9E Tau Codex Review: HQs- XV85 Enforcer Commander

Today we look at the second of the Commander variants, the XV-85 Enforcer. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.

Overview

The Enforcer Commander is largely similar to the basic Crisis version, with the variations in the statline being fairly minor for the most part. Movement 8″ is slightly slower than average for suits, but weapon skill 3+ and ballistic skill 2+ are the same as the other versions. Strength and toughness five are standard for the chassis, while seven wounds is a nice bump over the other versions, especially combined with 2+ armor. Finally, four attacks and ten leadership are common as well. Coming in at 110pts, the Enforcer is the most expensive of the three Commanders, but it definitely comes with enough bonuses to be worthwhile.

Special Rules and Wargear

The Enforcer Commander comes with a range of special rules, some unique to it and others shared with the other Commander types. It gains the normal benefits of being a battlesuit (shooting in combat and going into reserves) as well as the Master of War aura that lets nearby units reroll 1s to hit. More notably, its Hardened Armor lets it subtract one from all incoming damage, which is a major boost to durability. Resolute Firebase, meanwhile, can let one Crisis unit gain the Objective Secured rule for a turn.

Beyond that, the Enforcer has access to the same weapons and other upgrades as a Crisis does, with four hardpoints available. They can take up to two drones in any combination. They do not have access to Iridium Armor (though it would be irrelevant for them), but do have the Positional Relay as a system choice, occupying one hardpoint as normal; it allows a unit set up from strategic reserves to treat the turn number as one higher, so long as they arrive within 6″ of the bearer.

Uses

An Enforcer Commander can be thought of in much the same way as a Crisis Commander, but with an additional emphasis on brawling. We won’t go back over the reasons that Crisis are good, but suffice to say that you will basically always have at least one of the Commanders in any list. So the question would be, why take an Enforcer over the others when it is more expensive?

The answer is fairly simple- no other variant is as hard to kill as an Enforcer. The -1dmg is enormous, taking the teeth out of a lot of common melee and shooting weapons completely, but on top of that there’s the extra wound and the point of armor save. Between these three things, an Enforcer can take an immense amount of punishment before going down, and when you add on prototypes and/or support systems to this it gets even more ridiculous- and the Tau book has some really good durability-focused options in this regard. Stim Injectors can give a one-time 4+ to ignore wounds, Sensory Negation Countermeasures can give a melee foe -1 to hit, Solid-Image Projection unit can give a 4++ and ignore one failed save, Be’gel Plate gives another +1 to saves and 5+ to ignore wounds, Vectored Thrusters can let you dodge charges, Grav-Inhibitor gives -1 in melee and also forces fight last… the options are almost limitless.

Of course, other Commanders can take these as well and benefit quite a bit from them, but the reason they are particularly notable on the Enforcer is that they all stack with its existing defenses. As you stack more and more types of special rules together, they tend to become exponentially more powerful- +1 armor save by itself is good, but combined with an invuln it really limits the types of guns that even stand any chance of hurting you. Add in ignore wounds and you limit it even further. The Enforcer can pack together nearly every type of defensive ability simultaneously in one package, which makes it not just tough for an HQ but a legitimately pretty hard-to-remove unit in terms of the game overall.

But the real reason this is a big deal is because Tau armies have generally tended to play a very alpha strike-heavy game for the most part; although this is less true now that Crisis bombs are so tough, you can only have one (or perhaps two) of those active at a time- and you need to be on more objectives than that. The Enforcer gives you another piece that can be where you need them to while also filling other roles when this isn’t needed. And if you commit the Enforcer to a point, the enemy is going to need to put serious work into killing them rather than just a minimal contingent like might be the case for lots of HQs (especially xenos ones.)

More than that, the ability to give Objective Secured to Crisis units can really help Tau play the objective game more strongly in a lot of cases- because while it might be very possible for the enemy to put 6+ ObSec bodies onto your objective, that is a much higher commitment than it would be to simply steal such a point away from a unit without ObSec, or that were a smaller size (e.g. one model.) Tau may have their firepower game on point, but they still struggle to score in many battles, especially during the early turns- and by ensuring you have at least two durable units that can get onto objectives and present a real threat, it makes the enemy’s job of denying you those points much harder. Now add in the fact that an Enforcer can be suited up with powerful melee options (e.g. Onager Gauntlet or Thermoneutronic Projector) and you have a unit that extremely well-rounded in a codex that is usually quite lopsided, making it instantly very attractive.

With all of that said, the Enforcer is not without its weaknesses. We can start with the price- although it isn’t a lot more expensive than the other two, it is pricier than them- and especially when you are working for those last 10-20pts in a list, it can really come down to trimming wherever it is possible. But beyond that, the Enforcer is slower than the other suits- and by a LOT in the Coldstar’s case. This may not feel like a big issue some of the time (what’s 8 vs 10, anyways?), but especially when you are doing a lot of maneuvering around, trying to avoid terrain, etc, it can be a serious hindrance, the more so when you can’t effectively keep up with a Crisis unit that you are supposed to be escorting. The Enforcer also lacks the free Target Lock the Coldstar gets, and with AP in general being more of a struggle for Tau this is not a trivial loss- Enforcers often end up mounting a lot of AP-2 or less weaponry that really needs that ability to bypass cover.

Final Thoughts

The Enforcer Commander is a great unit and I think quite well-balanced against the other Commander variants- each of them has both strengths and weaknesses and none stands out as being blatantly worse or better than the others. This gives Tau a surprising amount of flexibility in their HQ slot despite being pretty strongly committed to having some kind of Commander in there- between the variants, weapon loadouts, relics and prototypes, etc, you can do quite a lot with just a very small handful of choices. Better yet, the indistinguishability of the three types means that you aren’t really all that constrained by models even if you haven’t sunk hundreds of dollars into buying three each of all three variants- just make sure that you keep them distinct within your army and you’ll usually be fine.

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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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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