Hello everyone and welcome to a spontaneous article brought to you by a veteran Tau player. Today I will be focusing on the experimental rules for the Tau'nar - or "Tau Titan" as it has come to be known by the community - and providing my impressions of them. I hope that you find this to be a fair and balanced discussion!
I am not even sure where to begin with this review as there is just so much to cover about this absolute monster of a model, so I'll focus on specific categories such as defensive capabilities, offensive capabilities and so on in their own sub-sections.
This is what first drew my eye when I initially read the rules and lead to me loudly exclaiming "what!?" to the amusement of my nearby family members. Toughness 9 and 10 Wounds see that the Tau'nar is tied with the Tyranid Hierophant for the title of bearing the highest of either stat in the game, automatically making it immune to Strength 5 or less attacks as well as a ridiculous buffer against all other opposition before one can kill it. The 2+ armour save means that you absolutely need AP2 and AP1 weapons to even have a chance of reliably hurting it - much like a Hierophant - but where it differs immensely from its Tyranid counter-part is the fact that it has more than a paltry invulnerable save. In fact, it has an overall 5+ invulnerable save which it can use against all attacks, increasing to a whopping 4+ invulnerable save against shooting attacks. Now, I'm sure most people will immediately point to either Destroyer or Graviton weapons as the answer to this juggernaut, but unlike any other Gargantuan Creature the Tau'nar has answers to both of these weapon types either through its' sheer natural resilience or one hilariously silly special rule. Usually, Destroyer weapons are renowned for their chance of essentially obliterating a target in one shot on the roll of a 6 regardless of whether it is a Warhound Titan or a Wraithknight. The Tau'nar introduces a unique rule to the game that makes it care little for those attacks outside of armies that can bring them in masses - namely Eldar - as any rolls of '6' usual for the aforementioned devastation will see their D6+6 Wounds inflicted fully halved against the Tau'nar, meaning that even if you inflict 12 Wounds - enough to kill any other Gargantuan Creature in the game with one blow - it will instead leave it six wounds down.
Not only is this utterly ridiculous considering that it has 10 Wounds, but once you factor in that it will ignore fully half of all other ranged Destroyer hits that don't roll '6's on the chart due to its' 4+ invulnerable save against Destroyer attacks it quickly becomes apparent that the usual answers to these monstrous beings simply won't cut it. There is at least some kind of downside here as the Tau'nar will lose its' invulnerable save for a period of time after it suffers one of those 'Deathblow' hits, but even this isn't really a disadvantage as the shield will immediately power up at the start of the owning players' next movement phase meaning your opponent really has to hope he or she gets lucky in one Shooting Phase. The other more widely accessed counter to Gargantuan Creatures comes in the form of Graviton weaponry, commonly fielded by the Adeptus Astartes and Adeptus Mechanicus, denying them both their Toughness and armour save while exploiting the fact that most Gargantuan Creatures don't have an invulnerable save. Lo and behold, enter the Tau'nar with a 4+ invulnerable save against shooting and ten Wounds; for those that don't want to run the math for how a Ballistic Skill 4 army armed with Graviton weapons and without any kind of re-rolls does against the Tau'nar, it takes roughly fifty shots to put a Tau'nar down for the count seeing as it also has Feel No Pain (5+) by virtue of being a Gargantuan Creature. What!? Heck, that's not even the best part; whereas most Gargantuan Creatures are naturally close ranged fighters, the Tau'nar is (obviously) a devastating long-ranged unit that puts out a punishing salvo of firepower at ranges of 60" to 72" unless you swap out its' default arm cannons for the fusion-based alternative, meaning your answers to it have to be mobile or capable of Deep Striking to stand even a chance of getting close to it. By the by, need I mention that Tau have more Interceptor capabilities than any other army in the game, that they can and will be built to hard-counter Drop Pod-based lists that might provide the only true half counter to the Tau'nar and can do so by paying a small amount of points for a cheap upgrade spread across much of their army? Yeah....and it even has a special form of Overwatch at Ballistic Skill 2 with sixteen Strength 5 shots, half of which Ignore Cover and the other half which possess Twin-Linking. For the points, this may very well be the single toughest unit in the game and I really wish I wasn't exaggerating as this goes hand-in-hand with the next category....
