All Comers Tau Army

May 15, 2009 ·

In 5th edition the Tau army isn't as competitive as it once was. Because a Tau army should be about moving and shooting, this means that to be effective, a Tau army has to have a host of weapons to deal with a variety of threats. This means not tailoring your force to one specific opponent, but a variety of opponents.

Now I for one hate it when you show up for a game and your opponent has completely tailored their army to obliterate yours, simply because they know what you are taking.

I experienced this earlier in the month at the Ammo Bunker Open Bash when Dave rocked up with a Space Marine mechanised army, designed purely to kill the Tau army he was used to fighting. Unlikely for him, that was a Tau gunline army, while my Tau army cruise in style in all manner of Devilfish, Hammerheads and even Skyrays.

As a result his horde of Heavy Bolters and Stern Guard armed with their special bolter rounds where ineffective against my mobile wall of armour 12 vehicles. Instead of proving how tailoring your army can win you games, it only proved how tailoring your army can turn Warhammmer 40K in a game of rock-paper-scissors.

Thankfully, anyone tailoring their army to take out a mechanised army will be paying a lot of points for all those lascannons and multimeltas. So perhaps mechanised is the safest way to go? Providing your lowest front armour value is 12 of course.

So what makes my all-comers Tau army so special? Well, it's got a little bit of everything to take on virtually anything. Even my friend Marc who has returned to the hobby after a brief brake and is now eager to break out his Imperial Guard and make the most of the new Imperial Guard Codex doesn't feel that my Tau will be a push over, even with the new Hyrdra flak tanks and Leman Russ Vanquishers.

Tau Army Essentials

So what makes a good Tau army to take on all comers? Durability, Mobility and Firepower.

Durability: This comes from having a lot of tanks. With so many people focussing on killing troops, mostly with short ranged template weapons, tanks are relatively free to roam as they please, protecting the squishy occupants inside while still being able to claim objectives thanks to the Troops they are transporting. Lascannons shouldn't be a serious problem for Tau skimmers, especially when there are lots of Tau skimmers in your army. Lascannons only become a problem when there are lots of them, but they cost a lot of points, so your opponent will have to sacrifice something else in his army to afford them all...unless he's fielding 6 Valkyrie Vendettas. Hopefully any nasty penetrating hits should be deflected by your disrutption pods. Glancing hits aren't so scary. Just watch out for melta guns and multimeltas getting up close.

Mobility: Contrary to popular belief, Tau are not by any means a fast army. They can just move and shooot a lot thanks to multitrackers on tanks. With the Tau you have to stay out of close combat at all costs, so moving as far as possible is extremely important. A static Tau army dies, so once again, you need to mechanise. While moving 6" and firing all your weapons might be appealing, it's safer to keep moving 12" and keep the enemy at a safe distance. It also makes your opponent need a 6 to hit your skimmers in close combat.

Firepower: While your Tau tanks and disembarking and rapid firing Tau Fire Warriors can put down lots of squishy targets in the open, the Tau army is no longer a powerhouse of firepower. They put out a lot of shots, but due to the volume of cover saves or power armour, they aren't dealing as much damage as they once did. Although plasma rifle and missile pod battlesuits hitting on 3+ (due to targeting arrays or markerlights) are still utterly devastating and should be used to eliminate key targets in the same way that Broadside teams can still take out enemy tanks. This means you need to prioritise your targets more than ever before, but you can never rely on your firepower to completely wipe out an enemy unit.

So which weapons do you take when you could be facing Eldar, Orks, Space Marines or Imperial Guard? Well, the simple answer is that you take a little bit of everything!

The Tau army is actually a very balanced army. The fact the Tau are so balanced is probably a weakness when you think about it, so you have to really optimise the guts out of it to build an effective force. This means you will need railguns, a mass of basic weapons fire, plasma rifles, missile pods and flamers as well as some markerlights to make sure your important weapons hit when you really need them to.

Everyone has their personal preferences when it comes to arming their units, but I will advise you to take weapons which can hurt everything. Or a combination of weapons to take on whatver the enemy throws at you. For example, my Tau Battlesuit team with twin linked flamers are also equipped with missile pods. They can't fire both in the same turn (and they don't need to), because if they aren't annihilating troops at close range, the can fire at troops or tanks from a safe 36" distance. Alternatively, if I took a Tau Battlesuit with twin linked flamer and an Air Bursting Fragmentation Projector (AFP) he'd be in trouble if a tank came towards him.

