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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-26-09, 05:20 AM Thread Starter
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Default How to build a tau army

Well this morning I read Cullers excellent ork tactica and that gave me the jolt of inspiration to try and write my very own tau tactica I hope this is useful and any heretics that would like to add something. Please feel free.

Their are some excellent articles already on heresy and I will be posting links to them. To the writers of those articles. Thank you those articles were invaluable in helping me build my own tactics.
This is my first tactica so i apologise if it of poor quality. Hope it helps

This is the first section that goes up to the elites more too follow

For the greater good

Warriors of the tau empire. It is your duty to fight in order to illuminate the galaxy to the glories of the greater good. Noble commanders, ready your troops. We attack at dawn

After a suitably cheesy start. There are 3 types of tau army. Mech tau, static tau and crisis heavy.

In mech tau you substitute a smaller degree of your fire power for a greater amount of mobility. This allows you to combat the well known fact that tau are terrible in close combat. You see them coming and run away. It also allows you to make hit and run attacks using the fish of fury tactic.

Main components: Devilfish, Fire Warriors, Hammerheads, Crisis suits, Piranha skimmers

In static tau you rely on the fact that the tau have some of the best weaponry in the game. Therefore you create a static firing line, preferably in cover and try and kill them before they reach your lines. This tactic can be devastating however it is rather risky. If your opponent reaches your lines then you are in serious trouble.

Main Components: Fire warriors, Broadsides

The 3rd tactic is crisis heavy. This is in truth a version of static tau however with the increased number of suit heavy lists I felt it deserved a section on its own. In this list you form your static firing line and the send your crisis suits out to attack the enemy. They use their mobility to get into rapid fire range before fleeing back into cover out of assault range.

Main Components; Crisis suits, Fire warriors, Broadsides

The units



Not used very much. Primarily he is toughness three and so will be easily killed by instant death causing the whole tau army to take a morale check. Though the army gains the preferred enemy special rule (if he dies) which is useful their is always a chance your fire warriors will run off the board which is not.

He cannot shoot and his primary use is close combat. The prerogative of the tau is to avoid CC at all costs and so the ethereal ends up becoming a spectator for most of the battle. He allows tau units to re roll morale checks which is always useful and his honour guard of bs4 fire warriors is a boon. However in general his points cost outweighs his use.

Verdict: Leave him at home

Commander, Bodyguards and Crisis suits also known as XV8's

Each of the above suits are variations of the XV8 suit.

The most basic suit is the shas'ui. He has 3 hardpoints for weaponry and support systems.

Shasv're (team leaders and the commanders bodyguards) also have 3 hardpoints but may take additional wargear and special issue systems. He has weapon skill 3 instead of 2 and costs 10 extra points.

The commander comes in two forms Shas'el and shas'o and they have varied stats and points cost. They are a 1+ unit in your army (you have to take one) and have 3 hardpoints but may take additional wargear and special issue systems.

XV8's- the suit as a whole

XV8's are the most versatile unit in the game. They can be configured to kill troops mEQ and tanks if needed. They have two wounds and though not immune to instant death (beware strength 8 weaponry) which can be a pain they have a rule that means you can guarantee your suits a cover save.

Crisis suits have the jetpack special rule. Though we can only move 6 inches in the movement phase. We can move 6 inches in the assault phase regardless of whether we assault. Also crisis suits can move and still shoot rapid fire weapons as if they had remained stationary.

This is excellent news. It means we can jump into rapid fire range of a group of marines and then jump back into cover and out of assault range. This tactic better known as "Jump Shoot Jump' is exceedingly annoying for opponents and a great advantage for us.

One thing to remember tau players is that even though we have a 3+ save we are not invulnerable against bolter fire. 12 bolter shots will hurt your precious suits so if possible use your Jump back move to stay out of 24 inch range. Pepper your opponent with wounding shots annoy him and force him to come after you. Then when he is exposed move in for the kill.

Also remember,these boys are not as bad in close combat as we think. At strength 5 and toughness 4 with 3 attacks on the charge they are not to be sniffed at. The problem power weapons. A guard captain with a power weapon will slice your shiny suits apart however sometimes it is worth using your suits as sacrificial protection.

