The Humble Broadside

Hey folks! Rhys here. Today I’m going to continue my look at the Broadside Battlesuit in the post-The Greater Good meta.

Last week I described what I think is the best way to play Broadsides armed with missiles — Missilesides, if you will — and that’s to form a castle around Shadowsun. While it’s not a particularly practical way to use the models in question — a static castle doesn’t give you a lot of options as the game stands at the moment — it does offer some very strong output that can do some serious work against most units. Moreover, Missilesides are damn cool, which is always a plus.

There is, of course, another way to outfit the Broadside. T’au players have two options when it comes to the Broadside’s primary weapon: two high-yield missile pods or a heavy rail rifle.

Way back in the day in the early noughties, when the T’au were first released, the railgun on a Broadside was a fearsome weapon. It was, with only a sprinkling of luck, able to destroy a Land Raider in one shot. Those were the days.

Whereas now, the Broadside can be armed with a heavy rail rifle, which, of course, certainly isn’t a railgun. And T’au players seldom take the heavy rail rifle on their Broadsides. There’s a good reason for that. Put simply, it’s not particularly strong.

The weapon’s stat-line isn’t too bad on first glance: 60″, heavy 2, strength 8, AP-4, damage D6, with a wound roll of 6+ resulting in a mortal wound in addition to any other damage. Strength 8 is a really useful tool in 40k at the moment, and an AP of -4 makes it even more powerful.

But a couple of factors critically undermine these strengths: the Broadside’s ballistic skill of 4+ and the number of shots.

These two factors make the heavy rail rifle ill-suited to an anti-armour, anti-monster role. A squad of three Broadsides each armed with a heavy rail rifle each will hit its target with three shots. If we presume that the target has a toughness of 7, these three hits will translate into two wounds. The strong armour piercing value means that these two wounds will seldom be saved. The resulting 2D6 damage will average at seven. This isn’t a good return on the points that the T’au player has to invest in the unit, which would usually run to a little over 300, depending on support systems.

There’s more to explore on this front, of course, but the above example is sufficient to demonstrate why T’au players seldom take Broadsides in this configuration.

However, a new prototype weapon system in The Greater Good might change this.

Enter the magna rail rifle.

If the T’au player chooses this prototype weapon system, one Broadside squad equipped with heavy rail rifles may replace these weapons with magna rail rifles, which offer two excellent upgrades on the original.

First, the strength of the weapon is increased by one. While strength 8 is the magic number at the moment because of the ubiquity of toughness 7 vehicles and monsters, strength 9 is certainly nothing to turn your nose up at. Now we’re wounding the really big boys on 3s.

However, it’s the second upgrade that really shines. When rolling damage, T’au players count rolls of 1 and 2 as a roll of a 3. This is very strong. Now we have a weapon that is reliable. Most players know the feeling of wounding with a lascannon and rolling the dreaded 1 for damage. The magna rail rifle avoids such an occasion entirely.

Furthermore, damage 3 is the sweet spot when it comes to heavy infantry. Three-wound models are particularly tricky to destroy because they render damage two weapons 25 per cent less effective, meaning that players must commit more resources to destroy the model. T’au players can entirely rely on the magna rail rifle to do the business.

There is, however, a pretty good reason to not take magna rail rifles: there are a number of other very strong prototype weapons. T’au players are limited to one prototype weapon per army unless we pay extra command points. While this would certainly be feasible, the magna rail rifle is competing with some very useful tech.

It seems, then, that this new weapon will seldom be seen because of the law of opportunity cost: to take the magna rail rifle is to forgo another option.

I want to take a deep dive into the different signature systems and prototype weapon systems that the T’au player has at his disposal, but I’ll do so at another time. For now, all we need to know is that there are some great options both in the codex and in The Greater Good.

I said at the beginning of my article last week that the upgrades in The Greater Good don’t offer enough to make Broadsides a competitive choice in a high-level T’au army, and I certainly still stand by that assertion.

I’d like to wrap this up with a reference to the fluff. Specifically, I want to go right back to the beginning, to the original Tau codex (notice the lack of apostrophe).

Page 30 of the original codex discusses fluff specific to the Broadside Battlesuit, as well as the in-game stats for the model. One particular paragraph stands out:

“Our tanks were useless. As soon as we broke cover, their battlesuits’ heavy guns were locked onto us. I swear it was as though they had someone nearby aiming for them before they shot. And when they did shoot… Emperor’s mercy! Their guns punched through out amour like it was paper. All I could see were trails of fire were the projectiles had ignited the air.”

I really like this for a number of reasons, the principal of which is that it demonstrates how deadly Broadsides were originally meant to be. But the meta goes around and comes around. Models and units have their day in the sun. Some units have a lot more than a day. But glory fades. Broadsides have, to one extent or another, lost that shine that they had way back in 3rd and 4th edition, but it’s well within the bounds of possibility that they become competitive again soon enough.

Plus, the trail of fire thing is really cool.

Postscript: A couple of readers were absolutely right to point out in my last article that Shadowsun’s abilities are Sept-locked. This means that T’au players can’t take that tasty extra point of armour piercing and take advantage of Shadowsun’s abilities.

This was an oversight on my part. Cheers to the folks who pointed it out!

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Rhys Jenkins

Software developer, T'au player.

3 Responses to “The Humble Broadside”

  1. Avatar
    Jace April 20, 2020 1:22 am #

    Not to he a negative Nancy, but maybe add more content or just reduce the work count?

    This was basically just a couple sentences: Rail rifles stink, there’s a signature system that ups damage which is really good and ups strength, which is just OK. Unfortunately there are better things so you likely won’t see them.

    The intro and wrap up were both longer, maybe even significantly.

    I dunno, kudos all the same for taking the time to produce content as clearly I’m not doing it, but just a thought.

  2. Avatar
    kaixaukyr April 20, 2020 6:26 am #

    cant wait for the latest update in Rhys Jenkins’ War and Peacehammer 40K where he investigates pulse rifles and discovers after many twists and turns that they can shoot twice at half range

    in a following novella we will cover the Cadre Fireblade

  3. Avatar
    Rob Butcher April 20, 2020 11:21 pm #

    Remember that 20 “real life” years and five editions ago, is a really long time in gaming. In the Fluff that’s about 1000 years so plenty of time to nullify weapons – think about a short bow firing at Norman cavalry at the Battle of Hastings – pretty lethal then at short range. It might hurt you now, but shouldn’t be effective.

    These new “prototype weapons” rules aren’t just for competitive play … but for all Tau players. Especially those who want to play with broadsides and don’t have anything bigger in the army fielded. Many have the models built and unmagnetized, so won’t buy more.

    PA adds flavour and options to all three ways of playing – not just competitive. The GK shone briefly, but were soon out thought. Little else has improved tremendously. But it was never going to.

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