Tau First Read Review

Hey everyone, Reecius here from Frontline Gaming to give a first reading review on the lovely little thing we call the new Tau Codex and to announce the end of an era. Flyers, your days are numbered!

I can’t say how or why or from whom, but a little birdie delivered a copy of the shiny new dex to my eager little hands and I had a chance to read through it. I am a big anime/manga/mehca fan, and have always wanted to collect Tau but have waited for the new book. Turns out it was a good call!

First off, the units largely have the same stats and abilities which will make it an easy transition for most players. Some things changed like Disruption Pods not being so ridiculous (but who didn’t see that coming?) and some things got better (Burst Cannons are now assault 4, Ion weapons can all overcharge, cheaper drones, general points decrease) but the veteran Tau player will largely pick this up and get a feel for it right away.

Second of all, it appears GW made some more errors in this Dex similar to Dark Angels. Perhaps I am missing it, but did anyone see the multi-trackers in the wargear list? It doesn’t seem that you can purchase it for units (no points given) but it is defined in the wargear section. Edit: They are included with every suit! Also, as most of you have read by now, GW totally screwed up this release in the USA. It appears that they really underestimated the popularity of Tau and either didn’t produce enough product, didn’t stockpile enough, or something similar because they are totally sold out here. It is bizarre as Tau were red hot back in 3rd and 4th ed (I was told they were the second best selling army behind Space Marines). A lot of retailers (including actual GW stores) are getting very limited, if any, Tau for the release date. However on the plus side, it appears that the Australian prices aren’t so asinine now as they were in the past: much closer to the rest of us. Good for our Aussie gaming cousins!

However, unprofessional mistakes aside, I really, really like the Tau book on my first read-through!

Sound familiar? It should be because I also loved Dark Angels and Chaos Daemons, too! Chaos Space Marines are very powerful, but I still feel like they just dropped the ball on that book. Could have been so much cooler, but hey, batting 3 of 4 so far in 6th is not bad at all. These recent books really resonated with me for several reasons. They have multiple, fluff oriented, viable builds. They have really fun, cheap troops. They have synergistic elements that allow for a great deal of depth of play and combos to be found which to a grizzled old grognard like me, is where the real fun of 40K lies.

So, Tau.

They are very well rounded in my eyes, even without having assault or counter assault units. Why do I say that? Because they have REALLY good non-traditional counter assault elements to the army that compensate for their lack of actual choppy units. Let me mention for the first time what will be a recurring theme in this article: Marker Lights.

Marker Lights went Captain Insano good. Why? They improve BS by one point per marker light hit spent as they did before. Cool. They give a unit Ignores Cover against the marked unit with 2 marker light hits spent. Really good. They allow Seeker Missiles to hit on BS 5 with Ignores Cover against a marked unit (and Seeker Missiles don’t need a Marker Light to shoot anymore). Super good! They improve the BS of units against the marked unit by one point per marker light hit for snap fire and overwatch….holy $#!%!!

Jumpin Jehosephat, Batman! That is bananas! They can shoot assaulting units and flyers at potentially BS 5! And, a plethora of Tau units have the Supporting Fire special rule (including the Sun Shark Bomber and Suits) that allows a unit within 6″ to fire its overwatch (still only once per turn) at a unit charging a friendly unit. That makes it potentially devastating to charge Tau, which ties into my earlier point that they can compensate for their lack of assault power. Any Tau unit that gets touched in combat will still most likely die a terrible death, but at least this way the Tau get their licks in before being turned inside out!

Compound that with a series of force multipliers in the book and a smart player can really dig so much power out of their units by using them in concert with one another that I see this Dex being a blast to play! For example, the Cadre Fireblade (Fire Warrior HQ) allows any unit he joins to fire an additional shot with their Pulse Rifles and Carbines so long as they didn’t move! W00t! I just love units like this that on their own may appear to be a bit flat, but in concert with other units become really powerful. On top of that obvious boost, he has Split Fire and a Marker Light. At a measly points cost (on par with a Chaos Sorcerer with no gear) he is a great HQ unit and allows you to build a Fire Warrior themed army, which is super cool.

