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Swarming Tau: How a Large Unit Count Can Be Beneficial
Old 20 Oct 2007, 06:01   #1 (permalink)
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Default Swarming Tau: How a Large Unit Count Can Be Beneficial

This may be an obvious no brainer but no one as of yet has really mentioned it so here goes.

I think one important thing to consider when building a list is to make sure the army has a healthy "swarm" element to it. But first let me define what I mean by swarm. While a large model count would be refered to as a "horde" style of play, to me "swarm" is a term I apply to a list with an unusually high unit count. And while my Tau lists are often more on the horde side of things as well, I always make sure they are swarmy first.

I think it would be helpful to illustrate what I am talking about with a list as a point of reference. So here is my most recently tweaked list for your consideration:

Shas'O, MP, PR, CCN, IA, HWMT, HWTL, 2xSD's - 177 points
Shas'El, TL:MP, AFP, HWMT - 93 points

6xFW's, 'ui, ML, HWTL, Bonded - 90 points
6xFW's, 'ui, ML, Bonded - 85 points
20xKroot, 8 hounds - 188 points
10X Kroot - 70 points
10X Kroot - 70 points

2xDeathrains, Flamers - 94 points
2xDeathrains, Flamers - 94 points
Deathrain, TA - 53 points

Fast Attack
2xPiranha, FB, TA - 140 points
Piranha, FB, TA, 2xSeekers - 90 points
Piranha, FB, TA, 2xSeekers - 90 points

Heavy Support
3xSniper Drones - 240 points
Ionhead, BC, MT, DL - 130 points
3XBass, Team Leader with PR, HWMT, HWTL, 2xShield Drones - 295 points

Total = 1999 points
Number of Models = 97
Total number of units = 21(after Piranha Drones detach)

Ok there is the list, notice how there are 21 units in it and yet the FOC slot has a total of only 17 slots? This has several underlying offensive, defensive, and deployment benefits I'd like to point out.

The primary benefit to offense is the ability to effectively control the shooting phase so as not to waste any shots. By keeping a majority of the units at minimum or near minimum size there is little chance of any overkill going on here. For example, there is little chance that a unit of 2 deathrains will overkill that Falcon, Rhino, or Devilfish or that your 6 FW's or 10 Kroot will "overwipe" that 5 man marine squad. And if the small units get unlucky and do absolutely nothing to their target then the next team simply takes their turn. So in the end it is the same number of shots, just spread around as much as possible, think of it as free target locks. Thus the list can move from target to target efficiently and lucky roles can be taken maximum advantage of.

As for the large unit of BASS even they can split fire if desired as the team leader and joined Shas'O both have HWTL. So even this large unit is unlikely to waste shots if you are judicious with them(as a side not, the Shas'O will leave the BASS after his SD's are gone to gain IC status). The large unit of Kroot on the other hand serves as the primary speedbump spreading out in the largest 4+ cover they can get into, preferably in the middle of the table if possible. Thus in their case offense is not the primary concern but often they are the first to shoot at a fresh enemy unit anyway so they usually won't be wasting firepower either.

Another offensive benefit is the ability to control much of the boards fire lanes. For example in this list my Sniper Drones are always the first to deploy, covering the maximum amount of board with their precious markerlights who incidentally have 4 Piranha mounted seekers they can call on for removing high priority targets early. This kind of relates to the deployment benefits but I will get to that later.

This is rather self explanatory I think since small units are easier to hide, they may scatter in different directions in the face of enemy assaulters, and are less likely to get owned by blast templates of all kind. Sure the leadership may suffer, but lets break down how that can be dealt with.

First of all most of the list should either not be taking casualties early on from anything but indirect fire or don't test LD because they are vehicles. Examining why this is unit by unit lwe start with the HQ...the 'El relies on IC status while the 'O buries himself with the Broadsides to become nigh invulnerable.

