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We Tau players have at our disposal a nice strength 6, long range AP3 MEQ killing weapon and no body uses it. I am of course talking about the Pathfinders Railrifle.
Like I said the problem is no one really uses them. In 4th this was understandable because the Pathfinder was the primary way to take the Markerlight. Fifth edition has now brought some interesting changes with it, I list the ones we are concerned with below:
(1) We can now take mobile Markerlights on jetpack equipped units
(2) The Pathfinder Devilfish is no longer a worthless add on because it can be utilised by any infantry unit.
So basically we are no longer restricted to taking Pathfinders for ML's, we have other viable ML sources and we can utilise the DF for our Fire Warriors.
Now Tau have one overriding problem that comes up again and again 'killing MEQ's or more accurately not being able to kill MEQ's (for those who do not know MEQ's are Marine Equivalent models). Pathfinders are able to equip up to three models in a unit with a Railrifle and Target lock for 10pts each over the basic cost of a Pathfinder.
Most of the time we take a full squad of Pathfinders at between 96pts and 111pts, so given we spend this lets see what we get for that point amount.
3 Railrifle equipped Pathfinders 66pts
Total = 78pts
Now this is the basic unit and what do we get for that. Well we get three STR6 rifles all able to target different units or concentrate their fire. We also get a Markerlight that can fire at a different target. The unit kills normal 1 wound Marines outright if they wound but more importantly they also pin.
The decent strength of the weapon also means that it is good against bikes, tough units and vehicles up to and including AV12.
The unit is nice and small and can be deployed easily in modest terrain pieces, the unit can be deployed using the scout rule which means it can be moved to respond to the opponents deployment.
The Railrifles range allows for nice control of a huge swathe of the field and with the ability to target three separate units this means that that swathe extends out in a large arc.
It should not be forgotten that there is also a little dude with a Markerlight as well.
So that is the basic unit, if we want the unit to offer a bit more we can invest in a team leader upgrade and then we can take various options.
(a) Marker light Drone: Now while expensive this does offer some nice advantages.
(1) 50% chance to up the BS of either the whole unit or a single Pathfinder by +1, three BS4 Railrifles is not to be sniffed at.
(2) The option to lower cover saves of the targeted unit
(3) The option to lower the leadership of the target unit for pinning tests
(4) Seeker missile launching
(b) Shield Drones: obvious benefit of offering increased survivability but taking two will increase the footprint of the unit.
The Marker Drone option takes the cost up to 118pts but it does offer the advantages listed and also means the unit has two roles as a Marker light unit (2 ML's) and as a handy and powerful offensive unit, EDIT: this unit can also perform both roles with little to no detriment to either role and this is a very rare thing in 40K.
This unit idea came to mind because of the popularity of taking the Pathfinder Devilfish for transporting Fire Warriors and the fact that we can take other ML sources. Having the Devilfish is nice but if other ML sources are taken then taking Pathfinders can be overkill. Couple this with the lack of MEQ killing and also a lack of mid strength weaponry and it seems to be a nice idea to instead have a nice small unit with its MEQ killing weaponry.
For a small increase in cost over a standard Pathfinder unit we have a nice little unit that can hide away in cover, redeploy using its scout move to gain beneficial field position, Markerlight two units and shoot three units a turn if needed.
If we use this unit in tandem with other Markerlights then it is quite possible to take two or three casualties a turn and pin the target unit(s). The unit is also going to be a quite potent transport stopper, any vehicle of AV10/11 is going to be a valid and vulnerable target for the Railrifles as are Dreadnoughts, Monstrous creatures and similar type targets.
Last edited by Rikimaru; April 12th, 2009 at 00:50.
I really like this its a solid use of the rail rifle which i love. Heck i love them enough that im willing to sacrifce up a heavy support slot every now and agian for sniper drones. I also have 6 sniper equiped patherfinders so this article really get the old brian a workin startin to get ideas for lists and what not.
I like rail rifles a lot, but seeker missiles are for me the superior choice for anti-MEQ. The reason is that there is more "overhead cost" and risk when fielding pathfinder squads like this versus just adding a bunch of seekers to the vehicles I already want to take for my troops' protection. When I say overhead cost, I'm referring to paying for the pathfinders themselves instead of another vehicle, suit, ML drones, etc. The required Devilfish is not a problem.
