Tau Codex Review: Lord of War: KX-139 Ta’unar Supremacy Armour

He’s a rootin’, tootin’, hootin’ good time and he carries a six-shooter that’ll drop any varmint in the New West- the biggest, baddest boy in the Tau arsenal, the Ta’unar Supremacy Armour. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.

Overview

The Ta’unar, like the Stormsurge, really shouldn’t exist. It’s a denial of a lot of the old fluff about the Tau Empire not building superheavy walkers in favor of various superheavy-class aerial units (like the Manta) and/or orbital solutions (like dropping a 5kt asteroid on the target.) However, the Manta is too expensive and too massive for most players to ever truly consider purchasing and Forge World loves selling giant mecha more than they do consistent world-building, so the Ta’unar Supremacy Armour was born as the Tau’s nominal solution to enemy titans- i.e. try to play exactly the same game the other factions are playing, but with a ten millennia handicap.

On the tabletop, the Ta’unar is effectively the equivalent of a large Knight or other baby-size Titan. It comes with a 16″ move, allowing it to potentially truck it across the field pretty quickly, and strength and toughness eight to make it quite the target. 3+ armor save and thirty wounds likewise make it a rough customer, and a shocking ballistic skill 2+ makes it one of the most accurate units in the Tau arsenal- I guess they finally figured that they were allowed to have non-scrubs pilot a battlesuit? Even weirder, however, it has weapon skill 4+ and five attacks, which also make it one of the best fighters in the Tau Empire for some reason. At over 1100pts for the common loadout, however, it is a pricey little dude that will probably be the focus of your entire army if you decide to bring it.

Special Rules and Wargear

The Ta’unar actually lacks most of the usual special rules of a typical Tau unit, although it is worth noting that it does have the Battlesuit keyword (and thus qualifies for a lot of stratagems and abilities.) Like almost all superheavy units, the Ta’unar has a special rule (in this case Towering Colossus) that allows it to act while in combat. Specifically, it can always move over enemy units provided they don’t have Fly or Titanic themselves, though it must end more than 1″ away from them. It can shoot at enemy units that are within 1″ of it, but only with its non-Macro weapons.

A Ta’unar comes with a 5+ invulnerable save, which is actually pretty weak defenses for something of its class- but as we’ll discuss later, this is often irrelevant. Its Vigilus Defense System allows it to reroll 1s on overwatch attacks with its small weapons (SMS and Burst Cannons), which is not terribly impressive but is better than nothing. Unlike other Tau battlesuits, it cannot take any support systems, though it does have some options for swapping its weaponry.

The main weapon on a Ta’unar, mounted over the carapace, is rather a no-brainer due to FW’s poor rules design. The Pulse Ordnance Multi-Driver is the “default” choice and is far and away the best option- with a range of 72″ it can strike anywhere on the table and two different fire modes give it options if you need. Concentrated Bombardment is probably the best of the two by a lot- it is S12 AP-4 Dmg4 and Macro 6. (Macro weapons, for those not familiar, are unable to fire overwatch but double their damage characteristic against Titanic targets.) With the potential to off a Knight in a single volley and a reliable set of shots, there are few things in the game that the Concentrated option won’t put the fear into. Pattern Bombardment is… not worse per se, but struggles to compete- although it does have 2d6 shots, this randomness often won’t work in its favor, and the rest of its statline is weaker with “only” S8 AP-3 Dmg3. I myself would probably use Concentrated almost all the time because I dislike getting screwed over by dice, but I can see Pattern having its place.

The Pulse Ordnance can be swapped out for a Nexus Meteor System, a weapon that is… just baffling. It has a longer range (24″ minimum, 120″ maximum) and is the same 2d6 random shots as the Pulse Ordance is; however, it is instead S10 AP-4 Dmg4, or in other words almost exactly the same stats as the Pulse is. With the random shots, lower strength, and range limitations, I can’t really imagine many situations where you would want to take this weapon- and to add insult to injury, you have to pay some extra points to downgrade to it. Even more of a joke is the Heavy Railcannon, which gets a single shot, albeit one with S18 AP-5 Dmg2d6 (and Macro, just in case.) Single-shot weapons are rarely good, and the Railcannon not only suffers from this issue but is also numerically just worse than the other two when it comes to hitting heavy targets. Oh, but it causes d3 mortal wounds on a 6 or whatever, yay. As a small consolation prize, the Railcannon also includes Cluster Shells in its cost, which cause a mortal wound to any model that finishes a charge move within 3″ of you on a 4+. This isn’t nearly enough to save it (especially since, like the Nexus, you have to pay a premium to get it), so I can’t recommend anything other than the Pulse Ordnance as a main weapon.

