Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Pew-Pew

Greetings Gentlereaders,

If there's any army in 40k that I love I've got to say that it's the Tau.  They're sleek, orderly and have gundams.  For someone who grew up on the Power Rangers, with their zords and emphasis on teamwork there's a bit of nostalgia when I play the army.  I love how they've got a story that is deeper than it appears if you read between the lines and I'm really excited for where the story of The Young will go when they get a new codex.

The philosophy of the greater good permeates their society, but they view themselves as primus inter pares, the first among equals with the ethereals being the first among the Tau.  I'm a social scientist in training and would love to see more on the dynamics of their society, but until Games Workshop, Black Library or Fantasy Flight decide to delve into  that more, all we have is the codices and Fire Warrior.  As I've not yet completed my Coming Back from the Brink series and given serious thought to each unit, I really can't say whether there is as much depth in the viable units in the Tau codex as there is in the story of the Tau.  Here's why...

I've recently picked back up the brush and brought more of my army up to a respectable aesthetic level, so I've been discussing how to improve my army list with Corvus, and to a lesser extent Godfrey.  We had been talking about bring back "The Armada," an army style that relied heavily on devilfish filled with fire warriors.  I had this big article about how Tau couldn't bring variety and needed to simply shove fire warriors and broadsides down their opponent's throats.  I was going to compare different types of armies to different MtG deck types and say how a more reactive style, with different units to deal with different threats simply wouldn't work.

For all of my hate statistics are useful things
However, I used my analytical tools that I intended to use to show how bad crisis suits and vespids were in comparison to broadsides and fire warriors and found I was wrong to make an unconditional statement.  When I looked at what I could expect to get out of each point, the common currency of 40k, I found that if I wanted to damage any tank that was less than armor thirteen, I would get more out of my deathrain crisis suits than I would out of broadsides, point for point.  Sure, the suits couldn't get as high a probability, but were also almost half the cost, and thus a better value.  So I thought that had to be a fluke, surely my original hypothesis was correct,so I looked to prove myself right on comparing infantry killers with each other.

Again, I was wrong when I thought Vespids were horrible compared to fire warriors, at least at killing my hated marine enemies.  I knew off my head that any fire warrior shot has a 0.111 probability of killing a marine (assuming BS 3), in cover or not and I knew that vespids had a better chance at killing marines with their armor penetration three guns, but they were also more expensive.  So I took the probability to hit (1/2), multiplied it by the probability to wound (2/3) and inverted it to see how many shots I would need to expect to kill a marine out of cover and found it was three shots.  Fire warriors clock in at about two guardsmen per model, depending on if you average in the per model cost of a shas'ui and then it matters how many models are in the squad and the same goes for the vespids, though they clock in at the same as a tactical marine.  Without factoring in the cost of either sergeant that meant I would need to spend 90 points on fire warriors to expect to kill a marine outside of double tap range, but only 48 points on vespids to do the same thing.
Ruining days and assumptions
I was wrong again, so I kept trying to prove myself right and went into calculating the cost-to-kill for marines in cover.  With the changes to cover, I decided to see what the cost would be for vespids to kill a marine in 5+ and 4+ cover.  To figure 5+ cover I multiplied the cost in points by the inverse of the chance a marine would fail his cover save (3/2) and came up with 72 points, still less than what I would need to spend on fire warriors to do the same job. I did end up being right when it came to 4+ cover, needing 96 points, but the fact that I proved my assumptions wrong means that the assumptions I based my desire to run "The Armada" again on, namely that nothing excelled fire warriors or broadsides at their jobs for the money, were wrong.  Sure there are plenty of arguments to be made for fire warriors and broadsides, but there are surprisingly still niches for the specialist units in Tau that have fallen by the wayside in my mind.