I have placed a unit in combat with a daemon prince on turn 4 to protect my failing fire warriors that valiantly held an objective and they lived to tell the tale. Not advised but in dire situations can be worth the risk.

Finally deepstriking suits can be effective. Their is always a risk that you may mishap however the capacity is their and can be devastating. Acute senses is also useful in night fighting scenarios.

An evaluation of the weaponry

Airbusting fragmentation projector: Ap5 large blast ignores cover saves. Brilliant horde killer. Give it to your bs 5 commander (reduces scatter)and watch those guard units sitting safe in a bunker or cowering on the ground fall like flies. Quite pricey but I personally think its better value that a plasma rifle.

I always take one. Pair it with the cyclic ion blaster and watch guardsman fall like flies.

Burst cannon: Great anti infantry. 3 ap5 shots is nothing to be sniffed at. I personally like to see this paired with a missile pod. They are very compatible as they attack similar targets.

When the burst cannon and missile pod are in range beware light infantry.

Cyclic Ion blaster: A lovely piece of special issue weaponry. 5 ap4 shots speaks for itself. Pair it with the AFP as mentioned above and it is an unparalleled anti infantry killer.

Flamer: Speaks for itself. The major problem is the short range. If you dont kill the unit with the flamers prepare to be charged or rapid fired next turn. Very cheap and when twin linked (re roll wounds) are very deadly.
Personally I dont take them however I saw a unit of twin linked flamers and gun drones cause some serious havoc in a marine squad.

It depends however i fell its like condemning 25 points to death however against the right opponent they are exceedingly deadly

Fusion blaster: The melta reincarnate. Great anti tank and the twin fusion targetting array suit is a great tank hunter. At ap1 it can be very useful in killing marines however its problems are the short range. If you fail by some cruel twist of fate to kill the tank you will be suffering from a severe case of deadus next turn.

It is often paired with the missile pod and the plasma rifle however I advise against this. One the ranges are not compatible and you will find your fusion blaster out of range for the majority of the game. Therefore if used I advise twin linking and targeting array. Guarantee the hit and the kills will come

Preferred by many as the cheaper mobile alternative to the broadside it is down to personal preference

Missile Pod: The most versatile weapon in the tau armoury. Can kill light armour, devastate hordes and even knock down a marine. Fantastic range and it is regualrly pared with the plasma rifle in the popular fire knife combination. I would advise the missile pod to anyone however it works best when paired with another weapon. Twin linked missile pods are not advised.

Plasma Rifle: Expensive but deadly. Great marine killer and brilliant when paired with the missile pod. Not regularly used but one of my favourite configurations is the twin linked plasma targeting array. It is so useful against deepstriking terminators. It gives you that security. You can say to yourself those guys are definitely dead and the suits deliver. great that ignores FNP as well. Its downside is low amount of shots but you cant have everything.

Best in the fireknife but a deadly weapon against MEQ.

A few things to bear in mind about weaponry

Range is all important. To put a flamer with a missile pod would be rather silly. The missile pod works at a distance whilst the flamer needs to be close to the enemy. I would always try use weaponry whose max ranges are similar. The exception is the burst cannon missile pod whose compatability I discovered through use.

For example the fusion blaster plasma rifle combination is often suggested. Now I personally use my plasma rifles at 19 inches jumping back to be out of bolter range. Then when the enemy i jump in to 12 inch range. Now whilst you are at 19 inches the fusion blaster is out of range. Hence it is useless until you reach rapid fire range. Hence the compatability of the two are low and it is better to take a missile pod plasma rifle combination.

I would advise taking two weapons on any battle suit. In some cases it is worth twin linking and giving a targetting array to give those guaranteed hits.

An evaluation of the support systems

ASS: pointless dont even consider it except on broadsides

Blacksun filter: with the dawn of war set up it can be useful. Cheap and often ignored. Best when hardwired to use up those extra points.