When I speak of risk I'm referring to the small squads that must remain stationary if they are to be of use. This makes them easy kills for the fast & deadly armies of 40K, and also reduces their effectiveness due to fewer rounds of shooting. Less output means more risk for my other units. Seekers can be combined with mobility using MLs on suits and drones, not to mention Skyrays.
That said, there are a few things Rail Rifles have going for them in this comparison:
- The ability to shoot without a ML hit
- Unlimited ammo
The ability to take a unit out of the game for a turn is amazing, however it just doesn't happen often enough to be a dependable strategy in my experience. To be fair, I have yet to try a comprehensive pinning strategy by allocating a lot of MLs to the job, so that may turn out alright. This strategy will hurt you in Annihilation though, since you trade a lot of possible kill points for keeping some units pinned.
Firing without ML hits:
Kind of a double-edged sword here, as rail rifles without MLs are less accurate. Seekers on the other hand are very accurate once you have the ML. Not needing that initial ML means more shots could come from the rail rifles, except for the fact that you can only field 3 in a squad. Overall, it seems like a wash.
This ends up being not such a big deal most of the time, unless you have a poor army composition. Armies that rely on seekers are going to be mechanized, and seekers themselves are fairly cheap. Skyrays help out on this front as well, adding a lot more ammo for an economic investment in a tough package. This also comes back to the Pathfinders being thwarted by fast-moving armies who want to get you in CC. That unlimited ammo is going to mean very little when you have to pack your rail rifles up and run/skim away.
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I have used rail rifles in the past and they are very nice for all the reasons riki gave. Of course I never toyed with the idea of fielding a single 4 man unit just to have the 3 rail rifles. However, for meq, I would prefer to run a vespid squad (this is in conjunction with the two pathfinder squads I already run. The idea of the 4 man rail rifle squad runs 158 points at base. That is your pathfinder, and 3 more with the rail rifle upgrade plus base devilfish. That is 4 points short of a 10 man vespid squad. 148 points to run an 8 man vespid plus a strain leader. This will be death to a marine squad in conjuction with the ML of one of your existing pathfinder units.
Sure it takes some timing to use and granted they don't have the range of the rail rifles. Played a game the other night where I caught a full khorne berserker squad runnning up in a rhino. Popped the rhino with one of my broadsides and blew it up. He lost 2 of his berserkers but the squad is in cover (wreckage) in front of my pathfinder squad. I had already jumped up my vespids the 12 inches in the hopes I would force them out of the rhino. Got 5 markerlight hits ( i know, cant count on that), upped bs to 5 and used the other 3 to strip their cover. Dropped the rest of the squad with str 5 ap 3 shots.
Anyway, I do like the idea but I love my 2 full ml pathfinder squads lately. I may try it as a third unit but I also wanted to play around with the sniper drones again. Might be a better option as they have the stealth field, can infiltrate and give you the same 3 rail rifle shots and a networked ml for 80 points over the 78 points you would spend on the 4 man squad. Of course there is the extra 80 for the devilfish which could easily equate to another sniper squad. Hard to give up the heavy support choice but could be handy.
Considering how a Pathfinder with a railgun is only X points more than a Seeker, I highly disagree that seekers are a suitable, and hardly superior, alternative to a railgun packing shasui.
That is to say, all your Pathfinder needs to do is shoot twice, and essentially he's worth a pair of seeker missiles. Cheaper even, seeing how, though yes, the Seeker Missile itself has a far superior BS rating, it still requires that original markerlight to hit, so you're adding on the expense of that unit as well. To have a better hit rating of your Pathfinder, what you're going to need is a markerlight of bs 4 (55% to the pathfinder's 50%)... So yes, 5% more... unless if that theoretical markerlight is used for your pathfinder... (72%? I just know I'm getting my math wrong... I should be asleep right now, but can't sleep.)
Okay, so maybe the seeker missile isn't really that much more accurate than a pathfinder, but at least it has higher strength, right? Only...for your average Meq, he's still going to get wounded on a 2+ whether it's by seeker or railrifle, so...
Personally, I've always liked the idea of pathfinders myself, mostly as an addition to pathfinder markerlights rather than as by themself (rather like how someone would add, well, seeker missiles to a vehicle), a way to plink off a casualty or two a turn, and pinning as a bonus feature than anything to really depend upon.
(Yeah, I'd probably have more (or less) to say tomorrow morning.)
