Thursday, September 9, 2010

Joining the Tau Empire: The Battleforce

Starting a new army is one of the many joys of the Warhammer hobby. For those of you who are just starting out and have chosen to fight for the Tau'Va (greater good), a great start is getting the Tau Battleforce for 90 bucks. Its a good value for what you get.

I'll give you a couple options for setting up a small yet viable force with this set. We're going to first start with a 500 point list so you can start playing some games right away. In the next installment we'll talk about your next addition to your Tau force and lay out some basic battle plans.

The Battleforce

In it you will find parts to build 1 XV8 Crisis Suit with 2 Drones, a Stealth Team of 3 XV25s, 1 Marker Drone, 12 Fire Warriors, 1 Devilfish and 12 Kroot. It’s an OK start. Stealth Suit XV25s leave a little to be desired but hey, at least they look cool, right? What to build with this stuff?

The Firewarriors should all be assembled with Pulse Rifles and mounted in the Devilfish. You may prefer pulse carbines and you can mix them up however you want I suggest going all out, its either all rifles or all carbines. Rifles are good for their range and the fact that they can rapid fire at 12 inches. Pulse Carbines offer a range of 18 inches and also cause pinning if the unit takes any casualties. As the majority of 40k armies either have high leadership or fearless, I find that pulse rifles are more useful.

Now move on to your Devilfish sprues. On the Devilfish set, you should notice a missile is included. But where to put it? My answer: don’t bother gluing on the seeker missile to the Devilfish. Magnetize it if you know how but otherwise leave it off. I’ve played around with seeker missiles enough to know that they are no good on Devilfish and only sort-of-good on Tau Piranhas. Assemble your Devilfish and drones but don't glue the drones in. You'll need to drones to drop off during games to protect your soldiers. Assemble the flying bases for your drones as well, but don't glue them to it. Base and flock as normal.

There are only one upgrades the Devilfish really needs: the Disruption Pod, giving it a 4+ cover save against shooting attacks fired from more than 12 inches away. At higher points levels, give it either Sensor Spines or the Multitracker. You Devilfish should never cost 95 points and you should leave it at that. Any more points sunk into this model is a waste of points that could be spent on more Battlesuits.

Moving on to your Kroot. You are required to have two troops choices in your army so adding Kroot will fill up that required slot. Kroot are very important in a Tau Cadre because they are cheap troops that will flesh out your army and provide a good skirmish line for your Battlesuits to hide behind. Plus they come in the Battleforce so might as well put them together.

In your list, I do not recommend giving them the upgrade character, the Kroot Shaper. He’s expensive and doesn’t add much to this unit. So 12 Kroot with Kroot Rifles. Simple. They get 3 attacks each on the charge and have OK rifles. Plus they have field-craft and infiltrate, allowing them to outflank and giving them a 3+ cover save when occupying forests (now go out and get some trees so can bring a forest along when you play).

Now its over to your stealth team-wait, um, where'd they go? Oh, hold on, here they are. :)

These guys seem really cool when you start off but after playing a few games with them, they will begin to disappoint you. Especially when you only have three of them. However, we're not going to use them in an attack role. Upgrade one XV25 to a teamleader, purchase a markerlight for him and 2 marker drones. Then the team becomes a stealthy support team. NICE! Now your Fire Warriors can actually hit something.

Now on to your XV8 Crisis Suit. In your first couple games, this model is going to be your commander as you are required to field one in every game. It's very important to equip your Crisis Suits in the appropriate way as this is where a good chunk of your fire power is going to come from.

In comparison to the HQ choices of other armies, the Shas'el or Shas'O Commander is not a force multipler like Astrorath the Grim, Logan Grimnar or Hive Tyrants. He has no effects that boost the effectiveness of nearby models or units. He grants no leadership benefits like the Space Marine Commander's Rites of Battle.  He is simply one beefed up Crisis Suit. He's one model, that's it. This is why he needs to cheap.

It's tempting to equip him with all the fancy upgrades like the stimulant ejector, iridium armor and an ejection system but these upgrades have little effect on the game as a whole and simply increase his points cost.

