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Tactica: Indestructo-pathfinders
Old 05 Jun 2009, 06:01   #1 (permalink)
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Default Tactica: Indestructo-pathfinders

In order to be effective, pathfinders need to be kept alive. Anyone who has played against a pathfinder squad knows that they are a high priority target, and they're not very tough. Whether they're in cover or not, you will generally lose one for every two wounds they take, and they will take a lot of fire. It doesn't take long for those numbers to whittle your pathfinder squad down to half strength or worse. Here is a moderately unfluffy but very effective way of keeping them alive: attach both HQ crisis suits and their shield drones. Wounds that are not Instant Death or better than AP4 get assigned to the crisis suits and drones that have much better saves and possibly multiple wounds. A barrage of eight bolter wounds that would reduce an unsupported pathfinder squad to half strength (if they don't go to ground) will only kill one pathfinder and maybe a shield drone if you assign the wounds to the tougher models first. Also, having a Shas'O attached lets you roll morale checks at Leadership 10 in the unlikely event that the enemy can actually do enough wounds to the combined squad to force one.

List example:

7 pathfinders with markerlights, 1 shas'ui with markerlight and target lock. (111 points)
1 Shas'o with plasma rifle, cyclic ion blaster, positional relay, hard-wired multi-tracker and target lock, stim injectors, and 2 shield drones. (175 points)
1 Shas'el with burst cannon, missile pod, targeting array, hardwired multi-tracker and target lock, iridium armor, and 2 shield drones (140 points)

Since markerlights are the point here, I start with a full squad of eight pathfinders and no rail rifles. While I added a shas'ui with target lock to the squad, that's not essential if there is another source of markerlights on the field. The commanders are built for defense, but they have target locks so they can fire at a different unit than the primary markerlight target. The shas'o is my favorite build, and it carries a positional relay for Ninja Tau style play and general flexibility. The shas'el can be used to drop light vehicles or add extra firepower to anything that needs it. A plasma rifle instead of the burst cannon would work well also, and the mobility disadvantage of the iridium armor is pretty much eliminated since the rest of the squad has to stay put.

Wound allocation with a unit this complicated is, unfortunately, very messy. There are, in the example, six different groups for wound allocation purposes: the pathfinder shas'ui, the rest of the pathfinders, the shas'o, his drones (with the 3+ save), the shas'el, and his drones (with the 2+ save). As wounds come in, allocation goes roughly like this, except for wounds that cause Instant Death. First wounds will go to the commanders because a single failed save won't drop them. Next come the 2+ armor drones, then the 3+ armor drones. By now, you've soaked up 6 wounds, so there won't be much left to allocate to the pathfinders themselves. Instant Death wounds are tricky; you can either allocate them to the shield drones or the pathfinders themselves. If you can stand further complication of the process, the pathfinder shas'ui can take a pair of gun drones (no point in shield drones since they'll be in cover) to soak up Instant Death hits. This is slightly better than risking a shield drone because if a shield drone fails its cover/invulnerable save you now have one less 3+ or better save for regular wounds.

The rest of the list:

After spending between 400 and 450 points on the pathfinders and commanders, you have to pick the rest of your list with care because you don't have a lot of points left. The units as described work well at 1500 points and above, but below that you would need to drop one of the commanders or abandon the theory entirely and build a more traditional list. At 1500, I generally run two fire warrior squads in warfish, some outflanking kroot, and a railhead. At higher levels I add another tank (usually a skyray), then elite crisis suits and more troops. The 1500 point version has 4 devilfish chassis on the field, and the higher-point lists have 5.

Kauyon theory:

This trick works best as part of a strategy style called Kauyon or Patient Hunter. The Kauyon theory of Tau warfare involves putting a unit on the battlefield as a lure for the enemy. This unit is not necessarily sacrificial (any more than all units are expendable on the battlefield), but it's a unit you want to be attacked. It took me two years of play to figure out how this theory applies to little pieces of plastic, but I'm beginning to understand. The pathfinder / commanders unit serves as this lure. It's a dangerous unit and a lot of points, so your opponent can't afford to ignore it. Knowing that your opponent is going to attack it means you can design your strategy around assuming that they will. The fact that they are in cover and have 6 models with good saves means that most armies will have to get close to take them down. If they don't, then the game becomes a long-range battle, which is to the Tau's advantage.

What happens when the enemy gets close?

