Approximately 36 Planets
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Caste-Based Authoritarian Federation
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"
- – Luke 6:41
"Ce qui constitue une République, c'est l'extermination totale de tout ce qui lui est opposé. - What constitutes a Republic is the total destruction of that which is opposed to it."
- – Louis Antoine de Saint-Just
"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."
- – Sun Tzu
Tau (τ) is the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet, 300 in Greek numerals, and also the name for 2π.
It is also the name of the Warhammer 40K race known as the Tau (or "bluies", as the Valhallan 597th call them)(or "Space Communists" as anyone on /tg/ will tell you), (or "T'au" as GW copyright lawyers call them) are a playable race and a minor and overall insignificant power in Warhammer 40,000. When first discovered by humanity, the Tau were a barbaric and primitive people. Their planet was then trapped in a warp storm for a few thousand years and they emerged from the other side as a unified species, led by the mysterious Ethereal caste and devoted to the concept of the "Greater Good". Their new empire supposedly has around 115 worlds, although only 36 of those have any sort of activity on them and the rest are either useless rocks or not shown/mentioned at all. They were growing until recently, when the Imperium sent a large invading force to counter them.
Although a dystopian society in its own right, the Tau Empire is noted for being one of the LEAST awful places in all the galaxy of 40k. It's also not really an empire; the Tau government, the Ethereal caste, is essentially an edifice of meritocracy and nepotism-Tau leaders are appointed to their position by even higher ranking leaders and/or a council of their future peers; the highest ranking Tau, the Aun'O, is elected by his future underlings, much like the Catholic pope, but is still simply considered the weightiest voice of a group (like a prime minister), not an Emperor with absolute power. Good thing that's not needed for being an empire. An empire is simply a nation that is focused on expanding.
The Tau started as a classic case of successful design-based trolling on the part of Games Workshop. They were originally developed because GW felt that their setting needed an optimistic race and that their wallets needed more money, which they could get by selling shedloads of 40k to the robot-obsessed Japanese. The Tau, therefore, are the least grimdark faction in the game; they're the dudes willing to negotiate when they've beaten their enemies (we cannot forget the green skinned diplomats our boy sent out during his siege of terra) while all the others are either too murderously psychotic in ways incomprehensible to anyone who does not share the same batshit insanity, religiously overzealous, arrogantly indifferent, simplemindedly violent, murderously enigmatic, more interested in eating you than anything, or all of the above to offer such courtesies.
This began to change in the 6th edition. For all the claims that GW doesn't listen to its fans, someone seemed to have heard the incessant bitching many fa/tg/uys made over the Tau being shoehorned into the setting in the worst way possible. As a result, the Tau began to take on an Orwellian flavor and Imperium-esque elements, with the Ethereals being totalitarian autocrats performing acts of ruthless indifference towards their subjects, including eugenics or up to Exterminatus of lost races (e.g. Orks and Tyranids), in the guise of being for the Greater Good.
Twelve year old fluff (from Dawn of War, supported by Deathwatch supplements describing Achillus Crusade) has them arbitrarily sterilizing the rebelling humans on Kronus once they come under the rule of the Tau Empire (to be fair though, had it been anyone else they were revolting against, including the Imperials, those humans would be dead, most likely the slow and painful way, or even suffer such a terrible fate as to wish for death).
The Tau Codex leaves ambiguous the question of just how much of their success is due to various forms of indoctrination, caste-based conditioning, and subtle mind control. This has only been exacerbated by the recent Farsight Enclaves supplement, which makes the Ethereals come off as mustache-twirling, Saturday-morning-cartoon villains. It speaks volumes about the 40k setting that in spite of all this they're still the friendliest race in the galaxy.
Also, the Tau have twenty planets after a handful were eaten by Tyranids (discounting allied held worlds and worlds with little to no inhabitants on them). Despite this, fanfiction writers who somehow got hired by GW and Tau fans alike have this strange habit of treating them like a major faction. For instance, a galaxy ruling combined empire with the Imperum and Eldar usually includes the Tau because the writer doesn't realize the Tau are one of the smallest, most insignificant minor species in the galaxy. This isn't to insult them, they can always get stronger; it's just the plain truth, currently that is. The setting stretches millennia, so who knows how far they can go, hopefully they'll become more and grow experienced as time goes on assuming the setting doesn't fall into constant grind never proceeding to the next year for decades again.
One of the more hateful aspects of the Tau is that Games Workshop feels the need to make them seem viable as an army by having their power fluctuate wildly, for example, the Tau can easily subjugate Imperial Hive Worlds and deport its population so easily that it doesn't even get a footnote. You know, those planets in which the population of a single city shocked an Tau ambassador because the city's population was greater than the entirety of the Tau species? Imagine entire planets of those cities, cities in which everyone is an experienced killer (which is why Space Marines love recruiting from Hive Worlds), armed and ready to fling themselves at any invading xenos to purge them with extreme prejudice. These are the same worlds whose PDF is large enough to enforce Imperial rule, and so contribute massive numbers of Imperial Guard (on top of having their own substantial forces).
As an example of this, take the Battle of Mu'gulath Bay, known as the Battle of Agrellan to the Imperium. This was a fight over a Hive World which the Tau won, how? Using Riptide Battlesuits. According to GW, the Riptide's armor was impervious to nearly all anti-armor weaponry (lascannons, krak missiles, and heavy meltas are a threat to Baneblades and knights and heavier stuff can even threaten Titans, so we know this is bullshit). The kicker though, is that Deathstrike Missiles did nothing when its shields were active. You know, the missiles Titans are afraid of and can vaporize armies? And can use Titan-killer warheads? Those Missiles. This is but one example, another goes back to the Taros campaign in which a Tau stronghold was mysteriously unable to be blown to hell by sustained bombardment from Colossus mortars and then the Tau sallied out to engage the Imperial forces and won. In addition, a lot of fights are won by their opponents being uncharacteristically stupid, for example in both the Taros Campaign and the Battle of Agrellan the Imperium suddenly forgets how to defend itself, its supply lines and in the second Damocles Gulf Crusade, engages the Tau using formations and tactics that cater to the Tau in the extreme (this is especially egregious in the finale), and even has an assassin forget to use her gun to instantly kill her target. Even the Marines aren't immune to this sudden stupefying aura, as we have Space Marine Terminators wielding storm shields were shot and killed because they were too busy telling each other to raise their shields up to block the Tau's shots instead of raising their shields up to block the fucking shots.
There were like three or four of these suits, by the way.
There are numerous other things too. Such as conquering multiple Hive Worlds in which one city outnumbers their entire species and everyone is hyperlethal, armed, fanatical and specialized in their claustrophobic combat environments where Tau are helpless. The Farsight Enclaves defending conquered worlds instead of just defending actual Tau worlds. Farsight being spared by a Bloodthirster for no reason. Not being wiped out by the Skitarii's radium weapons. The special ammo Space Marines can use that ignores armor or goes through shields and armor not even being mentioned or used. Invisible Shadowsun ambushing and killing a Raven Guard Chapter Master. Bravestorm somehow intercepting a Vindicare's bullet to save Farsight, and Darkstrider and his Pathfinders somehow finding and killing said assassin because he had a hunch that something was amiss (seriously). The list goes on and on, it's like Games Workshop made an entire faction for us to hate for being Noblebright, which pissed everyone off, so they changed the faction into Mary Sues instead. They don't even have Warp fuckery to blame for it either, since the Tau have a tiny Warp presence. At least if they were human fanatics GW could claim their faith did it, which would be slightly more believable than some flavor of "They're just that good."
- 1 "Naive Weeaboo Space Communists"
- 2 Military Doctrine
- 3 Fleet
- 4 Non-combat Fluff
- 5 Alliances
- 6 Tau Member Races
- 7 In a Nutshell
- 8 TL;DR
- 9 Warhammer Fantasy
- 10 Trivia
- 11 Notable Tau
- 12 See Also
- 13 External Link
- 14 Gallery
- 15 Navigation
"Naive Weeaboo Space Communists"
The Tau's naiveté might seem at odds with the GRIMDARK-ness of the setting (and to a degree, a lot of it is), but the thing is, Games Workshop specifically plays this straight FOR the grimdark and knows that the seeming futility of the Tau's optimism only further accentuates the general hellishness of the rest of the galaxy - and dear god do they play this up for maximum effect. In the 41st millennium, the Tau come across as more than a little naive to the other races; the Imperium sees any contact with aliens as heretical and will shoot them with bolter rounds as soon as they look at them; the Orks just want to kick the shit out of things; and the Eldar see the Tau as young and powerful because of their technology but also as a race in its infancy, just staggering out of its borders for the first time and wandering into a pond full of sharks.
