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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tau Codex Review: Fire Warriors


The much aligned Fire Warrior... As usual this post will look at the Fire Warrior in the current context of the codex and then we shall look at potential ideas on how they can be fixed. On the face of things, Fire Warriors seem pretty decent. Two-thirds the cost of a Space Marine yet capable of the same anti-infantry firepower with the added advantage of being more capable in damaging MCs and high T targets, ability to pen AV10/damage AV11 and can overcome their average BS with markerlights. The obvious downside to this is they utterly suck in combat and are significantly easier to kill. The hidden downside however is a complete lack of ability to do anything else. Whilst you can get up to 3 markerlights in the squad, you’ve paid 80pts for those 3 shots and they become a static foot unit. So the squad on its own seems pretty poor. Whilst for its points it can be a great anti-infantry platform (particularly when augmented by markerlights), Crisis Suits & Railheads do this role just as well (if not better), doubly so with markerlights and have a lot more versatility. In a point for point comparison even Kroot are just as good at what Fire Warriors do if mildly less versatile (i.e. 100pts of FW or Kroot will cause ~7 wounds in RF range; even with Makerlight boosting to BS5 100pts of FW or Kroot are similar, causing ~11 wounds in RF range [against T4]).

Fire Warriors however have the option to take Devilfish as a dedicated Transport, whilst Kroot do not (Devilfish will be looked at in a separate post). The problem here is the expense of the Devilfish. Whilst it is a pretty good transport and provides some offensive firepower itself, it doesn’t offset the lack of duality seen in Fire Warrior squads (seeker missiles do not count even if they didn’t require a markerlight hit). Being an enclosed environment also stop FWs from bunkering and using markerlights even though it would be cost prohibitive. What Devilfish therefore seem relegated to is essentially scoring gunboats or ferrying FWs to the front line. Let’s take a look at these options.

The scoring gunboat option is akin to Eldar DAVU Serpents & Falcons. Sit in mid to back field putting out shots whilst having excellent defences and protecting a scoring unit. Whilst expensive at 180pts, it does its job well whilst still contributing to the Tau army. Ferrying FW forward is often called Fish of Fury where Fire Warriors jump out and pump out 10-12 x2 S5 shots. Unfortunately this isn’t that potent. Whilst a fair amount of wounds can be caused, you’ve brought your Devilfish within melta-range and no cover, your Firewarriors within assault and flamer range and the attack just isn’t powerful enough to warrant these risks even with markerlight support. Killing on average 4-5 marines with ML support seems nice on paper but you’ve just devoted a ton of points to this job and whilst their percentages go up against T3/5+ units, their efficiency doesn’t and there are still better units for the job elsewhere in the Tau army (oh look a pie plate). This relegates Fire Warriors essentially to being a scoring vehicle upgrade much like Dire Avengers for Eldar and should therefore be used in a minimum squad size and stuffed into a DFish.

The upgrades for Fire Warriors are also insanely expensive. EMP nades are just plain stupid as your FW will die next turn no matter what happens to the tank in question. Whilst some might argue for them as a defensive option if a tank breaks through your lines...you’ve got other problems to consider and EMP nades on FW is not going to help. As discussed before the makerlight options are very expensive and make the FW a static foot force. Photon grenades are also useless as the Fire Warriors are going to die in assault anyway and if anything the minimised incoming attacks might make them stick around meaning you can’t shoot what assaulted them. Bonding knife might be nice if less points or larger squads were taken but as it is most FW squads simply get wiped due to their poor defences. Also being forced to take one is problematic but should be overridden with the new codex.

So, not much going for the FW other than being decent anti-infantry at all and the Devilfish isn’t going to suddenly have firepoints anytime soon (well I doubt it anyway). What then can we do to fix these lads with awesome rifles? Firstly they need to come with Photon & EMP standard. Whilst paying points for these upgrades is silly, having them included in the cost is a good idea and gives them some last ditch “hope this works” versatility (assuming FW become more mainstay). The squad should also start at 10 men (with a max of 15?) with the upgraded Shas’ui much like other new books and overall suffer a points drop. Rather than costing 150 for 10xFW inc. Shas’ui + nades costing around 100pts with each further FW costing 8pts sounds about right. Again the steeper initial price offsets min-maxing.

