Today we look at the Piranha light skimmer. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
The Piranha skimmer fits neatly into the category of light vehicles common across many codices, nominally for scouting purposes. They have a 16″ movement stat, excellent for any unit. Like most Tau units they are ballistic skill 4+, giving them a somewhat unreliable offensive output. Toughness five, six wounds, and a 4+ save give them a somewhat reasonable defensive profile, though one that will collapse quickly in the face of any real anti-tank firepower. Beware their leadership of six, however- even the loss of a single squad member can mean that another model will flee from the unit, which can be quite dire. At 63pts per model, Piranhas are unfortunately rather pricey for what they do, though they can be taken in units of up to five models.
Special Rules and Wargear
A Piranha’s only special rule is Explodes, which will cause it to do a single mortal wound to units within 3″ on a 6. Their drone passengers (see below) possess all of the normal special rules for their kind, however.
Each Piranha is armed with a single Burst Cannon (18″ S5 AP0 Dmg1 Assault 4), which would be a pretty sad armament if not for the additional presence of the two Gun Drones that provide eight more S5 shots from their Pulse Carbines. The Burst Cannon can be swapped out at the cost of 7pts for a Fusion Blaster (18″ S8 AP-4 DmgD6 Assault 1) to give the unit a stronger anti-tank role if desired.
Each Piranha in a squadron can also be upgraded to carry up to two Seeker Missiles (S8 AP-2 DmgD6 Heavy 1), though as usual these require Markerlights to fire.
Although it is capable of carrying a pretty significant anti-tank loadout, for most of its history this option has actually been something of a trap- and 9E is no different in that regard. With a weak ballistic skill and extreme fragility, investing points into a Piranha for offensive output is usually a mistake; rather, the Piranha’s strength lies in its mobility, and in its ability to deny the enemy mobility.
How this strategy works out has varied throughout the years and editions, but in 9E it is fairly simple- a Piranha is a cheap unit that can get to various places very quickly and score points. It also has a very large footprint for its cost and thus can be very good at getting in the way of enemy units when they are trying to traverse the battlefield; a pair of Piranhas can block of a shockingly large amount of table space for a fairly low cost. This strategy is at its best against non-flying vehicles, but with proper positioning you can do a lot to block almost any kind of unit- especially those that lack effective melee options to clear out the Piranhas in the assault step.
Piranhas also have a subtle advantage in the fact that they are the smallest chassis to carry drones onboard; this means that every Piranha you purchase is not one unit but two, the second of which is effectively invulnerable until the first is destroyed. While a lack of obsec or any other ability to effectively contest objectives (as well as very fragile bodies) can make this of limited usefulness, in some cases these concerns will be irrelevant- for example, when scoring Engage on All Fronts or similar objectives. And notably, every pair of drones onboard a Piranha is a separate squad and if their parent unit is wiped out they can scatter to the four winds to cause havoc.
All of that might sound pretty great, but really… it’s not. While movement-blocking and objective harassment are certainly useful roles in 9E, the reality is that the Piranha is simply too expensive for what it actually does and it is too likely to be vaporized without significant effect. A lone Dark Lance or Lascannon can pretty easily drop one and the drones they leave behind are more often an annoyance than an actual threat, even from a scoring perspective. Comparing the Piranha to the light vehicles of other factions- especially Orks- looks extremely bad even with their high mobility, because they generally lack the ability to actually do anything once they get somewhere. As a result, the Piranha is rarely seen in competitive list, because the roles it wants to fill are easily filled by more effective and more flexible units such as Stealth Suits, Vespid, or Breachers in Devilfish.
Although it can’t be said to be among the worst units in the game, the Piranha is definitely bottom-tier, which is truly lamentable because it’s one of my favorite units in the game. Perhaps someday the time will come against when my fleet of fifteen Piranhas can make their way onto the battlefield without effectively conceding every game; until that day, however, I will just have to quietly continue touching up their paint job and hoping.
As always, remember 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.