Welcome to Librarium Online!
While I certainly don't claim to be the posessor of all knowledge on the subject, I've been studying and playing a Mechanised Tau army for the past year now and am fairly well versed in the different options available to Mech Tau Commanders. In recent weeks, I've seen more activity on this forum regarding bringing Devilfish with your Firewarriors (something nobody EVER did in 3rd edition) and using Hammerheads instead of Broadsides (again, Broadsides lost a lot of their defensability now that you can't screen them). Therefore, I thought I'd share a bit of my knowledge on the topic for those who might be interested.
What is Mech Tau?
The short version:
"Mech Tau is a Hunter Cadre that can be dropped from a Manta."
That's it! Any units that can't infiltrate need to be equipped with Jump Packs or have gravitic capabilities like Devilfish APC's and Hammerhead Gunships.
The word Mech comes from it being a Mechanised Army, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Mechanised Troops (Foot Soldiers in Transports/APC's and IFV's) need make up the bulk of the army. Mech Tau also has connotations of Mech & Mecha - large robot fighting suits so it also suits players who prefer to use more Battlesuits. These one Tau Fighting Suit/Vehicles are also a type of Mechanised unit, being one 'man' IFV's (Infantry Fighting Vehicles).
The army list consists of Crisis and Stealth suits, FW's in Devilfish, Pathfinders in Devilfish, Drones and Hammerheads. Additionally, kroot can be used as "pre-positioned ground assets" and Air Support when/if available.
Against stand back and shoot armies Mech Tau armies can play more aggressively right out of the gate. People don't expect a Tau army to come zipping up and unload on their doorstep. It's like an assault army in that you can pick your weak spot and concentrate ALL of your army on a smaller, weaker flank and push for a Breakthrough.
Against aggressive armies, Mech Tau Cadres tend to give ground, either depth or laterally whilst using Battlesuits and Hammerheads to disable and destroy enemy mobile elements, simultaneously protecting their own soft forces, the Shas'la. Then pouncing back on the stragglers to clean up.
Why Mech Tau?
How many of you also play in Heavy Terrain Environments against a plethora of Assault Based armies? Hammered by Multiple Whirlwind Batteries and charged down by ravenous aliens and jump pack equipped, Chainsword wielding fanatics?
All of the fantastic advantages of the Tau list including heavy hitting Broadsides and Firewarriors with their fantastic basic armament lose a great deal of their shiny-ness when they can't be used to full effect. The 30" range of Pulse Rifles was and is meaningless where I play, were I am lucky to get an 18" shot off.
When reading through the Tau Codex, the image of a very well equipped Combined Arms force formed in my imagination. Honestly, the idea of "hording up" on Fire Warriors never occurred to me, and I thought the Codex was pretty clear about that. I very much wanted to put together and learn how to play with an "ultra-mobile" Tau army that "consisted of an extremely well-equipped mechanized infantry formation with armoured support".
To support this idea, I would like you to consider some excerpts from the Tau Codex:
Pg 2: "Their main strength lies in the different battlesuit equipped warriors"
Pg 14: "Unlike The Imperium, the Tau Empire cannot draw on limitless manpower, so the strategy of attrition is unknown to them"
Pg 15: "Each Manta carries a full Hunter Cadre of between fifty and 100 Tau. All the troops carried will either be mounted in gravitic vehicles or equipped with jet packs and, can deploy from the Manta Missile Destroyer at altitude."
Pg 58: The Damocles Crusade, "The Tau response was swift, and consisted of an extremely well-equipped mechanized infantry formation with armoured support."
Pg 60: "As the assault continued, it was countered by ultra-mobile Tau units deployed from the ubiquitous Manta Missile Destroyers"
So as you can see, by what I must admit is selective reading of the Tau Codex, you can see that in a number of instances, the fluff does make direct mention of the type of Tau Hunter Cadre that we have come to call a Mech Tau Cadre.
The biggest reason to play a Mechanised Tau army, however, is that is just so darned much fun! With all of this strategizing and debate, it's very easy to forget why we all started playing 40k in the first place - it's fun! Sure, we're all trying to build effective armies, and we're all trying to win games... but sometimes we get so caught up in the numbers that we forget the flavour and interest that dragged us into the hobby in the first place.
There is no best. There never will be. What's best for stats may be boring to run and boring to paint for you - and if that's the case, don't! If I like stealths and you like crisis suits, or if I like krootox and you like broadsides.. run with it. Are we talking about a core strategy and a way of doing things that does lend itself to certain units?
But do what makes the game fun for you. I play Mech Tau because I love the fluff - the idea of tanks humming over the battlefield and Firewarriors hot dropping into an LZ under fire. I love the lightning-quick raids of Stealth Suits and the nearly-impenetrable armor (and massive guns! of the tanks. On the rules side - I love the restrictions the army places on me and the creative thinking it takes to win battles; having both a master battle plan and a fluid tactical situation suits me well.
