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  1. #1
    Por'vre T'olku Shien
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    Defining the Tau

    While attempting to write out thoughts for my own FanDex, I came across a slight conundrum. What is it that makes the Tau the Tau? This is the important first step and one that I see missing from many other such threads and some completed fan codexes. I'm going to attempt to define their tabletop role here.

    First, what they're not.

    1) The Tau are NOT the most mobile army. Though they are mobile, that title rightfully belongs to the Eldar (and likely to the Dark Eldar once they get a new codex)
    2) The Tau are NOT the strongest shooting army, nor do we have the best tanks. Those titles go to the Imperial Guard.
    3) The Tau are NOT and SHOULD NEVER BE capable at all in melee. Anyone who says otherwise is already missing the point, even the best melee units we have register as barely decent (as it should be!) and this needs to be kept in mind.
    4) The Tau are NOT Psykers or even warp-aware in the least measure, and thus will never have a psychic unit or particular benefits against them

    Now, for what actively defines the Tau way of war:

    1) The Tau are superior at staying mobile while shooting at the top of their form.
    2) The Tau are the only race in the 40k universe that is actively innovating technology, and the only one that actively uses advanced AI.
    3) The Tau are the masters of Jetpack Infantry, and the JSJ has been known as the "Tau Dance" for a while and for very good reason.
    4) The Tau make active use of auxiliary units and do not discriminate against anyone once they devote themselves to the Greater Good.
    5) The Tau emphasize long-range, high-power weaponry, and are capable of taking such things well below cost and well above capability for their respective FOC slot.
    6) Markerlights, currently the only non-psyker way for any unit to actively improve the capability of another, entirely separate one. Thus, it is the only one which cannot be prevented (other than raw luck)

    What does this mean for us? While we will never be the fastest, strongest, or toughest, we will always be agile while retaining high-strength firepower. For example, we take the standard infantry Pulse Rifle. Absurd range and strength for its cost and slot, and it is not a Heavy weapon. Sure, it'll disallow an Assault after using it, but who would assault with a Fire Warrior anyway?

    Following the Tau way of war, there will never be a heavy weapon where we can't keep it moving (or, at least, stay safe while firing, such as Markerlights and Rail Rifles). Broadside suits are there, sure, but even they have the Advanced Stabilization unit to compensate. All of our defining weaponry (including the almighty Railgun) can be shot on the move without major penalty, something that no other army can claim.

    Kroot and Vespids are allowed to pretty much fight their own way, slotted in with the main armies of the Tau. Each brings their own unique flavor to the Tau Empire forces, and both have no pure Tau equivalent for their abilities. Any new potential auxiliary unit needs to keep this in mind (Gue'vesa are something of an exception, bringing only cheap bodies, but they are not a Codex entry and thus will be ignored for the moment).

    So, here we come. When it is time to look through and rewrite the Tau forces, what defines us (and needs to stay as a definition) is high (though not ultimate) speed and power with dominating range. Mobility under full offensive capability is key as well. Auxiliaries each need to do something unique to them, and new technologies and adaptations will be ever-present.

    Why write this essay/rant/OpEd piece? In part, it is to help new players see at a glance what we're about. In part, it's to help new-Codex writers out (and I pray that GW sees this as they work on our next one, whenever that may be). Mostly, it is as a personal thought process, a way to get these things settled and set before I go off and violate the principles I want to keep firm. Anyone who has anything to say on the matter, please feel free to post. I'm far from perfect, and have likely missed something important here.

    I fight for the Greater Good. Too bad for you it's MY Greater Good.

    Snow Forces of T'olku W/L/D : 3-4-2... I like to think I'm learning, though.

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  3. #2
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    I agree with the general points you made on the plus side, except that the str 5 gun on firewarriors is above the FoC norm. Mainly because most other troop units can have one or more high strength weapons in them while the str 5 is the best firewarriors get. I'm also not to sure about the weapons being taken below cost, many of the more powerful low AP weapons start to be rather expensive if you want to field them in decent numbers. Good example is the fusion gun, eldar can get a model with a fusion gun for only a couple more points than the gun costs for tau (and eldar have a better BS on it in most cases).

  4. #3
    Member Bassline's Avatar
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    When i think about Tau i think of it as a phalanx body, anything that trys to come up close will shatter by the share power of a pulse rifle, and a lurer with are JSJ tactics. Not 1 moving army but not brick wall army but something in-between.


    Plus battle suits just look cool

  5. #4
    Senior Member Absolutionis's Avatar
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    I disagree with #5 regarding Tau weaponry. I believe what makes the Tau what they are is that, like the Imperial Guard, the Tau take mass-produced weapons and put it in the hands of a common soldier. It just so happens that the Imperial Guard focuses on a lower quality of weapons than Tau. The small Tau Empire allows them to focus their best technology where it counts, so oftentimes the Tau have higher technology.
    Nevertheless, the individual Tau combatant is still a common soldier with a fancy toy. Sometimes the toy is a bigger gun, sometimes the toy is a stealth suit, sometimes the toy is a full-body suit with heavy guns and targetting, sometimes the toy is a vehicle with an enormous gun.

    The Space Marines and the Eldar are comparable in that they train their soldiers as much as possible and give them fancy weapons that others of their race do not generally get. The Tau do the same with the fancy weapons but minus the exceptional training. This lack of training, in game terms allows the Tau to have more soldiers on the field; in flavor terms, the Tau believe in their technological superiority. Compare the common Guardsman to a Space Marine and compare an Eldar Guardian to any Aspect Warrior. Now compare a Fire Warrior to any Battlesuit or anything manned by Tau. Any statistical differences are attributed to better targetting (Hammerhead) or just the battlesuit itself.

