Welcome to Librarium Online!
Join our community of 80,000+ members and take part in the number one resource for Warhammer and Warhammer 40K discussion!
Registering gives you full access to take part in discussions, upload pictures, contact other members and search everything!
Balance! What is it?
A good question. OK in various recent topics the subject of balance within Tau lists has been raised quite a lot and it is something that is often mentioned when discussing what makes a good list.
With this in mind I thought it would be quite interesting to discuss what is meant by balance in regards to Tau army builds and use my list as an example to try and explain how balance plays a part in how it was built.
To start with lets look at the Tau army and its strengths and weaknesses because to build a balanced effective list we need to have a decent understanding of what works or does not work in the Tau army.
The first and most obvious strength the of the Tau is its powerful shooting output. So obviously this needs to be optimised; however one thing I have noticed is when a lot of new players build a list they go overboard incorporating lots of awesome guns. Sounds good but too much spent on firepower impacts on other strength aspects of the list.
Mobility: It can be argued quite strongly that mobility is equally as important as firepower for Tau and is another of its strengths. Luckily for Tau players above average mobility is something many Tau units have as standard but for some units it has to be paid for. A lack of mobility will result in defeat for Tau players so mobility has to be factored into the balance.
Flexibility: Another Tau strength, we are blessed with a few units that can be outfitted to cope with whatever type of opponent we face. The XV8 is our most flexible unit with enough options in weaponry and wargear to tailor them to deal with pretty much any opponent. Problem is this bewildering amount of variation can lead to an unbalanced and overly expensive reliance on the XV8.
The Hammerhead has the Railgun, which is good against armour and also infantry and can also be fitted with the Ion cannon.
Stealth units can be equipped with Fusion blasters, which gives them the capability to take down armour with the rest of the team dealing with infantry. Lastly we have the Kroot! This unit is extremely flexible in that it can be deployed in various ways (reserves, infiltration, outflank) can be carried in a Devilfish, has good shooting but also has decent close combat skills. They can be used equally well in defense and offense.
Enhancement: The Tau army has the ability to enhance certain characteristics or game mechanics either by using wargear or by the use of the Markerlight. This as will be shown is a major and incredibly important strength.
Assault: Well the overriding weakness for Tau is its lack of close combat ability. Yes we have the Kroot but they can only do so much. Most other armies most basic units have decent CC abilities but the Tau’s CC abilities are woeful. Even our XV8’s are only blessed with initiative 2 and weapon skill 2. Kroot with Hounds are formidable but Tau should never have assault as part of a list building strategy.
Whenever we build a list avoiding or mitigating an opponents assault superiority is possibly one of the most important considerations we need to take into account.
Average ballistic skill: Now as someone who shall remain nameless keeps telling me opinions are not facts. Well OK but it is my ‘opinion’ that the average BS of the Tau is a weakness.
When you consider that the overriding way we can win is to inflict more damage by shooting then the enemy then having something that restricts the ability to maximise this ability can I think quite rightly be called a weakness.
If we take standard Codex Tau units then only two units have above average BS, the HQ commanders and Hammerheads. All other units are saddled with BS3. BS3 sucks noodles in regard to the Tau. If we take no enhancements then an average 50% of shooting output will fail. This is a major weakness that needs addressing. Luckily we can address it but that balance we are discussing needs taking into consideration.
A Lack of choice in most force slots: yes we can tailor certain units but the one thing you will notice with Tau lists is the same units appearing over and over again in lists. This is a weakness because it makes it easier for opponents to judge what tactics we are going to employ because a lack of variety means a lack of variation in tactics.
Consider for instance the Marine player and just how many variations he can field in just the HQ slot, Tau have two options (XV8 or Ethereal) unless special characters are used. Consider the elites (8 choices), Fast attack (9 choices), Transport (7 choices), Heavy (8 choices). Compare that lot to what the Tau can field.
When we face Marines we cannot really prepare with any certainty for what we are going to face because there is simply so much variation.
Just try thinking about a game facing the Tau for a second, I bet you have a pretty good idea what you will be facing:
XV8 elites (usually Fireknife or Deathrains)
1 maybe 2 units of Fire Warriors in Devilfish
Kroot (usually a couple of units)
Hammerheads (usually two)
XV88’s or Skyray
Rarely seen Vespids and Sniper Drones
There will be slight variations but essentially that is it. A saying comes to mind “familiarity breads contempt”. Just think about varying your Tau list for a while and I bet you will be quite frustrated because you will inevitably end up very close to what you already use.
OK so we have some idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the Tau army.
How does this translate into game play? Well on the most basic level we need to ensure the opponent does not reach Tau units while we punch the living daylights out of their army.
On a more advanced level we need (in no particular order)
Effective firepower application
Equality of army effectiveness regardless of mission type
The ability to be effective against as many army types as possible
Solid defensive capability.
How do we build a list to build on the strengths and alleviate the weaknesses? Well we try to achieve balance. What is balance? Or to put it another way, define balance in respect to Tau.
