Codex T’au Empire: The Crusade Rules Review

The T’au Empire. A fun place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Or be allowed to live there, except in serfdom. Or for long, since you’d be shoved between the Orks and the Railguns. With a rigid caste system, the bottom level of which is you, personally, it’s probably not an ideal environment for non-T’au. Still, if you think you’re a bad enough Shas’o to conquer planets for the empire only to see them get smashed to bits by the Imperium, we got rules for that.

Expanding the Empire

Clocking in at an impressive five pages of rules and fluff, the Expanding the Empire section explains how you can embark on, well, expanding the T’au Empire. The goal here is to bring not just a planet, but a whole new star system into the fold for the Greater Good, via Diplomacy and/or Military might.

Beanith: Clearly Ethereal Vre’Kais saw what the Genestealer Cult were up to with their goal to take over a planet and said “Hold my Space Sapporo Yebisu”

When starting out on your Crusade, your T’au will have two points to keep track of, Diplomat Power and Military Power. Through the use of Agendas and Requisitions, you will gain and use these points in order to take control of the other planets in the system, before finally assimilating the Core world itself into the fold.  

Greg: I’m sorry but a huge part of my issue with this Crusade supplement stems from the names of the points. I cannot, and will never, be OK with having a resource called “Diplomat Points”. There’s also no rules around giving your new stronghold a formal Sept name, or getting new tenets for it, which would have been cool, but feel free to Forge your own Narrative on that one. 

In order to generate a new star system and its planets, first roll a D6 and check a table to determine the temperament of the system’s inhabitants. Are they Warlike, which will add 1 to the Military Power of each planet? Will they have Trade Contacts which allows you halve the Diplomat Power needed to take control of a planet? Or will their Corrupt and Decadent culture increase the Diplomat Power of the Core World by 2? 

With that out of the way you will then generate 4 to 8 planets (2d3 + 2), and roll on the D33 Planet Type chart to figure out what kind of planet each of them is. This features 9 different results, such as Shrine World, Fleet Installation and Trader’s Hub, and the first planet being rolled for automatically becomes the Core World. This isn’t massively different from the others, beyond some of the Temperaments applying to it, but you do have to conquer all of the other planets first, so it’s kind of the boss fight of planets. Unlike the Day of Ascension, there’s nothing particularly special about that battle, other than (as we’ll cover later) you do have to win it in order to take over.

Just look at these awful models (ED: I don’t know who wrote that caption, but it’s hard to argue with them)

Which type of planet you’ve rolled will determine the levels of Diplomat and Military Power that need to be brought to bear to conquer it, as well as which Assimilation Abilities trigger after you’ve done so. These can both help and hinder your progress in dominating the star system. Finally, each planet has a Supply Line Effect which can be chosen as a reward after taking over the entirely star system. This uses the Set Up Supply Lines Requisition, which we’ll cover later. 

Taking over a planet is simply a matter of having enough Diplomat or Military points, and winning a battle: even if you’re planning to smooth-talk the planetary governor into opening the gates, you still have to make a successful attempt at bullying them first. After winning, assuming you have the points, you can cash in some of either your Diplomat Power or Military Power chips, that you will have earned over the course of the Crusade, and the planet is yours. Taking over a planet only costs you one of the resources, not both, and it seems like a fair deal to trade four of whatever Diplomat Points are for an entire planet. Maybe they’re a form of NFT, but there’s a solid chance that it’s something far less stupid. 

At any rate, if you used your Military Points, you have to roll a d6, and on a 1-3 the planet is Razed. If that happens, you get to keep it, and activate the Assimilation Ability, but the planet is no longer eligible for setting up supply lines on. Because you ruined it. Nice job.

An example would be planet Ste’eve. Ste’eve is a Mining World, which means it requires either a Diplomat power of 3 or a Military power of 4 to conquer. Succeed in assimilating Ste’eve, and you will immediately gain D3 Requisition points via Harvest Resources, as well as Starve the War Machine which reduces the Military power of two other planets in the system by 1 each. If, after finishing off the entire star system, you choose Ste’eve for the Set Up Supply Lines Requisition, this will net you another D3+1 Requisition points.

One reason you might want to run the risk of busting up the place is that on most – not all, but most – types of planet, it takes fewer Military Points to conquer a planet than Diplomat Points. In some cases it’s substantial – a Political Center planet takes 6 DP but only 3 MP, which is a big enough discount that it might be worth rolling the dice on it. The other reason is that Diplomat Points will be the slightly harder of the two to earn, as you can only gain them via two Agendas or converting Military points into them via the Show of Force Requisition. Military points are simpler: these are gained by winning battles, or the Hit Their Supply Line Agenda. 

