With all the new excitement surrounding the upcoming Farsight Enclaves Supplement, I thought I should finally sit down and write down my thoughts on the 6th Edition Tau Empire Codex.
Plentiful Options or Bland Gun-Line?
There seem to be more or less two opinions on the new Tau Codex out there.
On one hand people who love the new Tau book for the variety of options, wealth of unit synergies and the large choice of available units, with very few duds in the list. On the other hand people who complain that for all the seeming variety in the Codex, it always results in a bland gun-line that isn’t exciting to play (or play against).
While I admit that there may be a kernel of truth to the second argument (though I think it’s caused as much by the dynamics of Warhammer 40K 6th Edition in general, and not just the Tau Codex).
I am going to have to side with the first camp.
The 6th Edition Tau Empire Codex is – in my opinion – one of the best Codexes for the 6th Edition of Warhammer 40K. The Tau Codex (from my entirely subjective observation) spawned new (and revived old) Tau armies in way the Dark Angels Codex and Chaos Daemons Codex.. well.. didn’t.
Is the Tau Empire Codex perfect?
No, of course not. But does a lot more things right than it does wrong. There are a lot of cool ideas that went into the Tau Codex, over and above the shiny new units, such as the XV104 Riptide Suit.
Two points in particular make the new Tau Codex stand out as a supplement for the game (and by implication “the Hobby”) of Warhammer 40K.
I also talk about one aspect that I believe is responsible for much Tau criticism (as far as the game-play goes). But let’s start with the good!
#1 – Depth for Learning and Mastering the Army
For better or worse, a huge (HUGE!) part of Warhammer 40K is tinkering with your army-list, improving, testing, tinkering and optimizing. This was never more true than in 6th Edition. However, very few army lists for Warhammer 40K have pulled it off as good as the new Tau Empire Codex.
Like all 6th Edition Codexes, the Tau Codex offers an impressive amount of weapons and options:
- New weaponry, like the various Ion guns,
- the Signature Systems,
- the massive armoury of vehicle upgrades and Crisis Suit options,
- not to mention the various Drones!
Unlike, say, the Dark Angels Codex (Banner of Devastation top, Chapter Relics a flop), just about all options in the Codex are useful, yet none are so good you’ll find them in every Tau army.
The Tau Codex has an insane amount of bits, upgrades, options and unit-variants to work with, trying to find that extra edge for the next battle, and yet – despite the mind-blowing wealth of options – they all fall into place very nicely. They feel like meaningful options.
The Tau Codex gives you lots of meaningful choices to build your army, for many games to come.
What’s not to like about that?
#2 – Synergy and weaknesses
There is lots of interaction between different Tau units in a Tau army, which creates a very nice, satisfying “more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts” game-play-style on the table when all the parts come together.
Thanks to Markerlights in particular, synergy has always been a defining aspect of the Tau in Warhammer 40K since the first appeared on the scene. The new 6th Edition Codex improves upon the theme with rules like Supporting Fire, a complete overhaul of the Ethereal and new additions like the Cadre Fireblade.
Granted, Tau Empire isn’t the only Warhammer 40K army that allows you to build nice synergies. However, it does do it better than most. And while not every game with a Tau army is balanced on a razor’s edge they were with the old Codex in 5th Edition, very few Tau units have the all-round autonomy of, say, a pack of Space Wolves Grey Hunters.
You need to use those synergies to get the most from a Tau army, and everybody loves it when a plan comes together for the Greater Good!
Overall, when “light-up” the opponent with marker-light and lend each other supporting fire, the Tau feel very much like something approaching “modern warfare”, more than other armies in Warhammer 40K at least (loaded comparison, yes, but it’s what I get from them!).
#3 – Tau – The Eternal Gun-Line?
What’s the fly in the ointment?
I’ve seen people claim it to be the lack of diversity of Tau armies. Paraphrasing Henry Ford, the Tau can be any army you like, as long as it’s a gun line.
This, I believe, is exaggerating the issue, though the Tau Codex obviously misses the kind of FoC-swap options that allow very different armies and play-styles in other books, most notably the various Space Marine Codexes (e.g. Deathwing, Ravenwing, “Greenwing”, etc..).
That said, there is (A) variety in the Tau Army list (including the Farsight-variants, even without the rumoured Crisis-Suits-as-troops change coming to the supplement).
Not to mention that (B) thanks to allies, variety within a single Codex isn’t as crucial any more as it was in 5th Edition (though it is still nice to have). Where a Ravenwing player might have enjoyed the benefit of “dipping a bit into” Deathwing without buying a whole new army, 6th Edition allows most armies (poor Nids!) to do much the same across Codexes.
Two two armies will rarely be as different as a Ravenwing and a Deathwing army, true.
There’s still plenty of variety within the basic theme of the Tau army, enough certainly to try several very different approaches to the very broad stereotype of a “shooty army”.
#4 – The Verdict
I can’t help but think that the Tau Codex is one of the best entries into the 6th Edition line yet.
Obviously it revived a popular (but neglected) Warhammer 40K faction, added lots of new units and miniatures, and brought the entire army fast-forward to 6th Edition game-play (slightly flawed Flyers and all).
Doing so, the Codes really managed to keep with the spirit of the army, presents meaningful choice in the army list and has a lot of “depth” to dig into for Tau players to keep tinkering with and improving their army (and collection) far beyond the first few exciting games.
Far too often miniature games claim that they are easy to learn, but difficult to master. Far too often, Warhammer 40K arguably included, it feels more like the opposite. At least within Warhammer 40K, the Tau Codex can make a credible claim to that idea.
Let me know what do you think, now that Tau have settled a bit into the 40K community.
- What do you think about the arrival of the Tau in Warhammer 40K?
- Have you picked up a new Tau army?
- Have you dusted off an old Tau army?
- Have you been facing them more often on the table?
Leave a comment below!