In older fluff, the Tau were implied to have been secretly uplifted by the Eldar through the creation and subtle control of the Etherals (especially the mind-influencing pheromone secreting gland at the base of Etherals’ spines) and guiding them through reverse-engineering Imperial technology from the ruined colony ships. Eventually the Eldar abandoned them because the Tau never accomplished anything notable on their own due to a crippling lack of creativity. Humans must be in physical contact with an Ethereal or perhaps subjected to heavy doses of the pheromone in other ways to be sufficiently affected but aliens are affected merely by being in the vicinity of an Ethereal. Whether this is canon or not now is uncertain. It all probably is, seeing as it hasn’t been retconned/overwritten. Or GW forgot about it.
Putting it simply, there's an ongoing joke that the Tau are some of the most successful trolling performed in the history of mankind just by existing; a case of the company installing them just to mix things up whilst at the same time keeping them surprisingly on-level.
The combination of the above fluff, however, paired with their highly advanced technology, generally "Asian" feel (their Fire Caste's combat doctrine is often reminiscent of Sun Tzu's "Art of War" - but derived from two distinct Tau hunting methods), use of battlesuits (just like the Imperium), heavy firepower which rivals that of the Imperial Guard, and one of the most broken tactics in tabletop 40K until it was finally fixed an edition later has conspired to make them very much hated (and by that we mean a source of butthurt) by a reasonable-sized population of the 40K fan populace, and /tg/ has rightly dubbed the Tau Weeaboo (as much due to their Asian-ness as anything else) as a result (even when people can use the same logic to point to the Imperium's xenophobia, the fanatical worship of the God-Emperor, extensive use of Mecha and suicide attacks, use of suicide attacks as punishment for dishonour, and fondness for over-the-top dialogue in general and conclude that the Imperium of Man is Imperial Japan in Space). As a dark twist on this inherent Asian-ness, a thread concerning lack of grimdark fan fluff on Tau led to the creation of Sept V'iet, the Viet Cong Tau.
And again in a case of much cultural confusion, the Tau are often considered communists (despite being a rigorous, hierarchical, near-eugenicist class society that would have Marx's spirit resurrect himself to commit suicide) due to their central philosophy of casting aside the self in favour of the Greater Good. This is partly because it's a nearly twenty year old meme by this point and memes that old are very stubborn about dying... and partly because we're a bunch of ignorant fucks. If anything the Tau more resemble the class system of Plato's Republic crossed with the caste system of India and Star Trek's Federation, and a little bit of facism as well (because they're the only ones in the entire galaxy who bother to try diplomacy with xenos rather than exterminate them (partly because all but a few alien species are horrific space monsters that only a complete idiot would try to negotiate with)).
Even then, the Tau has more in common with the Imperium than the noblebright space hippie Feds; they adhere to a highly strict doctrine of eugenics, as all forms of love, sex or breeding between different castes are, translated from Tau lexicon into Gothic, HERESY. The Tau also have an explicit merchant caste as well as a single unified currency (something the Imperium of Man only has in theory, much like everything else) along with a system of standardised wage labour which makes them actually more Capitalist than the still stuck in Feudal Economics Imperium. Contrast to the Craftworld Eldar whose society of post-scarcity voluntary labour actually is fully Communist, albeit there are still nobles entitled to bigger houses.
As well, the Tau treat their non-Tau comrades as second-class citizens with no say in the Tau government, and demand them to abandon their old culture and conform to a Tau Empire, basically becoming like everyone else. Ergo, the Tau, despite not being the exterminate-all-other-species kind of racist, are still an ethnocentric, aristocratic empire pretending to be a Federation, not unlike Britain during their 'tenure' as the rulers of India. Problem?
To double the weebiness but to greatly decrease the communism connection, the Tau are remarkably similar to war-time era Imperial Japan. Not in terms of military doctrine but in terms of its geopolitics. Like Imperial Japan they're a young power situated in the east, relatively far from most of their possible rivals' centres of power. Like Imperial Japan they have a seemingly nice enough doctrine in terms of rhetoric; "Greater Good" and "Co-Prosperity Sphere"; but in terms of practise what it means is that they want to replace the old empires in the region with their own. Like Imperial Japan they're at a significant disadvantage in terms of production power compared to their most serious rivals in the region, and hope to compensate for that by tactical superiority and winning big decisive battles to topple the old powers.
To further solidify the connections to Japan in the early 20th century, the Tau Empire even borrows some terminology, such as "spheres" of expansion, a firm belief that despite their grotesque material inferiority to their primary enemies the power of their ideals and their superior willpower shall overcome their enemies all, and a dogged insistence on picking fights it probably can't win. Imperial Japan knew that America alone had nearly twelve times the industrial power, with Britain having thrice Japan's military-industrial might, France just about matching theirs, and the Soviets having four times that, and even China; despite being a wartorn barely functional shithole, could be a quagmire for it. But Japan didn't give a shit because they thought that they were so awesome they could somehow get all these people to surrender through a combination of being better at war than their soft, mewling enemies and that they simply believed in their destiny to rule the waves more than anyone else did. Much like how the Tau is fully aware that the Imperium, the Orks, the Necrons, and the Tyranids could all squash them flat in a stand up fight, but believe this is immaterial because their belief in the greater good shall overcome all and they have mastered the ways of war while their foes are mired in ignorance.
What is for sure though is that, whatever part of the terribly suited to analysing politics outside of the modern era one-dimensional spectrum of political agenda they are on (probably wherever you'd put Imperial Japan during world war two), the Tau government is mainly oligarchical, with the vast majority of political power concentrated in the Ethereal caste. This is further driven home by the fact there is a Tau splinter faction led by one of their two best generals alive, Commander Farsight of the Farsight Enclaves, whose government is a non-caste society seemingly devoid of merchants, meritocratic semi-democracy. The problem is, until people stop dragging him out of his self-imposed exile to fight Tyranids, Orks, and other Tau, he's a dictator the way Optimus Prime is sometimes depicted. Farsight's government is one most certainly NOT recognized by the Tau Empire, who have finally gotten around to dispatching a fleet to silence them. We still have yet to see the outcome of this fleet dispatch, though.
However, the new codex has HEAVILY downplayed their naiveté, bringing back the original codex mention that the Ethereals have officially declared some species "lost causes" and that the Greater Good demands they be killed to the last.
- Orks were the first of the big players of 40k to get this treatment. They pretty much were the only serious competition Tau had before they discovered the Imperium, and it only took them a few weeks of study to realize the fact that Orks are beyond reason or sanity. They still have not realized that their encounters with Orks have merely been minute numbers of stragglers.
- Tyranids unsurprisingly ended up on "shoot on sight" list pretty much after the first contact. Like with Orks, the Tau are unaware of the small force of Tyranids they have experienced and that the main fleet they "destroyed" has since come back stronger.
- Eldar briefly were on the list too, owning this to the first contact being made by the Commorites, and not just any, but Urien Rakarth himself. It took some nuked Exodite world and Craftworld intervention for tau to realize that not all space-elves are insane rapists and scratch them off the list. Probably more encouraged by the Eldar effortlessly curbstomping them than actually caring that they shot the wrong Spelves.
- Space Marines seem to be entering the list as of the second Damocles war. The reason is not because it's impossible to reason with them, but because after some intense Water caste psychoanalysis and Nagi "mind-ripping" they pretty much declared that Astartes aren't people but merely a weapon and as such have no place in Tau'Va. Since this means they ignore the artistic, scholarly, philosophical, and administrative aspects of being Astartes intended to give them purpose after the Great Crusade ended the Tau are probably just scared shitless of Space Marines and the sheer inspiration their presence brings even off the battlefield.
To sum it up, the Tau Empire is still an expansionist empire prone to using military force, but far better than almost every other polity in the setting, as it permits others to exist with rather lenient standards, and isn't dedicated to the purposeful extinction of all other life in the galaxy. On the other hand, they don’t care if you’re some primitive feral species or a peaceful member of a species they have decided to be a lost cause. Also, as a result of surviving attacks from the major factions in the galaxy yet being blissfully unaware that those were merely tiny brushes or stragglers of vastly larger forces, the Tau believe they have proven they can truly hold their own in the galaxy against all the major players. As of Eighth Edition they were corrected quite painfully due to the opening of the Great Rift and the loss of most of their Fourth Sphere Expansion forces to a Warp rift, and following a massive Chaos invasion they have been forced to face the possibility that their empire might have bitten off more than it can chew.
Ironically, if their tech really is reverse-engineered Imperial tech (science-wise), it might not be heresy to... take it back.
The Tau disdain melee combat in favour of ranged combat, which renders them instantaneously less manly in the eyes of most of /tg/'s playerbase. The reasons behind this are complicated. Generally, Tau see hand to hand combat in warfare as an anachronism, which makes sense, considering their basic guns can rip apart tank side armour, and compared to almost all other major races Tau have less muscle strength and reaction speed, which makes them ineffective in melee even if they are trained.
