This tactica grew out of my attempts to devise protection for my Commander in order to properly deploy the Positional Relay. I soon realised that I preferred using the Commander to preserve his bodyguard, as a Shas'O with Iridium Armour and/or Stimulant Injectors is many, many times tougher than our standard infantry.
I submit the Shieldwall tactica as a possible answer to Tau infantry's fragility in 5th edition's emphasis on Troops as scoring units. I have performed limited field testing (3 games so far) and have been very impressed with the performance of the Shield'Os in each of them. Two at once is particularly awesome.
It is in a draft form, with my notes appended. I will continue to develop this tactica through playtesting and discussion; the latest version can always be found in this post.
Cross-posted for discussion at http://forums.tauonline.org/index.php?topic=75288.0
The Shield'O is, in its most archetypal form, a Shas'O with Iridium Armour and a pair of shield drones. This trio can join any other team in our army (except suits with VRT and, debateably, BASS teams), bringing 3 2+ saves and some invuln to whichever part of the cadre needs them. Through manipulation of the wound allocation rules, ensure that anything your opponent fires at you will be either overkill or underkill, as the Commander and Troops protect each other.
While all armies can bolster their squads with the addition of independent characters, and toughen their characters with a bodyguard of line troopers, Tau (may be?) are unique in their characters' ability to equip drone controllers and carry other models from squad to squad with them. While ethereals can do this, and carry the further benefit of making a unit fearless, they will not be mentioned again (at least not until my next tactica ^_^ - Ethereals are the best HQ ever!).
While a Shield'O may join any unit, the most synergy seems to come from joining Fire Warriors or Kroot. Other battlesuits have their own protections, and joining Commanders to them tends to encourage more traditional Commander uses as a 'badass suit'. The sharp mixture of armour types when a Shield'O is joined to basic infantry makes for a very resilient unit, with 3 2+ saves and a large number of wounds.
There are 3 basic 'stances' the Commander may be configured for. Less than a battefield role (which we have already defined with 50 points of wargear: this is a Shield'O), a stance concerns the positioning of the Commander relative to the rest of the army, and the options kept available each turn.
The Shield'O may be dependent, independent, or interdependent on the rest of the army. It is relatively cheap to equip the Commander to perform all these stances within a single battle, but the choices made on wargear and wound allocation will vary depending on how likely or desirable you see each stance as.
Shield'O is detached, not assigning his protection to any other team. It's what a Shield'O does when he's not being a Shield'O. Splitting off before an assault, or moving to another team, will be common times to assume an independent stance. The independent Shield'O behaves much like a normal monat of its type, though typically seeks to rejoin another part of the battleline, as iridium armour crimps the normal abilities of a monat suit (hiding, JSJ).
The Shield'O may also assume the independent stance temporarily (or permanently!) while attached to another team. By refusing to assign wounds to him or his drones, the attached unit assumes the more traditional bodyguard role. This is ideal for absorbing tank-busting fire, and frustrates the opponent.
Wargear characterising the independent stance is a mixture of drone types, or the deployment of multiple Commanders with the intention of moving them together. The addition of stimulant injectors may also help, though these are also ridiculously good on any Shield'O. A shield generator may also be appropriate, though as most AP 1 and 2 weapons cause Instant Death, I prefer protection that's better than 50/50.
To keep the option of assuming the independent stance, do not assign more wounds to the Commander or drones than is necessary. Once the Commander's drones are dead, or the Commander is badly wounded, he tends to become dependent on the rest of the team. The independent stance is not a role the Shield'O is really designed for, as he is not doing much shielding if he's detached, but it must be planned for, because no infantry team is guaranteed to survive the battle.
Shield'O is the steadfast Shieldwall Commander in its classic form. For maximum durability, the Shield'O has been attached to a team, and intends to stay attached. The greater good of the unit trumps other considerations when the dependent stance is taken. The commander and his drones absorb the first 3 anti-infantry shots of each volley. The drones or the attached team absorb anti-tank fire. The unit endures.
Typically, the dependent stance is taken with Troops choices assaulting or holding objectives, or in other situations where it is simply necessary that the unit survive. Large Kroot squads work well, as vast amounts of firepower must be used to overwhelm the shield wall and the 20+ wounds.
Wargear characterising the dependent stance includes the flamer and other anti-assault weapons, the shield generator, failsafe detonator and the target lock. An infantry-heavy army is also typical, as the volume of anti-infantry fire required to counter could easily be beyond the ability of your opponent.
The dependent stance is a long-term dance of playing probabilities in the enemy shooting phase, attempting to keep as many alive for as long as possible. Going to ground is a strong option for this stance, as the entire team becomes resistant to most forms of fire. With Kroot in a forest, the entire team can have 2+ saves of one sort or another.
