Review: Codex - Tau Empire (Digital Edition) / Publisher: Games Workshop / Release Date: Out Now
The Tau are a faction in the Warhammer 40,000 game, and they recently got a much needed relaunch and overhaul, including new models and spanking new rules. This included a digital edition of their Codex, the specialist rules supplement required to play the game.
The background for the Tau Empire has been neatly expanded and in keeping with tradition, their story has gotten slightly darker in the retelling. Earlier editions made these young aliens a Star Trek-style race of explorers who have expanded through negotiation, trade and cultural exchange. Though these elements are still there, it’s more apparent that the Tau are now more an expansionist group of ambitious aliens who will stop at nothing to exploit the resources the universe has to offer. Their allies are a mix of dupes, mercenaries, genuine friends and mind-controlled slaves. The text is still vague enough to allow gamers to ultimately make up their own minds about the Tau, but the focus does present them more as upstart bullies rather than enlightened adventurers. The work is also peppered with plenty of references to other alien races and their diversity; there’s a sense that there are many different shapes and types of being in the Tau Empire, and this is quite refreshing. Sadly this aspect is not well reflected in the artwork and it is certainly not present in the rules.
Those familiar with previous editions of the game will remember that the Tau Empire had units from other alien races, namely the Kroot and Vespid. Though these are still present, they don’t get much of an update rules-wise and feel more like a footnote. The focus instead is on the Tau themselves, and they have a high-tech feel, with powerful (but highly experimental) robot battlesuits, incredibly well equipped frontline units and a wide range of vehicles, most of which fly or at least hover. They show up in stark contrast to the game’s most popular faction, the Space Marines; the Tau Empire is all chrome and plasma whereas the Space Marines are skulls and bullets. This is reflected strongly in the special rules for the Tau; the various bonuses and advantages they have are all named after their technology. The playstyle of the Tau is all about ranged combat and coordinated fire, but also encourages highly tactically thinking. Various options allow for a rapid re-think of strategy, and this make the Tau of interest to anyone who likes thinking on their feet.
The digital edition is essentially the same book as the hardcover; it has all the same information, pretty pictures and photographs. Its key advantage is that the layout is exceptionally well thought out and one can easily swoop from background information to rules to specific statistics and back again with the swipe of a finger. This is rather handy in play. It does require that you have an iPad (sadly it is not available on Android), but if you’re lucky enough to own such a gadget then it really is quite nifty, and makes play much easier.