Left of Arc #8 – Tau, the beginning!

Whilst drafting another post some time ago I happened to realise that I had deliberately steered clear of talking about my time collecting Games Workshop models.  Yet, my GW-time has clearly influenced the other armies I collect, from other games, and even how I play them.  So I thought that perhaps I should bite the bullet and write about the GW side of my hobby.  It did, after all, get me into wargaming and dominated my hobby for nearly a decade!

My army of choice was Tau.  I looked at the others, and yes the Space Marines looked awesome, and the Imperial Guard took my fancy, but it was the clean lines and the element of hope in the look of the Tau models that captured me.  I was introduced to the game by my brother-in-law back when I was 16 and very quickly my friends started getting into the hobby too.  None of them had chosen Tau so I thought that would be a good place for me to start.  In my ignorance, I actually thought the Tau were just another human faction!  Little did I know what sort of universe I was getting myself into!

The local GW store staff were wonderfully friendly and were true hobbists at heart.  I remember one of the staff talking to me about spray paint undercoating and said that for him, “Gandalf the White was once black!”  The man had never used white spray undercoating!  So I bought the Tau codex and a starter set, paints and brushes, and set about building and painting.

It was a steep learning curve: I didn’t undercoat and instead painted black straight onto the model, then painted what was then Shadow Grey to highlight armour and a few other bits.  That done I then glued the model on top of coarse gravel that I had glued onto a base.  Needless to say, they all looked pants!  My friends were still learning as well, so at least I wasn’t the only one.

My first few games were a bit haphazard, my friends and I were all trying to figure out the 3rd Edition 40k rulebook.  The one thing I did pick up on early was the range my Tau had, and the dastardly battlesuit hop-out-shoot-stuff-hop-back rule!  But my Tau simply collapsed in close combat, especially against the Khorne Berserkers my brother-in-law had and with the 12 inch consolidation rule at the time.  However, my rail guns, plasma rifles, and mass of infantry managed to whittle the enemy enough during several games.

Over the next few years, I spent more and more money adding to my Tau; stealth suits, battle suits, Forgeworld resins, flyers, Kroot, more infantry… this is where I learned that infantry truly is the king of the battlefield – granted it’s a lesson I’ve forgotten and relearned more times than I’d like to admit.  ‘Special’ units are for ‘special’ occasions, but grunts are forever.  It was a lesson so well engrained that when building any Tau list it automatically had 2-4 full infantry squads, depending on the points value.  A practice I continue even to this day.  I don’t even like taking less than full squads unless I know it’s worth it.

So what’s so great about PBIs?  and the Tau ones for that matter?  They’re a jack of all trades.  Everything from holding a position, taking ground, manoeuvring, and pinning the enemy, infantry can do it all.  It’s why western (and probably eastern) doctrine places heavy importance on enabling and supporting the infantry.  A tank will add literally tons of pressure to your front line, but it will struggle against well-supported (and disciplined) grunts.  And the Tau?  Range.  That, and double shots when stood still (I think a rule set post 6th Ed allowed triple shoots with a character).  24 dice at 30 inches from one squad is going to make any player wibble even a little.

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