Durability, Mobility and Firepower together creates a successful Tau army. Sometimes your tanks will be stunned, shaken, immobilised or plain destroyed. Leave them and keep moving with the rest of the force. The most important part of the Tau army is mobility. If you can't move, you can't stay out of close combat. It's that simple. This is why Tau gunline armies no longer work.

Your firepower often won't be enough to wipe out the enemy. So keep moving with the presumption that you won't kill them all (unless your entire army is firing en masse at a bunch of Orks who have wandered out into the open). This way you will ensure that your units are at a safe distance, or moving 12" so that enemy units will struggle to hit your tanks and inflict any damage in close combat.

So here are those 3 Tau army rules again

Tau Rule 1 Mobiity: Keep moving. If you sit still, you die.
Tau Rule 2 Firepower: Combine your firepower for maximum kills, but don't expect to eliminate your targets.
Tau Rule 3 Durability: Take tanks, keep your distance and hide your Tau battlesuits behind them.

1750 Points Tau Army

Here's my regulary 1500 points Tau army list again if you missed it the other week. If you want to boost it to 1750 points, simply add 10 Kroot, 4 Stealth Suits and upgrade the burst cannons on the Hammerhead and Skyray to smart missile systems. You'll have maybe 15 points left to play around with.

Feel free to borrow, play test, tear apart and reform for your own use. Good luck and good hunting!

Tau Shas’el
Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod, Multitracker, Hardwired Drone Controller with 2 shield drones
2 Bodyguards with Plasma Rifle, Missile Pod, Hardwired Multitracker, Targeting Array

Tau Battlesuit Team
2 with Twin Linked Flamer, Missile Pod
1 Leader with Twin Linked Flamer, Missile pod, Hardwired Drone Controller with 2 shield drones

(X3) 6 man Fire warrior Team
Devilfish with Smart Missile System, Targeting Array, Multitracker, Disruption Pod

Hammerhead with Railgun, 2 Burst Cannons, Target Lock, Multitracker, Disruption Pod, black sun filter

Skyray with 2 Burst Cannons, Target Lock, Targeting Array, Multitracker and Disruption Pod, black sun filter

2 man Broadside Team with advanced stabilization
Leader, Hardwired Drone Controller with 2 shield drones, Bonding Knife


Saim I Am said...
May 16, 2009 at 6:19 AM  

Hey thanks for the post.
Do you still use the 'Fish of Fury' techique? Or do you keep the firewarriors in the transports most of the game? I see that you use SMS on the devilfish. That makes sense, when you think about how the drones are worth a kill point.

A friend a my local GW store developed a 2k list that is designed to pin your opponent.
One of the neat features is a Stealth team with markerlight drones. In 5th ed, the stealth suits have the relentless special rule - their ML drones (ML are Heavy and drones have Jet packs) can move as jump infantry and fire without restrictions. The list also has (3) Sniper teams, and (3) fish w/24 FW with carbines. The whole premise is that many armies ignored their leadership numbers, which made them prone to being pinned. And as you know, loading up a unit with 5 or 6 ML tags and then lowering their LD by 5 and forcing them to test for pinning is pretty cool. One last cool thing, each drone on the sniper team can fire at a separate target. Which means you can possible force a pin check on three targets. Now using 3 drone teams, you do the same thing with each team, so that each of the 3 targets is receiving a pinning hit from 3 different sniper teams. The rules state that a target can take more than one pinning test only if each wound from a pinning weapon originated from a different unit.
So think about it, first I lower your LD by 5 or so, then I force you to take 2,3, or 4 pinning checks. What are the chances that you can pass all of them. Miss one, and you stuck!!

Adam Hunter said...
May 16, 2009 at 10:08 AM  

fish of fury doesn't really work unless your enemy is out in the open. Even then it takes all 3 squads to do it, but sometimes it works really well.

Massed pinning is a nice idea, but massed KILLING is better.