Even the last reason alone is enough to avoid close combat, seeing as Necrons use similar logic, despite their Warriors and Immortals being much stronger and tougher, and actually highly trained in close combat, but equally as slow, though if the Necrons do want to get into melee, they're certainly not lacking in specialists. That said, Tau do practice martial arts, but only for ritual purposes - Fire Warrior trials and rites involve knives and swords, while Ethereals have a tradition of fighting non-lethal duels to settle disputes, using sharp bladed weapons no less, so they are often quite good with their fencing style, as Aun'Shi has shown to some unfortunate Orks.
Some people think Tau military doctrine has been hit hard with the same stupidity nerf bat as every other fieldable army; every other faction has some reason for their material to be as limited as they would be in a fantasy setting, but the Tau have widespread education, unlike Men and Orks; reasonable access to production facilities relative to their population, unlike Necrons and Eldar; and are capable of coherent research and development, unlike Tyranids and Daemons.
For fluff reasons which have never been explained (the crunch reason is obvious), they have the same motif as every other army of equipment often being more valuable than the person wielding it, leading to most personnel being fielded with "inferior" equipment. The most obvious example of this is that they always, under whatever circumstance, field infantry in simple combat armour rather than some sort of battlesuit - its only advantage is having less bulk, as the Tau have a reason not to build larger transports to cope with the shitloads of battlesuits they could deploy instead.
This argument is analogous to saying that real-world militaries should only use armored vehicles and not have infantry, and says more about fa/tg/uy ignorance than Tau doctrine. The Tau likely practice economy of force, which has consequences both on and off the battlefield. Sending excessive amounts of force at a target is wasteful, as the excess firepower would be more useful elsewhere. If one only has a unit of XV8 Battlesuits and no infantry, but a swarm of grots in a nearby pass needs to be taken out, they have no choice but to commit a very valuable unit to a task far beneath its worth. This is also an economic matter, as lower power units are cheaper and the Tau do not have an infinite supply of the rare materials needed to produce the strongest Battlesuits.
One could easily field a number of fire warriors for far less than the cost of a single battlesuit, and considering many foes will fall beneath "mere" infantry, any cost-aware faction would prefer the infantry's use over an expensive battlesuit. Similarly, when it comes to occupying or garrisoning territory, numbers of soldiers is significantly more important than quality of soldiers as they need to cover ground and establish a presence. In other words, they are the army who most resemble modern forces in terms of strategy, and mixed armies of infantry, armor and support elements are a good combination. And who the fuck can with a straight face call a pulse rifle and carapace grade armour "inferior equipment"? The view their equipment or doctrine is nerfed also ignores that armies have to replace lost and damaged equipment as well as actually get that equipment to the troops or they're absolutely fucked. An expensive army of battlesuits is lovely right until combat losses alongside wear and tear reach a point where the empires production can't keep up with losses or supply problems mean they don't reach the front (armies in 40k have been shown running low on ammo something far easier to produce and transport in large numbers than battlesuits). An army based around soldiers armed with "cheap" rifles and armour is a lot easier to produce and keep in the field even in the face of casualties or supply problems.
The Tau's superior firepower is similar to that of the Imperial Guard, but their strategy is different in that they tend to rely less on mass warfare and more on sophisticated technical support (drones, stealth technology, railguns), with an emphasis on tactical precision, mobility, and the initiative of individual squads of units, much like how modern warfare is waged (apparently if the Imperial Guard learned from Tau tacticians and fought with modern tactics instead of zergrushing everything then they would have been the most powerful army in the galaxy, but no, that ain't GRIMDARK and AWESOME enough [unless you're Macharius]). Their military doctrine is not based on winning by attrition and/or throwing out quality tactics in favour of absorbing and dishing out heavy shocks in bloody epic clusterfucks like the Imperials, Orks and early World War II-era Soviet Russia. (Unless you count the later war "deep warfare", which is actually the combat doctrine the Tau ripped off. 40k really seems to like the Russians...)
Rather, they use infiltration and their sophisticated battlesuits to bypass enemy strong points and launch deep into their rear, cutting supply lines and logistics, destroying headquarters and support units, leaving enemies cut off and functionally helpless. There are numerous examples of Tau literally starving and/or thirsting entire armies to death by cutting out their supply lines, while simultaneously harassing them with night raids, ambushes and air strikes to the point the survivors are leaderless, demoralized, out of ammo and fuel, and can barely stand due to exhaustion. The Taros campaign is a prime example of these tactics (and of the Imperium's strategic stupidity).
Of course, these kinds of tactics only work fine against more convenient armies like the Imperial Guard or Orks. When it comes to Space Marines and Eldar, who sport mostly aerial/warp/webway supply lines, operate as elite armies without obvious weak spots to exploit, have similar or superior tactical mobility and badass officers that can survive most assassination attempts, Tau lose huge parts of their usual advantages (but get the numerical superiority in return). Against utterly unconventional foes, like Tyranids, Daemons or Necrons... well, all times they faced such foes, Tau either devised some entirely new strategies, or lost horribly.
The Tau, again, boast some of the most powerful ranged weaponry on the tabletop game, and can crank out more concentrated firepower than any other faction with the lone exception of the Imperial Guard and maybe the orks if you only count number of bullets in the air, and even then, the Tau's weapons hit quite a bit harder. They have pathetic hand-to-hand combat skills, however, and so the Tau bolster this by using several inducted races (the Kroot, Vespid, and even some humans cut off from the Imperium during the Damocles Crusade) to act as buffers against assault troops to allow Tau Fire Warrior teams and their heavy, long-ranged firepower to tear enemies apart. The most pivotal, and perhaps most infamous, part of the Tau army are their Battlesuits, which can mount multiple heavy weapon systems and provide excellent mobility to their pilots, all on a fairly durable unit.
They also have an extremely powerful navy, though not quite as formidable as the Imperium's, if largely because of differences in number and tonnage. Tau air units are among the best in the game, with aircraft superior or equal to Imperial Guard equivalents, including a stealth fighter, multipurpose heavy fighter, a superheavy fighter with guns that can one-shot a Titan, and their own Titan-equivalent (which is a small starship). Unlike the Imperium, they usually deploy swarms upon swarms of flyers, with only Orks, Tyranids, and Necrons able to rival them in numbers when things come to dogfights—kind of the way the Imperial fleets' atmospheric support craft were supposed to work if fleet officers weren't a bunch of assholes who do everything they can to provide as little air support as possible.
On defense, the Tau are a bit unusual: they leave only token garrisons at their colonies to protect them. These garrisons are intended for scouting rather than combat, avoiding engagement in order to observe and report on invaders using Pathfinders, scanning towers, and drones. Because the Tau have fairly powerful spacefleets and usually keep their forces within reasoned distance of potential hotspots, any potential threat can be quickly dealt with by organizing a hunter cadre to be sent to deal with the situation. For those of you who don't get it, it's Frederick the Great's "he who tries to protect everything protects nothing" strategy.
Of course, this strategy means Tau must have some worlds actually being heavily defended - and in fact they do. Sept worlds tend to be guarded by some nasty space stations and garrisoned by an unreasonable amounts of hunter cadres and auxiliary troops, which allows them to act as major defensive nodes from which response fleets are dispatched and to which evacuation fleets rally (think feudal Japan style castles from which commanders would send trained garrisons out to protect the lands around it from encroaching armies), and in case some really scary shit like an Imperial crusade or a Tyranid hive-fleet comes into the sept, it is on the sept world where the decisive battle is fought (See the First Damocles Crusade for an example of this tactic in action).
This has, however, backfired on occasion, since it does mean that the Tau garrisons are very vulnerable in the initial stages of an attack. It also makes them very vulnerable to Orphean War style rapid assaults where the attacker is advancing so quickly the defender doesn't even have time to relay the news that they're under attack to the rest of their army. While the Tau haven't yet faced something like the Maynarkh Dynasty, they are awfully close to the Sautekh Dynasty and Imotekh is a noted cantankerous asshole and egotistical conqueror.
A rare advantage the Tau have is their willingness to change military strategy. As examples, look at how they changed tactics in reaction to the Damocles Crusade by the Imperium of Man, and even built an entirely new space fleet to match humans in straight-on space fights, or their unusual but effective choice of switching to older weapons when dealing with Hive Fleet Gorgon.
In the old fluff, the T'au used to have equip their ships with reverse-engineered imperial warp drives, tuned to only skim the surface of the warp and bounce back to the Materium after a short while. New fluff, on the other hand, has retconned that by giving them what is called a "slingshot drive" for their FTL. From what little fluff we have on it, it looks like the reality-based theoretical warp drive (in the modern physics meaning, i.e. the Alcubierre bubble). The practical applications, however, are the same in both new and old fluff - Tau FTL is much slower than the Imperium's, but is predictable, reliable, and not affected by warp storms (a big deal, given Tau spent half of their history inside one). As a result, Tau are capable of building proper interstellar logistics lines, ones the Administratum can only dream of, but their strategic mobility is . . .lacking, to say the least. Compared to pretty much every other faction (though the non-Warp drive using FTL factions are different; the Necrons microteleport and use wormholes, the Eldar use the Webway extradimensional network, and the Tyranids bring their production power with them as they tugboat in by gravity channeling) the Tau move at an absolute snail's pace, hence the reason why their worlds are so tightly packed together. Of course, if the skip drive was THE best way to travel normally without the Warp and to avoid Warp phenomena, the radically more advanced Dark Age Humanity would have slapped the drives on every type of ship they had. They didn't, which implies the drive was more of a stopgap dead-end then a fully developed piece of technology. There may not even be a guarantee of safety from daemons, as, when the drive pushes against the barrier of reality, all it would take is for a daemon to be in the right place at the right time to stick a gnarled claw into the corresponding area in the Warp and cut through to say "hi" to the engineering crew.