Harking back to the Drone review, FW have a role as small ML support through Devilfish with the Drone Harbinger/Controller upgrade but this is an expensive proposition. Whilst Heavy Gun Drones are also an excellent option this is still relegating the FW to hiding in their DFish and actually doing nothing (also an amendment that Heavy Gune Drones cannot be used with the Harbinger upgrade perhaps?). Let’s see if we can change this (thanks to AbusePuppy for this idea). Tau are well-known for their mobile warfare tactics and a special rule in this regard for Fire Warriors would emphasis this. What I propose then is Fire Warriors should have the special rule “Mobilisation Experts” (or something snazzier) and be allowed to embark and disembark from a transport in the same movement phase. Combined with Drones becoming relentless in squads, 5th edition rapid firing rules and potentially heavy gun drones (btw, ideas here?), this gives FW the ability to stay out of harms way but throw down a decent amount of S5 up to 30” backed up by Drones and the DFish.

Whilst a lot of people still swear by Fire Warriors, their S5 gun and Devilfish with their FoF tactics, they are unfortunately woefully inefficient, suspect to getting their faces crushed and lack duality. What these proposed changes attempt to do is emphasis their rapid mobilisation efforts, still focus on the pulse rifle but provide support through Drones. Thoughts on these changes and ideas on Heavy Gun Drones would be good (i.e. Forge World rules? Need to find them or simply adding Crisis Suit weapons like MP, PR, BC, etc.?).

19 pinkments:

The_King_Elessar said...

I would rather see that ability conferred to 'Landing Gear' which would then be 'Fish only.

Also, I am more in favour of 40/50-point FW squads with free Sarge and photons - 5 man.

However, I've never used Tau, so I would pay a little more credence to your thoughts on the issue. I only know what I'd LIKE to do.

I would like some sort of off-board SMS support, to compensate for not having a Heavy Weapon of their own. Called in akin to a Cruise Missile IRL. Of course, it complicates things a bit - needs refinement.

Matt Varnish said...

Honestly, A fire point would really do wonders for FW/Devilfish. Give them Relentless works too. Imagine being able to move and fire 30 inches, it would breathe some life back into this unit.

Also, to use an Orky rule, I would say that make crisis suit commanders not mandatory, but if you take one, ONE unit of Crisis Suits becomes a Troops choice. Therefore, you wouldn't need 2 fire warrior units to sit in Fishes, camping out, waiting for objectives, the Crisis suit as troops would really open up the Tau general to a lot more options and strategies.

Master Darksol said...

FoF is a bit overhyped. Can be useful against some, but certainly not against marines. Firepoints would certainly breathe some more life into the unit.

I still find FW to be useful, but more as static lines in cover shooting to 30" range. suits and drones move to intercept/crossfire anything heading towards the FW. If there were firepoints in the 'fish, there would certainly be more uses for them.

AbusePuppy said...

Maligned, Kirb. "Much maligned."

Someone's gotta keep the grammar of this place in check, damnit!

I would be very sad to see FWs get Photon Grenades- I _want_ my dorks to get run over as quickly as possible and wiped out on their turn so I can shoot them on mine. Photon Grenades work directly counter to that. Mandatory sarge, on the other hand, seems pretty likely given the way GW writes the new codices.

Devilfish with Fire Points would be cute, but still doesn't solve the fundamental problem. (Remember, you already have "fire points" for your Drones, and that sure isn't saving you.) Look at the current 5E troops and take your lesson there: with the exception of Tyranids, all of them have options for special weapons and all of them fill a unique role in the codex. (Tyranid troops don't have special weapons and are thus limited to killing other infantry, but they excel at this role, so it's forgivable. Plus they get a scoring MC.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Fire Warriors need an anti-tank gun, a mobile Markerlight, or something else to make them more than just a pile of semi-fragile S5 guns. S6 AP5 Heavy 1 Pulse Rifles? Sure, that counts. Assault 1 Markerlights? Nifty. Team-portable heavy weapons, a la Eldar Weapon Platforms? Does the job just fine. But troops whose only distinction is "our gun is slightly stronger than average" are trash. Heavy and special weapons win fights, not basic guns.

Old Shatter Hands said...

I would propose giving Pulse Rifles rending and the Fire Warriors the Stealth USR. Some people think this might make Fire Warriors too powerful, I think it would make them worthwhile. Rending gives them a chance to damage tanks and stealth will keep them alive. I disagree that Fire Warriors should be given a special weapon, just isn't in line with the fluff. Maybe giving them a drone with a special weapon though...

I'm with AbusePuppy, please don't give me Fire Warriors photon grenades.

ethan said...

