Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tau Tactics: Tau Fire Warriors in Warhammer 40,000

I am back! Last week saw this blog extremely quiet as I was away for work. But I am back with some ideas for blog posts this week. I haven't gotten the chance to play my Tau lately and I haven't had time to work on my little short story The Survivor of Fourth Squad but the ideas are there so tune in this Friday for the third installment.
Right here I'd like to talk about the Tau troops choices and how they work in your army. Fire Warriors at 10 points gets you a midget with elephant gun, yes, but with LD7. You could upgrade one of them to a Shas'Ui LD8 and 2 attacks but is that really worth 10 points?
What role are your Fire Warriors playing in your games? How are you using them?
My guess is, if you're using them in a fighting role you're having a tough time with that and probably not winning lots of games.
I typically get units of 6-8 Fire Warriors and mount them in Devilfish with a Multitracker and Disruption Pod. This units main role is to claim and contest objectives. I field three of them and they always go in reserve. This keeps them alive until I need them to claim objectives. I also do not choose to purchase the SMS because this unit's role is not a fighting one. I keep the drones on the 'Fish in case I need them to contest objectives. Remember that your drones (as per the Tau FAQ) get to disembark from vehicles as if it were open-topped. So you can move your fish 12 inches, disembark your drones 2 inches, run d6 inches and then move your jet pack move 6 inches. That's a fast moving drone and it can contest an objective, with lots of luck, 26 inches away!
I try hard not to spend too many points on them. A unit of 6 in a 'Fish with Pod and Tracker comes in at 155 points. This leaves me plenty of points to spend on units and vehicles that are actually going to cause some damage. Keep them cheap and keep them mobile.

Fire Warriors have a couple of options in the codex. You can trade any pulse rifles for pulse carbines and both options are viable. Fire Warriors also have access to two kinds of grenades, EMP and Photon. Photon Grenades prevent assaulting enemies from getting the additional attack when they assault the three-fingered warriors. This is against what I want to happen. If my Fire Warriors are getting assaulted, I want them wiped out in the first round, leaving the attackers open to fire from the rest of my army. As Photon Grenades can prevent this from happening, I don't choose them.
EMP Grenades are ridiculously over-priced for what you get. Sure you can surprise your opponent by fielding them once and while, but overall 3 points per model makes them an expensive option. You'll need to take them on a big squad to make them worth it too. I've used them on occasion with some success but they are too situational to justify purchasing them. Your Fire Warriors need to be able to assault a vehicle that has only moved at combat (so you hit on 4+) to cause any real damage with them. If it's moving at cruising speed (when you only hit on 6+), forget it, the odds are against you. On top of that, if our opponent knows you've got them, he'll just keep his distance with any price tanks.

I've seen beginning Tau players purchase big units of Fire Warriors on foot. This is a mistake, and a bigger mistake if you do not have plenty of Markerlights. Somehow players get the idea that the Tau are a gunline army when they aren't, they are a mobile firepower army and that's what they do best so don't ruin that by leaving your Fire Warriors on foot. Plus a foot slogging Fire Warrior unit will have troubling playing a major role in the battle. Most players would be tempted to place them in cover to bring their 30 inch range pulse rifles to bear. This creates two problems a) you lose a few turns of movement and b) you're now in difficult terrain which slows you down more. If you want a big squad of Fire Warriors, mount them in a 'Fish, take the first turn to shoot, then mount up and move out to fish of fury targets of opportunity. Support them with Markerlights and then they'll see some glory in battle.

Leadership 7 or 8 is a big problem for Tau Fire Warriors. I once played a new Tau player in a tournament with my Mechanized Blood Angels Assault Force and I had great success tank shocking Fire Warriors. They were set up in a static gun line close to the table edge so I just ran my Rhinos into them and they fled off the board. Don't let this happen to you.
I suppose the Tau Ethereal was created to give a boost of leadership to the Tau so their gun lines could work but I've never had any reason to choose an Ethereal over a Shas'El Crisis Suit so if you have please share your insights.

One thing about Fire Warriors is that it only cost 60 points to make a Devilfish scoring. Devilfish are perhaps one of the best transports out there. With Multitracker and Drones, they can punp out five shots a turn at 18 inches and with the Disruption Pod they will almost always claim a 4+ cover save. The Devilfish APC is the real gem of the Tau troops choices so capitalize on that and learn to use them. Keep them in reserve and move out to claim objectives.


levi said...

I completely agree with You. It's a shame We just can't have a really useful troop choice as all other armies do.

Tylermenz said...

I like how its "60 points to make a devilfish scoring" instead of "its 80+ points for a transport"

Pearlygates said...

That's a good cover report on how to use firewarriors OSH; although I think you should have also covered the F/W's weapons.

I know most people here will always equip Pulse rifles rather than carbines, leaving carbines solely for the gun drones, but just thought maybe you could have also included the advantages and dissadvantages of their variable weapons.

The Etheal does have his benefits for the army, his Honour guard by giving them an improved Balistic skill (no point mentioning the improved inititive as it makes no difference to their close combat) and most importantly getting to reroll for morale checks.

I only played my Ethereal a few times in simple fun games to try out new tactics, and surprisingly the Ethereal's re-rolls probably won me the game! Every morale check that failed was passed on the re-roll.

But does this make him TRULY beneficial to the army? No! I would always choose a Crisis suit over an Aun! Especially for those who play at tournements.

Sholto said...

A solid roundup of the Fire Warrior, OSH, and it addresses all of the key issues the unit has.

