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Friday, December 24, 2010

Comparison: Tau Fire Warriors and Kroot Carnivores

The much maligned Fire Warrior. In the real 40k world, these guys are generally frowned upon for not bringing anything to the table and have resulted in ridicule such as this by VT2 or negative reviews such as this. Yet people still maintain they are effective (and down-right deadly) Troop choice for a Tau army. So let’s do a down and dirty comparison with the other Troop choice for Tau, Kroot. These guys are the exact opposite of Fire Warriors in terms of use and liking by the players. Those who say Fire Warriors suck generally love Kroot and vice versa. Whilst we’ve done a post before on alternatives for Kroot (i.e. model wise) this post is comparing the two choices in terms of use on the table-top.

Both Troops aren’t that expensive when compared to Marines. Kroot are a paltry 7 points and have the option for even cheaper Hounds (6 pts) whilst Fire Warriors are still a serviceable 10 points. However, compared to the new Kabalite Warrior from DE which is 9 points and whilst their shooting isn’t as good against T3 or worse infantry and can’t damage tanks with their basic guns, their statline is infinitely better and they can take special/heavy weapons. This is one of the major drawbacks for both Tau Troops, the inability to take special or heavy weapons. This relegates both units to an anti-infantry role which the Tau army as a whole generally does quite well. Oddly enough, both of these units are on par in terms of actual anti-infantry ability. Whilst Fire Warriors are obviously better with their S5 guns, the cheaper cost of Kroot brings an equal number of points onto the same level as Fire Warrior shooting against infantry targets. Whilst Fire Warriors are obviously better against higher T targets, have mildly better range and have some minor applicability against AV10/11 vehicles, in terms of raw output against infantry targets via shooting, these units are quite similar.

Kroot however have their in-built bonuses. Although their save is terrible (read; non-existent), thanks to the 5th edition cover system Kroot essentially get a free 4+ save from shooting. Add in a forest and that becomes a 3+ save and going to ground will improve either of those by 1. For 7/6 points a model you could be getting a 2+ save. That’s pretty amazing. This makes Kroot an excellent defensive unit in terms of parking themselves in front of an army and delaying opponent’s from getting to the main Tau army. Whilst they will most certainly die, the combination of being in cover, I5 Hounds and being somewhat decent in combat means they aren’t going to roll over and simply die like Fire Warriors. Add in Infiltrate and their defensive prowess mounts as they can deploy further away from the main Tau army to give it more room to manoeuvre, layer multiple squads so they are harder to assault on the same turn and provide more alpha strike defense. Furthermore, against static armies where this defense is not needed and they can outflank and put pressure on more static armies.

The Kroot of the Future. ->

Kroot there have a clearly defined role and are much better at it compared to Fire Warriors. They are cheaper so can cover a bigger area, gain a greater benefit from cover having not paid for a save and having Stealth in forests, have more deployment flexibility with infiltrate and can do some damage before dying in combat. Fire Warriors can do this defensive layering job as well but are unable to cover as large an area but do not have to rely on cover as much. The main reason for taking them would be to improve your firepower but as pointed out above, there isn’t really much difference in terms of anti-infantry firepower provided by the two separate units. The Kroot are therefore much better in this role.

However, Fire Warriors have one final potentially useful option which the Kroot do not have: a dedicated transport. Whilst this makes them very expensive (10pts a model + a base 80 point transport) it gives the Fire Warriors some needed mobility to make the most of their high strength guns (get into side armor arcs and within rapid fire range of weak infantry) and added protection. Whilst the cost again is prohibitive (even a cheap fish is 85 points whilst a decked out and capable fish is 120) the major limitation of this option is it brings Fire Warriors closer to the enemy. You’re essentially doing half the work of the opponent as you make your shooting units vulnerable. Whilst the combination of makerlights and rapid firing S5 guns can be potent, you’re still only killing 4 Marines on average (though this gets substantially better against 5+ units where you can remove cover via Markerlights). This is assuming two Markerlight hits and even using self-blocking (i.e. two Devilfish), the Fire Warriors are very vulnerable to return fire and templates. Whilst they aren’t any more vulnerable than Kroot, the Kroot are essentially designed to die and have delayed the opponent whilst the Fire Warriors have moved towards the opponent and exposed themselves.

Essentially, this tactic (also called Fish of Fury) is quite expensive and whilst very good against T3/5+ units (10 FW with 5 ML hits will kill roughly 14 GEQs), it’s still an expensive and risky proposition and anti-infantry is generally not an issue for Tau armies. Although it’s a definitive role for the Fire Warriors over the Kroot as they cannot take a dedicated transport (though Kroot can still hijack a transports from Pathfinders but the expense of FW come into play here as their improved guns overcome the Kroot’s), it's not really a role Fire Warriors are needed for in the Tau army. Fire Warriors are also capable of providing Markerlight support with a ML on the team leader and two Marker Drones and is a role I would like to see the Fire Warriors become better at in their new codex. However, whilst Fire Warriors can clearly play a support role with this setup, it is once again expensive and done more efficiently by other choices (i.e. Pathfinders or even Stealth suits who can move and fire the MLs).

Compared to the Kroot the Fire Warrior is a more mobile and more effective anti-infantry unit. Whilst the mathammer indicates a Kroot squad of comparable points is roughly equal, the ability for those FW to hop into a Devilfish (the Kroot cannot as there would be too many models), S5 and 30" range gives them better utility against troops with some duality against MCs and Vehicles. However, in comparison to the rest of the Tau arsenal, there are much better units such as Crisis Suits and Hammerheads which do better anti-infantry jobs by not exposing themselves to return fire and not requiring a Devilfish and also have better duality in being quite good at anti-tank. The Kroot on the other hand have a clearly defined role as a cheap delay unit which can score with multiple deployment options. Whilst they have some effective anti-infantry potential with their shooting and assault prowess (for Tau), they are primarily a cheap screen to ensure the main Tau army operates at peak efficiency. They do this job very well.

Overall, the Fire Warriors suffer in not having a role they do better than anything else in comparison to the army or not being good at lots of little things (like Tactical squads). This generally relates to them not having options to special/heavy weapons (or drones), being very static without a Devilfish and being quite expensive when these things are added (Devilfish, bodies, drones, etc.). Whilst the Kroot aren't a fantastic unit (Guardsmen with a save are 3 points cheaper!) they serve the Tau army well and aren't being shoehorned into a role they aren't really equipped for.

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