To be honest as a Space Marine player I can say that tau fire warriors that can embark AND disembark in the same move phase as well as being able to fire up to 30' is pretty cool but I'd be worried that would be too powerful; I play against a tau player and I have trouble dealing with his list and he never uses his fire warriors at all...
I like the ideas of a heavy weapon for the fws and the idea of giving crisis suits troop options is awesome, though it would make my life a living hell... five teams of crisis suits with plasma/missiles? please stop rolling dice and let me remove my models!!!

Kirby said...

In regards to firepoints...I'm not advocating them for devilfish. As Puppy says, this doesn't fix FW. I'm advocating changes to their equipment and mobility by making drones relentless and possible adding heavy weapons to the drones, FW can actually do some damage to tanks or support the army with a couple of markerlights whilst being very mobile and capable of anti-infantry firepower. Similar to a Rhino bunker except in backfield. Tac marines provide a heavy and special weapon in midfield but aren't there for their boltguns but in a pinch can drop 20 shots on an infantry opponent.

@TKE; 5 would encourage too much min-maxing I think with such small units which I feel should be running around mid-back midfield.

@Matt; I like the Commander = 1 Crisis Troop idea

@Darksol; Again, firepoints aren't going to help without some better weapon upgrades and most static units = not good.

@Puppy; woops! editting fail ftw. I agree with the photon grenades but can see them being included. Not sure about S6 guns for the whole squad though...Eldar love this on their tanks, Tau with Troops who carry portable S6? each? Wow lol

@Old Shatter Hands; not Rending >.< and stealth doesn't fit with their design. Drones are running the heavy weapons and remember also the Tau are 'adaptable.' If they find their Fire Warriors need heavy guns, pretty easy to put some on Drones and run along.

AbusePuppy said...

I'm not necessarily advocating S6 guns either, but I think it's an example of the sort of radical revamp that is necessary to make FWs a useful unit choice. I think that being Heavy would be a major limitation- no more hiding in transports and hopping out to kill someone with that gun. It really pushes the static Tau gunline and gives them some pretty crazy anti-tank capability that will just drive Space Marines absolutely _nuts_.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

Why not rending on Pulse rifles?
It gives them a chance to pen against AV 13 ~ more flexible than s6 which just screams "I'm stuck shooting at AV10-11 ad naseum and that is all I'll ever do, I'm like a force-fed duck ~ I can't stop eating, kill me, kill me, please kill me!"
It also gives them potential bite against anything better than sv5+
So it becomes viable to shoot Infantry too.
Much more diversity than s6.
Not that I'm trying to bash your 'throwing it out there idea' Pup.
I just get carried away sometimes ~ lol.

All without giving them Special or Heavy weapons ~ a classic Tauism.
Giving them a drone that has these is *sigh* the same as making them into Tacticals *zzzZZZzzz*

Pulse carbines also to get Rending and become Assault2, perhaps losing pinning.

And how about Rifles become assault2 30" and carbines assault3 18"
Mobile Tau. Useful for an army who is like wet-paper in close combat.

Keep them expensive, make their shooting deadly. That makes them different from Tacticals, whose shooting is not so good and yet who are much tougher with t4 sv3+

Nice :D

Puppy ~ Railrifles for a FW squad? All given the Railrifle? Maybe a 0-1 TROOP choice?

Karnstein said...

Rending on pulse rifles is bad way to fix the tau problem. Why? 4 Reasons for that:

1. Why do they need to have more bite against sv5+ models anyway compared to "we shoot exploding rockets" Bolters and other guns in the game. And "Rending" on a troop choice ranged weapons would run havoc with the cost/benefit value of a lot of units with good armor save. With S5 you can wound any existing non AV creature anyway.
2. They are a pulse weapon, so if pulse guns get "rending", everything else in the army with "pulse" in its name needs to get rending too. Like every weapon with plasma in its name in a IG army has S7 and ap2. Global rending on most of the tau units would screw any game and codex internal balance. Why take railgun rifles if you can get rending and a higher RoF for a cheaper price?
3. Why would giving them drones make them same as Tacs? Using special or heavy weapon on a troop/platoon level isn't SM-Style, it is proper military behavior. Are Tau a proper and clever military? Yes, they are
4. Why do need tau a all comers troop choice with the name Fire warriors written on it? I agree that in ed5 with its heavy emphasis on mech you need a troop department which has access to kill tanks. But you can achieve that by a combination of allowing heavy drones and moving some crisis suits into troop department, like nids do it with tervigons and orks with nobs/meganobs. If you beef up every unit in the tau dex in a vacuum, you end up with a codex which is overpowered. After all the consensus on 3++ seems to be, that tau are one of the top codices anyway.