The two arm weapons are a much more interesting option. There are only two choices here, though they can be mixed and matched as you please. The cheaper of the two is the Fusion Eradicator, which is just five Multi-Meltas strapped together (24″ S8 AP-4 DmgD6 Heavy 5). This is actually a pretty good profile and can really ruin the day of most vehicles that you point it at, though its range is unfortunately quite short. It is also cheaper than the other gun by 23pts, which is a decent chunk of change. The Tri-Axis Ion Cannon is your second option, and like most Ion weapons it comes with two profile options. Standard mode is nine shots, S7 AP-2 Dmg2 and 60″ range, which is a very respectable set of numbers; it can also be fired on Concentrated, which changes it to 3d3 shots, but goes up to S8 AP-2 Dmg3 (and causes a mortal wound on the roll of one or more 1s.) Both these fire modes are very nice and they can do some serious work; I think the Ion is better overall, as it has the reach and flexibility that the Fusion lacks, but there is something to be said for vaporizing any multiwound target that comes into your sights.

The Ta’unar also comes with a set of point-defense weapons in the form of four Smart Missile Systems and four Burst Cannons. Both of these are solid little guns, suitable for plinking away at smaller squads within your reach, though in an ideal situation you never have to fire the Burst. Still, it does give you a hail of shots against the horde units that can otherwise plague such a unit- thirty-two shots at BS2+ are nothing to sneeze at.

Last but not least, the Ta’unar has Crushing Feet, which are its equivalent of the stomp attacks possessed by most superheavies. They are only Dmg1 (rather than d3 like many such weapons), but as most other Tau units are complete garbage in combat, the potential for fifteen S8 AP-2 attacks that hit on 4+s is a boon that Tau rarely see in their armies.

Uses

As an anti-Titan tool, the Ta’unar is surprisingly effective; I say “surprisingly” because far too often, units in the game do not perform well in their nominal roles, so seeing one that does is actually a little bit of a shock. The Ta’unar is not just resilient against the weapons of enemy titans, but its own weapons are relatively effective at striking at them and mostly avoid the pitfalls of design that many other superheavy units fall into. Moreover, the Ta’unar can actually be effective beyond that basic role, being quite good at destroying vehicles and monsters of all types as well as multiwound models of other sorts. Its secondary and tertiary armaments back up its main gun well and it comes in at a price that, while expensive, is not completely unreasonable for what it does. However, all of that comes with some serious caveats. Since it was written by Forge World, the Ta’unar’s rules have some very unusual oversights that can be a huge detriment to its effectiveness, and that’s not to even mention the normal failings of focusing your entire list around a single unit. So, let’s tackle this one piece at a time.

First off, the Ta’unar doesn’t ignore the penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons. This isn’t crippling issue, as the main guns (being Macro) aren’t affected by it, nor are the Burst Cannons, but it does mean that both the arm-mounted weaponry as well as the SMSs will be taking a -1 when you move- and you will probably need to move with it a lot, for a variety of reasons. Judicious use of Mont’ka and/or Markerlights can help mitigate this, but it will definitely be something you need to keep in mind, as you are going to need to squeeze every bit of firepower out of it that you possibly can if you want to do well with it.

Secondly, and more importantly, the Ta’unar cannot shoot after it falls back from combat- a stark contrast to most superheavy units.  Although it gets a small compensation in being able to walk over virtually any type of unit (as opposed to just infantry) and being able to do even if it isn’t falling back, in the balance of things it’s a pretty major issue to have when so many of your points are locked up in a single model. It can shoot at units that it is locked in combat with, of course, but typically the units that your opponent are rushing into melee with the Ta’unar are not going to be the ones that you want to be shooting at, so that is a bit of a booby prize. Thirty Conscripts will probably hold you in combat, but they aren’t what you want to be shooting your Fusion at. In this respect, the Ta’unar has perhaps more in common with Broadsides than it does with any of the other battlesuits- allowing the enemy to get within 1″ of you is disastrous in most cases, and must be avoided at all costs.