First thing we need to do is define what we need to balance in respect to 40K and more specifically Tau. Well balance in this context is 'the utilisation of the individual components of the army to ensure that army as a whole works in an effective way across the largest amount and variation of games encountered'.
Here is what I think we need to balance to achieve the above:
Offensive capability against a range of differing army types
Assault mitigation and offensive power
Competitiveness across different scenarios/mission types
Every single one of the above categories needs to be taken into account individually but also needs to be balanced against every single one of the other categories. Concentrating to much in any one single area will result in detriment to other areas.
First I am going to discuss firepower. To state the obvious, if Tau players get this wrong the game is over. There are differing schools of thought regarding Tau firepower:
(1) Torrent of fire
(2) Optimised firepower
(3) A combination of the above
All the above have merits but focussing solely on either of the first two will result in failure. The best approach is number three, a combination of both.
Take for instance the torrent approach. This usually consists of taking as many guns as possible with the hope of just wiping the opponent of the board with lots of shots. Only problem is unless the shots are accurate the advantage of the volume of shots is mitigated by the reduced hit rate. For instance 36 shots at BS3 are basically the same as 24 shots at BS4 but you have to pay for the extra 12 shots. In the case of Fire Warriors this would entail buying an extra unit at a minimum of 120pts.
The problem is though to get 24 shots at BS4 we have to pay for Markerlights and again these cost points but because we have paid for lots and lots of guns we have less points to spend on the Markerlights.
We should also remember that ML’s might not be the only thing we struggle to pay for if we go for to many guns. So we need to assess which option gives us the best (yes you guessed it) ‘balance’. So lets discuss balance in regards to accuracy and firepower.
Given that accuracy is so important it helps to take as many units that are inherently accurate without external help as possible. Following this simple rule will ensure we go a long way to gaining the optimisation of firepower.
To illustrate my list includes Shas’Els (BS5 with a targeting array), XV8 Deathrains (with Targeting arrays) a torch squad with Flamers that do not roll to hit and Hammerheads. Any unit that can deliver firepower at optimal or near optimal levels (cheaply if possible is a bonus) is a real asset to the list and as long as they fit your overall plan for the army they should always be maximised.
Remember the majority of units in the Tau army are BS3 but additionally we have the problem of a higher availability of cover saves for the stuff we are firing at. So if possible it is nice to have at least some Markerlight support. Ideally any list should have at least two sources of Markerlights. Having one unit while useful is obviously limited by the fact that it can only provide marker light hits against one unit and there is no redundancy, if your one unit is killed then you have no ML support.
Markerlights offer many nice advantages chief amongst them as I said earlier are BS upgrades and the removal of cover saves. These benefits are so attractive it is often tempting to cram as many ML’s as possible into a list, big mistake. The key is taking just enough and it is quite a hard balance to achieve.
As detailed above having units that do not need ML help to up their BS or that can work at a reasonable level (but do work better if the ML’s are available) without the ML support means that (a) we do not need to take as many ML’s and (b) the ML’s we do take can be used in a much more effective and targeted manner. We are starting to balance the army.
Having the weapons:
Balance of weaponry is another priority. I think it is fair to say (and I think most will agree) that high on the list of target priority in an opponents army are transports and armour. Of course depending on the army faced other units will present themselves as the priority but in general terms Tau players need to maintain as much distance between the Tau units and the opponents as is humanly possible.
Luckily we have some really good weapons to aid us in stopping vehicles, notably the Railgun and the Missile pod. The ideal situation is to stop tanks shooting back and to put passengers in transports on foot on the table. So we know we need the heavy stuff to handle vehicle type units but these are not the only unit types on the table.
If it’s not a vehicle then it usually fits into one of the following categories:
(a) Infantry type units these include any unit with stat lines similar to standard troops
(b) Slightly enhanced elite infantry type units (Termies, Wyches etc)
(c) Non-vehicular armoured units (Dreadnoughts, Warwalkers etc)
(d) Bike type units or fast attack light vehicles such as speeders etc
If we do not take enough to handle whatever combination of the above is thrown at us then games will be lost. Deathrains are great but they suck against a unit of 24 Hormegaunts a twin linked Flamer equipped XV8 on the other hand will do the job quite nicely. Ideally we need redundancy in every aspect of attacking weaponry and this can be quite hard to achieve. I think the best way to show how this balance is achieved is to describe how I built my list.
Here is the breakdown of my list and how it is tuned for balanced performance against a wide variety of opponents, unit types and missions. Now this is only one type of list and one way of attaining balance but it is a good illustration of the thinking that should go behind any list.
Plasma, Missile Pod, Targeting array, HW multi tracker, HW Target lock, HW BSF, HW Drone controller, Marker Drone 135pts
Plasma, Missile pod, Targeting array, HW multi tracker 97pts
Ok first of all we have ‘two’ HQ XV8’s. This is not extravagance but carefully thought out. Missile pods are vital and having two at BS5 is well 'nice'. Taking two Shas’El’s means I have redundancy and having two individual models means it is harder for the opponent to stop both. Having two BS5 Plasma’s also helps the army against MEQ type opponents.
