9E Tau Codex Review: Flyers: AX-5-2 Barracuda

Today we look at the Forge World Tau flyer, the Barracuda. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.

Overview

The Barracuda is the Tau’s multirole flyer, built on a different chassis than the codex ones. It comes with fairly standard stats for such a unit- movement 20″-65″ allows it to zoom across the battlefield when needed, albeit with limits on maneuvering. Toughness seven and a 3+ save make it reasonably durable, especially with fourteen wounds. Unfortunately, ballistic skill 4+ is a big limiter for the unit, giving it only very middling accuracy and limiting the usefulness of its weapons compared to other units like the Hammerhead. At 200pts for the base unit, the Barracuda is quite expensive and will very rarely find itself being useful.

Special Rules and Wargear

The Barracuda’s special rules are mostly exactly what you what expect. Hard to Hit gives the enemy -1 when shooting at it, Airborne means it can’t charge or be charged (except by Fly units), and Supersonic means that it must move in straight lines with only a single ninety-degree turn at the start of its move. Explodes is also quite standard, doing d3 mortal wounds to nearby units when it triggers. The only unique special rule for the unit is Dispersion Field, which gives it a 5+ invulnerable save- definitely a nice bonus, but also generally not terribly reliable when taking heavy fire.

The armament is a bit more impressive overall. Barracuda comes with one main gun; the cheapest option here is the Ion Cannon (60″ S7 AP-2 Dmg2 Heavy 3), the same gun carried by the Hammerhead. As with the Hammerhead, you can overcharge it for +1 to strength and damage as well as increasing the shots to d6, at the risk of possibly doing a mortal wound to yourself. This is probably the best of the weapons overall, since it has a flexible profile with good overall stats. For 35pts it can be swapped for a Swiftstrike Burst Cannon (36″ S6 AP-1 Dmg1 Heavy 12), which is almost the gun that the Riptide gets- but without the ability to get AP-2, Dmg2, or the increased number of shots, it’s just a tremendously unimpressive option for the price. Similarly lackluster is the Swiftstrike Railgun (48″ S10 AP-4 DmgD3+3 Heavy 2), which will set you back an extra fifty points. Although the statline is pretty nice, the inability to bypass invulns as well as the mediocre ballistic skill on the unit means that your odds of actually pushing any damage though against, say, a Raider are much, much lower than you think they are.

The chassis also comes with a pair of wingtip guns; by default these are Long-Barrel Burst Cannons (36″ S5 AP0 Dmg1 Assault 4), which are a fairly reasonable, though not impressive, weapon. For +20pts you can trade them out for a pair of Cyclic Ion Blasters (18″ S7 AP-1 Dmg1 Assault 3), which like all Ion weapons can overcharge to go up to S8 and DmgD3 as long as you are willing to risk a potential mortal wound. Despite its shorter range, I think the Ion is the easy call here- it’s far more threatening to more targets even without using the overcharge, and the price isn’t so high as to break the bank.

Lastly, a Barracuda can take up to four Seeker Missiles at 5pts apiece. This can significantly improve your alpha strike when taken in combination with other Seeker platforms, but it’s a risky strategy at the best of times; however, if you’re going all in on the Barracuda it’s probably worth it.

Uses

To be quite frank, the Barracuda has no place in the modern meta. Flyers have certainly made a reappearance more recently, but the Barracuda absolutely is not comparable to those others- it is completely lacking in the firepower needed to really be able to press the attack on the opponent, and its durability is similarly just not up to snuff. Considering its very limited advantages compared to other platforms, it’s virtually impossible to justify, all the more so because of the smaller battlefield size.

The other platforms are the real problem for it- a Hammerhead carries almost exactly the same potential weapon loadouts (Cyclic Ion aside), but at a drastically cheaper price, an improved ballistic skill, and with the potential to be buffed even further by Longstrike. In a world where -1s to hit are dime a dozen, being a shooting unit with BS4+ just does not impress, especially not with a price tag that passes 200pts.

The Riptide is similarly a problem, because it has both superior durability and superior firepower virtually no matter which weapon loadout you prefer. The Heavy Burst Cannon makes the Swiftstrike version look like an absolute joke, and the relic Ion Accelerator completely outperforms both the Ion Cannon and Railgun without even considering overcharge. Now, in fairness the Riptide is quite a bit more expensive than the Barracuda even with full loadouts, but it also is drastically more survivable (with its 2+/3++) and is supported by a variety of strategems.

Final Thoughts

The Barracuda is, unfortunately, a solution in search of a problem. It has okayish durability and okayish firepower, but without being able to focus on either one it can’t serve an army well in any role and Tau in particular just are not efficient enough to be taking mediocre generalists like the Barracuda. It suffered badly from the rewriting of the Forge World rules (though it was hardly an all-star before) and especially the targeted nerf to the Burst Cannon on flyer frames. Since it is unlikely to receive an update anytime soon, it’s rather unlikely you will see one across the table from you anytime in the foreseeable future- especially since the model itself is rather hard to obtain.

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.

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