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Regarded by many as the best tank in the 40K universe, but cheesy and overpowered by many others. Either way the Hammerhead is nigh on inevitably a part of any Tau players list.
I have noticed a lack of articles about how best to equip and use this formidable unit, and with this in mind I thought a guide to the Hammerhead, its variants, armoury, weapons and uses would be useful.
The Basic model
The codex gives you the basic Hammerhead at a cost of 90 points. On top of this basic cost you must purchase a main weapon (railgun or ion cannon), and a secondary weapon (burst Cannon or smart missile system).
So if we took the bare bones versions we could have.
(a) Railgun and Smart Missile System = 160 points
(b) Ion cannon and Smart Missile System = 125 points
(c) Railgun and Burst Cannons = 150 points
(d) Ion Cannon and Burst Cannons = 115 points
These are the bare bones Hammerhead configurations, and even equipped as such are very formidable tanks. However they all suffer from two problems; a lack of mobility caused by restriction of shooting due to movement and survivability.
So we need to circumvent these restrictions, but the question is how do we circumvent them? the equipment available from the armoury is the answer. I am going to attempt to advise on how to equip a Hammerhead, and I will start with a breakdown of what is available as weapons and upgrades.
The Hammerhead has the luxury of the choice between two formidable main weapons: The Railgun and the Ion Cannon.
Most players agree that the Railgun is an awesome weapon, and with good cause. Lets look a closer look at this awesome weapon.
A high strength solid shot option allied with AP1 and a huge maximum range makes for a formidable weapon, but this is only the start. The Railgun is a dual use weapon and has the option of using the submunnition round instead of the solid shot, and I will now attempt to describe each round in more detail.
The Solid shot
Strength 10 and AP1 make this a weapon to be feared by any unit in the 40K universe. Allied to the huge range of the weapon and the good ballistic skill of the Hammerhead no vehicle is safe unless it is out of line of sight.
Remember no standard armour is immune to the solid shot, and this includes AV14.
Probably the most underestimated benefit of the solid shot is its AP value. Any AP1 hit means automatic disembarkation of any transported unit, and a pinning test must be taken by the disembarked unit. This only applies to non-skimmer vehicles and skimmers who have moved over 6 inches in their last movement phase. Obviously this is a major benefit in that it slows down transported units.
Last but by no means least is the fact that the solid shot is capable of instantly killing any model up to and including toughness 5.
The submunnition round
A thing of beauty! this is the only way to describe this Railgun option; strength 6, non scatter, blast, decent AP and massive range make this a joy to behold. When used against infantry units with an armour save value of 4+ or higher the effect is devastating.
The sub round is a blast weapon which means any wounds caused by it on swarms are doubled, and any successful hits on open topped vehicles cause two hits.
It should be noted that while the sub round does use the large blast template it is not an ordnance weapon, and also does not scatter. The usual method for establishing a hit is used as per the solid shot option.
While it cannot be disputed that the Railgun is a fearsome weapon; it does have its downsides. These are cost and accuracy. The 50 point cost of the railgun has to be taken into account when creating a list. However it is balanced by the ability to swap between two fire modes.
The accuracy is more to do with the fact that the railgun is a single shot weapon, but this can be alleviated by the use of a marker light token to up the ballistic skill if the vehicle to BS5. However it cannot be ignored that to be truly efficient it does need marker light support.
The ion cannon
Sometimes seen as the poor relation of the railgun; the ion cannon is no such thing.
Three shots at strength seven with decent range and good AP make the ion a good choice in many lists, but its major selling point is the 15 point cost.
If you face Space Marine or Marine equivalents (MEQS) on a regular basis then the Ion Cannon should considered a good solid choice. The AP of the weapon negates the basic armour save of MEQS and has a decent rate of fire. Couple this weapon with a marker light and you have an effective anti MEQ option.
The Ion Cannon is also surprisingly effective against light vehicles; up to and including AV13. The volume of shots and strength of the weapon make for an effective light vehicle counter unit. However it should not be forgotten that it needs a D6 roll of 6 to even glance an AV13 vehicle, and it is entirely useless against AV14 vehicles (of which there are more than a few).
I am not going to recommend either of the weapons over the other. Both weapons have their strengths and weaknesses, and much depends on list structure and the opponents you will be facing. So it is up to you to decide which offers you the best for your circumstances.
Cheapest option but by no means the worst; the Burst Cannons on the Hammerhead are independent meaning they are not twin linked and each cannon can fire at a separate target (using the vehicles ballistic skill).
Decent strength and cheap cost make them a viable option.
