After trying to digest the 6th Edition rulebook and reading through the new FAQs, I’ve started formulating how my Tau playstyle is likely to change in this new edition. Since I haven’t played a 6th Edition game yet, this is all theoryhammer at this point, but I think the basic ideas are sound.
Fire Warriors are better.
Thanks to the changes to shooting, Fire Warriors got a much-needed boost. They can fire their pulse rifles on the move at full range, and their rapid fire range has increased to 15″, making them able to rapid fire but still (mostly) stay out of assault range. Unless you really want pinning weapons, there’s no reason to ever take carbines now. On top of that, having the ability to Overwatch against an assaulting unit gives them a bit of push-back against assault armies. It’s probably not enough to win a combat, but if you can pull off a couple of models in the front of the assaulting unit, it might end up short on the charge. Thanks to the new vehicle damage rules, EMP grenades are a bit better, but I’m not sure if they’ve improved enough to be worth 3 points per model (and really, since when do we assault vehicles?). The one nerf to Fire Warriors is that transports aren’t quite as good as they used to be. No more 12″ of movement, popping out, and opening fire, since you can only disembark after 6″ or less of movement. Also, there’s no more hiding in a Devilfish and zooming up to grab objectives on the last turn, since embarked units (and vehicles in general) no longer claim or contest/deny objectives. The trade-off? Every vehicle can grab at least 6″ of movement in the Shooting phase by going flat out, so you can get them to the objective sooner. You’ll still have to pile out to claim it, though. Fire Warrior gun lines are a bit more viable.
Kroot are worse.
Overwatch cuts both ways, and with no armor to speak of, Kroot assaulting are going to get cut down. The only time I’d even think about it is if they charge out of a forest, since Overwatch happens before you actually move with your charge. Also, if you use Mysterious Terrain rules, those forests that the Kroot hide in are just as likely to kill them as protect them. They’re still passable as outflankers, and being able to fire rifles at 24″ on the move is decent, but they’re not quite as useful as before.
Blacksun filters are must-haves.
Night Fighting is much more common, being available at both the beginning and end of any mission. That makes BSFs vital, because they now provide Night Vision, which cancels the effects of Night Fighting. Better yet, so long as one model in the unit has Night Vision, the whole unit benefits, so team leaders with BSFs make everyone better. Even in Fire Warrior units, the shas’ui can take a hardwired BSF, making it easy for your entire army to see in the dark. I’d say it’s even replaced the Advanced Stabilization System as a must-have for Broadsides…
Advanced Stabilization Systems aren’t as good.
ASS was a mainstay for Broadside upgrades, but thanks to being able to shoot heavy weapons on the move (albeit at BS1), and the removal of the Dawn of War walk-on deployment type, they’re not as critical. Also, they make the unit Slow and Purposeful. While it’s not as big a downside on movement as before (you still get your full 6″ of movement), you can no longer Overwatch with S&P units. Being able to lob 4 missiles per suit at an oncoming enemy would be a hard thing to give up.
Target locks are gone.
The new FAQs have completely removed infantry target locks from the game. No more splitting fire with Broadsides, which is a notable nerf for them. They’re still a good unit, and the most reliable railgun in the game, but that particular loss of wargear hurts their overall effectiveness in large numbers.
Shield Drones are golden.
The new wound allocation rules make wounds come from the front of the unit first. Just pop shield drones in the front of your unit, and your opponent has to get through those before they can even touch the models behind. No more wound spillover if more wounds than shield drones are allocated.
Crisis Suits (and Stealth Suits) are jumpier.
The new Jetpack rules let our suits jump 2d6″ in assault, rather than a flat 6″. Less reliable, but on average a longer jump. With wound allocation being based on position, being able to quickly move around the table with our walking gun platforms is a godsend.
Stealth Suits actually function properly.
Stealth Generators actually make sense now, providing both the Stealth and Shrouded rules. This gives the suits 4+ cover out in the open, and 2+ cover just about anywhere else. Combined with Acute Senses (which now makes outflanking more reliable), and you’ve got a nice denial unit that can pop out where you want it. I don’t know if it makes them worth trading off a Crisis Suit unit, but it definitely makes them more viable.
Pathfinders are a mixed bag.
Scout no longer works the same way; it’s now a redeployment (rather than movement), and you can’t disembark during the Scout shuffle. This makes the old trick of moving the Pathfinders into position quickly and out of their transport before turn 1 no longer viable. They’re now saddled with a required transport that’s of limited utility to them (and to Fire Warriors wanting taxi service; see above). On the other hand, they can Snap Shot with Markerlights. Sure, they might only hit with 1 out of the entire squad, but sometimes one hit is all that’s needed. They’re still the most cost-effective option for getting Markerlights.
Hammerheads are better.
Sure, vehicles on a whole are more fragile thanks to Hull Points, but they’re also more reliable since glances can’t stun-lock vehicles. Add in the changes to weapon firing (always being able to snap shot weapons on the move/when stunned), firing as fast vehicles thanks to multi-trackers (2 weapons on the move at full BS; railheads with smart missiles are more viable again), and having a 5+ cover save when moving thanks to the Jink rule, and you’ve got a much more useful gunship. With Jink, even Disruption Pods aren’t must-haves, so your hammerheads just got that much cheaper, too.
Allies patch up some of our weak spots.
Thanks to the Allies chart, you can now bring in a secondary detachment of troops from another army. One of the best choices is an Eldar Farseer and a small unit of Dire Avengers. A Farseer with Runes of Warding and one power (which you can feel free to trade off for a core book power), and 5 avengers comes in at 150 points and provides you with a little psychic support and the best psychic defense in the game. Alternately, a unit of Rangers/Pathfinders gives you some killer snipers (which got a big boost).
I’m looking forward to getting some games in and testing out these theories, as well as coming up with new ones. 6th Edition is a shootier game by far, and that’s nothing but good news for the Tau. I wouldn’t say we’re top-tier, but we’ve definitely jumped up a few rungs… or maybe the field is just more even now.