When the site's founder Adam Smith first posed that question a couple of years ago the answer was murky at best because rumors about the imminent Tau release were all over the place, including the release date. The context has obviously changed now that we have a 6th edition Codex, but it is still an excellent question.
And the answer depends on what you currently have in your Warhammer 40k (and particularly Tau) arsenal. Let's look at this in a series of phases for someone just starting in the 40k gaming universe with Tau. Please note, I created this list based on how I'd start, you can and probably should choose a path of acquisition based on your play style.
I'm also throwing this out to my fellow contributors and our community to see how they might recommend you start your Tau Cadre. Oh, and before I forget, the prices here are in US dollars as of August 5, 2013, so you blokes on the other side will just need make do with a currency conversion app.
Phase 1: Getting Started (your first 500 points and $300)
The 40k Rulebook ($75) --no brainer, right?
You could go with the smaller edition now available, but the big rule book contains so much interesting information it really is probably the best investment in the game. Some form of the rulebook is the only must have universal to all armies.
Well, of course, not counting dice, a tape measure and some templates. You will need a flamer template for your battlesuits and barrage templates for your Commander and Hammerhead submunitions, along with a set of scatter dice.
Tau have some pretty nasty shooting phases (at least, nasty for our enemies), and you can potentially pump out a LOT of shots, so a LOT of dice will come in handy. I cannot think of any combination of circumstances where you would fire more than 50 shots at once, so about 50 dice would be good. GW has a set of 125 bombardment dice in a box for about $30, and I highly recommend it. That's about a quarter apiece and may seem a little steep, but the dice all match, the container is actually designed perfectly for them, and they're official GW. You may want to pick up another dozen or so loose, different colored dice for other purposes (wound markers, concurrently rolling for different weapons, etc...
Hey, you didn't get into this hobby to protect your wallet, did you?
For Tau, you might also want to pick up some kind of little markers for markerlight hits. I can get confused rather easily, particularly in large games, so these help a lot. I use the little translucent yellow-green markers from my daughter's old playschool bingo game. They're wafer thin and smaller than a dime so they feel about right for what they represent. For each markerlight hit I place one of these markers next to the targeted enemy unit so I remember to apply the hits when I am ready to kill it.
These really make it easy for both you and your opponent to remember how many markerlight hits you have on what. It also reminds me to actually use them, particularly against priority targets.
You can spend a lot for these tools, or you can go cheap. You can get some from eBay or friends, but I highly recommend your local gaming store because supporting them supports your source for all this really cool stuff AND a place to play. It's entirely up to you. I spent around $40 or $50 for everything above.
The Tau Empire Codex ($50.00)
This is the must-have item for Tau, well, besides an actual army.
Tau Battlebox ($120)
This is a fantastic deal. For $120 you get a Crisis team, a stealthsuit team, a piranha, and a full squad of fire warriors. That would be $156 if you purchased them separately. It's like getting the fire warriors for free.
the units in this box alone are everything you need to get started. Few other armies outside the Dark Vengeance set can say that. Every other army requires you to buy a commander, or another unit of troops, or something. Appropriately kitted out, these units will ring up about 350 points. And if you use one of the battlesuits as your commander, and split the fire warriors into two squads of six each, you have everything required by the rules to get started (though probably not everything you should have to win a game). You will still need a few things to make this little army actually viable.
HQ Unit Cadre Fireblade ($20)
This guy is a solid HQ unit that will buff the abilities of your fire warriors. He may be the cheapest HQ in the game, but he has some pretty cool abilities for his 60 point cost and you can read about those in our Tactica series.
That's it. At 500 points or less, you are basically just learning the game or playing a short combat patrol type skirmish. Have some fun getting to know your core army and learning the rules. Seriously, don't bite off too much at once. PLAY THIS LITTLE ARMY. It contains your quintessential units and truly understanding the capabilities and limitations of both your fire warriors and crisis suits well will be key to your success in future games.
Challenge a friend to a skirmish game, and be sure to specify "no heavies."
I play Tau.
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About Warhammer Tau
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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