Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Farsight Bombs: the basics.

Preface

Soon enough, I'll be heading off to a tournament with a few friends. At 1850 points, I decided to go full hack and take a large, expensive farsight bomb. Today I'll be looking at some of the ways that one might choose to run a farsight bomb, what to look out for, how to support the farsight bomb and most importantly, what needs to be considered in building a farsight bomb. It is worth noting I won't be considering farsight bombs lower than 6 suits total, as 3 bodyguards might as well be an xv8 team, 4 suits can be done with a commander in an XV8 team for about the same cost, so 5 suits and farsight is the limit. I'll make a point of having a look at options for extra characters, how to enhance the survivability, output or maneuverability of the farsight bomb.

The Basics:

Firstly, you need to remember that Farsight still leads an Army. This means you can't simply build your 'bomb' and ignore the need for troops and support. I personally run a very small contingent of troops, having fewer than 30 models as my troops selection. One could comfortably have 40 kroot as troops while running an expensive farsight bomb, but I don't like kroot - either as a concept or to paint - enough to run them en massé. How you get the necessary troops is up to you, although I do recommend having at least 4 troop choices, with at least 300 points dedicated to them. One could get away with 2 troop choices in fifth-edition, sixth edition doesn't allow this to happen so readily. Of course, the other basic requirement is your warlord - this isn't an issue of course, since farsight is your warlord!* Finally, a true farsight bomb makes use of Farsight's impressive ability to deepstrike a unit 25-strong without scattering, which means one should plan his support for the bomb around having sufficient troops to survive the first two turns. This makes an ADL with a Comms relay a solid purchase - you improve farsight's chance of bringing your bomb on turn one, while giving your troop choices a solid piece of 4+/2+ cover to hide behind. IF you're against an ADL or are uncomfortable with wasting valuable points on fortifications (points are a valuable in a farsight bomb.) there are other options, as I'll discuss later. 

* certain configurations or deployments may mean that another character, like shadowsun, is your warlord. We'll talk about this in a moment

The Support 

The Tau Codex is one of the best inter-unit synergy codexes in the game. Because of the price of pathfinders, it is easy to support your army without spending points that could well be used elsewhere. The problem with this, of course, is that the farsight bomb is more than capable of giving up a member's firepower to make itself more accurate and more dangerous. For this reason, a farsight bomb can comfortably overlook the use of pathfinders - though BS5 with twin linked and ignores cover on guns means more will hit and kill. 

Since pathfinders aren't as useful to a farsight bomb as, say, a broadside team or a normal XV8 unit, it is safe to say that Bomb support lies in units other than markerlights. To this end, we look at units who can do some footwork for the battle suits, or, alternatively, make a nuisance of themselves to draw firepower away from the farsight bomb. The most obvious, most effective example of what I'm talking about is, of course, the ubiquitous riptide. I'm not gonna lie, these guys are great. Stick an ion accelerator along with a VT and a SI, and you have a unit that can:

  1. take a horrendous amount of firepower without going down (196 BS3 S3/4 AP-/5 shots, 67 BS3 S7AP4 shots, 15 S9AP2 shots).
  2. Deal with flyers effectively (yes, 3 shots, but if one pens then it may simply make it explode. It's enough to put off enemies using flyers.)
  3. Deal with heavy armour (a 55% chance to knock off a hull point on AV14, with a novacharge from the ion accelerator.) 
  4. Deal with infantry. 
Of course, in using a riptide for a farsight bomb, it'll be fighting at medium range. I believe it's best to use it alongside either a Fusion blaster (make the most of ripplefire against a flyer) or a SMS (put out the maximum amount of shots against light flyers and infantry.) Regardless of how you run them, the riptide is the best choice when it comes to finding a support unit for the farsight bomb.

Other options:

If one was adamantly against the use of riptides, he could consider broadside teams - they provide the necessary anti-air firepower and are a slightly lesser target, meaning their S7AP4 shots can be relied upon more often in the game (assuming they're in range, of course.) Just remember that your support units need to be able to survive turn one for you. 

