8th Edition First Impressions – Tau

Possibly one of the most maligned and disliked faction by some of the hobby community for being so cheap and powerful in 6th/7th Edition, let’s have a look at what 8th Edition has in store for The Tau (or T’au as they’re now known).

Tau Objective Secured

A whole new Greater Good

With how good Tau were at shooting in previous editions of the game, they were always going to be one of the hardest factions to balance in the new world of 8th Edition. Quite how they’ve done it is a little intriguing. At first glance they’ve basically just upped the point’s costs for some of the best shooting units in the game along with stripping back some of the outright bonkers army buff’s for others. Essentially overall if you want to play Tau, you’ll need to almost completely relearn how to play Tau. Forget what they were in 7th Edition, it’s gone now. You’ve had it good for many years, now it’s time to mix it with the plebs!

With the removal of formations completely from the game, we can finally say goodbye to Riptide wings and Optimised Stealth Cadres too!

With allies no longer being a thing and matched play armies having to share at least one Keyword in an army, it means players are left having to field a full Tau army rather than just cherry picking the best units/formations. The new list has the option to build a more troop heavy army rather than the monster mash we’re used to seeing. You can still do monster mash, but be prepared to have a very small army.

Tau Objective Secured

For the Greater Good

So what’s changed, well Supporting Fire is gone, replaced by For the Greater Good. Units can still perform overwatch to other units within 6”, but they can only do it once per turn.

Markerlights have also had a reworking. They give some similar bonuses as before, but are no way as powerful. They are however cumulative! You no longer spend Markerlight points, they stay on the unit until the end of the phase.




You can re-roll hit rolls of 1 for Tau units attacking this unit


Destroyer and Seeker missiles fired at this unit use the models BS rather than hitting on 6’s


Tau units targeting this unit do not suffer the penalty for moving and firing Heavy weapons or Advancing and firing Assault weapons


The target does not gain any bonus to its saving throw for being in cover

5 or more

Add 1 to hit rolls for Tau models attacking this unit


However Drones themselves got some interesting rules, for a start you can allocate wounds to them via their Saviour Protocols. Giving nearby Battlesuits and Infantry extra survivability and protection. They are also set up on the battlefield in unit coherency with the unit that bought them as wargear, however from that point onwards they act independently, which could come in handy for claiming Maelstrom objectives.

At this early stage the Tau have lost all their unique Signature Systems, so no more Onager Gauntlets or Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suites. What Support Systems they have left are very different to their previous iterations too. For example Multi-trackers no longer allow for the unit having them to fire an additional weapon in the same phase, no the Multi-tracker now allows the bearer to re-roll 1’s if it fires all its weapons at the same target. Target Lock is no longer split fire (seeing as everything in the game gets that now) so that’s now changed to allow the bearer to move and fire Heavy weapons without penalty along with a few other bonuses too. There’s a good mix of advantages across the Support Systems and with mostly all the units in the army list having access to them in some way, it should give some units more table time!

Also worth mentioning is the Fly Keyword. Seeing as Tau battlesuits have lost the jump – shoot – jump ability, they have gained Fly. Fly allows for units that fall back out of combat to fire normally again in their own shooting phase, which is incredibly handy for a primarily shooting army!

The Tau also gain bonuses from characters using their Mont’ka and Kauyon auras to boost shooting for a single turn per game (although Commander Shadowsun and Farsight can do an additional one per game) which is pretty neat, but not game breaking. Ethereals and Cadre Fireblades also have auras too, which again, improve shooting abilities through to hit modifiers or additional shots or boost morale.

Tau Objective Secured

The Much Greater Good

The stand outs so far seem to be the Coldstar Battlesuit Commander, the Basic Commander, Ghostkeels and the humble Fire Warrior.

The Coldstar Commander can move 20” then Advance another 20” and can fire normally (with Target Lock) with its High-output Burst Cannon and Missile Pod. Throw in Advanced Targeting System and it gets +1 to the AP of all its weapons! I can see players using them to snipe out enemy characters early in games or score objectives quickly. One thing to point out is that the Coldstar Commander can’t actually change his weapons AT ALL!

