The Humble Disruption Pod.
Since the advent of 5th Edition Warhammer 40k in July 2008, the vehicular wargear “must have” list for Tau vehicles has undergone a substantial review. Certain items which were once considered as “yes, I’ll maybe take that if I have the points” have now become much more relevant in helping keep our vehicles alive for longer. One of these items is the humble Disruption Pod.
Due to the changes wrought by 5th Edition, namely
a) the complete removal of the former version of the “Skimmer Moving Fast”(SMF) rule which reduced Penetrating hits to Glancing hits if the Skimmer concerned moved over 6” in previous 40k editions,
b) the introduction of a new version of SMF which is only available to Fast Skimmers (P.71 Warhammer 40k Rulebook – henceforth ‘BRB’) and
c) the implementation of the single “Vehicle Damage Chart” with its Shooting Modifiers,
the Disruption Pod has become the “de rigueur” upgrade for Devilfish, Hammerheads and Sky Rays. Disruption Pods are great for saving your bacon, causing huge annoyance and frustration to your opponent, offering you some tactical/strategic options and generally being an all-round Good Egg. So let’s take a closer look at this cover-save-providing “Wunderkind” to understand how these claims can be made concerning such a cheap upgrade for our larger vehicles.
The Big Brothers:
“Save your Bacon!” a.k.a. “Thank goodness I took that upgrade!”
The primary reason for taking Disruption Pods is to protect the vehicle from in-coming fire in any turn of the game by offering the Tau player the chance of making a cover save against nearly every weapon even if out in the open, with the caveat that the vehicle concerned must be more than 12" from the firing unit. The way it is executed is as follows:
Your opponent rolls his "To Hit" dice and then rolls again any successful hits to see if he can achieve either a Glancing or a Penetrating hit with them. Before he actually rolls on the Vehicle Damage Chart, the Disruption Pod Protection Roll is made against any enemy dice which have resulted in a Glancing or Penetrating hit. The roll gives you a 50% chance of avoiding *any* damage being suffered to your vehicle by negating the successful roll for armour penetration before the Damage Roll can be made by your opponent (P.62 BRB).
It is important that in cases where there are multiple successful Armour Penetration rolls of both types - Glancing and Penetrating - each type should be rolled against separately. The reason for rolling separately against the two types is that Glancing Hits have a modifier on the Vehicle Damage Chart. An easy way to deal with multiple mixed Armour Penetration rolls is to use different coloured dice, one representing the Glancing Hits, the other representing the Penetrating Hits.
On the majority of gaming tables there will be adequate terrain behind which you will be able to at least partially conceal your vehicle. You will naturally want to do this with Hammerheads and Sky Rays in particular. A very important point to remember here is that cover does not affect a vehicle in the same way that it does other models like foot troops or bike-mounted units.
The rules state that a vehicle must have at least 50% of its targeted facing hidden by intervening terrain or other models in order to gain Obscured Target status (P.62 BRB, 1st bullet point under ‘Vehicles and cover – Obscured Targets’). Disruption Pods override the 50% stuff and gives a straight cover save regardless of the vehicle’s relative position in cover to the firing unit, as long as that firing unit is more than 12” away.
However, it must also be noted that there are several weapons which ignore cover. Although some of these are relatively short-ranged, like flamers, there are some which can shoot from farther away than 12". These include for instance the guns mounted by the Basilisk or the Hellhound. Against these weapons Disruption Pods may not provide any aid, as the current rules in the Rulebook on P.62 qualify such special wargear as providing a 4+ cover save. However, the same paragraph also mentions that should the Codex specify otherwise then it is the Codex rule which takes preference. To avoid this (as yet not fully resolved) problem, Tau players should learn to recognise such dangers early on and use their vehicles carefully around these threats.
There are a couple of other situations in which Disruption Pods can prove their worth besides the one just mentioned previously. These are:
a) “Stunned Vehicle”.
A Stunned Vehicle cannot move at all (obviously!) and is therefore susceptible to future shooting attacks as it is unable to try to evade being targeted. As long as the vehicle is beyond the prescribed distance from the firer, Disruption Pods will allow you to claim Obscured Target benefits. Since Disruption Pods are unaffected by the results of a Damage Roll, they will continue to work even if the vehicle is temporarily incapacitated.
