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Warhammer 40k T’au Empire Codex review – enter the Kroot

New Kroot forces lead the charge for the T'au Empire in the latest Warhammer 40k Codex, lending a savage edge to the T'au's spearpoint.

Warhammer 40k T'au Empire Codex Coldstar Commander - a large battlesuit with expanded legs and bigger junmp boosters

Our Verdict

With new Kroot auxilliary troops, and new ways to muster your forces for the Greater Good, this is an assured, if unrevolutionary Codex - though we have reservations about the balance of one Detachment.

Reasons to buy
  • An excellent entry point to T'au Empire lore
  • New Kroot rules make a strong first impression
  • Thematic Detachments offer genuinely new ways to build your army
Reasons to avoid
  • An evolution, rather than a revolution, for T'au players
  • The Mont'ka Detachment frontloads its benefits, which sets off our game balance alarms

The latest T’au Empire Codex reflects the growth of the T’au Empire perfectly: a new sphere of expansion built on stable foundations. The main innovation here comes from new Kroot forces, whose rules live up to their gorgeous new minis.

This review is based on a special edition Codex that Wargamer received in a T’au Empire army set from Games Workshop. That box set goes up for pre-order at the same time as this review; the standalone T’au Codex release date has not been confirmed at time of writing.

As with other ‘dexes in this edition of Warhammer 40k, the T’au Codex iterates on the rules found in the free Index rather than reinventing them. The book hits the usual standards for modern GW presentation, with great art and solid graphic design. But what else is in there?

T’au Codex lore

The T’au lore has always been a little bit divisive among Warhammer 40k fans. They’re a cosmopolitan multi-species Empire, with a positive relationship to technology, no sensitivity to the Warhammer 40k Chaos gods, and a philosophy that pursues ‘the Greater Good’ – how do they fit into the grim darkness of the 41st millennium?

The lore in the new Codex is peppered with sinister little facts about the T’au’s mode of expansion. The T’au erase the cultures of the species they incorporate, dismantling their landmarks to replace them with T’au architecture; they supplant native histories with T’au philosophy, and resettle populations to be ‘re-educated’, or to make better use of their abilities to suit the T’au Empire.

Compared to the Imperium of Man that barely registers as grimdark – but if you’re familiar with the Horus Heresy books, and how the Great Crusade was conducted, you’ll see lots of parallels between the T’au Empire and the Imperium of Man in its heyday.

Tau Empire Codex units - an army of white T'au Crisis battlesuits, humanoid piloted robots with a variety of different weapons

There’s a grim irony; the Emperor of Mankind attempted to conquer the cosmos with force of arms, strength of will, and secular faith. The T’au are doing the same thing, and presumably they’re headed for the same fall…

The T’au have already had their faith shaken by the rebellion of Commander Farsight. The most recent lore, concerning the fourth and fifth spheres of T’au expansion, features T’au forces so shaken by something that they’ve encountered that they’ve become xenophobic, almost… human… in their terror.

The ‘dex serves as a great introduction if this is your first Warhammer 40k faction, but there’s not a whole lot of new lore for long-time fans. The biggest addition is for the Kroot who get a substantial write-up in this book, as befits their new and expanded model range.

Warhammer 40k T'au Empire Codex - illustration of Kroot forces, including a humanoid with a beak and quills holding a heavy bladed gun

T’au Codex Kroot

The expanded T’au Codex Kroot range makes for an interesting addition to the T’au Empire. The Kroot have always served as a melee and scouting cohort for the T’au, and while their original miniatures range was a bit of a token effort, the new models all expand on this role.

Of all the units, Krootox Rampagers might be best positioned to act on their own. With the muscle to rip up elite infantry and light vehicles on the charge, they can serve as a distraction unit, or hang out in Strategic Reserve to rescue your gunline from enemy melee troops.

Warhammer 40k T'au Empire Codex - a quill-haired Kroot warrior rides a huge, beaked, gorilla-like Krootox Rampager

The rest of the additions provide force-multiplying synergy. The Kroot Lone-Spear is highly mobile, and can act as a character sniper or armor harrier depending on its loadout. Its ability to boost the accuracy of other Kroot against a target it has already hit with a ranged attack is an extremely potent force-multiplier – the more Kroot in your force, the more Lone-Spears you would be advised to take.

There are now three flavors of Kroot Shaper, and big units of Kroot Carnivores can even be joined by two of them. The Trail-Shaper grants movement shenanigans to their unit, allowing them to move D6″ when any enemy finishes any kind of move within 9″, as well as letting you redeploy the unit before the battle begins.

The War Shaper can rally Kroot from Battle-Shock, and its unit can be targeted by a Stratagem for 0CP once per turn. The Flesh Shaper is a very simple force multiplier, granting its unit the abilities Sustained Hits 1 and Feel No Pain 6+, which improves to 5+ if they ever eat an enemy unit in combat.

