T’au Codex Review: Part 1, Septs

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So the new T’au codex has dropped, and followers of the Greater Good everywhere are pouring over its pages desperately trying to work out the newest, salty-tear-inducing-obnoxious-rule-bending build that they can conquer the competitive world with. If that is you, then this review probably isn’t for you.

For my own part, I just wanted to offer some humble observations and impressions on the new codex (WTF COMMANDER LIMIT!?), in a calm mannered, optimistic way (THE SKY IS FALLING!) that may or may not offer some insight into the strengths and weaknesses (WHY DOES GW HATE T’AU SO MUCH?) of the new T’au and how they may be employed in a fluffy and effective manner (IT’S ALL REECE’S FAULT!!!) to the enjoyment of all.

Part 1- Sept Goodies – Tenets, Warlord Traits, Signature Systems and Stratagems

The new Tenets rules (Chapter tactic equivalents for all you filthy Imperials out there) for T’au allow you to build a very fluffy army either around your favourite Sept from the fluff, or to complement the style you like to play. They also allow a good bit of variety for those who like to change things up every now and then (just like their space marine counterparts). There are six septs covered in the new codex, as well as some Empire wide rules that will look familiar to most T’au players;


Empire wide Rules:

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For the Greater good:  Units within 6” of a charged unit may fire overwatch too, but cannot fire overwatch again that turn

No change here, the bedrock of most T’au list since before they were just Tau.

Warriors of the Greater Good:  Obsec for all troops in battleforged army (except drones)

Standard fair for new codices, always nice to give the troops a bit more worth in games.

Commander Limit (matched plat only): Only one Commander per detachment

Now I have never played commander spam, and I recognize that it was supposedly a problem with some of the more hyper competitive lists out there, but in my opinion this is a grossly unfair and disproportionate rule change that leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. No other faction is subject to such limitations of non-unique characters, and yet are spammed with much more regularity and effectiveness (looking at you Grey Knight Grand-Master-Dreadknight-thingamajig).

From a fluff perspective, it is absolutely the right thing to do, as you are never likely to get more than one commander at the head of a cadre, but given that fact that he is more of an ‘I got this!’ commando style character, rather than a buffing character (as he should be), the design ethos of the T’au HQ seems to be against this on a fundamental level. The limit also hurts T’au as they have a lack of non-commander characters anyway, and makes ‘the 8’ from Farsight Enclaves impossible to field in matched play (which is the majority of games in my experience).

However, that debate is not as simple as breifly outlined here, and is probably a whole ‘nother article in itself…

Note on Ethereals:  Cannot be drawn from the Farsight Enclaves (FSE)

I’m not sure this was ever clarified before, and the rules as written in the new codex make a bit of a hash of it, but I would read this as not being allowed to give ethereals the <Sept> FSE, and therefore take them in an FSE detachment. Very much in keeping with the fluff and therefore a welcome addition to the rules.


Septworlds:

Six Septworlds now have their own Warlord Trait, Tenet, Stratagem and Signature system (see Relic) to give them a unique and (supposedly) fluffy feel on the table top.

T’au:

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T’au Sept Warlord Trait: Strength of Belief, 5+ save against Mortal Wounds

None too shabby, and will help when being Smited to death, but a bit situational. Not sure about its fluffiness, but anything that helps your warlord survive is welcome though.

T’au Sept Tenet: Coordinated Fire Arcs – When a unit fires overwatch whilst they are within 6” of a friendly T’au Sept unit, a 5 or 6 is require for a successful hit roll.

So the core sept get a buff to their arguably the core T’au ability to reflect the background of the race, and for me works quite well in that respect.  This is obviously a big boost for a faction that wants to do anything but be in combat, and will help whittle down the enemy before they get into assault. Combined with the covering fire from the Greater Good ability, as well as buffs from ethereal and fire cadres, it means nests of fire warriors from T’au sept are going to be very difficult to take down in assault (or at the very least casualty heavy). Adding in any rerolls and the pain is going to be meted out many fold, especially to smaller, more elite focused assault armies.

T’au Sept Stratagem: Focused Fire (3CP) – After a T’au Sept unit inflicts an unsaved wound in the shooting phase, you can add 1 to wound rolls for any other T’au Sept units from your army that target the same enemy unit this phase.

This is pretty great I think, both fluff and rule wise, and is reflected in the expensive CP cost. See this as being the new go to way of dealing with Primarchs, monsters and big tanks. Has a lot of synergy with how T’au play – focusing down threats one at a time – and you could almost build a list around this to deal with certain armies (looking at you Knights).

T’au Signature System: Vectored Maneuvering Thrusters (Battlesuit only) – Model can move 6″ after shooting.

Ah, the very limited return of Jump-Shoot-Jump. Can be used defensively to keep you Commander out of trouble after he has laid down his punishing fusillade, or can be used aggressively to reduce charge range as it does not prevent you from doing so. Good for shutting down shooty units in the backfield, but there are better systems suited to aggressive play.


