I'm not going to be very thorough with this review to be honest for two reasons. Firstly, I'm sure my friend Alex at From the Fang will do a much better job seeing as Tau are one of his main armies. Secondly, this is much more of an update and expansion than other codices and so I won't touch upon the unaffected chunk of the codex. Therefore I'll keep it to a slightly chunky, solitary post.
Just wow. GW have raised the bar pretty high this time with this latest batch of models. I'll cover them all briefly in one hit before discussing the rules later. The limited Edition Ethereal is pretty nifty and introduces the idea of an, overrated, hover platform (more on that later). Fire warriors got an update in the form of a new kit that also allows you to build breachers, who pack new guns, helms and backpacks. The standard fire warrior (now renamed strike team) remains much the same aside from some new poses and bits. Next up for an update is the long-awaited XV-8 crisis suit, now replete with weapons and posability as well as shoulder guards and the option to build one suit as irridium armour. The new look is subtle and a vast improvement for the same price. Speaking of which, the Tau Commander also benefitted from an updated look building upon the resin Enforcer suit and introducing the Coldstar battlesuit, a Space variant that allows the Commander to behave as a toned-down flying monstrous creature, with a slightly buffed burst cannon. The price is the same and the model looks stunning. So far so good. Worth a mention also is the inclusion of a new drone sprue, allowing you to build 2 (one of each) shield, gun or marker drones.
Now we come to the final part of the model review (yes there are that many in this release) which covers brand new units. The Ghostkeel is the first such unit bridging the gap between broadsides and Riptides in terms of size. It is effectively a huge stealthsuit and boy does it look mean. There's also the option to have the pilot exposed (with a female pilot too!) for additional modelling potential. The last of the battlesuits is the vast Stormsurge suit, which looks pretty much like an oversized hammerhead stuck atop a giant walker pair of legs with shedloads of missiles glued to the side. It does, however, fit nicely with the Tau aesthetic and was of war and makes a great £90 LoW addition to the book. Finally, a first, in the form of the Tau TIdewall scenery. Double first in fact - first Xenos scenery piece and first moving scenery. Initially in the form of a (rapidly sold out) set, it is now available seperately as a shield wall, droneport and gunrig, each of which look great alongside a Tau army.
Top marks to GW on this release. Great models, prices as expected but falling down slightly on the limited availability of the scenery set and Ethereal, though it's nothing we're not used to by now.
The codex itself is rearranged into the new format with datasheets and formations which account for pretty much the entirety of the extra pages. The Colour pages are also new format and galleries updated to include the new models. Uniquely, the cover remains the same aside from the background being recoloured, further emphasising this as a second run of effectively the same book rather than an update. At least it's the same price right. Datacards now exist to represent the Tau missions and Warlord traits (unchanged). One other general change for the Tau that I like a lot is that all vehicles now have prefixes, such as TX for tanks and MV for drones. Adds a lot to the Tau personality. However, the biggest letdown with the Tau Codex is the rules, or rather lack of updated rules, making Tau even more powerful than they already were.
New/updated units and equipment
As before, except now he can take a Coldstar battlesuit, which only has options for a high yield burst cannon and missile pod, plus two support systems and two drones (no signature systems). He is then an FMC without the fear, vector strike and smash rules. Personally, not being a Tau Player, I don't see much benefit to this as his offensive and supporting potential is very limited, plus he can be grounded by bolters causing instant death!
Can now take a hover drone (!) for 5 points which auto passes difficult terrain, ignores other models when moving and grants move through cover. Yay.
Fight on foot applies to strike, pathfinder and breacher teams.
XV8 battlesuits / bodyguards:
As before except now they come in units of 1-9. Nasty.
Also gains fire team in units of 3 and can take bonding knife ritual for 1pt each.
Pretty similar to fire warriors in terms of stats and price, with a few wargear changes and a unit size of 5-10. Pulse blasters have a different profile according to range, with all being assault 2. 0-5" is S6 AP3, 6-10" S5 AP5 and 10-15" S4 AP-. Also, they get access to the wargear mentioned below, which their field amplifier also works with. A nice unit pretty much designed to blast upfield in a Devilfish and unload a shed-load of markerlighted pain on a unit of power armour.
New name for fire warriors, same as before except with access to the tactical support turret as below.
As expected, now an FA slot.
