Fields of Failure for Tau Once Again

Concluding from my previous article regarding my experimental 1500 point Tau army, the odds were stacked against me as I faced an experienced player using a deadly Eldar force.

Or so I thought.

When I had played him before he had used a few large squads of infantry, who seemed very tooled up for your standard infantry. Beside these he also brought some smaller squads of equally devastating power. So my plan, which hopefully should be somewhat reflected in my 1500pt Tau army list, was to bring as many multi-shot, anti-infantry weapons that my suited heros could handle.

Unfortunately due to a rather embarrassing communication mishap, which occurred off the table, I wasn’t facing Eldar at all.

In fact, it turned out that instead of facing a 1500 point, infantry heavy, Eldar army I was in fact facing a rather armour-filled Space Marine force.

The game was going to be my first game in excess of a thousand points, it would also be the first time I had faced up against the rock-sturdy Land Raider, a squadron of Space Marine bikers, Whirlwinds or even a Razorback tank.

Not my painting – but wow you’ve got to love Tau’s vehicles

So how did Tau do?

Poorly commander did not survive

Well even though I finished 12-4VP down, the game was a lot closer than the score reflects. Out of 4 objectives, my opponent had 1 bike and 1 lonely marine on 2 of the objectives. On the 3rd he had two squads, dancing merely in front of my Riptide who was rather torn when it came to target acquisition.

The Space Marines also, against the odds, won a challenged fight against my Commander (stupid insta-death!) to take ‘Slay the Warlord’.

He claimed first blood in his second turn when I forgot to move my Hammerhead skimmer, robbing it of its jink save.

We both had line-breakers by the end, even if his was acquired in the final turn.

Given an extra turn…

As I said above, Tau actually performed a lot better than the score suggests.

Given another turn, the 7th, my commander squad and surrounding Fire Warriors would have been able to snatch the Space Marine biker leaders final wound. From directly above that combat, my sniper squad would have easily overcome the final Marine standing all alone on their second objective. After that and across the other side of the battlefield, it would have been likely, although not a given, that my Riptide could have stopped the Marines from holding onto their 3rd objective.

Given that scenario, the game would have ended 6 all.

Pathfinders – didn’t work (again!)

I posted the precursor to this article because even though I’m inexperienced with Tau, it seems that there is a flaw in some of their units, or at least in a strategy I’m employing without knowing it.

The Pathfinders, which I hid back in the corner of my deployment as they clutched to the sparse cover, again didn’t seem worth the ~90pts I spent on them. They had 2 turns at full strength. Their first turn was spent running for cover as my opponent had deployed a Whirlwind, scouts and the dreaded Land Raider nearby. They snapped some markerlights but only managed 1 onto the scouts. On their second turn they managed to get 5 out of 8 markerlights on the only target they could spot, the Land Raider. I hoped this would help the nearby Riptide lay down some devastating fire power. Unfortunately before the Riptide could benefit from a BS of 8, it failed to Nova-charge its power-plant and therefore drew his weapons against the easier Whirlwind, whom had started pounding the precious infantry squads with barrages from turn 1.

Sadly in Space Marine turn 2, a perfectly placed Whirlwind strike reduced the Pathfinder squad to little more than a pile of smouldering Tau shoulder pads. From that point on, even though one survived to round 6, they played no beneficial part in the Tau battle strategy.

Maybe my opponent was wise in targeting them early or I badly deployed them. Either way, they brought no noticeable benefit to them team. Not even being a scoring unit, they couldn’t hold onto the nearby objective when the Fire Warriors were blown to pieces.

Deep Striking Stealths and XV8 Crisis Units

I planned to be facing Eldar and lots of infantry, so when Space Marine armour turned up I knew I’d be struggling with the weapons I had brought to the party.

On turn 2, slightly earlier than I had hoped, both my deep striking reserves came down in one hit. Before the game I decided I would deep strike my Stealth Suits and then guide my 2 XV8 Crisis units to the ground with a homing beacon. This would enable me to safely bring them down and avoid the dangerous terrain that littered the battlefield.