The First Turn 

The First turn is the achilles heel of the Farsight bomb. It doesn't matter that your bomb is unstoppable on the field if your opponent tables you before they have a chance to come in. Especially with an expensive bomb, it is important to make sure that you put as much on the field on the first turn as possible - the more separate units your opponents have to fire at, the less likely they are to table you first turn. To this end, I suggest that the tau player invest in many cheap infantry units, or, if he is capable, run two riptides. A single riptide at 1850 will draw most of an opponents firepower, so two means that the first turn is almost not an issue. what else is important to note is that it doesn't matter if the farsight bomb side goes first or not - the farsight bomb will get the first strike, since it will deep strike exactly where it wants to. Because of this, I suggest that you relinquish the first turn. You take just as much firepower as you would've if you'd gone first and let them have a turn of shooting, but now you can sweep objectives with your 2d6" assault turn moves. 

The Bomb 

Firstly, it is silly to go with a farsight bomb much smaller than 6 members. You should also take as many drones as you can - the more drones you have, the fewer sixty-point battlesuits will drop. The best option to use here is gundrones - Shield drones seem like the best ablative wound, until one considers that they do nothing at shooting. 14 gun drones is 28 shots, even at BS2, 14 gun drones can kill 3 marines. This means three less marines you have to target with fusion blasters. Gun drones are also good at killing other death star's ablative wounds - a beast squad's khymerae, for example, die as easily to a pulse carbine as they do to a plasma rifle. this means it's best to make your opponent save the 13.5 wounds your gun drones will cause on their 4+ invulns, before instant-deathing their razorwing flocks with plasma guns.

Secondly, one should always have a support suit before anything else. The reason for this is very simple. A MSSS, C&CN suit with a VRT, drone controller and a flamer (for overwatch, eh) costs about 80 points. You only save about 10 points taking a battlesuit with actual weapons, but think about what you gain! suddenly, your unit has twin-linked on all its weapons, as well as ignores cover. Furthermore, 4 more plasma gun shots at BS3 is only 2 hits - if you already have 12 plasma gun shots, this amounts to 8 hits from 16 shots the same as you would get from 12 twin-linked plasma shots, only the 12 twin-linked plasma shots also ignore cover. This also eliminates the farsight bomb's need for markerlight support, meaning that you can have it far away from the rest of your army and still functioning effectively. Finally, it mans that suits can use their third slot for a support system, rather than trying to twin-link their weaponry.

The most important point is, what weapons should the suits take? Well, aside from the support suit taking a flamer, you should note that flamers and burst cannons are pretty bad ideas. You already have 28 S5AP5 shots, so adding more AP5 shooting won't help much. The CIB and AFB might be useful in the right conditions, but you can only take one of each, so it's usually best to take them on an HQ if you're going to bother. This leaves 3 contenders: The Missile Pod, The Plasma Gun, the Fusion Blaster. All 3 of these are specialised. to that end, it is correct to take two of them on a single suit. I believe in a 7-man team, it is only natural to take 3 with fusion blasters - although fusion blasters have the lowest shot count of the three, they have the best statline in terms of strength and AP, and are effective against infantry at 18". They surpass plasma rifles in taking out the heaviest infantry - it takes 2.4 fusion blaster shots to kill a paladin, but 7.1 plasma gun shots. This means that Fusion blasters are actually far more versatile than plasma guns, as they can deal with armour and super heavy infantry far more effectively. (A plasma gun wins against heavy and medium infantry, however.) This means that the final 3 slots are contested for either plasma guns or missile pods. As a general rule, missile pods are subpar compared to plasma guns, since they can't penetrate heavy armour and wound T4 at the same rate as plasma guns (without causing instant death), their only real power over plasma guns is their increased range - this, of course, is made useless by the fact that the farsight bomb can deep strike without scattering. Thus, I suggest plasma guns over missile pods. Fusion blasters should be taken with target locks, Plasma rifles with target Locks or ATS and missile pods with either EWO or target locks.

An idea that sometimes gets thrown about is running farsight outside the bomb, maybe in a different battlesuit unit (one dedicated to killing tanks, for example.) I personally think this is a garbage proposal and only serves to limit the bomb's capabilities.

