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Drones, a basic guide to their uses and tactics
Drones, ahhhh ya gotta love them little fellas, I have seen many tacticas created for other Tau units but the humble drone tends to get ignored. I intend to rectify this injustice.
The drone is a very valuable part of the Tau army and they have many forms and many uses, I find it strange that a guide has not been produced for them.
So where do we start? Well I think a description of the different varieties would be a good place to start.
Gun Drone, the workhorse of the Tau army (after the Fire Warrior), the grunt of the drone world, well armed, very mobile and capable of independent action.
Shield Drone: The protector it has powerful shields and a chameleonic like ability to assume the owning models toughness and armour save.
Marker Drone: The target designator comes equipped with a powerful Marker light, which offers many bonuses to units.
Sniper Drone: Rail rifle equipped drone, used to disrupt an opponents forces.
Vehicle mounted Gun Drones: these are either included as standard on the vehicle or are available from the armoury as an upgrade.
Drones are usually controlled by a model equipped with a drone controller, the exceptions are the gun drone squadron and vehicle mounted drones, which I will discuss later)
Gun, shield and Marker light drones when under the control of a model with a drone controller assume the same unit designation as the model controlling them, this means they move at the same rate as the controlling model (I/E 6” if controlled by a FW).
As mentioned earlier the Shield Drone also takes on the controlling models toughness and armour save characteristics.
Controlled Drones are counted when assessing unit losses for the purposes of moral tests (25%) and are also counted when assessing if the unit is strong enough to claim objectives. Drones also count when assessing if the unit is below 50% for victory points.
If the model with the drone controller is killed the controlled drones are removed at the end of the phase he was killed in, be aware that is the phase and not the end of the turn.
Any model with a drone controller can take a maximum of two drones of any type except Sniper Drones. A mix of drone types is allowed (so for instance you could take 1 Gun Drone and 1 Shield Drone if required)
So that’s the basics out of the way, lets have a look at the drone types in more detail.
The Gun Drone
The Gun drone is a very well equipped and versatile little fellow, he comes in three guises, controlled, vehicle mounted and independent squadrons.
The movement of the Gun drone depends on the two variables:
1: If it is under the control of a drone controller, it will move at the same rate as the owning model
2: If it is vehicle mounted or part of a drone squadron, it will have a jet pack and is subject to the jump infantry (jet pack) special rules, they can deep strike if the mission permits (Obviously DS does not apply to vehicle mounted drones).
The jet pack equipped Gun Drone has the ability to keep pace with any other jet pack equipped model such as XV8’s and Stealth’s, they can make the same 6” move in the assault phase.
The Gun Drone is equipped with twin linked pulse carbines, these have the ability to pin units if a casualty is caused and a pinning test is failed.
Gun Drones (as do all drones) have a benefit not usually noticed by the casual player, they are Initiative 4, this is better than nearly every other unit in the Tau army (only Vespids and Kroot hounds are superior), this makes them handy to have around as assault buffers, as they will last longer than Fire Warriors.
So we have a model that has very good movement, decent firepower, the ability to pin units and also has good initiative, they have decent saves can deep strike and are relatively cheap for the benefits they bring. It should also be remembered that Gun drones are only 10pts each when taken as a choice from the armoury and on vehicles.
So how to use them, well squadrons are a very good unit to use as flanking units, they are fast and have enough firepower to damage units. They can also deep strike behind enemy lines / units. This disruptive influence should not be underestimated as many armies include units that have to charge the nearest unit.
The Gun Drones good movement rate can lead such units a merry dance and can seriously disrupt an opponents battle plans, it is also a valuable tactic to use when units are threatening such things as Fire Warrior units.
The drones carried by vehicles can also be used to prevent assaults on passengers, this is a good tactic when using the fish of fury, the drones are dropped in front of the Devilfish and provide an extra buffer for the Fire Warriors, if placed correctly the opponents unit will either have to go around them or assault them, either way the Fire Warriors are safe. If the drones are assaulted and beaten the enemy unit can only consolidate into the Devilfish, which can pick up the Fire Warriors and fly away next turn (vehicles cannot be locked in combat). Note: thanks to LittleBlueMan for reminding me of this tactic
The ability to move 12” in a turn can get drone units into position to threaten flanks and the rear of armies quickly, this is useful when dealing with dug in units like Devastators and can also be used to force target priority tests (they are failed sometimes even by Marines).
The Gun Drone squadron is sufficiently hard hitting enough to warrant attention from the opponent, if he ignores them he will pay the price, this means the drone unit can be a very effective disruption unit.
Another benefit of the deep strike is the ability to get to the rear armour of vehicles and the strength of the Pulse carbine makes the destruction of rear armour AV10 vehicles a very real threat.
My favourite use of the Gun Drone squadron however is the now infamous circular drone formation tactic. I simply love this tactic.
The idea is to use a full drone squadron to protect a Shas’El or Shas’O (can be used for Ethereals but its not recommended). The squadron encircles the Shas’El fully with a 1” gap between the drones. The Shas’El/O should NOT be attached/join the drone squad.
