Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tau Help Desk: Tau at Small Points Levels and a Tangent on Mobility

Hi Old Shatter Hands, 
I've been playing Tau for three years and I'm a big fan of your blog, especially the tactics. I was hoping you could give me some advice on a list I'm using in the UK school league tournament. The rules for the tournament are: armies must be no more than 600 points, you must have an H.Q. and two troops, you may have one elites, you may have one fast attack or heavy support.  
I played this list at the qualifier:
Shas'el, deathrain, burst cannon, shield drone
3 shas'ui, deathrain, flamers
6 fire warriors
6 fire warriors
10 kroot
Hammerhead, railgun, burst cannons, disruption pod, multitracker, flechette dischargers
It performed quite well but it suffered against a Blood Angels army with Seth and honour guard due to slow moving troops. I thought about taking a deathrain shas'el and a single deathrain shas'ui, 2 squads of six fire warriors in devilfish and two fusion blaster piranhas. It wouldn't do as well against hordes but it moves a lot faster. Have you got any ways I can improve the list? 
Thanks for your time,

P.s. I have a blog at

Thanks for reading Tau of War! Congrats on the blog, I'll add it to my blogroll

Warhammer 40,000 at small points levels can be real fun because you have less models to move around and the games are quick and decisive. But as you discovered in the qualifier, they can be unbalanced. Older armies like Tau, Eldar, Chaos Space Marines have less flexibility in their lists. which is only exacerbated by having less points to spend and the restrictions of 1 FOC slot per Fast Attack, Elite and Heavy Support. Armies built from the newer 5th edition codices can throw down a balanced force at this level due to cheap points costs, troops that wield special and heavy weapons with transports like Raiders and Razorbacks that also carry weaponry. So they can be sure to run a strong close combat element, melta weaponry, and long range fire, even with only 600 points.

So the question is how can we build balanced force with the Tau Codex at 600 points. Tau are different in that they need certain elements unique to Tau in order to be viable. The first and second are a Kroot Wall and at least one unit of Piranhas. The Kroot extend cover, while the Piranhas provide you with another screening unit, the Drones, and some move-blocking for enemy vehicles and troops. The Kroot Wall and move-blocking Piaranhas are important because you'll find yourself having trouble keeping foot-troops like Seth and buddies away from your lines.

Then you need a good supply of missile pods and railguns. On top of that, you've got the mandatory unit of Fire Warriors and the XV8 Commander HQ so fitting all this into a 600 point list is going to be tough. Your list above is almost there but unfortunately the Hammerhead is sucking up so many points that you 're not there yet.

So here's what I'd feel comfortable bringing to the table at 600 points:
XV8 Commander, Twin-Linked Missile Pods, Flamer, Drone Controller and 2 Gun Drones. 92 Points

2 XV8s with Twin-Linked Missile Pods, Flamer. 94 points

6 Fire Warriors 60 points

10 Kroot. 70 points

10 Kroot. 70 points

2 Piranhas with Fusion Blaster. 130 points

Broadside with Targeting Array. 80 points

Total: 597

Personally, I am becoming a believer in the Tau Infantry Force (foot-lists), with limited vehicle support in the form of Piranhas. I prefer to leave the big expensive Hammerheads at home. Because of our cheap troops , we can throw down a psuedo-horde of infantry backed up by some serious high strength fire power from the larger Battlesuits (i.e. anything but stealth suits).

Your Piranhas are going to move out to block your enemies main advance. Move flat out for 4+ skimmer cover save, and get in the way. Chances are, they'll get destroyed, but they've given you another turn of shooting. Their drones will pop out, take a pinning test but then make themselves useful for screening against infantry. 

While this is going on, the Commander and the Crisis Suits use their Missile Pods as suppression fire against Razorbacks and other transports, causing damage results like stuns and shakens to prevent them from firing. Get a shaken or stun result then move on to the next target with your Broadside.  He is given a Targeting Array because with only one railgun, you have to make his shots count. He's going to target transports and light vehicles, AV11 and 12, again to make those shots count. ( A railgun needs a 2+ to penetrate a Rhino's armor). So your XV suits can shut down 2 transports a turn maybe 3 if you get lucky ( and hopefully destroying one of them).

Your Kroot and Fire Warriors are going to form a wall of defense for your heavy firepower. Deploy at least 5  Kroot from each squad in area terrain and extend the other 5 out so they can confer cover saves to models behind them. Their job will be meet the enemy infantry head on once they've been popped out of their transports. But you're not going to assault approaching squads, you want them to assault you. So when they get close, move your kroot up, maintaining a cover save and rapid fire. Have your second squad of Kroot and fire warriors behind them to contribute fire. 26 Tau and Kroot rapid firing marines means an average of 4-5 dead marines. Not bad. Not too good, but not bad. Remember to try and get your Gun Drones from your piranhas to screen and contribute fire as well.

The key to Tau is slowing your opponent so you can keep your heavy weapons firing each turn.

That's how I'd do it anyway.

I also want to comment on one thing you mentioned in your email-the issue of Tau mobility. You mention that you're looking to make your army list faster and more mobile. Unfortunately, Tau aren't fast and won't be able to escape meltaguns and assaults without a good amount of screening from Drones and Kroot. It's a common misconception about Tau that I myself played into. Tau aren't fast, they're mobile. This means you can't really escape assaults or run circles around the enemy like Eldar (both varieties) can. It does mean, however, is you can move without losing firepower. It allows you to put units like Drones in the way of things, while your army positions around to get clearer shots, then moves again in the assault phase to ensure cover saves. This combined with markerlights, means you're getting cover saves every turn while your opponent doesn't. Mobility helps you create a cover-save imbalance. Just a neat thing about Tau, that sometimes feels like cheating.


oniakki said...