The Ghostkeel is an 130pt 1-3 per elite slot battlesuit, which understandably due to its size has stats somewhere between a Crisis suit and Riptide. It's a jet-pack MC with a 3+ save and the usual multi-tracker and blacksun filter. As well as stealth, supporting fire and the fire team rule, the suit can get double the cover save from stealth/shrouded against shooting attacks from over 12" away, so you;ll want to get up close and personal to take this chap down. Also, its holophoton countermeasures allow a once per game disruption of your opponents shooting in their phase, meaning that an enemy unit targeting the Ghostkeel can only fire snap-shots. As well as being able to take a bonding knife and two support systems, the GK also comes with two MV5 stealth drones, granting shrouded as long as they're alive. In short, this chap will have a 2+ cover save in the open most of the time! As far as weaponry goes, it has a twin-linked flamer (upgradable to burst/fusion) and a fusion collider, upgradable to a cyclic ion raker for free. The collider is basically a blast fusion gun, while the raker is similar to other ion weaponry, having a standard S7AP4 assault 6 attack or an overcharged S8AP4 attack which is large blast, gets hot. Both are 24". This is a real gem of a unit as not only is it nigh-on untouchable without ignores cover or charging it, but it boasts an impressive array of weaponry and systems.
Now squadrons of 1-3 with the fire team rule, meaning they gain +1 BS when at max size of 3.
Where to begin with the big guy? Lord of war and 1-3 per Lord of war slot, this chap is a bristling arsenal on legs. Coming in at as many points as there are degrees in a circle, the Stormsurge is a gargantuan creature packing 8 wounds at toughness 6 with a 3+ save. The only special rule is for its stabilising anchors, which are employed in a shooting phase and affect movement (and stomp attacks) from then on and shooting from the next phase. These can be retracted in the movement phase. They allow the Stormsurge to fire its entire arsenal twice per shooting phase! Ouch! Speaking of which, its time to talk about the guns.
The first weapon we are familiar with; a twin linked flamer upgradable to TL burst cannon or AFP. Next is the cluster rocket system, AKA those two huge blocks where its arms should be. This system has a range of 48" and puts out 4D6 S5AP5 shots. Mounted beneath the cluster rockets are destroyer missiles, which are one use only with a range of 60" and S8AP1 - essentially pimped seekers. The destroyers can be further enhanced by markerlights, of which one will change the strength of the missile from 8, to D! Ouch! And we haven't even got to the big gun yet. It comes with the pulse blastcannon as standard, upgradable to the pulse driver cannon. Despite the size, blastcannon is pretty short ranged and operates on a similar principle to its smaller cousin wielded by the breacher teams. At 0-10" it is SD AP1 heavy 2. 11-20" this is then S10 AP3 heavy 2 blast and 21-30" it is S9 AP5 heavy 2 large blast. So pretty formidable in each case and sure to put things off getting too close. The Driver cannon, however, has a fixed profile at 72", S10 AP2 ordnance 1 large blast.
In brief conclusion, this unit is a great addition to the Tau line-up, trading mobile firepower for a bastion of take-on-all-comers weaponry just asking to be parked on a midfield objective and obliterate all in its sights. Too big to hide from and too dangerous to ignore it does shake up the dynamic of things somewhat and is a fitting lord of war for the Tau.
DS8 Tactical Turret - a 10 point upgrade that can be deployed if the unit remains stationary within 2" of a model. It's BS3 and fires either a missile pod or smart missile system. It plays no active part in the game as such other than that.
MV36 Guardian drone - 6+ invulnerable save to its unit and a 5++ to itself and any model with a field amplifier. Same price as other drones.
AFP and cyclic Ion blaster now no longer one per detachment.
Markerlights have only changed with regard to being used for the destroyer missiles, as above in the Stormsurge entry.
New missions/detachment/formations (from the codex)
The Tau maelstrom missions are as follows:
11 - The lure - 1VP if one enemy unit that successfully charged last turn is destroyed. (3+ = D3VPs)
12 - Patient hunter - 1VP if 1+ enemy units destroyed by a unit in your deployment zone.
13 - Ambush - 1VP if enemy unit destroyed and=or failed a morale check. (3+ = D3VPs)
14 - Multiple distractions - 1VP if 1 enemy unit completely in 12" of two opposite table edges.
15 - Feigned withdrawal - 1VP if at 1+ enemy units not in its own deployment zone that started within 9" of one of your units is completely destroyed.
16 - The greater good - D3VPs if you control an objective marker that your enemy controlled at the start of the turn. (D3+3 if 3+ objectives) Bonus 1VP if no friendly models destroyed during your turn.
