|This article or section involves Plot Armor so asinine, that its sheer bullshittery warps and breaks the very fabric of the setting's universe. Expect Rage, Butthurt and accusations of Mary Sue being flung around in an endless Skub debate. THEY MAKE IT HAPPEN. You have been warned.|
Approximately over 300 worlds
|Head of State||
|Head of Government||
Caste-Based Authoritarian Federation
Tau Fire Caste, Tau Air Caste, Kroot and Vespid Forces, The Deathsworn, Hrenian Light Infantry, Demiurg Forces, Nicassar Forces, Gue'vesa Forces and other minor Xenos armies, The Kor'Vattra and it's auxiliary fleets
"I'll say this about the T'au, they know how to put on a good war."
"Ce qui constitue une République, c'est la destruction 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
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
- – C.S Lewis
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, nowadays spelled T'au by GW copyright lawyers as if that somehow fixes anything (many nicknames include "uncreative retards" if you are an Eldar, "blueskinned atrocity" if you're a Human, "bluies", as the Valhallan 597th call them, or "Space Communists" as anyone on /tg/ will tell you) 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 300 worlds, with dozens more small colonies and outposts, packed into a stellar cluster about 500 light years across. They have about 21 official "Septs" which are major systems based around a cultural 'prime' planet (think Manhattan then the tri-state area). 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.
The Ethereals are basically like "upper management" if upper management worked... or maybe HR if they didn't just 'klkn' [fancy tau word for F'ed] everyone over. The Ethereals actually care about the people that look up to them as they set mandates across their society, which the castes strive to fulfill.
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 shitloads 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 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. (though classyfing Orks and Tyranids as being Exterminatus on sight is a pretty good assessment honestly)
As a result you now have a new generation of weebos running around thinking that the Tau actually don't give a fuck about their people and would actually kill their own kind for things like... sculpting [like really, if you do art outside of the Earth caste you just disappear] which would make the Tau the least functioning society in 40k as whole swathes of their own population are routinely exterminated for fixing their crisis suits so they don't drown or pull a pistol out to protect children (things that actually happened).
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.
An interesting contradiction arises because the Tau have annexed (sometimes peacefully) entire Hive Worlds, meaning the Tau might actually be a cat’s paw to a human civilization by now. This is because a single modestly-sized hive world probably boasts a larger population than the entire Tau species combined (with one hive city on a world at one point being noted for outright having a population higher than the Tau species, much to the horror of a Tau diplomat), along with an industrial capacity to match- not to mention the fact that the Tau willingly give their tech and knowledge to races who have been subsumed into the Greater Good. It seems that Games Workshop has not yet realized this problem.
- 1 "Naive Weeaboo Space Communists"
- 2 Military Doctrine
- 3 Fleet
- 4 Non-combat Fluff
- 5 Alliances
- 6 Tau Member Races
- 7 Skub, controversy and hurt-butts
- 8 In a Nutshell
- 9 TL;DR
- 10 Warhammer Fantasy
- 11 Trivia
- 12 Notable Tau
- 13 See Also
- 14 External Link
- 15 Gallery
- 16 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 naïve 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 a race in its infancy, just staggering out of its borders for the first time and wandering into a pond full of sharks (most Eldar philosophers admit their own race has failed, the humans are failing, and add that the Tau are in for a rude awakening). If the sharks arrayed against the Tau think of them at all, it is surely as dinner.
In older fluff [a single book that was so off the rails it said Tau had toes and no nasal slits], 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 Ethereals’ 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 (
a big red flag of bullshit, since the Tau are nothing if not creative needing the Eldar to reverse-engineer Imperial colony ships for you and teach you everything is NOT "creative", it is the opposite, pay attention before opening your mouth. What part of "uplifted" do you not understand?). This older fluff also said that 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 other aliens are affected merely by being in the vicinity of an Ethereal. In the current fluff, the Eldar backstory and Ethereals-controlling-other-races theory seem to have been cast aside as nonsense and are no longer canon. The Farsight Enclaves exist literally because of this mind-influence, they are in rebellion against the ethereals due to learning of this. And nothing has removed the backstory of the Tau. In fact, lore regarding those bug aliens near Terra only increases the strength of this lore, in addition to study of ethereal biology.
The Tau's generally-optimistic fluff, combined with their highly advanced technology, distinctly "Eastern" combat doctrine (that is often reminiscent of Sun Tzu's "Art of War"), 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. /Tg/ has rightly dubbed the Tau Weeaboo (as much due to their Asian-ness as anything else) as a result.
