Today we look at one of the support characters from the Tau book, the Firesight Marksman. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
A Firesight Marksman is an unusual character, being one of the lesser-tier ones that are sometimes available to codices. They have a movement of 5″, less than a normal Tau model, but the usual strength and toughness of three. Weapon skill 5+ is normal, but ballistic skill 3+ is notably higher than most units in the book. Three wounds and a 4+ save give it a reasonable defensive profile, while two attacks and leadership seven will generally be irrelevant. At 30pts per model the Marksman is a bit pricier than you will usually like, especially because of the way 9E rules work.
Special Rules and Wargear
Like nearly all Tau units, the Marksman comes with For the Greater Good, allowing you to fire overwatch in support of nearby units. They also have the Marksman Stealth Field, which gives you an additional +1 to your save when you benefit from cover (for a total of 2+ in most cases.) Finally, Drone Uplink adds +1 to hit for any Sniper Drone units if any Marksmen can see their target- note that there is no range limit on this ability.
A Marksman’s armament is very limited- a Markerlight and a Pulse Pistol (12″ S5 AP0 Dmg1 Pistol 1.) The two weapons cannot be fired together, so in the majority of cases you will simply be shooting your Markerlight each turn.
During 8th Edition virtually every Tau army would include a trio of Firesight Marksmen to sit in the backfield and provide support for the rest of the army- however, with Look Out Sir now requiring a nearby model to protect a character and a stronger emphasis on scoring overall, this setup is significantly less attractive these days. It can still have a place, especially if you have some other backfield units to help protect the Marksmen, but the increased vulnerability combined with the CP cost of taking an additional detachment (as they were most commonly run as Sa’Cea for the reroll) means that it is far less universal of a choice.
The main concern these days is protecting the Marksmen; the shooting support they provide is still extremely welcome in most Tau lists, especially since it also opens up the use of the Sa’Cea stratagem for some additional Markerlight utility. If you can keep a unit nearby- such as some Broadsides, a Riptide, a Devilfish, or even just a small squad hiding behind cover- the Marksman can ensure that you have a Markerlight hit on critical targets to get that all-important reroll 1s.
However, even when you can keep a unit nearby, Marksmen are extremely vulnerable. Any effect that lets enemies target characters can make short work of them- a 2+ save is nice, but no invuln, no hit penalty, and only three wounds means that it doesn’t take much for them to get chewed apart by almost any gun out there, especially ones that ignore cover or have high AP. They also are extremely easy to kill in combat, all the more so because of the 5″ vertical engagement distance that now exists; hiding in the 2nd or 3rd floor of a ruin is no longer as safe as it once was. These were issues that existed before, but they have become far more prevalent in 9E.
More broadly, however, the playstyle that the Markman wants to support simply doesn’t work for Tau anymore. Hiding on your side of the field for 2-3 turns and then moving forward to take objectives just isn’t functional in this edition, and the Marksman really asks you to be sinking at least 200-300pts into this sort of strategy, if not more. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the things that they buff got significantly worse- for example, Sniper Drones are absolutely miserable now, and the Marksman’s buff to them doesn’t really stack with the bonus from a Drone Controller in a useful way anymore. The stratagem they got from Greater Good is also quite underwhelming and doesn’t really help at all with the main role they are employed in, and certainly not at the CP cost you have to pay for it.
The Firesight Marksman is definitely no longer a top-tier choice for Tau anymore, although that doesn’t mean they are unusable; if you are looking for Markerlight support they are a reasonable unit to consider, but they probably should not be your first choice.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.