The Problems with T’au Troops

Last week, I discussed the idea of a new transport for the T’au. I would argue that there are a number of reasons that the T’au need a new ride, but overall the point of a transport in 40k is to protect the models inside. Of course, transports, and vehicles in general, have a variety of uses on the tabletop, but getting models from A to B is probably the most important.

But this is only a problem because the T’au offers so little in the way of resilient infantry. The humble Fire Warrior, both the Strike and Breacher variety, is a Toughness 3, 4+ Save model. And while Breachers have access to a 5+ invulnerable save, most anti-infantry firepower will put a serious dent in a Fire Warrior unit.

And of course, the issue of sub-par infantry is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the faction’s problems, but infantry are such an integral part of 9th edition that the subject deserves more exploration.

As I mentioned last week, the T’au does have an equivalent to the Intercessor and the Heavy Intercessor. The problem, however, is that Stealth Suits and Crisis Suits aren’t nearly as useful as Intercessors and Heavy Intercessors. At a glance, these units look similar, but the Battlesuits don’t offer T’au players nearly as much as Emperor’s finest offer Marines players.

There is a simple solution to this problem. In the next T’au codex, Games Workshop could add a Battlesuit unit to the Troops slot. Imagine something roughly the size of a Stealth Suit but without the stealth capabilities. There are all sorts of interesting places GW could take such a unit, but would it be a good move for the faction?

Let’s be more specific. It’s obvious that adding a new option to the Troops slot would improve the T’au. This much is clear. But would it be a good direction to take the faction? This is a more interesting question.

In editions past, T’au players — Farsight Enclaves players to be more precise — have had access to Crisis Suits in the Troops slot. This was a cool idea, and indeed it might be a cool idea in the near future, but overall I would argue that it doesn’t really solve the problem of poor options in the Troops slot. Crisis Suits are just a little too expensive to work effectively in such a role.

Of course, GW could make Crisis Suits cheaper. That would be one way of solving the problem. But Crisis Suits have been quite tricky to get right over the course of 8th edition. We only got to a point at which T’au players were beginning to field them again at the end of the edition. As soon as 9th edition was released, however, Crisis Suits lost a lot of their sheen again.

While it’s certainly possible that we could see the proper return of Crisis Suits in the next T’au codex, I think it’s unlikely that we will see them as viable options in the Troops slot. Here’s why I think so: GW will almost certainly release a couple of new Battlesuits when the army is updated for 9th edition, and GW will want to incentivise players to purchase these new Battlesuits.

If we’re going to see Troop-slot Battlesuits, then, GW will want players to purchase shiny new kits, so I would imagine that we would see something entirely new.

But let’s return to the question that I posed above. If the faction had access to a Primaris equivalent in the Troops slot, would this make the faction less interesting to play? I have a couple of thoughts on this question. The first thought sounds like something like this: each faction should be unique. Any overlap in the different factions’ units and abilities makes the game less interesting and less engaging. As far as I can see, this is a sensible way to look at the game. We don’t want T’au armies to turn into Space Marines armies.

However, the second thought sounds something like this: the T’au needs something new in the Troops slot in order to be competitive. A new Battlesuit would fit the bill nicely, regardless of any similarities to already-existing units.

And while the second point here is absolutely true, I find myself more drawn to the first point. As a T’au player, I don’t want Battlesuits that play exactly like Marines. This would make the faction much less interesting. More importantly, it would make the faction less cool. And as we all know, the rule of cool is the way to play the game.

But what about the inevitable new Battlesuits that GW releases when the next codex comes around? I’m sure we’re going to have some great new options across the board, but are we going to see new Battlesuits in the Troops slot? As I mention above, it’s certainly possible, but I want to see something new.

Here’s another danger: any new Troops-slot Battlesuit will very probably disincentive players to take Fire Warriors and Kroot. Obviously, there’s a significant disincentive to taking Kroot at the moment, but let’s presume that GW fix the problems with this classic unit and make it a good choice to take.

This is something that we certainly don’t want to see. An interesting, well-balanced army is one that has depth, multiple builds and multiple playstyles. T’au players, and everyone else for that matter, do not want a book that offers only one way to competitively play the army. There was only one competitive T’au build in 8th edition. That’s not something that we want to go back to.

Although, to be fair, one competitive build is better than zero competitive builds, but I digress.

Troops are a difficult part of an army to get right. Units in the Troops slot need to be good but not too good. In order to best incentivise a variety of competitive ways to play an army, players shouldn’t see Troops simply as a tax.

Granted, 9th edition has gone a long way to improve things on this front. Back in 8th, a lot of players certainly viewed infantry in the Troops slot as a tax that had to be paid in order to get more Command Points.

The way we build lists in 9th edition changed this, of course. As I mentioned last week, obsec is a very powerful ability, and tough, resilient Troops with this rule are particularly valuable.

And it goes without saying that Fire Warriors do not fit into this category at the moment.

