9E Tau Codex Review: Lords of War: Manta

Today we look at the largest model in the game, the Manta flyer. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.


The Manta is the largest of all Tau units, representing a massive orbital flyer. Its statline is about as silly as you would expect- movement 20″-60″ is fairly standard for flyers, while strength and toughness eight are both a bit on the low side for such a massive model, but not unreasonable. Sixty wounds is about as high as you will ever see, though only a 3+ save is a bit comical. It does have twelve attacks… albeit at weapon skill 6+, making them essentially moot. More damning, however, is weapon skill 4+, which is extremely low and drastically limits its firepower output. For all of this, you end up paying a grand (and I do mean grand) total of two thousand points on the nose- exactly enough to fit into your next tournament, if you are so inclined!

Special Rules and Wargear

The Manta, despite being a massive centerpiece model and arguably the most impressive thing that Forge World makes, is actually… pretty boring in terms of its rules. It has the same Hard to Hit, Supersonic, and Airborne rules that all aircraft do, though it also comes with the Hover rule so it can ditch its minimum movement and -1 hit penalty to move like a more conventional vehicle for a turn if it wants- a rarity in xenos factions. Beyond that, it comes with Dispersion Shield for a 4+ invulnerable save and a unique version of Explodes, which does d6 mortals within 2d6″ on a 4+, or 2d3 mortals within 3d6″ on a 6+.

And… that’s it. Apart from those variations of standard rules, a Manta does not have any other special abilities. Nothing to represent being an orbital spacecraft. Nothing about disembarking units. Nothing about being a mobile command center. Its datasheet has fewer special rules than your average Space Marine, which is pretty bewildering for such a nominally-impressive unit.

Its armament is slightly better, though still lackluster in terms of its points. Two Heavy Rail Cannons (72″ S14 AP-5 DmgD3+6, Heavy 2, successful wounds also cause d3 mortals) are the main weapons, while six Ion Cannons (60″ S7 AP-2 Dmg2 Heavy 3) serve as the secondaries, which can be overcharged in the usual fashion. Its tertiary battery is sixteen Long-Barreled Burst Cannons (36″ S5 AP0 Dmg1 Assault 4) and two Missile Pods (36″ S7 AP-1 DmgD3 Assault 2). Finally, a quaternary battery of six Markerlights and ten Seeker Missiles round things out.

The Manta can also transport units, including up to two hundred infantry, four Devilfish/Skyray/Hammerheads, and eight battlesuits (as long as they have nine or fewer wounds.)


Ahahahahahahaha. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.


Okay, no seriously. Really?


The Manta is hot garbage, one of the worst units in the game. Most superheavy units are pretty terrible, but the Manta’s combination of bad ballistic skill, middling defenses, and a complete inability to participate in the actual scoring parts of the game render it easily the absolute worst of the category. A Warhound or Phantom might be bad, but they at least let you play the game- a Manta does not.

For comparison, you could instead take about 400 Imperial Guardsmen, who will not only let you score objectives, but also will kill the Manta long before the Manta kills them. In fact, for almost any permutation of units you pick, a Manta will lose both the mission and the combat to that unit, a dual insult.

The Manta is clearly intended purely as a display piece that might occasionally make a quick cameo in a narrative Apocalypse game (although I doubt anyone actually plays Apocalypse at this point.) If you are considering bringing it to a tournament- don’t. Even as a novelty, it’s just not worth it.

Final Thoughts

Although the Manta is somewhat understandable as just being a big, fancy display piece for the most dedicated of collectors, the sheer laziness of its rules is honestly somewhat appalling. It’s just so incredibly bad on so many levels that it really baffles the mind, and at a certain point you have to wonder “Was this intentional? Did they choose to make the Manta unplayable to deter competitive players from even thinking about buying one?” Because any other reasoning almost defies explanation.

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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