The detachment consists of the following:
Command (0-1 per core)
- Contingent Headquarters - 1 Commander / Shadowsun; 0-1 Ethereal / Aun Va / Aun Shi; 1-2 Bodygards.
- Hunter Cadre
Auxillary (1-10 per core)
- Optimised stealth cadre
- Retaliation cadre
- Allied advance cadre
- Firebase support cadre
- Drone network - 1 unit of drones
- Air caste support cadre
- Assigned air caste asset - 1 Sun Shark or Razor Shark
- Infiltration Cadre
- Heavy retribution Cadre
- Armoured interdiction Cadre
Command benefits for it include the ability to re-roll warlord trait and the mighty co-ordinated firepower, which allows units to combine their firepower together into a single attack against an enemy unit. They resolve their shots as a single unit, in other words benefitting from any perks, markerlights and abilities as well as gaining +1BS if 3+ units combine together. This would result in an almighty salvo that not much will survive.
A commander, 0-1 Fireblades, 0-1 Bodyguards, 3-6 Breacher / strike / Kroot units, 1-3 Stealth / Crisis / Ghostkeel / Riptide suits, 1-3 Pathfinder / Piranha / Vespid / drone units and finally 1-3 Broadside / Hammerhead / Stormsurge / Sniper teams. Whew, so hardly restrictive at all in other words and including just about everything save for Sky rays and Flyers. These chaps will benefit from extending their supporting fire range to 12" as well as being able to run / Flat out before shooting providing they are within 12" of a Commander or Fireblade. In other words, making Tau even more mobile and difficult to engage in close combat with no restrictions as such. Hmm.
Optimised stealth cadre:
Let's get the nasty one out of the way first. Two units of stealthsuits and one of Ghostkeels. Wall of mirrors is the horrific rule that allows them all to give the Ghostkeels and any stealthsuits in 6" ignores cover and they also hit all vehicles on the rear facing. R.I.P Guard.
A commander leading three units of Crisis suits, one of Broadsides and one of Riptides. As well as relentless they all gain the ability to deep strike as a single entity at the beginning of the second turn gaining +1 BS that turn. Ouch!
Allied advance cadre:
Four units of Kroot and two of Vespids, these chaps benefit from supporting fire amongst themselves, where the vespids also gain infiltrate and stealth (forests) and the kroot gain both +1 BS and exchange stealth for shrouded (forests) in 12" of the vespids. Pretty decent, if you like auxillaries.
Firebase support cadre:
Two units of Broadsides and one of Riptides. The entire unit fires as one (including benefitting from markerlights) and gains tank and monster hunters as a result.
Air caste support cadre:
One Sunshark and two Razorsharks. Roll dice for each hull point lost in the formation - on a 6 a hull point restored. Also, can ignore stunned/shaken on a 2+. Pretty nifty rules, though why you'd want 3 in a list is the real question.
Two units of pathfinders, two units of stealthsuits and one unit of piranhas. One rule means that if a unit in this formation is destroyed, ALL units in reserve automatically arrive next turn, Might be worth a cheeky suicidal Piranha! The neuralisation lattice grants a bonus automatic free seeked missile hit on a unit for every 3 markerlight hits on it. Nice.
Heavy retribution Cadre:
One unit of Ghostkeels and two of Stormsurges. So heavy on the points and the wallet, the perks of this Formation are being able to reroll the absurd amount of firepower from the Stormsurges if the target unit is in 12" of the Ghostkeel and also, any enemy targetted by 2+ units from this formation can't run / move flat out and must halve charge ranges.
Armoured interdiction Cadre:
Three units of Hammerheads and one of Skyrays. Pick a point on the table each turn - you can re-roll to hit enemy units targetted within 6" of this point with units in this formation.
This is a great book set released alongside the Codex which is effectively rules in one book, background and art in the other. The latter is amazing in terms of the fluff and the new / rehashed art found within. The former treats us to rules not only for Tau, but also Whitescars and Raven Guard as covered on my other blog. The campaign is interesting and provides 8 missions with consequences for losing the previous battle when moving onto the next. In terms of the Tau, you get a page which presents an updated armoury and small errata section for some of the entries in the old Tau Codex, as well as all the new datasheets and the detachment discussed above, as well as new datasheets for older units re-released with new models and minor changes. In addition, it provides us with rules for the tidewall, both as individual units and combinations, which the Tau codex does not cover. Of course there are mission rules now too, again covered above. In effect, all you need is a copy of the old Tau book and Kauyon to play the same as the new book. Rather than having to buy both the new Book and Kauyon to be up to date. There are however a few distinct units found in the Tau burning dawn box which are not covered by either so I will attempt to cover them here. This analysis is pieced together from what I could find on the internet so might not be 100% accurate and points are missing for many:
An Etheral with Honour Blade, hover drone and Homing Beacon. He is 75pts and has the fixed Warlord trait exemplar of the Selfless Cause.