Moving to the Elite section we have small 2 man teams with JSJ forming their primary defense. For Fast attack, only the free fodder drones ever test LD and the Piranhas can remain out of LOS and launch seekers and/or lie in wait. Heavy Support we find those nigh invulnerable BASS again and the snipers who are also typically untargettable for at least the first 2 rounds due to range and stealth. The Ionhead of course has to move in the open to shoot, but dropping a single seeker will give it SMS or simply move him to the open whenever he is really needed.

Finally we have my poor abused troop section. The Kroot will hopefully have some forest in which case they might possibly be untargettable but even if they don't, well they are mercenaries afterall. The FW's on the other hand are truly the only vulnerable unit but no one is forcing you to use their meager offense so hiding them is an option against gun lines. But on the other hand by bonding them and giving them ML's they will often stick around and contribute to the cause with some extra pulse fire and some ML hits. Plus when only 1 or 2 are left you can always move them out of LOS to preserve half VP's. Thus they act as a lure while providing the occasional ML hit and some extra pulse fire. Bonded FW's as lures? Sounds fluffy and effective to me.

The important thing here is the Tau's defense does not really hinge upon unit size like other armies so smaller units just make sense.

Deployment and Positioning
Last but not least is deployment and positioning. By having a full FOC chart(well minus 1 troops choice) you are usually never the first to finish your deployment and if you are it will be by only by a handfull of units so no big surprises usually. Even in those rare cases, your Kroot infiltrate so unless your opponent has 3 infiltrators also, and a full FOC chart otherwise you will be placing the last unit in both regular deployment and the infiltrate phase.

This gives you a tremendous advantage as your opponent cannot respond to your final placements. Often when playing expensive armies like Mech Eldar, Marines, Chaos, Zilla Nids, and Necrons my opponent will finish his deployment while I still am on my HQ's. This means he will not know what your final battle plan will look like and allows you to pull deployment shenanigans.

For example he may not realize that Shas'O is going to join the BASS team until you plop him down right next to them. Or perhaps he was caught unawares that the 2 lone Piranhas with seekers would deploy way off on a far away flank for side armor snipes against his vehicles. These are just a few examples and even when not all that usefull, having the benefit is better than your opponent having it and doing the same to you.

That brings me to positioning. This is often related to deployment but not always. Piranhas are key in this area as they deploy last not counting Kroot of course. What makes this an advantage is the ability to drop drones on flanks and move into positions to catch enemies in crossfires, hit rear armor, and pin or assault a unit that thought itself safe. Additionally, having so many units allows for flexible firebase construction either in small clusters for avoiding drop pod death and infiltrating assaulters, one large firebase for repelling horde, or simply spread out in a line to maximize fire lane coverage against gun lines. And finally, with so many units, simply moving to surround an enemy moving toward you will leave him with too few options to respond effectively to even most of the threats.

An Important Consideration
When constructing a list with lots of units in it keeping things as cheap as possible is paramount. This does not mean we sacrifice efficient and/or very usefull pieces of wargear. Nor is this a hard and fast rule (see large Kroot unit and the BASS team). The important thing is to consider what upgrades one really needs before you start experiencing diminishing returns. Find that balance of quality and quantity and you will be well on your way. Disruption Pods on the IOnhead are nice to have for example but are they always going to be needed? TA's on deathrains is another example, with so many deathrains do you really need that added 13% hit rate? Besides the ML's can make them BS4 if you really need that.

So the above list may use small units with few upgrades, but the ones taken are either absolutely necessary or just very usefull tactically. For example there are 5 markerlights(3 BS4), 4 seeker missiles, and 6 total vehicles. This allows for all sorts of tactics from skimmer walls to side armor snipes and many many more. Most of the list has either BS4 or twinlinking so the army is also highly accurate.