In a similar vein, the Ethereal is also very cool! He (She? It? Shim?) grants a 12″ LD10 bubble, gives his unit Stubborn and every turn grants 1 of 4 additional powers. I really enjoy game mechanics like this where you have an “either/or” choice. It really creates tactical depth in a simple way. He can grant every Tau unit in his bubble Stubborn, Pulse Weapons +1 shot at half range (combos GREAT with Sniper Drone teams which now have a sniper Pulse Weapon, or with the Cadre Fireblade to get 4 shots at rapid fire range!), FnP 6+ (bleh, only useful if you plan on going to ground), or the ability to run and then Snap Fire (cool!). The Ethereal special characters are pretty coo, too. One is decent in assault and even Space Pope, the worst HQ in the game previously, is pretty solid now able to grant two of the above powers in his aura.

Further, Darkstrider (Pathfinder special Character) is pretty cool. He weighs in at the cost of a Space Marine Captain, and gives some super cool abilities. He can only join Fire Warriors or Pathfinders, but gives them Outflank, Scout, Night Vision, a Marker Light, -1 Toughness to their target unit and the ability to Snap Fire and then move D6″ which is so cool! Makes them slippery as hell.

The suit Commander is going to be VERY popular. He can become beastly. Iridium Armor became auto-include, IMO. Not only does it give you a 2+ but it makes the model +1 toughness, which is SO good. It means the suits (whose stats are pretty much the same as last edition) that can take it no longer worry about ID from Krak Missiles, Las Cannons, etc. NICE! It’s like a bike for a Chaos character: almost a given because they make your character so more durable for a low points investment. Oh, and this duder with a Drone Controller (grant any Drones in his unit his BS) and a Drone Squadron…wow. That unit puts out 24 twin linked, assault, str 5, ap5, pinning shots on Jet Pack frames. Hahaha, I don’t know if that was intentional  but I think we will see it in a LOT of these combos in competitive lists.

Shadowsun and Farsight are both still awesome, Farsight particularly is a beast. He and his unit Deep Strike without scattering! Plus he can take a host of USRs and still beats booty in assault. I foresee a lot of lists with Frasight at the head. Shadowsun (or any suit IC with drones) can join a unit now which is awesome as the drones just join the unit along with the character.

Also, a great deal of units (any suits for example, including the awesome Riptde) can take the Velocity Tracker upgrade which is a little pricey, but allows them to choose to have skyrifre! That alone changes the meta. That one, single upgrade puts an end to sooooo many builds that I personally found not very fun to play against. With the almost certain popularity of Tau and just the threat of facing an army with a few of these upgrades one or more times at a tournament, many folks will decide to not bring an air force army to an event.

Cron Air particularly is gong to suffer from this with their low AV and high AP vehicles. When you have twin linked Plasma and Fusion weapons, not to mention Rail weapons, with skyfire, an AV11 vehicle that doesn’t stand much odds of killing the target before it fires (due to the Tau units being mobile to get in cover and out of LoS, with multiple wounds and a good save) is as good as dead. Hell Turkies, the most OP flyer in the game right now IMHO, will still do OK as they have a 5++, It Will Not Die, Daemonic Possession and a low points cost, but this helps to mitigate them a great deal. Units like the Riptide and Broadsides with a 2+ will be largely immune to its attacks and then counter with some serious firepower.

That will make many players rethink taking an army based around them. Good riddance, I say. I seriously didn’t like those type of armies anyway although I know a lot of people will be upset that their build is invalidated which is a fair beef. Now just to be clear, I’m not saying these armies are dead by any means, just not remotely as dominating as they were. It will actually be somewhat of a risk to play them, which is the trade-off you should be willing to accept if you choose to play any extreme list. A proper Tau list will be the hard counter to Flyer Nation in a big way.


