Q: When is a force field not a force field? A: When it’s a jar. No, wait, I may have gotten confused with my answer, I want a retry. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
The last of the mobile Tau fortifications to discuss, the Tidewall Shieldline is probably the least interesting of them in terms of functionality overall; lorewise, there’s not a lot to be said about it, either, as it’s simply one more part of the combined unit that are the various Tidewall pieces. The Shieldine is the “connector” between those pieces, bridging the gaps between the larger defensive emplacements of the Droneports and Gunrigs and is defensively intended to be the strongest of the sections.
On the tabletop, the Shieldline is largely identical to its cousin pieces; with toughness six and ten wounds it is slightly easier to kill than the others, but has the same 4+ armor save. The most notable feature here is probably the optional add-on; for the same price as the initial Shieldline (i.e. 70pts) you can also add a Defense Platform, which has the same stats as the Gunrig/Droneport but lacks any special rules. Although points-wise this isn’t a very efficient choice at all, it does have the benefit of conserving slots within a detachment, so if you really want to bring the maximum number of fortifications then a Shieldine is your best bet.
Special Rules and Wargear
The Shieldline (and the add-on Defense Platform, if you purchase that) possesses all of the same special rules that are standard to the Tidewall forts. They do not prevent units from being shot at or shooting if they are within 1″ of an enemy, can only move if a friendly infantry unit is embarked on them (and can never advance or charge), allow the units inside them to shoot out freely, and can explode when destroyed, inflicting d3 mortal wounds to nearby units. None of these rules are surprising in the slightest, so we won’t detail them too much here.
The rule unique to the Shieldline- and it should be noted this applies only to the Shieldline, not to the Defense Platform if you choose to purchase that- is Tidewall Field, which resembles some “reflector” rules from other units in the game. When the Tidewall is making its saves, every unmodified roll of 6 will inflict one mortal wound back to the attacking unit, after all of its attacks have been concluded. The Shieldline can only reflect shots during the shooting phase, but it’s worth remembering that you technically make a saving throw for every wound inflicted on you, even if the AP of that weapon is high enough that you will fail the save regardless of the roll. It won’t generally get you much, but you may as well fish for those sixes.
The Shieldline is, unfortunately, the worst of the Tidewall pieces- and that’s saying something, since the others aren’t great, either. It has weaker defensive stats than any of the other major pieces due to losing a pip of toughness- and while that may not be relevant when you’re getting hit with Lascannons or Meltaguns, it is very relevant when you’re getting hit by, say, an Avenger Gattling Cannon or Autocannon. Most factions have at least one or two medium-strength weapons where the reduced toughness will come up, and especially for a fortification that already has a weak save to begin with but wants to be playing defense for whatever units are inside it that’s not a great feature.
The weak save is a real sticking point. Tidewall pieces cost as much as a comparable transport (e.g. Rhino or Trukk) but are drastically less mobile… and yet they also are far, far more vulnerable than comparable fortifications (ranking in with lower wounds, toughness, and save.) The Tidewall pieces get the worst of both worlds without really getting the benefits of either- they’re slow enough that catapulting a unit across the field isn’t ever going to happen, but they also won’t have the same expectation of surviving the whole game the way other fortifications do.
This is especially problematic with the Shieldine because unlike the Gunrig it has no weapons and unlike the Droneport it doesn’t have a unique gimmick to lean on. Its ability to reflect shots wants to pretend to be useful, but realistically what it does is maybe bounce back a mortal wound or two over the course of a game before being destroyed- and honestly even that is a bit optimistic. Units with force fields traditionally have an invulnerable save, but for some reason the Shieldline lacks this feature entirely, which means that a small handful of Lascannon shots (or similar) will very quickly put it into the ground and the “reflect” ability will probably never come up.
The Defense Platform you can add on lacks even this minor consolation, being a strictly worse version of the Droneport for the same cost. It’s honestly a bit insulting that GW decided to take what is pretty clearly one of the worst units in the Tau codex and make a subpar version of it to tack onto something else- the Tidewall as a whole is full of some utterly baffling choices, if we’re being honest.
Laugh, mostly. If you bothered to bring any anti-tank shooting at all, a Tidewall will go down very, very easily. Just try not to shoot it with a horde or otherwise give them the chance to make 50+ saves all at once, ’cause if you do you’re gonna take a decent number of mortal wounds back. But how often do you aim all your Lasguns into a vehicle? Not often, I don’t expect.
Sadly, there just isn’t a lot to be said about the Shieldine; it’s not even bad enough to really be interesting to make fun of. Floating forcefield-protected defensive emplacements seem like they should be super-cool and interesting, and the model is actually pretty decent- it doesn’t have a huge ton of detail, but it fits solidly with the Tau aesthetic and has lots of great rounded surfaces that you can do fancy airbrush effects on and whatnot, so it’d be a real treat to paint up if it was even slightly usable. Even with Chapter Approved looming I don’t have much hope for it, as it’s probably not anywhere near the top of GW’s radar in terms of units that need to be fixed, so sadly it may be another year or another entire edition before we see the Tidewall pieces on the tabletop of even the most casual events.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or update an existing one.