Getting creative with the unit diversity and special rules also helps make up for fancy upgrades too. One of my favorite tactics of such variety is to place the Shas'El behind the big Kroot unit and move him forward quickly. By deploying a couple of the hounds in a line back toward him he can join them on turn 2 which interestingly enough is usually the same round they lose that 7th member and need to take their first LD check. This also keeps all the kroot rifles up front where they can do the most good. Now they are testing on LD9 and have a 3+ save to absorb the first non AP3 shot they have to save against for at least 3 rounds(if you roll badly). Additionally the added firepower from the missiles and AFP make for a stout unit offensively. And whenever the 'El gets to 1 wound you can detach him and he is an IC again. By sacrificing half of the 'El's 93 VP's you can often keep the 188 point Kroot unit fully scoring if you play it right.

So the next list you write up, keep some of the above thoughts in mind and give swarmy Tau a shot. You may be surprised how well you do. Thanks for reading my super windy post BTW guys.
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Old 22 Oct 2007, 12:49   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Swarming Tau: How a Large Unit Count Can Be Beneficial

No one has any comments on this? It's either stunningly brilliant, or stupidly obvious, but I guess either way no one cares to reply? Come on everyone what are your opinions on sacrificing expensive upgrades/unit size for a high unit count. Do any of you play like this?
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Old 22 Oct 2007, 14:24   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Swarming Tau: How a Large Unit Count Can Be Beneficial

First of all, Broadsides. Not BASS.

As for the large unit of BASS even they can split fire if desired as the team leader and joined Shas'O both have HWTL
So what? You fire at three targets; Shas'O. Team Leader, the other two.

You really seem to like your kroot... Have you ever playtested this?
Originally Posted by Komrad
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Old 22 Oct 2007, 15:06   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Swarming Tau: How a Large Unit Count Can Be Beneficial

I have playtested it and what I've found is that the big unit does a great job of soaking fire while in cover to the extent that the other smaller units often get left alone. So yeah those Kroot rock!

The reason for the HWTL on the Tmldr Broadside and the 'O is so the O' can shoot his missiles at more appropriate targets while the Tmldr takes potshots at secondary heavy armor. I've found that with the other two shooting at a single target, they ausually have the "oomph" to take out whatever it is they are shooting or at least keep said target from shooting the following turn. I've seen this setup takou out a landraider and a predator in the same round of shooting with the Sides alone while the 'O was able to immobilize a Rhino. That game my opponent pretty much gave up after this one unit shot.

And the BASS thing have you not heard before? It stands for Broadside+A.S.S.

Anyway yeah I really like this list I think to date it is the most powerful hybrid build I have ever run and I really like it's diversity. One other nice thing is that this list is so varied and doesn't spam fireknives or railheads, nor does it have any devilfish. Thus I feel sportmanship and composition scores at tourneys would be higher than the standard mech Tau lists people always complain about.
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Old 22 Oct 2007, 22:55   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Swarming Tau: How a Large Unit Count Can Be Beneficial

I like this idea.
Don't quite have the models to make the list but have a 2000pt game vs a flatmate tonight and might try a variant.
The multiple unit idea is a strength of Tau. Even in small point games you can fill up alot of slots. Pirhana are fairly cheap per slot filled and so are monat suits. Plus we can have 60 point troop units.
Good post as usual Israfel.
Given me something to ponder.
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Old 23 Oct 2007, 08:43   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Swarming Tau: How a Large Unit Count Can Be Beneficial

It's either stunningly brilliant, or stupidly obvious,
I'm not sure which it is but this is the way I always play. I always fill the FOC in 1500 point games.

