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The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish
Old 11 Feb 2009, 14:11   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish

The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish

Lately I have seen a lot of people expressing the feeling that the Piranha has lost some of its appeal in the 5th edition rules, what with the TLoS issues and general vulnerability of skimmers compared to the earlier edition of the basic rules. That infantry always get to strike rear armor, and that a regular marine squad can unleash quite a few S6 attacks against it doesn’t make it easier either. To add insult to injury the drones count as an extra kill point in an annihilation battle, so I was actually very much on the ditch-the-piranha-train myself a while ago. However, I got to thinking and started experimenting with a new set of tactics involving the Piranha. Here is: The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish.

Gone are the days when the aggressive Piranhas zoomed up the field, darting from cover to cover to deliver their deadly stings on the enemy flanks, still being able to avoid enemy fire to a large extent, and then going in for late turn objective grabs. New rules for LoS and terrain, not to mention that only troops are scoring, make it almost impossible to execute that kind of movement anymore, at least on the types of tables I’ve seen, and the Piranha is too expensive to waste for just a few seeker shots on side armor early in the game. Of course, I’ve still seen the Piranha used from reserves, zooming in a good 24” from the table edge late in the game and possibly contesting an enemy held objective, and maybe this is one of the few sound tactics for the Piranha that exists today. Especially if you are not already playing a Ninja Tau list. The downside is that you can only contest an objective, and since it is not a tank, you cannot tank-shock enemies from objectives either, so this makes this tactic a bit limited.

So, is the fast but fragile fish now doing back-strokes in the sea of units dead and buried? I don’t think so ? (Or this would have been a lot of build up for very little…). For this discussion I will expect that you know the basics of the Piranha.


The main idea behind the Pilot Fish (PiF) is, just like the name implies, to let the Piranha closely follow a bigger fish (Devilfish or Hammerhead) and in exchange for the protection it enjoys it will perform some simple tasks. When I say close, I mean CLOSE. Hull-to-hull is what I’m talking about. The Piranha is small enough to be covered by its larger cousins if it keeps close enough, and in a worst case scenario it should at least get a cover save. The tasks will differ somewhat depending on type of army (Ninja Tau comes to mind), type of fish (Supporting a Devilfish by screening it on an objective or by contesting objectives from an aggressive Hammerhead for example) and loadout on the Piranha itself.

The Piranha’s 12” move lets it reposition around the bigger fish and still shoot. The Piranha can also help block assaults, block LoS or pick off enemy armor closing in, and later in the game it can zoom in on objectives and contest them. But more on all these tasks and possibilities later. For starters, remember that you need to think of the Piranha as essentially a part of its bigger cousin. Hanging on like…a Pilot Fish.

General tasks

This can be blocking of LoS, blocking an assault or even blocking the area around an objective and forcing the enemy to deal with it.

If you have a Piranha with Fusion Blaster, it can venture out to destroy armored targets of opportunity, should any present themselves.

You might want to use the Piranha as a diversion in some situations, but remember that it IS fragile, and that it might not be the best use for it.

This is where I see the Pilot Fish really shine. By keeping close to its parent fish it has a chance to be in a much better position for late turn contestation of objectives. I would always keep the drones attached, because if you have last turn and the enemy can only shoot at you, the drones may survive a wreck and still contest the objective. With this in mind I would also equip the Piranha with sensor spines and flechette dischargers, just in case?


There you have the basics of this “tactic”. I have only started experimenting with it, but so far I have had some moderate success with this configuration. I have noticed that it is far too easy to move the Piranha too far away early in the game. I play a Ninja Tau hybrid at the moment, and the Pilot Fish has been accompanying a Hammerhead with RG, BC in a semi-aggressive role, where the Piranha has stayed on an objective after the Hammerhead has tank-shocked away an enemy. Sensor spines are a God send in that situation.

I would very much like to hear your thoughts on this tactic, and even more; I’d like to hear about your experiences with it, if you decide to try it out. I see it primarily as a way to save a great contesting machine for late in the game, and it also has some great bonuses in the close quarters protection of its parent fish.

I hope this gives some food for thought.

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Old 11 Feb 2009, 15:00   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish

Not bad . I think it could still be improved slightly but it takes a while before you manage to compile a particularly outstanding tactica or article. It was a good read though, it's just a bit more expansion would improve it.

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Old 11 Feb 2009, 15:44   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish

Oh, this wasn't meant to be a tactica per se. I almost never have time to game, and writing real articles even less so It is just something I have found to be an option for a unit that many seem to be leaving on the shelf in 5th.

I'd be really glad if someone wrote a proper tactica, but I'm afraid it won't be me

However, I will be posting more related experience when I play some more with Pilot Fishes.

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Old 11 Feb 2009, 15:49   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish

I play ninja tau as well and I included at least one Piranha sometimes two but always with a fusion gun. The reason I take them is for their ability to move flat out for 24" due to them being a skimmer and a fast vehicle. This lets them come in and contest any objectives that are at least in the middle of the table. I generally have it come on turn 4 so that it has the ability to contest any objective on the board. The shape of the Piranha lends itself to contesting as well. The T like shape allows it to squeeze in closer to enemy units trying to hold objectives. I agree that the sensor spines is a great upgrade since if the piranha moves flat out and end up failing a dangerous terrian test it is destroyed. The best part about moving 24" is that it get a free cover save. This makes disruption pods less valueable though. The only time they will come into play is when you go for a vehicle kill ala the fusion gun. As for the drones I usually pop them off and give them to my lone commander for protection and 1 extra wound. Its not the best solution but it is still a viable one.
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Old 11 Feb 2009, 16:06   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish

Just as a note to remember if a skimmer moves flat out (the rule book defines flat out as 12-18") it's destroyed on an immobilised roll.
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Old 11 Feb 2009, 16:14   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish

this is a tactic I used when I played marines but with rhinos following a land-raider. It works well actually.

