Franco’s Foc’d Up 40k – Tau Deployment Part 1

10 Oct

Tau Deployment: Pitched Battle

Deployment, it’s a funny old fish. Some armies get away with some fairly simple rules: deploy as close as possible and make best speed for the enemy lines; deploy in reserve then get half of your army in on the first turn; deploy in the corner with your hydras in front of your manticore – that kind of thing. Tau players, like myself, don’t really enjoy non-challenging autowin armies like that. Take in one of those in the UK tournament scene and you can easily make it into the top 10 on RHQ. Anybody can take that easy road, ANYBODY. Even someone who’s second name makes him sound like a simulation penis, just saying.

It’s not the path of Tau that’s for darn tootin. No, us Tau folks prefer an army that can potentially lose to any other army and any other player if we lose our mind and make 2 or 3 errors during the course of the game. One of the big errors you can make with Tau is over deployment, but if you get deployment right then all you need to worry about is making a maximum of 2 errors for the rest of the game and a win is almost certainly in the bag, against certain armies, assuming you roll basically average or above for 4 out of 5 turns, and it’s not an objective based mission. It’s just that easy!

So it’s worthwhile having some discussion over what is good and what is bad in terms of Tau deployment. What I thought is that I would describe all the bad ways to deploy (as I am very familiar with that) and then the rest of the 40KUK community could jump in and tell me where I’m going wrong. “No Franco,” says Dave, “you need to actually contribute something worth reading, it can’t just be your personal tutorial zone.” Which I was a bit disappointed at to say the least. When do *I* get some love? “Never,” says Dave, “you’re a beardy Glaswegian and no one likes you, now get blogging!” Coz that’s Dave for you, he’s a proper dickhead.

So through streams of tears I’ve put this together for you guys who want to give Tau a go and perhaps need a bit of a push. What Dave has failed to grasp is my fairly dubious position at giving anybody advice, ever, about anything, so feel free to tell me the correct way to do things in the comments bit below.

For clarity and ease of understanding, and because I’m lazy, I’ll be using my 1750 Tau army to display some reasonably simple general concepts concerning Tau deployment. Obviously there are a lot of deployment permutations to consider, between mission, objective, and who you’re up against. So we won’t cover everything here but if you want any advice about any specific questions then feel free to e-mail me at and since I spend most of my day sitting in front of my computer and praying it will give me something to do I’ll be sure to get back to you fairly quickly.

So let’s start with a pitched battle deployment. It’s a good one for Tau to be honest, because you’re not forced into one corner and you get the full weight of your firepower from turn 1. In pitched battle you might want to do something that may just blow your opponents mind enough to seal the victory from the get go – go second. Seriously. Range is your friend, and if you go second against an army that you can outrange (everyone but IG then aye?) it means you can deploy far away from their firebase and/or assault forces, which will give you a few turns of relief while they redeploy their weapons and swing their assault around. So have a look below to see what I’d be doing against a typical Space Wolf deployment in pitch battle when going second.

So a couple of things to mention with this deployment before we get into it:-

  • the deployment of the pathfinders will depend on the objective, kill points means he has to come to you and you can stick them behind your kroot line in the corner, while an objectives game will mean you’ll need to be in range of those objectives later on and should deploy them with that in mind. In the above set-up you could place them off centre to the right (in the wood), so your opponent has the choice of going for them if he wants, but it’s not on the way to you main army and will delay his advance significantly. If your pathfinders are in range in the first turn don’t be shy about going to ground with them because they’re at their most important when the enemy gets in rapid fire range and late in the game, so turn 1 and 2 markerlights are not necessarily required.
  • The firewarriors are not on the table, they always start in reserve for me and then just come on and get into the pathfinders devilfish if it’s available, if it’s not then they just try to stay out of the way and/or take an objective.

So on to the stuff that is on the map then. You can see the Space Wolf player has set up his long fangs fairly centrally, razorbacks around those, his TWC dead centre, and mechanised infantry spread evenly on the flanks. We’ll expect his rhinos to boost forwards as quickly as possible and his long fangs and razorbacks to lay down fire, or redeploy if out of range.

So we’ve set up the crisis suits in the far corner, as they’re the most vulnerable to the long fangs missiles, with a squad of broadsides on each side of them.  This has put the long fangs on the right out of range of the main part of my army so they have to make the difficult decision of running into a better position and losing a turn of shooting or shooting at a vehicle that could easily take the fire and come out of it fine, and isn’t really a threat to be honest. The long fangs in the centre are partially out of range, so they’ll want to shift over a little as well at some point, if not immediately. There is one squad of broadsides on the right who will shift around throughout the game to stay behind cover and will provide a tempting target for a squad of grey hunters nearby. If they go for them it’s great news really, because in turn 3 or so you’ll lose your broadsides and the grey hunters will be out of the game. Those 7 or 8 guys could well tip the balance in breaking through your lines and could kill your whole army basically, but the broadsides in the corner will definitely not kill the other guys whole army. If they get left alone then good news, you’ve got 2 broadside who can fire with impunity at a 72” range all game. It’s worth noting that against outflankers we would definitely not want to do this (we will cover that situation later).

The 2 squads of kroot have formed 2 lines, and this is fairly standard for most games. They’re within range of all of the long fangs because it gives your opponent something else to shoot at that is not worth shooting at. If do they get shot at just go to ground, and on this map you’ll be loving the 2+ cover save and he won’t, but even 3+ is good enough to keep you safe for a bit. It’ll be another turn of shooting you don’t need to deal with getting directed against your crisis suits or broadsides.