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.
The Tau treat their member species with an unusual amount of autonomy and respect while also keeping them as second-class citizens with no say in the Tau government. There is no restriction on religion or cultural uniqueness so far as it doesn't interfere with the greater good: Humans may still worship the Emperor, Nicassar can continue exploring the universe and Kroot can continue to ingest the dead; so it's a pretty broad stroke of acceptability.
What is terrifying and an excellent twist on the Tau is that member races and the individual is kept from 'choice'. So if you suck, like you're just bad at everything, you're not going to be offed or turned into corpse starch. You are simply given a 1 bedroom apartment, universal healthcare, and a broom. And that's it. You don't get to be a hero, you don't get to rise above your worth, and this is all decided by an alien society. If you dare step outside of these boundaries, then you're given a couple chances. First you're sent to reeducation. Do it again and you might get some beneficial brain washing... and so on. But death? Certainly not, because what purpose would that serve? Unless they deem you a lost cause.
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 practice 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: 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 are 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 that they have mastered the ways of war while their foes are mired in ignorance. Although, the lore mostly depicts the Tau, including their leadership, as utterly unaware of anywhere remotely near how horribly outmatched the Tau really are. It says a lot about the major factions that the Tau have glimpsed only a tiny fraction of their enemies' power, believe that is the whole of said power, and believe they are tremendously outmatched but will be victorious due to Manifest Destiny. Ignorant of the true power they face.
What is for sure though is that whatever part of the political spectrum they'd fall 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 devoid of ethereals, making it a meritocratic semi-democracy. The problem is, depending on who you ask Farsight may be either a hero in self-imposed exile or a single-minded military dictator, much the way Optimus Prime is sometimes depicted. Farsight's government is 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 (in all likelihood, no force was ever sent, because Tau don't kill each other and because Farsight is useful enough where he is, even if he's in rebellion).
Of course, the Farsight Enclaves are a fan favorite, mostly because on the table top he was one of the only ways to make an all battle suit army but we digress. The books he's featured in portray Farsight more as a guy that is incredibly depressed about his own mistakes and thinks that the Tau Empire is too inclusive and needs to learn how to grimdark better.
However, the new codex has HEAVILY downplayed Tau 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 do still employ them as mercenaries in small numbers, and the Water Caste considers the Orks one of their biggest failures.
- Tyranids unsurprisingly ended up on "shoot on sight" list pretty much after the first contact. Unlike the Orks, the Tau have experienced the full and unadulterated rape train that is a Hive Fleet in the form of Gorgon which took a bite out of their Empire (lost something like 10% of it) as well as an ally species called the Ulumeathic League who might be completely wiped out.
- Eldar briefly were on the list too, owning this to the first contact being made by the Drukhari, and not just any, but Urien Rakarth himself. Eventually the Craftword Eldar intervened, and the Tau realized that not all space-elves are insane rapists. Although the Tau ended up accidentally destroying a Maiden World, likely making permanent enemies of Saim Hann in the process, they also had some positive dealings with Lugganath to finish off Hive Fleet Gorgon. Interestingly, the Dark Eldar were supposed to be the original nemesis of the Tau when they were originally released.
- Space Marines were introduced to the Tau during the Damocles wars. Marines represent an interesting case to the Tau because while it's possible to reason and even negotiate with them, Water caste psychoanalysts have determined that Astartes aren't people but merely weapons and as such have no place in Tau'Va.
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. It should be noted that the Water Caste has turned more worlds to join the Empire then the Fire Caste. Technically, the Imperium does have protectorate species as well, but very few because most aliens are batshit insane, flat-out evil, or space monsters. Of which, almost all have been exterminated by the Imperium, which is probably why the Tau are so ignorant of what xenos are generally like. Talk about irony.
Additionally, you don't have to join the Empire to benefit from trade agreements and non-aggression pacts. For example, the Demiurge traded ion-tech for refuge from the ever xenophobic Imperium, but there doesn't seem to be any indication they've actually 'joined' the Empire.
Regardless of who you are, if you join the Tau Empire they will genuinely try and do their best to take care of you because they think, in their hubris, that they know best. Provided you join or “join” their Greater Good under their leadership. Everyone else is killed. Presumably because death is better than not being dictated to by the Tau.
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.