I also have the Marker light Drone on one of the Els’s which helps to distribute my ML presence throughout the list. Having the ML’s spread around aids in redundancy and survivability of the ML presence and also means more units benefit from the ML’s.
I could have gone for Fireknives in the elite slots but they would not have been as efficient and they would have relied on Markerlights which would have meant other units would not benefit from them. (Remember I am discussing my list here and I am not saying Fireknives are bad, just they do not fit the balance of my list)
2 X XV8 with twin linked Missile Pod, Targeting array
2 X XV8 with twin linked Missile Pod, Targeting array
1 x team leader with twin linked Flamer, Missile pod, HW Multi, HW Drone controller and 2 Gun Drones, BK
2 x XV8's with twin linked Flamers, Missile Pod
The overriding factors I was aiming for with the elites were:
(a) Autonomous usage. By this I mean the units should be able to operate on their own for the majority of the game with no support from other units especially Markerlights.
(b) Optimised offensive ability. I wanted each unit to be able to work at near optimised levels when attacking.
(c) Redundancy. The units should add redundancy to the army list.
The units do the above and I will explain why. The Deathrain squads do not need Markerlight support (in fact using the ML’s to boost to BS5 is a waste of resources). The configuration of the unit has been balanced to offer the best balance of offense and cost. Taking three man DR units would not offer enough of an increase to justify their cost.
When you consider that the DR unit’s main task is stopping transports that this should be accomplished in the first two turns and the actual number of transports in an average list then it is actually counterproductive to spend another 106pts making the teams each 3 strong.
More can be accomplished by taking Missile pods on another unit but on one that can work against other targets, hence the Torch squad. The inclusion of 6 BS3 Missile pods on the three man Torch squad makes more sense than taking two more Deathrains.
I still have redundancy with the Missile pods but I gain effective anti infantry with the Flamers. However I am also gaining in another area because the Torch squad can work autonomously, is optimised at its anti-infantry role (needing no roll to hit and re-rolls wounds) and does not rely on ML’s for the Flamers to improve BS or to remove cover saves (Flamers ignore cover).
So my entire elite section is tuned to provide an alpha strike at maximum efficiency (for those who do not know an alpha strike is the first round of shooting from your forces in a game). To illustrate I will list what my units can provide:
4 BS5 Missile pod shots (plus 2 or 4 BS Plasma dependent on target range)
8 BS4 twin linked Missile pod shots
6 BS3 Missile pod shots (dependent on Markerlight usage BS can be and often is raised to BS4 or BS5)
2 BS4 minimum Railgun shots from two hammerheads, dependent on target priority these will usually be hitting at BS5 with ML help but even without it BS4 is good
Up to 6 Seeker missiles. Again dependent on targeting priorities or cover save removal priorities I can vary my Seeker delivery
Two BS4 Fusions on the piranhas
The point here is that because the two Deathrian units and the HQ are not ML reliant I can utilise my Markerlights to help to provide a massively accurate alpha strike or to help remove cover saves.
The structure of my Markerlight contingents also means I can help 5 units achieve greater efficiency but it also has the side effect of making the Markerlight presence much harder to stop if the opponent gains the alpha strike. It is nigh on impossible to quickly stop 4 units of Markerlights.
So I have 18 MP shots, 2 accurate Railguns and Seeker missiles. I would be happy facing any list with that amount of first turn highly accurate firepower. It should also be noted that the Missile pods are spread throughout 5 units, which greatly aids their redundancy. To remove my MP output the opponent has to target 5 separate units spread around the field.
This also makes it much harder for the opponent to keep his vehicles vulnerable armour facings hidden from the MP’s, Seekers and Railguns but also from the multiple Markerlight sources (2 of which are mobile).
This shows how carefully balancing a unit’s firepower output can have cascading effects throughout the list. Balancing the Deathrain and HQ units cost to accuracy ratio carefully has given me the points to spend on units that benefit other units by making their output more efficient.
So already we have balance in the following areas:
Next we come to the troops.
9 Fire Warriors one upgraded to Shas'Ui with Bonding Knife (will use Pathfinders Devilfish)
9 Fire Warriors one upgraded to Shas'Ui with Bonding Knife (will use Pathfinders Devilfish)
10 Kroot and 6 Kroot hounds
10 Kroot and 6 Kroot hounds
This is an area that is notorious for its ability to generate debate. I have given a lot of thought to the most beneficial balance for this force slot.
What do we need to achieve with troops? Well first thing to understand is troops are vital (also one unit of Fire Warriors is compulsory), they are needed to take and hold objectives in 2/3rds of missions. Now despite what various people/forums say if you want to play competitive games (especially against high standard tournie players) you need to consider three areas in regards to troops.
(1) Objective taking and holding
(2) Keeping troops alive
(3) Offensive power
(4) Balancing all the above
As we are talking about the Tau we need to address one thing first ‘Kroot’. In my opinion kroot are compulsory in a Tau list, if you want to win consistently with Tau you need Kroot.