Fire Warriors are following the trend lately of troops becoming cheaper. I am a huge fan of this because the game largely revolves around having a large number of troops to take objectives (of which 5/6 book missions are). Plus, they are usually getting better due to being cheaper (sorry CSM, you guys still suck). Fire Warriors are seriously boss mode. They have largely the same stats but went down 25% in cost! Edit: They went down 10%, I was thinking 120pts for a full unit previously and forgot they had 12 man squads, dping the math based on 12pts per model. Doh! They went from 10 to 9pts. Plus, with all the buffs they can get now they really become a scary troop. A 72 Fire Warrior army is completely viable now, and quite good!
Kroot….I don’t know what to think about Kroot, yet. They got worse (lower strength, less attacks, who gives a crap about the 6+) and their unit composition makes no sense. They can take Kroot Hounds which are Beasts….OK? The rest of the unit isn’t. Doesn’t make any sense. They are not an assault unit at all any more. They are cheapish, but really pale in comparison to Fire Warriors. The only real uses I see is that they can be upgraded to Snipers for +1 point per model. That makes them the cheapest snipers in the game, and they infiltrate. With Marker Light support they can get quite deadly. The other use is to outflank them and go for backfield objectives as a strictly scoring unit. I feel that SO much more could have been done with the Kroot. They really feel like a side note.
The suits are largely the same, but cheaper for the most part. They have slightly less options but are still really flexible and really fun. No close combat Stealth Suit option as we had been hearing, but oh well. Crisis suits can be kitted out to do damn near anything. Stealth suits are stealthy, and Fusion Blasters got better (18″ range), but the poor buggers are still only tough 3…sad face.
Broadsides are beast mode. Yes their weapon got weaker, but they can take High Yield Missile Pods to make them flack champions, and they will be the bane of flyers with twin Heavy Rail Rifles and Velocity Trackers. Plus the new Broadside model is gorgeous…I just feel bad for everyone with nicely modeled 40mm bases.
The Riptide is seriously boss! Not only is it a super cool model, but it is also quite deadly. It has a ton of functionality, and I think a lot of lists will feature 1-3. The Nova Reactor crapping out 1/3 of the time is a bit harsh, IMO, as the extra abilities it grants are so cool, but with 5 wounds I think you will see most players risking it every turn unless their Riptide is severely wounded.
The flyers are OK. In comparison to some of what is out there right now, they just fall flat, much like the Dark Angels flyers. I think that once all the books are updated they will seem just fine (except when compared to the ludicrous Hell Turkey). However, for now when held up to the Scythes, Vendetta and Hell Turkey, they seem grossly under-powered. For the cost, how fragile they are, and their lack of punch, I doubt we will see them often–if at all–in competitive lists. The Bomber though, can have more than one bomb! Wow! Hahaha, I don’t know how you call a plane with a singular bomb a “bomber” per se, but at least this one CAN drop more than one during the course of the game (on a 2+ it generates another bomb). I think if anyone chooses to use them frequently, it will be because of the Marker Lights on the bomber and the Seeker Missiles.
Piranhas are lagrely the same, Vespid got better but still aren’t good (if they just had a little punch in HtH they’d be really useful) but Pathfinders! Oh lovely, plastic, multi-functional Pathfinders! Let me sing your praises! They got awesome. Due to the absolute bad assitude of Marker Lights, Pathfinders became a must have unit, IMO. Plus, they are super flexible with a host of wargear options. They can be kitted out to be a damage dealing units (Rail Rifles and Ion Rifles) or a support unit with Marker Lights and drones. Such a cool unit that makes the rest of the army so much better. I think these will be the crux of a good Tau list and subsequently, the #1 target priority to destroy. I predict 1-3 of these per list, for sure. The only option better is the Tetra from FW. Oh and no, Pathfinders no longer have to take a stupid Devilfish. Thank the greater good!
Speaking of which, the Devilsifh is not bad. The good old “Warfish” build is as solid as ever and not a bad choice for a small unit of Fire Warriors or increased mobility.
The Hammerhead is still a beast and very cost effective. The upgrade character (Longstrike) is pretty cool, too and makes the Hammerhead VERY reliable. He’s pricey but for what he brings, I think he is a solid investment.
The Sky Ray is beastly! I love this tank. It comes standard with a Velcoity Tracker and 2 Networked Markerlights, which is why I think we will see it so often. It can choose to light up a flyer, and then another harder hitting unit can shoot it at BS3, often twin linked. That is pretty savage, and the Sky Ray is durable and cheap. It can also take Smart Missiles for free, which really shores up it’s lack of punch when it blows its Seeker Missile load. I predict we’ll see a lot of the following in Heavy Support: Broadside Team, Hammerhead, Sky Ray. That gives a really solid mix of units, AA options, and versatility.
I like the Sniper Drones a lot, but don’t think they fill a role that is essential like the above units do. Fire Warriors and Kroot do what Sniper Drones do, but are also scoring and cheaper.
In all, I am very impressed with this book. It has a unique feel, requires a lot of smart play to work but rewards smart play in turn. It is flexible, and it also encourages intelligent, diverse list building and practice to master. I love all of those qualities in an army and I think Tau are going to be VERY popular with a lot of great builds and a true meta changer. I think they will still struggle with fast, fearless assault armies like Daemons (essentially fearless) and Nids, and will still lose a gun fight with IG. Their synergy, flexibility and adaptability will allow a good player to overcome any of that though, which is a big win in my eyes.
Two thumbs up!