Additionally, Slingshot drives are rather big, heavy and power-hungry, even compared to the Warp drive (which takes up a 1/3rd of a smaller imperial ships). As a result, escort-class Tau spacecraft are built without FTL drives and are hooked to bigger ships for the purpose of interstellar travel, which basically make them equivalents of the Imperium's system monitor ships, with the same benefits (cheap, compact and too fast, powerful or durable for their size) without their major downside (being incapable of FTL flight). The Tau also have to concentrate their forces on an interplanetary scale; they can't throw a bunch of ships into a warzone from halfway across the galaxy as orks and humans can. Tau empire have two fleets:
- Kor'Vatra, or "merchant fleet", is made of older modular ships that double as merchant and colony vessels (hence the name). One of their main shticks is huge arcs of fire for most gun batteries, with side batteries easily covering front arc, and nose batteries covering all but the stern - as a result, while Kor'vatra Ships may not have as much firepower as Imperial or Ork ones, they can focus more of it on one target. On the flip side, merchant ships while decently fast at sub-light, are not very agile, and must rely on escort wings and auxiliary fleets against more maneuverable foes. Even after the founding of Kor'Or'Vesh, the Kor'Vatra still see a lot of military use, especially against the Imperium, precisely because it's regarded as a non-military fleet, so Tau diplomats could tell their imperial colleagues "What battle cruisers on your orbit are you talking about? It's just our merchant vessels, moving goods to and from our trade missions".
- Kor'Or'Vesh, or "combat fleet" is a newer fleet, made for battling Imperium's fleet in straight up battle, after Kor'Vatra get run over during Damocles crusade. Made out of more compact, maneuverable and better armored ships, it may lack Kor'Vatra's wide arks of fire, but is superior in every other regard, and as Taros and second Damocles campaigns showed it is more then capable of fighting off humans even if outnumbered.
Both fleets use largely the same technologies: railguns as short-range (by Tau standards), high-damage gun batteries; ion cannons as long-range beams (lance equivalent); and, above all, powerful small-craft ordnance (second only to Eldar and available in far greater numbers). Mantas, Barracudas, and EMP drone-torpedoes reign supreme at extreme ranges, gaining the Tau navy the same reputation their ground armies have. Because their small-craft ordnance is so powerful, most Tau ships tend more towards carrier and torpedo boat archetypes than battleships, and suffer horribly if an enemy comes within macro-cannon or boarding range (note the "if"). Technically, the Imperial equivalents are, as they are when compared to most other factions, far superior. The problem for the Imperium is, like always, those things are very rare, built in tiny numbers, and never around when you need them.
The Tau were a new race/culture found by the Imperium of Man during their "slash and burn" exploration of their galactic neighborhood. The Tau were still pastoral, had just discovered flint tools and charcoal, and the Imperium had them scheduled for "routine cleansing" (Low Gothic for “ruthless genocide”) to make sure they never got off-world and developed into an entity capable of threatening humanity. Needless to say, that plan was promptly fucked up. By an unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your feelings towards a species' right to not be mercilessly exterminated for no reason whatsoever) coincidence which almost certainly involved the dickery of Tzeentch or Cegorach or something, a warp storm occluded the Tau homeworld, so nobody could get in or out. Since the Tau were virtually invisible in the warp, the warp storm didn't have much of an effect on them as they were immune to the influences of Chaos.
The sector was labeled "lost to Chaos," and cleansing was deferred indefinitely. Then this shit happened, and almost all records about Tau were lost in the ensuring clusterfuck of civil war. Only the Adeptus Mechanicus still had records of this first contact when the storm died down 6,000 years later. The Damocles Crusade relocated the Tau, who were completely untouched by the warp storm and now using interstellar colony ships and pulse rifles. The extermination order still stood—it was just going to be much more difficult than the Imperium expected, seeing as the Tau, instead of throwing spears and rocks at their tanks and Space Marines, were now throwing ion charges,
plasma blasts particle accelerators (pulse rifles), and electromagnetically-accelerated hypervelocity projectiles at their tanks and Space Marines.
Tau history is pretty typical up through the iron-age: a knack for engineering, warfare between "urban" farmers and "barbarian" nomads, and unrestrained growth causing a series of plagues, leading to a dark age. Here's where things go sideways, though the Tau see it as the start of their endless Golden Age: the arrival of the Ethereals. Legend tells of a five-year siege at the castle of Fio'taun, with both sides starving and succumbing to disease, when two foreign Tau entered the battlefield. One went to the castle, the other to the barbarian tribes. Each of these Tau had a quiet grace and irresistible authority. In just a few hours, the castle was persuaded to open their gates, and the barbarians laid down their weapons, and both parties met to parley a truce.
These strange Tau called themselves "Ethereals," and stressed the importance of peace and understanding between all Tau. They described a "Greater Good" that each Tau must strive towards. Soon after, soon enough to seem simultaneous, more of these strange new Tau emerged across the continent with their message of peace and co-operation for all Tau. Their quiet authority was always respected, and their message of harmony was universally embraced. Wait a minute, I've seen this historical pattern before....
Perhaps uniquely for the setting, Tau-human interactions bear the whiff of realpolitik. On the one hand, the Imperium wants to exterminate them eventually, but the upper management generally realizes that the Tau are going to be a giant drain of resources and manpower to get rid of, given the stiff resistance they put up in previous campaigns and their uniformly advanced technology. Furthermore, they serve as a useful buffer state against various threats on the Eastern Fringe, from Orks and Chaos raiders to Tyranid hive fleets to alien forces the Imperium hasn't had (recorded) contact with. Their existence deflects danger from Imperial space, and in a place and time when the Imperium is coming under attack from all sides, that's more important than dogma.
This strategy is not unique to the Tau only though, as the Imperium allows countless other (much more dangerous) xeno empires to prosper in the Eastern Fringe to serve as an ablative shield against much nastier shit. Amongst those is (for example) the Charadon ork empire, which is older than the Imperium and spawns a Waaagh! or two per millennium (even with the routine warboss assasination raids that the Ultramarines make). Even after the emergence of the genius warboss Snagrod and his Waagh on Rynn no one cared to issue a crusade against them. So yeah, the Tau empire is not even close to being spotted by the High Lords, not to mention recognized as a threat dangerous enough to actually do something about.
Conversely, the Tau have realized just how massive an undertaking expanding through the entire universe would really be, and are taking it slow. They mostly absorb Imperial buffer worlds stripped of manpower and armament in the face of massive redeployments to face other threats, offering the Empire's protection in return for annexation and outright conquering the places that don't take the deal. The Tau have claimed that they are engaging in this sort of aggressive behavior because someone's going to gobble those settlements up sooner or later, and if they don't do it, then whoever does won't be nearly as nice about it. While baldly self-serving, that logic is...well, mostly correct, really.
There's no lost love between the Imperium and the Tau, but open full-scale war is probably unlikely in the near-future.
And then the Second Damocles Crusade happened.... even the imperium isn't that stupid, so this almost certainly involves that tricky dick Tzeench trying to stop the greater good from ruining all his plans. ...Or nurgle...or, well any of the ruinous powers really. Or that ancient scheming old sperg Eldrad, for that matter.
Looking at the new galactic map, where the Tau are now sandwiched between their own eye of terror and a Necron dynasty, they are soon to be fucked...
Maybe... Yep, they got done buttfucked by the Death Guard! And new faith-based Warp fuckery (a glowing flying priest dueling a battlesuit, yes) from the Imperium that even caused some of their human levies to seek redemption by attacking the Tau. And now they've intentionally infected one of their planets with genestealers to see what will happen. This is not a joke.
If things keep going this way, the Tau will eventually see a clash between the shiny new faith fuckreality of the Imperium and the demonic fuckreality of Chaos. Their reaction to such a blatant display of angelic versus demonic would be precious.
Tau society after the arrival of Ethereals was organized into castes; everyone with a place, and a place for everyone. Interbreeding between castes and Xenos races is one of the most severe crimes in the Empire, in other words, Heresy. This was outlawed by the Ethereals presumably to preserve the biological differences between castes, and as part of this effort they have taken over the practice of sex entirely. Tau society has been manipulated so that Tau do not form romantic bonds of a long-lasting nature and do not even consider sex to be anything other than a state-mandated act meant only, like everything else, to serve society and the Greater Good. In essence, Tau are conditioned to never have sex until and unless their superiors say they are worth breeding.
