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Pathfinders in the new codex (Tactica)
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Old 15 May 2006, 18:25   #1 (permalink)
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Default Pathfinders in the new codex (Tactica)

Many of the biggest changes in the new codex affect pathfinders, and so I think it is time to reevaluate how we employ them. First, I will look at some of the changes and how they affect pathfinders, then I will propose what I suggest is the best way to employ them, and finally, I will discuss how this seemingly unfluffy deployment is, in fact, exactly what the fluff-doctor ordered.


The three biggest changes affecting pathfinders are, in order, the massive changes to the markerlight rules, the advent of the sniper drone, and the ability to mount SMS on devilfish.

The vast improvement of markerlights is a double-edged sword for pathfinders. It makes them a more attractive unit to the static or hybrid tau player, and at the same time, it makes them a very high priority target for the enemy. On the one hand, it becomes even more attractive, due to enemy fire, to move all markerlights to fire warrior squads, despite the high cost, as these markerlights are untargetable. On the other hand, the sheer demand for "more lights" and that exorbitant points penalty for taking lights in any other fashion increase the pressure on the tau player to take pathfinders in spite of the risks.

Sniper drones are a godsend for the pathfinder-fielding tau player. No longer do you have to agonize over whether or not to pay points (WTF?!?) to remove the markerlight from a model in exchange for a rail rifle. Now static and hybrid tau can have their cake and eat it, too. By taking rail rifles as a heavy choice, you get maximum anti-MEQ fires without sacrificing markerlights. Even better...the lights that you do have are in a separate unit, allowing you to mark for the rail rifles (not to mention that they come with a networked light of their own).

Lastly, the ability to mount a smart missile system gives the obligatory devilfish a purpose. With 7 S5 shots, it becomes a true gunship, and an asset in its own right, rather than a points penalty on those 12-point markerlights.


So, given that pathfinders are fragile and that they are going to be a priority target for the enemy, how do we keep them alive without preventing them from fulfilling their purpose? I reject the idea that they are too attractive a target for the enemy and that they should therefore be left at home. That makes as much sense as asking your boss not to give you a raise because you'd have to pay taxes on the extra money. I will happily pay taxes on any dollar you want to give me. So how do we keep them alive?

First, we don't use that free scout move in most cases. That will only bring you closer to the enemy. There are exceptions, however. It might be possible to lure the enemy into a false deployment by putting the pathfinders in a location other than where you actually intend to use them. Once deployment is complete, they can then move, probably in their fish, and redeploy out of the fish into their true battle position. But the absolute worst thing you can do is use the scout move to get closer to the enemy. Markerlights reach 36". Use 35 of them!

Second, we don't use the devilfish as a transport...again, in most cases. I think we can mostly rule out the possiblity that they will still be a scoring unit on turn 5, so the idea of grabbing an objective at the end is out. But the critical point is that the pathfinders be on the ground, marking, from turn one. The earlier they get those markerlight counters into play, the better. A markerlight hit on turn one is worth three on turn four, because what dies on turn one won't be shooting back on turns 2,3,4, etc. So taking time to fly them around to a "good spot" in the early turns of the game is not the best use of pathfinders. Instead, view the pathfinders and their fish as two units that deploy at the same time, share a force org slot, but operate separately.

Third, we don't take rail rifles. A 50% chance to improve the BS of an entire unit is more valuable than a 42% chance to kill a marine. End of Statement.

So, that's what we don't do. What do we do?

I recommend that you take maxed out squads with every LD-related upgrade available. Even 1-2 markerlights that run away, then regain their courage can still have a positive impact on the fight. I recommend that you always deploy them in cover, as far forward in your deployment zone as possible. But always in cover, and always behind at least one squad of fire warriors. Personally, I always park them in cover behind 24 warriors and with 3 sniper drones on each side of them. That accomplishes several objectives. First, it forces target priority checks if the enemy wants to shoot pathfinders. Second, it puts enough firepower with enough markerlights in one spot to make it horribly costly for the enemy to aproach them, limiting him to long-range fires, which will generally be low-volume, low AP (hence the cover for the PF). And any long-ranged fire aimed at a 12 point markerlight instead of a 150 point tank is a good thing!


Okay, so I'm suggesting that pathfinders, the scouts of the tau empire, be placed "in the rear with the gear"?!? How is that fluffy, you ask? It's pretty simple, really. It is certainly the function of pathfinders to gain "eyes on" the enemy and provide intelligence for the commander to finalize his plan even as the first devilfish are on their way. And this is what causes some tau players to push their pathfinders forward in the name of fluff. But this couldn't be more wrong. When battle is joined, the pathfinders have already completed their scouting duties. In the small slice of the 40k unvierse that is played out in our tabletop wargames, the time for gathering intelligence is over. Battle has been joined. And just like in the real world in our present day, if the scouts are being shot at, they've screwed up. Scouts keep the enemy at arm's length. They don't get any closer than they absolutely have to in order to complete their mission. Mostly, this means being far enough away that the enemy is unlikely to spot them. Certainly, this means being out of small arms range. At the point in time that is represented by the start of turn one, the rest of the tau army should just be passing through the scouts to press the attack.

Pathfinders' fluffy forward deployed "scout" role actually takes place before the game. Their fluffy secondary duty of markerlighting targets for troops that are just arriving on the scene and won't have the same level of situational awareness as someone that's been hiding out in that area for days is what you need to focus on in the tabletop wargame. Except in the most unusual circumstances (tau in a static defense, as though delaying the enemy while a settlement is evacuated, for example), it would be exceptionally unfluffy for scouts to be forward of the real combat troops.