Pearlygates touches on an excellent point. If we are not bringing Fire Warriors for their firepower, and instead are bringing them as a scoring unit, why not take carbines instead? Assume they will always be demounting from the Devilfish before they fire - we can agree that is the most common scenario. In that case, the rifle's range of 30" is an irrelevance, so we can ignore it. The question then becomes, what is more usefull to your army - more S5 shots or S5 Pinning shots? More and more I am becoming inclined to include Pinning shots where it does not cost me to do so. That odd occasion where the unit does pin someone can literally turn a game, but if the pinning fails, you have not lost anything. Fair comment?

@Pearlygates - consider using the Ethereal to let you re-roll passed morale checks, too! If your Fire Warriors unexpectedly hold in close combat (eg. you roll snake eyes) you use the re-roll to ensure they fall back, letting your other units shoot at the enemy in your Turn.

levi said...

@Sholto: I don't really believe in pinning because of the high LD other armies have. Considering We talk about 6 man strong FW squads the 6 shots You can pump out of your carbines with BS3 are almost nothing in my opinion.

Sholto said...

@Levi - agreed, six shots is not much, but is 12 shots (rapid firing your pulse rifles) at lesser range much better? I am not sure it is. My Tau army is killy enough without another 12 shots at 12".

However, if all your FW have Pinning weapons, then on the odd occasion you face an enemy unit that can be Pinned (ie. is not Fearless) you are not really losing any firepower by taking carbines, but you are gaining the chance of Pinning them.

And I do run Pathfinders, so I usually have plenty of markerlights available, meaning that I can often reduce Ld10 to Ld6. Six shots, three hits - two or three wounds and maybe a failed save.

I am not claiming this is a key strategy, just that if you aren't taking FW for their firepower, why not use them for something else instead? What do you lose?

levi said...

Yeah You are right, I can give it a try, why not, after all? :)

Old Shatter Hands said...

@Levi and Sholto, I like the way you are thinking. Lately I've been considering the benefits of the pulse carbine over the rifle. I think both options are good, not one better than the other really. More and more, I'm wishing I had gone for pulse carbines, the 18 inch range beats out over 12 inches when hopping out of a fish and the chance for pinning is rally awesome. People just don't expect to get pinned and it can, like you said, be gaming winning when you do it.

Overall though, I think it makes little difference whether you choose carbines or rifles when you're only fielding 6 of them in Fish.

I hope one day, the Fire Warrior will be elevated to a fighting role. Alas, it appears we'll have to wait another year or so.

Sholto said...

Thinking about it a bit more, you would be best to spend ML tokens on increasing BS first, and then on lowering leadership.

An alternative might be to take a single large (10+) unit of Carbine FWs, and have the rest of your FW units minimum sized in Fish. That way, you can park the large unit in cover to hold a home objective (or walk them on from reserve to perform the same task), but if you were facing an enemy that could be pinned you would have a formidable source of pinning shots to work with, and you could always lend them a Fish if you needed to move them out.

Let's assume 4 ML tokens to play with, placed on a non-Fearless enemy target. With a unit of Sniper Drones at BS5 (using 2 ML tokens), you can get 1.5 pinning wounds every Turn (assuming the target has T4 or less and a 4+ cover save) at 36" for the cost of 8 FW. Contrast that with a unit of Carbine FW in a Fish. You discount the cost of the Fish (since it comes with your PF anyway) which means you are paying only 20-40 points more for a unit that will (at BS5, using two ML tokens) get 3 pinning wounds every Turn at 32" (12" Fish move + 2" disembark + 18" Carbine range). In both cases you have two ML tokens left over to lower Ld, but the FWs are clearly superior as they are forcing twice as many tests at the same -2 Ld. And they are scoring! I am ignoring the Sniper Drones' markerlight, here, but I don't think it changes anything.

I am beginning to persuade myself that this is worth testing out!

Sholto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Old Shatter Hands said...

It's definitely worth testing out. I'm also going to give it a try. Although, I'll have to proxy my carbines from rifles. There are lots of units that can be pinned...all of the Space Wolves, Blood Angels will be too, most marines in fact (disregarding Chaos) Eldar, etc.

jawaballs said...

Hey, I need your email, or can you send me an email at hotmail? I would like to send you a copy of my How to Paint Tau so you can maybe do a review?

levi said...

@Sholto: I completely agree with You on the topic of FW vs. Sniper drones and as I said, I'll try out the Carbine FWs!

@Old Shatter Hands: I agree absolutely with You as well on the topic of FWs. They are just not enough. I could say They aren't on the same level as other troop choices...

Old Shatter Hands said...

@Jawaballs, I'd be honored! Email is That would be really cool actually.

Legion3000 said...

I completely agree with the carbines over rifles sentiment. The fact of the matter is at 12" when rifles really come into their benefit range, If you don't destroy the enemy unit, you are getting charged next turn. And with only 12 shots from a 6 man team that is a very distinct possibility. With carbines that range is pushed to 18", well out of charge range for most units. That leaves 2 rounds of shooting PLUS the possibility of pinning. Nothing messes orcs up better than being pinned right when they expect to be charging you.

O'Jaquinson said...

Yeah, I used to try and just hold the line with 3 fire warrior squads with pulse rifles, but I would just get murdered by my ork-playing friend's Nob squad with 5+ invuln saves and FNP from a painboy... I have had good luck with the devilfish, though.

leon de pinda said...

IMHO they can be rather usefull killing of some swarm armies such as nids. combined with enough markerligths you will simply massacre the opponent. example: 3 markerlight hits, 2 full 12-men squads. each rapid-firing. 24 shots at bs. 5 en 24 shots at bs. 4 that gives a total of: 36 hits. now assuming you are shooting hormagaunts. 2+ to wound, you just killed a 30 men squad of hormagaunts. this can also work wiht 4 men squads not rapid-firing, but you need some more markerlights for that, upside is you can do it at 30 inch range. so who said they are not effective?