Their superiors pick their breeding partners (the Tau get NO input into this) and the couple basically spends a few days off from work screwing around before going their separate ways to never see each other again. If a Tau did somehow get over their social conditioning and thought of sex as something more than a mandated duty, they'd be punished/killed for illegal activities/perversion. An Imperial genetor's report in the fourth edition Tau codex observes the presence of synthetic proteins in Tau internal organs and suggests them as evidence that their evolution has been accelerated, though he might have been confused by synthetic proteins that the Tau were given. /tg/ seems to be under the strong impression that they are mammals, as you can see in the picture further down the page, despite the complete implausibility of this theory. The frequent sexualization of the Tau by fa/tg/uys is a mystery to many, but clearly not all. Not nearly enough, in fact. It's obviously a deep desire for Draenei to be added to the setting to reward our brave Imperial Guardsmen.
The Fire Caste consists of the various warriors of the Tau Empire. The miniatures of a Tau army in a Warhammer 40,000 game are almost exclusively Fire Caste. Other castes think Shas are overly-aggressive hotheads due to their tendency to solve all problems by applying more plasma (when Tau encountered other sentient species, Fire Caste representatives immediately voted to hunt down and exterminate them, just like they hunted down dangerous local life forms on the other world they colonized), although for Humans and Eldar, who's history knows numerous kinky, horrid, Earthshatteringly mad, batshit insane, bloodthirsty individuals and groups, mention of the "Aggressively Hotheaded" Tau would end up with them collectively pointing fingers and laughing at them. On the other hand, it also shows how calm and disciplined other castes are.
They are taller than Earth Caste Tau, and physically stronger than the Air and Water Castes, though still shorter and weaker than a typical Human. They pretty much compensate for this by giving their basic Fire Warrior a pulse rifle, which is sort of like an automatic sniper-plasma gun, and employ heavily armed and sophisticated battlesuits for their elite infantry. Oh yeah, and Railguns. Company-sized Tau forces are called "Hunter Cadres".
The Earth Caste are the laborers and engineers; they are the "civilians" of Tau society. Their appearance can vary widely, though other Tau would describe them as "plain." They all have a stoic outlook, with little ambition other than to excel in their career of choice and work for the Greater Good. Unlike the Imperial worker classes, whose quality of life generally starts at working 14-hour days seven days a week while living off of dried recycled dung chips and goes downhill from there, the Earth caste is mostly concerned with technological planning and engineering.
They have robots to do the grunt work. The Farsight Enclaves field some Earth Caste pilots for their battlesuits, demonstrating their more flexible caste systems and/or their desperation for manpower. Doing so makes them even worse in close combat than Tau already are, but they make up for it with technical training and tweaks to the suits' software and mechanics, re-rolling missed shots and equipment failures.
The Air Caste are the intermediaries between Tau. In more primitive times they served as messengers and couriers, and sometimes scouts/explorers, gliding on membranous anatomical surfaces through T'au's atmosphere. When the Tau started exploring offworld, it was the Air Caste that took charge of the vessels traveling between the stars. Now the Air Caste are the Tau stellar navy/airforce/mailmen, piloting the Empire's various carriers, warships, and emissary cruisers. Air caste Tau tend to be tall and slender like runners or dancers, and this is frequently exaggerated by the years the Tau navy spends in low-gravity.
They are much less likely to be eaten by daemons due to a faulty Geller Field than their Imperial equivalents, but only because their ships are much slower, using a "slingshot drive" to temporarily enter the Warp and bounce back into real space (or use Star Trek-style warp drives instead of psycho-Warp drives; it seems to have been changed to Warp again). Despite their slender stature and lack of muscle mass, Air caste pilots are extremely resistant to G-force, making them excellent void and atmospheric fighter pilots (simultaneously, as small Tau voidcraft also double as atmospheric craft).
The Water Caste are the emissaries to non-Tau. They are diplomats, merchants, civil servants. The most open-minded Tau can be found among the Water caste, with some even showing individual ambition (but still for the greater good of the Tau Empire). When a new culture is encountered, the Water caste are sent in first to negotiate. If talks break down, the Water caste are withdrawn from the area and it's time for the Fire Caste to then start negotiating with pulse weapon fire. Also, unlike their Imperial equivalents in bureaucracy, the Administratum, they are brisk, efficient, and very good at their jobs. No dumping valuable ammo on an uninhabited dust world because no one signed the paperwork not to.
It's a less known fact that Pors also run the Tau intelligence and espionage network, and Por'Os and Por'Els from this branch are pretty much Tau Inquisitors except more competent, much saner, and not nearly as good at kicking asses personally. As of the second Damocles Crusade the Imperium has designated the Water caste as a primary threat above any other Tau caste, as their subterfuge, diplomacy and propaganda has cost the Imperium more worlds and manpower than the Fire and Air caste's military prowess combined, and they even managed to totally outplay the Inquisition on its own field, which royally pissed them off.
The Ethereal Caste are basically the philosopher-kings described by Plato in "The Republic". They are selfless and always focused on what is best for the Greater Good ("Tau'va") for all Tau and every Tau without exception. The Ethereals are inspirational to all Tau caste members, and merely being near one will inspire a Tau soldier, engineer, pilot, or diplomat to work harder.
In the case of the Fire Caste, some Ethereals accompany hunter cadres in battle during important deployments so as to better lead/inspire the troops, which works because all Tau in the combat zone will fight to their bitter deaths. They also seem to have semi-magical powers (don't ask how they work, none of the Tau know themselves) that allow Tau around them to do special things, like running while shooting. The Adeptus Mechanicus theorizes that the respect the Ethereal Caste gets from all other Tau is caused by a pheromone. ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTAU....... Also, Xenology relates a story from a major, insectoid race called the Q'Orl which alleges that the Eldar stole one of their queens. Given that these queens have a magic, yellow, diamond-shaped sack that produces mind-control pheromones…well, let's just say the characters in the story figure it out quickly enough. There is a theory that the Ethereals themselves are also affected by their own pheromones, which could explain why they're so selfless and uncorrupted despite their absolute power (although being uncorrupted no longer seems to apply after 7th/8th edition).
This can also be supported by the (old as fuck and likely retconned) novelization of Fire Warrior, where the Ethereal character has a pretty level head and chipper demeanor despite having been repeatedly captured and tortured by both the Inquisition and Chaos, watching his diplomatic retinue chopped up by a Chaos Lord, and mind-raped by said Chaos Lord all in the span of roughly two days. Either he's a stoic old motherfucker, or he's just too busy tripping his blue balls on his own pheromones to give a shit.
8th ed has a particularly interesting story in it and it proves without a shadow of a doubt: the Ethereal caste does use some kind of mind-altering substance or influence on the Tau. During a meeting with Commander O'Ryn and Aun'Va (who is a solid hologram controlled by an AI at this point) in the planet of Junica, their location was ambushed by Chaos forces and Aun'Va (or the AI acting like Aun'Va) ordered O'Ryn to send her forces on what's essentially a suicide mission. O'Ryn, not seeing the point of throwing her and her soldiers' lives at such a hopeless battle, actually defied the command of an ethereal (and the space pope himself, no less) and retreated. It could've been an interesting and pretty terrifying critique of how manipulative a totalitarian system can be and that the Ethereals don't shy away from anything to keep the people in line. But no, it was explained with mind control, which is way lazier and honestly way less terrifying.
O'Ryn was eventually declared a renegade and Farsight took her in, but it does indeed prove that the unflinching and unquestioning loyalty and fanaticism that the Ethereals' physical presence inspire on nearby Tau aren't due to their charisma or the Tau's indoctrination, and instead on something more sinister. To put this into perspective: O'Ryn has been the first Tau since Farsight to actively defy an ethereal's command and the main reason she was able to do so was because she was speaking to an AI-controlled drone, instead of the actual space pope.
Additionally, in the novel Farsight: Crisis of Faith by Phil Kelly (detailing the Farsight Expedition) not only is a Tau Water Caste Magister possessed by a daemon of Tzeentch, who is banished by Farsight carving a bloody hexagram into its chest with his bonding knife (Imperium Hexagrammic Wards don't even work that way), Aun'Va uses mind control to have the Magister's superior kill herself. Why? Because he'd dared to say the truth out loud, that the Ethereals were eager to send Farsight off to Damocles so that the immensely popular golden boy won't become a challenge to their rule back home. The ambassador went to her death thinking the ever reasonable Ethereals would let her off with a slap on the wrist for what was basically a breach of etiquette, instead she was dominated into committing suicide for being the mentor of someone who'd cast the tiniest bit of doubt on Ethereal motives. The Tau are grimdark, but politically and psychologically grimdark, rather than physically grimdark.