There’s a neat mini-game strategy here, where you’ll want to plan out the order of conquests in order to maximize resources. There’s no point taking over a world that lowers the Military Power of the rest of the system if there are no worlds left, but equally you might want to bump off a few soft targets while you build up points. That’s not even getting into the balancing act around choosing which points to use.

It’s a fun system, and we like how many types of planet there are, but the really evocative T’au element here is being able to win a diplomatic victory, instead of relying entirely on battles to gain territory. Generating a star system is also neat, though we’re not sure about some of the choices. Why do the Supply Lines from an Agri-World let you remove battle scars? I guess the food there is just really good. Still, it has fewer horrific implications than Civilian Worlds giving 5XP each to 3 units. It’s a world without soldiers, so who exactly are your troops fighting for their massive XP gains?

Finally, huge credit to Games Workshop for including a blank system roster here, that can be photocopied and used to create your own star systems over and over.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Show of Force is a nice straightforward Requisition that for 1RP simply lets you exchange 2 Military points for 2 Diplomat points to help ensure the safe take over of a planet whose Supply Line Effect you don’t want to risk losing. Those two points are, in some cases, enough to conquer a world outright. Taking over a planet purely by flexing, we love to see it.

That handily leads us to Set Up Supply Lines. Once you’ve assimilated the Core World in system, you get to purchase this requisition and choose a Supply Line Effect from any of the un-Razed planets in the system. The cost is 1RP if you choose the Core World and 2RP for any of the others in the system – yes, you read that right, it is cheaper for the core world. Once you’ve purchased this requisition you then get to generate a whole new star system for your Crusade Force, and go wreck up the place.

Greg: It’s interesting to me that this is the mechanism where you close out a star system and build a new one. It’s not when the Core world falls to your armies, it’s when you set up supply lines on it. This means that even if a system has the full rack of eight planets, you can still only set up supply lines on one of them before your Crusade moves on to the next one. It also means you can’t bail on a system if things aren’t going your way – there’s nothing like what Genestealers or Custodes have, where you can choose to fail and re-start. The only way out is through, and the only way to conquer a planet is to win a battle on it. You aren’t leaving that system until you win 2d3+2 battles, minimum. For me, this means the Crusade is stalling out hard.

Prototype System is the generic 9th edition upgrade requisition used to purchase upgrades for a model. In this case you select one model that has gained a rank or just been added to your roster and then pay the power level/points required to give them a valid Prototype System such as the Starflare Ignition System or Stimm Injectors. Some of these are very good. Having to pay for the base weapon system and the upgrade takes some of the shine off, but it’s still worthwhile.

The Hero’s Mantle is a very cool requisition that for 1 RP you can use when a Commander from your roster gains a rank, allowing you to change Battlesuits, should the urge take you. The newly added Commander starts with the same XP, same Battle Honors and Prototype Systems (if still valid) and best of all, loses any Battle Scars the old suit may have picked up. It’s a power-up version of the existing wargear-juggling requisition, which is fitting and highly useful given the variety (and ease of magnetization) on Tau commanders.

Beanith: I really like this one as instead of using the Repair and Recuperate from the Big Rule Book (you know, the one section that some halfwit has decided to never include in any of the Mission Packs for some reason) to get rid of an annoying Battle Scar. You can instead decide to hold off until your Commander levels up, and either whack him back into his existing Battlesuit with the dents buffed out, or see how they handle a Coldstar.

Greg: XP are stored in the battlesuit. 

Rounding things out is Deep Meditations, where for 1RP your Ethereal learns one additional Invocation. It doesn’t get to chant any extra ones, but it does add some versatility.

Beanith: That’s one hell of a nap to wake up from if it adds another song to your repertoire.


Credit: Zuul the Cat

When you plan to hold a Secret Meeting, would you choose to hold it smack dab right in the middle of an active warzone with your squishiest HQ choice? If so I have good news for you and Ethereal Bul’let Magn’et. Complete the Secret Meeting (Action) within 3” of the center of the battlefield from the end of your movement phase to the start of your next movement and gain a very respectable 3XP and D3 Diplomat points. Complete it within the first three rounds and you gain 3 Diplomat points instead of D3.

Greg: This is going to lead to a lot of dead Ethereals, and isn’t open to Farsight Enclaves, but it’s a great source of otherwise-scarce Diplomat Points, so I’ll probably use it a lot.

