Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hunter Cadre, pt. 1: Supporting Fire

Through Unity, Devastation!
Greetings Gentlereaders,

Today is the first article in the follow up to my series of articles on the 4th edition Tau codex.  With the new Tau codex and my impending graduation, I've been a bit behind in getting this out.  There have been several sweeping changes to the codex in wargear, units, and rules.  The best analogy I can come up with is a character taking a prestige class: the base is still there, but something new and wholly different is there also now.  The codex now is both more based on its fluff and competitively viable.  As    Black Blow Fly correctly pointed out in his article today one of the features of sixth edition, and Tau especially, is that armies tend to play best when played to emphasize the themes of their fluff.  The theme of this codex is synergy, so let's look into how that happens.

The codex's universal rule, Supporting Fire, is native to all non-vehicle units (including vespid, but not kroot) and is available to any vehicle.  According to the fluff, fire warriors train to work together both as individuals and teams, to lay down defensive fire for each other.  This means that whenever a friendly unit is charged, any unit with Supporting Fire that is within six inches of the charged unit can fire overwatch as if they were also a target of the charge.  This doesn't remove the overwatch-per-turn restriction, but it allows you high volume overwatches at single targets.  It also allows you to overwatch in support of your battle brothers (C:SM and Eldar) and for units within 6" that are locked in combat.

Supporting Fire reminds me of Combat Tactics: neither of these rules helps you "win more" as Corvus would put it, but they both help you lose less.  These types of rules are better for the game than ones like the Chaos Rewards Eye of the Gods table both because they are non-random and because they offer tactical gameplay that EotG simply doesn't.  While I'm not a fan of relying on overwatch, Supporting Fire, like Combat Tactics, can be manipulated to increase its effectiveness at the risk of being self destructive if applied incorrectly.

A codex army might send in an assault squad against a melee threat to prevent it from charging other, more valuable units, then try to survive a round of combat, lose and retreat from the combat to allow the threat to be shot.  A Tau army would have to have three or four models each from units A, B, and C within six inches of models from unit D in order to maximize their supporting fire when unit D is charged.  If the opponent has multiple viable assault threats we would have to satisfy that statement for all four units to ensure that we could always maximize overwatch.  Both of these provide defenses against being assaulted by a superior foe, but would offer little in a shooting match up.

In fact, in a shooting match up Supporting Fire should be next to useless and deploying to maximize it could cost you the game.  If your primary shooting opponents rely heavily on volume of straight shot weapons, you could attempt to maximize Supporting Fire, but you wouldn't be expecting them to assault you anyway.  If your primary shooting opponents rely on blast weapons, e.g. Guard, maximizing your Supporting Fire will give your opponent more favorable scatters.  Against an assault army, maximizing your Supporting fire leaves you vulnerable to multi-assaults, but your defensive grenades dis-incentivize assaulting only one target unless your opponent has a stat-modifying on-the-charge rule.

The best way to maximize this rule is to try to maintain a nine to twelve inch gap between your infantry units and a larger gap between them and your elites and vespid. I'm having trouble shifting out of a fifth edition mindset, which would encourage a less than six inch gap and leave me vulnerable to  blasts.  The sixth edition mobility of rapid fire weapons means that against a balanced army or one assaulting with blast support you can maintain a larger gap and protect yourself from blasts while moving to maximize support as your opponent crosses the gap without sacrificing your firepower.

Ethereals and markerlights can greatly increase the effectiveness of Supporting Fire by increasing volume and accuracy respectively, but I'll discuss them in a later article.  The ability for vehicles to purchase overwatch and supporting fire is more relavent to this discussion than vehicle upgrades, so let's talk about that now.  The value of overwatching with vehicles doesn't come from self defense, but from their ability to contribute to Supporting Fire.  A devilfish with its basic gun drones should contribute 26/9 hits on an overwatch, while a full fire warrior team should contribute four hits.  In comparison, the devilfish would cost 90 points while the fire warriors would cost 108 points, so the fish is slightly less efficient, but it is close.  If you have extra points, it's worth at least considering the Point Defense System on your devilfish.  Likewise, the Counterfire Defense System is worth considering if you don't have other uses for points, but I'll go into those later.

If you are an opponent of Tau without a special charge rule that gives bonuses other than bonus attacks, don't fear multi-assaulting.  You may soak up slightly more overwatch shooting on your first charge, but if you can survive and chew up Tau infantry you will take out more than one unit, which will decrease the amount of overwatch you suffer subsequently.  You won't get bonus attacks when charging Tau infantry, so don't worry about that.  Try to bring multiple assault units to bare on a single unit simultaneously, that way the initial charging unit will absorb the overwatch for your primary assault unit.  If you want to attack multiple units you can split, but not decrease, the amount of overwatch shooting.

Well that's Supporting Fire in a large nutshell, I hope there isn't anything I've missed.  More than that I'm glad to get back to writing and hope you enjoyed reading this.  I'll try to get more of these out, but I don't know how often I'll have to write in the next two weeks since I'll be moving.  Until then have a good day and leave a comment.

1 comment:

  1. Upon further review, vespid do not have the Supporting Fire rule. Please disregard any mention of them in this article. I regret the error.