Well, you have several options. The main thing is to be absolutely sure they can't get anything into assault with the combined unit that the commanders can't handle. A weak assault force might be OK, or a model or two from an assault squad that survives your fire, but if anything more than gets through you're in trouble. At best, you have over 400 points unable to do anything useful, and at worst, you lose all three units to a sweeping advance. Beware of land raiders or anything that can assault out of the deep strike like a Callidus assassin. If you're facing space marines with the special character that allows assaults out of the deep strike, you might have to abandon this tactic or surround the squad with a screen of kroot or gun drones.

Most units that would try to assault the squad have to spend at least one turn within rapid-fire range of the pathfinders. If your opponent can manage to get several units to point blank range at once (an unlikely scenario in my experience) then you could be in trouble and the unit should probably evacuate. Pick up the pathfinders with the nearest available transport and have the crisis suits go their separate ways. If it's one or two units coming in, you probably have the firepower advantage. With two squads of fire warriors and 8 markerlight shots (4 hits on average) that's enough for two squads to perform Fish of Fury at BS 5, plus whatever the vehicles and crisis suits can dish out. If the fire warrior squads are full twelves and the transports are both warfish, that is 48 pulse rifle shots at BS 5 and 8 or more shots from the vehicles at BS 4. That's about 46 hits, 30 wounds, and 10 dead space marines or 5 dead terminators. Add in the supporting fire from a tank, crisis suits, and whatever else is left and there shouldn't be much left that can assault you. If you're not sure that you will be able to take out the unit that is threatening to assault, then you need a backup plan: the vehicle screen! Since you just did a Fish of Fury anyway, you could bring in any other vehicles that you have available and make a wall of devilfish chassis three or more wide. That should be enough to keep anything from getting around them, but if you're really worried about it you can park them sideways. It makes them a little easier to destroy with ranged weapons, but much harder to walk around.

Specific Opponents, Space Marine drop pods:

I've had very good success with this trick against the mighty drop pods. Ninja Tau is the only real tactic we have that works against the drop pods, and this method combines well with Ninja. The commanders are not as mobile, so they have to sit there and take whatever the pods are dishing out. It's a good idea to have at least one other unit on the field in the first round rather than going with pure Ninja Tau for two reasons. One, you will need quite a bit of firepower in your first turn of shooting if infantry come out of the pods, which means having some firepower on the table not in reserve. Two, a vehicle or other juicy target far away could persuade your opponent to send one of the pods over there rather than swamp the pathfinder / commanders squad with more targets than they can kill in a single round. The most dangerous thing to tau infantry that can come out of a drop pod is a dreadnought with a heavy flamer, but the 6 good armor saves on the commanders handle that quite well.

Specific Opponents, Eldar:

I have only faced Eldar a couple of times with this list, and my opponent's strategy relied heavily on units with sniper rifles and 2+ cover saves. With a full squad of pathfinders, you have enough markerlights to get remove that cover save, making them easy prey to a railgun submunition or a barrage of battlesuit fire. Also, the attached shas'o gives you a much better chance of passing the pinning check from the sniper rifles.

Other opponents:

Daemons are going to play a lot like drop pod space marines, so the same tricks would apply. Against Imperial Guard, it can become a shooting war that breaks down into a test of dice, or you can fall back to classic mechanized Tau theory and outmaneuver them. At 1500 points you might have trouble with their armor since you won't have a lot of railguns on the field. I have yet to face Orcs, Tyranids, or Necrons with this list, but it should be adaptable to them. Orcs and swarm Tyranids would be a question of firepower versus their assault. While they will bring a sick number of models towards you, the clustered firepower of two squads of fire warriors, two commanders, and an assortment of vehicles should be able to kill them as fast as they approach. Failing that, you make the vehicle screen to slow them down. Against Nidzilla, you will likely have to fall back to a contest of mobility again and stay away from the ones you can't shoot down. Pathfinders will become less useful as the beasts get closer since they might have to abandon their position.


Few of these ideas are completely mine. I borrowed heavily from Ninja Tau articles here, as well as the theories of Mech Tau and Kauyon. More than anything else, though, this is a specific application of the Shield'O theory, once again from the great minds here at Tau Online!
knightperson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05 Jun 2009, 13:40   #2 (permalink)
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Posts: 209
Default Re: Tactica: Indestructo-pathfinders

Very, very good. This looks a lot like the Shield'o tactica by Pseudomancer.

I do believe that two Crisis suits is a bit much for one squad of Pathfinders, since you could just stick them in cover, but the theory behind the tactica is sound.

Originally Posted by Pseudomancer
Originally Posted by monocleman
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