Protect the Leadership is an interesting take on adding your own objective Agenda to the game but instead of your opponent choosing which objective you need to capture, you instead get to bring two objectives and you get to choose where they go on the table – with the usual restrictions of being 9” away from you, your deployment zone, and the other marker. So instead of a single objective that your opponent also wants to hold, you have two of your own that in theory should be safely ignored by your foe except for reasons of spite and denying you XP. Each objective has 3 lives and will lose a life every round if you’re not holding it. At the end of the game, if only one objective is alive, score D3 Diplomat points. Both Objectives alive and well? Score the full 3 Diplomat points and mark an additional unit with Marked for Greatness.

Hit Their Supply Lines is the go to Agenda for Military points. T’au Infantry in range of objectives at the end of your movement phase can perform a Damage Supply Lines Action which completes at the end of your turn. Tagging at least half of the objectives will net you D3 Military points. Smashing all of them gains you the full 3 Military points. 

Beanith: I originally thought this one might be a little to harsh due to losing shots in the shooting phase whilst your Pathfinders are busy wailing on the objective but Vre’Kais pointed out Ethereals can allow a unit to still fire whilst actioning natively for one unit, and as a Invocation for another unit.

Greg: This is a really easy way to farm Military Points. It’s Crusade, who cares if you get stomped in a battle, you were playing the long game.

Outflank and Encircle is an odd one that will reward 1XP to up to 3 units from your army if those units are in your opponent’s deployment zone whilst also outnumbering them at the end of game.

Beanith: Being limited to only the one T’au Agenda per mission means I don’t think you’ll see much use of this Agenda in favour of the Agendas that generate Military or Diplomatic points.

Greg: Yeah, this sucks. 1XP for 3 units is absolutely not worth giving up the other agendas for.

Lastly, Teachings of War will reward you based on what Tactical Philosophy you chose to start the game with. Those that call for Mont’ka will reward 1XP to a unit that succeeds in destroying a unit in the first battle round. Those that call for Kauyon will be similarly rewarded for destroying a unit in the last battle round.

Beanith: My opinion still hasn’t changed, Military and Diplomatic points seem more valuable especially with some of the Assimilation rewards for taking over planets.

Greg: Same, and also please GW stop trying to make Kauyon happen. Only real Mont’ka heads in the building.

Battle Traits

Tau Stealth Suits
Tau Stealth Suits. Credit: Jack Hunter

There are three different tables available, one each for your Battlesuits, Fire Warrior Teams and the Ethereals leaving your vehicles out in the cold with just the default traits from the Big Rule Book or the Awakened Spirits Upgrade tree from the Crusade Mission Pack Amidst the Ashes… which are actually quite good so moving on.

Battlesuits have 6 choices available to them. The Sentry AI trait lets you count the models in the unit an additional time when determining objective control. Reactive Thrust System lets the unit perform Heroic Interventions and Electrochaff Backups wins best name for -1 to hit at more than 12” away against ranged attacks. 

Fire Warrior Teams have 3 options. Merciless Marksmen let the unit use the Pulse Onslaught stratagem (automatically wounding on 6 to hit – basically the same as an Advanced Targeting System) for 0CP, Quick-shots lets them fire Overwatch on a 4+ and Practised Aim is the old school Dakka Dakka Dakka of 6s to hit causing an additional hit.

The last table is for your Chief Fishie Bishie Ethereal with some excellent opportunities for self-improvement. The Esteemed Leader lets them intone an additional invocation every command phase. The Healer’s Hands isn’t an issue for HR but instead lets you ignore the first Out of Action result per battle… assuming they themselves were in the aforementioned battle and survived it. Lastly your Ethereal can join the ranks of the Heralds of the T’au’va and potentially earn yourself 1 Diplomat point on a 5+ and the end of every battle assuming they manage to survive.

Beanith: Some fantastic options available here that will be a fantastic boon to your force… and then there’s the hilarious possibility of your Stormsurge wanting to Heroically Intervene which I am totally down for.

Greg: I don’t mind these, but it would have been nice to get weapon enhancements, given the T’au propensity for churning out high-powered weapon systems. I’d also liked to have more options around Battlesuits, even allowing extra hardpoints for support systems.

Crusade Relics

Tau Commander
Tau Commander. Credit: Jack Hunter

The Earth Caste phoned it in, with only 4 Crusade relics on offer, but they still get Kudos for some excellent choices. 