Kroot offer various benefits to the tau player they have various deployment options (infiltrate, outflank and normal placing on the table), they offer shooting, assault and good defensive options.
However to work effectively you need to ensure they are not needed for objective control, without that constraint they can then be fully and freely utilised in those offensive and defensive roles without any reservation.
To do this we need a decent Fire warrior presence and again this is a real balancing trick.
The number of Fire Warriors in each of my units is calculated to allow for a reasonable amount of firepower, casualty absorbtion, and resistance to fall back tests plus decent defensive capability.
Nine Fire Warriors in a unit is a good balance as it offers:
18 shots at rapid-fire range
It takes 3 casualties to force a fall back test
It is a decent size to offer resistance when occupying objectives
To survive the Fire Warrior units need a Devilfish, which luckily enough the two Pathfinder units happen to be forced to take. This combination of units just happens to provide a good balance in various game play elements.
For one it means we have the two Pathfinder units, which provide the ML support AND means we do not have to spend extra paying for two more Devilfish. The Fire Warrior unit and Devilfish combo make the Kroot units more effective and give the army good balanced ability in any mission type.
Back to the Devilfish for a moment; these are a very good example of balancing various elements to provide a benefit to the army and/or other units. For example the way I have set up the Devilfish means it provides five Fire warriors worth of firepower no matter how far it moves (two Drones and the Burst cannon = five shots).
So simply by leaving the Drones on the DF and taking a Multi tracker instead of paying for a smart missile system means I have more than a full Fire Warrior squads worth of firepower.
Taking flechettes also allows the DF to perform another role, one of a defensive support for the Fire warriors. The taking of the Flechettes means any unit attacking a Devilfish will suffer hits. Objectives can be held by FW’s in Devilfish, so the DF provides protection and offense with its Burst cannon, Drones and Flechettes for FW untis on objectives.
Devilfish's basically provide a mobile bunker with firepower for Fire warriors and the way I have equipped it makes it a very effective offensive and defensive asset.
Holding an objective is made much easier with a Devilfish with Drones, Flechettes and its Burst cannon, it gives a multi-layered defence for the objective (I/E Devilfish, Drones then Fire warriors).
The Kroot unit are made more effective because the Fire Warrior units are there to take, hold and contest objectives. This means the Kroot are freed from this task so the are free to provide protection for other units or to be used as attacking units and even as sacrificial units. Conversely the Fire Warriors are less put upon to provide offensive output.
Having two units of Fire Warriors also provides redundancy to both the FW units and the Kroot. Having four troop units’ means the opponent has to work harder to prevent the Tau player taking/holding objectives.
What has to be remembered is Kroot are (despite all their advantages) a fragile unit and they cannot be relied upon to hold or take objectives, even getting to an objective is fraught with danger for Kroot units. Even the Kroots famous ability to go to ground in wooded terrain is negated by flamers or template type weapons.
Having the two units’ of FW’s means more flexibility.
For example the Tau player can:
(a) Hold both Fire Warrior and Devilfish units in reserve until late in the game
(b) Hold one FW unit and a DF in reserve but have the other holding an objective
(c) Use both units as offensive units in kill point missions
(d) Have one FW/DF unit in reserve and use one to help the Kroot in objective missions with fewer objectives or in combined KP/objective missions
And so on and so on! The point is that having the two FW units means it is easier to handle any mission type and balances the roles of the FW’s and the Kroot allowing both to perform much more efficiently.
Having two Kroot units and one FW unit simply puts to much pressure on the Kroot and restricts the player’s use of them, this is not a balanced approach because the opponent can apply pressure to either the Kroot or the lone FW unit, either way it restricts the usage of each unit.
The Kroot units are also balanced to provide balanced offensive power, the inclusion of Kroot hounds means they can perform well in assaults as well as shooting. Having the hounds also means the unit performs better at protecting other units and as an area denial unit. Any enemy unit attacking the Kroot will be faced with either a decent amount of shooting attacks or a formidable amount of assault attacks.
The Kroot also have various deployment options, which makes them very good at responding to the differing mission types available. Basically there are no missions in which the Kroot cannot be deployed favourably or in response to your opponent.
So as can be seen the number of troops and their construction plus their transport options has all been carefully thought out to provide multiple benefits to the list.
Now for the fast attack
Devilfish with Disruption Pod, flechettes and multi
Devilfish with Disruption Pod, flechettes and multi
2 x Piranha with Fusion, TA and DP’s 150pts
When considering what to take in the fast attack slots the need to provide Devilfish for the Fire Warriors and the need for Markerlights pretty quickly decides two of the slots. However taking two full units of PF’s is overkill.
Having 16 Pathfinders (2 full units) is expensive and the returns are negligible. Each 5 man unit will return a minimum of two tokens a turn and this is usually enough, offering either a 2pt BS boost, 1pt BS boost and a 1pt cover save reduction or a 2pt cover save reduction.