As you would expect of a Tau titan-equivalent model, this thing is loaded with guns and easily boasts more effective firepower than any other Gargantuan Creature in the game. A 7" blast Destroyer Weapon that can be swapped for a three shot Apocalyptic Barrage that has Ignores Cover on a Strength 8 AP3 profile is already nasty enough to justify this things' existence, but its' arm-mounted weapons are nothing to be scoffed at either. These take the form of either Tri-axis Ion Cannons or Fusion Eradicators, and while I prefer the former at the moment both of these options are stupendously good; the former provides you with a total of twelve Strength 7 AP3 shots that can be alternatively fired as six Strength 9 AP2 shots, while the latter doles out a jaw-dropping ten Strength 8 AP1 Melta shots. The main deciding factor for which to use as far as I am concerned is the range as the Ion Cannons can blast opponents from up to 60" away while the Fusion weapons have a much more limiting 24" range, and seeing as you absolutely want to reduce the potential number of ranged and melee attacks headed at it I'm definitely sold on the default Tri-axis Ion Cannons. This isn't to say the Fusion weapons are bad; as I explained earlier this thing is darned near impossible to kill and using that to your advantage to obliterate targets with those ten melta shots that gain the Armourbane rule when firing at enemies within 12" can be used to deadly effect against the unwitting, especially seeing as you can put five shots on one target and five on a separate target on top of the primary Pulse Ordnance Multi-Driver. In fact, I would recommend these in Maelstrom of War games where your army will likely be lacking in good objective grabbers if you need it for that role; it does move 12" and can soak up entire armies' worth of shooting, after all. Speaking of which, the Tau'nar's main weapon has a colossal 72" range as well which allows it to engage Imperial Titans in a firefight on relatively equal terms as while they have more potential Destroyer shots, the Tau'nar has a far greater quantity of shots and can easily strip Void Shields down with either of its' arm weapons to set up a killing blow from its' central gun. Of note also is that the Tau'nar has two Smart Missile Systems and two twin-linked Burst Cannons, all of which can be fired normally alongside its other weapons when not being used to provide it with an amusingly strong Overwatch. This allows it to potentially fire at up to seven different units a turn which a wealth of high Strength shooting, meaning you should always have a good target to kill in any turn.
I have seen other players reacting to the Tau'nar's rules specifically relating to the firepower on offer and saying it isn't that impressive, but don't be fooled; there are two big factors that guarantee it will earn its' keep in any army list. The first of these is the prior mentioned huge ranges of the guns on offer; a 60" to 72" range for its' default weapon systems allows it to blast foes from across the map meaning there is almost nowhere for your opponent to hide, a real commodity that a lot of players will only appreciate once they realize how difficult to reach a castled Tau'nar is. The second is something I am amazed few people have pointed out yet....this thing can combine all of that ridiculously powerful shooting with markerlights! How does a 7" blast template that is a Destroyer weapon and Ignores Cover (against the main target of the attack) with an almost guaranteed direct hit chance sound? Or what about those twelve Strength 7 AP3 or six Strength 9 AP2 shots when they begin to hit on 2s and deny opponents their precious Jink saves? And hey, what's not to love about sixteen Strength 5 AP5 shots that form the Tau'nar's point defence systems when they too are almost guaranteed to hit and don't allow puny infantry to hide from them? Ultimately, one has to consider that its' single shot Destroyer weapon is virtually guaranteed to hit your primary target of choice (a far cry from my unreliable Wraithknight) and covers a huge area with which to devastate foes, while its secondary weapons will obliterate elite infantry, monstrous creatures and vehicles of all kinds with contemptuous ease. Heck, it even has a better answer to horde armies as its' Destroyer weapon - which is already really good in this scenario because of its' large coverage - can alternatively be fired as a three-shot Apocalyptic Barrage that Ignores Cover and will mulch through even Space Marines, while its' point defence guns are absolutely not to be ignored given that they add sixteen Strength 5 AP5 shots to its arsenal. The kicker here is that the Tau'nar is Ballistic Skill 4 natively unlike almost any other Tau unit, meaning that Markerlight support isn't even necessary to have it outputting great damage with good efficiency, but the fact that it can benefit from those is what makes it truly ridiculous. Put simply, it has more base shooting than any of the Tyranid Bio-Titans or a Warhound Titan and is generally either significantly less expensive or just far more valuable in every possible way - whether it out-shoots a Warhound built for titan-hunting in a one-on-one match-up is debatable, but its overall firepower shines against far more types of targets than a Warhound.
Also, unlike the majority of Tau forces, the Tau'nar is still more than capable of defending itself in a melee even if you obviously don't want it in there save perhaps for charging another Super Heavy after blasting it with the Fusion Eradicator arm weapons. Two Strength 8 AP2 attacks at Initiative 2 aren't much to write home about, but it does feature above average Weapon Skill 3 for a model of its' kind and species, while any model that is capable of producing Stomps can always be a potential nightmare for any foe to face short of melee-oriented Gargantuan Creatures and Super Heavy Walkers. This is definitely a footnote compared to the rest of its offensive capabilities but it nonetheless bears mentioning considering that it can actually demolish most vehicles, characters and light infantry in a combat while being nearly impossible to kill itself; if you use it defensively as a backfield obliteration unit, being able to adequately defend itself in melee is a godsend.
