It’s been a little while in our discussions, but finally I can get back to the final piece of the Tau troop slot puzzle: Kroot Carnivores. In the previous codex they were speedbumps whose entire existence was to soak up a single charge, fail morale, and let your Tau units shoot the enemy to death at point-blank range. You weren’t allowed to take ALL Kroot because of those 1+ FW units, but they were essentially your only real choice. With the new codex this has changed a lot- Kroot’s statline and gear are different, Fire Warriors are more useful, allies are present, and many other factors as well. However, despite the changes to the overall environment, Kroot still make a solid play for a primary troops choice for many Tau armies.
So, for slightly more than a Guardsman each, Kroot come with essentially the same statline, 6+ armor, and no sergeant. However, they do get Infiltrate, Stealth (Forests), and Move Through Cover, all pretty relevant abilities- while their armor save may be kinda balls, a distinct problem in an environment where Ignores Cover is more common by the day, not ALL weapons will be able to bypass it and their cover save can end up being quite high in many situations. They also come with WS4 and Kroot Rifles (Bolters with AP6, basically) that let them cut through GEQs in close combat.
Don’t be fooled, though- despite attempting to convince you that Kroot are a melee unit through abilities and fluff, they are pretty distinctly bad at the role- in fact, they will lose to units of GEQs pretty regularly despite their higher WS and ignoring saves because of their own almost-ignorable saves and lack of grenades or other mitigating factors. Losing S4 was a major blow to Kroot in terms of their melee viability, but really we shouldn’t be too sad about this- they can’t assault out of reserve anymore, so there’s no temptation to do anything but make the smart choice and Rapid Fire their target down.
As a troops choice with deployment options, Kroot are excellent for grabbing uniquely-placed objectives, such as distant ones near board edges, the Relic, etc, as they are often able to get to these objectives much more quickly and safely than other Tau units- and if they die, no big deal; even large Kroot units are relatively cheap in most cases. Though you will almost never see them, a vanilla squad of Kroot is actually not that bad a deal for just grabbing an objective somewhere.
The biggest issue with Kroot tends to be their morale- with only Ld7 and weak saves, it does not take much at all for them to break and run, and their distant position tends to preclude the assistance of an Ethereal or other character. It is for this reason that your Kroot will tend to spend a lot of time Going to Ground in order to protect themselves, and it also tends to dictate their squad sizes (13, 17, 21) to minimize the chances of having to take such a test.
Do note that Kroot are now considered fully-fledged members of the codex and can benefit from all of the gear and rules that benefit only Tau models- so Markerlights, Signature Systems, etc, will all work for them. Note, however, that unlike all the other nonvehicle models they do not have the Supporting Fire rule, so they cannot contribute when someone else is charged- other Tau models can shoot in support of them, though.
The Kroot’s upgrades are truly where they begin to shine, because most all of them do an excellent job of improving their main jobs in the army. First up has to be the most ubiquitous upgrade: Sniper Ammunition. Giving the Kroot the option to fire 24″ Heavy 1 Sniper weapons in place of their normal Rapid Fire, it gives you exactly the tool you need to threaten many different types of models, from Monstrous Creatures to Tactical Marines. For a single point per model, the Sniper option is something of a no-brainer for Kroot, since their atrocious statline prevents them from having any reasonable chance of wanting to get into melee with something. While their Sniper shots might be a bit shorter-ranged than most, the ability to Infiltrate helps make up for that, and in a worst case scenario you can always just shoot your normal bullets, especially on Overwatch, when on the move, etc.
Similarly common will be Kroot Hounds, which come in a point cheaper than basic Kroot, but lack the armor save and the gun. In return they get I5, A2, and Acute Senses (as well as Beast movement, for what that is worth.) While these may not seem like huge improvements, the ability to reroll board edges when outflanking means that your Kroot will almost always come in where you want them to and the higher Initiative is very helpful during a Sweeping Advance (and also occasionally against Blind or other kooky abilities.) Rare will be the Kroot squad without at least one Hound to accompany it, since those 5pts are easily worth the added insurance towards doing their job.
