9 Apr 2013

Tau Tactica - Army Special Rules

Hey guys, I am Learn2Eel and I am here with the introductory section of my Tau Tactica! Though this isn't a fully formed article like the rest of the Tactica, given how crowded it was trying to place it in the HQ article, I felt it needed its own space. I hope you enjoy this brief review of the distinct special rules and Warlord traits the Tau share. For the Greater Good!

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.
Markerlights - These need to be covered here, because they are so integral to how a Tau army functions that not mentioning them would be absolutely criminal. Basically, a Markerlight is a "ranged weapon" that a wide range of Tau units either come with or can purchase; Pathfinders, Skyrays and Marker Drones come with them, amongst others, whereas Fire Warrior Shas'ui's, Stealth Team Shas'vre's and the like can purchase them. The way they work is that you "fire" them at an enemy unit at your normal Ballistic Skill, taking into account any modifiers - such as if you are forced to fire Snap Shots - and for every "hit" you get, you place a token next to the hit unit. As Heavy weapons that fire a single shot with a thirty six inch range, they aren't really maneuverable, but they definitely have the sheer range to compensate on your average game board. Laughably, a Markerlight hit actually counts as a hit for all intents and purposes to determine whether a Flying Monstrous Creatue has to take a grounding test or not; imagine a laser or flash light beaming into a giant, winged beast's eye, causing them to plummet to the ground and crash in a brutal heap, and you are pretty close to just how silly that particular capability is. Now, as far as the actual tokens go, you will need them more than you might hope for; despite rocking some of the strongest guns in the game in a decent quantity, Tau tend to have mediocre Ballistic Skill and much of their weaponry is not twin-linked; their commanders are typically the only exception to both standards. As an army focused entirely around those ranged weapons, they need a boost, and Markerlights are what you use to get those boosts; each token can be expended to provide benefits based on how many tokens where placed by the enemy unit in question. Depending on how many there are, you can choose to expend them in different ways, though only two of the three options actually stack; the first is to raise the Ballistic Skill of the unit using the token by one, which can be potentially stacked to make a unit Ballistic Skill ten, - not that you would really want to - the second requires you to expend two tokens, but the unit that uses them treats their ranged weapons as having the Ignores Cover special rule against the target enemy unit, and the third allows the unit to fire a Seeker Missile (if they have one) at the target unit for every token expended, resolved at Ballistic Skill five with the Ignores Cover special rule, requiring no Line of Sight to hit.

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?
The third allows the Warlord and their unit to move the total of a result on three dice as opposed to two dice for their Jetpack moves in the Assault phase, which is very handy when employing the infamous 'Jump-Shoot-Jump' tactics that all battlesuits are adept with. The fourth is another one-use only ability, allowing all friendly Tau units that have Gone to Ground to get back up and into the fight, no doubt a very useful trait if you need specific units to jump on to objectives or damage an opponent; this can be used after going to ground to soak up enemy fire then hit them back with full force, humorously. The fifth functions once per game, and grants the Warlord and their unit the Skyfire special rule for one shooting phase; obviously, this is situational, but given the flux of fliers in the new edition, it is an invaluable tool for almost any unit to have; enemies won't be smiling if a team of Crisis Bodyguards and their Commander suddenly fire twin-linked Fusion Blasters at their nearby flyer at full Ballistic Skill. The last, and perhaps most interesting, trait is that the Warlord and their unit don't scatter when deep striking; this can and should be used to deadly effect with Crisis Teams and the like to provide a brutal alpha strike, followed by a Jetpack move that allows the unit to spread out or move out of range of incoming fire. Overall, the Warlord Traits are all quite decent, though I feel many will be clamoring for the last one if their Warlord is loaded up in a Battlesuit. Whilst the Warlord Traits may not be as jaw-dropping as some of those found in the Chaos Daemons codex, they are a good deal more reliable and often will prove more useful than those found in the other 6th Edition codices.

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!

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