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

21 Responses to “Tau First Read Review”

  1. Avatar
    Mike April 5, 2013 12:03 am #

    Nice appraisal. Thank you for putting this article out there.

    One observation: People who have built an “Air Force” army have ZERO room to complain. GW created a new unit type (flyers) that, at the beginning of 6th, was OP. People took advantage of this and it turned a lot of mediocre players into winners. These players made very expensive short-sighted purchases by starting Necrons, or by buying Dragons for their CSM, or Vendettas for their Imperial Guard.

    Now we see that GW is creating the counter-balance to those units, which was probably their intention all along (it certainly seems planned to me).

    I’m a little sorry that those players decided to try and trade good tactics and balanced list building in for a one-trick-pony, but only in that some of them will ditch 40k as a result. They had a nice 8 month run of superiority, now its back to building a list that is actually TAC; not “Look at me, I exploited a temporary hiccup in the overall meta.”

    Overall, I think this codex will help bring the GT scene back around to building Take All Comers (TAC) army lists. And as an avid GT attendee on the West Coat of the U.S., I welcome it.

    • Reecius
      Reecius April 5, 2013 7:49 am #

      I have to agree. When you rely on one or two units to win, that speaks a lot to your skill. I much prefer TAC style lists to play myself, but that is just me. Some people love those extreme lists and that is cool too, I don’t want to see that get shut down, just reined in which this book will certainly do.

  2. Avatar
    Rathstar April 5, 2013 1:04 am #

    Nice overview, I agree that the army will rely on it’s markerlights, and it’s especially nice that pathfinders don’t need a devilfish.

    I’d just like to point out that fire warriors only went down 10% (1 pt), not 25%.

    Two things I haven’t seen any mention on is the cost of pathfinders. They took a hit going down to a 5+ save, while ignoring all cover for 2 markerlight hits is a big buff. If they went down to the old cost of fire warriors I’d be very happy, but a 1 point decrease would be fair.

    The other thing is that I have seen no mention of the multi-tracker upgrade for vehicles (allowed a vehicle to fire as a fast vehicle). This allowed the Tau vehicles to maintain a good rate of fire while moving, do the Tau vehicles still have this ability ? Otherwise their tanks will be much more static and not get much use of their secondary weapons.


    • Reecius
      Reecius April 5, 2013 7:47 am #

      Ah, you are right on Fire Warriors. I was thinking 120pts for a unit, 10 men to a unit, 12 points a guy, I forget they has 12 man units.

