Fall Back and Shoot Without the Controversy

In my article last week, I discussed how the changes to the Mont’ka rule will affect the T’au. As we all know, the T’au Empire is one of the worst performing factions at the moment, and anything that improves the faction is a step in the right direction.

Of course, the community still disagrees on whether Mont’ka now grants the ability to Fall Back and shoot. Again, I’m not going to talk about that point in this article. There are plenty of other places to have that discussion.

In this article I’m going to discuss the issue of Fall Back and shoot more broadly, and how Games Workshop may choose to implement this ability in the 9th edition T’au codex.

T’au fans will know that one unit in the army can indeed Fall Back and shoot — and it can do so without a hint of controversy over this rule or that rule. And this unit is the Y’vahra Battlesuit.

Indeed, the recent update to the Imperial Armour book reworked the Y’vahra Battlesuit in a number of ways, but I would argue that the most significant was the change to the Nova Reactor rules.

For the cost of a mortal wound, the T’au player may choose one of three abilities, one of which adds 12″ to the Y’vahra’s movement and grants the ability to Fall Back and shoot.

When this update was released a couple of months back, there was a lot of consternation about the fact that the Y’vahra’s flamer had been reduced from three Damage down to one. This was, for a number of reasons, somewhat frustrating, and I wrote something to that effect at the time, but I would say that the precedent that GW set with the new Nova rules is much more interesting.

I don’t think that it would be too farfetched to predict that the Riptide might have a similar Nova Reactor ability in the new codex. Whether it would add 12″ to the Riptide’s movement for a turn is more doubtful — the Y’vahra is a faster model — but we could certainly see the ability to Fall Back and shoot.

And what’s more, I think that this would be good way to solve the issue of the Riptide being tagged in combat. The T’au player would have a choice between staying in combat and using the Nova ability to charge up the Heavy Burst Cannon or jumping out of combat and sacrificing the extra shots for more movement and more targets.

Of course, I’m presuming that the other Nova Reactor abilities remain the same, which is far from a safe bet, but let’s put that point to one side for now.

I’ve written on many occasions that giving players more choices in 40k is usually a good thing, and in this case I think that it certainly would be. Remaining in combat would have its benefits and its drawbacks. Dropping back from combat would have its benefits and its drawbacks. T’au players would be forced to decide between two distinct options.

At the moment, however, the T’au player usually only has one option: stay in combat and shoot. Falling Back and losing the ability to shoot for a turn is seldom a good choice.

The Riptide, then, could gain this ability in the 9th edition codex. I think that it’s certainly plausible. But would any other units get something similar? Riptides are great, but no one — including many T’au players — wants another triple Riptide build to be the best option in the codex. We’d like at least a little variation.

One solution would be to grant a Fall Back and shoot ability to any model with the Jetpack keyword. At the moment, this keyword has very little practical impact on the faction, so there’s plenty of scope to do more with it.

However, I think that this would be a very 8th edition solution to the problem of T’au in 9th edition. In 8th, almost all of the Battlesuits could Fall Back and shoot thanks to the Fly keyword. Indeed, Fly was one of the best keywords in the game, and this was one of the reasons why.

GW chose to change the Fly keyword for a reason, and returning to that paradigm doesn’t quite seem in keeping with the broad themes of the new edition.

Last year, I mentioned on a handful of occasions that a stratagem would go a long way to solving this problem, and a stratagem coupled with a change in the Nova Reactor rules for the Riptide might just fit the bill.

This solution would limit this powerful ability to one non-Riptide, non-Y’vahra unit per turn. Again, this would present the T’au player with choices. Should I Fall Back and shoot with my Commander or with my Crisis Suits? My Stealth Team or my Ghostkeel? It would force the T’au player to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of a variety of different options.

At the moment, this is the solution that I’m leaning towards. Having a guaranteed Fall Back and shoot for the cost of a Command Point or two — let’s put aside that pesky Vect chap for the moment — would be a good move if two or three other units in the army could do so without the use of a stratagem.

This would allow T’au players to be aggressive with our Riptides and our Y’vahras, while maintaining board pressure with a handful of supporting units. Of course, against armies that are very aggressive with most of their models, this might not be such a good strategy, but against the majority of factions that have just a few dedicated combat units, the one-stratagem solution would be quite interesting.

And, look, every faction has to have a couple of bad matchups. I think we’re always going to struggle against, say, Harlequins and White Scars, but that’s just par for the course. We need changes that are significant enough to get the faction up to speed for 9th edition. At the the moment, we’re an 8th edition army in a 9th edition world.