The Tau military is basically the cherished love child of the United States military and its Japanese anime waifu.
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. In addition, the Tau's body is adapted for flying — prehistoric Tau had gliding flaps like flying squirrels — thus compared to almost all other major races Tau have less muscle strength (heck, less body mass in general), have lower reaction speed, and are hyperopic/farsighted. In their initial design it was said in their first White Dwarf that they are a race that adopted the bow and arrow rather than how humanity adopted the sword.
That said, Tau do practice martial arts - Fire Warrior trials and rites involve knives. 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 fighting style, as Aun'Shi has shown to some unfortunate Orks (keep in mind Aun'shi trained against Shas'Vre to get that good). And although the average Tau is indeed slightly weaker than an average human, they're still close enough to be Strength 3 just like Imperial Guardsmen. It's just that close combat is not their strong suit and they would rather fall back on guns than blades.
The Tau 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. 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.
The Tau's superior firepower is similar to that of the Imperial Guard, but their strategy is much different, with an emphasis on tactical precision, mobility, the application of technology, and the initiative of individual units. Their military doctrine is not based on winning by attrition, not just because they disdain it but also because they simply can't afford it. Therefore they take great pains to avoid the bloody epic clusterfucks that characterize the style of warfare that is preferred by other factions such as the Imperium and Orks. In short, Tau use modern warfare tactics and strategies in a universe where everyone else fights like it's WW2.
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 exceptions 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.
The Tau space navy is strong for its size, and Tau warships are quite powerful on a one-for-one basis. Tau air units are among the best in the game as well, with aircraft that are equal to and often superior to their 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 freely deploy flyers in very large numbers, with only Orks, Tyranids, and perhaps Necrons able to rival them in numbers when it's time to dogfight. Of course this is the way the Imperial fleets' atmospheric support craft are supposed to work too 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 large numbers of hunter cadres and auxiliary troops. This allows such worlds to act as major defensive nodes from which response fleets can be 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). 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 distinct advantage the Tau have is their willingness to change military strategy without ego. 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 warp drives from an unknown faction that crashed a starship on one of their home world's moons. Using their gravitic wave technology (think a sail) they used this to skim the surface of the warp before bouncing back to the Materium after a short while (1/3 the speed of optimal Imperial warp drives).
New fluff, on the other hand, has retconned that by giving them what is called a "slingshot drive" or "skip drive." 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 highly reliable interstellar logistics lines over short distances, but their strategic mobility is... lacking, to say the least. Compared to pretty much every other faction the Tau move at an absolute snail's pace, hence the reason why their worlds are so tightly packed together. Of course, if the slingshot 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 that this technology is a dead end, a stopgap solution at best.
Additionally, slingshot drives are rather big, heavy, and power-hungry, even compared to the Warp drive (which itself can constitute 1/3 the volume of an Imperial ship). 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, fast, powerful and durable for their size) without their major downside (being incapable of FTL flight). Tau FTL limitations mean that they have to be more precise in how they concentrate their forces; 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. This is 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 the Imperium's fleet in straight up combat, after Kor'Vatra got run over during the Damocles crusade. Made out of more compact, maneuverable and better armored ships, it may lack Kor'Vatra's wide arcs of fire, but is superior in every other regard, and as the Taros and second Damocles campaigns showed, it is more than 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, Imperial warships are, as they are when compared to most other factions, far superior. The problem for the Imperium is, like always, those warships 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”) and make room for colonization. Needless to say, that plan was promptly fucked up. By an unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your viewpoint) coincidence which almost certainly involved the dickery of Tzeentch or Cegorach or something, warp storms started hitting the entire galaxy, right around the rise of Vandire, which 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. By then, the Tau had expanded to fill out the 'Cluster', colonizing hundreds of planets and incorporating dozens of alien races. They were put back on the radar when the Imperium found out their border worlds Kleist and Garrus, and probably a bunch of others, changed sides and gave up on Terra.
The Damocles Crusade was launched. 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! once or twice 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 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 galaxy 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. When this doesn't work, the Tau outright conquer 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 love lost between the Imperium and the Tau, but open full-scale war is probably unlikely in the near-future after the stalemate of the Second Damocles Crusade and the veritable host of far greater existential threats that the Imperium is currently facing.
