Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Are Kill Team Gun Drones As Good As They Say

A quick follow up my initial Tau Kill Team post, is taking a closer look at one of the two Tau units thats getting a lot of interest; the Gun Drone.

The main reason the Tau Gun Drone is good, when in 40k it is rarely seem since their points were increased 12, is actually nothing to do with the Gun Drone itself, but comes from the Kill Team rules itself:

This means that the Gun Drone can only effectively have a -1 to hit modifier.  This is huge in a faction that only starts on a 4+ to hit generally.  When most shots are at -1 or -2 to hit, and their are three very common ways to get -1 to hit (Long Range, Obscured Target & Flesh wounds) along with many others (eg. Moving/Advancing with Heavy/Assault weapons, firing at Stealth units) other Tau units can see themselves firing on 6's as well.

Some abilities can give +1 to hit or ignore the obscured penalty, but these will only work on 2-3 models a turn leaving the rest of the Tau army at the mercy of the negative to hit modifiers with no way to buff their to-hit chances.

However Drones have an even worse chance to hit than the rest of the Tau, so lets check whether the extra shots that Gun Drones have offset this poor shooting accuracy.  For comparison lets compare the Gun Drones to two other Pulse firepower units, the Strike Team Fire Warrior with a Pulse Rifle, and Steath Suit with a Burst Cannon.  To even out the comparison for points costs I'm going to compare a single Stealth Suit to 3 Gun Drones and 3 Fire Warrior Shas'la.

The charts below shows the average number of Injury rolls against a MEQ (marine equivalent, ie. T4, 3+ save).  Normally I would also compare against GEQ (Imperial Guardsmen equivalent), but all the rolls are the same apart from the save, so just double the MEQ figures to get the GEQ figures)
The Math
The basic Fire Warrior is going quite well out of this (well comparatively).  It wins with the extra range, although the damage output at 30" is not that great, and even wins against Gun Drones in the 9-15" range, where the Gun Drones is still at long range, but the Fire Warrior is getting 2 shots and not getting the Long Range penalty.  This still holds up when the target is obscured with Gun Drones and Fire Warriors tied when within 15" of the target.

The Stealth suits comes in last, however it has lots of other benefits which I'll talk about later that means it should not be ignored.  If we moved the comparison onto targets with -2 to hit, then the Gun Drone would easily be the best as it's damage output can not get any worse.

The quick conclusion is that Gun Drones are the best firepower unless you are consistantly at greater than 18" away from the enemy, which shouldn't really happen, as in most Kill Team games you can get Gun Drones in range on the first turn (they should even advance, and not hit any worse against a target they already had a -1 to hit against).

However as with any mathhammer, lets look at the only factors that this analysis does not take into account/  Lets first look at benefits of Gun Drones vs Fire Warriors (I'll look at Stealths later):

Gun Drone Other Advantages
  • Faster Movement
  • Ability to Advance and Fire
  • Saviour Protocols (great for saving Stealth Suits, Leaders and Specialists)
  • Higher Toughness (offset by a worse Save)
  • Can't gain experience ? (see note below)
Fire Warrior Other Advantages
  • Better armour save (offset by lower toughness)
  • Can take a DS8 Support Turret
  • Can be a specialist (however this is normally taken by the armed Pathfinder Gunners and Stealth Suits)
  • The option for a Shas'ui with better leadership and access to a markerlight
  • Can gain experience ? (see note below)

Note: Gaining experience is a double edged sword.  Models can gain extra abilities, however they will then cost more.  Even if its only a few points, 2 or 3 models that have advanced a level is the same cost of an extra model.  As the benefits of the better experience levels (outside specialists) is minor I think its best not to have higher experienced models.  having Gun Drones which can't gain experience helps stop Kill Team Bloat, where you have fewer models in a 100 point game in exchange for a fw minor abilities.

Overall I think the Gun Drones wins overall against the Fire Warrior, particularly after you've picked a Shas'ui.  Saviour protocols is huge saving Stealth suits and Pathfinder Gunners is huge, and the extra speed is very useful.  The icing on the cake is that the Gun Drones can't be affected by more than 1 negative to hit modifier.

Stealth Suits

[My Stealth Suit conversion, based on the conversion by Adam from Grotskull's Workshop]
Stealth suits against Gun Drones is an interesting one. Apart from Saviour Protocols, Stealths Suits just have all the advantages:
  • Much better save
  • Innate -1 to hit to enemy shooting at them and in combat
  • Option to carry a tank busting (and Infantry Obliterating) Fusion Blaster
  • Option to be a Specialist (with some very nice combos available)
  • The toughest Leader option
  • Much higher leadership
So how should all this affect your Kill Team.  Pathfinder Gunners, and a Recon Drone are still auto includes in my eyes (leave a comment if you disagree).  Stealth Suits are still good, but after 1 or 2 you have to ask would 3 Gun Drones be better than 1 Stealth Suit.  Personally for casual and for the local GW Store campaign I'm still going to use a Fire Warrior with a DS8 Turret, a Stealth suit & a non-Gunner Pathfinder, and my current list only has 2 Gun Drones, its a nice bit of everything (except Breachers) type list.

However, definitely not for a Store Campaign or anything like that, if I was going to a super competitive event I would consider the following methodology:
  • Take the cheapest leader
  • Take 3 Pathfinder Gunners
  • Take a Recon Drone
  • Take as many Gun Drones as possible
This would lead to the following list

Pathfinder Shas'ui (Leader)
Pathfinder Ion Rifle Gunner (Comms)
Pathfinder Ion Rifle Gunner (Demolitions)
Pathfinder Ion Rifle Gunner (Sniper)
Recon Drone
Gun Drone
Gun Drone
Gun Drone
Gun Drone
Gun Drone
Gun Drone
Gun Drone
Gun Drone

13 models (including 8 Gun drones, plus a Recon drone), costing spot on 100 points.  This list is putting out, at 18", 38 str5 shots, and 3D3 Str8, ap-1, 2 damage shots (save those command point rerolls for the overheats).  If you like Rail Rifles rather than Ion Rifles (I think they're good, but wanted to squeeze in another Gun Drone) you could lose 1 Gun Drone to have Rail Rifle rather than Ion Rifle Pathfinder Gunners, and upgrade the Pathfinder leader to a Fire Warrior leader.  If you like Stealth Suits you can easily swap the Pathfinder Leader & 2 Gun drones for Stealth Suit Leader with a markerlight and target lock.  Making both changes would still leave you with 5 Gun drones and a Recon drone.

Honestly don't take something like this to anything but a large competitive tournament.  So what do you think, are Gun Drones that good in Kill team, is this (too?) competitive ?

Are you tempted to put a few more Gun Drones in your Kill Team ?  What's been your experience with our Flying Frisbees ?

Back to painting for me, but until next time, happy gaming !!



  1. What happens if a drone fails all the rolls at the end of a match and is dead/destroyed? How do you replace it in a campaign?

  2. In a campaign you can just recruit another one. It's adding to a fire team you have to have one existing member of the fireteam left to add to it. In a campaign you can just recruit any models to give you more options when picking your 100pts for a game.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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