Starting out at the Artificer level we have the Seismic Destabiliser which I imagine is just a giant red button. Select one enemy unit skulking in a Building or in Area Terrain and roll a D6 to dish out D3 mortal wounds on a 3-5, 6 of course will dish out the full 3 mortal wounds. Best of all is if the terrain piece or build in question has the Obscuring terrain trait (and what doesn’t these days) you can add +2 to the roll.

Beanith: I can’t help but feel they forgot to add in the Once per Battle caveat here.  

Serenity isn’t just an excellent film but is also an excellent stave that, once per battle, lets all friendly T’au within 9” automatically pass Morale tests. The unfriendly Farsight Enclaves however need not apply.

The Earth Caste boffins have taken the Airbursting Fragmentation Projector and juiced it up into the highly impressive Antiquity Relic, the Supernova Launcher. Not only does this party popper boast more shots, higher strength, AP, and damage, any successful hit will also light up the target allowing the rest of your force to add 1 to hit and wound rolls when making more ranged attacks at that poor chump for the rest of the turn. 

Greg: This used to be a middling signature system, but the new version is wildly good, and entirely worth getting, even if you have to requisition yourself into a re-spec to get your hands on it.

Rounding out the selection is another fancy stave for the Ethereal, it’s the Sceptre of Unity. A Legendary Relic which lets the bearer know all six Invocations, lets them cast an additional Invocation and finally adds 1 to the roll when intoning an Invocation.

Beanith: It’s no Vortex Grenade but when you combine this relic with the Esteemed Leader trait, suddenly you’re handing out a possible three different Invocations every round. Mind blown.

Greg: Beanith riding so hard for the Vortex Grenade is my favorite running bit in these reviews. That said, the Sceptre is amazing. Knowing all six invocations, chanting twice, and having them go off on a 2+, is basically a way to build your own Aun’shi without having to resort to named characters in Crusade. Admittedly, the Humble Stave from the normal relics will get you most of the way there without needing 50 XP, but this is still solid, and means you can have two super-Ethereals for some reason. 

T’au Empire Name Generator

T’au names are complicated.

The full name for a T’au is of the format [caste]’[rank] [sept] [actual name] [one or two planet parts]. The first three are simple lists, as those are fairly static and determined by the type of character you’re creating – this is all Fire caste because it’s a war game and that’s the warrior caste, and the rank is actually in the datasheet, and the Sept is one of your keywords. The latter 3 are the usual d66 tables. 

Having three tables is fun, and we especially love to see the “none” option make an appearance. Call me Shas’o Bork’an Ga’mo Lok’Ram. Normal name.

Final Thoughts

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Greg: I’m going to be honest: This feels like a worse version of what we just saw from Genestealer cults. The Create-A-System mechanic is great narratively, and I think it offers some tactical depth in terms of gameplay (Agendas, etc) and out-of-game (choosing where to apply your points, and which kind), but it isn’t tied into the other mechanics (Agendas, the Day of Ascension battle, Requisitions, etc) as well as that one was. This is serviceable, even good, in a vacuum, but we just saw a better version of it, so I’m judging it more harshly. On top of that, half the relics – and there are a piddly four available – are locked to Ethereals, so if you’re running Farsight Enclaves your entire array of Crusade Relics is an earthquake gun and a grenade launcher. I’d also like to have seen Weapon Enhancements, T’au often being seen as the Xenos equivalent of AdMech, or maybe some cool Battle Scars, but we got neither. 

The codex is still cool, and I’m still going to use it, but it’s not my favorite Crusade. I want to be clear that I don’t mean that as a euphemism: I’m not saying “not my favorite” to mean that it’s horrible, or the worst thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. I’m saying that it is, literally, not my favorite. It’s fine, arguably better than some of the Space Marine Supplements, but GSC were a tough act to follow and this just doesn’t measure up to that lofty standard.

Beanith: There are some similarities between the Genestealer Cult and T’au Crusade mechanics for sure but for me they’re working at different scales. The GSC are right at the Micro end of the scale dealing with the nitty gritty details of slowly taking over a planet whilst the T’au are operating at the Macro end of the scale knocking over entire star systems. Think Simcity versus Master of Orion, both management games but at very different levels.

The Relics I will agree are a massive let down for a “technologically advanced” race. On the one hand they do already have 12 prototype systems available, which might scratch that itch, but I still would have loved to have seen a wacky doomsday weapon in the Legendary section.

And one final tip, for anyone new to running campaigns and wondering how to fit in T’au players taking over entire systems and Genestealers taking over a planet: That stuff is happening “elsewhere” and the player’s forces present in your campaign are using their success and failures to show the progress of the “main” force overall.