This weekend players were able to pre-order the new Dark Angels codex supplement. Of course, this means that there’s a pretty good chance that your favourite 40k content creators already have their copy of the codex.
If you’re a Dark Angels player, there’s a lot to be exited about in this new book. From all-bike armies to Terminators with obsec, the Dark Angels are going to be a powerful force on the tabletop in the coming months.
But as a T’au player, there’s one particular rule that jumps out at me: Fire Discipline. This new rule allows Dark Angels infantry, with the exception of the Deathwing, to shoot with Rapid Fire and Assault weapons in Engagement Range while in the Tactical Doctrine. These attacks must be made with a Ballistic Skill of 5+.
This is a strong ability. Anything that allows players to leverage their ranged weapons while in Engagement Range has real utility, and while the change to BS does take the shine off slightly, there’s a lot of scope of some powerful plays here.
Indeed, we know how valuable it is to Fall Back and retain a certain number of a unit’s abilities — both Harlequins and Ultramarines players can attest to this — but to keep some utility even after an enemy unit has tagged your models in combat is still strong.
One of the themes that often comes up in my articles is that of giving players more choices with their models and units. I would argue that, most of the time, more player choice makes for a better, more interesting, more enjoyable game for both players, and this new Dark Angels certainly does this.
But what does this rule mean to me as a T’au player? Why does it interest me? It’s simple enough: Games Workshop is allowing more models to shoot in combat.
Anyone who is interested in the T’au in 9th edition will have heard the compliant in one form or another: we can no longer Fall Back and shoot, and it’s a big problem. This much is obvious.
But T’au players will have also heard from a variety of people, including me, that GW would be wise to include some form of shooting in combat for the new codex. Indeed, there’s a lot to be said for this idea, and this new Dark Angels rule should give we T’au players the merest spark of hope that something similar might be included in the T’au codex.
Of course, there’s a lot of design space in which to work with such an idea. There are a lot of places it could go.
Fire Discipline is limited to infantry in the Tactical Doctrine, meaning that the ability is only available at certain times during a game. Such a limit wouldn’t cut the mustard for the T’au equivalent of this rule.
One of the reasons that the T’au is struggling so much in 9th — one of the many reasons — is that the faction only has play in two phases of the game: Movement and Shooting. The T’au has nothing to offer in the Psychic phase and very little to offer in the Fight phase. In terms of dealing damage, if our business isn’t done in the Shooting phase, it likely won’t be done at all.
Of course, these drawbacks do not apply to the Dark Angels. These loyal (are they loyal?) servants of the Emperor do work in all phases of the game, which means that limiting Fire Discipline to a turn or two is a sensible way to write the rule.
But we can’t say the same for the T’au. If one unit or another is able to shoot in combat, it should not be limited to one turn or another.
However, such an ability could be limited in other ways. For example, I could certainly see shooting in combat as an ability locked to one particular Sept or another. In fact, that would be an interesting way to build the codex. Shooting in combat would be great, but would it be worth losing the ability to Overwatch on 5s? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’d very much like to make army lists that explore these options.
Or it could be limited to one particular unit or another. Indeed, one way to make Crisis Suits worth taking again is allowing this classic unit to shoot in combat. Of course, Crisis Suits need a lot of work, but this would be a good starting point.
What’s more, if we could shoot in combat, would we use our standard BS or would we hit on 5s? Let’s presume that most of the units in the faction hit on 4s — and judging by the Imperial Armour update, this is probably going to be the case — would hitting on 5s be a sensible trade-off for such a useful rule?
This is a tricky one. And without knowledge of the rest of the codex, it’s very difficult to comment. But if we look at Fire Discipline as broadly representative of things to come, I think that it’s reasonable to say that hitting on 5s would be a good way to write the rule. Remember that the Dark Angels only get this ability for one or two turns. I would argue that the T’au equivalent should not be limited in such a fashion, and hitting on 5s would be a good way to tone down the ability.
As usual, this is all conjecture. We have absolute no official word from GW as to when the T’au codex will arrive, and we have little more than dust and echoes when it comes to unofficial rumours.
But it’s fun to speculate, and speculating based on a new rule in another codex is at least something concrete to riff on.
I’ve said it dozens of the times: the T’au Empire needs a significant rewrite for 9th edition. The faction just doesn’t really work at the moment. The rules and points updates earlier this month are certainly a step in the right direction, but we’re still lagging at the back of the field when it comes to competitive lists.
There is so much that we need to be competitive in 9th edition. Shooting in combat is really only the tip of the iceberg, but it would be a very interesting addition to a faction that is lost at sea at the moment.
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