, so I assume that means you find out what they do when you buy the box.  While the scenery looks pretty cool, and reviews suggest they are pretty potent, I don’t like the idea of limiting myself to a static army.

In the end, is the new Tau Empire codex worth it?  Probably not.  I think they did make the army viable for this edition of the rules through Formations and added benefits, but a lot of the success of the army will depend on getting certain combinations to work.  Of course, if you want to just load up on big suits and really aggravate your opponent, you could win a few games—but lose a few friends. 

To get a sense of the challenges and opportunities creating a list with the new codex may present, let’s move on to the next section, where I break down the units and Formations I plan on using for my army.

Tau Breacher Team

The List of Things to Come
I have fiddled around with combinations of models I like, Formations with potent benefits, and figures I think are cool.  I will present the list below, and then discuss the units in depth in future installments, when I show them all painted up.  At least, that’s my plan.  To start, here are the Formations and benefits I will be using:

  • Hunter Contingent (“MBSD”).  Warlord re-rolls trait, 3 or more units in the MBSD can combine firepower for +1 BS;
  • Hunter Cadre.  Units proved Supporting Fire to others in formation at 12”, units within 12” of Commander or Fireblade can run and shoot;
  • Optimized Stealth Cadre.  Units get Ignores Cover, +1 BS, and strike rear armor of vehicles; and,
  • Firebase Support Cadre.  Units in cadre can co-ordinate fire to shoot at one target and gain the Tank Hunters and Monster Hunters rules.

Each of these Formations has unit requirements that dictate the unit selections I need to take.  I have generated a 2,000 point list that I feel pretty good about, but then I haven’t seen it in action.  Here is the list of units that will make my army:

Hunter Cadre (Contingent core formation)

  • Commander with iridium armor, twin-linked fusion blaster, target lock, puretide chip, drone controller, marker drone.  This guy is pretty tough for a Tau, and will buff the Crisis Suit unit he joins;
  • Cadre Fireblade with pulse rifle, photon grenades, markerlight.  The Fireblade can increase the range of the pulse carbines of the Strike Team, while also allowing the Breachers to run and shoot pulse blasters;
  • Fire Warrior Strike Team (8 Fire Warriors) with pulse carbines, and a tactical support turret (a smart missile system that the unit can call down).  Devilfish with a smart missile system upgrade, point defense targeting relay (vehicle fire Overwatch), and 2 seeker missiles;
  • Breacher Team (7 Fire Warriors and a Shas’ui) with pulse blasters, field amplifier relay, and photon grenades, as well as a guardian drone.  The unit rides in a Devilfish exactly the same as above.  The guardian drone will give the unit a 5+ invulnerable save.  Boo and Yah!
  • 11 Kroot Carnivores with a Shaper and 4 Kroot Hounds, for holding objectives and looking fierce;
  • 3 Crisis Suits with plasma rifles and missile pods. Strength 7 firepower is handy;
  • 3 Crisis Suits with fusion blasters and flamers.  This unit will hang with the Commander for surgical strikes;
  • 6 Pathfinders with a recon drone.  Markerlight goodness and a homing beacon to help with deep striking;
  • Broadside with a high-yield missile pod, target lock, and 2 marker drones; and,
  • Broadside – same as above.  Single suits will be able to co-ordinate fire more easily.

 Optimized Stealth Cadre (Auxiliary Formation)

  • Ghostkeel with fusion collider and twin-linked fusion blasters;
  • 3 Stealth Battlesuits.  One upgraded with fusion blaster, one upgraded to Shas’vre with a markerlight and target lock; and,
  • 3 Stealth Battlesuits.  Same as unit described above.

Firebase Support Cadre (Auxiliary Formation)

  • Riptide with ion accelerator;
  • Broadside with twin-linked heavy rail rifle, target lock, and 2 marker drones;
  • Broadside.  As above; this will be the tank-hunting unit.  If I know I will face Flyers, I can drop one of the Hunter Cadre Broadsides to get velocity trackers for all three units here (allows a unit to take Skyfire at will).

There you have it.  I think this will be a real neat army on the table, though I am worried about the naked Devilfish.  Thanks to some thrifty shopping, I already have about half of the figures, but more on that next time.

"I am Kroot"

Tau War Journal
 Part 1 <> Part 2 <> Part 3

Posted December 2015 


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle