Today we look at another one of the Forge World units, the R’varna heavy battlesuit. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
The R’varna is essentially a variant of the Riptide chassis, both in lore and in practice. It shares a very similar statline, albeit with a few key differences. It starts out at movement 8″- a significant detriment compared to its sibling, especially since it also lacks the Fly keyword. Weapon skill 5+ and ballistic skill 4+ are standard for Tau units; the latter degrades, but only by a single point. Strength six is also common to the frame, but toughness eight is a pip higher than the Riptide and actually a pretty important defensive upgrade against many weapons. Fifteen wounds is also a small bonus above what a Riptide gets, though four attacks, eight leadership, and a 2+ armor save are all identical. At 320pts stock, the R’varna is unfortunately a bit more than most players want to pay.
Special Rules and Wargear
The R’varna, like most Tau units, comes with the For the Greater Good rule, allowing it to fire overwatch in support of nearby units, as well as R’varna Shield Generator, for a 5+ invulnerable save. It also has a Nova Reactor, although its version is slightly different from the standard one- by suffering a mortal wound, it can activate one of three effects: 4+ invulnerable save, use the Nova profile of weapons, or do d3 mortal wounds to each unit within 6″ on a 4+.
The R’varna is equipped with a pair of Pulse Submunition Cannons (60″ S6 AP-2 Dmg2 Heavy 3d3 blast); when Nova Charged, they instead fire a fixed nine shots and are S7.
The R’varna can select any two items from the support systems section, at the usual cost; as with all big suits, Advanced Targeting System is a prime candidate. It can also take up to two Shielded Missile Drones, at 15pts apiece.
While the R’varna has an excellent profile on its weapons for countering many of the threats in the game these days, it suffers from a number of severe problems that make it all but untenable as an alternative to the Riptide despite this; unfortunately, the overcorrection on Forge World units hit it rather hard, as it did many of the Tau choices.
And let’s be clear here- the weapon profile on the R’varna is actually quite excellent. The Pulse Submunition Cannon will average six shots per gun (i.e. twelve shots total), with Nova Charge upping that to 9/18- quite a respectable volley even with a middling ballistic skill. It’s decent strength, AP, and damage values similarly allow it to threaten heavy infantry and light vehicles quite effectively; it struggles a bit with Death Guard, to be sure, but it will tear up two-wound infantry with comical ease and the various Dark Eldar and Ork vehicles will find it a terrifying foe. It strikes an excellent middle ground between high-quality and high-volume firepower such that anything less than T8 must be extremely concerned about it.
However, the rest of the chassis… does not hold up to this promise. The lack of mobility compared to a Riptide is a major detriment- where a Riptide can quickly scoot into midfield or redeploy around terrain, a R’varna has no such capability, especially if it is degraded at all. Missing out on the Fly keyword is particularly damning here, as it makes it far easier to get trapped in combat (where it cannot fire its guns) or simply to get outmaneuvered by infantry that can take advantage of the Dense or Obscuring keywords.
The R’varna also suffers from… well, not being a Riptide. It can’t use the Riptide’s stratagems, most notably Branched Nova Reactor in order to get two effects out of its reactor at once- and although this isn’t a devastating loss, it definitely does hurt. But worse yet is the deficiency of the Reactor itself- for no apparent reason, the R’varna only gets a 4+ invuln rather than the 3+ that the Riptide gets, which is odd given how much the rest of the frame is focused on defensive benefits. When you then factor in that a R’varna actually costs significantly more than a Riptide despite being worse in most ways, it becomes even more baffling.
Many of these issues are not unique to the R’varna itself, but they highlight problems that are endemic to the Tau codex already. Since the R’varna cannot help solve these problems, it is unfortunately consigned to the wastebin of units- because Tau do not need to be played with an anchor around their neck any more than they already have.
The R’varna, even more so than a lot of Forge World units, seems to be eternally paying the price for a past transgression. For a brief window during 6th Edition, before it had fully-official and finalized rules, it was comically overpowered- but it was almost immediately nerfed, and the game has been punishing the chassis harder and harder ever since to ensure that it never, ever, ever sees the specter of tournament relevance ever again. In that sense, mission accomplished, I suppose.
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