Not to be confused with the video game Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior.
The Fire Warrior (Shas'la) is the Tau Empire's basic infantry unit. Armed with the mighty pulse rifle, a set of Combat Armour and a fuckload of other gadgets to help them survive the galaxy better than most other factions' unfortunate grunts, these Tau go out to claim territory and bring the galaxy into the fold of the Empire, and, like certain other armies, the Tau Empire has a whole fuckload of them.
While comparable to Guardsmen in most respects, their gear and training are far superior to what most other factions in the galaxy can muster—not because it's objectively better, but because it synchronizes with the rest of the Tau military to turn a decent weapon into a devastating weapon. Combining with equipment from other units, Fire Warriors can turn their accuracy up to eleven and disintegrate anything caught in their weapons range. Fire Warriors also keep tabs with the Pathfinders of their cadre, who designate targets for them to shoot long before they would be able to see them themselves.
According to the Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer (which, as you may know, is a wonderfully reliable source of objective reality—on Opposite Day, at least), they are physically weak, have poor eyesight and cannot hit the broad side of a space-barn. In reality, they are just fine at shooting (they have slightly better eyesight than humans but slightly poorer reflexes that make hitting moving targets harder as well as actually being physically inferior to humans in general, hilariously propagandalicious), though they really do fold up like paper in close combat.
Training and Wargear
Fire Warriors are warriors from birth. When a Tau child is born in the Fire Caste, that child will either die in training or just somewhere at sometime in gruesome battle, unless they are so lucky/skilled that they end up becoming a Shas'o and retire after many years of warfare and command, and at which point most people would prefer to die anyway. Their training begins from an early age, and from that moment onwards, the Fire Warrior is put into a squad of soldiers who will fight together for the rest of their lives. Therefore, many of them perform the ritual of the Ta'lissera, which is kinda like a Nordic blood bond and makes them all battle brothers. It's accepted by the Fire Caste, as it strengthens the Warriors' morale greatly under fire.
Most notable among the Fire Warriors' wargear is the pulse rifle, an plasma-based battle rifle with terrifying range and damage. They are especially deadly when combined with targeting computers in the Warriors' helmets and the support of markerlights. This way, Fire Warriors rarely miss and can chew through many a squad of enemy troops if given the order to. Warriors may also be seen carrying pulse carbines, a shorter-range, automatic version of the rifle, or a pulse blaster, the shotgun equivalent of the rifle that punches through armor better in close range. For protection, the Fire Warrior is equipped with a set of Combat Armour, which is made of a combination of nano-mesh and other technobabble. This includes the iconic asymmetrical pauldron designed to face towards any enemy that would be firing at the Warrior as he takes aim. They are also equipped with photon grenades, which emit a blinding flash of multi-spectral light and a sonic burst that disorient any enemies that get too close to the squad (in other words, a fancy flashbang). For anti-tank purposes, some Warriors carry EMP grenades, though these are not standard equipment.
Fire Warrior Combat Armor is made up of something called Fio'tak apparently, with protection equivalent to or greater than Carapace Armor. It also has a nice suite of targeters, aim assist, and such things. This would render it resistant to autoguns, immune to stubbers, and pretty good against lasguns. Unfortunately, it's basically a steel sheet versus Bolt shells, molecular shuriken... etc
When we talk about Fire Warriors, we usually refer to what are now called "Strike Teams" according to daddy GW. However, there is a second variant, called "Breacher Teams". Unlike their Pulse Rifle armed buddies, they have slightly different helmets, backpack systems that give them a weak energy shield when coupled with a Guardian Drone, and a Pulse Shotgun. It's almost silly, until you realize that the T'au can use these things as Assault 2, S6, -2 AP Charge deterrence. Just in case you forgot that practically everything can kill you in overwatch.
On the Tabletop
Costing slightly more than two Guardsmen per model, Fire Warriors spot a 4+ Armour Save that makes them twice as survivable against basic (S4, AP5) guns compared to Guardsmen, and are outfitted with arguably the best basic infantry weapon in the game—the S5, AP5, Range 30", RAPID FIRE pulse rifle, which makes them two to five times killier depending on what they're shooting at. Mathammer-wise they trade evenly in a firefight with an equal points worth of tactical Marines when unsupported. But there is a LOT of support available for them—Buffmander can grant them twin-linked, Ignores Cover and Tank/Monster Hunter (and remember, S5 can glance METAL BOXES!), Ethereals and Fireblades grant extra shots, and markerlights can boost their accuracy to potentially goofy levels. With proper support, things within that ever-nifty 30" of your Fire Warriors are gonna die and die fast. So all in all, unless you have taken them only to fill your mandatory Troops slots (in which case you might consider taking some Kroot instead, or going Enclaves), it's highly advisable to actually support your Fire Warriors.
One Fire Warrior in a squad can and probably should be upgraded to Shas'ui, not only because it grants +1 Leadership, but also for the wargear, specifically the cheap blacksun filter (night vision) and markerlight/target lock combo. The last one allows your little blue sergeant not only to spot targets for other units, but also to man (Tau?) fortification gun emplacements without compromising the squad's targeting.