The Principles of Mech Tau
Enemy assault troops that DO NOT have jump packs and transports are very nearly zero-threat to any fully mechanized Tau force. We simply outmaneuver them to such an extreme that they will never come to blows and, as such, cannot do more than vaguely deny us tiny areas of the table.
This implies that when enemy transports are destroyed, any assault troops they contain might as well have been destroyed, for our purposes, magnifying the utility of destroying transports early.
Enemy artillery is exceptionally dangerous to static armies, but markedly less so to mech-tau. The most dangerous weapons have a signifigant minimum range and are vulnerable to deep strike (which we have in abundance) and railgun fire. The ones that don't necessarially fit that profile (like the whirlwind) are useless against our armor, for the most part.
This implies, to me, that any enemy artillery is a minimal threat at best, easily countered by the native strengths of our army.
By fielding so many vehicles, we are suddenly dangerously exposed to enemy heavy weapons, as those weapons grow less useful when fired on troop concentrations (a-la the lascannon - killing a tank is worth it. Killing a firewarrior isn't). However, we effectively negate most enemy anti-infantry heavy weapons with one felll swoop, as their strength is too low to hurt the tanks.
This implies that eliminating enemy anti-tank weaponry early is a priority, one that takes a great deal of precidence over just about anything else.. except, perhaps, dealing with transports.
Our low model count makes us exceptionally suceptable to morale issues... if we lose models. However, the Mech Tau doctrine, when utilized correctly, minimizes model loss and, generally, makes it hard to hurt us, effectively negating huge swaths of enemy points invested in weapons, and halving (or worse) effective enemy troop values.
This implies that if we concentrate firepower on smaller areas, so as to whittle down even those already wounded points scores, we'll ultimately end up eroding individual units into uselessness, negating their value.
Our emphasis on mobility and flexibility allows us to better position ourselves for the taking of mission objectives. In the heat of combat, it's easy to forget what you're trying to do! If you're playing a rescue mission, it doesn't matter if your opponent destroys 2/3 or your army, as long as you've got that token! You can use that mobility to lure your opponent into that trap. By using several highly mobile units in a diversionary role, you present your opponent with the choice to either delay his assault of the objective and deal with your flanking troops, or press on towards the mission objective and suffer the consequences... neither of which is really a good choice.
In missions that use Victory Points, a common misconception is that units must "make their points back." In reality, the only time a unit must "make its points back" is if it dies! If 3/4 of your army stays buttoned up behind a huge forest doing nothing the entire game and your two Hammerheads kill 7 marines over the course of 6 turns, you win the game! At the start of the game, the two sides are even, neither army having killed any of the oposing army's forces. Any time you stick your nose out (or deploy your Firewarriors), you risk taking casualties which must be "made back." Therefore, if we are careful about when and where we pick our fights, we can be sure to always take more Victory Points than we lose and will never feel pressured to engage an enemy we may be ill-suited to fighting.
This implies that a healthy amount of caution be exercised when deciding which targets to engage. In a perfect world we would only ever engage targets that we were sure of destroying in one round of shooting and would attack from an angle that denied LOS to every other unit on the board thereby negating any chance of return fire. While this situation is highly unlikely, there are often situations where terrain can be used to minimize return fire and therefore casualties. In short, AV12 fast-moving skimmers (with decoy launchers) are good at minimizing casualties, and a minimum number of casualties means less Victory Points for our opponent, and less Victory Points for our opponant means less Victory Points that we need to collect to win the game.
In order to win a game of Warhammer you necessarily need to dominate ceratin phases. Some army lists are geared to completely dominate one phase (say close combat), without any attention given to the others. Their goal is to use their extreeme advantage in that one phase to so drastically overwhelm their opponent that they thereby minimize their disadvantages in the other phases. "I win Tau", the strategy whereby you bring maximum static firewarriors, maximum broadsides and shoot your opponent to death, is another example of this. In this case you are dominating the shooting phase at the exclusion of movement and close combat.
Alternatively, a more balanced army could, try to be dominant in one phase while being compitant enough in the other phases so as to not be completely overwhelmed. A Dark-Eldar Raider-Wyche army would seem to me to be this type of list. They dominate the movement phase, while still being compitant in both close combat and shooting. While they might not hold up against a dedicated close combat list, they can certainly minimize their losses in that phase of the game through some of their special abilities.
When designing an army list, a general has the opportunity to choose which phases he/she wants to dominate. In general, the points are not available to design a list that dominates all phases of the game, so compromises must be made. If we consider the 3 primary phases to be movement, shooting, and close combat, then it is clear that Mech Tau is aimed at dominating the movement phase with shooting being a close second.
And now to my point. The novice Mech Tau player will now be saying to himself, "But why would any intelligent general choose to put points into dominating a phase that doesn't kill anything?!" This is true, the killing happens during the other two phases of the game. However, the reason dominating the movement phase is so effective, is that movement is the only phase of the game that doesn't depend on chance. Any Black Templar player can roll a command squad up to a line of Firewarriors and whiff with all 83 attacks. True, it's not very likely, but it can happen. A Devilfish that moves 12" in the movement phase always moves 12" in the movement phase, no matter how poorly you roll! Therefore, by choosing to invest points in mobility, an intelligent general will get their points worth 100% of the time. That is the advantage of dominating the movement phase, and that is the advantage of Mech Tau.