Occasionally I think that GW will choose not to make Fall Back and shoot a significant part of the codex. However, it’s for this reason that I mentioned the Y’vahra Battlesuit: GW has already added this functionality to the faction. At the moment, it’s limited to one model. Regardless of your opinions of the new Mont’ka rule, the Y’vahra Nova Reactor ability is an unambiguous addition to the game.

I will say that I don’t know how the faction will play if the Y’vahra is the only unit that can Fall Back and shoot. This scenario would necessitate a significant rewrite of the army. Granted, the T’au needs a significant rewrite anyway, but in such a case the rewrite really would have to be from the ground up.

It goes without saying that predictions are difficult. I don’t know of any T’au player who predicted the change to the Y’vahra a couple of months back, and at the moment it feels like the T’au community is grasping at straws when it comes to how the army will play in 9th edition. One way or another, something has to change. GW knows that a severely uncompetitive faction is bad for the games and bad for sales of that faction.

Everyone knows that the Space Marines range pays the bills for GW, but keeping the rest of the player base reasonably content is a useful strategy as well.

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



About Rhys Jenkins

Software developer, T'au player.

9 Responses to “Fall Back and Shoot Without the Controversy”

  1. Avatar
    Sir_Prometheus January 18, 2021 12:32 pm #

    I have no problem with Tau broadly (not universally, but through a suite of abilities including Jetpack and Mont’ka and probably some stratagems and sept abilities) being able to fall back.

    After all, it seems like a very Tau thing to do (remember JSJ and “we never hold ground”?) and why should Ultramarines be able to fall back and shoot but Tau can’t?

    For the last two editions we’ve seen marines overtake Tau on the Tau’s own gimmick and it’s not a good look.

    • Avatar
      AnonAmbientLight January 18, 2021 5:43 pm #

      > After all, it seems like a very Tau thing to do (remember JSJ and “we never hold ground”?) and why should Ultramarines be able to fall back and shoot but Tau can’t?

      IIRC, in 8th Ultramarines could Fall Back and shoot, but did so at -1 BS. Whereas T’au Battlesuits got to do it as part of just having the Fly keyword. So that’s not really an example of Marines overtaking T’au. T’au got it for free, whereas marines had to “use up” an army trait to have it.

      In 9th Edition, their Ultramarine Doctrine doesn’t let them fall back and shoot anymore. They have a stratagem that lets them do that, though. Unless I am missing something.

      I can see why GW is trying to make it so that Falling Back and then shooting is limited or not allowed at all. They want to make it so that getting caught in combat is more rewarding for the melee user because let’s face it, melee has been shit for years.

      They also want to make it so that it’s appropriately punishing for getting your troops into such a situation too. Especially for T’au, if you’ve got troops in melee, something (generally) went wrong.

      T’au do need something extra though. Either something more mobile to prevent combat, or more obstacles (stronger screens).

      I highly doubt that getting “Falling Back and shooting” is going to fix or even help T’au in any meaningful way. Sure it might be helpful if you got tagged by chaf units, but any dedicated melee unit that grabs you isn’t going to leave much left behind (especially if they decide to use Cut Them Down).

      I don’t think GW is going to give T’au players Fall Back and shoot with the 9th ed. Codex. If they do, it’ll be in the form of a stratagem or the like. In other words, it’ll be a rare option.

      I think what we are more likely to see is something that gives battlesuits “Big Guns Never Tire.” and then make it so battlesuits that already have it (like Riptides) ignore the -1 to hit that is inherent with it.

      So it gives the player options. Either pull the unit back, and they don’t shoot, or keep them in combat and continue to shoot, but with -1 BS.

      Thematically, it would work. If you’ve played the RTS, crisis suits that get into combat fly up into the air, fire off a couple of rounds, and then land again.

      Ultimately, the least of T’au’s concerns should be how to escape combat once the shit has hit the fan. They need to have their greatest strength buffed (shooting), while making their weakness (getting stuck in combat) more manageable for the player, but still something the opponent can use if they play properly.

      • Avatar
        Sir_Prometheus January 18, 2021 7:56 pm #

        Well, that was a very long winded defense by a SM fan boi.

        Yeah, no, falling back from combat to shoot better is intrinsically Tau. UM can do it across the board, Tau should be able to do it even better.

        “Oh, they should get ‘Big Games Never Tire'” is just the weakest sauce.

        And btw, Mont’ka absolutely lets you fall back and shoot, no question.

        • Avatar
          AnonAmbientLight January 18, 2021 10:01 pm #

          > Well, that was a very long winded defense by a SM fan boi.