Command and Control Node: never used it myself as I like to keep my crisis suits mobile. i want them to move towards the enemy not sitting their for morale checks. Not for me personally

Drone controller: Drones will be discussed later in a seperate section

Multitracker: The most amazing piece of wargear and cheap too. Allows us to fire two suit systems in one turn. All suit configurations involving two weapons assume the presence of a multi tracker. A must have

Positional relay: special issue. useful if you use infiltrators especially stealth suits but never used it.

Shield Generator: A difficult choice. A 4+ invun is nothing to be sniffed at but at 20 points its a bit expensive. Generally people prefer to use shield drones for protection. I usually leave this wargear at home but i have used it effectively against marines. Also if you are clever you should be able to guarantee a 4+ cover save for your suits using the jump back move. It's a personal preference choice but my advice is leave it at home.

Target Lock: Useful as it allows you to target a seperate unit. Personally I only take this on missile pod suits as it allows me to target a different light vehicle. Still a good cheap piece of wargear

Targetting array: I love this wargear. Lets me add 1 to my BS. Its great and quite cheap. I personally like my suits at a higher BS so its a must have for me.

Vectored retro thrusters: Special issue. Gives you the hit and run special rule. Could be useful if you take your commander without a bodyguard. Not for me personally but can see its uses.

Battlesuit wargear

The target lock, multi tracker, drone controller and blacksun filter can all be hard wired.

Bonding Knife: Allows the team to regroup when under half strength. I don't personally use this and rely on leadership 8 to take me through.

Ejection system: special issue. looks good. Not worth it. A pulse pistol will do very little damage and the opponent will easily claim the kill point.

Iridium armour: Special issue. Not useful for me . i like the guaranteed 6 inch jump back move and a 2+ save will not help that much. i prefer the guaranteed cover save especially with the increase in plasma cannons on the leman russ's.

Stimulant injector: Special issue. Anything that gives feel no pain is not to be sniffed at. Like the iridum armour it is personal preference.

A few tricks with suit configuration
The commander comes in two forms Shas'el and shas'o. The shas'o has bs5 and the shas'el bs4. A clever trick is that using a targetting array (boosts your bs by 1) you can boost your shas'el to bs5 and make a neat saving of 15 points.

The second trick is as you can hard-wire the multi tracker (allows you to shoot two weapon systems at the same time) and the target lock (allows you to shoot at separate units). Therefore you can take two weapons Targetting array multitracker and get a bs5 model that can lay down massive amounts of fire.

This trick can also be applied to the shas'vre body guards and the team leaders of crisis suits. Give them a targetting array and hardwire the multi tracker and you have some bs 4 models with two weapons.

Verdict: The backbone of the tau army in my opinion. versatile and mobile. a must have for me


Though crisis suit where discussed in the previous section they are an elite unit however it seemed convenient to group them

Stealth suits

Have the Jet pack, deep strike and acute senses special rule. Thus the JSJ rule can be used accordingly. In addition the stealth suits have the infiltrate special rule. This is useful as it allows you to pop up next to a tank and blow it up with fusion blasters. Fusion blasters are a useful upgrade to the squad for a small points cost. The primary weapon is a burst cannon which is a solid if short range anti infantry killer.

The stealth armour has an integrated stealth field generator which makes the enemy test for sight as if the night fighting special rules was in place. This is not particularly useful as the maximum range of the burst cannon is 18 inches (24 with the jump back move) which makes the stealth field almost redundant.

The stealth suits also have a spare hardpoint in which a support system can be added. The only downside is if you take it on one, you have to fill the hardpoint on all

Blacksun filter: better hardwired

Drone controller: One tactic that is regularly used is to use the stealth suits as a marker light sink. By taking lots of marker drones on stealth suits they gain the relentless special rule and thus can move and shoot their heavy marker lights. Though this is useful their is one downside. The marker drones do not have a target lock and thus can only fire their markerlights at one unit. Thus the tactic is feasible I prefer a different approach.

Shield Generator: Too expensive

Target Lock: Useful if you include fusion blaster and desire to tank hunt

Targetting array: What I usually take

Verdict: Not for me however they most definitely have their uses whether as a markerlight sink or a tankhunter or a light infantry killer.