There are three configurations that I would recommend

Shas’el Fire Knife: Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod, Targeting Array, Hard-Wired Multitracker. 97 points. Slightly expensive but comes with accurate mid-strength fire power.

Shas'El Deathrain: Twin-Linked Missile Pod, Flamer, Hard-Wired Target Lock. 77 points. Cheap with highly accurate long-range Missile Pods that can penetrate enemy Rhinos, Chimeras, and other transports. An added benefit is that he can join squads to boost their leadership to 9, and still fire at his own targets.

Shas'El Heatwave: Twin-linked Flamers, Missile Pod, Hard-Wired Target Lock. 73 points. Very Cheap with semi-accurate long range fire and a last ditch suicide attack with his twin-linked flamers.

The Army List
For your first couple games, here's a list you can run with only the contents of the battleforce.

Shas'El Deathrain - Twin-Linked Missile Pod, Flamer, Hard-Wired Target Lock. 77 points.

Stealth Team - 3 Stealth Suits, 1 Team leader with Markerlight and 1 Marker Drone. 135 points

12 Fire Warriors with Pulse Rifles. 100 points
Devilfish with Disruption Pod. 85 points

12 Kroot. 84 Points

501 Points

This list will be a difficult on to field if your opponent brings any heavy armor to the table. The basic plan would be to set up a fire base with your Kroot out in front, creating a skirmish line. As the enemy approaches, the Stealth Teams mark targets for the Fire Warriors to shoot at. Kroot hang out in front and rapid fire anything that gets close. The Commander should be targetting any transports, so should Fire Warriors as strength 5 weapons can with some luck, damage and immobilize Rhinos and any else that is Armor 11 or less. You'll have trouble with any AV 12 vehicles but that's what you get in the battleforce. Your next purchase should be build in some anti-tank weapons.


Flekkzo said...

The Tau looks cooler for every time I read a Tau post. I especially like the idea of the rundown on the battle force. Makes me want to get the codex and play around (no models though, got enough in the pipeline).

When they release a new Tau codex I will get it. I am really into new. Not for the power, but for that new army smell with those new models and updates and buzz and excitement.

And, because I am curious. Is that your models?:)

Bob said...

Just a quick note, the Ninja'O doesn't work; Fusion Blaster, Missile Pod, Shield Generator, and Vectored Retro-Thrusters make 4 hardpoints. I'd drop the Retro-Thrusters, since you can't count on them with the 5th edition hit-and-run rules.

Otherwise, I pretty much agree with your comments on the utility of the battleforce.

The only thing I really have to add is that the best use of the XV25 stealth suits is cutting them apart and making sweet crisis suit conversions!

Raptor1313 said...

I'd note that if you're not going to roll with Fish of Fury, you can always assemble Fire Warriors as Pathfinders; just give them a carbine and leave the shoulder pad off.

Kroot? Agree. Skip the shaper, but consider hounds. They're excellent screening units.

Stealth suits? I think you can make them a spotter force, but ultimately I have to agree with Bob: end of the day, they compete with Crisis Suits (your ONLY source of special weapons that aren't S5 or Rail Guns) and don't fill that niche. Plus, that spotter team is bloody pricey for what it does.

On Crisis Suits?
I have to say that I'm a fan of the so-called Fireknife, but I think it's simpler to just call it plasma rifle/missile pod/multi-tracker.

Why? Missile pod is a no-brainer on a suit. You want some mid-strength shooting so you're not stuck with only your rail guns to kill EVERY LAST TANK.

Plasma rifle? It's a bit pricy, but it does several things for you:
1) Forces marines and well-armored folks to cover. (which you can subsequently strip with markerlights)

2) Messes up monstrous creatures. No save, wounded on a 4+? Not good for something that paid a premium for its toughness

3) More wounds on infantry. Hey, it wounds on a 2+.

4) Negates Feel No Pain.

And, if someone gets close? Rapid-fire the crap out of them. The plasma gun is pricy, but versatile in ways that no other options are.