An addendum; the Tau'nar can benefit from the Ethereals' Storm of Fire in much the same way as the R'Varna was previously capable of before its newer rules specified it couldn't. This means it can shoot an extra Destroyer shot that is a Massive Blast at half range - being 36" - or an extra Strength 8 AP3 Ignores Cover shot for its Apocalyptic Barrage. For the Greater Good indeed!
This is easily the most important aspect of determining a units' competitive worth as none of those insane rules would be worth a Snotling if the Tau'nar was priced at something like 1500 points. I would say that it would be pretty balanced and fair at 1000 points when placed next to the similarly priced and hugely unfortunate Tyranid Hierophant, packing in greater durability, firepower and general usefulness for its' associated faction. However, when something with all of these different advantages and abilities is priced lower than an Imperial Warhound Titan and actually compares well to its' equivalent points in Wraithknights, you know you have an absolute gem of a model. For those turned off by that last comment, consider this; two Wraithknights without extra ranged weapons are 10 points cheaper than a single Tau'nar, and they have two more Wounds total, one lower Toughness, a weaker armour save, either a worse or no invulnerable save, a lack of defence against '6's rolled for Destroyer weapons and they critically lose half of their total effectiveness when they suffer 6 Wounds unlike the Tau'nar which is fully functional until it loses 10 Wounds.
The effective firepower of the Wraithknights is weaker against most targets even if both take the Heavy Wraithcannons as they lack the sheer rate of fire, blast variation on their weapons to mitigate chances of missing or potential support from Markerlights to exponentially increase their damage output (the best they can get is Prescience); if they are using the Wraithcannons, however, they won't have an invulnerable save and thus fall easy prey to Destroyer and Graviton weaponry which are the commonly taken counters to Gargantuan Creatures. If they sacrifice their Heavy Wraithcannons to gain an invulnerable save, their firepower becomes either non-existent or pathetic compared to the Tau'nar while they are still much easier to kill as a pair than the Tau'nar is by itself. Obviously the Wraithknights have the Tau'nar covered in melee engagements but considering that increases the chances of those units being subject to the very weapons they fear, this isn't that big of an advantage - especially given that Tau don't operate on using big units as aggressive distractions for the rest of the force anyway. I'm not saying the Tau'nar is as under-priced as the Eldar Wraithknight but it sure as heck earns its spot as one of the top Lords of War in the game right now considering how insanely difficult to kill it is, backed by firepower that would make many other Titans jealous and all at a lower cost than most of its Gargantuan or Super Heavy competitors.
The Tau'nar is absolutely one of the stronger units in Warhammer 40,000 as it provides everything a Tau army needs - answers to Super Heavies and extremely heavily armoured vehicles that don't involve suicidal fusion-armed battlesuits - all the while being at least two or three hundred points under-priced for what it provides, though it could easily stand to be even more expensive than that and still be a powerful tool in the Tau Empire's arsenal of war. I'm not one to throw around the "over-powered" tag unless it is quite clearly the case, but this is definitely one scenario where that term is necessary; the community has to be prepared for the Tau'nar's arrival onto the competitive scene, if it isn't just outright banned until its' experimental rules are replaced by the full rule-set. However, if the time frame of the oncoming Tau-focused Imperial Armour book is legitimate per the current rumours, I would hazard a guess that these rules are very close to what the finished product will entail - a thought that scares me more than anything.
Heck, the Tau'nar doesn't even have the "Experimental" and "Not Yet Approved" stamps on its' profile which means these may very well be the full rules with no need to ask your opponents' consent on their use! I believe these are intended as the Experimental rules given that I doubt Forge World would release its' 40K-ready rule-set for their brand new Titan, but per what we have to go on this may very well not be the case. Personally I was going to order one of these regardless of how its' rules turned out as I utterly adore the model, but even without that "Experimental" tag I am most definitely going to be asking for my opponents' permission when using it in games; it is insanely powerful for its' points and sure to be a game-winner and many scenarios! Of course, it does somewhat exemplify the Tau mantra in 7th Edition of firepower above everything else which can be a potential issue in Maelstrom of War missions where the army generally suffers to capture specific objectives, but it does pack in the mobility and durability to potentially solve this problem single-handed; in that scenario, the Fusion Eradicators definitely become the more alluring weapon option!
Thank you for reading this article! I am massively excited to try out the Tau'nar and to see what the impending Tau release holds for us; the new models for this faction from both Games Workshop and Forge World are truly stellar, but I guess I am most excited to see how the latest codex iteration helps to solve the core issues Tau armies have in certain mission types. Tau are definitely still a force to be reckoned with in 7th Edition and I hope their codex reflects this while also providing improvements where necessary. In any case, I hope you have a lovely day and I look forward to reading your thoughts on the Tau'nar Supremacy Suit!