    In short, the Tau operate similar to the Imperial Guard in that a soldier is given little training (compared to Marines and Eldar) and the mass-produced technology is supposed to compensate. Get enough guns, and the target will fall. The Tau just so happen to have less guns and better guns than the Imperial Guard.
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  6. #5
    Senior Member aussiedave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Absolutionis View Post
    I disagree with #5 regarding Tau weaponry. I believe what makes the Tau what they are is that, like the Imperial Guard, the Tau take mass-produced weapons and put it in the hands of a common soldier. It just so happens that the Imperial Guard focuses on a lower quality of weapons than Tau. The small Tau Empire allows them to focus their best technology where it counts, so oftentimes the Tau have higher technology.
    Nevertheless, the individual Tau combatant is still a common soldier with a fancy toy. Sometimes the toy is a bigger gun, sometimes the toy is a stealth suit, sometimes the toy is a full-body suit with heavy guns and targetting, sometimes the toy is a vehicle with an enormous gun.

    In short, the Tau operate similar to the Imperial Guard in that a soldier is given little training (compared to Marines and Eldar) and the mass-produced technology is supposed to compensate. Get enough guns, and the target will fall. The Tau just so happen to have less guns and better guns than the Imperial Guard.
    Actually from a fluff perspective there is a whole section of Tau society wholly and totally given over to war. The Fire Caste sole purpose for existence is to fight. I would say that Tau FW's are extremely well and highly trained. They simply lack certain genetically modified enhancements that Marines have.

    Dave
    I don't care what you say. I found a lightsaber in my garage and that makes me a Jedi

  7. #6
    LO's Shadow Captain Lost Nemesis's Avatar
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    Tau have always been characterized by their mobility and firepower. They are not the most mobile (or fastest) army; they are not the strongest shooting army; however, they are one of the most (if not the most) capable mechanized lists in the game, when it comes to mobile firepower. That is their niche, and it has been so since they were released. The current codex continues that trend.

  8. #7
    Senior Member furstenburg's Avatar
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    Fluff wise I tend to think of the tau as a pretty physically weak race (and dont we know it from CC!) that utilizes some of the most advanced weaponry in the galaxy to offset this weakness. The tau are also a very young race when compared to the others, they are the upstarts of the 40k universe and have expanded their territory in a small amount of time. However, even for a newly developed race their standard technology already outstrips many of the other races. High str weaponry, AI, advanced targetting.

    Also they differ from many of the other races in their willingness to adopt (or take over) other races in to their empire and even to treat these races with respect. Everyone else in 40k tends to be pretty much wipe out everyone else, either because they are xenos (imperium), lesser beings (Eldar), there just to fight (Orks), to be consumed (Tyranids), enslaved (Dark Eldar), because its fun (Chaos) or because they have just woken up and haven't yet had coffee (Necrons). When the tau conquors a world they usually let the inhabitants live under their rule, whereas all the other races would pretty much exterminate the population just for being different.

    I feel that this 'greater good' makes the Tau stand out from the others and also makes them fairly dangerous to know. You can never tell how far they are willing to go for the greater good. You could be getting on great with them for years then some weird looking ethereal starts thinking you could be better on the side of the greater good and before you know it you're up to your armpits in firewarriors and XV8s!

    So to sum up i think what defines the tau is their technology and this is used to good effect, either to get a strong gun line formed up or to maintain a mobile force. What i tend to take from the codex and fluff is that the tau forces are designed to be fluid, changing to meet different situations where necessary and that they are more of a cavalry army (meaning they seek out and engage) than infantry (Meaning they take static positions and defenses). sorry if this has dealt more with fluff and less with battlefield definition.

    Of course, if they didnt have their technology they would have had their faces pushed in to the mud by an imperial boot long before now!
    Last edited by furstenburg; June 21st, 2009 at 10:54.

  9. #8
    Por'vre T'olku Shien
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    Fluff notes are perfectly fine here, it all feeds into the final definition.
    I fight for the Greater Good. Too bad for you it's MY Greater Good.

    Snow Forces of T'olku W/L/D : 3-4-2... I like to think I'm learning, though.

  10. #9
    Junior Member Count Fenring's Avatar
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    I agree with those who say their training is excellent, just not cc oriented.

    -Their printed fluff shows them about the same height/weight as human, just not given over to cc. The codex art certainly does not show fire warriors as scrawny weaklings either.

    I disagree with the O.P. about them "never" being good at all at cc. Remember the first codex where the Tau sold cc specific powered armor to certain human hive dwellers which contained built in surveillance tech and had self-repair ability. They clearly have a technical understanding of these tenets. The practical application is an acquired taste so to speak

    Tau are and have always been portrayed as an adaptive race. O'Shovah was definitely cc oriented. He was biased of course. His teacher was Puretide who taught a balance of ranged weapons and cc. Shadowsun was biased toward ranged weapons and we all know she was another student of Puretide.

    So I don't buy this thing that always goes round and round on forums about Tau. It is never set and fixed in stone how they are. They adapt and drive on. Every time there is discussion of Tau on forums they are always talked about in extremes. The thing that is canon and makes good sense about Tau is that they are generally short lived. It has been published by GW that 40yrs old, is an old Tau.

    I feel Tau are completely adaptive and given enough time, they will adapt to certain battlefield constants. Such as the continual CC confrontations which define the majority of enemy races. They are not stupid, quite the contrary. The Tau thrive and adapt in such a dynamic fashion that is almost non-existent in the 40k galaxy.

    I hope we can all show the same amount of flexibility in how we all portray the dynamic Tau race.
    "Tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie"

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