Tau XV88 Broadside Suits: Are Heavy Rail Rifles Useful?

Warhammer Tau Empire XV88 Broadside Suit

Tau XV88 Broadside painted by Tomas Persifal Pekar

Tau XV88 Suits – Broadsides – are one of the Tau Empire units that got both an awesome new plastic kit and a bunch of interesting new options with the new 6th Edition Tau Empire Codex.

As I am tinkering around with the new Tau Codex for Warhammer 40K, I drafted a first Tau army list build around two Riptides – just because I love the new giant monster-suits!

I did get a bit lazy with the Heavy Support though, including two different XV88s for the sake of diversity: One XV88 with High-Yield Missile Pods (HYMP) for suppression fire and one XV88 with a Heavy Rail Rifle (HRR) and Velocity Tracker for Vehicle/Flyer-sniping duty.

The more I think on it, however, the more I wonder: Are Heavy Rail Rifles even worth the bother?

#1 – Broadside Battlesuits Old and New

In the previous Tau Codex, XV88 Broadsides were a near-must-have. With twin-linked 72″ Str. 10 AP1 Railguns, they even took some thunder from the Railhead, mainly because they were more accurate (thanks to twin-linking). Some (no missing) upgrades like the lovingly nick-named ASS (Advanced Stabilisation System) also gave them more mobility than today’s Broadsides.

The “relative” nerf of Railguns to HRR, compared with the fearsome new option of HYMPs, clearly put a dent into the Rail-weaponry armed Broadside.

Still, Broadsides with HRRs should have three distinct advantages over their HYMP-cousins:

  • Str. 8
  • AP 1
  • 60″ Range

#2 – Strengths of the Heavy Rail Rifle Broadsides

Let’s look at each of these strengths in turn (with an eye towards the HYMP-alternative).

Str. 8

The main advantage of Str. 8 is the potential to one-shot T4 characters (without Look Out Sir!). Than again, few characters of that class fail to bring an invulnerability save to the table, so I don’t see Broadsides being taken for that particular task.

Against vehicles, the HYMPs’ weight of fire certainly more than makes up for the lower Str.

Against AV12, a lone HRR Broadside will hit 75% of the time (twin-linked, no cover), scoring a glancing hit (4+) or better 37.5% of the time. A team of three will strip ~1 hull point per turn.

A HYMP-Broadside, in contrast, will land 3 hits on average (twin-linked), giving you roughly one glancing hit (5+) a turn per suit. A team of three should strip a vehicle of ~3 hull points with some reliability. The HYMP obviously does even better for AV11 and AV10 vehicles.


The HYMP may be the weapon of choice to glance enemy transports to death. The HRR, of course, has AP1 on its profile, making for far more potent rolls on the Vehicle Damage Table.

Nevertheless, using the same AV12 example as above, an unsupported broadside will only score a penetrating hit 25% of the time, followed by an Explodes! result on a 4+ roll.

In short, the hull-point-stripping powers of the HYMP still seem vastly superior.

60″ Range

It’s not 72″ anymore, but range is still the biggest advantage of Rail-weaponry for Broadsides.

The HYMP-Broadside needs to move into 36″ range to be effective. Not always a great idea as…

  • Broadsides are terrible in close combat (hey, they are Tau!)
  • Broadsides have no Jetpacks, meaning no relentless, and thus lose a turn of shooting if they need to reposition themselves
  • Broadsides are – thanks to the loss of ASS – arguably the one Tau Empire unit that become less mobile with 6th Edition

A clear victory for the Heavy Rail Rifle! Hurray!

But is it really?

A HYMP-equipped team of Broadsides may lose a turn or two of shooting compared to a well-placed HRR-equipped team. Perhaps because they need to get into range first. Perhaps because they need to reposition themselves. Perhaps even because they get taken out by an Assault unit.

So what?

If HYMP-Broadsides are nearly three-times as effective as the HRR-Broadsides in taking down vehicles, it doesn’t matter if they lose a turn or two, no? And that doesn’t even cover better synergies with a Broadside’s secondary weapon-systems or missile drones.

#3 – Are Heavy Rail Rifles Really Useless?

The more I think on it, the more I feel the Heavy Rail Rifles are a bit of a waste for the Tau in Warhammer 40k 6th Edition (which is a pity, as the model is plain awesome).

  • Do you agree?
  • Did I miss some secret trick?
  • Have you been able to get some good mileage out of the HRR?

Let me know what you think in the comments below!




I am Zweischneid. Wargame Addict. Hopeless painter and founder of Pins of War. I hope you enjoyed this article. Don't forget to share your favourite miniature pictures and wargaming videos at www.pinsofwar.net.
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  • kaptinscuzgob

    if youre going to use rail rifles on your broadsides, i really would recommend having a commander with the puretide chip join them, so they can get tankhunters and re-roll their armour penetration rolls.