The standard Commander is another powerful rather inexpensive gun platform too, with four Missile Pods and hitting on 2+ he can do some serious damage, and being a character he can sit smugly behind some inexpensive troops…

Ghostkeels have a unique deployment ability to be deployed anywhere on the board outside of your opponents deployment area and more than 12” away from an enemy unit. Although they can no longer be taken in units, they’re still quite impressive when it comes to fire power. Their also T6 with 10 wounds and can get an impressive -2 to hit from units shooting them from more than 12” away. They can also move an impressive 12” a turn and have the Fly Keyword too. They can be expensive, but played right I think they’ll be impressive!

I like the standard Fire Warrior Strike Team too, 40pts for a unit of 5 with pulse rifles looks to be a good offset to some of the bigger Battlesuits in the list. And throwing them in a 127pt Devilfish that’s T7 with 12 wounds gives them some survivability.

As for weapon options, I think even the Eldar players will be jealous of Rail Weapons when you compare them to Wraithcannons. Any to roll wound of a 6 does an additional mortal wounds! And Missile Pods do serious damage for their points now too. Even Burst Cannons are worth a look at too, with Advanced Targeting Systems they’ll start to strip wounds off quickly.

Tau Objective Secured

The…um…not so Greater Good.

Well, at first glance and without any real game time yet, Riptides, Kroot, High-yield Missile Pod Broadsides and Hammerhead Gunships seem to have taken a bit of a knock. With either being too expensive or just…odd

Riptides get expensive real quick, but their fire power doesn’t seem so impressive. A single Riptide with an Ion Accelerator, two Smart Missile Systems, Target Lock and, Advanced Targeting Systems comes in at nearly 400 points! Yes it’s T7 with 14 wounds and a 2+ save, but wow…that’s a steep price when you compare it to two Ghostkeels with Cyclic Ion Rakers, two Fusion Blasters, Target Lock and Advanced Targeting Systems that cost just a few more points combined!

Kroot lost their ability to outflank, but they do get (what would’ve been a scout move) a 7” free movement before the first Battle Round. They also lost their Sniper Rifles too.

Tau Objective Secured

The Oddities…for the Greater Good

Theirs a few odd rules and units in the list too, maybe we’ll get an FAQ ironing out a few kinks early into the edition.

One that springs to mind is Photon Grenades:

“This weapon does not inflict any damage. Your opponent must subtract 1 from any hit rolls for INFANTRY units that have any hits from photon grenades until the end of the turn”

Wait…turn? Who’s turn? Did GW mean Battle Round? Which could still wouldn’t work if you went second. Or does that mean until the end of your opponents next turn? Or is that the Tau players turn…which would only affect the hit roll in combat…

Another one is Crisis Bodyguards, they pay an extra 3pts per model over the standard Crisis Battlesuit and can basically “Look out Sir” wounds from nearby characters…that’s it…no extra wounds or leadership buffs seeing as the Crisis Battlesuits can take a Shas’vre for no additional cost which bumps them up to the same leadership value.

Also the Stormsurge has no close combat weapons, not even Titanic Feet like other multi wound Lords of War, which means it’ll default to just it’s base strength with no AP modifiers and single damage.

Vespids are another oddity…they may actually be worth it now *gasps*.

(Expect Massaen to do a feature on these guys in the near future! – Ed)

Tau Objective Secured

Wrap it up…for the Greater Good

Overall, the Tau army list has taken quite a beating in the cross over to 8th Edition. It’ll take some sorting out and table time to find an optimised build, but it’s definitely in there.

You definitely won’t be building a close combat Tau army though, even with Farsight, they just won’t punch that hard enough or stick around long enough. Thankfully a lot of units have the Fly Keyword.

The Tau will still be up there as one of the best shooting armies in the game, but they need a lot of army support to get there, which in turn should balance them out across the game. They’ll revolve around their Markerlights still, but getting Markerlight hits down range will take some dedicated units. They should punish MSU armies and low wound low toughness armies. How they go against horde armies will be interesting to see.

I’ll be putting them on the table soon as I’m keen to see what they play like now. That and I love robots, but who doesn’t?

Now…where did I store my missile pods and Commander sprues….