Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tau of War: Wisdom of Army Lists

Building your army list is as important a process as playing the game. Your choices in army selection can win or lose you the game before you even roll the die for first turn. Here, I'm going to share with you how I build my army list so that it is effective, but also fun.

My only principle
I have one principle that I stick to in all of my lists: no duplicates. Each unit must be unique even if they are the same unit choice. I don't know why but I could never build a list that starts like this:
HQ: DP, Wings, Nurgle, Warptime
HQ: DP, Wings, Nurgle, Warptime
Troops: Plague Marines (10), Melta Gun (2), Asp Champ, Power Fist, Personal Icon, Rhino
Troops: Plague Marines (10), Melta Gun (2), Asp Champ, Power Fist, Personal Icon, Rhino

Making each unit different, not only adds flexibility to the army, but adds more flavor as well. Try it out.


I always start with my troops choices. I generally go with four troops choices in my basic list. Troops are important to claim objectives so I want enough of them and I want them to be mobile. However, in Annihilation, troops are not as important as killing power. That's why I don't max out with 6 choices. It saves some points for all the other dead-killy stuff like battlesuits and skimmer tanks.

Everyone knows that Tau Firewarriors need both protection and mobility to claim objectives. I tend to give 2 out of the 3 Fire Warrior Squads a Devilfish upgraded to have a Disruption Pod (4+ cover save at more than 12 inches away), Multi-tracker (so it can shoot after moving 12 inches) and Flachette Dischargers (wounds every assaulting model on 4+). My fourth choice is a unit of ten kroot.

A weapon for every enemy
You've got to be able to have enough varied weaponry to destroy enemy units. This is a basic idea in 40k. At the same time you have to have enough of each to accept losses. You're going to need more than 1 anti-tank gun because if it gets destroyed, your opponent's tank will run you over with no resistance. So it's important to have redundancy.

This is also the concept of an economy of force. Your weapons should only fire at what they are best at killing. Don't shoot your Lascannon at a unit of Imperial Guardsmen. This comes naturally to most players so I won't go into it much more.

How do you maximize an economy of force? The best way to do so is to deploy carefully or make your units more mobile so they can hunt down their targets. Another interesting way of doing so is to reserve your entire army. Yes, that's right, reserve your entire army. This way you know where their targets are as your units move on to the table. This is a tactic that is being picked up and talked about all over these blogs. So, how does it work?

Everything is in reserve. Give your opponent first turn (crucial, you will essentially give yourself one more shooting phase than your opponent).
Turn 1: Your opponent flounders about wondering what to do, maybe he moves to an objective, or closer to your side of the board.
Your turn 1: Nothing happens.
Turn 2: Your opponents moves even closer, or flounders about, moves to more objectives.
Your Turn 2: Stuff starts to show up on a 4+. You place your units in a way that gives them a target they can destroy and a position that prevents return fire. and so on. So for example, my hammerhead would deploy in a way that puts an infantry unit in line of fire so that I can shoot it with a large submunition railgun shot (pie plate template), but so far to the flank that it's out of range of enemy anti-tank guns. The crisis suits set up so they can shoot light vehicles, but can then dive into cover in the assault phase. So on and so forth.

Anyway, back to List Building....

I hate spam, I really do. I hate uber-unit spamming. But to be completely honest, I spam lists. That's right, I do. It is a viable and important part of building a list. My type of spamming in list-building means overloading your list with one type of unit so that a portion of your opponents weapons become ineffective. You can do this two ways: you can spam vehicles or infantry.

Spamming heavy vehicles is actually one of the only ways to effectively field heavy vehicles. If you take multiple heavy vehicles, your opponents anti-tank weapons are going to be over worked and your tanks will start to lay down the punishment without trouble from lascannons and meltaguns. My Tau Cadre spams vehicles. I've got 2 Hammerheads, 2 Devilfish, and 2 piranhas. While the piranhas aren't exactly heavy, players tend to shoot them with anti-tank weapons anyway, strangely enough.

The other way of spamming, is spamming infantry. You can do this with Tau, but it requires lots of small Fire Warrior Squads with pulse carbines, and tons of crisis suits, broadsides, stealthsuits. The best army to do this with is Space Marines. My Blood Angels army is an attempt at Infantry Spamming. What this does is, it makes your opponents expensive anti-weapons less effective because they can only take down one infantry model at time now. These armies consist of tactical squads, terminators, bikers, and some light vehicles like rhinos and land speeders. I'm new to my Blood Angels so I'm not sure how effective infantry spam is.

Keep balance in mind. You never know what your opponent will bring to the table or do on the table. It's important to have difference kinds of units and weapons so that you've got every battlefield role covered. You need to be able to claim objectives, you need to be able to kill all kinds of stuff and you need to be able to react to a changing field. As a Tau player, you will need to learn how to escape and manage distances. There is no last-stands with Tau, only tactical withdraw. Build your list with all this in mind.

1) No duplicates
2) Achieve an economy of force
3) Spam vehicles or infantry.
4) Balance


Will said...

Interesting, I like your idea of having small, mobile fire teams. How do you use your Kroot? I'm usually play more of a gun line Tau with a 6 man bait squad followed by 12 man squads of Fire warriors and Kroot. So far it's worked fairly well, but I still need to incorporate more mobility.

Old Shatter Hands said...

I've heard of that being a useful tactic. The bait and retaliate way of war. The 6-man Tau FW squads get decimated in the opponents turn, leaving the enemy unit out in the open for rapid fire...I could see that working in most cases, but if you play with a regular opponent they'll probably find a way around it...My mobile FW teams generally have 8 tau in a Devilfish.

The 10 kroot are generally left in reserve and outflank to take an objective late in the game. Placing Objectives is key to making this work though as you've got to place one on either flank for it to work. In annihilation games I keep out of harm's way as they tend to die horribly. I deploy them in a forest or something. They're also good for protecting your broadsides.