Tau Unit Tactica: Broadsides

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The epitome of infantry bourne firepower, Broadsides are tough, strong, and carry the biggest guns in the Tau arsenal. Unfortunately they're also slow, so slow in fact that many Tau players shun them on this point alone. The fact remains though that they're the cheapest, most accurate, and longest range S10 shots in the game.

Who Cares About Speed when You've Got a Railgun?

While nowhere near as mobile as a Hammerhead or XV8, the Advanced Stabilization System (ASS) upgrade gives a clever Tau commander just enough options to make the Broadside a deadly battlefield asset without simultaneously being too much of a liability. Mobility is important for 2 main reasons:
  • Avoiding Assault - Possessing of a devistating shooting attack and having little to no assault ability of their own, Broadsides are a tempting target for any assault squad with any kind of power weapon (in other words, any assault squad period). By assaulting you, not only do they tie up your big guns, but they net themselves in the neighborhood of 100 points per model. With most assault squads having some type of movement enhancement (transport, jump pack, cavalry, etc) you will generally only have 2 turns of shooting before they're on you. Unless you dedicate a substantial portion of your army to eliminating this threat, your broadsides will likely end up in close combat... and even then it may be unavoidable if they've made clever use of terrain.
  • Scoring - In 4th edition, the ability to score is of paramount importance in both casual and tournament play. Missions like Recon, Take and Hold, Search and Rescue, etc all give bonus VP's for units who are on an objective at the end of the game. Even with S10 guns, a Broadside team will be hard pressed to earn any significant VP's over the course of 6 turns unless either your opponent's brought some serious armor or unless your Broadsides can score.
Mobile Broadsides are also better able to seek out enemy armor. Most opponents (rightly) fear these monsters and will do their utmost to use terrain to shield their heavy vehicles from your LoS. This is much more difficult if your Railguns can move to engange them. Furthermore, a mobile Broadside team is less vulnerable to a first turn volley of enemy heavy weapons. By deploying your Broadsides behind terrain and then stepping out into a firelane, you effectively protect yourself against your opponent winning first turn without having to give up a round of shooting.
In general, theASS carries so much utility that it's essentially a mandatory upgrade. For the remainder of this discussion I'm going to assume that any Broadside team under consideration is being fitted withASS's by default.
A Broadside heavy army might find use for a large stationary XV88 team as a deadly, and well protected "anchor" while smallerASS-mobile Broadside Teams work the angles. Extreme army lists like this are hardly the norm however.

If Mobility's So Important, Why Don't We Just Use Hammerheads?

While certainly a viable option, relying solely on Hammerheads for your Railguns isn't the best option in all circumstances. In larger games of 2000+ points, the primary problem is that it's difficult to get the necessary killing power in 3 force org slots. A trio of Railheads often just doesn't cut it in games this large. In smaller games, 3 Railheads might meet your S10 needs, but let's not forget that there are other attractive options competing for our Heavy Support slots as well. The primary edge that Broadsides have over Hammerheads is that they allow you to bring multiple Railguns in a single force org slot, thereby freeing up valuable space for other Heavy Support options.

Protecting your Investment

Although sporting multi-wounds and a 2+ save, Broadsides are tasty VP's for enemy LasCannons, Bright Lances, Bolts of Change, etc all of which will down your expensive suits in a heartbeat. It's with these threats in mind that we consider options for protecting our heavy hitters.
  • Shield Generator - While a 4+ invulnerable save is never a bad thing the Shield Generator suffers from a high cost and the fact that, if you fail your save, you still lose the suit. The real downside to the Shield Generator though is that it cannot be Hardwired and is therefore mutually exclusive with theASS.
  • Shield Drones - Boasting the Toughness and save of the parent unit and a 4+ invulnerable to boot, Shield Drones brought with Broadsides are our best means of protection. Even a pair of Shield Drones can be reasonably expected to protect a full unit of Broadsides for a few turns. The Drone Controller can be hardwired on a Team Leader allowing the unit to buy the requisiteASS. In fact, the only downside to Shield Drones is cost... and really, they're not that expensive considering the protection they offer.
  • Gun Drones - While Gun Drones might seem like a more cost effective way of adding a few ablative wounds to a Broadside Team, the majority armor rules essentially require a full compliment in order for them to be effective. They can also potentially introduce morale issues since they're so much easier to eliminate. In almost all circumstances, Shield Drones are the better buy.