This exploits the independent character rule of not being able to target an IC if it is not the closest model to the firing unit, because the drones are fully encircling the Shas’El it is impossible for any unit to target the Shas’El.
The only things that can get past this are ordnance weapons and models with special rules that allow targeting of individual models (Vindicare assassins, Mind war etc).
The circular formation also offers protection from assaults but it should not be relied upon to do this, it is mostly an anti shooting tactic.
Another benefit of the Shas’El/O, Drone Squadron combo is they make a very effective anti transport/transported infantry unit, use a Shas’El with fusion to pop a transport, the unit inside has to immediately disembark if the fusion hits (no matter what the damage), the drones are then free to shoot the disembarked unit.
The disembarked unit will either be automatically entangled or have to take a pinning test, if the drones cause a casualty this will also cause a pinning test, odds are the unit will be pinned. This is a very effective technique for stalling dangerous units.
Vehicle mounted Gun Drones are immensely useful, the following should be remembered:
Gun drones are treated as passengers, this means:
They fire using their own ballistic skill and fire at the same target as the vehicle unless a target lock is fitted to the vehicle.
They can disembark from the vehicle in the vehicles movement phase.
They cannot re-embark once they disembark.
If the vehicle receives a penetrating hit they must disembark.
If the vehicle explodes they are classed as entangled and take a wound with saves allowed.
If the vehicle does not explode they take a pinning test.
They count as a separate unit and they have the same LDS as a standard drone squad, though they never count as scoring units.
If a 2 strong unit loses a drone the remaining drone takes last man standing tests thereafter.
Drones that are part of a piranha squadron must all disembark at the same time I/E if one vehicles drone disembark all the other piranhas must disembark in the same phase, they will form a squadron this means 10 strong drone squads are a possibility.
Drones can assault from a piranha in the assault phase, as per assaulting from an open topped vehicle.
Drones mounted on vehicles are not controlled by it, so if the vehicle is destroyed they disembark.
If enemy models are within 1" of the drones in their cradles when the vehicle is destroyed and they cannot disembark (the same way as enemy models blocking doors) then the drone is destroyed.
When drones disembark they must disembark within 2" of the cradles and have unit coherence (be within 2" of each other).
The ability to have multiple small free squads of drones running around the field after they have disembarked from vehicles is invaluable, they can be used to force target priority tests, to force compulsory movement away from valuable units, as sacrificial assault units etc etc.
If a squadron of Piranhas is taken it is possible to get a free drone squadron up to 10 models strong FOR FREE, however even a unit of say 3 Piranhas can give you a 6 strong unit (very helpful).
Another tactic gaining popularity is the Stealth/Gun Drone uber squad, basically the stealth’s take free drone controllers and take two Gun Drones each, resulting in a massive unit with 12 drones and 6 stealth’s.
This gives 18 burst cannon shots and 12 twin linked shots per turn, the drones are also shielded by the stealth’s, mixed armour and toughness rules apply to the unit, which means that until the stealth’s are in the majority the drones take the wounds.
The downside to this unit is cost (300pts) and its massive footprint, which makes it unwieldy to utilise and very hard to use in cover.
It is also possible to take a mix of Gun drones and shield drones, to offer some protection to the stealth’s though this is uncommon.
Mmmmmm Shield Drones, these have the ability to take on the toughness and armour save of the controlling model (they are always taken in conjunction with a drone controller), they also have a 4+ invulnerable save.
Sounds good so far, however they do have some drawbacks:
They take up a hard point on XV and stealth suits if not hard wired, this can lead to reduced efficiency with weapons and other support systems.
The Shield Drone is counted when assessing if the unit they are with should take 25% moral checks, so if say a 3 man XV8 unit that includes 2 Shield Drones loses them the unit has to test and can end up falling back of the field.
Also if a lone XV8 or XV88 takes a Shield Drone and loses it, it has to take last man standing tests every turn thereafter, (lone XV8’s / XV88’s do not have to take last man standing tests if they start the game alone).
However an XV88 with two Shield drones can make for a formidable unit and can take a lot of punishment, just watch out for massed small arms fire.
Another decent thing about them is they are not susceptible to mixed armour and majority toughness rules so they can be allocated wounds.
I am not a fan of shield drones and never take them but plenty of players do.
Marker Drones come equipped with surprise surprise a Marker light, this however has the advantage of being networked.
Networked markerlights mean the unit that includes the unit that includes the markerlight can us the markerlight counter to benefit its own unit (I/E boost its own units BS etc).
The Marker Drone is classed as unit type ‘As owner’ this means it has the same movement rate as the unit controlling it, this can lead to problems if taken by stealth’s or XV suits because the markerlight is classed as a heavy weapon so it cannot move and shoot and so will severely restrict the movement of any unit it is attached to.
You can however shoot it ML and then move in the assault phase.
The marker drone is also hideously expensive at 30pts especially when you consider it has a BS of 3 which means a 50% miss rate on average.
