It’s been another great week for 9th edition reveals. While we’ve seen a host of interesting new rules, there is really only one thing to talk about for a T’au player: the changes to overwatch.
Let me make one thing clear before I go on. T’au players should not be salty about this change. We don’t know how the overhaul to overwatch will fit in with 9th edition as a whole. Let’s just hold our horses before making any rash judgments.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get on with the business of discussing what we know so far about overwatch.
The overwatch ability is now a one command point stratagem. This is, of course, a significant change to the game. And all things considered, I’m okay with it.
First things first, it’ll make the game faster. From what we know so far, I think it’s fair to say that Games Workshop has designed 9th edition to be quicker to play than 8th. The board is smaller, of course, and many rules have been simplified, streamlined, or indeed removed altogether. All of these changes added up could easily take 20 per cent off total game time. I’ve mentioned before how a quicker game will have all sorts of benefits for the community as a whole — from easier-to-organise tournaments to lowering the barrier to entry for new players — so it’s good to see more rules that move the game in this direction.
Next, overwatch in 8th edition takes up too much time when compared to its results. Reece mentioned this in the comments of an article he posted a few days back — indeed, as did a couple of readers in that comments section.
Players roll a whole bunch of dice for each unit that is to be charged. Now, I’m not saying that working out how many shots your Primaris Marines get at rapid fire range takes up a lot of time, but I am saying that if all your lads are going to do is possibly plink off one or two wounds from that charging unit, it probably isn’t worth the hassle.
Again, if the goal is to streamline the game, making overwatch an ability that the player must choose to perform at the cost of a stratagem is a good move.
Those are just a couple of reasons to change the overwatch rule. Of course, there are plenty more, but there is a far more interesting question: how will this affect the T’au?
Everyone knows that a change to the overwatch rules as they stand now will affect T’au players the most. There’s no getting around it: for a T’au Sept T’au army, the overwatch phase was practically a second shooting phase. I won’t go as far as to say it was too good, but it was definitely running right up to the line.
For anyone who doesn’t know, I’ll briefly explain why it was so good. The T’au Empire has a rule called For the greater good. If the opponent declares a charge against a T’au unit, all friendly units within 6″ of that unit may fire overwatch in addition to the target unit. Moreover, T’au forces from the T’au Sept hit on 5s in the overwatch phase.
On average dice, then, this gave the T’au player six hits from a Riptide’s heavy burst cannon when charged, and three hits from a Commander’s cyclic ion blasters, and five hits from a Broadside’s missiles — you get the idea.
This was distinctly not fun for many opponents.
I’m certainly not saying that it was silver bullet. There were many ways to get around overwatch in 8th edition. But for some armies it was a real problem, a problem to which there was rarely a solution.
T’au players — indeed, players in general — should have the ability to damage their opponent’s units as they come screaming in to melee range, but it should have costs; it should oblige the player to consider his options carefully before he chooses to unleash a hail of bullets at point blank range. Making overwatch into a stratagem offers this choice to players.
So what will become of the T’au Empire? Well, we can still overwatch — and we can still use the For the greater good special rule. This means that we will be able to bring some of our firepower to bear in the charge phase. We will have to carefully consider each charge that the opponent declares, weighing the trade offs to using our overwatch stratagem here but not there, on this charging unit but not on that one.
And what’s more, T’au Sept armies will still overwatch on 5s. Coupled with For the greater good, this will remain a strong ability — and a strong disincentive for opponents to declare a charge.
While this change negatively affects T’au armies, it shouldn’t be particularly worrisome. T’au players have plenty of tools in the toolbox to deal with the combat phase. From strong defensive measures in the form of Shield Drones to the fly keyword allowing us to disengage, we’re still in a good position. Indeed, if the army were to live and die with overwatch, the codex should be rewritten regardless. It doesn’t and it shouldn’t.
But there’s more. We also know that the rules for declaring charges will be changing. For example, we know from the Adepta Sororitas faction focus article that the charge roll itself must be sufficient to reach all of the units that the player declares as a target. If it does not, the entire charge is unsuccessful and no models are moved.
This is yet another excellent addition to the game from the perspective of T’au players. Now our opponents will have to think carefully about which of our units they choose to charge. Of course, if the opponent does not declare a unit as a target of a charge, the charging unit cannot strike that particular unit. This grants us another distinct advantage from 8th edition.
Furthermore, notice something that the writer of the overwatch article wrote in the final paragraph: “You may find some units or circumstances granting Overwatch without the need for a Stratagem – these will be very valuable indeed!” While we know from the same article that the Cool-headed special rule allows a unit to always fire overwatch and to hit on 5s, we don’t know what other rules will convey similar abilities. For example, it could be the case that certain T’au units are able to fire overwatch without the use of the stratagem. Or perhaps a new Sept tenet could confer the overwatch ability army-wide. Put simply, we don’t yet know the whole picture.
Once again, these changes demand that players think more tactically about the game. Last week I wrote about the costs and benefits that a player must now weigh up before tagging an enemy vehicle in combat — this change to overwatch is another example in this same theme.
As in every edition change, there are winners and losers. Any change to a system is going to produce disparate outcomes. It could certainly be the case that this particular change puts T’au at slight disadvantage, but other rules that we have seen provide some strong buffs to key T’au units.
Speculation about what a new edition will bring can be good fun, but we should always remember that speculation is just that. It is imprudent to make broad judgments about one faction or another before we see the rules in their entirety.
The T’au memes have been pretty funny though.
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