Bork’an:

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Bork’an Sept Warlord Trait: Seeker of Perfection – For each hit rolled by your warlord, +1 to wound for that hit

Quite nice and sort of fluffy, it would be great on a Quad Fusion Commander, but only if you are brave enough to put him that close to the danger. Maybe better on a Coldstar, or possibly Quad Missile Commander to allow you to keep him out of trouble in the back but make use of it (though the cost of the latter is rather staggering).

Bork’an Sept Tenet: Superior Craftsmanship – Add 6” to the maximum range of any Rapid Fire and Heavy Weapons

Wow. This might be the winner as far as Sept Tenets go. Ties into the technological advancement of the Bork’an Septs weapons research, this gives almost every unit a boost, from Fire warriors to Plasma Crisis, Broadsides to Riptides. While 6” may not sound like much, it also increases the double tap range of the rapid fire weapons, making the kill zones around fire warrior nests or Manta striking Crisis that much more deadly. Also gives the markerlights a bit more reach, which is never a bad thing.

Bork’an Sept Stratagem: Experimental Weaponry (1CP) – Use when firing a weapon with random number of attacks (e.g. D6), you can reroll one dice

Nice but not mind blowing, it will save your generic reroll stratagem for a damage roll in the same turn if the dice are particularly against you.

Bork’an Signature System: Plasma Accelerator Rifle – replaces Plasma Rifle with 30″ RF1 S7 AP-3 2D

A nice upgrade, and benefits from the extra 6” of the bork’an sept tenet, so has good reach as well. Probably still prefer to take CIB or Fusion on your commander, but if you are strapped for points (or just like taking plasma teams, like me) then a worthy upgrade.


Dal’yth:

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Dal’yth Sept Warlord Trait: Gunship Diplomat  – Kroot and Vespid gain for the Greater Good while within 12″ of your Warlord

Slightly strange one this, and not just fluff wise.  If your kroot are bubble wrapping (which they really should be), then your T’au units will be able to supporting fire them if they are charged anyway, while the vespids should be off harassing enemy units well away from your warlord.

Very situational, but it may encourage bold and exciting new builds I guess? Doesn’t say ‘wholly within’ so maybe some daisy chaining shenanigans for massed kroot around a cadre fireblade or ethereal?  Might also have some legs as a horde of kroot rolling across the table sucking in close combat units while the backline plinks away.

Dal’yth Sept Tenet: Adaptive Camouflage – Units that do not move gain the benefit of cover

A slightly better reflection of the Sept from the fluff perspective, and a good tenet to boot.  Obviously suits gunlines or static long range shooting builds (stormsurges, railsides, hammerheads, etc) and can even be used by forward moving units, as you get it whenever anything decides to stop for a turn – any manta striking units that drop onto objectives (and survive a turn) will be harder to dig out in subsequent turns.

Dal’yth Sept Stratagem: Strike and Fade (1CP) – Unit can shoot and then move up to 6” as if it were the movement phase

Quite nice, another semi-return of Jump-Shoot-Jump but not just for suits now. Will help keep squishy units out of melee trouble, or allow you to capture the objective you have just shot your opponent off of.  Also doesn’t seem to prevent charging, so if you are feeling brave…

Dal’yth Signature System: Dynamic Mirror Field, -1 to hit bearer

Most characters protect themselves by not being the closest model to their opponents, so this will best suit aggressive models – once again, the coldstar commander comes to the fore, although any commander will benefit as they are mostly offensive in some way. Might also be useful if you think you might be facing a lot of snipers and want to make double sure your squishy ethereal is safe in the back field.


Vior’la:

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Vior’la Sept Warlord Trait: Academy Luminary – If your Warlord has Master of War, Volley Fire or Failure is not an Option ability, the range of that ability is increased to 9″ and you can an additional CP for being battle-forged

Another nice fluff tie in  that reflects the fire warrior academies stature on the Septworld, but I feel it will encourage castling up (fire warrior nests) and static gunlines more than advancing, aggressive play – which is in contrast to the feel of the rest of the Vior’la traits (as well as the fluff). However, it works well on Aun’shi, and a rolling blob of breachers in devilfishes with him backing up could be scary.  Extra CP is also always welcome.

Vior’la Sept Tenet: Strike Fast – When unit advances, treat Rapid fire weapons as assault. Also, no to hit penalty for firing assault weapons.

Very in keeping with the aggressive stance of the sept, it will favour lists that want to get right up in the enemies face, giving the T’au increased mobility while being able to put down consistent fire. Big winners from this are probably Stealth suits, fire warriors, plasma crisis, Ghost Keel. Piranhas and Coldstars.

Vior’la Sept Stratagem: Hot Blooded (2CP) – Infantry unit can shoot twice this phase but must target the closest enemy unit each time.