That will usually be enough ML tokens to serve one unit in most situations.
Having 5 or 6 tokens against one target is often just a waste of tokens so the points can be better spent elsewhere. The other benefit of smaller units is they are easier to hide and can utilise smaller pieces of cover.
Having two smaller units also aids their survivability and provides redundancy because the ML presence is not concentrated in one unit. 60pts for each unit is also not a big sink in points but the benefits they provide to the list far outweigh their cost.
The Piranhas are taken to provide in order of importance:
(a) Blockading of the opponents dangerous/fast units
(b) Anti armour with their Fusion blasters
(c) Objective contesting
I had to consider whether it would be better taking two separate units consisting of one Piranha each or taking a two Piranha unit. The problem with taking two separate Piranhas is they need a Fast attack slot each and this would mean losing a Pathfinder squad. This would have serious implications for the list balance.
It would mean paying extra for another Devilfish for the second Fire warrior unit or forsaking the second FW unit all together. Either option is bad because paying for the extra Devilfish means taking points from another unit, taking one unit of FW’s has all the disadvantages I mentioned earlier for the Kroot units etc.
Losing a Pathfinder squad means the remaining squad is going to get more attention from the opponent and will be much less survivable, I lose some redundancy and I am going to lose a units worth of ML support so a unit is either going to be hitting less often or an opposition unit is going to be benefiting from improved cover saves. All in all taking two individual Piranhas is not worth the mass of downsides (for this list).
Having the two Piranhas has some advantages. The unit offers decent firepower, two BS4 Fusions is not to be sniffed at and the Drones offer nice backup. The two Piranhas offer a good decent sized frontage for blockading. The downside is the squadron rules but these are not that important when we are using the unit to block anyway. Another benefit is any assault attacks have to be split between the two Piranhas which means they should stay around longer when assaulted (which is a good thing).
Railgun, Burst Cannons, Multi tracker and Disruption Pod
Railgun, Burst Cannons, Multi tracker and Disruption Pod
Burst cannons, Targeting array, Multi tracker and Disruption Pod, Blacksun filter
The Hammerhead is a great example of a perfectly balanced unit. It offers balanced offense against infantry and vehicle type units when the Railgun is taken. Both the solid shot and the submunnition are both extremely effective against their respective targets, which makes the Railhead Hammerhead a valuable asset to any list.
Taking the Skyray helps to make the Hammerheads more effective by upping the BS which either helps the hit rate of the solid shot or reduces the scatter of the subs round.
Taking the Skyray also means the other Markerlights are free to help other units, reduce cover saves or to launch the Skyrays seekers.
A small touch is the Black sun filter on the Skyray, this is deliberate because the BSF can be used to fire the Markerlights which in turn can be used to negate the effects of night fight for up to two units (usually the Hammerheads).
Having the two Hammerheads also offers some redundancy and also means they offer offense throughout the whole game, first couple of turns they hit armour and then can switch to infantry killing for the rest of the game. Same goes for the Skyray it offers Marker light support throughout the game and heavy fire support but it also offers that important redundancy to the ML presence.
So as can be seen balance is very important to lists effectiveness. The thing to remember is that the balance has to be built up from an understanding of the mechanics of good Tau gameplay. Basically what this means is the understanding of which tactics work best for the Tau player and building the list to exploit them. Tau work best when delivering withering amounts of firepower fast while utilising board control to keep enemies at bay and to control objectives.
Denial of targets is also important to successful play and the best way to accomplish this is using board control. So what is board control, well it consists of different things.
Alpha strike: using the early strike to cripple transports and make units walk across the field, also stopping the enemies tanks, dreads etc to prevent the opponent from destroying our transports and reducing our mobility.
Blockading: using Tau units to prevent dangerous units from gaining ground. The Piranha is good for this but the Devilfish can be used and so can the Kroot at a push.
Preventative deployment: using units such as kroot and XV8’s to deter the opponent from areas of the field.
Mobility: using mobility to respond to the opponents game-play, to gain line of sight to better stop units, to control objectives or to contest them.
Infiltration: using the Kroots infiltrate ability (or Stealth’s) to respond to the opponent’s deployment, to blockade areas of the field, to directly attack areas of the field or to provide assault screens.
Use the above list of requirements as a template is a good start to building an effective list. I have tried to show how I have built the balance into my list to best utilise the list of traits above. I hope it has gone some way to helping you to better understand how building balance into a list works and how it can really improve a list.
Please understand that I am not saying that the above army list is the best ever example of balance because it is not. What it is, is a good example of balance in a list and I have included it to explain the ‘principles’ of balance and not to say “my list is the best example”.
I hope this article has succeeded in explaining some of the more esoteric, less obvious theory behind Tau list building. As always any critiques are welcome or pointing out of errors.
Most of all this is a starting point and not definitive by any means. I am hoping others will post with examples of balance in their list because there is no perfect “one” way of doing things and units and lists can work and be balanced in different ways.
Last edited by Rikimaru; October 24th, 2009 at 15:42.