Tau have ridiculously long, detailed and actually meaningful names. Their names contain their caste, rank, birth sept, and one or more nicknames earned by them through the course of their lives. Fluff does say that they do have birth names, but those are only used before tau earn at least one appropriate nickname, as a name given to them by comrades is considered more valuable than one just chosen by random at their birth. The nickname part and its importance surprisingly is actually taken from the Roman culture, which is weird, given most Tau culture tend to be based on China and Japan (except for their social and government structures which are copied almost verbatim from Plato's Republic).
Also, do note the lack of last names, which is expected, since Tau society pretty much have no institute of a family, with children being raised in centralized facilities apart from their parents. As a Tau grows, moves through ranks and achieves the respect of their comrades their name changes appropriately, switching the rank part, adding new nicknames and sometimes dropping the old and outdated ones. For example, when Farsight was still a lowly fire warrior, his name was Shas'La Vior'La Shoh (Fire Caste Private of the Hot-Blooded sept Inner Light), and at the "present days" Shas'O Vior'La Shovah Kais Mont'yr (Fire Caste Commander of the Hot-Blooded sept Farsight Skillful Blooded). How the fuck Tau bureaucracy is able to keep track of their population with their names constantly changing is a mystery, but it seems they have no problem with that, probably because they just track ID numbers when names are too much of an issue like most sane people who work with databases.
For the sake of convenience Tau often use shortened versions of names, almost always dropping the sept part and secondary nicknames, and if speaking within one caste the caste part too, so in the case of Farsight other fire warriors could refer to him as O'Shovah, while for example an Ethereal would call him Shas'O'Shovah (assuming Farsight allows this; given his seething hatred of Ethereals he's the type who'd force them to use his full name out of spite). Humans and other non-Tau often get this system wrong and shorten the names in a ways that make little sense: for example, Imperium's Taros invasion force thought the Taros' chief Ethereal's name was Aun'El, which was only his caste and rank, and as the book was mostly written from the Imperium's standpoint, we still don't know what was his actual name.
One final stroke of Tau naming is that as they abandon their true (birth) names it makes them even more resistant to sorcery and daemonic powers that often require the target's true name to amplify their effect or even make the spell work at all.
Tau as a species are comprised of psychic blunts, they cannot produce psykers and have limited innate resistance to some forms of psychic powers and daemonic bullshit. People often mistake this resistance to outright invulnerability, but in truth it's more akin to camouflage - Tau souls are so dim they are indistinguishable from the spirits of non-sapients at best, and at times they even blend in the psychic background of inanimate objects. This may have something to do with how unemotional Tau are, as some of the more passionate subjects in the fluff had been slightly affected by warp shenanigans like faint whispers and slight feelings of "wrongness" in places where humans freak out and try to run away immediately, while more calm and collected tau hadn't noticed anything strange. If for example a telepath tries to mind-rape a Tau or a daemon tries to posses a Tau they'd find it hard to find a soul to target, but if they manages to find it there would be even less resistance than with regular humans. Sadly while this trait is often shown in the fluff, it does not affect Tau crunch in any way aside from their total lack of psykers.
This innate defense is further strengthened by the Greater Good philosophy deeply indoctrinated into each Tau from childhood and (allegedly) reinforced by a subtle mind control if one were to believe in Ethereal Pheromones. Tau'Va being the antithesis of all the creeds of Chaos makes Tau all but immune to its temptations, and only two Tau have ever actually fallen to Chaos: the Water Caste member Water Spider who was possessed by a Daemon of Tzeentch; and one Shas'la Kais. (Though Kais is a contested point. The video game iteration of Kais was ultimately untainted and even allegedly grew up to be Shas'O Kais. The much better novelization had Kais getting an assist from Khorne throughout his adventure, though he was permanently scarred by Khorne's influence and the conflict, leaving him permanently insane and hospitalized, unable to meaningfully respond to his friends and environment.) That being said, the Tau have only just been exposed to the more material horrors of the galaxy; should they become jaded and start losing faith in the Greater Good (as inferred with giving up on indoctrinating certain species), well, that would be an entirely different situation. Their allies, including the Kroot, have been known to go all-in with Chaos worship (eating your enemies to get better at killing them? Khorne and Tzeentch approve), although Tau seldom take culture from their allied races.
8th Ed is here, and has confirmed that the Tau aren't immune to Chaos, just slightly difficult for Daemons to spot. When the Tau started the 4th Sphere Expansion with their new warp drives they didn't take a note from the Imperials' tech and failed to invent the Gellar Field too, meaning they were fully vulnerable to the Warp's denizens. The entire experience was hilarious. First was the unpredictability of their warp drives (known as "slipstream technology" to them) that caused most of their expeditionary fleet to be destroyed due to unleashing massive tears in the fabric of reality, while being broadcasted to the Tau sept worlds, causing the Ethereals to rapidly evacuate their bowels as they scramble to censor the event for the wider populace. Those that weren't immediately torn up by the warp rifts were sucked into the Warp where a vast majority was either destroyed after drifting in the more unsavory parts of the Warp or by the various daemons mucking about.
Contact was lost, but the Tau managed to find the survivors later, nestled into several worlds that were the original target for conquest. The Tau that survived, however, were acting weird. Some of them started shoving off the Greater Good, while some worshiped a voice that they claim to be the Greater Good itself (which may or may not be a warp entity), while some were outright driven insane. A disturbing trend about them was their total xenophobia and brutality. Any non-Tau who wasn't driven off from the 4th Sphere colonies were murdered for something that was telling the survivors that the auxiliaries were the reason for their loss and torment due to their more powerful connection to the Warp, so killing all non-Tau was the only way to ensure the survival of the Greater Good.
That being said, they're still hard for Daemons to see, considering that the Fourth Sphere dove into the Warp unprotected and "merely" got off with plain Chaos corruption when most people who try that shit critfails their anal circumference roll and either gets torn apart by daemon cocks or becomes a Chaos spaaauuuughgghblblblbbl. The weirdest part though is that the Warp itself didn't really bother thing. Daemons are one thing but the Warp itself fucks up anything unprotected. That's just its nature, like if you get in water you'll get wet without protection. But this event does still prove that the Chaos Gods can still influence the Tau with enough warp exposure, so it wouldn't be surprising if a few of them started going bughouse-nuts and began carving 8-pointed stars on their persons in the future. Especially with virtually the entire Death Guard and a large force of the Thousand Sons heading straight for the wormhole that links the Fourth Sphere colonies to the center of the Empire...
...and funny thing about that - the 8E Daemons Codex does mention one Tau agri-world that was cut off from supplies eventually succumbing to the native faith revering a certain "Rainfather" - Rotigus Rainfather, a notorious Great Unclean One.
On the subject, let's not forget that some soldiers are supposed to be driven insane just by looking at the more horrific daemons like Great Unclean Ones. Their immunity to this is probably GW incompetency as usual, Matt Ward/Phil Kelly levels of plot armor, or a combination of both.
|This article or section involves Matthew Ward, Spiritual Liege, who is universally-reviled on /tg/. Because this article or section covers Ward's copious amounts of derp and rage, fans of the 40K series are advised that if they proceed onward, they will see fluff and crunch violation of a level rarely seen.|
In 6th edition, Tau are notable for being one of two factions (the other being Imperial Guard) who can ally with anyone except for 'Nids. Yes, this includes both Chaos Space Marines and Chaos Daemons, although, according to the Farsight Enclaves supplement, Farsight rebelled because the Ethereals understand the existence of Chaos on some level, but keep it suppressed from the general populace so they're not entirely screwed. That sounds vaguely familiar... it is probably going to end about as well (although due to cultural differences likely in it's own distinct way); all of this is, of course, assuming that the 'nids don't NOM everything before the Tau get the opportunity to fuck their own shit up.
Their current level of naïveté leads to a few... interesting alliances, to say the least.
First off, Tau can ally with Orks, even though fluff-wise they are viewed as enemies of the Greater Good to be purged wherever encountered. Smaller Ork warbands (mostly Blood Axes) frequently act as mercenaries, of course, so the Tau might use them in that capacity. Plus, there might be fluff changes coming up (most notably, it was rumored that the Gretchin Revolutionary Committee would return in the new Orks codex; they, of course, would get along quite well with the Tau).
They are also battle brothers with both the Space Marines and Eldar, which has caused a large amount of headscratching on /tg/. The Eldar make a modicum of sense; after all, the Eldar most likely had a hand in their synthetic evolution and the creation of the Ethereals, and the Eldar are well known for being expert manipulators. A Tau-Space Marine alliance, though, would be odd, to say the least, since Tau and Space Marines are always going at it in the fluff. Of course, a minor chapter could always find an alliance with the Tau, or even join the Greater Good, but that seems far-fetched at best. Old fluff from back in the 3rd edition codex tells a story of a Tau commander letting an Apothecary remove the aul glands from dead Marines, establishing that the Tau are honourable warriors in the minds of this particular chapter. Isn't too hard to guess that someone at GW felt the battle brothers thing was a bit of a head-desk move, so they tried to fix it.
