Friday, 18 March 2016

40k unit review - Tau Hammerhead

My gun may be short, but it's what I do with it that counts!
Greetings all, I'm back on the wagon with my unit reviews! Today I'm going to look at the Tau Hammerhead, that tank of all trades that forms the mainstay of the Tau armoured division.


Battlefield Role Designation

Heavy Support

Actual Battlefield Role
Long range fire support unit

Mobility Assessment
Innate

Tactical Flexibility
The tank itself, as most such vehicles do, comes with a main gun and a secondary weapons system. The main flexibility of the vehicle therefore comes from your selection of weapon combinations, as the secondary weapon systems are only a threat to lighter vehicles and infantry.

The first of the two main weapon choices is the railgun, which is such an elegant looking weapon, and has a very clearly defined role. It's S10 AP1 1-shot profile marks it out as a dedicated tank-hunter, though any T5 non-eternal warrior characters might also want to be careful. Sadly, the potential for failure through such a weapon is unnervingly high and for a marginal points increase, the railgun can also be doubled up to deal with infantry blobs through the use of submunitions. These give the vehicle a nice big blast to chuck at things with AP4 so it’s pretty handy at taking out infantry units. The second of the main gun options is the Ion Cannon, which as with any ion weaponry can be overcharged at the risk of getting hot to provide a more dangerous profile. The basic profile is still pretty nasty, throwing out 3 S7 AP3 shots that will mean most kinds of infantry and lighter vehicles could be having a bad day. Where the Ion Cannon really shines through however is in the overcharged profile, adding a point of strength and becoming large blast rather than 3 shots. All of a sudden, the vehicle is not only a threat to individual models, but is most certainly a serious threat to whole squads.

Both of the weapon options available to the tank therefore are decently flexible in terms of targets, though the anti-tank capabilities are unreliable at best, and the vehicle is probably best left to concentrate on taking down infantry and lighter vehicles. For that reason, I would always lean towards the Ion Cannon option, even if the railgun is most definitely prettier!

Cost

Anywhere from 125 to 205 if you take every bit of kit available to it. 250 if you also include longstrike as the pilot, but I’ll review him elsewhere.

Actual cost
In reality, you probably want to keep the hammerhead fairly light in terms of upgrades. A blacksun filter for 1pt is handy for those games where you may be fighting at night, and possibly a disruption pod to maximise any cover save you might get are the only ones I’d really consider, though re-rolling dangerous terrain tests could come in handy if you think you’ll be moving it around a lot (hint - you shouldn’t be!)

Synergy

As ever with any unit from the Tau arsenal, it plays extremely well with anything that can provide it with markerlight hits, particularly for boosting the accuracy of the large blasts it can throw out.

Once again, as with the Ghostkeel, the armoured interdiction cadre seems designed to mitigate a lot of the weaknesses of the hammerhead, allowing re-rolls for failed to-hit rolls (and therefore failed gets hot rolls if you’re overcharging your ion cannon!) within a certain distance of a designated point on the battlefield. That formation is however extremely costly in terms of units, running to almost 500pts without any upgrades.

The Hammerhead doesn’t do much that other units in the army can’t do, with the exception of bringing the AP3 Ion Cannon, but what it does do is do that job from much further away, and therefore with less fear of reprisal. It’s a fairly resilient vehicle too with the option for an auto-repair of damage and good armour values, plus the option to jink if needed. As a result, it can certainly draw fire from your other units, though it’s by no means a fire magnet like for example a Riptide might be.

Essential, desirable or whimsical?
In my view, it’s pretty much an essential requirement. You will see plenty of Tau armies without them but if you’re taking the Hunter Cadre then you will need a Heavy Support choice, and this is one of the best out there. If you tailor your lists to your opponents then it has a good range of options to take with tools to handle almost any job (hint - it is not a killer of landraiders!).

How many dice will you need?

Not a huge amount, its fire output is modest in terms of quantity, though with large blast options you may need a few more if your opponent bunches their units up together.

Failure likelihood
Only the secondary systems have re-rolls built in, though with the use of markerlights and formation bonuses you can certainly make it a reliable performer. If you take it purely as a tank hunter however be prepared for a high failure rate, as a single S10 AP1 shot is no guarantee of burning tanky death.

Cheese level

I’d put this one as fairly mild in terms of cheese, probably a vintage cheddar. It suffers the same issues all vehicles do (damage results affecting shooting, being destroyed in close combat etc) and has an extra one all of its own (gets hot), and although it is capable of mitigating against most of these issues, they all come at a cost, and many of the upgrades you’d want to take are not cheap.