The Krootox is, unfortunately, an option I haven’t gotten to experiment with as much as I’d like, but on the surface they seem like a very good deal. 25pts gets you a two-wound critter with a S7 AP4 gun with 48″ range and Rapid Fire; it also nabs S6 in the bargain, for the rare times you get into a fight. With a relatively hard-hitting gun that can come in from a side board edge, the Krootox definitely has some viability in order to bring a heavy weapon to the squad and the significantly-decreased price is a major boon. However, considering their vulnerability to morale tests, the possibility to having your not-cheap gun platform go fleeting off the table (or be useless because you went to ground again) is a little disheartening. Certainly it’s something I want to try out more in the future, but right now I am hesitant to recommend them as an option; they’re not horrible, but I’m not yet convinced they have a place in a competitive list.
Shapers, despite getting a major price break and having some of their bonuses made universal (like the 6+ save), are still not a particularly ideal option. T3 multiwound characters are pretty vulnerable and having no save to go with it doubles that issue; Ld8 for the squad is nice, but it won’t save you all that often, so I’d generally rather just take more bodies. (Not having a character also prevents any kind of challenge shenanigans from being used against you.) If you’re taking a large squad and your Commander isn’t going to hang with them- which shouldn’t happen, but some people won’t be dissuaded Beat me then :).– then he’s probably something you’ll want, but he’s still not exciting. Oh, and all his upgrades are crap, so ignore them.
Roles and Strategies
Tau armies in 6th Edition have pretty shocking firepower, especially on the alpha strike. Their ability to selectively ignore cover, improve BS, and put out enormous numbers of high-strength and low-AP shots can be hard for many armies to compete with, not to mention being utterly indifferent to Night Fight and enemy aircraft. However, if there is one area the codex suffers the most in its lack, it is scoring units. Not that Tau don’t have options there- indeed, they have two good troops and a useful transport to pick from, but Fire Warriors are not unusually cheap and relatively easy to kill. Devilfish, while useful, are expensive and only work well in certain types of armies. There’s also the issue of penetration into the enemy’s DZ, since it is usually necessary to at least be able to attempt to do that or risk losing any match where the enemy starts with more objectives.
Enter the Kroot, a good generalist scoring unit. Are they resilient? Oh no. Oh god, no, they are not, but they are at least cheap and disposable and can get where you need them to. Infiltrate/Outflank can get you a lot of places on the board and can help you get to spots where you’re well-protected, and then the enemy needs to send melee forces or flamers or dedicate a ton of shooting to dig you out. This, then, is the fundamental purpose of Kroot- they are scoring units that take a disproportionate amount of effort to get rid of while still being mildly threatening if you ignore them.
Part of their ability to threaten things is their Sniper weapons. Now, don’t misunderstand- the actual wounds inflicted by Sniper weapons are… well, they’re not really much different than what you would get from Bolters, at least against a lot of infantry. Even against MCs, a normal squad of Kroot (12+hound) is only gonna cause about one wound to the guy (if we assume he finds some area terrain to touch.) However, looking at the raw damage is rather missing the point, as that’s not what Sniper weapons are out to do, even in the real world. The point of snipers is twofold: one, flexibility against all targets. There’s virtually nothing Sniper Kroot can’t threaten, and that gives you options when you need them. Two, and related to that, is hitting the models you need to most.
See, in most squads in the game, the majority of their threat from shooting is concentrated into 1-2 non-character models, which is to say the heavy/special weapons they carry. Often enough, a big part of the value of the other squad members is in their ability to shield these models from taking wounds until the very end, allowing the squad to functionally preserve its firepower in the face of casualties. In a Tactical Squad, for example, is is not the eight Bolters that you usually care about, it is the Flamer and the Lascannon (or whatever) that are doing most of the work. Certainly all of those extra bodies count for something, but if you’re getting ready to charge or have a tank that needs to get somewhere, none of those other guys in the unit matter, only the golden two. Sniper weapons allow you to partially bypass the normal rules and aim for the guys you care about most- not generally the characters, but really, who cares about the sergeant? It’s Multimelta Tim that is holding up your assault, not the guy ordering him to point his gun and pull the trigger (thanks, sarge, wouldn’t have known what to do without you.) Since every member of the squad is getting Precision shots, you can expect 1-2 most any time you shoot and getting significantly more than that will not be an uncommon occurrence. Of course, most of those will be shrugged off by armor or cover or whatever, but so would any normal shot- you haven’t lost anything in that regard. However, the one time in twelve or so a Kroot puts a bullet in the brainpan of some idiot with a Grav Gun that thinks he can get cute with your Riptide, you will be very happy. Sniper squads- and this applies to more than just Kroot, but especially Kroot because of their cheapness- are there to harass many different types of things and selectively pick out targets that can hurt you, not to deal crippling damage to regular infantry.