I don't think your suggested list is viable as from what I read, one of the limitations is a single Fast Attack or Heavy Support (emphasis on the Or)

Not sure what I'd suggest to fix it though, my tau are severely under utilized so I don't have much more then read about Tau tactics, most of which I learned from you and a couple of the other Tau Bloggers ^^;

Damien said...

If you are playing on a small board (usually 4x4 for these kind of games I think piranhas are not as useful. There cannot really be anything that scary out there that needs to be blocked. This list gets you another broadside with shield drones (very hard to kill at 600 points) and one extra suit.

600 Pts - Tau Empire Roster

Total Roster Cost: 600

HQ: Commander Shas'el (1#, 81 pts)
1 Commander Shas'el, 81 pts = (base cost 50 + Stimulant Injector 10 + Twin Linked Missile Pod 18 + Blacksun Filter 3)

Troops: Kroot Carnivore Squad (10#, 70 pts)
10 Kroot Carnivore Squad, 70 pts = 10 * 7

Troops: Kroot Carnivore Squad (10#, 70 pts)
10 Kroot Carnivore Squad, 70 pts = 10 * 7

Troops: Fire Warrior (6#, 60 pts)
6 Fire Warrior, 60 pts = 6 * 10

Heavy Support: Broadside Battlesuit (4#, 178 pts)
1 Broadside Battlesuit, 75 pts = (base cost 70 + Team Leader 5)
1 Broadside Battlesuit, 73 pts = (base cost 70 + Blacksun Filter 3)
1 Shield Drone, 15 pts
1 Shield Drone, 15 pts

Elite: Crisis Battlesuit (3#, 141 pts)
1 Crisis Battlesuit, 47 pts = (base cost 25 + Flamer 4 + Twin Linked Missile Pod 18)
1 Crisis Battlesuit, 47 pts = (base cost 25 + Flamer 4 + Twin Linked Missile Pod 18)
1 Crisis Battlesuit, 47 pts = (base cost 25 + Flamer 4 + Twin Linked Missile Pod 18)

Your BA opponents shouldnt be able to fit more than 2 razorbacks in. Bit of mathhammer tells me you can stun/immob/wreck 1.7 av11 vehicles without cover a turn from your 8 MP shots. Then you have 2 broadsides to spare!

Old Shatter Hands said...

@damien, seems like a better list based on the restrictions of having 1 heavy support or fast attack. If i have to choose between them and XV88s, i'll take the 88s.

Pete W said...

Good post OSH and I'm really starting to come around to the power of a layered, blocking, foot-based Tau force. How intriguing since for a while all everyone was running was mech-Tau using as many skimmer hulls as possible.

Nice pic too ;-)

Old Shatter Hands said...

Just a rant here. I don't know why this group has decided to restrict the Force Org Chart. This only ends up hurting older armies like Tau and helping the newer more flexible ones like BA and Space Wolves. What is the thinking behind it?

Anonymous said...

In my humble opinion, commanding Tau in a competitive setting requires mastering the use of Kroot. Depending on your opponent's army, place your Kroot in the most ideal position for them, then figure out where the rest of your army is going.

Regarding the codex, it's an odd state of affairs when our least impressive unit is our most important for success. Anyway, perhaps it's just a fool's opinion, but Kroot are the most crucial unit on the field for Tau.

Old Shatter Hands said...

@worthy traitor, so true so true.I couldn't have said it better myself.

Anonymous said...

Aye, having said that, I think it's a good idea for players to know exactly how to position their Kroot with respect to the enemy's location, disposition, and armament. The clearest way to do this, imho, is to design a matrix on paper, print it out, and then either study it or carry it with you to tournaments.

Taking Marines as an example, things to include: how far to deploy from troops on foot, how far to deploy from their transports, how close to let infantry come before decided to either shoot, assault, or fall back. That sort of thing but do it for a greater variety of units... and then do it for each army.

Since I don't blog anymore, perhaps you could touch on some of those ideas so I have something to disagree with lol ;)

Ko'vash said...

Thanks for the reply OSH and thanks to you all for the ideas. I don't have any broadsides at the moment so I'll probably try and grab some in time for the tournament. I should have a list up in the next couple of days.

Blessed Misery said...

Broadsides are definitely a must especially if anyone is running a land raider since they can be fit into a 600point force, though it would be a rather beardy force to run.

Richard Erwin said...

Does no one use Twin-Linked Plasma Rifles with a Target Array? Vs Marines that is a 74% chance per shot of a kill. I bring two teams of three and park them behind terrain. Let the marines come and just keep jump-shoot-jumping them.

Old Shatter Hands said...


Twin-linked Plasma + Targeting Array works great when you are shooting space marines, on foot, in the open, I agree with you there. Only problem that's such a rare occasion 'round these parts. I'm normally facing marines in Rhinos, who are pretty clever at being in cover when their rhino get wrecked. and plasma sucks at popping AV11.

Anonymous said...

...besides, twin-linked weapons are nice to perhaps equip on a target locked team leader but otherwise isn't such a big deal when you have markerlights.

Richard Erwin said...

...sigh....Pathfinders are temporary. Very temporary in my league. Target arrays are forever. I admit that my league may be a bit under armored.