In summary, Mech Tau uses their speed, mobility, and armor to win games through the following:
Denial of Victory Points to the nemy
With AV 12 fast moving skimmers and Battlesuits that can Jump-Shoot-Jump, a Mech Tau army is very durable and is a hard target to pin down. Half our army will be out of sight with our assault moves, and the other half is AV 12 or greater and can only be destroyed on a glancing 6.
Accomplishing Mission Objectives
Mech Tau is one of the best armies around for accomplishing mission objectives. It can bombard the enemy from afar, run circles around them during the first 4 turns, and then when turn 5 hits, everything left on the table rushes out to claim objectives, token, and loot counters.
Selective Destruction of Enemy Assets through Concentration of Firepower and Mobility
It is impossible to win with Mech against an enemy whom you insist on engaging equally - in order to succeed, you must pursue and utilize moments of local fire superiority. Attacking half of his army with all of yours means victory, even if you lose a fifth in the fighting.
So that's all I got for an intro. Much of this material was written by other Mech Tau Commanders on another forum that is dedicated to the discussion of this topic:
The space is in there because this forum doesn't like my links for some reason. Just cut it out. Anyway, at the Mech Tau forum, there is a very detailed 'Guide To Mech Tau' that you can read to learn more if you're interested. If you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer 'em here, or you can post them over there. The folks there are mature and welcoming and like nothing more than to welcome fresh blood into the ways of Mech Tau.
Credit for the above material should be given to Kai'lore, Azraphael99, and T0nkaTruckDriver.
Pretty much what my Armies theme is, though being restricted to just 4 vehicles is tough!
Exactly what I'm looking for, I think I stumbled accross the Mech site about a month ago, then lost it in cyberspace, now once again I can read like minded Tau players thoughts on Mech Tau.
Love the post, love Mech Tau.
<img src='http://img117.exs.cx/img117/3120/troop2_3copy.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />
Eek, run away. There's only four of us left! (||)
Thanks so much for posting this, i was just thinking about starting a thread asking if anyone new much about a mechanized tau army. I've been playing my tau for a while, and not enjoying it as much as i think i could. I crave mobility! This has really encouraged my to stop buying fire warriors and buy some devilfish to put the ones i already have in. Thanks!
"I love this job more than I love taffy, and I'm a man who loves his taffy."
No problem folks. Like I mentioned, check out their 'Guide to Mech Tau' over on the site if you're interested in learning more. In fact a good portion of that article was taken as excerpts from the intro sections.
In any case, I hope you find something interesting!
That post describes the reason why I began collecting Tau in the first place. Because, of all the W40K armies, it is by and far the most focused on true guerilla warfare. Being able to move, shoot, and hide away is to me the most tactically stimulating experience, something I imagined W40K would incorporate more of before I learned how most armies actually play.
Well I'm gonna take a look at that website.
I read it yesterday and when I did, it changed my whole perspective on Tau. It is the true way to use them, and it makes them almost unbeatable- with a seasoned general of corse.And to say the least- thank you for introducing me to the guide.
The only thing that is stopping you from being what you can be is what you think other people think about you.
If you could say one thing to the world, what would it be?
Hey, no problem Tau Master. I posted this partially as an educational tool for the members of this site, and partially as incentive, to show what is possible if a group of folks get together and put their mind to something. I'd really like to see an organized Tactica similar to the 'Guide to Mech Tau' be put together for this site as well. As it stands, the only 'tactical articles' are loose and unorganized requests for help that get answered in a half-hearted way by 'veterans' who have answered the same question a thousand times and are sick of the 'n00bs' and their ignorance. Something like this is an easy way to get new folks up to speed in a hurry and helps defer a lot of those types of questions.
I think this article correctly emphasizes a key point of the tau battle doctrine, and something that seems to get lost behind all the big guns: mobility. Even in a standard list, the tau have superior mobility due to their jet packs, which is something generally (and sadly) overlooked by most tau players. My only real problem with the mechanized tau list is that the devilfish is basically a chimera without the infantry support capabilities. It's uses are similar to that of a rhino in that it exists to get a squad from one point to another quickly, but it's cost is much more expensive. While it also costs as much as the chimera, it lacks the heavy weapons of the imperial guard tank and thus is limited in combat effectiveness. Sure, burst cannon are a great weapon, and the drones can do their own thing, but in general the devilfish cannot be used in a fire support role for the squad it transports.
The enemies of the Emperor fear many things. They fear discovery, defeat, despair and death. Yet there is one thing they fear above all others. They fear the wrath of the Space Marines!
Mech Tau is an excellent idea, this is a link to a 1500pt Mech Tau army of mine in the army lists section I posted yesterday, critique from you guys would be appreciated.