The weirdest part, though, is that Tau aren't Battle Brothers with the Imperial Guard, despite (or maybe because of) the existence of Gue'vesa (Imperial Guard defectors).
7th edition corrected all of this for the Tau, making them only battle brothers with themselves and certain allies of convenience, like Necrons and the Eldar, while the rest are desperate allies or, in the case of daemons and 'Nids, Come the Apocalypse. This effectively "fixes" the issue from the point of view of a butthurt puritan while still allowing for those who bought Tau models to include them as allies in their games.
8th edition totally destroyed any chance of Tau having allies in matched play games. Taudar is dead, thank fuck. It's almost like going around attacking everyone who refuses your offer of pseudo-enslavement is a bad way to make friends. Especially when you can't back it up.
Tau Member Races
The Tau are the only faction that willingly accept other races into their ranks. Typically, the races are extended a hand from the Water Caste first, and if they still pose a problem or otherwise refuse to be reasoned with, the Fire Warriors are sent in. It should be noted that tau usually are not in haste of annexing the world, and if the aliens don't want to join right now but aren't immediately hostile and open to trade, Water Caste would slowly but surely convert them into a Greater Good to the point that one day they themselves would ask to join the Empire. The species, when annexed or conquered, are usually allowed to keep their planet, but must answer to the authority of the local Ethereal and possibly the local Shas'o. Most of them are fluff and don't show up on the tabletop, but it would get a little ridiculous if you could purport to play a 'single' 40k race that included, like, twelve different races.
- Demiurg -
Squats reborn.NOT ANYMORE the Squats are back and not Demiurg at all! They are a race of space-faring miners specializing in ionic weaponry who serve the Tau with their engineering and mining abilities. They make an appearance in Battlefleet Gothic: Armada though, so that's nice.
- Galgs - Frog/Toad People who are regularly hired as mercenaries. No other information available. Probably Slann In Space.
- Gue'vesa - Humans who have not only defected to the Tau, but chosen to take up arms and fight alongside them to serve the Greater Good. Rules for them are found in Forge World's Imperial Armour Volume 3. (If the current trend goes on we may see Sisters join up with the Tau,
which might be an improvement for the Sisters.)*BLAM*HERESY!
- Hrenian - Alien mercenaries employed for their skills as light infantry. No other information available. Probably Skinks In Space.
- Ji'atrix - A spacefaring race. No other information available. (Dammit, GW writefags.)
- Kroot - Predatory gene-assimilating avian humanoids. They are the first alien race to be actively recruited by the Tau as mercenaries, and are so regularly hired that they have officially progressed to being considered Auxiliaries of the Tau forces.
- Mal'kor - Insectoid aliens, also known as Vespids, who are native to a gas giant planet within the Tau Empire. Serve as Auxiliaries.
- Morralian - Also known as "Deathsworn". No other information available.
- Nicassar - A voidfaring race of psykers and the only psychically-gifted species in the Tau Empire. The Tau have carefully hidden them away from the Imperium due to their (actually justifiable) psyker-phobia. Were the second alien species to join the Greater Good.
- Ranghon - No information available.
- Tarellian - These guys are basically Saurus IIIIN SPAAAAACE!!!!!! Not really part of the Empire, but rather mercenaries who will gladly fight humans and Tyranids on the cheap since the Imperium virus-bombed their home world and the Tyranids nommed their biggest colony.
- Poctroon - The first sapient species to be found by the Tau, they were "accidentally" driven extinct by Tau smallpox, and their planet just by coincidence was a great place to set a Sept World.
- Nagi - Brain worms that, due to their horrific appearance and inability to communicate, were attacked by the Fire Caste. They managed to sort it out, though, and now they work with the Ethereals as advisors (because having brain worms about as "advisors" isn't a bad idea or anything). They have been shown in a few books so far, and were involved in a "mind-rip" (guess outright calling it "rape" was too much) of a space marine POW, while being so self-righteous and smug about their mental superiority they could give Eldar a run for their money. Apparently they can also at least perceive the Warp (which they call "extra-dimensional space"), and probably manipulate it as well, and know enough about it to outright refuse to go anywhere near demonically-tainted Agrellan when the Tau invaded it.
- Ji'atrices, Morralians, or Ranghons are probably other Warhammer Fantasy Races In Space, such as Kroxigors or Trolls, given the overall tendency of the Tau to incorporate Fantasy races missing from 40k.
The usually genocidal actions of the other races, most notably the Imperium, also serve as a motivating factor for less-powerful races to join the Tau. While the Tau do seem a minor threat to the Imperium now, if the current policy continues, there will be more and more races joining up with the them if for no other reason than avoiding extermination. Of course, the Tau are just coming to realize how vast and powerful the Imperium really is, and while a lot of their member races really are the victims of crazy, evil, fascist extermination protocols. Sort of. Usually, the Imperium is entirely justified, though. Any species that the Imperium has no actual reason to wipe out is made a protectorate species, an ally, or allowed to be neutral by the Imperium or just plain ignored (which is usually the case, as many Imperial worlds have alien populations that nobody cares about and may even be traded with under careful regulation and supervision). The Tau were probably going to be wiped out due to the Eldar's involvement with them. An extermination attempt proven to have been justified judging by the number of Imperial worlds the Tau have conquered and the humans they've murdered. Even so, there's always the chance that a species responsible for a "Hell World" or "Nightmare World" might join up with the Tau, and the damage might be done before they realize their mistake...Good thing they haven't done anything stupid like leave a psychic species ali- oh wait. Well, at least they don't have Warp-sensitive brain worms in close proximity to their lead- oh wait...welp, they're fucked.
In a Nutshell
- The Stated Reason Why People Hate Tau
Weeaboo space confucianists (Asian Commies)—not grimdark enough.
- The Real Reason Why People Hate Tau
Until the edition update, this would, most assuredly, be Fish of Fury. Fuck, even most Tau players felt this was bullshit. Post-edition update, it was that certain undesirables felt that they were trying to take the mantle of the 40K universe's "rightful" Imperial protagonists. And because they are not choppy enough. And then 6th Edition codex came, and Tau became one of the shootiest armies in the shootiest edition ever, not to mention their ability to bitchslap cheesmongers, having straight counters against any of the Wardex bullshit. When the 7th edition came out they became overpowered AF and they took the title as the cheddar cheese of Warhammer. More generally, the Tau battle philosophy is "deny your opponent the chance to interact with you," which is a good philosophy for real soldiers but can make for frustrating or uninteresting gameplay.
Of course there's also the fluff side of things, and as mentioned above the Tau are given massive amounts of plot armour compared to everyone else in the setting, even the Space Marines which should give you an idea of how ludicrous it is. To use some examples and keep it short, The Tau have comparatively slow non-warp travel that would LOGICALLY mean the Imperium and everyone else have a gigantic advantage in space combat and logistics, never mind hit and run tactics, yet after the first few retcons of the Damocles Crusade this stopped being an issue. Even in cases where the Tau are stuck in a planet engulfed in a burning nebula that it's established they cannot fly through, they just go back home by flying through it. Add in battlesuits that are immune to anti-titan weaponry, the capability to conquer (in one day no less) and deport a hive world, where one human hive city has more humans than the entire T'au race and you start to see some issues. And of course none of this is even touching the fact that they have never lost a major battle, the worse fate they suffer being a stalemate, a stalemate which eventually transforms into a victory when the Imperium withdraws its forces to other theatres of war where they are desperately needed and the Tau just roll in and accomplish what they wanted anyway. These aren't helped by an interminable list of other assorted stupidities that would require their own separate page just to cover them all. Suffice to say for those who are more interested in the fluff their blatant titan grade plot armour can become somewhat infuriating.
- A Real Reason Why People Like Tau
The one race that isn't being a wall of dicks. If the Tau are trolling done by Games Workshop, then the target of said trolling was any fatbeard that needs a constant supply of grimdark to stay alive. Of course, the mind-influencing pheromones they use to conquer new worlds and their psycho-indoctrination mass re-education facilities will just have to be ignored if you don't want destroy your wishful thinking for a half-way decent faction to exist in 40k. But people have always been good at ignoring shit that doesn't fit into their perceived image of something. Though even considering those, it's saying something that they're still the nicest faction in 40k; they're just an awful oppressive empire, rather than a hyper-ultra terribad megadeath awful xenocidally oppressive empire, or some flavor of omnicidal maniacs
, or Eldar.
- Another Real Reason Why People Like Tau
Unlike many other races in 40k, the Tau are capable of fitting into many other sci-fi universes without much trouble, such as Star Trek where they would be at home alongside other peaceful yet tyrannical Factions like the Federation. Compare that to the Necrons or Eldar which would be both Roflstomps and completely different from all other groups in that Universe (though they might fit in Doctor Who).