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... And lo and behold, they done got buttfucked by the Death Guard! But it's not all bad as they've found a cure for 1st generation Genestealer infections and they've finally broken out of their nook with the 5th Sphere; one of their biggest fears was being stuck in a globular cluster because one super nova could still put the kibosh on the whole thing.
However things turn out, as they continue to expand the Tau will inevitably see renewed clashes with the factions arrayed against them.
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,
eugenics Heresy. This was outlawed by the Ethereals presumably to preserve the biological differences between castes; the result is the creation of 5 sub-species. Tau society does have many examples of romance, and there are designations of 'pair' bonding at least amongst the Earth Caste. The Tau have children which they both raise and also send to the creches but they seem to monitor birth rates (likely to match resource levels as well as provide an additional level of social engineering).
There also seems to be a tribal system that remains from pre-Caste days that we don't know too much about. We know that bloodlines have some kind of importance, but as a meritocracy, it does not have a bearing on social constraints. They also can have relatively large families, Shadowsun had three sisters for example.
Breeding is managed by the Earth Caste, but, there is at least one instance where a pair-bond has their own child, so perhaps there is a degree of choice (if real caste systems are any guide, the Earth Caste probably only cares about the castes and septs the pair come from). Otherwise, Tau are paired in a way that will create the best biological result. 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 as the Tau make extensive use of things like advanced medicines and treatments. /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 remains a mystery.
It is very important to note that a Tau's caste is inherited from the parents, and under no circumstances can a Tau's caste be changed. On one hand, this helps explain why Tau forbid inter-caste mating. On the other, it means that the Caste system applies only to the Tau themselves. Aliens have no caste to inherit, and thus can never be inducted into a Tau caste. This remains true no matter how many generations pass. Therefore, while aliens within the Tau Empire are certainly able to rise to positions that hold great responsibility and respect while living lives of relative freedom, they will forever remain outside the caste system. And because the caste system inherently favors the Tau, it is an ugly little secret of the Empire that for all their talk of equality, aliens remain somewhat second-class citizens compared to the Tau themselves. Obviously, the Tau don't care to discuss such topics.
Not just genes but also certain knowledge and skills are forbidden from exchange in Tau society. A Fire Warrior attempting to learn how to repair his Battlesuit just as likely to be *BLAM*'d as a Guardsman who tries to fix his own Sentinel instead of begging a Tech Priest. Unlike the Imperium for the Tau, this is not a question of religious dogma. But Etheral control, by segregating the society it becomes impossible for the Tau to ever unify without their masters and leaves each caste at the mercy of its siblings. Sound familiar?
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 the Tau first 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). Whether or not Fire Caste members are actually "overly aggressive" compared to other kinky, horrid, Earthshatteringly mad, batshit insane, bloodthirsty individuals and groups is a matter of debate. On the other hand, it also shows how calm and disciplined other castes are as well as the importance of the balance that the Ethereals bring to the Tau. Part of this aggression might be down to the Tau concept of being "between spheres" where Tau who act too much like a member of a caste they aren't part of are punished. Leading to an army with few to no diplomatic officers because if you don't fight like a constipated World Eater your not seen as manly enough to survive.
Generations of Etheral mandated eugenics have bred the Fire Warriors taller than Earth Caste Tau, and physically stronger than the Air and Water Castes, though they remain slightly shorter than the average human and about as strong. A far cry from the Gue'ron'sha they consider their human equivalent.
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 as well as artwork which they incorporate into their creations. They are also scientists and work hand in hand with the Water Caste to develop new technologies (like the rail rifle).
The Farsight Enclaves field some Earth Caste pilots for their battlesuits, demonstrating their more flexible caste systems and/or their desperation for manpower but there are examples of Earth Caste work teams being able to defend themselves in a pinch.
The Air Caste are the aerospace specialists of the Tau. In more primitive times they served as messengers and couriers, and sometimes scouts/explorers, gliding on membranous anatomical wings like flying squirrels through T'au's atmosphere (although this might be a myth). When the Tau started exploring offworld, it was the Air Caste that took charge of the vessels traveling between the stars and became tall with super frail physiques due to zero-g living. 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.
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). They also, clearly, have engineer and military classes as they live in Air Caste cities made up of their own population; going to show that Castes have multiple cross overs for responsibilities rather than anything as rigid as the Farsight books describe.