Similar Articles:
The Heresy of Tau: The Crisis Suit by Underground Heretic
Tau Tactica by Lopspoon
Tau Hammerhead Tactica by Lopspoon
Forgeworld Tau Crisis suits by Orochi
Tau tactics for 5th ed by deathbringer
Other Articles:
Mathhammer Tactica (or Warhammer Probability 101) by Culler
Tactica 101:Thoughts on Appropriate and Reasonable Tactics for Every Situation by IntereoVivo
List Building by anarchyfever

kudos to lillian thorne for the awesome sig

Last edited by bishop5; 01-03-11 at 01:31 PM.
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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-26-09, 07:39 AM Thread Starter
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Fire Warriors

The main troop choice of the tau army. They can be equipped with pulse rifles or pulse carbines.
The pulse rifle is a rapid fire weapon with a long range whilst the carbine is a short range weapon that causes pinning. The rifle is in general superior to the carbine due to its immense range and the ability to rapid fire.

Tau warriors are usually grouped in numbers bigger than 8. Personally I take 4 units of 10 warriors for two thousand points. Six is too small and is easily decimated

One fire warrior can be upgraded to a team leader for ld 8. Personally I like that extra leadership and I also like to give my fire warriors markerlights. I use the markerlights to bump up the bs of the firewarriors and therefore it is logical to link them.

Fire warriors can be given various grenades. EMP grenades are useful anti tank however they should only be given if the fire warriors are to be mounted in a devilfish. Photon grenades are a useful tool as they deny the enemy the extra attack from charging. These grenades are a double edged sword.

There are situation where we would prefer that a unit was annihilated and as the unit cannot consolidate into combat we are able to rapid fire him and destroy him. Whilst their are situations where we wish to prolong the agonised suffering of combat for as long as possible. Photon grenades are about personal taste. I prefer to save the 40 or so points that I would have spent.


The devilfish is the dedicated transport for tau firewarriors. Underground heretic wrote an excellent tactica on the devilfish and so ill post the link and not attempt to immitate his work

The Heresy of Tau: The Devilfish


The kroot are the close combat element of the tau. At ws and strength 4 with 3 attacks on the charge they are a formidable if llghtly armoured force. Their strength is in numbers as they have no armour and no power weapons. Kroot hounds are a point cheaper yet they have the same close combat stats as kroot and therefore are worth including if only for cannon fodder.

Therefore their needs to be a combination of at least 20 kroot and kroot hounds to be effective. The krootox is a fairly effective weapon however it removes the major weapon of the kroot.

They can infiltrate. This ability makes them a fearsome weapon. They can arrive to snatch an objective or cause havoc in the enemy lines. Therefore i usually take one unit for infiltration purposes. The infiltrate ability also helps to negate their greatest flaw. Their lack of survivability. By infiltrating they dont have to advance under a hail of fire and have a chance of getting into combat intact.

The shaper is a nice weapon giving our fragile forces a 6+ armour save. Personally I wouldnt bother in general it will make a minimal increase to the survivability of the kroot.

Fast Attack

Gun Drones

Not bad to use as cover but at 12 points each they are a bit of a waste. If you want a squadron of drones take them off the vehicles.

Vespid Stingwings

An interesting option. They are excellent marine killers with their ap3 guns. They are also fleet however they are easily killed with a 5+ save and toughness 4. They are too high a points cost and thus are not really worth taking.

Piranha skimmers

I read a fantastic heresy tactica on piranha skimmers and I will post the link here
Piranha Tactica (4th Edition)

My personal thoughts on piranha's is safety in numbers. Dont take 1. It will be shot quickly and easily. Take at least 3 or 4. I also advise fusion blasters as they are fantastic tank hunting units.


The cheapest source of markerlights in the game. Stick them in cover and let them shoot their markerlights illuminating your opponent and upgrading your fire warriors BS. Though you have to take a devilfish these can be useful in adding some mobility to your fire warriors whilst the devilfish has a marker beacon that can aid any deepstriking crisis suits.