The final thing one should note with the farsight bomb is that it is very, very, very easy to go overboard. When building your farsight bomb, make sure you get the necessities in first - 6 battlesuits with guns, 1 with support systems, 14 drones. This should cost about 700 AT MOST. (that's pushing it.) Aside from the four feasible signature systems, the C&CN, MSSS, PEC and NSJ (Maybe the XV8-02 or onager gauntlet, but I Wouldn't recommend it on normal battlesuits.) you should not invest in SS. These points can be put to better use producing infantry to hold objectives and won't really help your farsight bomb too much. 

Accompanying HQ's

Before we begin, note that wound spreading in a farsight bomb is impeccably easy. since you don't roll Look out sir!, you are pretty safe using an HQ as a meatshield before the actual bullets start flying. 

Firstly, it is a given that farsight accompanies his bomb. this shouldn't even really be in question. He makes sure the bomb drops with pinpoint accuracy. This also means that taking HQ's who make deepstriking easier is a waste of time. HQ's who buff shooting or assault are pretty much a waste of time as well, since the support already gives them pretty hefty buffs. This rules out an eldar farseer on a jetbike. Finally, any HQ that joins the farsight bomb needs to be able to deepstrike. This leaves 3 useful HQ's that accompany a farsight bomb, that I know of.

The first is Shadowsun. She's brilliant. For 135 points, she gives every man in the squad a 4+ cover save, even the drones (meaning they shrug off pesky missiles very easily.) She also gives 2 BS5 (Precision hits 5+) fusion blasters, one of which can shoot at a different target. If you have the points, she's almost a must-have. She can also add a further three drones to the unit, although all three drones make her rather expensive. (I believe they bring her price up to 195?) she can also take wounds that won't instant death her for the squad, since she has 4 wounds.

Addition:
As my friend "Saythings" on dakka has pointed out, one could also concievably use Shadowsun's 3D6 thrust moves. While this makes the GOI libby useless (discussed below), it does mean that the squad can jet around the field rather reliably, as well as get out of sticky situations. Personally, I'd rather use a gate libby, but the option of 3D6" thrust moves is presented by Shadowsun.

The second is an XV8-02 commander. These guys are tough. Adding 4 BS5 plasma gun shots to the equation, they also have the capacity to give your gun drones BS5 - making them very effective. Suit him up with 2 PG, a Stim, a Drone controller as well as an XV8-02 suit, and you have 16 BS5 drones (32 shots), a 4 wound T5 2+ save with FNP to sit at the front of your squad and catch bullets with his teeth.

The final option is a GOI librarian. Put him in terminator armour with a storm shield and a scout marine squad, he can deepstrike with the farsight bomb (put him in the middle so he doesn't affect thrust moves) and then he can use gate of infinity to move the farsight bomb very quickly around the place. The libby can also be given the power nullzone, meaning that if you don't gate (you can if you upgrade to epistolary, but that's precious points), you make things like hammernators wet themselves.

Given the price of a GOI libby and that of an XV8-02 commander, I don't recommend taking both of them at the same time - it's simply too pricey. Although the XV8 commander is about 1.5 times the cost of the libby, you still have to buy a scout squad for the librarian, meaning they cost about the same. 

Things to keep in mind

The first thing is, Bodyguards use the Shas'vre profile in combat - this means they get an extra attack at S5. This has saved my backside many-a-time. The second is that your VRT gives you hit and run, you don't have to test hit-and-run on the initiative of the bearer - you may use farsight's I5, or, if you've got a suitable character (like a phoenix lord or autarch), you may use their I. Finally, and this may not be an issue for you, but for me it is, I recommend writing the letters "NSJ" on your hand. That way, you might remember that powerful little 2 point upgrade occasionally. (I never can.)

Parting thought: 

IF you're reading this now, you've just finished my treatise on the farsight bomb. I hope you've gotten all the information you needed regarding farsight bombs and a good indepth analysis of their tactics in this little thought. This is by far my longest tactics threat ever, and possibly longer than any paper I've ever written - I believe it's just over 2,400 words.