Tau Force Organisation

In the literature the Tau force organisation is consistently described as being fluid and changed to meet the tactical requirements of any given situation. This is probably the best reason for the differing, and sometimes contradictory, nature of force organisations quoted in the background. It's also the cause of much debate by those who have to codify it for the purposes of game development. This essay attempts to show how this fluid structure can actually be of assistance to the game designer rather than the hindrance it can appear at first sight.


Sources: I've not quoted sources for this information but it is a composite of things from Codex: Tau, Codex: Tau Empire, Imperial Armour 3, Apocalypse and the Epic Tau Lists.

Drones: I've ignored drones during this analysis as I consider them as sort of 'communal property' which are distributed shortly before battle as required. And this is complicated enough as it is without keeping track of drones.

Game Units: As I'm playing fast and loose with game and background units and terminology the units quoted here (should) be game game legal. However, this is not to say that they would be any good in any given game system. We're really through the looking glass in this analysis of toy soldiers in a fictional universe so - for the sake of your sanity - don't take it too seriously!

40K - Kau'ui

The basic unit of the Fire Caste is the Hunter Cadre which, conveniently, is roughly the size of a typical 40K force. These Cadres are quoted as being standing units which I take to mean this is how the Firewarrior identifies himself and the basic building blocked used by the Ethereals when assembling forces. I also assume the Cadre is used as the primary unit for supply purposes so any given Cadre will not be split over two larger units (Contingents).

For the purposes of this exercise I have created four Hunter Cadres, imaginatively named Blue, Gold, Green and Red. At this level they would be each commanded by a single Shas'el - denoted in the diagrams by the XV84 battle suits.

Sample Tau Cadre organisational structure

Blue is an experienced Cadre that is capable of tackling most situations that do not require force larger than a Cadre. With three Crisis teams and two Firewarrior squads supported by Broadsides, Piranhas, a Skyray and a Railhead it packs a significant punch. This punch is further augmented by the two squads of Pathfinders and two squads of Stealth suits providing a good fast attack and reconnaissance elemet.

Blue Cadre

With six Firewarrior squads and two Crisis teams, Gold is the main infantry Cadre with fire support coming from two Railheads and a squad of Broadsides to deal with enemy armour. Again, two squads of Pathfinders and a squad of Stealth suits provide the lighter and faster moving element.

Gold Cadre

Green again features six Firewarrior units but this time the support is provided by two Broadside teams and a single Crisis team making this Cadre more suited to a defensive role. In this Cadre the light support role is fulfilled by three Tetras and a pair of Piranhas which, whilst they may not be much of an offensive threat are capable of covering large areas of terrain surrounding the less mobile core units.

Green Cadre

Finally, Red Cadre is the smallest of the four units and, although capable of fighting on its own should the need arise, would typically have units seconded to support other cadres. This is facilitated by its small unit sizes - notably not featuring a full strength Crisis Ta'rocha but at the same time it has three Monats at its disposal.

Red Cadre

Epic - Tio've

When required to fight a larger engagement these four cadres can be combined to form a contingent led by a Shas'o - in this instance the Shas'el of Blue cadre would most likely be given a temporary filed promotion.

The forces are now combined in larger formations of similar and mutually supportive troops, more suited to a larger encounter. In an engagement of this size it would not make sense to operate in the Hunter Cadre structure outlined above.

Sample Tau Contingent organisational structure

In this force we have two formations of Crisis suits, one consisting of four squads and the other of six. You will however, note that the seemingly larger formation actually consists of less individual suits. This increased squad:suit ratio gives the larger unit more tactical flexibility and, in all probability, it would be augmented by a larger number of drones to increase its firepower.

First Crisis formationSecond Crisis formation

The Broadsides from all the Cadres have been grouped to form a formation of six units. Grouping them in this way not only serves to concentrate their firepower, allowing them to deal with larger targets than would be possible in their Cadre structure but it means that, as the slowest moving units in the force, they do not slow down any units accompanying them - vital in a larger theatre where speed of movement can be the main advantage of a unit like the Crisis suits.

Broadside formation

In a similar way, the Stealth suits have been grouped together. This allows them to make best use of their ability to infiltrate behind enemy lines without being hindered by other units and still forming an effective striking force. Unlike other formations, the Blue Stealth suits have changed their unit structure from the Cadre (going from two units of three to three units of two). This is would normally be highly unusual in a Tau force but Stealth units are renowned for their ability to work outside the main Tau structure.

Stealth formation

Next up are two Firewarrior formations of eight squads each. As with the Crisis suits, Blue and Green Cadres have combined and augmented their formation with their Piranha support skimmers. Again, in line with the Crisis deployment, Gold have been augmented by units from Red Cadre. Whilst units from any Cadre are more than capable of working with units of any other and independently of each other it seems sensible to keep units from individual Cadres together where practical.

First Firewarrior formationSecond Firewarrior formation

The primary fast attack is provided by the Pathfinder and Tetra units from Blue, Gold and Green Cadres in unison. This formation is fast and agile and of a sufficient size to either take or deny ground until support from another formation can be brought to bear.

Pathfinder formation

Finally, an Armoured Mobile Hunter Cadre supported by the Skyray from Blue Cadre is formed by the Hammer Heads of the four cadres. With the two Ionheads provided by Red Cadre and the four Railheads this force is capable of dealing with most targets.

Armoured Mobile Hunter Cadre formation