Friday, April 12, 2013

New Tau Pathfinders

I wanted to share some thoughts I had on these.

The new Codex has clearly given each FOC hard choices to make which likely means the armies are going to abound in variety as many choices are great and more than one FOC slot can now fill a need you may have.  One of the big changes were Pathfinders.

Just to review for those who may not know as much about them, they were always the "Markerlight guys" with the scout special rule who rarely fired their Carbines for any reason other than to hit you with Markerlights that can increase other units Ballistic skill, help Pin people and so on.  They had been essentially Fire warriors in every way, but with the addition of a 2 point Markerlight upgrade making them far superior to network Marker drones and other answers to the need for Markerlights if indeed you needed them at all.  They always REQUIRED that you purchase their Devilfish Transport and this rankled some people who seem to fail to realize that their Fire Warriors would need the Transport anyways.  Oh well.

The new Pathfinders are QUITE different.  They no longer require a Devilfish!  This is big on its own (in the minds of those who FELT this was some kind of tax despite all logical reason).  They are cheaper by one point and they come with lighter armor (5+) which explains the reduction in points assumedly.  That change is enormous when you think about it though because now they are bolter fodder and that changes a LOT about how safely you can expose them for one thing; and it forces you to REALLY think about the role they can play now. 

An Aegis Defense Line will solve those problems for you but I mean...  50 points added just to augment that little unit?  The better way to go about it though is to accept that they have a different part to play.

Their markerlights can easily be replaced in the list by massive Drone units now, as well as AFFORDABLE ones that other units can take to support each other.  So while the Pathfinders have them, you may as well disabuse yourself of the notion RIGHT NOW that they are really in the list for that reason as was the case previously.  Other units that you have do it better.  Nope, the Markerlights they carry are "nice to have" but ultimately are emergency weapons now.  This is made even MORE true by the fact that their Carbines are now ASSAULT 2, PINNING, which makes firing the Carbine very attractive anyways.

So then what ARE Pathfinders now? 

Pathfinders are the equivalent of IG Veterans now, a Special Weapons squad with a serious amount of upgradability in its firepower.  As they have no hatches to fire from, you cannot use them like IG in Chimeras work, but their function is the same nonetheless.  They carry a seriously powerful gun, Markerlights and they now can take the Rail rifle which is 30", STR 6 AP 1 (yes 1) Rapid Fire (Yes seriously, rapid firing at 15 inches!)  or the dangerous but very powerful Ion rifle  (STR7/AP4 Rapid Fire or STR 8 AP 4 Blast).  That is an incredible amount of punch.

So to answer the question, the Pathfinders are now like the Chaos Chosen, the IG Veterans, the Dominion Squads of the SOB's and so on.  squishy cheap versions but with very intense firepower which they can scout into range (not that they will need to very often in that role) and start blastifying.  The Scout move is important because you start the game nearly in Rapid Fire Range.  The enemy can barely move without coming into their range.

But Pathfincers, while deadly once they find a place to set up camp (pardon the pun), they can do even more important things for the army in the form of their drones.  They have three special Drones no one else can take:  Recon, Grav inhibitor and Pulse Accelerator Drones in addition to the normal ones the unit leader may take.  These really define HOW to use the Pathfinders even though we already know what they are now for.

The Grav Inhibitor Drone is pretty cool.  It has a Gravity Wave Projector.  It reduces one enemy charge by D3 inches.  Now this is a REALLY big deal for two reasons.  First is that it may stop a charge altogether allowing the pathfinders to fearlessly scout forward and not worry about getting too close to the enemy  They can get just a little closer with more confidence.  The second and SCARIER reason is because the Pathfinders like all Tau Codex units, have the Supporting Fire rule which in conjunction with neighboring Marker drones (the rules explicitly say that the Marker drones DO affect Overwatch BS) means that this special weapon squad could be firing all its weapons at BS 5 or better and then repulsing the enemy d3"???  Wowa!  That makes charging them impossible when they are near their comrades so long as they are nearby.

Which leads us to our first rule:  Pathfinders should lead the way for their comrades and stay near them when they can.  Not only is the initial cover valuable due to their new "Recon Armor" (again, 5+) but this also allows the Drone to do its work.

The Pulse Accelerator Drone is a perfect synergy for this unit.  It is after all a Special Weapons unit and this Drone extends the weapon ranges by 6".  That means Rapid Fire happens sooner, the threat level is much higher when you are now able to feint and fall back and you have the added value of just being able to hit more stuff while on the MOVE.  Threes no reason to ever be moving closer and Fish of Fury attacks from  24 inches?  Yes please!

It is the Recon Drone that provides the most tactical usefulness though.  When mounted in a Devilfish (remember that so-called "tax?  well now you'll WANT to pay it because...) the Drone gives it a Positional Relay and Homing Beacon.  Result?  The Pathfinders can scout move 12" and then move flat out in the first round, putting them all the way into enemy territory against the board edge wherever they want to be.  This in turn allows your outflankers to come there by CHOICE.  It also makes Jumpers not scatter when within 6" of the Devilfish and the Devilfish creates quite a radius and become the center of the assault. 

This is huge because you will have PINPOINT accuracy with your deployments.  Unlike some "utility units" or wargear, this unit actually has serious sting to it WHILE it does these things.  No flank will ever be secure as long as Pathfinders can move into position, and whose going to stop them?

The unit can kill with alacrity and conviction and it has a BIG impact on deployment.  It's role has become that of true scouts:  finding good landing zones and guiding the Tau forces into them, then supporting them with suppression fire while they advance on the enemy.  Like Rangers, they lead the way and rightly so, providing an excellent potential shield against melee aggression and taking a few with them on the way out. 

One last point.  Darkstrider can accompany them.  He is as mortal as they are in his Recon armor but,,,  He also can stop the charge of enemies from being successful.  As soon as Overwatch is done, he can make his unit consolidate before the charge occurs... and then the Drone can create the gravity Wave!  It can be near impossible to charge that unit.  Shooting them is the only viable option, which will be frustrating to many foes.  DarkStrider drops the toughness of his target unit as well in the shooting phase only.  This makes the Pathfinder unit a truly frightening prospect BUT...  The cost of DarkStrider is high for what you get so choose wisely whether the longevity of that unit is worth the investment.  Still, he makes the shooting of his unit exceptionally powerful.

Fear Pathfinders.  Their new role is one of speed and knowing their battlefield, then bringing pinpoint accurate strikes to the enemy while providing valuable and SELFLESS protection to their comrades by leading the way.  With brave Pathfinders at the fore, even Mephiston himself may find his path unclear and blocked, unable to act at all!

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy though.  =)


  1. Rail and Ion Rifles don't benefit from the Pulse Accelerator Drone as they aren't pulse weapons. Still, a strong benefit for their pulse carbines.

  2. Yes the Battle report shows clearly how great it was to be able to keep the Pathfinders away from trouble and pounding on the enemy relentlessly. They played a big part in making sure I was where i needed to be and they did damage. even annihilated a Predator. AP 1 is pretty beefy.


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