9E Tau Codex Review: Heavy Support: Hammerhead Gunship

Today we look at the Tau’s main gun tank, the Hammerhead Gunship. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.

Hammerhead #1


The Hammerhead Gunship is the basis for most other Tau vehicles, with a statline that is fairly familiar. Movement 12″ is pretty common for vehicles of any faction, as is toughness seven. Thirteen wounds is more or less standard for a “battle tank” as well, and same for a 3+ save- although notably these mean the Hammerhead is pretty lacking defensively. Ballistic skill 3+ is a notable high point, exceeding that of most other units in the faction. Weapon skill 6+, three attacks, strength six, and leadership eight are all likely irrelevant during the vast majority of games you will play. At 160pts stock, the Hammerhead is probably too pricey for what it does most of the time.

Special Rules and Wargear

The Hammerhead’s special rules are generally exactly what you would expect, but little more. Hover tank lets you measure to either the base or hull and Explodes does d3 mortal wounds to anything within 6″. Notably, like all Tau vehicles it lacks the For the Greater Good rule, and thus cannot innately fire overwatch.

The Hammerhead comes armed with one primary weapon, which by default is the Railgun, which can fire with two different profiles. Solid Shot is 72″ S10 AP-4 DmgD6 Heavy 1 and does d3 mortal wounds on a 6, while Submunitions are S6 AP-1 Dmg1 Heavy d6 (but, surprisingly, not Blast.) You can also trade out for an Ion Cannon (60″ S7 AP-2 Dmg2 Heavy 3), which also has the option to overcharge, adding +1Str and +1Dmg while changing the shots to d6, but 1s to hit will cause a mortal wound. The Overcharge mode is blast.

For secondary armament, the Hammerhead comes default with two Gun Drones, giving it a total of eight Pulse Carbine shots (18″ S5 AP0); they can also detach at any point, or if the Hammerhead is destroyed, and go off to do their own thing. These can be swapped out for two Burst Cannons, which have an identical profile but cannot detach, or for two Smart Missiles, which extend the range to 30″ and ignore cover and LOS.

Hammerheads, as vehicles, cannot take any support systems but are allowed to purchase up to two Seeker Missiles (S8 AP-2 DmgD6 Heavy 1) at 5pts apiece.

Hammerhead #2


The Hammerhead wants to be an accurate gun platform for Tau, but the unfortunate reality of it is that in an edition where damage output on many units is through the roof and holding midfield is critical, the Hammerhead doesn’t really do anything you want. It does have reasonable offensive stats- with the flat damage 3 from its overcharged Ion being quite nice- but it’s simply too hard to leverage that into anything functional.

A big part of the problem is simple the fragility of the Hammerhead- T7/3+ will absolutely melt to any kind of reasonable firepower, and there is a lot of that going around these days. It’s not going to take many Multimelta or Dark Lance hits to do in your big, expensive tank, and it gets no save against nor does it have any other defenses of any kind. This means that while you may get off one good round of shooting with your Hammerheads, the enemy’s counterstrike is all but guaranteed to wipe out your forces with almost trivial ease- a single squad of Retributors can reasonable expect to kill two tanks by themselves, which is a terrible trade to be on the wrong end of.

The inability to fall back and shoot also severely hurts them a lot; it hurts all Tau units, obviously, but the Hammerhead’s huge footprint combined with its inability to fire overwatch natively means that they are exceptionally vulnerable to being locked in combat; yes, you can shoot at enemies who are locked in with them, but you won’t be able to use Markerlights or focus fire in the ways you would otherwise want to, so it’s hardly an even compensation for them.

Now, if you happen to be playing a kills-only game on Planet Bowling Ball, the Hammerhead can provide some good firepower- its exceptional range and accuracy are no joke, especially when running around with Longstrike to get that sweet, sweet hitting on a 2+. But the chances that you will actually be able to use this in most games are just too low to center 600+ pts of your army around it, especially in a faction that is already struggling with a variety of problems.

Final Thoughts

The Hammerhead has long struggled to find a place in Tau armies- especially because it has so often been hamstrung by the single-shot Railgun and the inherent unreliability of such a weapon. Although it has had moments in the sunlight, it has very rarely been anything resembling a competitive option in the codex. Perhaps a major overhaul to its profile- which many units and weapons are seeing with this edition- has a chance of giving it some new life.

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.


About abusepuppy

I was there, reader- I was there three editions ago. When Games Workshop released the Ynnari. When the strength of men failed.
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