|I needed an excuse to post this.|
We're going to be talking about the stars of the Tau Empire, the named characters who are meant to bring some diversity to your Tau armies. There are hundreds of fire caste commanders and ethereals, but the named characters are the equivalent of celebrities in the empire. I can't say I've been running any of these characters as they do suffer from being as expensive than most space marine characters while being much more vulnerable and questionably less effective. To be fair, these are some of the more interesting unique characters in 40k, as they have good sides and bad sides. I'm going to go into each character's background, try to find a tactical use for them, and try to see the good and bad in each of them. Unfortunately, in order to cover each in appropriate detail I'm going to separate this into three posts. More after the break.
Let's start with who each of these characters are and how they relate in the history of T'au. While most codices can use multiple characters to represent a single military group (e.g. multiple Ultramarines) or the merger of two groups (e.g. White Scars and Raven Guard or Cadians and Catachans), the tau codex contains two group that will never co-operate. These are the "core" of the imperial forces lead by Commander Shadowsun (O'Shaserra) and Aun'va, and the renegade Farsight Enclaves let by Commander Farsight (O'Shovah). This schism is based on the actions of O'Shovah during the Second Sphere Expansion.
After the Damocles Gulf Crusade, O'Shovah and other commanders reconquered Tau worlds that were conquered by the Imperium, however, he fortified and severed of the worlds under his coalition's control after the death of the coalition's ethereal. There is a discrepancy that comes in when trying to include O'Shovah with the other characters: the crusade fleet withdrew to face Hive Fleet Behemoth after peace talks in 742M41, while Aun'va and O'Shaserra launched the Third Sphere Expansion on 997.997M41. Adapting the dating system that means there's about a 250 year gap between the two events. Accommodating the career needed to reach command levels, that would mean that O'Shovah would be nearing 300 years old as of present day 40k. Since T'au have a comparable life span to humans, this gap makes it extremely unlikely that O'Shovah is still alive.
|Yep, +255 years old and still kickin'|
While I do love his story, I have little love for O'Shovah's rules representation. Godfrey and Corvus illuminated me on the comparison between a shas'o and a marine captain and the reasonable parity between the two, we have not had the chance to discuss O'Shovah and I would be interested in hearing their take. To start off, we have a stat-line that, while similar to the shas'o stat-line has three major deviations: +1 weapon skill, +2 initiative and -1 ballistic skill. While the least noticeable in performance, the ballistic skill debuff is an interesting example of how character design has changed from fourth edition to fifth, but may becoming back with sixth edition and the Axe of Blind Fury's weapon skill debuff.
|Operation Meteor is go|
So, why would you want to take O'Shovah when he limits your choices, something I personally hate? Well, besides the divergent flavor or O'Shovah, his restriction can be minimized by adopting a different, oddly more adaptive, philosophy. Rather than simply trying to bring the strongest units in each slot and overwhelming your opponent with raw power, O'Shova's restriction forces you to take a variety of units, each specializing in eliminating different targets. While my general Tau heavy support consists of three broadside teams, whereas I would take a broadside team, a hammerhead and a sniper drone team and be better prepared to deal with a mass light infantry army than I had been before for one point less. The restriction does harm your ability to deal with mass heavy tanks, but there are still melta outlets to compensate, though piranhas have been restricted also.
|Do you think you're better off alone?|
If the Tau are the allies, O'Shovah's restrictions are completely nullified, unless you wanted to run a unit of vespid, stealth suits, or kroot, as you can only have one unit from each non-troops slot. If you have a small Tau force and want to run them I would suggest this option. If, however you have a small marine force to supplement your Tau, especially if you run a more close combat oriented marine force.
O'Shovah is one of the few characters who retained his close combat prowess from fifth edition due to his Dawn Blade being specified to ignore armor saves and roll 2D6 + 5 against vehicles. However, he does have serious issues going up against characters who can swing at strength eight and survive his onslaught (e.g. Logan, Lysander). If he can join a durable unit, e.g. terminators, or one that can deep strike he can probably reach his destination and cause some havoc. O'Shovah has about a 0.74 probability to dunk an opposing thunder hammer sergeant if he gets charged. On the charge he has a 0.92 probability to get the kill on the first round of a challenge. Characters without an invulnerable save should make way for O'Shovah. Rare for a Tau commander, O'Shovah comes with a shield generator so he can save against power weapons and possibly finish a challenge on the second round.
O'Shovah is not your typical commander and does not operate in the same way they do. This radical difference in mindset is what pushed me into a seething hatred of O'Shovah. In writing this I'm not sure whether I am entirely comfortable with playing him, though that is a major change for me. I've arranged to trade models for an O'Shovah, as he is currently unavailable and sadly still not
"Learn to shorten your reach! If your foe can come close enough to negate your striking power, all stratagem is lost and when all stratagem is lost, the battle is lost."
I'm Underground Heretic and I get to live with that every day!