I mostly agree with the above statement. Seeker missiles are throw away shots. They do have their uses. First, you have to keep in mind you only expend a seeker missile if you have the ml hit already. The real bonus to the seeker missile is the strength 8 and the fact that it hits from the direction of the vehicle it is launched from, not the ml itself. The main use for this is to load your piranha with 1 or 2, turbo it down the side of the board, ml a vehicle and use the seeker to hit the side or rear armor of a vehicle.
I have used ml in a combination with seekers to completely wipe out an assault squad. It can work but since it really is a one time go, I'd prefer the rail rifles since they can keep shooting every round. The problem is you are using valuable marker light hits just to hit a single infantry with a one use shot. I feel the ml/seeker missile works best for anti armor.
One correction, you cannot upgrade your pathfinder shasui to use a rail rifle.
As anti MEQ well not really. If you want to wipe out a unit of say assault marines you have to have at least 6 missiles and for each missile you need an ML token. You have to roll a 2+ for each Seeker which means a miss rate of 1 then you have to wound on 2+ which means a none wound for one missile. So for those 6 missiles you have on average killed 4 Marines, used 6 missiles and god knows how many Marker lights and you stil have an effective assault Marine squad bearing down on your lines..
One other point you can only take 2 Seekers per vehicle, to be effective you need a lot of seekers. You can only fire so many Seekers a turn without taking ML support away from the rest of the army and you lose the Seekers when you lose a vehicle. If you take lots of seekers then the likelihood is that some Seekers are not going to get fired till later in the game and that means vehicles are in danger of being destroyed. Seekers are not a good choice for anti MEQ and the only place I take em is on the Skyray.
You cannot up a Markerlights BS and you are effectively rolling twice to hit.
Yeah you only get 3 shots but that is three shots every turn without ML help. That is 9 hits a game on average at STR6 with no save. To do the same with seekers means 90pts of Seekers, absolute reliance on Marker lights which means added cost of the ML support and the ML support is taken away from other units that need it. Those 90pts are non re-usable (I/E Seekers go you get no more shots)
The Skyray is the only sensible source of Seekers because it can ML its own seekers and it get them in its base cost. Any other vehicle needs independent ML support and that gets expensive, not only in ML cost but also because every Seeker launched is taking an ML token that can be used by another unit.
We also come down to the problem of range and LOS, to utilise the Piranha tactic (I/E zoom down a flank and launch a Seeker) we need to ensure the ML source is in range and LOS. not always possible and we still have the problem of the ML's missing (which they do).
The Skyray is a fantastic vehicle and I always take one and the Railrifle unit and Skyray actually make a fantastic team. The Skyray can use one of its ML's to up the BS of the unit and the Pathfinder with a ML can launch one of the Skyrays Seekers. They could also double team a MEQ unit or vehicle to devastating effect. Seekers are not good anti MEQ in fact they suck at it but they are good against vehicles and the Skyray and the Railrifle unit with ML Drone would make for a fearsome combination.
Hadatt: Vespid's are a terrible idea. It has been established many many times just how hard it is for this unit to even kill one unit of Marines. They are expensive and fragile. Oh and that base cost is misleading because multiple unit benefit from taking the Railrifle unit, a Fire Warrior or Kroot squad benefits from the Devilfish which means enhanced survivability for the unit and other units benefit from the Markerlights the unit brings to the board, other units benefit if the unit stops transports (which it is eminently capable of doing) and finally the whole list benefits if units are pinned. Now that is a damned fine investment to me and I think you will find that Vespids can do none of the above and are a very poor investment.
One last point survivability: The Railrifle unit is a very small easy to hide unit, it also does not scream Pathfinder unit brimming with Markerlights. In fact placing them on the table in cover separate from their Devilfish would hardly mean they look intimidating. Not many opponents will have experience of the Railrifle and this means less of a threat index because they do not see lots of ML's which most opponents tend to fixate on. It is also a relatively cheap unit at 118pts (with ML Drone) and in 1500pt/2000pt lists it is easy to take the heat of the unit with other units.
I think this unit is a fantastic new use for the much maligned Pathfinder squad. If you take the ML Drone you have a unit with two ML resources one of which can be utilised by the unit, 3 STR6 AP3 shots a turn at three different units if need and a Devilfish that can be used by other units. All that for around the same cost a standard PF unit, bargain in my opinion.
Sorry for the long post but his is quite a new idea and it needs discussing in depth to establish just how viable it is.