6

I've heard varying opinions on the 'best' sizes for FW squads, mostly at 6 or 12 warriors to a unit. Pros and cons of that I've heard for each are:

  • A unit of 6

    • Smaller footprint - easier to hide
    • Large amounts of drawn fire is wasted on a smaller unit
  • A unit of 12

    • Benefits from fewer marker lights
    • May survive more gunfire

I'm not sure if that covers all of the advantages/disadvantages. How do different sized units of FW play out?

edit:

Has anything changed in 7th edition?

6
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Six edition has had a big impact on fire warrior squads. While some of the points in the article user1873 links to in his answer are still valid there are other factors that should be considered.

The short answer is you probably want to go either min or max on squad size. Other numbers are acceptable but situational(like if you got some extra points and no better option to spend them on; going from 6 to 8 guys in a squad is OK to do).

Here's some changes in 6th edition that will have an effect on whether to go min or max.

Transports

Transports for units in the new edition have lost some usefulness. In 5th, taking a min squad to get a transport was often a no-brainer. Even a transport with as limited offensive punch like a Devilfish was worth it due to the overall strength of vehicles in the last edition.

Now transports are not scoring or denial units. Even squads inside can't score or deny. That means to take an objective, you will need to disembark. That's a difficult thing to do effectively when you have a very fragile 6 man unit inside.

Overall the game is lighter on scoring units, so you can't treat them as transport upgrades anymore. While the Devilish is one of the more survivable transports in the game right now, a Tau army needs to prioritize on high firepower and scoring units first.

Rapid Fire Weapons

The big change to rapid fire weapons is that they can fire up to their full range even when moving. This gives Firewarriors a nice 36" reach on a given turn. With this kind of range, Firewarriors don't have to rely on transport mobility to effectively engage targets.

Wound allocation

Wound allocation is now done against closest models. This means you can use drones or attached battlesuit commanders(preferably with Iridium Armor and a pair of shield drones) to soak incoming fire. This is a big survivability boost, making large squads hard to kill and great at camping objectives.

Morale

Units can now almost always regroup. This makes playing the morale numbers game much less important. The new Cadre Fireblade and updated Ethereals also help keep your units around thanks to higher leadership and re-rolls.

Allies

Tau troops aren't great, but fortunately now you can bring someone else's much better troop options along to the party. You'll get much better ROI for your points with a maxed out Marine tactical squad versus a maxed out Firewarrior squad.

Conclusion Updated for the new Codex

The new codex does increase the play-ability of Fire Warriors, but they are still defensively a weak unit. With the slight points decrease and the extra shots you can get from Ethereals and Fireblades, there's more reason to max the squad size now than to minimize it.

I still think it is better to leverage ally troops to score and deny objectives. That is if your ally's troops are better. (Though you should pick an ally option with better troops IMHO. Something like Space Marines, Grey Knights, Okrs, or Necrons.)

I would suggest going max on the squads. Upgrading to the shas-ui is no longer necessary since you can stick an Ethereal of Fireblade to the unit and get a bigger efficiency boost. I could see the Devilfish having use in some list, but overall you should probably stick to foot squads.

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  • This was the sort of response I was waiting for! – Pureferret Oct 1 '12 at 13:13
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This article provides an in depth overview of all the strengths and disadvantages of the Fire Warrior units. It includes a summary of the most common squad sizes.

In general, there are 3 common sizes for units of Firewarriors:

12 Models: A full Firewarrior squad maximizes offensive potential. Whether deployed on foot or in a Devilfish, if you're looking for maximum shots, 12 Firewarriors is the way to go. A full squad of 12 is also best for taking advantage of Markerlight hits.

10 Models: A squad of 10 is the most efficient for Morale purposes without sacrificing any substantial shooting power. This squad requires the same number of casualties to force a Morale check as the 12-strong squad (3), but costs 20 points less. The squad of 10 is good for foot-mobile teams that are expecting to take casualties.

6 Models: This minimum sized squad is good for those looking to conserve points either because they're looking to cheaply fill the 1+ Firewarrior requirement in order to spend their points elsewhere, or because they're bringing the Firewarriors solely for their Devilfish option in which case they want as little overhead as possible tied up with the troops inside. 6 Firewarriors can be used to squeeze a few Markerlights into your list without having to bring a full-blown Pathfinder Squad and are also a cheap deployment step. In general, the minimum sized squad makes sense if your primary motivation is anything other than additional S5 shooting.