T’au Codex Detachments

A regular T’au list could field a large, self-sufficient cohort of Kroot to spoil an enemy advance or repel an assault – but there’s also the new Kroot Hunting Pack T’au Codex Detachment to consider. This provides Kroot a badly needed 5+ invulnerable save against ranged attacks, and 6+ in combat. It also grants them +1 to hit any Unit below its starting strength, and +1 to Wound against any target below half strength.

Similar to the existing Kauyon 40k Detachment, this Detachment will get more effective as the battle goes on and enemy forces suffer damage. The Kroot really lack for armor cracking units of their own, so it could be worthwhile bringing a unit of Broadsides or a Hammerhead or two to help wear enemy monsters and tanks down to that “half strength” threshold, granting that all important +1 to Wound.

Warhammer 40k T'au Empire Codex - a Kroot Flesh-Shaper, a beaked humanoid with quills instead of hair, dressed in leathers and holding several blades

The Enhancements are fun: a Kroot Trail Shaper can be a Nomadic Hunter, which grants +3″ movement and the Assault ability on all ranged weapon to the unit they lead, while the Borthrod Gland for the Kroot Flesh Shaper means their unit will score Critical Hits in melee on a 5+. That makes a rather devastating addition to a Farstalkers unit, who can pick a target unit against which they have Lethal Hits and Precision attacks.

The Stratagems emphasise the importance of maneuver and ambush for the Kroot, with Guerilla Warriors allowing a unit to shoot and charge after falling back from melee, or EMP grenades spoiling the Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill of an enemy vehicle in close proximity to a Kroot unit.

The other two Detachments, Mont’ka and Retaliation Cadre, are similarly flavorful. Mont’ka, or ‘Killing Blow’, is a T’au theory of warfare that prioritises an overwhelming decapitation strike. Accordingly, the Detachment delivers the bulk of its benefits in the first, second, and third battle rounds, granting ranged weapons Lethal Hits (and Assault, if the shooter is being Guided by an Observer).

Warhammer 40k T'au Empire Codex - photograph of a collection of different marks of huge white battle-suit, equipped with high powered ordnance

I’m suspicious that this is going to be a problematic Detachment: with the way force attrition works in 40k, having a big advantage at the start of the game really means having a big advantage for the whole game. The designers know this too, but it’s no small challenge to find a buff that’s just right for rounds one to three, without being over- or under-powered. The competitive scene will find out which soon enough.

Retaliation Cadre is one for the Gundam fans: it’s all about Battlesuits, granting them +1 Strength with ranged weapons while within 12″ of the enemy, and -1 AP while within 6″. The Enhancements are all cool Battlesuit upgrades, like Internal Grenade Racks you can unload on enemy units as you fly over them, or a Starflare Ignition System that lets the unit reenter Strategic Reserves.

T’au Codex Datasheet changes

Battlesuits are one of the more noticeable changes among the T’au Codex Datasheets. Crisis Suits with flexible weapon loadouts are gone, replaced with three classes with distinct abilities and loadouts – apologies if you’ve glued yours together differently.

If you’re a massive fan of Crisis Suits, the change means you can field nine units in an army. Our sincere hope is that this is a prelude to replacing the ancient Crisis Suit kit, which has aged like milk in the decades since it released, but we suspect we’ll have to wait another edition at least before that might happen.

The Strike Team no longer enjoy improved Overwatch – instead, their Suppression Volley inflicts a penalty of -1 to hit on an enemy unit that they hit with a ranged attack. It’s a more pro-active ability that gives the most basic T’au infantry much greater utility.

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Other changes are minor: Broadside Battlesuits can no longer take a Battlesuit Support System to fall back and shoot; Commander Firesight swaps out his melee aggression for the ability to be targeted by a Stratagem for 0CP; the Sun Shark Bomber’s Pulse Bombs get a little less deadly. While it scarcely changes how the army plays, returning players should check their datasheets.

A few models disappear from the new Codex entirely: Aun’shi and Aun’va are both gone; Tactical Drones can no longer fight as their own unit; Commander Longstrike is now just a fancy accessory to stick in the turret of a Hammerhead; and Commanders will no longer enter battle in old fashioned Crisis Battlesuits. All those models can be used in other roles, though Aun’va will look extremely extra when standing in for a basic Ethereal.

All told, this new Codex won’t transform the T’au, but does offer a subtle evolution – fittingly, much of that comes from new kinds of Kroot. Setting aside concerns about how balanced the Mont’ka Detachment is, the Codex offers distinctive and flavorful ways to build a T’au Empire army. Servants of the Greater Good, the future looks bright.