In general i find that if you need markerlights pathfinders are your best bet. they are cheap survivable and useful and have a target lock which means they can fire at a different unit with each marker light.

Personally I dont use them as i bump up the bs of my suits using targetting arrays and I give my firewarriors markerlights however they are definitely a useful unit and are not to be dismissed.

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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-26-09, 09:34 AM Thread Starter
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I'd just like to apologise for the separate posts. My laptop has a mind of its own and if it desires to crash it will so i post at convenient intervals

Heavy Support

Sky Ray

The sky ray suffers from the problem that the hammerhead is just so much better. I would never advise anyone to take one. The hammerhead and sky ray are roughly the same points cost whilst the sky ray relies upon a marker light hit which could be better used on bumping the BS of your fire warriors.

Sniper drone team
Not my favourite option however any ap3 weapon has to be respected. 3 of these teams take up a single heavy support squad and can decimate a marine squad and possibly cause pinning which is always useful. The extra markerlight is also a boon. The sole con is that there are other better heavy support options in the tau armoury. I think this is an overlooked unit and that given the chance could be a serious asset to any tau army. It could easily be used to secure necessary kills and at roughly the same points cost as a broadside it would be a good purchase.


The best tank killer in the game is the railgun. The broadside holds a twin linked pair of these beauties on its broad shoulders. There is the also the basic option of the smart missile system which is excellent anti infantry or a plamsa rifle which is excellent anti MEQ. Only the team leader can hardwire wargear and the possible support systems and wargear are identical to that of crisis suits.

You have to choose one support system for your broadsides

ASS: Allows you to move and still shoot heavy weapons. This is exceedingly useful especially in dawn of war situations and if you need to move for LOS. A great piece of wargear and it boils down to personal preference

Drone controller: Drones will be discussed later in a seperate section

Multitracker: Allows us to fire two suit systems in one turn. Personally I prefer to hardwire this when possible.

Shield Generator: A difficult choice. A 4+ invun is nothing to be sniffed at but at 20 points its a bit expensive. Generally people prefer to use shield drones for protection.

Target Lock: Useful as it allows you to target a seperate unit. Personally I prefer to hardwire this I prefer accuracy on my broadsides. Also AV 14 vehicles need at least two railguns to blow them up. Also other wargear such as the ASS and targeting array will be more effective. Also remember only two target locks are needed in a squad.

Targetting array: I love this wargear. Lets me add 1 to my BS. Its great and quite cheap. I personally like my suits at a higher BS so its a must have for me.


Good front armour good side and the railgun which is one of the best weapons in the game. The possibility to kill anti infantry or tanks is fantastic. The ion cannon is a good weapon but compared to the railgun it dims into insignificance.

Take it. Forget the ion cannon find those 35 points and make it a railhead. There are several possible upgrades

Blacksun Filter: Useful for night fighting

Decoy Launchers: Useful on devilfishes but not so good on the hammerhead. I would rather be immobilized but still able to fire than unable to shoot.

Disruption pod: Take it. Dont think, just take it, its a snip and just amazing

Fletchette Discharger: Wounds attackers on a 4+ before combat. Its a nice option especially against guard however is not particularly useful against heavily armoured models.

Multitracker: Allows your hammerhead to fire as if it is a Fast vehicle. It basically means we can move 12 inches making people hit us on 6's and still fire our railgun

Sensor Spines: Not that great the disruption pod is better.

Target Lock: Useful as it lets you fire at seperate enemies. Worth taking

Seeker missiles: I wouldn't bother. In general you cant find the markerlight hits after boosting your fire warriors. They are nasty but not that useful.

The secondary weapon system can be

Two burst cannons: 6 ap5 shots are very nice and very cheap

Two gundrones: Useful for giving units cover saves but not particularly great defensively

Smart missile system. Has a better range than the burst cannons and LOS is not necessary. Slightly overpriced in 5th ed with the new LOS rules. I would go for the burst cannons personally but once again its about personal preference.

Verdict: Take at least one.