I would argue that the 9th edition T’au codex should fix the Troops that we currently have instead of adding more. Of course, these two options aren’t mutually exclusive, but between the two, I’d really like to see some interesting options for the Kroot and some cool new abilities for Fire Warriors.

This changes, coupled with the new transport idea that I talked about last week, would form a strong foundation upon which the rest of the army could sit.

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

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3 Responses to “The Problems with T’au Troops”

  1. Avatar
    Spera November 30, 2020 5:16 pm #

    I wouldn’t say that Tau troops are bad, they are ok, not super good, not supper bad, just ok. Especially breachers can punch a bit above their weight.

    The problem is, tau does not have tools to play objective games, they cannot flip the objective points into their holding. This usually can be infantry, and if it is troops (and thus gaining obsec), its better. This is for example space marines intercessors, that will company other units in assault onto points in middle of the board. Its nice example when you get 2for1, unit that have two functions.

    But not all armies do it the same way. Admech or Sisters can still play objective games, even though most of their basic troops don’t really stand a chance assaulting spacemarines (boogeyman, but it is basically 1/3 of the meta, so it is good benchmark). But sisters do have repentia, and admech does have serberys riders and electropriests. They do have way to push back enemy of objective and get there themselves. And those units also(and probably most importantly) work as other roles. Countercharge for repentia and electropriests, and great screen for serberys riders.

    Tau not only does not have units like that, or even anything that could serve similar function, but also our dmg dealing ability is basically shut down if enemy touches us. It doesn’t have to kill our fire power, just kill screen and consolidate into suits/tanks, and they are as good as dead. Sole presence of repentia or electro priests on the board makes enemy consider his movement and menage thereat distances. Vs Tau? They roam free and table is their oyster.

    Even if we kill something in shooting phase, it is after the movement phase, so we cannot move onto objective. And charging would either result in more of our own units getting stuck in combat and unable to shoot or just dead from counter-punch.

    8ed tau codex( and it started with index) was bad codex, badly designed monstrosity that was hold together only by broken and extremely abuseable drones. The moment that problems arised, ones that this one unit could not solve, everything crumbled.

    To summarize. Its no that our troops are supper bad, but that faction does have problems, for which solutions would be usually looked in troops, but it is not necessarily their fault. Transition to 9th ed left this faction inadequate to play the game the way the game wants to be played.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy November 30, 2020 10:48 pm #

      I would argue that they are bad because they don’t fill a role. They are not good objective-grabbers, because they are too fragile- T3/4+ at their price point simply isn’t enough to take (or even contest) objectives in the context of 9E, most especially because Tau lack other melee options. SoB troops can work because they are extremely tough, with a 2+/4++/6+++ being entirely possible to get. Strikes and Breachers can’t get anywhere near that level of durability.

      They also aren’t particularly good as a firepower unit- with the shift to multiwound targets as being the default in 9E, the effectiveness of Tau guns have taken a _massive_ hit, most especially for their Pulse weapons. Primaris Marines get guns that are as good or better than Pulse on almost every front, and though Tau troops are cheaper it isn’t by enough to really give them an edge in a shooting war.

      On top of that, they don’t have a statline that would back up being a generalist of any kind. They are okay at one thing and bad at everything else, which is not a great niche. And while being “cheap and underwhelming” can be a fine role (see: Gretchin last edition), I don’t think they are cheap enough for that to be the case.

      In short, there’s many things they’re bad at and nothing they’re particularly good at. A unit with no role is a bad unit.

      • Avatar
        Spera December 1, 2020 5:40 am #

        Sisters of battle are still useful in other orders, like blody rose and martyred lady. You can run them other way than just unmovable blob that is impossible to kill, mainly because that they themselves don’t need to kill, there is something else that will deal blows with enemy. This is where you can have multiple sisters on objective AND threatening units that you have to deal with. Something will stick.

        Tau don’t have units that will pose real threat, and shutting those units is trivial because you don’t really have to direct firepower onto them. Just tag them. This leads to pattern, kill obsec troops->tag rest and win. This only came to be because someone tought that removing fallback and shoot from tau was great idea. It’s not intrinsic Troop problem. Demanding from them to have a clear and good rolle when whole codex is out of place is just focusing attention in wrong place.

        Troops are still ok, just that the rest of codex is incredibly bad. To carry those our troops would need to be stellar. They have ok statline(maybe beside pulse carbines, those are bad) but I agree, they will be worse and worse with release of next codexes with power creep(I think it is good power creep, they are giving themselves more space for granularity). Right now basically almost everything Tau has is overpriced, most weapons are inferior version of imperial ones. This army would need 20% discount on everything to even resemble fair pricing. Rhys was comparing crysis to heavy intercesor, but I would argue that inceptor are better comparison. Around 120 for bolter incetors vs 150 for burst crysis. 30 PTS difference, you pay less for unit that is strictly better. Even worse if you go with plasma/ion comparison. Wtf GW?

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