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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tau Codex Review: Hammerheads

The second part of the common Tau Heavy Support layout, the Hammerhead is often a great compliment to Broadside teams. Not only does it bring an extra railgun to the table but that railgun is capable of impressive anti-infantry shooting with a 5" blast option as well. Ultimately this compliments the anti-tank role of the Broadsides very well and provides the Tau army with more anti-infantry at range whilst still having the option of a S10 AP1 shot if necessary. Let's break this down further to further understand why this layout of the Hammerhead is far more common and analyse the options (including the Forge World turrets).

To begin with the Hammerhead is an AV13 front armor skimmer tank. Given the range of the majority of its weapons and the durability of the vehicle damage chart, this makes Hammerheads particularly tough to crack at range. The tank is also large enough to hide units such as Crisis suits which can JSJ behind for LoS blocking or at the minimum, cover. The Hammerhead comes with a targeting array which raises the BS to 4 and makes it that bit more reliable compared to the rest of the Tau army. There are a couple of upgrades which are essentially mandatory we'll cover for the Hammerhead now. These are the multi-tracker and disruption pod which allow the Hammerhead to move faster whilst still being able to fire (important for getting clear shots or re-mobilising) and guarantee that cover save at range. For a paltry amount of points, these upgrades add necessary mobility and defensive abilities and are hard to overlook.

The rest of the upgrades are generally less worth it. The target lock is useful for splitting fire from the two weapon systems (particularly when using a turret as anti-tank). Like the rest of Tau tanks though, the other options are basically points filler. They can be useful in particular situations (i.e. flechette dischargers in combat) but not necessary upgrades and the points are often better spent elsewhere.

Let's look at the weapon options then. There are three secondary weapon system options and six turret options with the Forge World options included. With the recent FAQ change, the gun drone option for the Hammerhead is more reasonable but since it's the same point cost as the Smart Missile System and twice as much as the Burst Cannons, pretty crappy. Keep the Drones on the Devilfish or Piranhas really. The choice then becomes between the Burst Cannons and the SMS and is more often than not going to be based on points. The Burst Cannons are cheaper with more shots but you have to move slower to shoot them and they have 6" less range which is pretty important for Hammerhead survivability. The SMS has more shots on the move (counting as a single weapon system) and the important extra 6" range. In the end though it's generally a matter of points. If one is tight on points, Burst Cannons are more commonly seen on the Hammerheads whilst if not, SMS is a great option due to that 24" range. Either way both of these systems add to the anti-infantry potential of the Hammerhead.

In the normal codex you only have the Ion Cannon and Railgun options for the Hammerhead and the Railgun, despite being a staggering 50 points, wins out quite handily. Although the Ion Cannon offers up something the rest of the Tau codex cannot field (S7 AP3), this type of firepower is readily available from MP/PR Crisis Suits and the expense you pay for three of those shots is pretty steep. In 5th edition where cover saves are so common, this makes the IonHead a lot less effective against infantry and without AP1, only so-so as a transport popper. The Railgun on the other hand brings fantastic anti-infantry and decent anti-tank. S10 AP1 would seem the height of anti-tank but it is a single shot which hits on a 3+. In other words, 33% of the time your 150+ point tank will do jack crap. This is why the Hammerhead is an anti-infantry platform first with the option as anti-tank if necessary.

The Forge World turrets offer some interesting options and potential changes in the future codex which we'll look at now. These turrets are simply larger versions of the 'regular' Tau weapons including the Burst Cannon, Plasma Gun, Missile Pod and Fusion Blaster. The Burst Cannon and Plasma Gun options for the Hammerhead are terrible. There's no increase in rate of fire and the extra range isn't fantastic. Considering the total point cost of the Hammerhead these options really need an increase in rate of fire (i.e. Heavy 2-3 blast for Plasma, Heavy 6-8 for Burst Cannon) to be considered worth it. The Missile Pod and Fusion Blaster options however have some merit. The Fusion Blaster turret is basically a Devil Dog turret but twin-linked. This makes it pretty reliable as anti-tank with AP1 and although not on a fast platform or super cheap (120 points base), it would give the Tau army some different options in their Heavy Support. The Missile Pod turret on the other hand is basically turning the Hammerhead into a Rifledread but with AV13 and the secondary weapon system. Not bad but I would prefer to see the range increased to 48" and a potential increase in strength (up to 8) considering the extra cost the Hammerhead will ultimately pay over a Rifledread. Again however, this option would free up the rest of the Tau Force Organisation slots for other options and give the Tau codex some variety.

So what changes would we like to see? I'd certainly like the extra turret options to be included and a price reduction across the board (how often have we said this?). Rather than the total tank cost being between 150-170 points, I'd prefer to see something around 120-150 points. This of course depends how the Railgun is changed if at all. According to rumors, the railgun is being improved to being capable of destroying multiple tanks in a line (ala Blood Lance). If this is true I think the ~170 price tag for a Railgun equipped Hammerhead is appropriate. For the other options however, a point reduction is necessary and those extra turret options really open up the Force Organisation chart for other options.

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