    • http://pinsofwar.net/ Zweischneid

      That would work.

      Seems like a huge waste of a commander though. Over 100 points and HQ slot gone for a few re-rolls. And the commander is stuck with a foot-slogging, non-relentless back-field unit.

      If I have that commander with a Puretide chip, he’d probably make a lot more milage in a Crisis team with some Fusion Blasters, etc.., no?

      • kaptinscuzgob

        just a suggestion to boost the use of rail rifles, but i agree he would be better with crisis suits
        if you want to spend even more points, you could give him the sensor suite so the broadsides can ignore those cover saves that skimmers and fliers get

        my friend has them set up this way: 2 rail broadsides with velocity trackers, and the commander joins them with the puretide chip and sensor suite. and then he has the commander manning a quad-gun. the commander uses the quad-gun to intercept, and then in the tau shooting phase uses the MSS to help the broadsides. it knocks most flyers out of the air pretty easily.

  • palakir

    When it comes to the gaming side, I just can’t find a reason to take the Heavy Rail Rifle over the HYMP, but my only broadside team will still be with Heavy Rail Rifle. Just for the reason that they look badass with this huge weapon.

  • Fio’el

    My personal feeling is that Broadsides with Heavy Rail Rifles have been replaced by the Ion Accelerator upgrade for the Riptide. It packs a slightly less powerful punch without the overcharge but makes up for it with the old range that hits the whole table, relentless, J-S-J, deepstrike capable (or infiltrate with Shadowsun), and has 3 shots. That’s all before comparing the nova reactor. HRR follows the same usefulness as its previous incarnation: taking out heavily armored targets (especially tanks and transports). The Ion Accelerator with a Nova Charge can easily pop any AV12 transport and can usually take out an AV13 pretty quickly if you are using your army to the fullest potential. This leaves the highest armored targets open for your Hammerhead to punch through.

    Summary for those of you who don’t want to read:

    Broadsides are now best used as high shot count units to provide zone protection against infantry or fliers. Riptides and Railheads are best used to eliminate heavily armored enemies.

    *Note: attaching a commander with a PEN to a Riptide (legal until FAQ forbids it) will allow the riptide to tear through enemy tanks and monstrous creatures.

  • Astronate

    We’re playing in a game where the best anti-aircraft is stock-standard S7…. Get three Broadsides, 2 x HRR and one with TLHY Missile launcher OR vice versa, add the intercept and skyfire options and you’ve got yourself a until your opponent is going to be afraid of getting off a reserve roll before it’s been dealt with.

    Sure, unsupported it’s not as good, but who takes unsupported Broadsides? The Tau strength is their versatility and adaptability to any style of war. Keep you Broadsides as your anti-flyer/light-to-med vehicle and you’re already controlling a massive portion of your opponent’s strategems

  • Spjungen

    The new broadside paradigm truly was a castration in my mind, and the closest gaming equivalent of dirty cocktease I think we will ever see in this game…to put it bluntly, the broadside model is actually rapeable in how incredibly awesome it looks.

    It is simply insubstantial. As I mentioned in my review of this codex, it’s a bigger model that does LESS…the name of the game used to be to find a balcony or high ledge somewhere, stick three of these there and just snipe tanks. Now that the model is dreadnought-sized you can no longer do that, but what REALLY kills instead of complementing its larger size with better weaponry and survivability its weaponry is in fact WEAKER.

    These guys should’ve been toughness 5, to begin with. Secondly, the rail rifle should’ve been armorbane…that or at least let it roll an extra D3 so that it can ALMOST compete with the railgun…that or the unit should’ve had tank hunters by default (yes, I KNOW about the microchip, but that’s needed with shadowsun’s outflanking search-and-destroy deathstar), OR, they should’ve come hard-wired with skyfire; these guys, plain and simple, should’ve been a reliable long-range tank/flyer-hunting unit in their own right. As it stands, they’re an overpriced unit that needs a tremendous amount of support (either a commander with the support goodies or tons of markerlights) to work properly. Each one of them should be able to kill a vehicle with one round of shooting…because they can’t do that, and have no 2+ armor drones or high toughness to make them more survivable, they simply fail in my book.

    The venerable hammerhead on the other hand is now the only source of S10 we have in the book, and it’s as good as ever at doing what it does best; one-shotting most things below armor 13, especially with longstrike in there (who is a MUST-have). I plan on running three now in most of my lists, with longstrike in one of them, and no broadsides.
    Plus, the model still looks as good as it ever has and is still the “come at me brah” mainstay of tau, although the riptide (which I LOVE) is quite menacing and intimidating.

    Those are my thoughts…the inability to use an INCREDIBLY well-designed new model because its performance is mediocre truly is disappointing…if I ever did take broadsides as they are now it’d be with missiles, as I find that loadout more deadly simply as a high-strength volume of fire choice for use against general massed targets (whether it be lots of orks, lots of marines, etc).