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Warhammer 40K: Tau Fall Back and Shoot – Without the Controversy

6 Minute Read
Jan 26 2021

Let’s discuss the issue of Fall Back and shoot, and how Games Workshop may choose to implement this ability in 9th edition for T’au.

I talked about how the changes to the Mont’ka rule will affect the T’au Empire. As we all know, the T’au Empire is one of the worst performing factions at the moment, and anything that improves the faction is a step in the right direction. Of course, the community still disagrees on whether Mont’ka now grants the ability to Fall Back and shoot. Again, I’m not going to talk about that point in this article. There are plenty of other places to have that discussion.

T’au fans will know that one unit in the army can indeed Fall Back and shoot — and it can do so without a hint of controversy over this rule or that rule. And this unit is the Y’vahra Battlesuit. Indeed, the recent update to the Imperial Armour book reworked the Y’vahra Battlesuit in a number of ways, but I would argue that the most significant was the change to the Nova Reactor rules. For the cost of a mortal wound, the T’au player may choose one of three abilities, one of which adds 12″ to the Y’vahra’s movement and grants the ability to Fall Back and shoot.

When this update was released a couple of months back, there was a lot of consternation about the fact that the Y’vahra’s flamer had been reduced from three Damage down to one. This was, for a number of reasons, somewhat frustrating, and I wrote something to that effect at the time, but I would say that the precedent that GW set with the new Nova rules is much more interesting.

I don’t think that it would be too farfetched to predict that the Riptide might have a similar Nova Reactor ability in the new codex. Whether it would add 12″ to the Riptide’s movement for a turn is more doubtful — the Y’vahra is a faster model — but we could certainly see the ability to Fall Back and shoot. And what’s more, I think that this would be good way to solve the issue of the Riptide being tagged in combat. The T’au player would have a choice between staying in combat and using the Nova ability to charge up the Heavy Burst Cannon or jumping out of combat and sacrificing the extra shots for more movement and more targets. Of course, I’m presuming that the other Nova Reactor abilities remain the same, which is far from a safe bet, but let’s put that point to one side for now.

I’ve written on many occasions that giving players more choices in 40k is usually a good thing, and in this case I think that it certainly would be. Remaining in combat would have its benefits and its drawbacks. Dropping back from combat would have its benefits and its drawbacks. T’au players would be forced to decide between two distinct options. At the moment, however, the T’au player usually only has one option: stay in combat and shoot. Falling Back and losing the ability to shoot for a turn is seldom a good choice.

The Riptide, then, could gain this ability in the 9th edition codex. I think that it’s certainly plausible. But would any other units get something similar? Riptides are great, but no one — including many T’au players — wants another triple Riptide build to be the best option in the codex. We’d like at least a little variation.


One solution would be to grant a Fall Back and shoot ability to any model with the Jetpack keyword. At the moment, this keyword has very little practical impact on the faction, so there’s plenty of scope to do more with it. However, I think that this would be a very 8th edition solution to the problem of T’au in 9th edition. In 8th, almost all of the Battlesuits could Fall Back and shoot thanks to the Fly keyword. Indeed, Fly was one of the best keywords in the game, and this was one of the reasons why. GW chose to change the Fly keyword for a reason, and returning to that paradigm doesn’t quite seem in keeping with the broad themes of the new edition.

Last year, I mentioned on a handful of occasions that a stratagem would go a long way to solving this problem, and a stratagem coupled with a change in the Nova Reactor rules for the Riptide might just fit the bill. This solution would limit this powerful ability to one non-Riptide, non-Y’vahra unit per turn. Again, this would present the T’au player with choices. Should I Fall Back and shoot with my Commander or with my Crisis Suits? My Stealth Team or my Ghostkeel? It would force the T’au player to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of a variety of different options.

At the moment, this is the solution that I’m leaning towards. Having a guaranteed Fall Back and shoot for the cost of a Command Point or two — let’s put aside that pesky Vect chap for the moment — would be a good move if two or three other units in the army could do so without the use of a stratagem. This would allow T’au players to be aggressive with our Riptides and our Y’vahras, while maintaining board pressure with a handful of supporting units. Of course, against armies that are very aggressive with most of their models, this might not be such a good strategy, but against the majority of factions that have just a few dedicated combat units, the one-stratagem solution would be quite interesting.

And, look, every faction has to have a couple of bad matchups. I think we’re always going to struggle against, say, Harlequins and White Scars, but that’s just par for the course. We need changes that are significant enough to get the faction up to speed for 9th edition. At the the moment, we’re an 8th edition army in a 9th edition world.


Occasionally I think that GW will choose not to make Fall Back and shoot a significant part of the codex. However, it’s for this reason that I mentioned the Y’vahra Battlesuit: GW has already added this functionality to the faction. At the moment, it’s limited to one model. Regardless of your opinions of the new Mont’ka rule, the Y’vahra Nova Reactor ability is an unambiguous addition to the game. I will say that I don’t know how the faction will play if the Y’vahra is the only unit that can Fall Back and shoot. This scenario would necessitate a significant rewrite of the army. Granted, the T’au needs a significant rewrite anyway, but in such a case the rewrite really would have to be from the ground up.

It goes without saying that predictions are difficult. I don’t know of any T’au player who predicted the change to the Y’vahra a couple of months back, and at the moment it feels like the T’au community is grasping at straws when it comes to how the army will play in 9th edition. One way or another, something has to change. GW knows that a severely uncompetitive faction is bad for the games and bad for sales of that faction.

Everyone knows that the Space Marines range pays the bills for GW, but keeping the rest of the player base reasonably content is a useful strategy as well.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



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