The Water Caste are the emissaries of the Tau. They are diplomats, merchants, and 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 so that the Fire Caste can 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 lesser 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. This is because the Water caste's skill in subterfuge, diplomacy and propaganda has cost the Imperium more worlds and manpower than the Fire and Air caste's military prowess combined. They even managed to totally outplay the Inquisition on its own field, which royally pissed them off, even turning an Inquisitor (O'Va'Dem) to their side, as seen in the novel Broken Sword.
The Air Caste also do a quite a lot of things like leading exploration initiatives like the one that discovered the Kroot empire as it was getting rickrolled by the Orks, and fought for their liberation for 12 years.
The Ethereal Caste are basically the philosopher-kings described by Plato in "The Republic". In theory, they are selfless and always focused on what is best for the Greater Good ("Tau'va") for all 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....... The Tau laugh at this suggestion, of course. 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 pheromone... 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 (that's because Phil Kelly wrote it). Yet, then there is another example of Aun'shi who hides his ridge crest so that none of the other Tau know he's an Ethereal.
You pick which is more likely- clearly GW can't.
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.
...so it doesn't matter.
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 (which is bullshit), but the Magister is then banished by Farsight carving a bloody hexagram into its chest with his bonding knife (Imperium Hexagrammic Wards don't even work that way, but fuck other writers, am I right phil?). 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.
...Which begs the question, "Why?" Why would the Ethereals care about revealing the truth about Daemons when the Tau have been fighting Daemons for hundreds of years? They don't have religion, they don't feed the Warp, daemons should have nothing to fuck-do with the Tau except as a speed bump to somewhere-else-ville. This replay of the Emperor's rule book is just more lazy writing.
Farsight originally lost his Ethereals and kept going because he though he knew better than them and because he was still butthurt from Arkunasha. He's guilty of believing he knows what is best for his fellow renegades, and he's probably not wrong... so he stays out beyond the Gulf so that he can continue the fight.
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 his actual name was.
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 DO have souls, but their souls cast such a dim light in the Warp that they are, at best, indistinguishable from the spirits of non-sapients, and at times they even blend into the psychic background of inanimate objects. This may have something to do with how unemotional Tau are, as some of the more descriptive bits of fluff demonstrate how warp shenanigans like faint whispers and creeping feelings of "wrongness" may cause humans to freak out and try to run away immediately, the more calm and collected Tau don't notice anything strange at all. Likewise, if a psyker 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 at all, but in the unlikely event that they were somehow successful, 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 reinforced through the subtle control exerted by the Ethereals. Tau'Va is the antithesis of all the creeds of Chaos, which makes Tau all but immune to its temptations, and only two Tau have ever actually fallen to Chaos. The first was the Water Caste member Water Spider, who was possessed by a Daemon of Tzeentch - although, rather amusingly, the daemon forced Water Spider to become obsessed with the truth, something abhorrent to the Water Caste. The second was Shas'la Kais. Though Kais was untained in the video game adaptation, 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. This left 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 sometimes been known to go all-in with Chaos worship, 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 rather 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 had clearly rejected 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 because something was telling the survivors that the auxiliaries were the reason for their loss and torment due to their more powerful connection to the Warp.
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 critfail their anal circumference roll and either gets torn apart by daemon cocks or becomes a Chaos spaaauuuughgghblblblbbl.
Also, 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.
As always, any inconsistency on how the Tau are, or aren't, affected by Warp exposure is entirely GW's fault.
|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.
Their current level of naïveté led 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 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 progenoid glands from dead Marines, establishing that the Tau are honourable warriors in the minds of this particular chapter. It isn't too hard to guess that someone at GW felt that 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.
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. Though These do make good excuses if you want to use different models as a proxy.
- Demiurg -
Squats reborn. NOT ANYMORE the Squats are back and not Demiurg at all!They might have been retconned into being part of the new Squats, it's still unclear. 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 - NOT FROG/TOAD people, big internet snafu here. They have tentacles and chose not to fight the Tau when they realized they'd get steamrolled by the Fire Caste.
- 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! They also have planets with generations of humans that have never known the Imperium.
- 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. They have colonization rights and can 'kroot-form' planets.
- Mal'kor - Insectoid aliens, also known as Vespids, who are native to a gas giant planet within the Tau Empire. Serve as Auxiliaries and are considered in extremely high regard by the Fire Caste. They have colonization rights too.
- 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 and have been described by the Deathwatch as an Alpha threat because they can empathically create memories in even Space Marines (can make them think they remember their mother's face for example). Described as having big, bird like heads with beaks.