          Oh yea, a well reasoned and measured post that clearly indicates the pros and cons is “SM fan boi” lol.

          It’s clear you have a vague idea of what you think you want, without giving any thought or consideration into it.

          You’re invested in anger and victim complexes that prevent you from seeing anything other than red when talking about this part of the game.

          Less than useful for discussion forums.

          • Avatar
            Sir_Prometheus January 19, 2021 8:57 am

            Look, I dunno if you’re just unfamiliar with Tau lore or what, but falling back would definitely be a Tau “thing”, and that UM have it and Tau don’t is an insult.

            Worse, your alternative suggestion is not only really weak but also involves “holding ground” which is kinda the opposite of what Tau do.

            It’s silly enough an idea that not much else needs to be said in rebuttal.

  2. Avatar
    Luke January 18, 2021 2:35 pm #

    “Granted, the T’au needs a significant rewrite anyway, but in such a case the rewrite really would have to be from the ground up.”

    The army is junk and needs a rewrite, to use your words, from the ground up. Fall Back and Shoot (FB&S) is one of the many, MANY issues that Tau suffer. This site has covered others fairly well over the past few months; I don’t need to repeat them.

    You can’t get a successful product by patch-fixing bits and pieces when the very fundamentals are busted, outdated and just flat-out terrible. You need to take a holistic view, define what you want from the faction, then build to those goals (positives and negatives alike).

    For my two cents, burying what should be core abilities behind Stratagems (and this applies to all armies, not just Tau) is an inherently flawed design. It complicates the game, adds almost zero benefits and reduces units to “generic, except in this specific instance” which then turns the game into a series of ridiculous ‘gotcha’ moments. I can see what GW were going for with the things, but (unsurprisingly) they’ve ballsed it up, then gone overboard with them.

    As a Tau player, I dearly hope they neuter Riptides in the distant future when the next codex is released. The absolute toxicity that they produce from both the people forced to use them, and the opponents on the other side of the table, needs to be addressed. DON’T give these models a way to FB&S without giving a similar ability to other Jetpack models. Doing so would just reinforce the – often correct – opinion that these bigger models are the OP crutch for the faction.

    GW needs to work out what they want from the Tau. Way back at the initial release they were the naive and optimistic faction. They had high mobility and advanced tech. Since then they have been dragged into an “ooh, edgy dark authoritarianism, aren’t we cool now” theme, and they are both slower and worse equipped than almost every other faction in the game. I don’t know what GW wants to see from these guys, and to be honest, I don’t think GW knows what they want from them either.

    TL;DR: You can’t fix FB&S with a patch job. You need to do it properly as part of a complete overhaul of the whole faction.

    • Avatar
      Sir_Prometheus January 18, 2021 8:01 pm #

      To be fair, GW seems to be walking back form the “core abilities behind stratagems” thing. You see this like Only in Death Does Duty End becoming a special rule on the dataslate instead of a stratagem, and a lot of other things, actually. At the same time they’ve increased CP, they’ve weakened strats. There’s only 2 codexes and a few supplements out so far, but you see it already and it will be more clear as more release.

      I can tell you for sure that Tau need a full rework and I have every confidence that Tau will get it when their codex drops……no idea when.

      • Avatar
        Matt January 19, 2021 3:27 pm #

        The issues with T’au have been so well discussed over the years that GW really doesn’t have any excuses for not understanding the fundamental problems with the faction.

        But unfortunately there have just been sooooo many missed opportunities and ham-fisted attempts at fixing things, that I genuinely don’t believe GW understand the faction as well as the community does. They certainly don’t seem to understand it well enough to actually fix the issues and deliver a faction that plays the way the community wants it to.

        • Avatar
          Luke January 19, 2021 6:16 pm #

          Yeah, I’ve set my expectations REALLY low for the next Tau codex, and even then I’m still assuming that I’ll be disappointed. It’s still going to sting though. I’m nervous about which way GW will go: either not in theme and/or too weak to do anything, or so OP that I’d feel bad for putting stuff on the table (and also feed the haters more ammunition).

          I’ve just plain given up playing 40k in its entirety, although I do still maintain an interest in it (I would like it to get better!). That’s due to a mixture of the “rush and grab” nature of the core missions, as well as the fact that I find zero enjoyment in bringing my favourite faction to the table (Tau) knowing that there’s no way I can match anything anyone else brings.

          Sir_Prometheus, I can only hope you’re right about moving core unit functions out of Stratagems (I haven’t been analysing the new codexes too much). If so, then that’s great news.

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