The devilfish is deployed offset from your main army and in a position to block next turn if required. It’s also a target you’d prefer to get shot at by the long fangs. It should be far enough away so that if a lucky shot busts it in the first turn it won’t catch anything in the explosion. The piranhas are also in a position to block in your first turn. When the rhinos boost forward and pop smoke in their first turn the piranhas will shoot forward and take position directly in front of the rhinos to prevent any forward movement in the space wolf second turn. The trick with this is to make use of your full 4” squadron coherency as rhinos chasis cannot move between this without coming within an inch of you, allowing you to draw quite a long line they cannot cross in their second turn. The infantry can get out and conga line through the middle, but this will slow them down and expose them to your plasma. You don’t even need to shoot at the rhinos in turn 1 because they won’t be going anywhere until turn 3 at least, which allows you to target vehicles without a cover save (like the razorbacks) or even the long fangs. In turn 2 when the rhinos don’t have smoke you can block again with the piranhas (if they’re still about) and bring the fusion blasters to bear or target them with the railguns. Blocking with piranhas and kroot could be a blog entry in and of itself, but if you have any questions about it then just let me know.

Okay, so that’s if you go second. You get the advantage of deployment and mitigate the disadvantage of not having the first turn of shooting by keeping everything worth shooting at out of range of most of his firepower. Your 36” and 24” range on the crisis is mitigated by the fact that he will almost certainly need to advance on your position at best speed and bring himself in range on turn 1. So what if you go first? It’s not a bad thing to be honest, of course it’s not, but it will alter your deployment radically. Have a look below:-

So we know they can set-up straight across from us and we’ve deployed with that in mind, making sure that if they do (as they have in this case) then they’ve not really got much to hide behind. This time all the broadsides are hugging the back of the table and are within support range of each other. The crisis suits are as far forward as possible and the kroot have infiltrated in front of them. In the first turn they’re going to jump in front of the kroot and the kroot will shuffle backwards a little (out of 1st turn charge range of the TWC). The kroot are going to leave a gap between their lines for the crisis to jump back into in the assault phase. The crisis are this far forward because you really want to be able to bring every weapon you have to bear in the first turn to wreck as much as possible. It seems like they’re pretty close to the TWC, but in reality those guys are unlikely to make it through turn 2 alive.

The pathfinders are fairly central and a little forward so they can basically reach everything they need to without simply being 24” away. They will move back and form another line of blocking later in the game if required. The piranhas are on either side of the line because you want to be able to boost right in front of them in the first turn to block their first turn vehicle movement and deploying like this allows you to do that. The devilfish is off to the side and will occupy the space the piranhas in front of it will soon vacate. It will block in turn 2 if required.

So that’s pitched battle more or less covered. I should take a moment to  mention outflankers at this point. I’m of the attitude that if outflankers are being use then your opponent is the devil, and should be purged from the gaming community. Not everyone shares this opinion mind, and to be honest when they’re about it’s not the end of the world. So what I’ll typically do with the Tau is deploy completely to one corner and take the chance of 1/3rd of them coming in so far away that they’ll never take part in the game. I’ll usually seal up that corner with my broadsides and crisis suits, so they can’t walk in and instantly get into my valuable things. At the end of the corner I’ll extend my kroot line so they have to come in just past the lip of this and within rapid fire range of the crisis suits. If there are vehicles coming I’ll form the point of the corner with my devilfish, so they need to come in beyond this, and stick my broadsides along the edge behind that so they can death or glory any tank foolish enough to think a railgun at point blank is a good idea. With wolf scouts or snikrot it’s basically the same idea, except you don’t need to corner up and you need to wrap your whole army in your kroot line. Your crisis and broadsides can cover the back of the table itself, but the sides and front will need kroot to keep it safe. You’ll lose one line of kroot as soon as they show up, but then they’ll lose their outflankers to the return fire.

Remember that these rules are not without their exceptions, and that the objective of the game can shift you around significantly. Tau are at their best when they’re simply killing things at range, so concentrate on that at first. Later in the game is when you need to start making a grab for objectives and pushing forward, but first concentrate on simply surviving the attack. No game is an easy one for Tau, you can lose any one of them if you mess around and don’t concentrate, but once you get the hang of things you’ll be surprising everyone in your local group with you success rate.

So that’s me for this week. Next week we’ll tackle table quarters.


5 Responses to “Franco’s Foc’d Up 40k – Tau Deployment Part 1”

  1. Andy Ovel October 11, 2011 at 10:38 #

    Great stuff Franco I really enjoyed reading this, and I think there are some good tips in there for all gun line armies, and those playing them.

    Of course you do realise you’ve also helped all the other armies to start planning how to beat your set up too?

    Thanks 🙂

    • Franco October 11, 2011 at 11:05 #

      I think we can all agree that in the current meta there is simply nothing anyone can do to beat the mighty Tau Empire. You might as well be pissing in the wind.

      • Andy Ovel October 11, 2011 at 13:46 #

        But of course!!!

        I was thinking of one of those “moral victories” where you just scape a draw, after the Tau have been mauling you all game!! 🙂

        Hope to see you in March 🙂

      • 40KUK October 12, 2011 at 12:08 #

        Mr Marruffo with 2 ‘f’s’ modest as ever.

        Seriously though, I think the biggest element to all of this is that deployment is perhaps the most important part of Tau’s tactics, more so even in roll dice and tie which they can struggle in.

        Great article and I think perfect picture to fit Franco’s personality.

  2. Franco October 12, 2011 at 17:42 #

    I’m gonna bust you Gary…

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