- Ranghon - No information available. No relation to these guys.
- 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 sentient 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; Bork'an.
- 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 how a lot of their member races really are the victims of crazy, evil, fascist extermination protocols. Usually, the Imperium is entirely justified, though. There's always the chance that a species responsible for a "Hell World" or "Nightmare World" might try to join up with the Tau, and the damage that might be done before the Tau realize their mistake would be tremendous. Good thing the Tau 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.
Skub, controversy and hurt-butts
Twelve year old fluff (from Dawn of War, supported by Deathwatch supplements) has them controlling population growth and habitation of 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 just be dead.
The Tau have a few hundred planets after a handful were eaten by Tyranids (discounting allied held worlds and worlds with a minor presence). This used to be two dozen. Despite this, GW writers and fanfiction nerds alike have this strange habit of treating them like a major faction. Most writers don't seem to 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, given the Tau Empire's current situation. Hopefully the Tau Empire will grow 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 controversial 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 where the PDF alone would be large enough to give the entire Fire Caste a serious headache.
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. 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. Such bullshit. There were like three or four of these suits, by the way.
Another example 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 and its supply lines during the second Damocles Crusade and engages the Tau using formations and tactics that cater to the Tau in the extreme (this is especially egregious in the finale). There is even an instance in which an assassin forgets to use her gun to instantly kill her target. Even the Marines aren't immune to this sudden stupefying aura. Space Marine Terminators wielding storm shields are seen shot and killed because they were too busy telling each other to raise their shields up to block the Tau's shots instead of just raising their shields up to block the fucking shots.
There are numerous other things too. 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.
Heck, they even cracked the Codex Astartes so they're familiar, in theory, with any tactic that an adherent to that text might use. Something no enemy has been able to do. Not Eldar, not Necrons, not Chaos, no one. Not even Primarchs.
In a Nutshell
|This article or section contains opinions shared by all and/or vast quantities of Derp. It is liable to cause Rage. Take things with a grain of salt and a peck of Troll.|
- The Stated Reasons Why People Hate Tau
Weeaboo space confucianists — not grimdark enough.
- The Real Reason Why People Hate Tau
|This article or section covers stupidly cheesy and/or broken crunch that gives powergamers and munchkins a serious hard-on at the expense of everyone else. It is extremely likely to cause Rage in whoever goes against it. So don’t use it, you dick.|
Long ago, the single thing that people hated most about the Tau was undoubtedly the Fish of Fury tactic. Years later people are STILL bitching about it. Fuck, even most Tau players felt it was bullshit. (The flames have been stoked again due to 9E accidentally reviving it.) That and T'au are consistently considered Cheese by casual players who bitch and moan about how their army got blown off a featureless table by a Tau'Dar list in 6E and how you are That Guy for using them. Never mind that the Tau have been nerfed into oblivion in the last three editions and as of 9E they are strictly bottom-tier.
Still, back in the heady days of 6th Edition codex, the Tau were one of the shootiest armies in the shootiest edition of 40k ever. On top of that they had powerful abilities to bitchslap cheesemongers, having hard counters against any of the Wardex bullshit. More generally, the Tau battle philosophy even to this day 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.
Listing the rest of the insane lore armor and other 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
They are the one race that aren't complete dicks. Of course, their mind-influencing pheromones, psycho-indoctrination, and 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. Even with the warts, it's saying something that they're still the nicest faction in 40k; they're just a regular oppressive empire, instead of a hyper-ultra terribad megadeath awful xenocidally oppressive empire, or some flavor of insane, omnicidal dystopia.
- Another Real Reason Why People Like Tau
Most races in 40k (especially the humans) are themed around "feudalism in the future" with a big dose of societal and doctrinal regression. In other words, "we might be in space, but we have peasantry like medieval serfdoms and fight like crusaders with guns." By contrast, the Tau are themed around a real sense of futuristic progress. The Tau aim to create a proper post-scarcity economy (that's why they use robots for manual labor while the Imperium uses literal slaves) and theme their tactics around the modern US Military (the Tau would rather spend bullets than lives, while the Imperium is the opposite). Although, everyone else began like the Tau and learned the hard way. And to be fair, the Imperial Guard was never designed to be used aggressively and has very much been a fish out of water for ten thousand years. The Tau have not yet encountered that. As an interesting side effect, 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 Factions like the Dominion. 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).