Riki, I have not been with the Greater Good for that long (a few weeks now) but I find your articles, above others, to be very in-depth, and yield a great amount of insight into the Tau. They can be confusing at first, I know for me they were to an extent, but your articles do help to make everything become more clear. I hope to read more from you, and I agree with almost all of your opinions.
Keep up the great work, and +rep.
EDIT: It seems I need to spread some more reputation around before I can give it to you again, so for now I will just have to give you an I.O.U.
From my point of view, the only quality a "balanced" force must possess is the ability to deal with heavy mech enemies as easily as MC enemies as easily as horde enemies as easily as semi-mech enemies as easily as shooty enemies as easily as assaulty enemies ... and so on.
This doesn't mean that your tactics are the same against each type of opponent. Clearly, they can't be. Trying to outline possible tactical approaches to combat each type of opponent build would require multiple lengthy articles, as well!
Neither does it mean that your games are going to be necessarily easy. Of course they won't! If your opponent brings a quality list and is a quality player, you should EXPECT a challenging game. However, if your list is truly balanced and you are experienced in how to use it, you should feel confident that you at least have the capability required to win the game.
In the end, I have come to believe that the optimal way to achieve a balanced army -- whether we're talking about Tau or Tyranids or Space Marines or Imperial Guard -- is to try and select units that give you the ability to attack both enemy infantry AND enemy mech/MC. A unit must be points-efficiently capable of doing both at the same time before it merits consideration. Doing so means you don't have to slot particular units in your list to specific duties. All of your units will be capable of attacking virtually anything and everything that ANY opponent can conceivably field.
Doing so puts the weight of combating your enemies in your tactical hands. The weight isn't in the list itself -- you're not depending on certain elements of your list absolutely doing some specific mission-critical action or everything goes pear-shaped. Rather, the game's outcome (outside of truly atrocious luck) is entirely in your actual mind. Your list can be counted upon to perform whatever duty you require of it because it has been built to be completely dual-purpose and with redundant backups everywhere.
FWIW, this is the exact thinking that informs my own army lists (as exemplified in my tactica) and why you don't see unit configurations in my lists that riki recommends. In the end, it appears to me that riki is attempting to achieve an overall balance by selecting specialized units at various points throughout, whereas I attempt to achieve balance at every point in the army list. IMHO, I feel that using specialized units opens up your army to being severely weakened by allowing for the possibility of a limited number of your units to be eliminated ... and with their elimination, a severe weakening of your army's effectiveness.
This is just an overall philosophical difference I'm getting at here. I generally agree with riki on the individual unit capabilities he extols in his army breakdown above. But I'm not convinced that this leads to actual "balance" in the way I understand it.
Last edited by number6; October 24th, 2009 at 01:31.
ninjabackhand: point and click, again, really? even after i give you an military term "shock tactic" you still call it point and click.
RIP Warhammer 40,000: 21 Sep 1998 - 24 May 2014
The bit emphasised in red: have I been missing something about the Kroot?Originally Posted by rikimaru
Haven't read through all the article yet (because it's one o'clock in the morning and I'm knackered!) but it looks like it'll be another of your fine pieces, Riki.
"Tau Commandment #226: Participants who use Velocity Trackers in the Tau Clay Pigeon Tournament will be disqualified"
number6: I am a bit confused by this paragraph:I really do not have any specialised units (PF unit excepted) other than the Deathrain and they are usable against other targets. Yes I have units that work better against certain targets but that is impossible and even unwise to avoid, we need to be able to field units that are good at taking other units out.Originally Posted by number6
The Torch squad is as useful against infantry as it is against armour with its Missile pods (a la Fireknife) and the HQ are versatile Fireknives. The only truly 'specialised' units as in specialised role are the ML squads but I have four of them so it is next to impossible to easily stop them.
The Hammerhead is not specialised (though is good at anti AV14) and the Skyray is ML support with firepower thrown in. I have redundancy all over the place so losing one unit is never going to stop me hitting a certain target type.
If you re-read the post you will see it is extremely hard to weaken any part of my list or to weaken any part of its ability to handle any target type (I/E infantry or armour).
What 'specialised' units are you actually talking about and what unit elimination are you talking about because really I play this list and trust me I know how hard it is to weaken any part of it.
Your list actually does not follow your own description of balance:In your list you have lots of squads which are not as points efficient against all target typesOriginally Posted by number6
You have Firkenives which cannot handle AV14 and are not that good against hoards
You have XV88's which are a specialised unit and are crap against infantry
You have Piranhas which are good blackers and can hit armour but would struggle against massed numbers of infantry type units
You have Kroot which are no good against armour.
There is nothing wrong with any of the above but they do not fit your own criteria for list inclusion you described above. Your idea of a balanced list is to oversimplified and impossible to achieve. What I aim for is taking an 'army' that can deal with all type of opponent, that can deal with all missions and that can exploit and utilise tactics to beat the opponent.