Would You Like Plasma With That?

Although the SMS is a useful weapon, paying the points to upgrade to Twinlinked Plasma Rifles makes some sense as long as you also purchase a Multitracker. While the Plasma Rifles aren't terribly synnergistic with the Railgun in its anti-vehicle role, they are quite useful as a supliment to its anti-heavy infantry role. Against Terminator-heavy Marines or Nids, an extra AP2 shot is always welcome. A Teamleader with Plasma Rifles and a Hardwired Multitracker is the only model in our list that can take 2 twinlinked AP 2/1 shots out to 24".
The recent price increase of XV8 Plasma in the new codex has breathed new life into Broadside mounted Plasma Rifles. Including the cost of the Plasma upgrade and the Multitracker, upgrading a Broadside in this fashion will run you +15 points... half the cost of a Twinlinked Plasma Rifle on an XV8.

Options and More Options

Since Team Leaders are no longer restricted to a single Hardwired Support System, we've got many attractive options for equipping our Broadside team.
  • Multitracker - Really only useful if you're upgrading the SMS to Plasma. The AP disparity between the Railgun and the SMS means you'll rarely have any interest in shooting them both at the same target.
  • Target Lock - Not a bad option if you have a full team of 3 Broadsides, but it's not really necessary on a smaller team of 2. Unless you get really lucky, even a 2-strong team will likely need both of it's shots to kill an AV13-14 target.
  • Blacksun Filter - A good way to spend a spare 3 points considering the range of the Railgun and the value of its shots. Broadsides have the Acute Senses USR allowing the BSF to really shine.
  • Bonding - If you've already bought a Team Leader, paying 5 points for bonding is a good idea. Unlike Firewarriors or Pathfinders, Broadsides withASS can contribute meaningfully on the turn they rally, even if they're out of position. Furthermore, allowing them to rally preserves half of their (substantial) VP's in the event of an unfortunate morale mishap. Be careful though, in order to take advantage of bonding you need to be sure they don't run off the table straight away. Take care to deploy them a bit away from the table edge so they aren't immediately lost if they run.
  • Target Array - An attractive option for a unit with such high profile weapons, especially on a Team Leader with Plasma and a Hardwired Multitracker. The downside is that the Target Array cannot be Hardwired and therefore precludes theASS.
Although most of the Special Issue wargear is ill-suited to mounting on an XV88, one piece does bear mention. The Broadside is the only Battlesuit that begins on the table in Escalation missions and therefore is a prime candidate for equipping the Positional Relay. However, since this option cannot be Hardwired, it vies for space with theASS. While useful in certain situations, most would consider the Positional Relay to be less so than theASS.

The Bottom Line

The addition of theASS makes Broadsides a viable unit. Although they do require some protection both from shooting and assault, they make a good 'bait' unit which you can use to draw your opponent into a trap. TheASS offers just enough mobility to allow you to avoid getting caught yourself... with a bit of planning ahead of course.
The Broadside team I use consists of:
2 XV88 Broadside Battlesuits (215)
 [Team Leader, Bonding,ASS, Twinlinked Plasma Rifles, HWDC + 2 Shield Drones, HW Multitracker]
If there are points available I'll add a BSF to the Team Leader as well. This unit gives me enough anti-heavy vehicle killing power that I only require one other Railgun to fill my S10 needs leaving me with the third Heavy Support slot free. It gives me 3 twinlinked AP2/1 shots out to 24", reducing my reliance on expensive XV8 Plasma. But most importantly, it's durable, mobile, and compact.

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