- The Real Reason Why People Play Tau
- A Solid Reason People Don't Play Tau
They're fucking expensive. Seriously. On a points-per-pound level, they cost more than any other (plastic) army (we haven't even mentioned the financial aspect). This is doubly true if you like battlesuits, but of course you do because you're playing Tau.
- Helping Necrons? Or are they Necrontyr descendants?
An often overlooked issue is that Tau have almost no warp signatures, just like Necrons, hate Warpspawns and Warp in general (despite the fact that in 6E they can work with them...I just...I don't...WAAAARD!!!), just like Necrons, have the exact same skull shape, stature and short lives, and the overwhelming need for Technology and beam weapons, JUST LIKE NECRONS. GW may have planned a race that simply prepares a pacified, multiracial galaxy for Necrons to feast upon, supported by Ethereals that have a C'tan phase blade. Then there is a reference of "dark seed in east" by the Deceiver, so the tricky C'tan might give Tzeentch the finger in the JUST AS PLANNED competition. Or maybe GW just has so little creativity that they simply made a new civ conforming to an Old One's standards without knowing it. Given that recent murmurs have suggested that something absolutely massive is in the works at GW, anything could be possible, though past experience has led us to believe that it will simply be a Tau wearing a silly hat.
The good guys
High-tech, Mech-loving alien race who are the least grimdark of factions. Can't melee for shit but can blow you back to the stone age with ranged weaponry if you have the misfortune of being downrange. You will either love them or hate them because of all this, and many neckbeards do feel the butthurt. For some reason Tau females are awkwardly sexualized by a non-insignificant minority of fa/tg/uys, which has shown up in some draw- and writefaggotry. As the saying goes: "You can't spell TAUNT without TAU."
Unlike most other factions in 40k, Tau have no clear antecedent from Warhammer Fantasy. Some think the anime influences and rapid industrialization/militarization point towards Nippon; others feel the caste system might be related to the Kingdom of Ind. However, neither faction has ever been explored in great detail (or any detail at all), so it's impossible to say whether Tau are similar to those factions; instead, we must compare to the real-world equivalents of the Old World nations. Slightly more controversially, there are elements of Cathay (which is the Anglicized word for China back in the British Empire heyday, so yes) in the Tau. Cathay has been described as being technologically advanced (at least on par with the Empire), including terra-cotta automaton warriors (which the Chinese definitely used to make to pay homage to the First Chinese Emperor's over inflated ego, more than a millennia ago), although such comparison is stated by some to have already been implemented in the characterization of the Eldar and thus, is considered as seriously stretching up a notch.
More recently, some have connected the Tau and their subject races to other factions in Fantasy. The rapid evolution of the Kroot and their overall savagery is (somewhat) similar to the Gors of the Beastmen (although the Beastmen are in the 40k universe themselves). The Empire also shares the xenos-friendly viewpoint of the Tau, although they're not expansionistic, and decidedly less concerned with a unified government structure so long as everyone pays their taxes, for better or for worse. Others compare them to dwarves: dwarves don't use Chaos magic, are short, technologically advanced, kinda casty and blue (understood in many countries as "hopelessly drunk") basicly all the time. Tau don't use Chaos warp magic, are short, technologically advanced, very casty and blue all the time (in regards to skin colour). Both also get seriously grudgy and angry when you piss them off.
- Some have said that Tau resemble the protagonist KYNE from the Amiga video game Brataccas, which was released in 1986. Tau were first added to Warhammer 40k in late 2001. Some would dismiss this as coincidence, but Games Workshop has a long history of ripping off designs from other games; Beastmen are Broo from Glorantha, very large chunks of 40k are a little too similar to Judge Dredd, and all of the Greater Daemon model designs are stolen from early Dungeons & Dragons. These properties are understandable as Games Workshop was still selling games of those IPs when Warhammer was first created, but Brataccas is an obscure game from a forgotten system that was quite forgettable even at release, even if Amiga games tended to get fantastic cover art. This being said another of GW's early products was also puzzles of of this style of '70's/'80's Sci-Fi art. The Tau cast system does resemble the Protoss caste from Starcraft, which predates the release of the Tau by 3 years... You have the Templar (Fire/Air Castes) Judicators (Ethereals + Water Castes) and Khalai (Earth Caste). In addition to a rogue sub-caste in the Dark Templar (Farsight Enclaves). This is Ironic considering that GW originally was making a deal with Blizzard to make games based on their properties. GW asked too much/Blizzard didn't like the terms and left... to make Warcraft and Starcraft. Starcraft would have become a Rogue Trader RTS. It was probably a mistake on GW's part, as they REALLY missed out. Stealing the Tau from the Protoss was probably done because GW was still salty.
- Tau are technically canon to the Marvel Comics universe, as the series Venom: Space Knight repeatedly used Tau vehicles for aliens in the scenery. In fact, they have the balls to even keep the Tau Sept symbol! Also, you can see what appears to be a Eldar tank, as well as a Necron. The irony of the ripoff masters Games Workshop getting ripped off is juicy, even more so when its realized that lawsuit-happy Games Workshop (who literally tried to copyright "pauldrons" while they plagiarized Eldar from Tolkien and had some contention between two very similar Dark Elf characters of theirs) couldn't do shit about it because Marvel is owned by Disney, and nobody beats The Mouse™. (except Marvel/Disney settled out of court rather than risk the wrath of the Ordo Legalitus)
- El'Myamoto (Sub-commander Darkstrider)
- O'Shaserra (Commander Shadowsun)
- O'Shovah (Commander Farsight) and The Eight
- Commander Puretide
- Shas'o Kais
- Shas'o Or'es'Ka
- Sept V'iet
- Tau Quest
- Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior
- Tau Dark Heresy
- Tactics on how to play them.
- Tau Cadre Creation Tables
- Tau Diplomacy
Love Can Bloom 3:Golden ShadowsunNON-CANON FANFICTION GARBAGE
- A Typical Tau-Human conversation.
- Should one of your Tau actually kill anything tougher than a guardsman in melee, you are allowed to end the game in victory as long as you play this clip.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhXCQFxGqMM Theme of the T'au Empire. Admittedly, its actually pretty amazing, all things considered.
|This article contains PROMOTIONS! Don't say we didn't warn you.|
|Forces of the Tau|
|Command:||Cadre Fireblade - Ethereal - Ethereal Guard - Tau Commander|
|Troops:||Drone Squadron - Fire Warrior Team - Pathfinder Team|
|Auxiliaries:||Great Knarloc - Gue'vesa - Kroot Carnivore Squad - Kroot Hound |
Krootox - Lesser Knarloc - 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|
|Flyers:||Barracuda - Manta - Orca - Razorshark - Remora - Sun Shark - Tiger Shark|
|Heroes of the Greater Good|
|Ethereals:||Aun'Shi - Aun'Va|
|Fire Caste:||Commander Farsight - Commander Puretide |
Commander Shadowsun - El'Myamoto
|Dawn of War:||Shas'O Or'es'Ka - Shas'O Kais|
|Playable Factions in Warhammer 40,000|
|Imperium:||AdMech:||Adeptus Mechanicus - Mechanicus Knights|
|Army:||Imperial Guard - Imperial Knights - Imperial Navy - Militarum Tempestus - Space Marines|
|Inquisition:||Inquisition - Sisters of Battle - Deathwatch - Grey Knights|
|Other:||Adeptus Custodes - Adeptus Ministorum - Death Cults - Officio Assassinorum - Sisters of Silence|
|Chaos:||Chaos Daemons - Chaos Space Marines - Lost and the Damned - Renegade Knights|
|Xenos:||Aeldari:||Dark Eldar - Eldar - Eldar Corsairs - Harlequins - Ynnari|
|Tyranids:||Genestealer Cults - Tyranids|
|Others:||Necrons - Orks - Tau|
|Governments, Empires, Nations and Astropolitical Powers of the Galaxy|
|Imperial Powers:||Imperium of Man (Adeptus Mechanicus - Ultramar) - Squat Homeworlds|
|Renegade Powers:||Severan Dominate|
|Chaos Powers:||New Kingdom (Sortiarian Occupation - Prospero/Sortiarius) |
Blood Pact - Scourge Stars
|Eldar Powers:||Commorragh - Craftworlds (Alaitoc - Biel-tan - Iyanden |
Saim-Hann - Ulthwé)
|Necron Powers:||Atun Dynasty - Charnovokh Dynasty - Maynarkh Dynasty - Mephrit Dynasty |
Nekthyst Dynasty - Nephrekh Dynasty - Nihilakh Dynasty - Novokh Dynasty
Ogdobekh Dynasty - Oruscar Dynasty - Sautekh Dynasty - Szarekhan Dynasty
|Ork Powers:||Ork Empire of Charadon - Ork Empire of Octarius - Ork Empire of Bork |
Ork Empire of Dregruk - Ork Empire of Calverna - Ork Empire of Jagga
|Tau Powers:||Tau Empire - Farsight Enclaves|
|Other Powers:||Q'Orl Swarmhood - Fra'al|