The third point is actually a positive one- namely, that the Ta’unar is a battlesuit and thus qualifies for the things that key off of that. The big one here is Savior Protocols, and this what allows you to stay alive while fighting other titanic units- so long as you keep drones nearby, you effectively have a 2++ save against everything that hits you, bar psychic powers. Being able to pawn wounds off onto drones is an amazingly powerful ability all on its own, but that isn’t all the battlesuit keyword will do for you. Many stratagems are keyed to battlesuits, from Command/Control Node (allowing you to reroll all failed wounds- handy!) to Multispectrum Sensor (ignore cover) to Automated Repair Systems (heal d3 wounds) and much, much more. Even things like the Ethereal’s auras will affect you thanks to battlesuit status- so while you can’t pick up any of the support systems, you can still get FNP6+ or reroll 1s that way pretty easily.

So where does that leave us in terms of functionality? Well, not ideal, certainly. While the Ta’unar certainly is an absolute wrecking ball against heavy targets that lack an invuln (especially things like Rhinos) as well as titanic models (even just one or two failed saves will put a Knight in a very bad place), it’s not really “half my army and then several support units and then markerlights and command points” good. A small handful of Tau players have experimented with the suit, but I don’t think those experiments have been terribly successful- it’s simply too vulnerable to having a random Ork or Guardsmen run up, slap it on the foot, and shout “Tag! You’re it!!” to really work out. We are playing in an edition with a lot of fast melee units, so many so that several entire top-tier builds are centered around delivering them, and the Ta’unar simply doesn’t have the tools to deal with those units. The inability to take support systems is especially crippling here, as it prevents the use of Counterfire Defense System or Early Warning Override to counter the major weaknesses of the unit.

But if you do decide to bring one, how do you make that work? I can understand the impulse, and I’ve given it some thought- and I think it’s not infeasible, although I wouldn’t say it is a list that is ever going to get you to GT-winning status. However, with ~900pts in your typical army to support the Ta’unar, I feel like there’s some good you can do. First of all, you’re going to want to bring a pair of battalions, I think; there are a lot of useful strats that you’ll want to be popping off during the course of a game, and you need scoring units to hold the field for you- battalions do both those things well. Furthermore, you are going to need to dedicate one of your Commanders to giving the Ta’unar rerolls to wound every turn; Commander Shadowsun is perhaps a good choice here, as she is about as cheap as you can make a Commander while also bringing a useful ability to the game, and her Command Link Drone is a good way to give the Ta’unar more rerolls. (An argument could also be made for Commander Farsight, since he gives you melee protection and Mont’ka is more useful than Kauyon in this army.) At least one Coldstar is also going to be wanted, since you need the maneuverability to get places late game.

Beyond that, the obvious next choice is drones, lots and lots of drones. Shield Drones are definitely good because of their resilience, but Gun Drones are also worth considering because they provide considerably more discouragement from assaults- and while your Strike Teams will help to some degree, they won’t be enough on their own. Mixing in a few Marker Drones is also an option if you want to bring Markerlights along, though I don’t think you need to do this in excess, as you really only need a single Markerlight hit on any given target with the Ta’unar. At least one squad- and preferably several- of DX-4 Technical Drones are also good, since they can repair any chip damage your Ta’unar takes from failing Savior Protocols rolls or just random Boltgun/etc wounds.

What you end up with is a list that, when it works, will simply vaporize every heavy target in range without mercy and then proceed to wander onto objectives. When it doesn’t work, however, the enemy will either just sit in midfield while you slowly tear them down, or rush you and hug the Ta’unar nearly every turn of the game, preventing you from ever getting to shoot the targets that you want. Even more so than most Tau lists, an army focused around the Ta’unar will be incredibly binary, winning or losing big in almost every case.