There is a common belief that Fire Warriors immediately disintegrate like wet newspaper the moment they come into base-to-base contact with the enemy, and like many common beliefs, this one is wrong, at least as far as combat with other basic infantry (they have been known to kill the likes of Necron Warriors in close combat). See, WS2 actually doesn't matter much against the common WS3 or 4 (they'll still need a 4+ to hit; the only difference is that enemies only need a 3+ to hit them), and they have average Strength (3) for basic infantry along with a solid 4+ Armor Save. Plus, with photon grenades, charging enemies will have to take an Initiative test or go Blind, reducing their WS to 1 and turning the 3+/4+ thing the other way around the first turn. The only effective disadvantage they're at is their piss-poor Initiative (2). Before the assault even starts, though, you can potentially get a ton of supporting fire that guarantees at least a few enemies won't make it to base-to-base contact due to a massive multiple-squad Overwatch. Don't get me wrong — they're eventually going to die in close combat with pretty much anything, but it could take a turn or two, or even three, and Fire Warriors have a decent chance to take at least a few enemy models with them. And hey, if they do break and flee, and they don't get run down by a Sweeping Advance (unlikely, unless they are fighting other low-inititive enemies, terminators, or slow and purposeful), you can just blast the shit out of the enemy squad next turn with all your other shootiness and save the survivors.
If equipped with EMP grenades Fire Warriors could actually be a scary force in melee, at least against vehicles, including walkers. A squad of Fire Warriors can wreck a Dreadnought in one turn of combat, losing only three or four members, and things like Killa Kans, Tomb Stalkers or Sentinels would go down even easier. Hell, they could have a fighting chance against Imperial Knights or even Titans. Unfortunately, as they lack any assault delivery system (unlike other haywire grenade users in the game), this upgrade is rarely taken, as it could only be useful if your opponent is stupid enough to move his mech units near your Fire Warriors. Then again, just knowing that your Fire Warriors have EMP grenades might be enough to suppress your opponent's walker or force them into a bad position.
- Alternate Assessment: Fire warriors trade evenly with marines if and only if the marines don't have ranged chapter tactics and it assumes that neither squad breaks, which Fire Warriors are more likely to do. In melee, against MEQs you're not just being hit on 3's but wounded on 3's, as well, and the enemy is generally likely to have a melee-weapon serge that will wound better and/or ignore your armour. Fire Warriors aren't stubborn and losing combat by even a small margin puts them at serious risk of being wiped out by sweeping advances. Moreover, you want to die in a single round against an enemy charge for the greater good. Holding up for one turn only allows the enemy to break you in your own melee phase, thus letting them charge again in theirs.
- Furthermore, their armour and toughness is precisely where heavy bolters and heavy flamers (and the guns of Necron Immortals, who refute your claim for strongest basic infantry gun) want it to be. Thus, you can get killed very quickly, even at range, if you choose their foes poorly.
- Stay in cover, keep your head down, choose your firefights well, get support, and never assume you can hold for a round in combat.
See all that above? A good portion of it is defunct. Now, EMP grenades are a stratagem-only weapon that replaces the Photon Grenade. Its still useful, minus the fact that you have to get into 12" to use it, and they can only be used by 3 Infantry in your army (Breachers, who are Fire Warriors with crappier leadership, Pathfinders, nuff said, and Fire Warriors, now called a Strike Team.) Additionally, Pulse Rifles maintain their stats for the most part, minus the AP.
Keep in mind that this is still better than the Bolter, and can even glance a few wounds on a tank if you shoot it enough. Strike Teams are tough buggers, and as a result tend to fare better in ranged combat than Pathfinders, if only because of their superior armor save (4+ instead of a 5+) and access to the MV36 shield drones, which grant 6+ invuln saves, which means you possibly can save a few guys in a squad if a thunderfire opens up on them. They also come with the option of taking a DS8 turret with either a Smart Missile System or Missile Pods. As a final note, the last part is still applicable. Stay in cover, choose your firefights well, and never assume you can hold for a round in combat.
|Forces of the Tau|
|Command:||Cadre Fireblade - Ethereal - Ethereal Guard - Tau Commander|
|Troops:||Drone Squadron - Fire Warrior Team - Pathfinder Team|
|Auxiliaries:||Gue'vesa - Kroot (Great Knarloc - Kroot Carnivore Squad - Kroot Hound |
Krootox - Lesser Knarloc - Shaper) - Nicassar - Vespid Stingwing
|Battlesuits:||Battlesuits (XV02 Pilot Battlesuit - XV15 Stealthsuit - XV22 Command Suit |
XV25 Stealthsuit - XV46 Vanguard Void Suit - XV-8 Crisis Battlesuit
XV88 Broadside Battlesuit - XV9 Hazard Battlesuit - XV95 Ghostkeel Battlesuit
XV104 Riptide Battlesuit - XV107 R'varna Battlesuit - XV109 Y'Vahra Battlesuit
KV128 Stormsurge Ballistic Suit - KX139 Ta'Unar Supremacy Armour)
|Vehicles:||Devilfish - Hammerhead - Piranha - Sky Ray - Tetra - Swordfish|
|Flyers:||Barracuda - Razorshark - Remora - Sun Shark - Tiger Shark|
|Kor'Vattra:||Manta - Orca - Automated Fighting Drone |
Automated Barge Drone - Automated Bombing Drone