Overall the heavy support is the most highly contested place in the Tau armoury. I think a mixture of hammerheads and broadsides is a great idea as it gives you flexibility however that is my preference. High Hubris an excellent tau player abhors broadsides and refuses to take them.

When a model has a drone controller it can choose to take one of three drones shield, gun and marker.

Drones are of the same unit type as the unit and therefore if they are paired with infantry they will act as infantry and so forth. Thus in the case of a marker drone on an infantry unit, it would not be able to shoot if the unit had moved. This is not useful if you wish to sprint for an objective and still use the markerlight.

In my experience if you intend to use marker drones put them with stealth suits so they can move and fire as stealth suits may fire heavy weapons and still move. Remember crisis suits are different as they can only move and shoot when firing rapid fire weapons.

In my experience gundrones are best used with jetpack infantry as they will be firing on the same sort of range, 24 inches.

Shield drones have the same toughness and armour save as the unit they accompany. They also have a 4+ invunerable save and thus are rather useful in protecting a unit of crisis suits. It is cheaper than a shield generator and thus is a viable addition to your army.

Once again this is a personal preference issue. I dont find them particularly useful and prefer to spend my points on a nice shiny gun whilst underground heretic uses them to great success.

A few tried and tested tactics.

Fish of fury
Run up to a squad in your fish. Get out of the back and shoot a squad at rapid fire range under the skimming fish causing severe damage to the squad. The fish gives u 4+ cover save and thus is useful against marines.
They have a 3+ armour save normally but u get cover from heavy weapons and if they want to assault you they have to run round the fish which is further than 12 inches. Get back in your fish and run away.

NOTE: Don't do this to assault marines it doesn't work. Yes it was foolish. Yes I did forget that the jump packs gave them a 12 inch move.

Gundrone defence line

Your gundrones have disembarked from a vehicle. Jump them in front of a unit of fire warriors giving them a 4+ cover save. In your turn jump out of the way and proceed to blast your enemy before jumping back in front of the fire warriors in the assault phase

Concentrate your fire

Together your fire warriors can kill most things. I hoped to use a cliché but I cant

"Divided they stand, together they fall"
So concentrate your fire to kill your opponent


I hope I have given a good insight into the tau units and a few possible strategies. Remember that only through playing can you end up with your perfect list. I know I got my ass handed to me all the time the first time I played tau. Keep trying and fine tuning your list and eventually the wins will come.
Remember at the end of the day the list is yours and if it works for you and you enjoy it then that is great. These tactics are just what I have experienced and if your experiences tell you different then stick to your instinct.
Comments and criticism on this tactica are welcome and I hope this was helpful

kudos to lillian thorne for the awesome sig

Last edited by deathbringer; 07-28-09 at 10:50 AM.
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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 06-29-09, 08:07 AM
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awesome tactica as i have said on live chat a tweak in the broadsides section and it is all good very good insight for me as a new tau player. helps me confirm my ideas for my army list and some changes i will make.


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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-07-09, 09:41 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks az
editted the broadside part
Hope someone else found it useful

kudos to lillian thorne for the awesome sig
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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-08-09, 01:31 AM
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I play against Tau, so this is definitely useful for me. I didn't really understand drones or markerlights. I still hate them now that I do, btw.

I also don't think the tau have a place in a gothic dystopian future scenario, but thats just me. Dont like dark eldar or necrons either, but you know, lets not start that.
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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-15-09, 10:19 AM
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hey ive literally jus started tau from orks an i have to say

this an cullens tatica for the ork an tau armies have helped me very much
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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-15-09, 03:45 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the response and the rep
the comments are really appreciated its great to know im helping someone
thank you for the replies

criticism always welcome

kudos to lillian thorne for the awesome sig
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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-09, 09:52 AM
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Nice guide, mate. I can see you've put a lot of work in, it's certainly helpful! +rep
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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-22-09, 06:00 PM
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Nice guide really usefull, just one question though, you said in the fish of fury section that the Devilfish can land to block LOS after the fire warriros have shot, I was under the impression that if it wanted to use landing gear the devilfish cant move or am I getting the wrong end of the stick.
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