When your personal protector is fifteen feet tall and made of advanced nanocrystalline alloys shaped around a nuclear core, perhaps you are being a bit overcautious with personal protection. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
As a member of the Fire Caste rises up through the ranks, it is only natural that many of their compatriots will likewise rise with them- members of a fire team often graduate together, enter combat together, and receive promotions together. As an individual earns their honors and is allowed to pilot a battlesuit, their team-mates often join them in this role, eventually if not immediately. Such groups inevitably undergo the Talis’sera, the ritual of bonding that unites members of a team together in a shared purpose and affirms their loyalty to each other. Even as some members climb the upper echelons of the Fire Caste command structure, their bondmates do not abandon them- the Tau Empire, after all, recognizes the value of personal loyalty in service to the Greater Good and encourages it where appropriate. Should an talented individual rise to the rank of Commander, their bond-mates are often assigned as aides-de-camp or bodyguards, the better to support their leader without impunging on their position.
On the table, Crisis Bodyguards have a pretty beefy statline that is largely identical to their counterparts. Strength and toughness five are solid, especially with three wounds and 3+ armor to back them up. Ballistic skill 4+ is standard for Tau, as is the lackluster 3+ weapon skill. Three attacks per model, though is surprisingly high- though it’s hard to make use of due to the shoddy weapon skill. Squads can be anywhere between three and nine models in size; depending on equipment the price is generally somewhere between 40 and 80 points per model, though the basic chassis cost is 30pts (or 3pts more than a standard Crisis.)
Wargear and Special Rules
Crisis Bodyguards come with an array of special rules, although most of them are common to the faction as a whole or to Crisis Suits of all varieties. For the Greater Good, of course, allows them to support nearby units with Overwatch; Manta Strike allows them to deploy into reserve and arrive on a later turn; Bonding Knife Ritual lets them pass morale automatically on a roll of 6. While it’s not to say these aren’t useful abilities, they aren’t particularly exciting due to being common to many units.
Sworn Protectors is the Bodyguards’ unique rule, which is similar to other rules in various factions in the game. When a character from the same sept loses a wound, you roll a d6 and on a 2+ the character suffers no damage, with the Bodyguard instead taking a mortal wound. Note that this roll is not optional, so do be careful about where you position your Bodyguards if you expect the enemy to be able to focus on your character, as you wouldn’t want to lose both them and the Crisis unit at the same time.
Like standard Crisis Suits, Crisis Bodyguards come equipped with a single Burst Cannon, but that can be swapped out for up to three weapons and/or Support Systems in any combination, which should always be done. They also have the option of taking up to two drones per squad member, in the same fashion as Crisis.
So, Crisis Bodyguards largely function like slight upgrades to a regular Crisis Suit unit, which I have discussed in detail already- I would suggest reading the linked article for a starting point, because pretty much everything that was said there applies to Bodyguards as well. However, you’re paying a couple of points as a premium to add a small handful of changes to a unit, so I think if you’re looking to make use of Bodyguards, we have to focus on those changes; otherwise, why not just take the regular Crisis instead?
The extra attack is something, although it isn’t very much without a better ability to hit things in combat or even a melee weapon that might be of some use. Though it technically differentiates them, there is no really useful way to take advantage of it- Tau simply don’t have the tools. Instead, let’s focus on the other thing- the ability to protect characters. Tau are an army that is often reliant on auras from their various HQs; while this might not be true to the same degree that, say Genestealer Cults or Orks are, Tau still have a lot of powerful characters that the enemy might want to get rid of, many of which are fairly fragile. Ethereals in particular are very vulnerable to getting sniped by the enemy with their low toughness and weak armor save, and with the wide-ranging benefits they can provide to an army it is extra-important to keep them alive (both narratively and mechanically.) Cadre Fireblades are also fairly vulnerable, although somewhat less so, and even Commanders can easily be brought down in a hail of mortal wounds should the right rolls happen.
Now, other options do exist to protect these characters- simple movement can do the trick in many cases by denying the enemy line of sight to them, as their auras can penetrate walls and other terrain. However, this isn’t always convenient, so we can’t consider it an absolute solution. Savior Protocols, available on all drones, can stop most types of damage (though not targeted spells which deal wounds, a tactic several armies use to get rid of things); however, Savior Protocols is typically resolved for bigger weapons that are attempting to down your heavy-hitting units such as Riptides, and so using them to protect a character is sometimes not optimal (especially if it’s just Boltguns or the like being aimed at them.) Crisis Bodyguards allow you to fill this intermediate gap. Although somewhat less efficient than drones at the job, they have the advantage of being able to perform other roles in addition to simply intercepting wounds- so in matchups where you don’t need that ability, they can go off and do their own thing.
However, the comparatively expensive price per wound (even at the lower end of the spectrum, such as a triple-Flamer setup) means that this plan, while not completely awful, is not terribly exciting, either. The 9pt premium you pay over a basic Crisis Suit unit isn’t backbreaking, but in most cases you won’t see anything as a result of it, so it’s kinda thrown down the garbage from a competitive perspective and is an easy place to cut.
Crisis Bodyguards are pretty much identical to regular Crisis, so I won’t go into all of that. However, if you’re considering how to get around their Sworn Protector ability, remember that wounds spill over from the character and that it is not optional- if you can radically overkill the character, it’s possible to get two birds with one stone. This will most commonly happen in melee combat or similar, such as getting a unit with a Thunder Hammer into close combat with the character and dealing 12-18 wounds to them. The Bodyguards themselves can, of course, be targeted as well, though especially with fragile characters (such as an Ethereal) this is actually less efficient than aiming at them, as their higher stats and better armor make it harder to push a wound through.
The Crisis Bodyguard, although not a bad unit, has very little reason to exist within the context of a Tau army- there’s nothing truly unique that they do and other units cover pretty much all of their bases pretty easily. Unfortunately, with the changes in role for 8E, this sort of thing is not uncommon- though thankfully the Tau codex doesn’t suffer from it nearly so much as many of the Imperial ones do, as they have buckets of redundant units that serve no real purpose. Hopefully the next time around the design team will pivot on Bodyguards and perhaps give them a new role within the book, or some more unique options or abilities.
As always, remember you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to expand an existing army or start a new one.