Countering

We’ve already gone over the Ta’unar’s weaknesses a bit above, but let’s talk about them in more detail here. First off, while it can spew out a lot of shots, it is by no means going to table you every time- thirty-two S5 shots seems like a lot, but what it actually means is that without buffs, the secondary weapons kill about one squad of Guardsmen in cover. And while its main guns are undeniably dangerous to heavy targets, they are largely wasted on any single-wound models and anything with an invuln (especially a good invuln) will be very obnoxious to deal with.

I’ll also reiterate its vulnerability to close combat- as soon as you touch the Ta’unar, it is stuck wasting a turn killing whatever unit you got up close and personal with it. It certainly could kick a weaker squad (e.g. basic Guardsmen) to death with its attacks, but if it’s a large unit of Boyz or Conscripts or Gaunts or Cultists or Horrors or any of the other things out there that love to hug? Yeah, fifteen attacks hitting on 4s isn’t gonna do the trick. If you can keep it in an endless cycle of getting charged and then wiping out the unit that charged it, you can control its target priority- and against a shooting army, if you can control their target priority you usually win.

As with most supereavy-focused armies, though, the real way to beat the Ta’unar isn’t to beat the Ta’unar itself, it’s to beat the rest of the army. If you kill off all of those troop squads, the Ta’unar player isn’t going to score a lot of objectives and is gonna struggle to earn points; if you kill its support characters, the Ta’unar loses its rerolls to hit and/or wound, making it drastically less effective. And if you kill off the drones, the Ta’unar is no longer invincible to enemy firepower, letting you hammer it with heavy weapons- and when it’s just rolling a 3+/5++ against things, thirty wounds does not last long.

Final Thoughts

Although a very impressive model, the Ta’unar suffers from a lot of flaws on the tabletop that prevent it from often making tournament appearances. And that’s probably for the best- titan-sized units don’t really belong in 40K, as the system isn’t really built to handle them; best leave that sort of thing to Apocalypse games and Titanicus, where it rightfully belongs. In fact, i would argue that even “baby” superheavies like Knights probably live in that same realm, although with as many people as have hard-ons for the models I can’t imagine that GW will ever follow that train of thought to its conclusion. Still, the Ta’unar does at least have a points value that puts it somewhere in the realm of usability, as opposed to jokes like the Warhound Titan and its ilk.

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 expand an existing one.

About abusepuppy

AbusePuppy is the one who has been ruining 40K for everyone this whole time. He is also searching for the six-fingered man and is one of the three people who know the secret recipe for coke (not the soda, the illegal drug.)

5 Responses to “Tau Codex Review: Lord of War: KX-139 Ta’unar Supremacy Armour”

  1. Dakkath April 10, 2019 11:09 am #

    Gotta agree with ya, anything with titanic really should not be allowed in standard games of 40k. Leave that stuff to apoc.

  2. Kevin Lantz April 11, 2019 9:19 am #

    ” 3+ armor save and thirty wounds likewise make it a rough customer”

    2+ armor right? Yeah this guy is all over the place for weapons. Only pulse ordnance is a real option, and if it weren’t for things like knights I would agree with not having this guy for regular games, but he’s the only good answer I’m for straight up counter.

    • abusepuppy April 11, 2019 10:55 pm #

      Nope, it has 3+ armor for some reason. A surprising number of superheavies do.

  3. Mauler June 28, 2019 12:33 am #

    THANK YOU for the Overview. Love the model, hate the idea of it. I miss Andy Chambers; he seemed to be the guiding hand for so much of the fluff, for Tau & Tyranids. It all started downhill when he left but it has picked up, codex-wise for Tyranids and Tau in 8th so there’s hope yet. Tau super heavy walkers————- tho.

  4. b August 19, 2019 7:52 pm #

    If gaggles of Orks or other troop type base a titanic model your titan should be able to shoot at whatever you darn well deem appropriate. I have one of these, specifically to play apocalypse (and to use in other game systems…and because I thought it looked kewl.) I do agree that for the point cost this unit should have a few more options like the ability to take like up to 3 or 4 items from the Tau gear/support systems. Another option should be to overpower, like other suits, weapons and take a mortal wound in order to deal mortal wounds or improve the invulnerable saves. The Tau need to be tweaked in power and effectiveness unfortunately, GW seems to focus primarily on Space Marines, Chaos, and Orks… the H. E. double hockey sticks with all the other factions.

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