Past that, the Battleforce boxed set is a pretty swell deal; so far as I'm concerned the Stealth Suits are the only not-so-hot thing, but they're great conversion fodder.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a very informative post. I'm considering Tau for my second army and I'll pay up for the Battleforce when I can spare the money.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tahrikmili, a really informative post - I have been toying with Tau for years, and posts like this edge me closer to the edge.

Cheers mate,


suneokun said...

The Tau Battleforce (alongside the Nids) are the best value for money in the game. I'm not getting the love for the Stealth team ... they are very useful in the small games you startup playing as their small torrent of fire can really challenge. Plus having an auto-in cover S4 screening unit from the like of Harlies or Hormagaunts ain't too bad.

5 Stealthers can offer serious anti infantry fire power and they can flank, so are great to run with the Kroot.

Where stealthers rock is in apocalypse, without the 'three slots' problem - stealthers become awesome and the ability to 'dissapear' mean that your boys are the ultimate move-run-move objective grabbers.

With all the Destructor and Superheavies rolling around, Crisis Suits are a big instantkill objective.

Check out my latest Batrep to see how Stealthsuits turned the tide on a Necron/SpaceWolf/Guard+Warhound force:

Old Shatter Hands said...

@Flekzo: Yep, they're all my models. Even the marines.

@Bob: Thanks for pointing that out. It's been corrected. Yep, I tend to agree about using the stealth suit bits as conversions. I used to field Stealth suits all the time but their results were mixed. Lately I don't have the points to field them.

@Raptor: I'm a fan of fire-knives as well but I see them as a luxury. Deathrains are more important and, in my games, tend to do more damage on the whole for less points. I field fire-knives as well though. I agree you need that AP2.

@suneokun: I have yet to read that post. I'll get to it soon. Question on the stealths: do you find them better when armed with 2 fusion blasters or all burstcannons. Do you outflank with them?

Simon said...

I can see this being really useful for someone just getting started. It gives a really nice breakdown of all the units in the battleforce, how they work, and how to use them togethe.

The FOF video was very good also, although I think I'd like it to be a little more zoomed in.

Old Shatter Hands said...

@simon: Thanks for the feedback, yes, it was a little too far out. Also, I have to get an actual video camera. This was taken with a simple digital camera, not really intended for videos like this.

Pete W said...

One thing I'll add as a new to Tau player is the possibilities in available with the Tau Skyray kit.
In short, the Skyray kit comes with all of the Hammerhead parts. I purchased a Battleforce and a Skyray so now I have:

- XV8, 3 XV 25, 12 FW, 12 Kroot, Hammerhead and Skyray.

One problem I'm having though is that I want to make some Deathrain suits but there is a great dearth of missile pods as you only get one per Crisis box and the bits sites I've seen are all sold out of missile pods.

The only thing I can think of is buying Skyrays and using the SMS parts. Unfortunately then I can't give SMS to my Devilfish or other things.

Why can't GW make a sprue of just Crisis weapons.... :-(

Klei said...

I love setting a full team of stealths equiped with burst cannons 18" from a nice squad of infantry during deployment,

got a lot of Imperial command squad wipe outs with this in turn 1. That and often the opponent will do anything in his power to get his revenge on the stealths, works wonderfully with some Kroot outflanking in turn 2 indeed!

B.R. said...

Hey I'm a fairly new player so something confused me about this. How the Devilfish was still able to fire after moving 12? If its a tank and not fast isn't it prevented from firing when moving more than 6'?

Old Shatter Hands said...

@B.R., you're Devlfish can fire as a fast vehicle if it has been given the multi-tracker vehicle upgrade.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm a new Tau player. So i have a question-I saw that the O'ninja crisis suit configuration had both iridium armor and stimulant injectors and i thought this would be awesome, but can't you only take 1 special issue system per army?

Old Shatter Hands said...

The Special Issue wargear is one per army, that means that only one model may have iridium armor but another model may have a different piece like the positional relay. Think of each piece of special issue wargear as being unique.

BTW, I need to update this. That O'Ninja config is nerfed in 5th Edition. Doesn't work since you have roll initiative to use HIT and RUN.

Anonymous said...