So I've explained how I believe that the new markerlight rules, sniper drones, and warfish affect pathfinders. I've suggested how they should be deployed to maximize their longevity at the least cost to their effectiveness. And I've explained why their presence forward of the combat troops after the battle has started (versus beforehand, when they are likely the only tau around) would be less fluffy than deploying them close behind the combat troops.
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Old 15 May 2006, 18:32   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders in the new codex (Tactica)

Excellent reading - thank you

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Old 15 May 2006, 18:41   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders in the new codex (Tactica)

Wonderful work comrade. Quite an interesting read.

I must note that I really appreciate the "fluff" justification mentioned towards the end. Very apt observations in my view.

Since the new codex I have come to use my pathfinders more and more often and I think a many of your notes should help me use them to even greater effect.

Thank you for your time and effort.
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Old 16 May 2006, 11:28   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders in the new codex (Tactica)

As far as the fluff goes, I find tau pathfinders extremely appealing, because they don't have the stealth technology that other tau units use. They do things the old fashioned way...which makes it easy to relate the way they do business to the way that real-world scouts do it. And real world scouts are not forward of friendly lines when the shooting starts. In fact, they feel that if they ever fire a weapon in anger, they've screwed up by getting themselves into a situation where that action was necessary.
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Old 16 May 2006, 12:30   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders in the new codex (Tactica)

Well done, it has given me something to ponder over.
Great stuff it was an excellent read.
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Old 16 May 2006, 14:54   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders in the new codex (Tactica)

Thank you - for a new tau player these types of tactics arcticles are very helpful. What makes this one particularly helpful is the advice on how to deploy and the "fluff" justification for doing so.

Perhaps the only other thing I am curious about is the efficiency of markelights in pathfinders vs having them in other units. I believe I say that in another thread at one time? I'm having a bit of trouble with the search function. If anyone has an idea, a link would be appreciated.
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Old 16 May 2006, 15:24   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders in the new codex (Tactica)

The main factor for using Pathfinders over Markerlights in other units is the cost primarily.

For the pathfinder you get a Tau Firewarrior with a pulse Carbine, thats 10pts. So you get a markerlight for only 2pts more.

A Normal Firewarrior needs to be a Shas'Ui to gain access to a markerlight....costing 30pts in total.

A markerdrone also costs 30pts, and you don't get any weapon as a secondary.

So by going for a Pathfinder, you save yourself 18pts.

A Full Pathfinder team will save you 144pts....more than enough to recoup the cost of the required Devilfish.

The drones are also vunerable when attached to XV8's as they count for majority toughness. They either die first, saving your suits but costing you alot of points, or the suit takes the hits, and the drones die anyway. They are also Heavy weapons...so limit the movement of the suits themselves.

Obviously A pathfinder team does have downsides, mainly the need to fire at a single target, but Tau generally follow a focused fire principle, so this isn't a factor as it helps you hammer one unit into oblivion with the aid of the Markerlights.
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Old 16 May 2006, 15:31   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders in the new codex (Tactica)

you make these sound very intelligent. i use the reckless ways. swing in using devilfish, kill leaders and others helpful to the enemy advantage and hop back into the devilfish and wave good bye as you drive back to your army.
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Old 16 May 2006, 15:32   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders in the new codex (Tactica)

While I agree with the arguments, I don't completely agree with at least one of your premise: that using the scout move will more likely than not get your scouts killed.

In a scenario where you're fighting a heavy fire power army such as IG or Tau, or some Eldar, putting your scouts forward as a tempting target WILL get them killed because they can reach you with more weapons. However, a well determined player at the helm of any of these armies will be able to bring enough power to bear in anyeven wherever you are to decapitate your pathfinder team so keeping them back won't help.

Example, Against imperialguard, the Pathfinders will almost surely be the recipient of the first 2 weapons... LemanRuss Template, and Basilisk template, and if you keep them in LOS to shoot, there isn't much you can do to avoid that.

In this event, I would actually try to avoid the first turn scout death and actually keep them INSIDE the Pathfinder... forfieting 1 or 2 turns of shooting. After the first exchanges, enemy assets and your assets should drop by a degree or two. Now, after your deploy your Scouts, they will be at their best because although your army is running low on guns, theose remaining guns are super efficient, and the enemy is less likely to be able to overwhelm your scouts to boot. (this worked out for me recently against a Thousand Sons army loaded with SUPER las predator and SUPER indirect pie dropper crab, and Wall of Bolters Rubic marines)

However, In the event where you face a more balanced army, or an assaulty one (god knows how rare black templars loaded to the teeth for CC are eh?), I have personally found in my experience that moving them sideways out of your deployment zone, or even a little forward usually does not result in their doom (it does when you've missed somthing, and made a mistake) and gives you a much more diverse angle of attack on the enemy (less cover for him, more for your suits). Since you are a Tau player, you're hyper sensitive to charge ranges anyways, so on turn 1, your scouts should not be chargable, and should weather the pathetic return fire well. Even if you have 2 or 3 left, the unit's can still be a game winner.... you only need 2 hits for your Helios unit to kill, or for your FW to super FoF.

Finally, another thing to remember is that your deepstrikers are accurate if your Fish is in position. So whatever you do, remember to have your devilfish out in the open or in LOS to the enemy tank to shove your drones/monat down it's throat.
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Old 16 May 2006, 16:29   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Pathfinders in the new codex (Tactica)

Excellent article march10k.

I like how you justified the fluff of the Tau pathfinders.

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