A BS4 Piranha with a fusion blaster for 55pts.
Stealth Suit team Darktide:
Shas-Ui Ryaon with fusion blaster and 2 chaps with burst cannons. They also have a marker drone. In addition to the bonding knife ritual and normal rules, they have precision shots.
Pathfinder team Aurora:
This team of pathfinders has Shas'Ui Starshroud (feel no pain, stubborn) and 6 others with pulse carbines/markerlight, 1 with an ion rifle and 2 with a railrifle. They also have all 3 types of drone and the bonding knife ritual. Other than this they are standard Pathfinders.
Infiltration Cadre Burning Dawn:
All of the above together - models gain scout and those who already have it gain infiltrate. Aun'Do gets to use his elemental powers twice a turn once per game and the whole unit also benefits from stealth.
A battlefield debris defence line that costs 60pts. Firebase means Tau units on the wall can reroll shooting to hits of 1. It can also move 6", so long as no enemy units are on it and it stays 1" away from them. Friendly units must also be on it completely while it moves and although they count as stationary they can't then move. Each time you make a successful cover save for a model within 1" of the shield barrier (and it is between the firer and your model) roll a D6 - on a 6 the attacking unit gets the shot reflected at them with the same S and AP.
Same cost and unit type as the shieldline, with the same movement and firebase rules. You get 4 free drones chosen from gun/marker/shield. Once a friendly model 'activates' them by being on the droneport, they detach as with vehicles and then start functioning. (dormant beforehand)
85 points and same unit type, movement and firebase rules. This one however packs a Twin-linked railgun with submunitions, which is a gun emplacement that can be fired by Tau models on the gunrig.
The original insta-sell out format cost 265pts and consisted of a droneport, gunrig and 2 shield walls. It can also be expanded indefinitely with shieldwalls, one extra droneport and one extra gunrig for the points costs above. The rules and unit type are the same as for the individual entries with a couple of additions. Firstly, the droneports and gunrigs also benefit from the reflection rule as per the shieldwall rules. Second, one Tau unit on the scenery can forego shooting to select an enemy in its LOS. Another Tau model firing a gunrig then gets +1 BS and tank/monster hunters.
Essentially 3 gunrigs for the same cost, they must be setup and remain within 6" of each other. Once a turn, so long as one of the forts is manned, all railguns can fire at the same target using that BS adding +1 to strength for submunitions and gaining armourbane for solid shot.
4 shieldlines arranged as a square with 1 gunrig/droneport in the middle. Models on the wall gain stubborn and can operate the gunrig/droneport.
The online exclusive, the rules of which I dare say will become apparent at some point soon.
Whew, well that was longer than I initially anticipated. This is a very double-edged release I feel. On the one hand, lots of great models have been released alongside a host of new rules not only for Tau but for Space Marines too. I think we have now seen the format for GW releases in future - focus on one army to be the centre of the release plus codex and then give other armies some love through the campaign book. Throw in a few limited figure sets to sell old models and bang. you're done. Strongly suspect that with the hint dropped of Farsight intervening and Guard, Admech and Sisters being sent to reinforce the warzone that we may see a Sisters release soon with Farsight and Guard getting updates in the campaign book.
I mentioned a double edged sword which for me comes down to two things. Firstly, I love all the models that have been released and although Tau aren't by any means an army I play regularly I would love to add a set. Sadly, as with Admech, Tyranid and Harlequin releases over the past year, time and money just don't allow for this and I dare say by the time they do there will be a different release to centre on instead. The other part of this is far more reaching and that's the implications of this release on the community at large. We may well be seeing the start of a trend of releasing campaign book updates to armies with their books remaining largely untouched but with minor updates to grant them new detachments, formations and to bring rules in line (scouts and dreadnoughts spring to mind). More disturbingly is the fact that Tau, who were already battling for top dog in 40K, have been made more powerful still by the new units and formations from this release, making them arguably the strongest faction in 40K and ridiculously outclassing armies such as Dark Eldar and Orks. This will probably be a transient issue as in 3 years time I dare say all books will be in the new format and have equally deadly formations and new toys. Until then, however, we seem to have a two tier system that threatens to make certain armies in 40K no fun at all to play against. Cheers.