After having 9 FWs shot off a 12 man unit by Heavy Bolters on turn one with the remaining 3 running of the table I much prefer to field more smaller units.
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Old 23 Oct 2007, 11:05   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Swarming Tau: How a Large Unit Count Can Be Beneficial

I tried a swarm type list against my Necron friend, because my AP3 list had failed. It worked out very well, and I won by a large margin. He was unable to deal with so many units, and often wasted shots and overkilled a unit, while I was able to pick and choose what to shoot at. Plus it gave me the deployment edge, as well as having more scoring units. Here was the list:

Ninja'O with PR/MP
Shas'El CIB/PR

Firestorm X2
XV15 X 3
XV15 X 3

Kroot X 10 + Hound
Kroot X 10 + Hound
FW X 10 in Devilfish with DL

GD X 5
GD X 5

Ionhead w/BC
Ionhead W/BC

Came out to 1499 with ten scoring units and fourteen total with the popped drones from the Devilfish. The Stealths were able to infiltrate behind his lines and slow down his forward progress, and took objectives in the last round.
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Old 24 Oct 2007, 02:05   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Swarming Tau: How a Large Unit Count Can Be Beneficial

I just say 72 FW with 40 kroot and lots of anti tank stuff 8)
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Old 24 Oct 2007, 04:47   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Swarming Tau: How a Large Unit Count Can Be Beneficial

Good points all (although I must admit I skimmed most of the original article). There are drawbacks to small unit sizes too, though.

1) It's easier to route / kill a small unit than a larger one. A unit of 6 fire warriors will have to make morale after two casualties, where a twelve-man squad doesn't have to roll until 3. ... OK, that particular example is lousy as it detracts from my point rather than supports it, but in general smaller units will panic or be unable to regroup with fewer casualties than larger ones.

2) More points "wasted" in leaders. If you assume every squad has a Shas'Ui for the better leadership (which is the way I play) then you have 10 points per squad that is not adding any firepower. A 12-man squad with leader is 12 guns for 130 points, making 10.8 points per gun. On a 6-man squad it is 6 guns for 70 points, making 11.6 points per gun. Less than a point of difference per gun might not sound like much, but since each gun is only a base of 10 points, that's about 8% difference, which would be significant. Adding Bonding Knifes or other wargear would make it worse, as would the markerlight / multi-tracker package.

3) If you use Markerlights you get much less bang for your buck. If every squad is going to use a markerlight hit, you'll run out of them twice as fast with half-size squads. I would rather have 12 shots benefiting from a markerlight counter than 6. You can give each squad-leader another markerlight, but then you have the point-efficiency problem mentioned above.

As with most things, the "right" answer is likely somewhere in between full squads and minimum size squads, or dependent on playing style.
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Old 24 Oct 2007, 06:17   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Swarming Tau: How a Large Unit Count Can Be Beneficial


It's a good article. And yes it is painfully obvious, but fleshing that out isn't necessarily a bad thing!

It's obvious because we all know we can stretch the FOC. Tau are one of the easier armies to do it with. But it doesn't mean we should. Remember that the larger the unit, the more enemy fire needed to break/kill it, effectively reducing fire to your other units as well. A large squad of Kroot will need two+ Tactical squads to pull them out of cover, but a ten man squad might only need one!

Stretching the FOC also reduces weight of fire from individual squads, and the more units you have the harder time you have to position and basically manage everything. Mech armies are in a way quite brainless in that you only need to move 9 or so models and manage their terrain usage (which is tricky). While I could hide the important squads, the 10+ squads without terrain priority might get screwed. Also any horde player knows the movement phase is just a headache to manage.

That being said, you have the ability to shoot at and with lots of stuff. This sort of list really works well against armies that doesnt have the mobility to engage a dozen units at once. A footslogger would be hard pressed to contest all of the objectives in a game! But FoD could ruin this list, big time. But then again, it has the same effect on lots of lists in 40k...!

I get the idea, but numbers really don't give us any greater benefit then our mobility can get us. If the list was about stripped squads with MAX shot output, then maybe you'd get a few (fragile, pseudo-effective) extra guns.

Love the Commander Broadside idea. That was actually the most enlightening thing in the article for me. I've never seen our thought about that set up! Imagine a Forgeworld Markersuit? Cool beans.

Anyways, my thoughts, I could be completely off base...
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