As I described above using the alpha strike to limit mobility will work against the vast majority of opponents so this needs optimising. Using mobility to avoid enemies and to gain tactical advantage is needed and I have built the list to do this in a balanced way. Using board control (and all different tactics that entails) is vital and I have built my list to do that against the 'majority' of opponents. In other words I have taken as many variables into account as I can and created a list which 'balances' those variables.
Reading what you have written it seems to indicate you have simply thought "right I need a list that can (a) deal with all unit types equally and (b) units that can hurt anything they hit" and (a) is oversimplified and will result in anyone building a list following that one criteria ending up with an unbalanced list. (b) is impossible because only two units can deal with all target types even close to efficiently and that is the Hammerhead and Helios.
So building a list following that criteria is immediately doomed to failure. Yes we can take units that deal with multiple unit types but they have to fit the list and relying on units multi tasking with equal efficiency against all targets is a bad bad impossible idea, what is better is taking units that can do a job well but can also work when that job is done.
All lists have weaknesses but what I have tried to do is show a systematic approach to building a balanced list that will perform against the majority of opponents.
I am puzzled because your list simply does not follow these guidelines:You have Pathfinders (specialised)Originally Posted by number6
You have XV88's I believe (specialised)
Piranhas (specialised in your list in that you tend to use them for blocking)
Kroot and Fire Warriors (these do not do any anti armour)
You use Deathrains at times and these are essentially anti armour.
Like I said earlier nothing wrong with any of the above but your list simply does not follow what you class as the criteria for a balanced list. Very few units can attack "virtually anything and everything that ANY opponent can conceivably field" if they could we would not need to create balanced armies we would just field masses of those units
I do agree that the weight of the game is in the hands of the players tactical ability. Which is why I said this:And then went on to detail the tactics that need to be taken into consideration BEFORE you build a list. The point is that when you have an idea how to play the Tau and then build a list that exploits those gameplay traits it is easier to come up with an army that can face all the different opponent types you listed.Originally Posted by rikimaru
If you try to build a list the other way around; by listing the opponents you face and building a list to deal with them all with the same level of efficiency then you will fail because it is impossible to build a list to deal every list type with equal efficiency.
This is what I aim for:Basically my criteria above should end up essentially achieving part of what you detail below in your quote. However no list will ever deal with all enemy types equally. No list can deal with heavy Mech as easily as it does hoard, it will always be better against one than the otherOriginally Posted by rikimaruThis is simply an over simplification (simply an oversimplification, hah I like that). Like I said if you try to build a list that can deal with every enemy type with 'equal' efficiency you will fai because it is an impossibility.Originally Posted by number6
I build to be effective and you can be effective while not being perfectly or equally as efficient. Your list for instance is weaker against heavy fast infantry type lists and skimmer based armies, so your attempt to fulfil your criteria has failed somewhat. That is not a criticism because any list is weakER in some areas but what it does show is you cannot balance a list on your simplified criteria.
One of the keys to finding the balance is to deal with 'most' enemies well but also be able to survive and be competitive against the tougher enemies (the ones that Tau are not optimised to deal with).
Tau can be built to deal with just about any individual army type well and if you play games against limited list types then specialisation is fine; however to deal with the largest amount of list types you need to have a detailed understanding of tactics, mission types, scenarios, enemy list construction and build a list to take into account all those things. When you do this you will do well against the majority of unit but there will always be lists we struggle against but we can build to struggle LESS.
Balance is not a simple thing to achieve and I agree that we do have different philosophies but your list does not meet your own idea of a balance in a list. I am a bit puzzled as to what your idea of balance is because you do seem to contradict your idea of what a balanced list is with the units you take.
I am not criticising your list and I really do not want to get into another FK is better than Torch type debate (no strike that I am NOT getting into another FK v Torch debate ). Rather I am interested to know how you justify some of your unit choices against this statementbecause that criteria is impossible to meet.Originally Posted by number6
Last edited by Rikimaru; October 24th, 2009 at 16:49.
I have changed the Shas'El.
Last edited by Rikimaru; October 24th, 2009 at 15:43.
Very thoughtful response, riki. Danke.
I agree that deathrains are valuable anti-armour/MC and anti-infantry units, too. However, it seems obvious to me that they are really only actually GOOD at anti-armour. Without more high-strength/low AP firepower, they are much weaker against MCs. Without more shots (and without more low AP shots) it is also obvious to me that they are significantly weaker against infantry, too. So, in my judgment, deathrains are specialized in a way that fireknives are not.
The same logic informs my opinion of the Torch. As with the deathrain, it is essentially a specialized suit build that clearly excels in one role (anti-infantry, especially relatively weak infantry like commonly seen in hordes) at the expense of being very useful in others (a torch really can't hurt MCs).
Regarding the non-duality units in my list that you mention. My general comment on the use of such units can be found in my tactica. To recap, I said that units that don't actually possess the kind of "balance" I seek must offer some other truly compelling reason to merit consideration.