Soundwave said...
May 16, 2009 at 10:47 AM  

Saim I Am: The multiple pinning tests doesnt work, so you might wanna tell that guy. The LD reduction only counts for the current unit firing at the target.

From the book: "To impose a -1 LD penalty on the marked unit for the purposes of any Pinning test imposed by the FIRING UNIT'S SHOOTING."

Old Shatter Hands said...
May 20, 2009 at 6:13 AM  

hey warhammer tau, posted your link on my blog Nice army you got here. It looks a lot like the list I came up for my new army...'Cept I have 4 dumbfish (1 loaded with Pathfinders), 2 Railheads, 3 Deathrain Suits (TL-MP, Flamer), 1 Shas'o with 2 Fireknife retinue suits (MP, PL, TA, HWMT)and 2 piranhas with fusion. Seems going 100% mech is the only way with Tau in 5th edition...

Anonymous said...
May 20, 2009 at 9:02 PM  

I agree that mech is the way to go w/Tau in 5th. Although I sometimes think running a kroot variant army, but I think it would get stomped in reality.
I've actually decided to stop running Broadsides for a while. I usually run Shadowsun with 2 teams, and that's a lot of static points. Even with A.S.S., broadsides ain't what you'd call mobile.
So I'm gonna run this-
2 Tricked out fireknife Crisis HQ's-one w/Shas'o (give him the stim pack feel no pain save, he can take the wound if I miss it)and 2 Bodyguards (they take Targeting arrays, HWMT, etc.), and one with a Shas'el and 2 Bodyguards.
They get 2 shield drones/1 marker drone per team.
3 Smartfish w/6 troopies each
10 Kroot
1 Railhead w/SMS,Dpod
1 Ionhead w/SMS,Dpod
1 Skyray w/same....
All vehicles get Multi-Trackers so they're fast vehicles.
It's 46 models, and I used this list to fight a very evil new guard list to a Draw, although, for some reason, I just couldn't miss a cover save with the Dpods all day. Man I love those days.
Maybe next time I don't have love from the dice, but I'll take it when I get it.
The army performed well, but I need to run it some more. But I think going fully mech (meaning I drop my beloved-and I do mean BELOVED- Broadsides), with ALL fast, skimming tanks/transports and a handful of outflanking kroot is really playing to the Tau's strengths in 5th edition, while hiding some of their 'issues'.
Speaking of that, it MAY be worth it to put Flechette Discharges on some of those vehicles......

Adam Hunter said...
May 20, 2009 at 10:41 PM  

nah, flechettes are too expensive and not particularly effective against anything with a 4+ or higher save.

Old Shatter Hands said...
May 23, 2009 at 8:46 PM  

Just came back from a game with a very similar army to yours, Adam--'cept I've got a full squad of Pathfinders...Anyway, set up with two strong flanks and a weak center and my battlesuits just blazed away from the sides. With the force basically split in two and a static lure in the center, you can really crush people who move down the center of the board to your static units. The two flanks actually end up supporting each other because of the long range of Tau weaponry. A Hammerhead on either flank, Battlesuits with Missile pods, Piranha's moving up the flank to get side/rear armor shots with their seeker missiles...Old Shatterhands is pleased with the results. The expansion continues.

Zeev said...
May 26, 2009 at 4:32 PM  

Well when I used fish of fury in my (first) game earlier this week I saw that it has one great use. What I did was place my Devilfish in between two pieces of terrain. this blocked any easy movement around the Devilfish unless it exploded or the enemy had jump infantry. It almost won me the game on its own as it made over half his army take a slow treck around the largest piece of terrain on the board to get to the nearest objective. (they never made it). However I got unlucky when his Captains squad saved all 12 wounds I put on it in one turn.

Mik said...
May 29, 2009 at 5:50 AM  

Great list and tactics help. Ill definitely be applying much of this in the future, thanks...

Narric said...
July 19, 2012 at 3:25 PM  

It will be interesting to see how a list based on this will fair in the 6th Edition setting.

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Warhammer Tau is a group of wargamers who feel that they have a little something different to offer other Tau Empire, Kroot, and allied players... even if it's just a starting point for discussion! Our goal is to produce at least one article per week to inform and encourage the Tau and Warhammer gamer community. For the Greater Good, of course!

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