A Drone for Every Occasion (part 1)

November 2, 2015 ·

I was just looking through the new codex and it struck me how many drones we now have. In total, counting the Ethereals new Hoverboard, there are about 22. 

The drone to the right is Commander R'Alai's Marker Drone, and yes, it is an odd little duck. I like the look of the drone, but not as a Marker Drone.  More about that later.

So let's go over them.

These are all the drones in the Tau inventory (that I know of), and that's too many for one post.  So, I'm going to break them up as follows.
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Gun Drone Grav-inhibitor Drone Drone Sentry Tower
Shield Drone Pulse Accelerator Drone Drone Defense Turret
Experimental Shield Drone Recon Drone Heavy Gun Drone
Command Link Drone Missile Drone Heavy Gun/Marker Drone
Marker Drone Shielded Missile Drone Remora Drone Fighter
Sniper Drone Interceptor Drone Technical Drone
Warscaper Drone Guardian Drone
Stealth Drone
Hover Drone

(Click the title of this article to read more)

First, we have our original six drones from 5th edition plus a small gift courtesy of the Farsight Enclaves.

1. Gun Drone: The old standard. This drone costs the standard 12 points, and gives you two twin-linked assault 2 pulse carbines at BS 2. Like all drones, it is jet pack infantry, which means it can do a thrust move in the assault phase to keep up with battlesuits or just annoy the hell out of your opponent. You can purchase these puppies as wargear for shas-ui firewarriors and pathfinders, ethereals, and battlesuits.  They also come stock on the Piranha, Devilfish, Hammerhead and Skyray.

A creative use of gun drones is a squadron of 12 gun drones joined by a monat battlesuit commander with two gun drones, a drone controller, twin-linked burst cannons, and a flamer. This gives you 32 shots of twin-linked S-5 BS-5 rolling death at 24 inches against hordes plus fire for overwatch. That's a lot of dead termagaunts.

This may be the all-time most useful drone because a pair can function as another 4 firewarriors (or rather two with two pulse carbines each), and they can be an ablative wound sink. Tough, useful, durable, and flexible. Of course the points cost make their usefulness very situational, what more can one really ask?

2. Number two on the list is the handy Shield Drone. This is another ablative wound that packs a shield generator granting a 4+ invulnerable save to whomever it's attached -well, technically the save is for the drone itself, but it can save the unit a lot of hurt if used smartly. The Shield Drone is actually cheaper than the shield generator wargear by 13 points and can give multi-wound models a higher survivability rate against instant death.  If these are the only drones you take, then there is no need for a drone controller.

I have been interpreting the rule about shield drones incorrectly for a long time because of the word "confer." The shield generator the drone carries confers the savings onto the drone, not necessarily to the unit it's in.  I tend to keep them between my battlesuits and my opponent's shooters. This way, the drone takes the hit and effectively grants the save to the squad. That is not to say the squad actually gets the save, the drone just takes one for the team.  Last time I said that the Internet revolted...

Just be careful in relying too heavily on them.  Competent opponents will target this unit with weaker small arms fire until the shield drones are killed and then start in with their bigger (instant death) guns to take out the battlesuits properly -and this could be during the same shooting phase.

Of course you could use this unit as a distraction, but for that strategy to be successful, it has to last more than one turn. Shield drones can be very nifty, and all-in-all, not too shabby...

3. Shadowsun has a set of Experimental Shield Drones that follow her around like electronic puppies.  Two of these are experimental versions of the Shield Drone. Each of these drones grant her a 3+ invulnerable save (in addition to the ablative wounds) and lands them in spot number three.  It may not seem like much, but this grants her a 66% chance of Shadowsun surviving instant death, which is pretty awesome in and of itself. Everything else about this drone is the same as its dumber 4+ cousin.

4. Speaking of Shadowsun, drone number four is her Command Link Drone. This drone gives a friendly unit within 12" the ability to re-roll to hit rolls of 1. Again, not as useful as it was in 5th edition, but not too bad all other things considered. 

Sadly, only her holiness gets to take either of these.

Oh, and you do not need a drone controller if all you have in the unit are shield drones.  Drone controllers are only for drones whose abilities are tied to their ballistic skill.

5. Fifth is the trusty Marker Drone. It's a BS-2 jetpack infantry markerlight. But put a squadron of them on the table joined by a commander and a couple of shield drones, and create some hate at BS-5.  If the commander has a target lock, he can kill whatever he wants while these guys do their business. The points cost is high, but so too is the potential in the hands of a skilled player.

Commander R'Alai has a variant of the marker drone looks like a camera-bot (there is a picture of one at the top of this post). I confiscated these and made them part of my Water Caste Diplomat's retinue. It made sense because those two drones are so different that they don't even fit with the other Fire Caste drones at all -but they're a perfect fit for the Water Caste. I gave R'Alai two standard Marker Drones to replace them.

Just remember, unless you are running a Farsight Enclaves Army, your drones are BS2.  There is a way for Farsight to get all of them up to BS3, but more on that later (in part 5).  

6. And rounding out the original six is the Sniper Drone. These appear in units of three to nine with 1 to 3 firefight marksmen (who makes them all BS-5).  These Longshot Pulse Rifles have the Sniper special rule which gives them precision shots and rending on wound/penetrate rolls of 6 at 48 inches.

A full squad of these guys can put out 3 BS-5 networked markerlights and nine rapid fire sniper shots (double this at 24 inches).  And they have some special unit coherency exceptions. 

Since their guns are pulse weapons, they also benefit from Storm of Fire. Stick these guys in a fire warrior gun line with an Ethereal nearby, and just make it rain.  You can also use their spotters' networked markerlights however you want.  

If you somehow manage to get your spotter killed... the drones drop from BS-5 to BS-2, but they stick around and can be used a couple of different ways.  Attach them to a commander and they can jump-shoot-jump right along with him and his BS-5. 

A full sniper team of three spotters and nine drones fit nicely inside a Devilfish, allowing you to get them to where you need them in relative safety.

7. And last on our list is the Warscaper Drone of the Farsight Enclaves.  This may be one of the most restricted use drones in the inventory because he can only be used by one character associated with one leader in one army build.  

The book says, "Nominate a drone purchased by the character from the drones list -this is the warscaper drone."  This little guy costs a drone (12 points) plus 35 points.  47 points is expensive for what it does.

It essentially modifies one drone's characteristics to include a few special rules. In addition to the original drone's abilities, this upgrade grants the special rules Move Through Cover, Outflank, and Acute Senses to its unit, and causes enemy units within 12 inches to treat difficult terrain as dangerous terrain. Seems expensive, but those rules can be helpful in certain situations.  

I built my own from an unused Command Link Drone and a couple of those weird objective markers from the Stealth Suit kit.  I will link my conversion article here once I publish it.  One note, though I have never used this drone, I pretty much only plan to use it as a Shield Drone for its original profile. But since it does not look like any existing drone, it could be anything you like.  Just be sure your opponent knows what it is. 

6th edition added a number of other drones which we will address in the next post.

See you then...

I play Tau.

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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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