I don't know where I'll go with this new knowledge, probably towards some new list that incorporates vespid, crisis suits and maybe even a stealth drone team, but it is encouraging to see that despite its age, the Tau codex has more to offer than is seen at face value.  I'll have to dig deeper to see how much there really is and I'll have to start fresh when a new codex comes out, but that's okay.  Getting to look at my favorite codex with new eyes has reinvigorated my passion for the game.  The Young has made my enjoyment of the game young again, not the same as it was when I began playing, but youthful and tempered with experience. I don't know what I'll do with the army, but I can see a brush in it's future and possibly something on brushes in the future of this blog from Son of Horus.  Until then prosper as Tau shall.

I'm Underground Heretic and I get to live with that every day!


  1. Great Article! I have been following your blog for a while and am enjoying your work.

    As for useful units for the Tau; Hammerheads are now almost invincible with the 3+ cover save with Jink and 2+ behind a ruin, so I find myself running two of them alongside my 2 Sniper Drone teams (fluff reasons and not at all strategically bad when you give them a go) I am having great luck with Deathrain suits too, and even using a Stealth suit unit joined with my commander to make him survive every game even up at the 18" range I need for the fragmentation horde killer ;)

    Keep up the good work and I will keep reading!


  2. Kib! I'm really glad you're enjoying the writing and thanks for the praise. You're spot on about the your unit assessments. I will do what I can to keep the quality high and I hope you enjoy and comment.

    1. Apologies, I have reread my comment and just realised how badly written/phrased it was!

      Have you considered writing an article on the Synergy of units? this would cover tactics like joining the Commander with stealth units to give him 2+ cover, or joining a Commander with A.S.S. to units like Broadsides and Pathfindes to allow them to move and still shoot heavy weapons?

      To be honest i have been finding that the Tau have fast become the "Stealth army" of 40k; with the main change being shrouded on vehicles in the last FAQ. I am very much enjoying giving my whole army 3+/2+ cover saves along with denying line of sight with 'Jump, shoot, jump'.

      Need to face a wider variet of armies though as my Eldar playing mate is yet to beat me in 6th... is this something that you have found at all given our new superior durability?

    2. I'd have to re-read the BRB to check some of those synergies. I know they can always snap shoot on the move, but I don't know if having a model with S&P in the unit gives the unit S&P.

      I haven't had much of a chance to play recently, hence the new discoveries. Also, our only eldar player hasn't been able to play either, so haven't played against them in 6th.

    3. Ah, no worries. Basically you give the commander Advanced Stabilisation System and the BRB says that Slow and purposeful confers to the whole unit, so that is that one in a nut shell.

      I must admit that I have really enjoyed playing with the possibilities in the Tau upgrades, some of them really make the Tau considerably more viable than the basic units.

  3. My lingering question about this article is with regard to range and durability. What range do suits and vespids have to be at to do that kind of damage? And how durable are they when the foe returns fire? Because if they survive half as long, I'd feel that the points are significantly less worth it.

    1. The suits can strike from 36", the vespids from 12" with an effective 24". Durability isn't great on vespids and is so so on crisis suits.

    2. So the crisis suits are more durable than the crisis suits, and capable of operating outside of the range of weapons that scare them, forcing opponents to come to you or radically alter their deployment.

      And if my math is right, double tapping fire warriors are as effective at killing marines as vespid are (more so if the marines are in cover) and more durable to the marines return fire. Furthermore, they can fire the first salvo, and cost fewer points.

    3. Broadsides are more durable than crisis suits, crisis suits are more durable than anything else in the codex. The guns that scare crisis suits (8/3 or better) have longer range than the suits' guns.

      Double tapping fire warriors have a 0.11 1/2*2/3*/13 probability per shot, so 0.22. Vespid have a 0.33 1/2*2/3.

  4. Hi. Been following your Tau articles for a bit. Just wanted to point out a few things from my experience.

    1. Fire Warriors with pulse rifles terrorize Marines. Either deployed from a devilfish for the double tap, or on foot for single shots while giving ground. Also pulse rifles can knock off hull points from rhino/razor chasis.

