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Return of the Fish-heads

What’s this? A non-Imperial codex release for 40k?

Lord Inquisitor Giorgio Tsoukalopoulis

Lord Inquisitor Giorgio Tsoukalopoulis in all his glory.

The Tau release is imminent, and I will be shocked if they aren’t super popular. The Tau had a pretty decent presence when they first came out, and for a while the Fish of Fury tactics made the mechanized list extremely viable. Codex creep and good old-fashioned neglect from GW led to the diminishing popularity of this army. Not even the glorious Forgeworld resin battlesuit options could keep people interested (myself included).

I came close for a while, right around the 5th edition launch. I painted a few models (including a Forgeworld XV81 suit that I still love to this day) and won a bunch of games by playing the list like my Wood Elves… and then I started painting Fire Warriors and it all fell apart.

Fast forward to 2013, and there is fresh hope for the fish-heads.

After sifting through the rumors, leaks and codex previews available online, things are looking pretty rowdy, especially for battlesuit variants and HQs.

There are many Warmachine-inspired rules in evidence, including many different kinds of force multipliers and “sacrifice X to gain Y” type situations. The Ethereals and Fireblade HQs can definitely provide cheap buffs/auras. This makes for some diverse army build options and can be potentially devastating if you can’t kill the characters supplying all the buffs.

You may even see some Commander builds with few/no guns. Drone controllers allow attached drones to use the firer’s BS with their guns that are now assault 2 instead of assault 1, which is pretty big for spamming a massive amount of wounds. On top of that, he can take various one per army support systems that allow you to sacrifice the bearer’s shooting to grant his unit Ignore Cover and re-roll misses. That can be a pretty significant firepower boost indeed.

Found a photo of my XV81! Hooray I don't have to glue its arm back on and take new pics...

Found a photo of my XV81! Hooray I don’t have to glue its arm back on and take new pics…

Battlesuits got some interesting new options, including Skyfire and/or Interceptor upgrades depending on which source you are reading, and the weapon stats have been re-jigged for greater parity. 18″ fusion blasters and 4-shot burst cannons bring some equality to the situation — missile pods and plasma rifles are no longer the stand-outs for best weapon choices. The proliferation of horde units and Overwatch rules also mean flamers are still a good (cheap!) choice to fill your final weapon slot, if you have one open.

Overall, Crisis Suits will be totally badass, which truly fits the Tau theme. They might even discourage some of the flyer spam, which would indeed be for the greater good.

Tau -- totally not compensating for anything.

Tau — totally not compensating for anything.

Riptides, despite the horrific real-world cost in dollars, are pretty cool looking and give you a good mix of firepower and tougness. I can see these being very popular.

The planes are… well they appear to be better than the Dark Angels ones, and that’s got to be worth something. The bomber’s markerlights might be the best feature, as lighting up an enemy flyer/FMC can be huge. Swooping FMCs with Invisibility and dodgy Eldar fighters won’t like having their 2+ cover saves stripped away.

Even the humble Pathfinders get a bunch of cool new rules, and a shiny (affordable!) plastic kit to go along with it. Honestly, I think Pathfinders could be the biggest catalyst for people switching over to Tau. They don’t break the bank, they don’t come with an obligatory Devilfish tax anymore and they offer huge combos via markerlight delivery. Oh, and their carbines are now assault 2 if they feel the need to actually shoot someone directly. What essentially is a free 100% firepower boost certainly doesn’t hurt.

The new release isn’t without its downsides, however.

Kroot-heavy armies are probably going to inspire much sadness in their owners, as Kroot are now S3 in combat. They are cheap, they can upgrade to sniper rifles (you can argue that the army doesn’t need more shooting units), they come with the terrible 6+ armor for free and Krootoxen no longer strip away your ability to infiltrate… but S3 for the only decent combat unit in the army hurts.

I definitely agree with the consensus that they missed the boat with Kroot. Giving them a proper HQ choice and the ability to take either Hounds or Krootoxen as full units could have been a huge deal for Kroot lovers, and instead they kinda got the shaft. The whole “Tau Empire” thing with mixed alien units really isn’t what this army book is about. I guess you’re stuck with Allies if you want a legitimate close combat presence.

Oh well, at least they are cheap and scoring; chaos cultists prove how valuable that combo can be. Maybe Forgeworld will re-release Imperial Armor 3 and the Kroot will get some cool Knarloc rules that resurrect them as a viable army theme.

The other downside I see to the release is the new Broadside. The rules are a mixed bag, they have a serious downgrade in railgun firepower but gain a ton of options, including Skyfire. Personally, I would have preferred to see the missile variant gain Skyfire, and let the railgun variant keep the S10 shot, but oh well. The other downside of course is the huge size increase of the model, which I don’t think looks that amazing and screws things up for the many Tau players who already have 9 Broadside models. A rather shameless money grab, no doubt.

Maybe some conversions of the Forgeworld XV9-04 kit would be a happy middle ground. Unlike most battlesuits, those models actually have proper waist articulation, which IMO is the biggest design flaw with the XV8, including the Forgeworld variants. The design studio seems to have realized this, as the Riptide and both Finecast XV8 variants (the generic commander and special character Farsight) have a redesigned waist setup. They fix the design issues I have with the kit, but they are Finecast, so… yeah. Not exactly ideal. Honestly, if it weren’t for the stupid Finecast releases, I could give this army release two incredibly enthusiastic thumbs up (side note: RIP Roger Ebert).

Personally, I can live without Kroot, but a re-design of the XV8 chassis would have sealed the deal for me. Instead, the army is still little more than a “maybe one day…” proposition. Oh well, I’m sure that many folks will be very happy and it will be nice to see more and more Xenos on the battlefield as the crazy release schedule plows ahead with complete disregard for the health and welfare of our bank accounts. Enough talk of Xenos, I need to paint more Space Marines, dammit!

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