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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tau Codex Review: Introduction & Drones


This is a new article series which will combine a codex review of Tau (since there is a lot of interest in them lately) and changes I think (or would like to see) would make the unit under review more usable and thus create for builds for the Tau army. Some of these changes might be simple whilst others (i.e. whole new rules) might be extremely complex. In no way am I trying to create a fan-dex here but rather REVIEW the Tau codex unit by unit and understand why most Tau units aren't used. This understanding follows on to potential changes to make them more viable. These articles will be complimentary to my Armies in 5th articles and How To on Tau which go into how to build and operate an effective Tau army in 5th edition. I want these articles primarily to review the current codex but also facilitate discussion on how to improve units which are sub-par and create multiple builds within a future codex. Who knows, GW might take a look (ha!) and include some of what we say (haha!).

I've already done articles on Stealth Suits, TX-42 and XV-9's (all linked) and they were rather easy to look at and establish some ideas for future changes. With the introduction post now out of the way we'll take a look at something a little more complex to 'fix.' Drones. Drones can be taken by nearly any unit and offer up what are essentially “cheap wounds” on the more expensive Crisis and Broadside battlesuits. They also take on a lot of their "controlling" unit's properties (especially the shield drones) which is a big plus. The first and major problem with Drones has to do with Tau's crap leadership. On the expensive squads where they are more useful (Broadsidses & Crisis), losing drones can cause your suits to run away in blind terror; not good. Furthermore, they aren't exactly cheap and often chew into your points which reduces the number of guns you have. This makes drones really only viable at 2250+ where you have maxed most of your FoC appropriately and have points to ‘spare.’

For other units like Fire Warriors or Pathfinders the Drones are as expensive or more expensive than themselves and generally worse, so why bother? Gun Drones are too expensive for a BS 2, TL’d gun w/T3 (hence Gun Drone squadrons are never seen even beyond the fact there are better choices in FA) and Markerdrones are way to expensive for one BS3 shot. This relegates drones to occasional appearances in lists (generally on Broadside teams), being dropped off Piranhas or higher point games.

The obvious changes are to make them cheaper (especially the Markerdrone) and have them not affect morale tests but they are never really going to be worth it as a seperate unit without serious changes. Adding in heavy weapons, specifically makerlights (but then make them more expensive...maybe 20pts? but would need BS 3) could do this. Whilst a squadron of these would be more expensive than Pathfinders, it would be more mobile and you wouldn't have to buy the Fish. We also have to make sure they are still balanced in other squads as well such as Fire Warriors and Crisis suits so additional heavy weapons like Missile Pods are out but perhaps Rail Rifles from Sniper Drone teams could be a viable choice. I still think Marker Light drones in some move & shoot capacity with heavy weapons are the best way to see more drones on the table whilst at the same time improving FW effectiveness but would need serious balancing. Otherwise not affecting morale is a simple yet massive change. No matter how many drones you kill, Tau will not flee unless you kill Tau.

Now that was the easy bit; I'm about to propose something more complex so if you're not into the who fans making up rules or whatever and just want to read reviews and basic changes...stop now.

For the majority I think they deserve to keep their current rule set, particularly the ability to fire from a vehicle as if passengers (very important). Next I think the Drone Controller needs to change. Every foot based Tau [not auxiliary] unit (including HQs) which takes up a FoC slot should be allowed to take up to 2 drone types with no equipment necessary. The drone controller is still an option for the 'leader' (we will assume GW will make Shas'uis/'Vres part of the basic squad cost) at 5pts which improves the Drone BS to the squad's BS. After some discussion with AbusePuppy we came up with the following. The same basic drones for line squads should also be kept but reduce their cost to 5/10/15 for infantry squads and  10/15/20 for jet pack squads (Gun/Shield/Marker) and have them all at BS2, WS1.

What this does is encourage more Drone usage by making them more accessible and generally cheaper but to get the full benefit you need a drone controller which mitigates their cost somewhat. Specifically this should encourage ML usage in more squads but is still an expensive prospect for Suits whilst not being hugely expensive for FWs. The problem with this is FWs still aren't going to be able to use those MLs unless they are on foot and if we make drones relentless no matter what, we'd have to up the points on the foot units. Let's try out something different (we'll also review Fire Warriors later).

I’m sure a lot of you have played Homeworld or DoW or any other games where a unit “releases” units around it aka: the Drone Harbinger. I propose Devilfish have a “Harbinger” upgrade (just call it a vehicle drone controller?) for 15pts which allows a any embarked squad's drones to move “with” the vehicle but still fire (following same rules as currently attached drones to vehicles). I think this emphasises the mobile aspect of 5th edition and the Tau army whilst actually making Fire Warriors a more viable choice.

What these changes attempt to do is encourage more drone use outside of high point games or simply being taken as a defensive upgrade for wound allocation purposes on Crisis or Broadside units and potentially making them a viable unit in their own right. Without changing the FW or Devilfish layout or points it has also made them more viable in the current environment and might encourage more FW use.

So what are your thoughts on either of these changes or even the Drone Harbinger concept and on Drones in general? Do you think there is an easy fix, do they need an overhaul or just a slight reduction in points?

3 pinkments:

Chumbalaya said...

Tauvigons would be cool.

I like the idea of drones a lot, finding ways to work them in across the FOC as cheap support would be great. Bring in the heavy drones from FW too.

Shas'O D'Narb said...

Good stuff. I've always loved the idea of adding a Drone Harbinger option to the codex. I played with the old VDR rules to see about playing something like that locally but you've hit on a nice and simple way to add them to a codex as an upgrade.

Personally, I'd like to see the existing Drone Sqn option enhanced by allowing it to mix drone types: gun, shield, sniper, marker.

Kirby said...

Ya Puppy and I were chatting and trying to find ways to abuse it (to make sure it's kinda balanced) and you could get an Ethereal, min FW squad, 4 ML drones in a DFish for a 4ML scoring DFish but that's... 300+ pts atm (assuming also the Ethereal is 'fixed'). Otherwise you do have a toss up between ML drone squads or PF with their own benefits, etc.

Chumb, which IA are the drones in?

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