We’re deep into the woods now, gentlemen. Units so obscure and crappy, they make the GW Tau fortifications look like hidden gold. Click to read more, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
The Drone Turret is… not an impressive model, to be as kind as possible. Although it does boast toughness six, which is nice, it has only a 4+ armor save and three wounds, making it rather fragile compared to… well, almost anything, really. Ballistic skill 5+ is pretty common for drone units but is still rather weak overall and, well, that’s it. That’s all the unit gets. No movement value, no leadership, nothing else at all. It’s a box that sits in your deployment zone and asks why you spent $100+ on this OOP model that doesn’t do anything. At 46pts for the core loadout it’s one of the cheapest fortifications around, but given there’s hardly any need to ever actually take fortifications, that isn’t saying much. Oh, you can bring up to four of them in a slot, if you really want to, and they all deploy as a squad.
Special Rules and Wargear
So, surprisingly, the Drone Sentry Turret actually comes with For the Greater Good, allowing it to fire overwatch for its friends; this is actually relatively nice, especially given the fact that its Automated Tracking rule allows it to hit on 5s on Overwatch no matter what. A bit redundant with the Tau sept bonus, but that mostly just frees you up to choose another sept that benefits them more (Sa’cea and Dal’yth spring to mind.) Like Gun Drones, however, they can only target the closest enemy unit when making shooting attacks, which is a little bit of a downer- especially given some of their weapon upgrade options.
The real killer, though, is their version of the Immobile rule. It prevents them from moving at all, in any phase, and if an effect would force them to move they instead suffer a mortal wound. Okay, sure, that’s fine and cool, no problems there. If enemies attack them in close combat they hit automatically, no roll needed. Awesome I guess, no one cares. The problem is what is missing from that rule compared to the versions found on the many Imperial Guard artillery batteries and whatnot, namely the ability to shoot into (or out of) a combat involving the unit. Whoops. So yeah, Drone Sentry turrets are the perfect unit for your opponent to wrap up on their turn, because they are completely unable to fall back so they merely need to touch them with any unit and now all your guns are completely unable to shoot at them.
That right there is incredibly depressing news and pretty much kills the unit entire, but I guess we should still talk about their guns and stuff? The Turret comes with a pair of Burst Cannons, which are probably one of the better options for it to go with- they are reasonably cheap and effective against infantry while not being completely worthless when shooting a vehicle. They can also be swapped, for free, for a pair of Plasma Rifles, which aren’t a bad option either- you get a little bit better range and higher Str/AP at the cost of number of shots. If you are some kind of idiot, you can trade up to a pair of Fusion Blasters (+20pts) or Missile Pods (+14pts), but given the unit’s weak ballistic skill and poor defensive statline as well as its inability to choose its target when shooting, I can’t imagine why you would ever think this is a good idea.
Most of the time, when we talk about units here we discuss how the unit can help your army and why it might be better (or worse) than the other options available to you. We’re not going to do that this time, because the Drone Sentry Turret is one of the few units in the game that you pay points for in order to add a liability to your army. It’s awful.
I can’t really overemphasize this point enough. In a Tau army, getting trapped in combat is tantamount to losing the game in many cases- it denies you your shooting phase, which is the only phase of the game in which you get to affect the enemy in. This is one reason you have seen a push for some Tau lists to move away from having easily-trappable units such as Firesight Marksmen or Strike Teams in their lists, although this trend is not absolute as these units can have a lot of value in other circumstances. Still, it should be a known failure condition for the Tau army, as it’s very much a worst-case scenario for them. It doesn’t always mean you lose the game, but it typically is a very bad sign.
The Drone Sentry Turrent makes achieving this condition trivially easy for your opponent. It is completely unable to fall back from a combat, meaning even a single model tapping it lightly will render the unit immune to shooting, and is big enough that it shouldn’t be a struggle for your opponent to get three, four, five, or more units into combat with it. Of course, the Turret’s fragility can be a limiter here, but through careful management of placement and perhaps judicious use of the Command Reroll to avoid killing it (since most units should need 5+s or 6+s to wound it) it shouldn’t be at all hard to use it as a stepping stone to pile into, and overwhelm, the rest of the Tau army.
Now, if the Turret had more sensible rules it… well, it would still be bad, but not quite on this level of bad. Being a fortification, the Drone Turret automatically eats up one of your detachment slots right out of the gate, which means fewer Commanders available and fewer other options. That is a big strike against a Tau army for very little benefit, since there’s really nothing a Drone Turret does that other units don’t do better. I suppose if you were pathologically opposed to taking Tau Sept units then maybe there could be some value there, but honestly that is a real stretch on things.
If your opponent puts a Drone Sentry Turret down on the table, you are legally required to notify their next-of-kin about their demise.
Forge World’s quality of writing has varied drastically over the years, swinging wildly between incredibly overpowered nonsense and utterly useless trash; the Drone Sentry Turret sits firmly in the later category, and showcases the problem of leaving the rules design to a bunch of self-identified narrative players who don’t understand (or even want to understand) game design and the ramifications of those choices. This is not a knock on narrative play; game design is a very specialized skill and it involves being able to track large numbers of interrelated factors simultaneously, something that a surprisingly small percentage of people can do accurately. Much like with computer programming, even very small errors can have drastic consequences, hence why it is so hard to get right- and Games Workshop has spent the better part of two decades trying to get the formula to work, while Forge World has made no such effort. FW makes beautiful models and some very interesting campaign supplements, but they should leave the writing of rules to their counterparts at the main company if they want anyone beyond the most casual of painters to take an interest in their models.
As always, remember you can get your wargaming supplies from Frontline Gaming at a great discount every day, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.