Diggin’ Into The New Tau Empire Codex: The Flyers

Warhammer 40K Sunshark Bomber Tau Empire

Tau Empire Sun Shark Bomber painted by feelinstrangelyfine

The new 6th Edition Tau Empire Codex is the second Warhammer 40K Codex written by the “new” kid on Games Workshop’s Codex writer-team: Jeremy Vetock. Codex Dark Angels was his first.

Looking more in-depth at the new Tau Empire Codex, I can’t help but make comparisons between the two books. And while there’re some good ideas in Codex Dark Angels, the two main disappointments (to me) were the Chapter Relics and the new Dark Angel flyers.

How did he handle the new Tau Empire flyers?

#1 – The New Tau Empire Flyers

Only looking at the pics in the Codex, the Tau Empire Sun Shark/Razorshark kit appears to be another quality kit from Games Workshop. Lots of awesome details (fold-out Seeker Missiles!).

Very similar to the Dark Angels options, you get the choice between two flyers.

One a more straight-forward air-superiority interceptor, the Razorshark Strike Fighter, and one a more exotic air-to-ground flyer, the Sun Shark Bomber.

Both have Armour Values of 11/10/10 (did I hear a Heldrake laughing in the corner?) and BS3.

They also have access to the Tau Vehicle Battle Systems, of which only the Decoy Launchers (cheap, but highly situational) and the disruption bod (tempting, but too expensive for my taste) might make sense. Both are defensive upgrades that could  save your flyers for an extra round.

#2 – The Razorshark Strike Fighter

The Razorshark is the straight-forward (mainly) air-to-air fighter. Even with the (IMO must-have) 5 pt. upgrade from burst cannon to a missile pod (Str. 5 weapon on a flyer? In a Tau Army? Nah!), the Razorshark is 20 pts. cheaper than a Heldrake and 30 pts. cheaper than a Nephilim.

With a missile pod, the Razorshark will give you 6 Str. 7 shots a turn with its basic weaponry. Enough to hit stuff even at BS3.

Its signature Quad Ion Turrent can opt to overcharge for a Str. 8 AP4 large blast. Like many Tau vehicles, the Razorshark also carries Seeker Missiles, though it doesn’t have its own networked markerlight like the Sun Shark, meaning you’ll use them less often to lob Str. 8 shots at other flyers, unless you invest into something to (marker)light-up flyers (e.g. a Skyray or a Sun Shark). The Razorshark has some good things going for it:

  • Cheap
  • Lots of Str. 7 shots
  • Str. 8 blast alternative

Overall, I think the Razorshark is a reasonably solid entry, if a bit bland.

It doesn’t have the easy Str. 8 torrent of the (less popular) Autocannon-Heldrake-Variant, and it won’t gain the popularity of the Heldrake. On the upside, the Razorshark covers its BS3 very well with lots of Str. 7 shots/blasts. It has the basic tools for to do its job. It just lacks the “wow-effect”.

Just don’t expect the Razorshark to see the end of the game.

#3 – The Sun Shark Bomber

Oh boy. Where to start?

For one, the Vetock (or his editors) clearly mucked up the rules for the Sun Shark’s signature Pulse Bomb Generator. I am going to assume it gets FAQed at some point to make it clear that the Sun Shark does indeed start the game with one bomb loaded.

Even ignoring this issue, the Sun Shark is a complicated beast with more special rules than you can shake a stick at. It probably didn’t have to that complex, in my humble opinion at least. In a nutshell, the Sun Shark is a lick more expensive than the Razorshark, for which it brings four (!) weapon-systems to the table.

  1. The Pulse Bomb, which is bugged (see above) but only Str. 5 AP 5 anyhow (again… if you’re looking for Str. 5 AP 5… you’re holding the Tau Codex in your hand!). 
  2. Seeker Missiles and (!) networked markerlights, meaning you could attempt to “light-up” an enemy flyer and send a missile after it. At BS3 for the markerlight and, if successful, BS5 for the missile, this is akin to a joint Ballistic Skill of ~2.5. Not too hot.
  3. A Missile Pod, which you can twin-link for an extra 5 points.
  4. Two Interceptor Drones, which may (ironically) be the best thing in the set-up.

It’s kinda telling that the Interceptor Drones (Turbo-boosting Jetpack Infantry with twin-linked Str 7 Skyfire, Interceptor weaponry? Not too shabby!) are the most attractive thing on the Sun Shark. The rest might be well-intended, but is poorly executed.

  • The bomb could be fun, but adding more Str. 5 to a Tau Army, even using bombing run rules, doesn’t seem great at the costs of the Sun Shark. Also, it needs a FAQ.
  • It can throw out Str. 7 shots, but not enough to rival the Razorshark (or Broadsides).
  • The Skyray does the networked markerlight-trick alot better.
  • The Interceptor Drones could’ve easily been added to the Razorshark as an optional upgrade for a few points.

The Sun Shark seems a poorly thought-out “second flyer” for the sake of having a second flyer.

#4 – Final Thoughts – Less (Codex-entries) Is More

The new plastic-kit is gorgeous, and the rules for the Razorshark (possibly the Sun Shark, after a FAQ) may well be good enough to bring them to the table on occasion.

Similar to the Dark Angels flyers, the Razorshark and Sun Shark remain underwhelming.

That is unfortunate, as I believe this could have been a truely great flyer added to the game, if GW would’ve simply added some of the more interesting stuff available to the Sun Shark – notably Interceptor Drones – to the Razorshark.

In fact, the Razorshark-entry in the hobby-section says something like “underslung jet-boosters in place of drones improve maneuverability“. There is no in-game effect to support this.

Moreover, adding the options (for a price) of networked markerlights to the Razorshark, as well as making the over-charge of the Quad Ion Turrent AP3 (again, for a price) to rival the Heldrake’s feared weapon, the Tau flyer would’ve been a fantastic addition to the 40K (meta-)game.

As it stands, the Tau Empire flyers will mostly be fielded by those who like the model. That must not be a bad thing, of course. They will share that with the new Dark Angels flyers.