Army Special Rules and Warlord Traits
Tau function quite similarly to any other army in terms of basic unit functions; unlike Chaos Daemons or Tyranids, there are few real complicated unique army traits you will need to know, unlike some other codices where understanding of their functionality is much like knowing the weight of a blade. Mostly, you need to be familiar with the varying kinds of unit types; get those memorised, and all should be swell.
Bonding Knife Ritual - A Tau unit consisting entirely of models that possess this special rule does not require a roll of a double one to regroup if the unit has been reduced below 25% of its starting total; they test at their standard Leadership value, counting any other applicable modifiers. The option to take the Bonding Knife Ritual is available to almost all non-Drone, non-vehicle and non-xenos units in the Tau army, and for a measly cost as well; with a flat price of one taco per model in the unit, this is a very cheap upgrade that allows fleeing Tau units to have a much higher chance of successfully regrouping once they have suffered severe casualties. One may argue that most units reduced to such size are no longer of great value, but it can make a difference, particularly if the fleeing unit is a scoring unit that has just fled off of an objective in the last turn of the game; the minimal points cost makes the upgrade worthwhile. It must be noted that attaching an Independent Character to a unit performs the same function without the need for the Bonding Knife Ritual, so plan for this accordingly. It is of limited use on certain units, particularly those limited to four or less models; these units never fall below 25% of their starting total even when reduced to one surviving model, and as such gain no benefit from the Bonding Knife Ritual. It is a useful tool that is likely best served on Fire Warriors, Pathfinders and Stealth Teams; elsewhere, it is unnecessary.
Supporting Fire - If an enemy unit declares a charge, any friendly models with this special rule within six inches of the charging unit's target may fire Overwatch at the charging unit as if they were being charged; note that a unit may only fire Overwatch once per phase unless otherwise specified. This is the truly unique special rule for Tau, and it serves to reinforce the potential of a competitive Fire Warrior based army; given that many Tau units are fast moving or incapable of firing Overwatch, particularly Battlesuit teams and vehicles, this special rule often won't find too much employment for most units. Crisis Teams and Stealth Teams will typically be moving ahead of the rest of the force, often in isolation or at least twelve inches or more away from each other so as to not make congested targets for themselves and become easy pickings; as such, they often will find little use in this special rule, though it is noteworthy that planning for its potential use is a smart tactic; taking flamers on multiple teams means one can potentially Overwatch with all of those Walls of Flame at once. Massed Burst Cannon fire from Stealth Teams is a similarly strong tactic, and the use of cheap drones can provide a lot of extra shots for any unit. Fire Warriors are often the only units that one will mass together; the extra firepower, given that each model has a Strength five gun that will be firing at least two shots, is brutal, though bunching one's units up can obviously leave them more vulnerable to blast weapons. Six inches isn't too bad a radius to employ, and as such this is a handy tool that can be put to deadly use in concert with charge-denial tactics or smart positioning; for the former, many will find Darkstrider - a new special character - as well as certain drones particularly effective for such a strategy. What is very interesting to note here is that any Tau vehicle can take a relatively cheap upgrade that allows them and any attached Drones to fire Overwatch with weapons with a Strength of five or less, whilst also granting them the Supporting Fire special rule; this can be a pretty nasty tactic, particularly owing to the number of vehicles that can take Twin-Linked Smart Missile Systems, able to devastate light Infantry alike. When one considers the availability of Devilfishes, Hammerheads and the like, using this upgrade en masse is a viable tactic that serves to reinforce the nature of destroying an enemy before they can close with your forces. This special rule, particularly when used in concert with other charge-denial tactics, is a thematic and effective display of the method in which Tau engage their forces; constant harassment tactics, firing and gradually giving ground. Given their below average melee capabilities across the board, this is an important function that serves to highlight the basic principle of a Tau army; stay just out of reach, and blast your opponent to bits!
|Don't worry man, I got it.|
These three abilities are all highly useful, but doubtless most Tau players will use their Markerlights mostly for the boosted Ballistic Skill; in an army that really needs to make every shot count, upgrading your basic Fire Warriors or Crisis Teams to Ballistic Skill five for that one shooting phase can make a significant impact on the casualties or general damage inflicted by those units. The same is true of a Railgun-equipped Hammerhead, as its gun fires a single shot that isn't twin-linked; though the Hammerhead has an above-average Ballistic Skill already, reducing its chances of missing can only be beneficial in your efforts to destroy enemy vehicles or monstrous creatures. Using Markerlights can be a bit tricky though; the limitations are that the tokens only remain until the end of the phase in which they were placed, and unless the tokens were provided by the much rarer Networked Markerlights, the unit that actually fired the Markerlight shots won't themselves be able to benefit from them as all shooting is simultaneous. As such, multiple cheap Pathfinder or Marker Drone squads are often used to light up valuable targets for Fire Warriors, Broadsides and the like to attack with far greater efficiency; unless the Pathfinders or Drones move, they will typically average about two or more hits, depending on squad size and any upgrades taken. The other benefits provided by the tokens have their place as well, though; giving Ignores Cover to Pulse Weapons fired by Tau Fire Warriors means certain death for almost any Light Infantry you can find, and is invaluable in chasing those pesky Plaguebearers out of cover. Similarly, allowing a supporting Skyray to fire its Seeker Missiles at a target without requiring line of sight, hitting on a two or higher and ignoring the units' cover save can be a nasty way to provide fire support at a moment's notice. All in all, to have an effective Tau force, you should really invest in multiple units featuring Markerlights; the most efficient in-codex means of attaining these tend to be Pathfinders and Marker Drone units, though other units with multiple roles such as the Skyray or Sunshark Bomber can also boost such efforts.
Warlord Traits - The Tau Warlord Table is perhaps the most unique of all so far; unlike any other Warlord Table we have seen so far, half of the traits offer one use only abilities, adding an entirely new layer of tactical depth to using the Table as opposed to simply having abilities that last the entire game or become relevant in certain situations. Originally, these were also only available to Ethereals and Commanders; this was quickly updated with an Errata on release day, clarifying that any Tau Warlord may select traits from the Tau Warlord Table. As to the actual traits themselves, all of them are quite useful, and the table has an in-built mechanism so that if you roll up a trait you can't use - typically because you don't have a ranged weapon or jet pack - then you may re-roll the result. The first trait prevents enemies from taking Look Out Sir rolls against the Warlord's shooting attacks, which given the option of taking cheap upgrades on battlesuits that make their Precision Shots require a +5 roll, makes for a nasty character-assassin tactic, particularly if one employs plasma rifles or fusion blasters. The second is a one use only ability, stipulating that all friendly Tau units within twelve inches of the Warlord re-roll to hit rolls of a one for the duration of that shooting phase, which is best used when you absolutely need to make your shooting count - typically when an opponent is closing in on your battle-lines.
|What is it with Tau and yellow?|
I hope you found my appraisal of the special rules helpful and considerate. If you have any feedback or criticisms, please share them in the comments section below - we are open to any and all responses! Thank you!