A tactic that is gaining a lot of popularity is the 6 strong Fire Warrior squad, with a Shas’Ui with markerlight and target lock, hardwired drone controller and 1 or 2 marker drones. This unit works out at 145pts maximum and has 3 marker light hits per turn and can target two separate units, it has 5 wounds to get through before the markerlights are removed and when deployed in cover is quite a tough unit. However it suffers from a lack of mobility and is expensive (obviously the unit can be cheaper but is not as effective).
Marker Drones are expensive and inhibit a units mobility, these are quite hard drawbacks to ignore and as a consequence the Marker Drone is not taken in many lists.
Sniper Drones come equipped with a Rail rifle, target lock and a stealth field generator and a targeting array for +1 to BS.
They are under the control of a spotter who is equipped with a networked marker light.
3 units can be taken in a single heavy support slot (though they can be deployed and act independently).
If the drones use their target locks and they take and pass a target priority test (taken before shooting or declaring targets) then each drone can shoot different targets.
The spotter has a networked markerlight which can be utilised by the drones, however and this is important, if as described earlier target locks are used and a target priority test is passed and the drones target separate units, only one of the drones will be able to benefit from the markerlight counter (to up its BS etc).
If the drones do not take the target priority test and fire at one target they all benefit from the markerlight counter.
A spotters markerlight counter can also be utilised by other units instead of the Sniper Drones.
Sniper Drone squads also have stealth field generators, which mean they can be hard to target, they should ideally be deployed in cover which will dramatically up their survivability.
Rail rifles are very good at taking down MEQs and a full quota of 3 teams will very effectively reduce a unit of Marines very quickly, they are also useful against lightly armoured vehicles and monstrous creatures.
Drawbacks: well unfortunately both the markerlight and rail rifle are heavy weapons which means the unit is very restricted in its mobility, the unit can easily be countered by sending fast units to force the squad to move, if a sniper squad is moving its not shooting.
The range of the weapons seems decent but when you consider many untis have a 12” movement or enhanced assault moves its frighteningly easy to close on a unit of snipers in short order, this means they are very easy to counter.
They are also an expensive option, 1 unit will not accomplish much so 3 is usually the norm and this costs 240pts, however they also take up a heavy slot and Rail rifles cannot really be considered truly heavy weapons, if you take snipers you are reducing your true heavy weapon quota.
Tau are not exactly bursting at the seams with heavy weapons, other lists can take heavy weapons in infantry squads etc, so the sacrifice of a railgun equipped Hammerhead or Skyray has to be weighed carefully.
This is another reason I say Snipers are an expensive option.
I would not say do not use snipers as I think they can be very very effective especially when used in conjunction with other units against MEQ squads, but they do take some skill to use and they do need protection.
A good tactic is to drop of a couple of small squads of vehicle drones near them to force target priority tests and also to intercept assault squads etc, doing this can really extend a sniper teams longevity and this tactic is also very good for protecting those six man FW markerlight squads.
You also need to remember your losing a heavy slot.
One last thing to remember, if you take drones (not shield drones) as part of a unit you have to remember they are subject to mixed armour and majority toughness rules.
Now to the thorny subject of commanders and drones, I am not going to go into detail about this, instead I point you to my previous thread on IC, which includes details about drones, find it by following this link http://www.librarium-online.com/foru...tml#post928752
So there we have it a guide to drones, hope it gives some ideas on how to utilise these friendly little droids and what to avoid. So go on give em a try.
If I have omitted any details or made any errors please feel free to point them out.
I like this Riki. It is well written and correct.
I don't think you mentioned the use of disembarking gun drones to extend the FoF tactic and make your firewarriors safer. (It is why I don't use warfish). Using those gundrones ensures that your opponent will be out of assault range. This is helpful against certain gamers who would use elastic measuring or cheap tricks to get into B2B. It is also funny against units that have to assault the closest enemy. Penitent Engines, DeathCompany, etc.
This is a good tactic against death company w/jetpacks, as they will attack the drones and then only be able to consolidate into the front of a tank which can fly away.
(I don't know the ins and outs of the new death company though, I think they still have black rage.)
Thanks for writing the tactica. Rep.
Turtles For the Turtle God!
Shells For the Shell Throne!
Great guide i just have one question and i am almost positive the answer is no but can a unit of gun drones have any other types of drone i.e. marker light drones?
well done rikimaru, well done indeed, great cover of all drones and their uses :yes:
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nice guide rikimaru,easy to read and fairly detailled
have some rep
-A tau, dark eldar and slaanesh csm player
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i will add a conformation here i make heavy use of the 6-7 man FW squads with 2 marker drones and the 'ui with a marker light. i have 2-4 squads of theese units and i find it works better than a squad of pathfinders for a similar cost ( 1 unit of pathfinders costs rouighly the same as, 2 FW marker squads with 6-7 models) due to the fact you MUST include the cost of the devilfish into the pathfinder squad. the firewarrior option also gives you more targets to shoot at for the same point cost, 4 Vs. 2.
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