    2. Crisis suits with missile pod, burst cannon and multi-tracker. At 2000 points, the level we regularly play at, I take 15 of these. 30 autocannon shots wrecks AV11 spam all day. And can get side armour on chimera walls. This reduces the need for broadsides greatly.

    3. Gun drones on crisis suit squads. Eat the first 2 wounds. Always. And can get cover easily from devilfish chasis.

    4. Vespid are absolutely horrid. Once you catch a marine player once, they will always shoot them in the following games. And then they die. Without doing anything useful. Deep strike is a bad deployment option.

    I will keep reading. I am looking forward to the rest of your series on the Tau. Keep expanding the Empire for the Greater Good!!

    1. I'm really glad that you've been enjoying them xXTerminatorXx. I'll keep them going as long as I have people who want them to keep going. Thank you, Prosper!

      1. I've not had much chance to test against marines and I just know that Godfrey's guard terrify my tau on foot.

      2. I've always known about them, but I've never tried them. I assume you're running these suits out of a second FOC or are some of these bodyguards?

      3. I've usually been using shield drones, but if I can get in cover I see your reasons. Thanks for the tip.

      4. They may be a surprise only unit, but I'm not sure if deep strike is such a bad option if you're running pathfinders. Admittedly, it's a pretty decent commitment to bring pathfinders, but it can improve your vespids on top of what they do for the rest of the army, assuming they live to do anything.

  5. With glances being (just about) the most reliable way to kill a tank these days, auto-cannon equivalents vs light vehicles (read, transports-and-similar) are often more efficient than the more powerful (if more deadly) lascannon-esque options.

    3+ cover is sickeningly good. Go first. Move an inch. Laugh. The only reason my DE aren't jealous (read: proxying Tau) is because 'Fish tote a glorified pulse rifle. My boat carries a giant death blaster. Trade offs, you see.

    In terms of something like Vespids vs Mass FW fire, my gut is to put my money on the FW's. Not because Vespids don't do what they're meant to (excellent clean-up crew), but more the issue of survivability. They're too fragile, IMHO, for the weapons they carry. I'd take the extra range of the FW's (and more survivable, both in terms of better armor and cheaper individually).

    1. I haven't seen much in the way of light vehicles in 6th, though I've been otherwise occupied lately. I can't deny that once I get my vehicles moving they're difficult to kill, but I haven't been able to go first but once or twice in 6th. you've got a point with the FW vs Vespids, but at least they can still do their job.

  6. Even when you don't go first, you deploy your transports behind something to get cover (4+), then add the Disruption Pod bonus. 2+. If you really have to, because your table is exceedingly barren, take a Hammerhead w/ D. Pod, place it at the front so at worst it gets 3+ out in the open. Then put 2 transports behind it, side by side so they get cover from the hammerhead, now they get 2+. Then you have somewhere to hide all your crisis suits behind.

    I don't have a Guard player in my regular gaming group, so I haven't had to deal with artillery 'en masse'. But chimera spam is fairly easily handled just by the crisis suits. And yes, thats 2 Shas'els w/ bodyguards.

    As an aside, I have found that 15 crisis suits handles flyers fairly well also. Both mechanicals and FMC's. Those Grounded tests are rough.

    For the Greater Good!!

    1. I can see getting a 3+ off the hammerhead, but I think that's as much as it would give. I wish I had some chimeras, but I've got three russes and three basilisks to deal with. I may see if I can squeeze more suits in to see if they'll work well.

  7. Why only 3+ from the Hammerhead? If the transport is at least 25% obscured by the hammerhead that is a 4+ cover save. Then D. Pod gives another +2. Thats a 2+. At least from a mostly frontal angle. Someone engaging from a flank could get around this.

    3 Russes and 3 basilisks. Ouch. What tactics do you usually use against this? That's a lot of large blast templates.

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