Oh!I see now! I must have misread the text >.<
Anyways, thanks for the quick reply.

BTW, awesome blog!

NockerGeek said...

It's a shame that the Tau Megaforce is no longer available, because it was a fantastic follow-up for the Battleforce. 3 Piranhas, a Hammerhead, 2 more Crisis Suits, 20 more Fire Warriors (go ahead and make 8 into Pathfinders), and another Devilfish. Oh, and Stealth Suits, too. ;)

Between those two boxes and the Apocalypse boxes that came out a couple of years ago, I was able to assemble most of my Tau on the cheap. It's unfortunate that the only deal left to today's new players is the Battleforce.

Anonymous said...

@ Pete W - For easy Missile pod conversions, take an assembled burst cannon, cut off the four barrels and the "drum" at the back of the gun. From this, drill a few holes in the front and put something in them for missiles. I use plastic dart tips.


Anonymous said...

This was a great blog and I love your painted figs.

But, as far as my HQ goes, although I like to keep it cheap, I feel like adding two different weapons works better than twin linking, especially a flamer, since the high BS is put to use.

Anonymous said...

Hey i was just noticing that you put 12 fire warriors as 100 pts and not 120. You added the final total cost right though.

Beil said...

I know this post is crazy late but for easy Deathrains, just buy a Broadside kit as well.( Or 3 or 6) It comes with a full weapons spru to use and lets face it what is a tau army without railguns.

Fosner1703 said...

I use the Smart missile system arms from the Broadsides as twin linked missile pods. So essentially, from a broadside kit i get 2 twin linked and one single pod frome each kit.

Timothy said...

Can anybody please tell me how a markerlight looks? Because i want to equip one on my stealth suit but i don't know what it looks like...

Colton VIsek said...

This is really helpful! I've just recently gotten into 40k, starting with the Assault on Black Reach set. I want my main army to be Tau, and this blog has been really useful for me. Hopefully I'll be getting a battleforce for christmas! lol. Anyways, thanks for the great blog man!

Anonymous said...

hey i have been really enjoying the blog, starting tau currently. lol i should wait till update but im impulsive and dont want to wait. broadsides currently are really hard to find so i was wondering do you have any good ways to convert xv8's to xv88? if not would you rather run sniper teams with 2 hammerheads or would u run 2 hammer heads and a sky ray? or three hammer heads? in a 2k game.
my email is or i can check back here if you get a chance to reply

Tim said...

Hello Anon,

If I had the money to spend, I'd go with 3 hammerheads. If not, then converting broadsides from Crisis Suits is not so hard. You can purchase inexpensive railguns from Paulson Games. Check out this link:

Anonymous said...

I feel like broadsides area a great assest and that i really should try and get some, there just expensive and hard to find at the moment. so i was thinking of sniper drone teams for ML support, even thought of the skyray for same reason, but more was thinking of a third hammer head but maybe using ion cannon. .... not sure.

xXTerminatorXx said...

You did not mention Crisis Suits equipped with Burst Cannon, Missile Pod and Multi-tracker. Do not under-estimate the value of torrenting.

Why do you say you need AP2? Not to deal with terminators. That's what drones/kroot are for. Those termies or 'deathstar unit' will positively kill AT MOST 5 sacrificial units in a game. And thats it. Piranha blocking and drones/kroot screening will ensure they do very little, so plasma is not needed.

Missiles and railguns break enemy armour. Then let the Strength 5 weapons go to work on the exposed infantry. In 1 shooting phase, if you are lucky, you can literally strand the enemy infantry and leave with with a horrible decision. Stuck in midfield, eating 15 shots a turn from 5 teams of suits.

The downside to playing Tau is that 1 unit of Marines that can get around your blockers can multi-assault your army off the board in 1 assault phase. And tau aren't so happy about Eldar/D. Eldar/ Blood Angels Tank Shocking.

Yep, it's that bad.

Ozkid said...

Hey great models! What paint scheme did you use because it's brilliant!!!!

Azim said...

Hey, Tau newbie here. Can someone please tell how to use the damn markerlight ? :/ stil confused