Unfortunately between those two units, whom both dropped without any mishap, they had about 26x strength 5 AP5 shots. Great for anti-infantry I’m sure. Not so great for what they faced.

The problem came from the fact that the only useful place for them to deploy near the enemy, was behind the 1 remaining biker, the Marine Warlord. Next to him was a Dreadnaught and the Land Raider. A 4th target, the one remaining Terminator, managed to hide behind a bulk head when I was looking around, saving him from certain death I’m sure. Sadly though, even with all that focused fire-power, the biker Warlord refused to die and was left with his final wound keeping him going.

Rolling two rather abysmal jet pack thrusting moves, both squads were left dangerously close to their opponents. I tried to place the Stealths in cover, while pushing the XV8 (shielded by their drones) up against the board edge. This placement would at least cause the Land Raider to have to turn significantly to bring its weapons to bear down on them.

With bikes, an infantry squad and 2 land speeders coming on as Marine reserves, the deepstriking units didn’t survive to have another go.

Did they make a difference? Yes and no. They nearly wiped out the Warlord, although with him seriously injured my opponent kept him well guarded and hidden from sight until the last turn.

Were they worth it? All together those two deep strike units cost me about 350pts, so for 3 wounds against the Warlord that then forced him underground for the rest of the match, the answer is no. However this was mainly due to my load-out of anti-infantry blast cannons and deep strike strategy. Perhaps I should have acknowledged there were no suitable deep striking locations they would survive in and drop them closer to home.

Would I use them again – yes – but with different armaments.

Sniper Drones – bargain of the year!

One of the new units I was fielding for this game was a squad of 4 sniper drones and 1 marksman controller. Due to their rather high cost on eBay, I customised 4 of my normal drones to be hovering with 4 longer than usual pulse rifles. Even with the super glue accidents that are bound to happen when you glue several miniature gun components together, the sniper drones turned out to by my unit of the match.

Their ability to move, shoot and jet pack away was perfect. I had them split over two levels of a building, with the marksman downstairs and not budging all game. The drones moved from behind cover, fired their weapons and then retreated to the safety of the shadows. Brilliant!

I wish I had remembered to take note of what units killed what, like I had planned to, but I’m fairly sure that these 4 sniper drones (which survived to the end) racked up 5 Terminator kills, 5 biker kills and possibly 10 Marine infantry kills. They probably would have had another few kills if I didn’t misunderstand the rules and brought their rapid firing sniper rifles to target the dreadnought. Strangely enough that round they spilt no Space Marine blood.

They were by far the most dangerous Tau unit on the day. The only thing that probably had more kills on the table by the end of the game was the Whirlwind tank, but that was laying in a crater slowly smoking away… so that doesn’t count.

On top of their performance, they only cost me 73 points! I would take a second squad of them over Pathfinders in a heartbeat.

First outing with the Tau Riptide

The second new unit I was wielding for the first time was the gigantic Riptide. I had it equipped with the ion accelerator, something that made relatively short work of the Whirlwind. However even with it managing nova-charging once, the powerful accelerator didn’t manage a single damaging hit against the 14 strength armour Land Raider.

Ironically the Riptide was better equipped to handle armour than anything else in my list, yet it was mainly facing infantry. I still brought its weapons to rain down on the armour when perhaps I should have equipped it and used the default heavy burst cannon to take on infantry.

I found the anti-armour ion accelerator combined with the smart missile system was a poor combination. Firing on armour meant that the strength 5 missiles were wasted, while firing on mass-infantry meant the ion accelerator wasn’t used to its maximum strength 9 (although the large blast did help at strength 8).

Even after being the target of a few lascannon shots, the only wound the Riptide received was self-inflicted from its nova power-plant. Something that re-assured me when considering it for future games.