Smart Missile System
A slightly contentious weapons option. On the surface it seems to offer a lot: decent strength, no line of sight needed, decent number of shots and an apparently decent range. While these do indeed seem attractive the problems arise when you take the SMS on the Hammerhead.
Why you ask? well the major advantage of the Hammerhead is its ability to shoot at range while remaining mobile. Equipping the SMS tends to tempt players in to using it, and to do this means getting within 24 inches of the opponents forces. This brings the Hammerhead within range of all the opponents anti vehicle weaponry, and this is not a good thing.
Consider what you risk losing: the Railgun or Iion Cannon, stunned or shaken results meaning no shooting and even worse immobalised (resulting in destruction).
Now the SMS does have some defensive benefits; mostly the ability to target units that are getting close but are out of line of sight. Also when used with the ion cannon it makes for a formidable anti infantry vehicle.
So it is up to the player to judge whether the Smart Missile System will offer enough benefits to outweigh the risk of getting so close to the opponents forces.
I am unsure as to why these were even offered as an option. Pretty much useless on a Hammerhead.
The only possible use I can see is if you have the points spare you could take two drones and drop them for a free mini drone squad, but the problem with that is your reducing the Hammerheads possible firepower.
The vehicle armoury
The best way to explain the options available in the armoury is to go through them one by one and explain their benefits (or lack of them if applicable).
Allows the Hammerhead to use the obscured target rule in the same way as a normal vehicle. This is very much pointless for a skimmer because if the skimmer is moving it gets the downgrade to glancing bonus anyway. Avoid this.
Standard equipment on the Hammerhead and included in the base cost, and no piece of equipment may be taken twice.
This piece of equipment should always be taken on a Hammerhead. The multi allows the Hammerhead to function as a fast vehicle for the purposes of shooing. Basically this means that the vehicle can move up to 12 inches" and still fire all its weaponry.
To gain the maximum survivability for the Hammerhead it should be moving as much as possible (the minimum you should be aiming to move is 7"). Any penetrating hit on a moving skimmer is automatically down graded to a glancing hit (thats any hit from any weapon); so obviously movement is key to survival, but if you move over 6 inches you cannot shoot any weapons; unless you take the multi tracker.
This upgrade should be considered compulsory
Actually not a bad upgrade, but only if you have the points spare. Only of limited use and marker lights negate the night fight effects anyway. I take a Sky Ray which I equip with the blacksun; this allows me to increase the chances of gaining hits with the Sky Rays marker lights, and therefore allow my Hammerheads to ignore the night fighting rule when they shoot.
This can be useful. The best use of this is on an ion-SMS equipped Hammerhead, and also to a lesser degree on the Railgun-SMS equipped Hammerhead. It allows the vehicle to target two separate units with its two weapons systems per turn. Very useful on boards with a high percentage of cover (Cityfight for instance).
A target lock and SMS equipped Hammerhead can be extremely potent in games which include a lot of cover and restricted lines of sight. However If you use your Hammerhead primarily for long range fire support then I would advise against taking this.
Very nice and very underestimated upgrade. Take this on your Hammerhead when you know your going to be fighting up close, and laugh as any unit that assaults you take automatic hits and are wounded on 4+, but before they resolve their attacks.
Use this on the cheap Ion head with SMS and you have a very effective close quarter tank. Capable of large volumes of fire, tank shocking and if you keep it moving almost immune to assaults, but capable of inflicting damage on the assaulting units.
Not worth it for the ranged variant, but worth considering if your facing those fast assault armies.
Another must have. If you have the multi tracker and your moving every turn then every hit will be glancing, but any immobalised result will mean death. The Decoy launcher allows any immobalised result to be re-rolled, and while this is no guarantee of survival it does offer a chance of keeping the vehicle viable.
An absolute must have.
Offers obscured benefits to the Hammerhead if fired on from over 12 inches away. Only of any real use in the first turn of the game. After the first turn you should be moving the Hammerhead which negates the need for obscured. You should also be deploying the Hammerheads behind cover (if possible) anyway.
Overall these are just not worth taking.
Only of any use if you have Marker lights in the list, and if you have no other vehicles capable of carrying them. The seeker is a useful weapon but overall you are better putting them on other vehicles, and keeping the cost of the Hammerhead down.
So given all the above what are the best options for equipping the Hammerhead?
Anti vehicle and long range infantry suppression
Hammerhead with Railgun, Burst cannons, Multi tracker and Decoy launchers.
Used at maximum range and moving at all times. Use with marker lights whenever possible. Ill equipped for survival in close quarter scenarios.