* Fire Warriors. Not a balanced unit, but we're forced to take them. So keep the investment minimal and use them for the one thing our other "balanced" units cannot do: claim objectives. They don't offer anything else that I find valuable.
* Kroot. They're Troops. That in itself means they're worth considering regardless of their lack of balance. As it turns out, they bring a massive tactical toolbox along with them, so even if they weren't Troops I'd want to have a unit or two of these guys. And this is what merits them consideration over Fire Warriors even though FWs are also Troops. Kroot are Troops that actually bring more than just their Troops status to the table with them.
* Pathfinders. This unit is 40K's best force multiplication unit. IMHO, it's foolish not to take a sampling of a unit that boosts the efficiency of any portion of your army in any way you see fit.
* Piranhas. This unit actually has a bit of duality when you give it the fusion blaster. Anti-armour/anti-MC and anti-infantry thanks to the drones. So it passes muster -- if only barely -- on that count. (It's anti-infantry capabilities are a little thin, but they do actually exist.) However, we both agree on the massive tactical implications for your army that piranhas have on offer, so the combination is too good to resist.
Broadsides are truly balanced (railguns and SMS), railheads are truly balanced (solid shot and submunition, plus the burst cannons/SMS as needed), and obviously fireknife crisis suits are truly balanced. And there's my army build!
ninjabackhand: point and click, again, really? even after i give you an military term "shock tactic" you still call it point and click.
RIP Warhammer 40,000: 21 Sep 1998 - 24 May 2014
Almost nothing in this guide was really new to me but it really sumerizes the points you've stated in your dabete with 6 over the last weeks quite nice.
@6 I also have to say: riki is right:Your list is good, and maybe it's a good idea to tune a list to work well against MEQ since a high amount of the armies played are MEQ. However, many things you say aren't that easy as they seem to be. You're list also doesn't really follow your own instructions ... since your instructions are unrealistic.Your idea of a balanced list is to oversimplified and impossible to achieve.
Your list isn't balanced, you're playing a specialized list. There's nothing wrong with that ... except for you thinking it's in fact a balanced list. (it's neither a static nor a totaly mobile list but that doesn't mean it's balanced)
-your damage output is tuned to crush Marines if layed down on a chart ... just look at your weapons
-you're playing only one FW squad which is risky since they are our "game winners" in 2/3 of our games
-your crisis are all fireknifes which makes them tuned for MEQ. A balanced list would use more types of crisis (fk's aren't an all comers suit but a suit thats taking the risk of a higher miss rate to be able to deal with MEQ) better
-the setup of your list favors a special blocking playstyle over every other playstyle
all of this points are the essence of your list and in the same time, is making your list special instead of balanced. This isn't essentialy wrong or anything like that.
The majority of played armies are MEQ so it's maybe the right way to go to tune a list anti-MEQ while still having a good chance against other army types. (which actually is true only because of the fact that a list that's effective against MEQ is effective against a large part of any competetive army)
You're most propably a better player than me. But in my opinion you fail to realize the fact that creating a "balanced" list isn't the same as creating a list that's quite mechanized and that's able to deal with (maybe far) more than 50% of the played armies. Which is actually what you're trying to achieve. That's neither a wrong nor a bad idea, it's just not the same as a balanced list.
I don't understand where you get this notion from. A squad of Fire-Knives, (I'll assume outside of double-tap receiving Marker-Light support), is still laying down 3 Plasma Rifle shots and 6 Missile Pod shots. That's 9 shots. If you have two of those squads you're looking at 18 shots and that will be knocking down lots of bodies in any Ork Mob or Guard platoon.Originally Posted by Orni
Fire-Knives are certainly a balanced suit. A specialized suit would be something like Helios, Sun-Forge, Death-Rain, etc.I believe this to be an excellent break-down of all the factors present in a typical game of 40K and I don't understand why you believe number6's play-style does not cover all the angles. I'm not saying your play-style is unbalanced, I think it's incredibly balanced, but I do believe number6 is also balanced.Originally Posted by rikimaru
Mobility: Fire-Knives are mobile, there's no question about that.
Survivability: number6s survivability comes from being able to out-perform your opponent's offense.
Offensive Capability: Fire-Knives are just as capable at killing MEQ as they are at killing GEQ.
Assault Mitigation: That's what the Kroot are for.
Defensive Ability: I'm sure you've heard the old saying that the best defense is a strong offense and a strong offense is what number6 tries to maximize.
Competitiveness: Okay, number6 has to be more careful in Seize Ground, (the key-words are "more careful"), but at the end of the day you only need to be holding one objective and contesting everything else. In Take and Hold number6s scoring units are not a detriment at all as there's only 2 objectives.
Redundancy: number6 has that in spades.
I think both rikimaru's and number6's armies are balanced, they just play differently, whereas rikimaru plays it a little safer, number6 goes for the all-in blitz.
Last edited by counterwavecounter; October 25th, 2009 at 01:54.
"The man in the bowler hat is Mr. Average in his anonymity. I, too, wear one; I have no great desire to stand out from the masses." - Rene Magritte