Would I take it again? Most probably. Its a fair amount of points, and using the nova-charge is an interesting option to beef up its weapon – however I think next time I’ll be using it with the heavy burst cannons and accompanying twin-linked missile systems to reduce squads to ashes.

Tau Hammerhead Death

So…. it turns out you don’t get jink if you don’t move your skimmers. I knew this before the game. In the midst of battle however I completely forgot to employ this simple tactic. With disruption pods and jink, even in the open the Hammerhead should have been getting a 4+ save, however what I stupidly did dropped that to only a 6+. The gunship failed his first role, immediately and catastrophically causing him to explode in one well placed hit from the Space Marines.

Before destruction the Tau Hammerhead managed to squeeze off a few hits, although I forget who on. Probably infantry as that was all the opponent deployed in front of him. Sadly by the time the Land Raider had moved across the battlefield and into view, (perfect prey for the heavy 3, strength 10, AP1 railgun), all that remained of the Hammerhead was a slain Longstrike commander inside its burning shell.

In hindsight the Hammerhead was probably the only thing that could have defeated the Land Raider, which it would have done with relative ease thanks to Longstrikes tank-hunter ability.

Did I deploy it incorrectly? Yes definitely. I forgot it moves over terrain without any hindrance, so why I deployed it with nothing but open space in front of it was an obvious mistake. It could have easily gained ground on the Land Raider and caused serious issues for it.

Improvements to the 1.5k Tau List

The Commander

After the game I found a great online article reviewing the Tau Commander unit, some advise I wish I had read before this latest match. One point the author makes is to equip the Commander with both the Iridium suit and Vectored Retro-Thrusters. After reading, the Iridium suit seems a must have. If I switched the role of the Commander to one of a more deep-striking anti-armour, the VRF seems a good fit too.

So a Commander with these two systems, combined with stimulants and dual fusion blasters gives the following set-up:

  • 2x Fusion Blasters – meltas with strength 8 AP1 shots,
  • XV8-02 Iridium Battlesuit – boosting the Commanders toughness to 5 (preventing the insta-death I suffered) and a 2+ armour save,
  • Stimulants – granting a 5+ secondary save after armour/cover/invuns,
  • VRF – Gives the Commander Fleet and his whole unit Hit & Run (the ability to leave combat in the Assault phase with 92% reliability)

I definitely think this would have helped, especially if dropping him in as a anti-tank Commander. This combo in fact grants the Commander a 89% save against every unmodified wound. Not bad!

His bodyguards, of which I’d try taking 2, would be equipped with both a blast cannon (or plasma rifle) and a fusion blaster (maybe twin-linked). Hopefully a few shield drones or gun drones would boost the squad as well as taking the first few hits.

Sniper Drones

More of these! Now! These guys were pure gold. They stopped both bikes and Terminators coming close to my HQ, 50% of my infantry and an objective. Perhaps next time I’d take two squads of these, offering overlapping firing arcs.


As mentioned above I’d probably leave this big guy with his default heavy blast cannon. I’d probably nova-charge it a few times too, depending on how anti-armour the other guy is looking. Heavy-12 with rending does seem ridiculously good.

The Hammerhead

I wouldn’t deploy and use him so pathetically. You live and learn I suppose. With Longstrike in he would have been golden I’m sure, as long as he didn’t die on turn 1 or 2.


Hmmm, my current bug-bear with Tau. I think I’ll be dropping these squishy units unless someone can convince me otherwise. The points could be so used much better elsewhere I’m sure.

Fire Warriors

These guys did okay, taking out a terminator and a few scouts, but generally just sat on the objectives and went to ground a few times. Maybe next time I’ll take more squads, or deploy them in a transporter coming on as a reserve.

1.5k Tau Army Round-Up

So there we have it, the big 1.5k under my belt. It was a close game and hopefully some of the above reflects some of the things I’ve learnt. There’s definitely a lot more complexity to 40k since I first played it years ago, so still picking up many of the rules, but I think I’m getting there.

For the Greater Good – long live Tau

Leave a comment