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  • Honestly, if I was skimping on points but wanted to keep the Morale-check safety, 9 models is better than 10! Regardless of unit, the best squad sizes in that regard are 5, 9, 13, etc... – aslum Oct 14 '16 at 20:42
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As with anything 7th ed, the answer is it depends. There are so many more variables to take into consideration when building a 7th ed army than there were in previous editions. That said, I'll try to answer as best I can (obviously, this advice is only valid for Battleforged armies - Unbound is open slather).

The Tau army is now following a similar route to the Eldar armies - they synergize well with each other and a myriad of rules and effects mean that the whole army often performs better than the individual parts would suggest, and the Fire Warriors certainly come into this - the options they now have thanks to Supporting Fire, Cadre Fireblades, Ethereals and Markerlights (not to mention other effects I'm no doubt forgetting) mean that even though they are the basic troops choice, they're able to be quite effective. And it depends a lot on the composition of the rest of the army.

Build-wise there are two main detachments presented in the Codex - the CAD and the Hunter Contingent.

1. CAD

The Combined Arms Detachment is the closest thing to the previous editions Force Organisation Charts. All Troops choices gain Objective Secured - meaning that they are the only units in your army to be able to control or contest objectives. So, if you are choosing a CAD for your army, consideration needs to be given to the composition of the rest of your army, and the objectives that you, as the player, want to use to determine victory (i.e. Missions, Objectives, straight up kill points etc.) Under the CAD you must take 1 HQ and 2 Troops, at this point you need to make the decision of how the rest of your army is styled (as above).

If you want to focus on kill points and suits (and ignore objectives) - keep the troops to a minimum: 2 5 man Fire Warrior squads (Strike Teams) that can camp out on a backfield objective or generally just stay out of harms way. This is the minimum troop tax and largely dependent on your play style and points limit of the game and comes in at 90 pts for the two min sized squads.

Otherwise, 10-12 is the optimal size. This gives you good offensive output (30" Range, Supporting Fire etc), and the ability to contest and hold objectives and soak some casualties before the unit disappears. 10 is probably slightly more efficient Morale wise as there is no difference between 10 and 12 when it comes to determining 25% casualties (they both need to loose 3 models). The addition of drones and other goodies can also boost their survivability, but at increased points cost.

2. Hunter Contingent

This is the detachment formation in the Codex, and the minimum troop tax in the core formation (the Hunter Cadre) is 3 units of any mix of Striker Teams, Breach Teams and Kroot. Again, the points of the game will determine how much you want to spend on the core troops, but a similar approach to the CAD can be taken. If points are scarce, the minimum cost for 3 x 5 man squads is 135.

However, when you take a Cadre Fireblade as part of this formation, his Volley Fire rule allows his attached unit to fire an extra shot. That means a 12 strong squad is throwing out 26 S5 shots at 30" range and 39 shots at close range (12 Fire Warriors plus the Fireblade). He also let's them Split Fire which can be useful.

Adding an Ethereal (as part of the Contingent Headquarters Formation) will also let all units within 12" fire an extra shot at half range as well. The above unit of 12 Fire Warriors and the Fireblade then start pumping out 52 S5 shots at anything under 15" - which is also outside Rapid Fire range of nearly every other unit in the game.

The Formation and Detachment bonuses are also useful. The Detachment bonus lets multiple units fire as a single unit on the same target. If 3 or more units do so, then you gain +1 BS (30+ BS4 Fire Warriors anyone?). The Formation Bonus lets units within 12" use Supporting Fire (instead of 6"), and let's units within 12" of your Commander and/or Fireblade Shoot then Run/Flat Out or Run/Flat Out then Shoot in the same phase - meaning your infantry units can be surprisingly mobile with little to no loss in damage output.

Conclusion

The most effective size for Fire Warriors (Strike Teams at any rate) still seems to be 10-12, without a Transport.

Shas'ui upgrade is optional, but I would recommend it in units that do not benefit from having a Fireblade or ethereal. It's a relatively modest points investment for the boosted Ld.

The devilfish is a large points investment for something that doesn't add a great deal to the unit output, and spending points on multiple transports greatly decreases your ability to better spend those points elsewhere.

Used as part of the Hunter Contingent detachment, 3 full size Strike Teams (with added Ethereal and Fireblade) can form a relatively solid yet still damaging firebase able to contest objectives and control board sections.

Strike Teams are still my preferred option: The 30" range still effectively gives them an extra round of shooting over most other troops, S5 means they can threaten light vehicles (AV10-11), and they can put out a decent amount of shots per turn.

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