At the end of the day, however, scoring is still going to often be the thing that you need Kroot to do and that will generally dictate their placement and behavior. As said before, the rest of the Tau list can often put out enough firepower to hammer the enemy pretty solidly, but if your troops are all gone by the end of the game, not a lot else matters, so be careful not to throw them into the meat grinder. Rather, play defensively with Kroot and do everything you can to keep them safe- find area terrain and especially forests to hide in (2+ legit!), stay out of LoS if you can, etc. Make the other guy work to kill off your troops, and if he doesn’t look to be trying then go ahead and re-task them with killing whatever they need to.
A lot of people will use allies to fill the scoring role in Tau, and especially the mobile scoring- this is certainly a good idea, and one I’ll get to talking about specifically in a later article, but it does well to keep in mind the limitations of allies: you can only take two of their troops, which won’t always be enough. Especially in larger games, you can easily find yourself struggling to hold onto objectives in the face of casualties if you rely heavily on your ally slots to fill that job for you, so taking a useful contingent of Tau scoring is something of a requirement, I feel. Allies supplement the main codex, but do not replace it.
So, who wants Kroot and why? Well, the breakdown is actually fairly simple. Tau foot armies, of course, will want to make use of Kroot pretty extensively- three or even five squads are hardly out of the question, ranging from twelve Carnivores plus a Hound to sixteen-plus or even twenty-plus. I don’t favor the larger squads, as I don’t feel they add proportional survivability to their cost, but I do think their use at least bears mentioning. Such armies will often use an Aegis Line to put cover where it needs to be in addition to the normal terrain; Kroot provide the old-school meat shield against charges in such a list and also supplement its firepower in the usual way as well as providing the major mobile element that it needs to take enemy objectives.
Hybrid lists also will see a lot of Kroot, although here they are fairly likely to be mixed with Fire Warriors as well. Devilfish tend to be too expensive to rely on entirely, and Kroot let an army fill out its number of separate scoring units without bloating the price too much.
Mechanized lists, however, will rarely want Kroot, as they break the target saturation of AV12+ hulls that makes such an army completely immune to anti-infantry weapons. Though I’ve seen it done, it inevitably gives the enemy an easy outlet for many of the weapons that otherwise would be doing nothing, which I feel is a poor plan overall; this is especially true because the Devilfish/Fire Warriors combo is good enough that one doesn’t need to jump through hoops to find alternatives.
Ally forces of Tau will quite commonly use Kroot; they are cheap and flexible and can fill many roles in an ally force as needed. If you’re taking a Commander as the HQ for whatever reason (signature systems, anti-air, etc) Kroot are all but a given in terms of your troops choice, though if the Fireblade is making an appearance his team of shooting support becomes somewhat obligatory. Here again, though, it’s important to look at what the parent army is bringing to the table in terms of targets for enemy guns, as mixing foot and mech targets should only be done carefully.
While Kroot might not generally be a flashy troops choice (except when a squad of them one-shots an unwounded Trygon- cha-ching!) or all that reliable of one, they are solid in their job and cheap enough to take in numbers. They can plug a variety of different gaps in a Tau list without having to overspend on upgrades and can shift roles quite easily from match to match. More expensive and impressive units might draw the other guy’s attention, but at the end of the day you still need to be sitting on objectives in order to win and Kroot do a bang-up job of that. They’re definitely a strong inclusion in the Tau codex, even if their presence isn’t always felt directly.