Thursday, February 16, 2012

In Defense of the Tau Empire

Tau are not very popular.  Let’s be honest.  What happens is a player gets whooped REAL BAD by a Tau player who knows what she’s doing and thinks “Damn…  It’s a cool looking army and it whooped me”

The manic list builders of the world then begin their quest to create the Tau List of Doom.  My experience is, they always turn their eyes to a Hammerhead list first (and learn the hard way)

Here’s the problem:  Tau take time to learn.  They are NOT just a variant of another army.  They are very far removed from other armies in so many ways that the lessons of yesteryear do you SO LITTLE GOOD when thinking about Tau.  Thus a person will spend umpteen million hours painting the sleek lines of the Tau Battlesuits and tanks, using special paints to make them look like Cylons or whatever.  Then they take them out…and get crushed mercilessly…  maybe a few times.  Maybe ten times.  And that’s it.  They sell their army.  I can find a Tau army on EBAY and a dozen other places with little difficulty and at a decent price to boot.

Perhaps it is fortunate that Tau were my first army, forcing me to learn to fight their way and not allowing me the luxury/curse of trying to fit other army tactica into Tau theorem.  I am a true Tau player, who plays other armies, instead of a Space Marine player who also plays Tau.  I learned to play Tau the TAU way.  And so I am, I think, qualified to talk on the subject.

Fallacies of Tau:

 “You may as well pick them up off the table when they get in melee” is said in a way that suggests the people saying it see it as a major point of weakness.

However, when you read the fluff and the way they play, you see that this is a strength.  Tau do not hold ground and the idea of that in warfare is foreign to them.  “Hamburger Hill” is the dumbest movie a Tau ever saw.  They are a “bend, don’t break” army. 

What the heck does that mean?  Well it means that when a Tau soldier loses his life it is for the Greater Good.  In game terms, smart players recognize that if their unit is charged, and killed, then that leaves the enemy out in the open.  The enemy killed 60 points, and then shot for 300!  They traded KP’s and the enemy did not get the better end of the deal.  Tau are the ultimate MSU army, really.  STR 5 is the norm in that army and STR 5 HURTS when it’s accurate.  Enemies wouldn’t mind STR 5 if they could manage to stay in their transports long enough, but the Tau rarely allow that either, blowing them out with regularity and conviction.

The second fallacy is that the army does not have a way to project armed force.  Kroot Hounds + Kroot units and even (if built with Aun’Va of the undying spirit) Crisis Suits can do this.  The fortitude of the Aun’Va led forces is, in particular, capable of giving you surprising results in melee because the units last so much longer than the enemy expects them to, setting them up for torrenting.  It also slows the loss of the Tau units and allows more of them to take superior positions.  The question isn’t whether they can project hammering force.  It’s “can they project enough between shooting and assaulting combined”.  The answer is “yes, when necessary… and it’s not normally necessary.”

The last fallacy is that “Ninja Tau” cannot win a tournament.  That moniker is said with some derision by so-called guru’s on the interwebz but really, they are just angry that it works and one bets they’ve lost face to it before.  Position is important and Tau can be anywhere on the field they want to if built to that strength

Let’s look at what the Tau do well, not just what they can do “OK”:

The mathematics of the Tau storm: 
The army is a torrential downpour of excellent firepower, with lightning streaked trails ending in smoking enemy wreckage.
Tau are just mean in their accuracy and devastatingly effective fusilades.  Fire Warriors need fire only 30 times to kill an entire Storm Trooper unit, and 54 times to kill an entire Space Marine Assault Squad.  Stealth Cloud units can really help minimize the number of Markerlights needed to do this, because of the large volume of shots the singular unit can produce.

Stingwings need shoot only 18 times to kill a 10 Marine Squad.  Frightening.  A Crisis unit at short range can shoot and assault a unit of Marines dead, reliably, in one round.

All of this is made possible thanks to Markerlights, and if the enemy is firing at THEM, they’re not firing at the primary threat.  Opponents are quick to say “I’d kill the Markerlights first” but that isn’t any kind of given anyways.  They will try, of course.
That is a great thing for Tau because even without the Markerlights, they can still hit!  Markerlights can be scattered over many units so to kill them all would be quite the feat and a very bad day for the Tau.

Another strength is that pinning is commonplace in the army, with Airburst Frag Launchers, Pulse Carbines, Sniper Drones, and the ever present Gun Drones.  The army doesn’t just attack the body, it attacks the soul.  Many players in 40K do not give any credibility to this point, but it is much easier to fail a morale check than it is to lose the whole unit.  Of the 14 different codexes that GW lists on their website, TEN do not tend to be fearless.  Of the four that do have predominant Fearlessness (Chaos Deamons, Tyranids, Orcs and Chaos Marines), three are particularly susceptible to torrential firepower in general.  Pinning should not be overlooked.

The Tau Empire grows stronger with each passing day.  More and more the peoples look to the stars and seek salvation from the weary battle torn existence foisted upon them and yearn for the Tau Destiny to be fulfilled.  And it will be.


  1. I got a little worked up just writing that, honestly. Made me wanna' go out and pound me some Marines! Lol. Say what they will. The clouds are massing on the horizon and the inevitable deluge of the Tau Empire is about to begin. Pray for a May codex and pray that it does them justice. We gotta' set things right in the burnt out galaxy of ours. =)

  2. The last Tau codex came out before 5th Edition and as a consequence, contained some dated stuff in it just a few months after its release. So lets hope no more of that happens.

    There's a few Tau players who play and have kept their faith, but many have not. If for no better reason than seeing LESS marine armies, I am all for the Tau bandwagon, now and in the future. I suppose prices on EBay will be going up for Tau stuff in the very near future.

  3. Or, more likely, the Tau are going the way of the Dodo (and the Squats) when they realize they have a snowball's chance in hell of stopping an entire Hive Fleet.

    Then again, since GW will never advance the narrative, the Tau are perpetually frozen as the upstarts of the galaxy.

  4. Interesting. I have found that STR 5 in droves pretty much is all you need against a horde and Broadsides all you need against Monsters. Tau kill them faster (most of the time0 than they can ever kill the mobile Tau. Are you suggesting that Tyranics do particularly well against Tau? Orcs are a much scarier matchup in my opinion.


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