Shield'O acts not as a typical solo unit, or accompanied by a dedicated bodyguard, but by joining and leaving friendly squads, lending leadership, fire support, and massive armour to the otherwise fragile Tau infantry. This stance contains and counterposes the other two. The interdependent stance is about momentary advantage and local victories. The Commander's presence is used as a mobile shield wall, reinforcing mission-critical efforts and absorbing or dissuading enemy fire wherever they try to concentrate it.
The interdependent stance is often taken when the Commander has become a key target of the enemy, as he leaves a depleted bodyguard and joins another. It is also evident when escorting multiple teams to an objective - the Commander can force hard targeting decisions by leaving the protected squad and joining a decimated team: does the enemy try to wipe them out, at the cost of ignoring the now-unshielded squad, or abandon their attempt to focus fire? The interdependent stance can also be the guide for a long battle of maneuver: the Commander shifts from dependent to interdependent to independent as each situation dictates.
Wargear typical of the interdependent stance begins with the target lock. It is virtually certain that the Commander will end up mismatched with his escort's weaponry at least once. The positional relay is also common, and its wielder may call in successive waves of fresh troops, many of whom are designed specifically to take over the role of bodyguard. Having multiple units in the army equipped with shield drones is also typical of an interdependent-stance plan, as the Commander may drag anti-tank fire through multiple sets of invulnerable saves over the course of a battle.
Preserving the option of the interdependent stance is hard to pin down. As a reactive tactic, the possibilities are very specific to each situation. Keep units nearby for the Commander to duck into. Plan your Commander's movement, and maneuver your army accordingly.
longevity of the commander
- cost 7-12 points per extra wound
- great for soaking up instant death
- fire warriors can also mount shield drones
- Kroot, gone to ground in forest, give many many 2+ saves to the commander
- commander can migrate from team to team, frustrating the enemy's attempts to focus fire (do they go after the valuable commander, or the nearly-dead former bodyguard? CAN they go after the former bodyguard?). The commander can also gain access to 'fresh' shield drones by joining a new team
longevity of the infantry
- makes smaller teams survivable and viable, and makes larger teams very tough
- commander + drones acts as a 'shield wall', preventing up to 3 anti-infantry shots per volley from reaching the infantry. This penalises the shooting of smaller enemy units, as volume of fire is necessary to get 'over' the 'wall'.
- enhances firepower of team, with similar effects
- thus opens up infantry tactics at several team sizes, eg EMP warriors, mixed-armament FW teams
- iridium restricts assault move, but joining infantry eliminates it
- a commander intended for this role thus pays less for iridium armour than a commander who intends to use the assault move
- conversely, iridium becomes more valuable for a commander intending to harden infantry, as its 2+ save can be conferred on the commander's drones, further enhancing the infantry
- can join each other, creating a very strong squad with up to 4 drones already
- can join separate teams, creating a hard core of infantry that the Tau army otherwise lacks
- can join the same team, creating a squad with (potentially) strong resistance to most forms of enemy fire: invulnerable saves on expendable shield drones for heavy weapons, 2+/3+ saves and multiple wounds for light weapons, and upwards of 20 wounds total for resistance to sheer volume of fire
- infantry do not have an assault move, thus the Commander loses access to this move while joined
- ICs can only join and leave units in the movement phase; the assault move cannot be used to team-hop
- going to ground will restrict your commander's ability to shoot, and to leave the team
- joining an iridium commander to other jet pack infantry will harm their
movement; for this reason I generally design my iridium commanders to work with infantry
- utilisation of commander's ballistic skill means they will often be equipped with more high-powered weaponry than their infantry bodyguard. In such cases, a target lock is essential
- commanders can certainly be equipped to target infantry; their best weapons for doing so are 18". This works with Fire Warriors and Kroot, regardless of armament, but carbine warriors do not expose the commander to assault and are therefore probably better
- when the commander has a different preferred target to his support team, the team may fall into a more passive role of providing extra wounds and "staving off" firepower for the commander's defense. Alternatively, battlefield conditions may allow both the commander and the infantry to fully engage their preferred targets
- commander and drones increase squad size and thus morale check thresholds. Up to 20 models in a FW team, or 41 (!) in a Kroot team
- commanders can join and leave the team depending on the behaviour you want from them; for example abandoning a team that is soon going to be assaulted, to try for the fall back and crossfire
- have the same unit type as their controller, regardless of what sort of team they've joined. This only really matters for marker drones, but it means that marker drones on a commander who's joined a FW team can move and shoot
- marker drones: are still not really worth using in this role. They don't gain much by synergy except durability
- gun drone: costs the same as a firewarrior. Not worth taking unless you already have a full FW team. Can be comboed with cover saves to make a poor man's shield drone
- shield drone: brings more 2+/3+ saves to the infantry, and is an invulnerable save on an isolated, expendable wound. Shield drones are key to bolstering infantry's defenses. Conversely, there will be less pressure on the drones for keeping the commander alive, as the infantry can take the hit
gun drone squadron
- deserves a special mention because it's badass to give a commander (or two) something like 10 drones as a bodyguard