Quite fluffy in the way it is worded, and anything that allows you to shoot twice is great for making sure that thing that has to absolutely die when you get the chance DOES, but the limit to ‘infantry’ means no suit bigger than a stealth suit is going to benefit. Might work nicely with breachers, but the further restriction of being against the closest unit seems a bit harsh considering it is 2 CPs.

Vior’la Signature System: Thermoneutronic Projected – Replaces flamer for 8″ Assault D6 S6 AP -1 2D automatically hits weapon

Not bad, useful for targeting opposition who rely on penalties to hit or reinforcing the overwatch gunline. Might best be employed on a Coldstar (being assault you can move 40″ and still use it) but by the same measure is a bit of a waste of the commanders 2+ BS.


Sa’cea:

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Sa’cea Sept Warlord Trait: Beacon of Honour – Friendly Sa’cea unit within 6″ reduced the number of models that flee by 1

Pretty poor as a reflection of the Septs ‘honourable nature’ but also as a special rule, as most T’au units can mitigate morale losses through squad sizes

Sa’cea Sept Tenet: Calm Discipline – +1 to LD. In addition, during the shooting phase you can reroll one failed hit for each unit

Again i don’t really see how this reflects the Septs background, but as a rule I really like this one. It’s a watered down version of the Salamanders trait, but really suits certain builds that I enjoy playing (i.e. Single Railside units). It will also help whiff-prone units like Hammerheads keep their average up, while markerlights dotted in fire warrior squads can now reliably start the markerlight cascade. Also allows you to save your CP for rerolling wounds and damage rolls.

Sa’cea Sept Stratagem: Orbital Marker Distribution Uplink (2CP) – Pick an enemy unit visible to a character; that unit and all units within 6” gain a markerlight counter.

Again, does not really give the Sept a flavour that reflects in their background, but Wow! Free markerlights are never to be sniffed at, and getting a whole bunch on units packed closely together is a real boon. 2CP is a bit steep, but it can really punish tightly packed in hordes or gunlines/parking lots.

Sa’cea Signature System: Grav-Inhibitor Field – subtract 2″ from charge distance if declared as a charge

Looks good on the surface, and even better when you consider that it stacks with the Grav-Inhibitor Drone (5” reduction in total) but is easily circumvented by not charging the character directly, unless he is on his own, in which case he is all kinds of trouble anyway and this probably won’t help him much. Really needed to be ‘and units within 6” or some such to make it worthwhile.


Farsight Enclaves (FSE):

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FSE Sept Warlord Trait: Hero of the Enclaves  – Heroic intervention for 6″ and re-roll hits in combat during Heroic intervention or charges.

What?! This is ludicrous, even for fool hardy courageous FSE heroes. The only way this is a good idea is if you are running Farsight himself or are planning on surprising your opponent with a couple of fusion blades to the face. Either way, only for the brave -and in that respect, a great reflection of the rebels Sept fluff.

FSE Sept Tenet: Devastating Counter Strike – Reroll 1’s to hit for shooting attack against enemies within 6”

Ok, so once more only really for the foolish brave this one. While I like its concept, it really doesn’t sit very well with the FSE ‘Crisis heavy’ theme, as the manta strike can only get them within 9” of an enemy unit, and so this isn’t going to come into play until the turn after they arrive or when they inevitably get charged. I look forward to seeing how people work out their deployment shenanigans to get the crisis drop into 6” range!

FSE Sept Stratagem: Drop zone Clear (2CP) – Choose a Battle suit unit that was setup using manta strike ability this turn and add 1 to hit rolls for that unit.

Pretty dang good for your crisis boys dropping in to clear the enemy out, and great that it reflect the aggressive style of the FSE.  If you can get the right unit with the right loadout into the tenet range then it could be utterly devastating.

Farsight Enclaves Signature System: Fusion Blades – replaces two fusion blasters to provide 2 S8 AP-4 D6D combat attacks.

Fusion Blades are back! Wohoo! Since Fusion Blasters are already a popular weapon on Commanders, there is really no reason not to take this as they add an additional dimension of lethality to an already strong unit. Since they are normally played aggressively and can often end up in combat, it can be quite a nasty surprise for your opponent. But most importantly, they are just super cool.


Summary

So there we have it, some great stuff in there that will take a lot of time (and even more play) to digest fully. The Sept Tenets are very fluffy on the whole, while the Stratagems seem to be better more hit and miss both fluffwise and as rules. The warlord traits are probably the weakest part overall, although some are still pretty great.

The stand outs for me are Bork’an and Sa’cea, with FSE close behind for people wanting t run suit heavy manta strike lists.  T’au is also solid, but Vior’la and Dal’yth will take a bit more finesse to play well.  However, I truly do believe they can all be made to work for the right list, and in very distinctive ways on the tabletop, which is great for all T’au players as we now have a plethora of choices available to us.

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