Monday, September 21, 2009

Tactica: Gun Drones and Vehicles

I was reading a recent battle report over on "The Tau of War" and it got me thinking about a very important aspect about the Tau army when it comes to annihalation missions.

Every Tau player has been there at some point. You waltz into a game with your friends and it comes up annihalation. Sure enough, you look and see Gun Drones all over the place. Tiny little units of free kill points....

Those Gun Drones could be the deciding factor of the game, and no one wants to see that happen! How do you get around this? There are a couple of ways to make sure you're secure in th number of kill points you offer up to your opponents.

First, and foremost, make sure you only ever have as many Devilfish as you need. True enough, you can purchase a Smart Missile System for the Fish for 20pts, but that adds up very quickly and depletes from your resources. Instead, keep your transports safe and in few numbers. I prefer to bring in a Pathfinder unit and use their Devilfish to swap between Pathfinders, Fire Warriors and Kroot moving across the table. For 80 points, you've got a transport for all your infantry, as long as you keep it safe. The 20 points for the SMS could be two more Fire Warriors, and you need all the fire power you can get in these missions.

Second, have your Pirahnas in formations. Yes, I know, having Pirahnas zoom across the table independantly is very nice and can help alot for contesting in objective games. However, you'll quickly find that in annihalation having each fragile speeder worth 2 kill points will lose you battles quickly. In squadrons, Pirahnas deploy their Gun Drones as a single unit, meaning the entire formation is worth only 2 kill points as opposed to 2 points for each Pirahna.

Thirdly, you have the Gun Drones, so use them. Gun Drones can be deployed and as you have them for free, it'd be a waste to not let them have fun. While your vehicles speed off to focus on another part of the battle, Gun Drones can hold down enemy units with pinning fire, supported by your Pathfinders' markerlights. A BS 2 they may have, but never discount the twin-linked effect (it may surprise you to know that BS 2 T/L is actually MORE accurate than normal BS 3). Gun Drones are surprisingly hardy, and can take as much punishment as Fire Warriors. Gun Drones can also guard your more important units, such as tanks and Crisis/Broadside Teams, giving them valuable cover saves against deadly heavy weapons. Gun Drones can also block assaults, which is good news for the Tau (it gives me great pain to say that at Init 4, Gun Drones are one of the fastest units in the Tau Empire in combat. Heck, I almost had a single Gun Drone take out a Carnifex in close combat because of this). Gun Drones often have a better chance of survival on their own. Instead of keeping them with a vehicle to make it 2 for 1 kill points, send the Drones off to support your other units. Remember that they have assault moves thanks to their jetpacks, which can allow them to duck from cover to cover, making them great for tagging with Stealth and Crisis Suits. Don't forget about pinning either: this can really annoy your opponent as he tries to advance on the battlefield while dealing with pesky drones. Pinning is a deadly--if not forgotten--weapon when used properly. Pinning nearby units keeps all your units alive, which is bonus points in annihalation games.

Finally, be aware of how you conduct the Tau's "disadvantage" in annihalation as it can rapidly become your advantage. Gun Drones are as much a weapon as they are a nuesance. They make great distractions, suppression firers and can STILL blast through Guard, Ork and 'Nid armour. Next time you fight in annihalation, surprise your enemy when they think those Gun Drones are going to be to their benefit.

Apollo out.



Not a bad writeup. Gun Drones are indeed a bit of a disadvantage to you.

I would definitely consider detaching them in the beginning. I mean, there's no need to have a Piranha squad roll off and hunt vehicles with BS4 meltaguns only to explode and dump another kill point in their lap.

On the other hand, I'm for putting the SMS on Devilfish. I don't think enough of Fire Warriors to really value two more of them; they're not that hardy and not that versatile, and we have lots of S5 fire in the codex. I think it's 20 points well worth it.

Trust me, some enemies WILL make the effort for the KP. Other times, it's just more guns to have.

Additionally, honestly, pinning is not that useful. Ok, pinning is cool, but it's not something you can really rely on, nor is AP5. There's lots of cover out there, so you'd have to be lucky to catch the enemy out. Forcing pinning checks is a nice benefit, but most enemies have decent leadership or fearless or something like that. Ironically, Tau are the most likely to get pinned. You COULD use the markerlights to boost that chance, but I'd rather boost my Crisis Suits and just nuke the enemy off the board.

The Drones CAN provide cover for Broadsides and such, but honestly those should already be deployed in cover.

They're a decent enough assault speed bump if you can put them in front of such units, though. I mean, if you're where the enemy want to be, he's got to deal with you.


I lost my last Annihilation game 10 to 6, against Daemons. Three of those KP were gun drones and a Piranha.

Detaching your gun drones at the start, as Raptor1313 suggests, is something I usually do in KP games. If you have the Piranhas as a squadron, you can have a decent sized gun drone unit, and you can attach that to your HQ as some ablative (albeit Maj T 3) wounds.

I would love for pinning to be a game mechanic that actually works, but until GW decide to make that happen it will be a side-show at best. In the last three games I played every unit on the table was Fearless, and there was nothing out of the ordinary about that.

Old Shatter Hands

Great ideas here. I hadn't thought of detaching the gun drones early on and hiding them the entire game. I normally feel that leaving them on the vehicle is safer for them. I decided lately that I would instead simply reserve any vehicle units with gun drones in Annihilation Missions. That certainly keeps them safe from enemy fire for a couple turns.

I will consider rdetaching them early on though. It's important to note (some new Tau players forget) that in a vehicle squadron all the detached gun drones form a single unit and when one piranha is destroyed, all gun drones from the entire squadron detach. There is no ruling on this, but we play that only the gun drones from the destroyed piranha take the S4 hits from the explosion but the whole unit must take a pinning check. Is this how y'all play it, too?


Yes, that's the way I see it. Although according to the GW FAQ, if the drones on the destroyed Piranha are both killed, arguably the rest do not need to disembark at all.


I have to admit that the Smart Missile System is a nasty nasty weapon system to use; however, whether or not it's worth putting it on a transport I'm going to have zooming across the table every turn which can't fire weapons anyway is the main point here.

I'll elabourate on Tank strategies in a seperate post though. It really deserves its own section.

Old Shatter Hands
This comment has been removed by the author.
Old Shatter Hands

I've recently decided to remove the SMS from all of my devilfish. For a couple reasons

1) SMS costs 20 points but you are really paying 40 points for it. Consider this, equipping hammerheads with drones costs 20 points. that cost is already built into the Devilfish, so when you remove the drones for SMS, you paying another 20 points on top of that. 40 points.

2) SMS gives you less shots on the move. Yes that's right. A Devilfish with Mutlitracker can move 12 inches and shoot one weapon, the 4 sms shots. but with GW's FAQ, drones can fire if at least one other weapon on the DF can fire. So when you move 12 inches with Devilfish, (which you should always do) you get 5 shots (as opposed to 4 with SMS) and two of those are pinning weapons.

3)Contesting objectives. As a reading recently commented on my blog, a Devilfish with drones has a contest range of 21-26 inches!!! DF move 12 inches, 2 inch disembark, d6 Run, 6 inch jet pack move. Nice for objective games for sure.


I hadn't thought of that 3rd tactic at all!

For everyone hanging on, I just played a practice game with my tournament ally in annihilation and hid the gun drones on turn 1. The gun drones were ignored as the rest of my stuff ran across the board. This tactic seems to work as long as you do not draw attention to the gun drones and keep your suppression fire on enemy units.

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