Thursday, May 15, 2014
Tau Empire approaches in late 6E: A Retrospective
The chapter closes and I was feeling reflective after a game yesterday using my Tau Stealth suit army vs. an Iyanden battle host.
During 6E, a Gun line approach became the most frequent version of the Tau list, festooned with Riptides, broadsides and even Crisis Battle suits firing as far and often as they could, often allied but not always with the Eldar for all the obvious reasons of Psyker synergy/defense that brings.
The second version of the lists people primarily used were the Drop lists, which by and large attempted to catch the enemy with its pants down and bring overwhelming and sudden jarring damage at the point of attack. This featured a LOT of exchange tactics where the Tau unit doing the killing wasn't expected to make it to the next round or optionally, the unit was so bloated with Drones and wounds that its survival might be assured albeit at incredible cost (for example the FarSun bomb, which many people loved playing just for the sheer joy of having THAT MANY Gundams on the field at once.
Another breed of list, less often used, was the mobile positional attack armies like I tend to prefer, that are there to draw enemies into bad position and make enemies unable to support one another if they intended to come after the disparate and fast moving elements of the army. Tau offer a good general the ultimate in not only MSU (Multiple Small Units) ability but also the firepower to make a smaller and less important unit capable of ENOUGH destruction, given an enemy that is dispersed.
We saw the attempt by some to institute Kroot armies. This amusing distraction from normal Tau Tactics allowed the Kroot to literally spread EVERYWHERE, with weaponry strong enough to kill anything, from Monsters to Vehicles and was very much like the waves of humanity approach an IG list might employ, only the kroot version can actually deploy very far upfield, cutting off flyers and causing all kinds of mayhem. Bolstered by special characters, both Tau and allied, the LD liability on Kroot could be overcome and the units could hold and even successfully carry out melee operations when push came to shove.
Even less familiar to most enemies is the Tau Empire air force. Some armies like Chaos Space Marines, Necrons, and Imperial Guard found out how good massive flights of air-bound death could become in the hands of the initiated. However very few Tau Empire Generals have ever fielded or attempted to field the might of a Tau Air force and while it's unconventional, the Tau air force acts like airborne Ion Hammerheads in a lot of ways, allowing the army to absolutely carpet bomb the enemy and get around cover without the necessity of Marker lights (though still offering their use anyways!). This interesting approach required a very serious nod to balancing and protecting the air force, but successful use of it produced very impressive results.
A Tau Armoured corps definitely got use and the Triple Skyray lists were out there, pounding the skies and Marines with equal brutality, while diamond formation Tau Devilfish's delivered punishing blows of their own while protecting their Fire Warrior and Pathfinder payloads against retribution with fair ease.
Stealthy armies, filled with outflanking, deep striking, infiltrating and scouting units have of course endeared themselves to me. Many opponents have learned to respect those tools. Stealth Suits, Sniper Drones, Kroot, Stingwings and Pathfinders all can combine to form powerful synergies with each other and make the enemy feel like they are in the movie Aliens, with things coming from everywhere, squeezing and forcing them into corners where no one can hear their screams. Such lists were also not as common but may have proven to be the most interesting in appearance for an observer to watch unfold.
In some or all of those lists, the Riptide Battle suit became the iconic centerpiece of many of these. The Riptide Battlesuit is the pinnacle of conventional warfare technology by the Tau Empire, and proof that what they lack in Psychic ability, sheer numbers or fortitude, they make up for in technology.
The Tau Empire became a true force in the 40K universe during 6th Edition Warhammer 40,000 for the first time since they were originally created. The Tau Empire suffered through codex after dreary codex in the estimation of many online personalities and while I didn't entirely agree with their assessments as being very fair, I won't deny that to play Tau required a deft touch and a more than passing knowledge of the game in those previous incarnations. It wasn't a "beginner army", that much is certain.
In the twilight of 6th edition, the Tau Empire has emerged and the light that they shine for sentience everywhere is a beacon that trillions will flock to in the coming century. 7th edition is on its way and with it, we have to ask: What will the Tau empire forces do to adapt?