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Old 11 Feb 2009, 16:28   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish

A friend of mine runs his nurgle CSM's this way, only with stacked rhinos. Sometimes 3, but most often 2 in a chain. He runs the first 12", pops smoke and covers the 2nd with the front tank and the smoke. Then leap frogs the back one into the front and next thing you know he is in your face and ready to kill you. Works well for sneaking something into deadly range and popping it at the last minute.

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Old 11 Feb 2009, 17:08   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish

As I said the main aim is to either deliver a contesting unit onto an objective late in the game, or, which I have done with great success, screen a Devilfish that has occupied an objective. It's nice to see an opponents face when he realizes that he can't get to the Devilfish without charging a flechette equipped Piranha first. And even then, the drones are still there
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Old 11 Feb 2009, 18:47   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish

Vehicle-mounted gun drones cannot contest or claim objectives. It's on the very same paragraph used to justify that they count as killpoints. On that note, (and please don't flame me for this like guys at Warseer) I emailed the guys at GW and got a reply from John Spencer saying that they don't count as kill ponts, either.
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Old 11 Feb 2009, 20:35   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Piranha in 5th Edition - The Pilot Fish

Well thats a point of contention - actually the codex says that vehicle drones are not a "Scoring Unit" - in 4th and 5th this means very different things - In 4th eveything was a scoring unit unless the Codex said otherwise, and could therefore hold and contest objectives. In 5th the only scoring units are Troops - But everything that is NOT a scoring unit can contest objectives. So under 5th edition rules, If Vehicle Drones Count as Killpoints they can contest objectives.

Wether they count as Killpints or not is something Games Workshop has not really clarified, the RAW reading of the rules means they are Kill Points, and thats the way most opponents will want to play them. The GW Grand Tourney FAQ also states they are Kill Points. On the other side several players have emailed John Spencer at GW and been told they are not (although I have spoken on the phone with GW and been told they are - go figure).

If the Drones are worth KP's they can contest objectives - If they are not worth KP's they can't. This should not really be a problem though. In friendly games just agree with your opponents before you fight (and before you role mission!) as to the staus of the Drones. In a tourney situation just check the Tourney pack rules or ask the organiser for a ruling before the Tourney and pick your list approbriatley. (So far most Tourneys seem to be taking them as KP's however).

LtCariad - Thank you, very good post.

I was never a massive fan of the Piranha in 4th edition, and did not really use them that often (maybe in a 1/4 of my lists). In 5th I have made (bizarely) more use of them (or see more use for them). While the fact they are no longer scoring, less survivable and less effective tank hunters should count strongly against there inclusuion in any list, I personally have found them useful in certain roles in 5th.

In my Ninja Tau army they make excellent objective contesters - Primarily because they have an effective contestation move range from the table edge of 27 Inches (24 Inch move + Plus 3 Inch to the objective). Which means if the Objective is towards the middle of the table you can bring them on in the 5th turn and if further back bring them in on the 4th and begin your attack run.

If they are destroyed you have, the drones (positioned within 2 inches of the hull) as a back up contester, or assualt screen, extra contesting unit etc.

For this reason in a Ninja Tau army they become amazingly effective long range Objective Contesters - able to swoop on and do what Ninja Tau do best - Steal Objectives and cause trouble in the last few turns of the game - and I assign them just to this role. In a Kill Points game I just hold them off as long as possible and only really use them as Fire Support or to take out/hold a very weak enemy unit.

The Other uses I had considered (not so much for Ninja Tau though) were as a rapid support unit - 5 minimal equipped Piranhas, 10 GunDrones.
Kroot infiltrating far ahead of your lines could be rapidly supported by 5 Piranhas - Interestingly enough the Piranha is an Open Topped vehicle, so the 10 Drones can disembark, fire, and then assualt. So it can move 24 inches in the first turn, in the 2nd it can move 12 and disembark the drones within 2" of the hull 38" in 2 Turns- The Drones can fire, 10 S5 Pinning shots, then assualt a further 6" (so potential of 44" in 2 Turns), with another 20 I 4 Attacks - the perfect back up to a Kroot assualt.

LtCariad has helped me conside other uses here - I had not really though of the "Pilot Fish" approach before - and I think it has potential! Both for Ninja and non Ninja Tau! - The obvious tatctic I can see for Ninja is if the objective you want to contest is far away, just bring on the Piranha with a Firewarrior DF in turn 4 and then use the DF to cover your first 12" of move before you make your full "Balls Out" attack run in turn 5. An application I had not thought of at all before!

This coupled with the other suggestions LT makes on the Pilot Fish usage seems to me to make the Piranha a more attractive 5th ed prospect than I had previously considered, and significantly increase its usefulness in a "straight" battlefield role.

(also I 3rd Hyena and LT in recomending the Sensor Spines for a Ninja Tau use).

Good Post LT - can see myself using this idea
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