Kirby said...

^ what Karnstein said in regards to Rending.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

1] It doesn't matter what fluff says. Fluff says Marines are unstoppable. TT says that is not true.
It does not matter what one thing is compared to another, fluffwise. It is a game mechanic to make the game fun and the Tau diverse.
Pulse rifles need more bite because they don't have Special and Heavy weapons.
In a Grey Hunters pack, it is the combination of solid attacks from everyone plus special and power-stuff attacks that gets the kills. Not just the solid attacks from everyone.
Does plasma/melta guns/pistols create havoc already? No? So your point isn't quite sound. Fire Warriors are weak shooting and surviving for their points. Keep the points the same and buff the shooting. That means the game is much more exciting. Can you smash them? - yes. Can the smash you? - yes. Both sides are kept on their toes = fun.

2] There are three guns called Pulse X. So everything else in the game is the Carbine and the Pistol. I spoke about the Carbine getting it, already. So the everything else is the Pistol. The one some pilots carry....

Don't take Rail-rifles, now. Pathfinders have more important things to do and Sniper Drones should to be left on display.
s5 ap5 rending is very different from s6 ap3. Automatic non-TEq dead. Sounds good to me.
Automatic s6 every shot, instead of 1/6 to get better. That also sounds good to me.
That makes one squad of FW reliable.

3] Real life clever =/= game clever. Having everyone ape modern military practice, because it works, means everyone become more and more the same.
Tacticals are a gaming and fluff-history backbone. They are the vanilla that all other things branched from. Making things more like tacticals is pruning away diversity.

4] Heavy drones = turn into Tacticals. No thanks. Eldar are enjoyable because the convention.
Crisis as TROOPS, whilst it will happen, basically pats us on the head about our assessment of FW. "Hey they are lame, so you don't have to take them anymore" *pat, pat*
Why not make FW worthwhile taking?

When we talk about things, it must be done in isolation, or else we end up with an essay to provide all the background rules and conditions to make a statement not sound OP. Yes, all units must be build as a whole, no just tweaking without consulting. We would end up with Frankenstein's monster if we did that.

Tau are not one of the top codices. Much Tau stuff is horrid. A specific build of Tau has panned out well and competes well, as long as you follow that build. That was not due to deliberate planning by GW. It just so happened that some things took on a new light. Accidentally.
If 5th ed is to encourage us to buy [I mean use ;)] TROOPS, they need to make TROOPS worthwhile and not band-aid it by changing the ELITE we all know and love into one. *thumbs down*

Hopefully my points have been made without coming across rude - b&w can be brutal.

Kirby, you can do better than that!

Kirby said...

When you talk about changing units and building a codex, they cannot be done in isolation. Ever. A book needs internal balance which the Tau codex (and other old books like Eldar) do not have. Rending is not the answer. Just because Tau Troops have Rending doesn't mean I will now take them as they are still become a static unit or "hop out of devilfish and die." If they become static they need to be able to mobilise at the drop of a hat (so Devilfish would need to be changed) and be able to affected multiple unit types reliably and rending at RF range becomes too good (that's ~2 pens against AV11 & 12 for cheapish points).

Heavy drones don't make them into tacticals, especially if upgrades like Drone Harbinger/Controller or Mobilisation Experts/Land Gear come into play. It makes them play as a mobile part of a cohesive whole. Rending is a band-aid fix when the Fire Warriors role needs to be serioulsy reconsidered.

And whilst Crisis might become Troops in some cases, FoC changes can really make or break a codex as they allow that many more build options to the general. Look at Biker armies, Bloodwing, Loganwing, Tervigons, etc. Without those extra tid-bits, there'd be that fewer armies and each of these has the drawback of expensive units which are effectice as Troops. Easy target priority for your opponent and less points for you to play with.

Fishin' said...

Ahhhhh Fire Warrior's - they are just so damned....Cute.

As a long term Tau player I can truthfully say I hate them with a passion, in my honest opinion they are the worst Troops Selection (on a point for point basis) in the game.

You can see Games Workshops intent, these guys are supposed to be the backbone of our army, Taufully blowing away the enemies of the greater good as they advance towards our lines. There low leadership countered by the glowing prescence of our trusty bath robed clad Ethereal overlords, inspiring them to greatness and soldifying there ranks as the pathfinders light up there next pitiful victims..... Trouble is this is not the way any (even halfway) competent Tau Commander would consider playing Tau - Especially in 5th. Ethereals never see the battlefield, if you have Markerlights there are much better uses for them than marking targets for Fire Warriors, and your gallant lads have all the sticking power and consistentcy of a 2 year old being taught chaos theory.

