9E Tau Codex Review: Dedicated Transport: Devilfish

Today we look at the humble Devilfish transport; click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.

Overview

The Devilfish is about as bare-bones as you can get for a transport, arguably beating out even the Rhino in that regard. It comes with pretty much exactly the statline you would expect- movement 12″ gives it a pretty good ability to get across the field (especially with Fly), while ballistic skill 4+ gives it a middling but not completely-ignorable firepower output. Toughness seven is exactly what you would expect from a vehicle of its size, and twelve wounds is slightly above average (albeit in a way that is actually a penalty at times.) A 3+ armor save is similarly quite standard, though the lack of any invulnerable definitely hurts. At 90pts base, the Devilfish is a tad more than you would prefer to pay, but not cripplingly so.

Special Rules and Wargear

The Devilfish’s suite of rules are almost comically basic- Explodes functions in the usual fashion, doing d3 mortals on a 6; Hover Tank means you measure to hull rather than base; and the myriad drone-related rules apply to its complement of onboard drones, if you take those. The Devilfish has no unique rules of its own, nor does it have For the Greater Good (as it is a vehicle.)

The Devilfish’s main armament is a bit paltry even for a transport, though it can clear out some infantry in a pinch. A Burst Canon (18″ S5 AP0 Dmg1 Assault 4) in the nose is the only fixed weapon, while a pair of Gun Drones (each with two Pulse Carbines) provide essentially two more of the exact same armament, though with the additional bonus that they can detach and act independently if needed. The Gun Drones can be replaced with a pair of Smart Missile Systems (30″ S5 AP0 Dmg1 Heavy 4 ignore LOS/cover), giving up some flexibility in exchange for much better reach and some handy special rules. This is typically not an ideal option, as the Devilfish largely exists just to absorb firepower rather than deal it out, but if you are seeing a lot of sneaky light infantry (such as Drukhari), it may be a useful thing to consider.

The Devilfish can also mount up to two Seeker Missiles, as with most Tau vehicles.

Devilfish #1

Uses

What the Devilfish does is neither exciting nor particularly efficient, but it is extremely necessary- and thus most Tau lists will end up running them.

Tau infantry are extremely vulnerable, and they are also the only source of Objective Secured in the list. In order to help keep them alive, and to provide the army with some much-needed mobility, the Devilfish plays an important role in shuffling those infantry around the table and keeping them out of the way of enemy guns. Although it is not unusually efficient at this role, comparing poorly to the transports in many other factions, since getting a price drop it is not the worst at it and it does have some small advantages that keep it from being a complete tragedy. You’re probably never going to feel great about running Devilfish, but you’re not going to feel bad about it, either.

The biggest advantage it has is in mobility- with an average movement speed and Fly the Devilfish can get lots of places on the battlefield pretty easily, especially since it is relatively free to advance as needed; all of the guns it carries are Assault, meaning that the loss of firepower is pretty minimal in those cases. And while its chassis is definitely large, it’s not so large that it can’t reasonably be hidden, allowing it to scoot around and make good use of terrain in combination with its speed. Being able to pass over obstacles and enemy units without making a detour may not sound particularly sexy, but it’s a very key ability and it also prevents the ‘Fish from being trapped in combat by any but the most stubborn of opponents. Again: not sexy, but key to its central role.

The Devilfish also has another, subtler advantage in that you are actually getting two units for the price of one when you buy it- literally. Though the pair of Drones it carries are unlikely to do any real damage in shooting, they should never be underestimated- they are still a unit and can still block enemy movement, hold objectives, and count for secondary missions. Most long-time Tau players are already well aware of just how valuable the little Death Frisbees can be, but if you’re newer to the faction you may be shocked by their utility, as they can turn the tide of games time and time again in ways that will often catch opponents by surprise.

The best part about them is their flexibility- you can disembark the drones alongside your infantry to provide protection, near a battlesuit squad to keep them alive against heavy guns, or pre-emptively in order to hassle enemy units and get in the way of their movement (especially relevant against non-flying things and those that want to make charges.) The drones’ small profile also allow them to easily slip behind terrain or even friendly models and hide from incoming firepower if you need to preserve them, and there’s nothing like the surprised face of an opponent when your last two drones pop out to hold an objective unexpectedly.

Best of all, even if the Devilfish is destroyed, you will still (probably) get the Drones, as they disembark like passengers when the vehicle dies. This, for example, means that your opponent may have four layers of units to get through in order to clear an objective just from a single Devilfish- the transport itself, the Drones it leaves behind, the squad inside, and any HQ you had onboard with them. This can be a nigh-insurmountable tasks even for opponents with indirect firepower, as that’s simply too many squads to easily cut down without moving in some serious guns to deal with it- and given how cheap all of those units are, your enemy would be committing a lot of resources to deal with a comparatively-small problem.

Now, none of this is to say the Devilfish is perfect- it’s a relatively expensive option in terms of transports and its complete lack of special rules mean that many of the others will easily outperform it in both durability and other factors. It also gives up more points than you would like on Big Game Hunter and the aforementioned lack of an invuln means that even pretty minimal anti-tank fire is likely to give it a very, very bad time. It also suffers indirectly from the relatively-poor quality of Tau troop models, as it is relegated to being little more than an objective-holder in most cases; even a full-size squad of Breachers is unlikely to actually clear an objective of enemies under normal circumstances. However, being that it is still the best option Tau have in terms of protecting their scoring potential, they are all but mandatory in a competitive army.

Final Thoughts

The Devilfish fulfills its job in a perfectly-competent manner, but the aged model kit, lack of real options, and mediocre payload all weigh heavily against it- with any luck, the new codex will offer some updated options to represent the bits included in the kit, or some built-in special rules to make it a bit more unique as a vehicle. For now, however, the Devilfish is a vehicle that is ranked Perfectly Fine and Useable, and in the context of the Tau book that can be considered a major win.

As always, remember you can get your wargaming products at great discounts every day at the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.

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