Remember the submunittion option excels at 4+ save infantry killing. Probably the best all round option available to that Tau commander. This vehicle is capable of killing pretty much anything it targets and is definitely the most versatile configuration for its cost.
Close quarters anti infantry and light vehicle killing
Hammerhead with Ion Cannon, Smart Missile System, Multi tracker, Decoy launchers, Target lock and Flechette launchers.
Now the Multi tracker can be disposed of if the game is going to be very close quarter orientated. However I would advise its inclusion as it aids in it survival from both shooting and assaults; by the virtue of allowing unrestricted shooting while downgrading any hit to glancing, and making it very hard to hit the vehicle in an assault (move the Hammerhead over 6 inches to gain these benefits).
This variant is capable of targeting two separate units a turn, hitting units out of line of sight, taking down light vehicles and lastly doing serious damage to any unit foolish enough to assault it.
All in all a very effective vehicle.
The cheap but cheerful option
Hammerhead with Ion CCannon, Burst Cannons, Decoys and Multi tracker.
Some players advise taking the even cheaper option of just ion and Burst Cannons. Ignore this advice as you are left with a very restricted vehicle. Without the multi tracker it is unable to move over 6 inches and fire, and this also means it does not get the downgrading to glancing rule.
If the vehicle does move over 6 inches and gets immobalised it dies.
By taking the 130pt model you have still have an effective tank and a survivable one at that. Worth considering when points are tight or when facing MEQ type lists.
The expensive but effective option
Hammerhead with Railgun, Smart Missile System, Multi tracker, Target lock and Decoy launchers.
Considered by some to be the best option. Well I consider it to expensive and the SMS does not fit the role of the Rail gun equipped Hammerhead. However if you have the points spare your not losing anything by taking this configuration.
I would however advise carefully considering if it is worth it especially if your taking two Hammerheads. If you are going to encounter a mix of opponents and board types (cover variations and variety of range scenarios) then I would advise the taking of one each of the first two configurations listed above. That way you have every contingency covered.
So there we have a small guide to the Hammerhead. It is not meant as a tactical guide, but more of a guide to allow a player to assess which configurations and equipment would suit his/her list best.
The mistake a lot of players make is thinking the Hammerheads sole purpose is to take down high AV value armour, and this is simply not true. The Hammerhead is a very versatile vehicle capable of killing a wide variety of unit types, and this should be considered when creating your list.
I for instance use my Hammerheads as my primary infantry killing units, and this leaves me open to take my XV8's as anti light vehicle and anti tough unit killers.
This is simply one example of how the Hammerhead can be used to open up the rest of your list, and the beauty of it is that a Railgun equipped version can multi task as standard (the Ion can do this to a lesser degree as well).
Remember there are many variables to be considered when deciding which variant to take. I however tend to stick to the 'Anti vehicle and long range infantry suppression' configuration as this offers me the best balance of effectiveness and cost, but that is my choice. I hope this helps you with your choice.
Pretty good guide Rik, Though you listed decoy launchers as disruption pods. You listed it twice though gave the description of decoy launchers in one :drinking:
This is actually a very good guide. But calling the 180 point verision expensive and flashy makes it sound like it's not worth it. SMS and target lock allows you to pop tanks ( or hordes) from far away and at the same time kill troops or transports that are nearby that are out of LOS. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but ignoring LOS can really screw up a lot of enemies tactics. I've seen many things that ignore LOS just ruin Dark Eldar, (Fury of the Ancients psyker power wrecked 2 transports first turn) and every almost every fast army relies on staying out of LOS.
Taking two of the "Flashy" HHs and one Ionhead is probably the best config for any large point Mech Tau army.
EDIT: Nevermind, re-read it and realized you kinda said teh exact same thing. Now don't I just feel silly.
Last edited by marine13; October 6th, 2007 at 18:55.
I take 3 flashy 180 point HHs at 1500 points :party:
Excellent analysis. The only error is that the cost of the first loadout you mention is 165 not 155(the railhead with burst, MT, DL).
Other than that though this is an excellent concise guide to Hammerheads and should be stickied or linked in a sticky somehow.
Marine 13. You made a good point about the flashy and expensive title. I have edited it because even though I meant it to be humorous, and included the little winking dude to indicate this. It can be taken as a sign of bias and I want the guide to be non biased.
Good article, Rikki. Easy to read, points made clearly and concisely. Certainly very useful for someone starting out with Tau.
"Tau Commandment #226: Participants who use Velocity Trackers in the Tau Clay Pigeon Tournament will be disqualified"