      This wasn’t a comprehensive review either, BTW, just a reaction to my first read through the book. I am sure I missed some stuff.

  3. Avatar
    Andrew Standiferd April 5, 2013 5:47 am #

    Markerlights and blacksun filters are under the battlesuit section. They are automatically in all 4 suits.

  4. Avatar
    Andrew Standiferd April 5, 2013 5:48 am #

    Multi trackers and blacksun filters are under the battlesuit section. They are automatically in all 4 suits.

  5. Avatar
    Gothos April 5, 2013 6:12 am #

    Hey Reecius,

    Multi-trackers and blacksun filters are actually built into suits now and detailed in the description of the type of armor (crises/stealth etc…)

    I believe vehicles no longer have MT’s unfortunately.

  6. Avatar
    Mercutioh April 5, 2013 8:03 am #

    Haven’t seen it yet. Can allies use markerlights? If so Tau and Orks is da awesome. Lootas and shootaboys and heck even flash gits would be incredible. Ork volume of fire that actually hits would be terrifying. Plus it gives Tau that natural counter punch that overwatch may not be able to stem.

    • Avatar
      Kynth April 5, 2013 8:22 am #

      No, the wording the Markerlight rule is “a unit from Codex: Tau Empire”.

      • Reecius
        Reecius April 5, 2013 9:41 am #

        Indeed, which means Vespid and Kroot, too! This makes Kroot Snipers pretty damn deadly.

  7. Avatar
    bogalubov April 5, 2013 9:18 am #

    Does the new codex reaffirm this edition as the rock-paper-scissors edition?

    Now the Tau will rule armies that take flyers. To counter that, people will leave their flyers behind. However, those that still bring flyers will be able to beat non-Tau armies without flyers.

    I’m not sure if this pushes people toward TAC lists either. It’s not like you can just take one flyer as part of your TAC list. You either have to go all in on flyers or stay away from them completely. Taking one is a waste of points as it will just be burned out of the sky by Tau or one lucky shot from another army.

    • Reecius
      Reecius April 5, 2013 9:40 am #

      I actually don’t think this is the rock, paper, scissors edition at all. If you play extreme lists that have one big weakness it may feel that way, but if you play TAC lists, I think it is quite the opposite. Here’s why for this specific example: if you only have 1 Flyer, maybe 2, the rest of your army can focus on killing the AA units before your air support can come on. If you have a zillion flyers, you don’t have enough units on the board to kill the AA units before your flyers come on. I think this shows us that balance is better.

  8. Avatar
    Hotsauceman1 April 5, 2013 9:22 am #

    I am really looking forward to my skyray getting some love. They are such cool models so i can finally run them.
    And i will no longer feel pressured into spamming broadsides.
    And maybe my kroot will get some love.
    I really am looking forward to this.

    • Reecius
      Reecius April 5, 2013 12:38 pm #

      The SKyray is gong to be very popular. The ability to light up a Flyer with Marker Lights by itself is worth it. Add in 6 Seeker Missiles and Smart Missiles, this will be a very popular tank.

      • Adam
        Adam April 5, 2013 4:46 pm #

        Not to mention that you don’t NEED to have marker lights to fire off it’s 6 missiles, you could just sit still and fire 6 krak missiles up the rear of a helldrake if you wanted, even if you miss the markers.

  9. Avatar
    Gothos April 5, 2013 10:11 am #

    What I want to know is what all I can stick in a fish besides FW, pathfinders and drones. Can shadowsun embark on a fish? Can other suits? I think drone squadrons can.

    • Avatar
      Mercutioh April 5, 2013 3:52 pm #

      I myself like a little bit of Cilantro and some lime juice. Salt and pepper to taste and a little butter……Wait Wrong forum?

  10. Avatar
    Gregorius42 April 6, 2013 12:23 am #

    Just finished building and painting my Tau Riptide. Ummm, let’s just say I happened to get my hands on one and leave it at that… I did a brief YouTube if anyone is interested:

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