In short: unlike the Imperium, the Tau are the best faction for scratching the future-tech itch of your favorite speculative fiction escapism. The Tau push for innovation and better technology also leads into our next point:
- The Real Reason Why People Play Tau
Arguably they have the most powerful guns in the game. Often twin-linked. Often on cool-looking robot battlesuits. Also markerlights. Also RAPETIDE. Tau players may also have a tendency towards sadism (or, as of 8th/9th, masochism).
- 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.
- A Solid Reason People Do Play Tau Despite that Solid Reason Why They Wouldn't
Tau armies are one of the easier choices to paint. They're not quite on the level of the Custodes, but the generally "clean" appearance of Tau miniatures means it's not difficult to make their minis look good with novice painting skills.
The good guys
High-tech, Mech-loving alien race who are the least grimdark of factions (or used to be at least). 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, the Tau have no clear analogue from Warhammer Fantasy throughout its tabletop lifespan, or Age of Sigmar as of the present. One could argue that Cathay in Total War: Warhammer is the closest analogue the Tau will get, especially the whole being united under a powerful group of strange individuals worshiped as demigods and the Asian influence. Since elements of Total War's Cathay will be back-ported into Warhammer: The Old World, this might change. Nippon would be a better fit, but whether they'll ever see the light of Total War is up to Creative Assembly and GeeDubs.
Gav Thorpe has stated that he was inspired by the Eldar article in White Dwarf 127 to invent a new species called the Shishell (or more specifically the Shissellian League) and they were "Lizardmen In Space" with a society based around five castes – Earth, Air, Fire and Water, and a fifth called Spirit. Fast forward to 1999/2000 and GW was preparing to create a new army for Warhammer 40000. They decided to quietly dismiss the Shishell concept (because, like the Squats, who were largely dismissed, and the Hrud, who were retconned appearance-wise, they didn't want the game to be "Warhammer Fantasy in space") and then borrow the caste/element system to use as a foundation stone for the Tau's lore (who were originally called the Tao at that point in time).
In closing, the Tau's closest counterpart(s) in Fantasy right now are Cathay in terms of aesthetics, and the Lizardmen in terms of military/social structure, a bizarre hybrid of elements that came before and after the Tau were introduced to 40k.
- 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. Alternatively, Protoss were always intended to be Eldar in the 40K interpretation of Starcraft and any similarities to the Tau are coincidental. Which is then funnier when you realise the Protoss are based on the Eldar that the Eldar are ripped off of Tolkien and that the Eldar supposedly helped push/create Tau society.
- 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 prior contention between two very similar Dark Elf characters of theirs who even shared the same name) couldn't do shit about it because Marvel is owned by Disney, and nobody beats The Mouse™.
- GW and Marvel/Disney settled out of court. A bit sad, a true battle between Daredevil and She-Hulk versus the Ordo Legalitus would have been cool. Interestingly this deal ended with GW and Marvel publishing several 40k comics, starting with a Marneus Calgar comic in 2020 and a Sisters of Battle comic in 2021, so the Tau might be canon again after all...
- 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
- Tau Tactics (9e)
- Sept V'iet
- Tau Quest
- Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior
- Tau Dark Heresy
- Tau Cadre Creation Tables
- Tau Diplomacy
Love Can Bloom 3:Golden ShadowsunNON-CANON FANFICTION GARBAGE
Tau Lexicon: *
- 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 - Stealthsuit Team|
|Auxiliaries:||Gue'vesa - Kroot (Great Knarloc - Kroot Carnivore Squad - Farstalker Kinband |
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 - Hover Chair - 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
|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 - Chaos Knights|
|Xenos:||Aeldari:||Dark Eldar - Eldar - Eldar Corsairs - Harlequins - Ynnari|
|Tyranids:||Genestealer Cults - Tyranids|
|Others:||Necrons - Orks - Tau - Leagues of Votann|
|Governments, Empires, Nations and Astropolitical Powers of the Galaxy|
|Imperial Human Powers:||Imperium of Man (Adeptus Mechanicus - Ultramar)|
|Other Human Powers:||Severan Dominate - Leagues of Votann|
|Chaos Powers:||New Kingdom (Sortiarian Occupation - Prospero/Sortiarius) |
Blood Pact - Scourge Stars
|Eldar Powers:||Commorragh - Craftworlds (Alaitoc - Altansar - 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 Xenos Powers:||Q'Orl Swarmhood - Fra'al Satrapies|