What you are left with is a woefully ineffcient, points inefficent, low leadership basic troop choice which has very very little versatility or actual game use. Its one point of recomendation is that it carries a strength 5 gun (and thats easily replicated [and bettered] by pretty much every other unit in the Tau Army.

When you compare FW's to Kroot (the supposed cannon fodder of our army it gets even worse. For 7 points you get a model that has the same leadership and BS, but a better S, WS, A, I Characteristic and (as Kirkby says) in terms of damage output from firing have the same basic outlay on a points matching basis as the Fire Warriors. Ok - Kroot dont have a save, but they do have Cover Saves (MEQ in Woodland). In Game Terms they can screen, be assualt units (when played correctly for this role with Kroot Hounds), have multiple deployment options (OF, Inf, normal deployment etc) and have bigger squad sizes. You can even include Heavy Weapons in the squad with the Kroot Ox (ok its rubbish and no one uses it, but you CAN do it).

Kroot beat Fire Warriors in every single way as a consistent Effective Troops Choice, so it angers me immensely that I have to include Fire Warriors in my list.

You cant leave them on Foot, they die, and they are expensive. With a Basic Leadership of 7 you can pay 120 Pts for a unit of 12, and if you take 3 Wounds [not hard to achieve with a T3 4+ save model] you have a 45% chance of running away/falling back - you can boost that with a 'Ui, but then your paying 130 points for a Unit thats still effectively usless and has a 30% chance of running to 3 wounds.

So as Kirby says, the only option is to put them in a Fish and use the Fish as a scoring gunboat,with a minimum squad inside (just to make it scoring). The problem is that this still runs in at 140 Pts, and by the time you have added the Disruption Pod, Multi Tracker [and if like me the vehicle gun drones annoy you, SMS] to the Fish you are looking at 175 points - it can hold objectives, but its not points effcient - would anyone take it if they did not have to!

Damn I hate Fire Warriors.

As for fixing them, making them Cheaper and giving them a bigger squad size would be a start. As they are now they are not worth more than 5pts a model.

A "Stand and Fire" rule would be worthwhile, allowing them to rapid fire in the first round of CC (if assualted) rather than fight in HTH.

The added versatility of some sort of Heavy Weapons option (Rail Rifles, Heavy Drones, Anything really!) would also be a very welcome addition.

I think the Leadership issues will be looked at in general across any new Tau Codex, either in the form of Command Drones like Shadowsuns [dont get me started on her] or the actual inclusion of an effective Ethereal Choice that might actually see the table.

(if you had not noticed, I really really hate Fire Warriors lol - Yo the Kroot!)

Kris Keillor said...

My opinion:
Giving drones relentless across the board = great. Makes Fire Warriors viable tank killers when combined with seeker missiles. Improved seeker missiles that is, as the current ones suck.

Perhaps giving the Devilfish one fire point (cupola) would help, as you could fire a Shas'ui's markerlight from the top.

As said on Tau of War's blog, giving them the Stealth and Infiltrate rules (actually, giving it to all infantry - Kroot, Fire Warriors, and Pathfinders) would be awesome and VERY in character. Whoever said stealth is out of character- what? Tau are all about stealth. They're the stealthiest army there is!

I don't think increasing weapon power is the way to go. Just - no.

One idea I heard: Making Pathfinders the standard troops choice, rather than fire warriors. Has potential.

@Marshall Wilhelm: All burst weapons are pulse weapons - see the codex.

Roger said...

I think Fw only need two things to become useful infantry.
First, cost reduced to 8pt model (on average).

And second, change the pulse rifles from rapid fire to Heavy 2.

now i can see lots of people taking a couple of 10 fw team for forty 30" shots a turn. it even removes the need for a devilfish, and increases vastly his ability to hold on objectives.
it even fits in the fluff of TAU shooty tradition and disregard of close combat.

Roger said...

i've also think a good enhancement for Fw options migth be Flechette dischargers for infantry.

A good way for overcome it's lack of combat prowess without loosing on TAU spirit.

Grovel said...

You could always just make Pulse Rifles Assault 2 instead of Rapid Fire.

Another idea - give fire warriors a special rule that allows them to board a transport within 6" of every squad member during the assault phase.

Makes them really mobile and fairly long ranged fire support. Dart around in the devilfish, jump off, shoot something up and jump back in to do the same next game. Definitely fits with the Tau style of warfare, and makes them a unique and flavourful unit.

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