A stunned Devilfish containing a unit of Fire Warriors is an even more important vehicle to protect in this way. As the armour values are lower than those of the Hammerhead and the Sky Ray, it is easier to inflict damage on them. Since “Troops” units are the only scoring units in 5th Edition, it is vital to keep them safe and also to keep their transport vehicle (should they have one) from being destroyed. Having Disruption Pods at the ready will certainly help.
b) "Immobilised Vehicle"
Although the first reaction to this may be "Why would you want to protect an immobilised vehicle?", it is important to remember that while it remains 'not destroyed' any vehicle is capable of contesting an objective or denying a Kill Point. If your opponent wishes to try to claim the same objective or gain that Kill Point, he will have to remove the vehicle. Having Disruption Pod protection will at least help it try to survive against in-coming fire from beyond 12" range.
c) “Playing on Planet Billiard Ball”.
Some gaming tables are set up with virtually no terrain at all to hide behind. In this case Disruption Pods automatically make you an Obscured Target as long as you fulfil the requirement of being further than 12” from the firer.
In all of the above, we can see that having your vehicle upgraded with Disruption Pods can certainly help to “save your bacon.”
GRRR!!!! (bleep bleep) Disruption Pods!
Ok, so Disruption Pods are definitely an asset for defending your vehicles, but are they good for anything else? Well, yes. A vehicle equipped with Disruption Pods can offer you a couple of tactical uses with which to annoy your opponent.
1) The Sacrificial Lamb
At first glance this may seem like a suicidal tactic - hence the title of this section - and should really only be done using a vehicle which has served its purpose, for example a Hammerhead which has had all its weapons removed at an earlier stage. The tactic has merit though in that you can effectively eliminate – or certainly hamper considerably – the firepower of one of your opponent’s units. The preferable choice would of course be a Heavy Weapons unit, like a Space Marine Devastator Squad. You can potentially "inconvenience” them for a couple of turns, thus protecting your other units, or even a specific unit.
It is executed like this:
The Sacrificial Lamb heads towards the chosen enemy unit, ending its move greater than 12” away from them thus meaning that its Disruption Pods are functional. This now presents the opponent with a few choices to consider. Does he:
a) waste a turn of shooting and move his unit to regain Line Of Sight (LOS) to that juicy target he wanted to fire at, but now can’t because one of the biggest vehicles in the game has just plonked itself right in his firing lane?
b) ignore the vehicle and shoot something else since the vehicle is unarmed?
c) attempt to destroy the vehicle because it represents a Kill Point? or
d) attempt to destroy the vehicle but knowing that doing so will quite possibly plant a Wreck right on his doorstep which will accord a cover save to any enemy unit he shoots at over it – if of course he can see over it?
Let’s assume that he chooses to target the Sacrificial Lamb. Because of your careful placing of the vehicle, its Disruption Pods will allow you to make that all-important attempt to save against any hits. If the vehicle does emerge unscathed, you will be able in your next turn to make use of your Landing Gear and create a complete True Line Of Sight (TLOS) blockage. This will force the same decisions on your opponent in his next turn as he had to make in his previous turn. This therefore has meant that you have effectively used your unarmed vehicle and its defensive mechanisms as an aggressor to frustrate your opponent.
For the more devious Tau Commanders: Note that this particular use of the vehicle with Disruption Pods can also be obtained without using the Landing Gear, as modelling the skimmer on a short-stemmed flying base can block LOS just as easily. Performing the tactic in this way can also help to avoid arguments about whether or not the Skimmer may be removed from its flying base since it has not been destroyed (P.71 BRB, last paragraph of ‘Shooting at Skimmers’).
Although the Sacrificial Lamb will almost certainly be destroyed, the tactic may well have provided you with an opportunity to advance one or more of your own units towards objectives in comparative safety from in-coming fire. In Dawn of War scenarios however, where victory is determined by Kill Points, the "Sacrificial Lamb" tactic might not be quite such a good idea.
2) Used in conjunction with Flechette Dischargers.
Certain armies have units that due to their special rules are required to “chase after/assault/run towards the nearest enemy unit”. This can be used against them by positioning a vehicle close to such a squad – remembering the >12” requirement for the Disruption Pods – and shrugging off any shooting attacks before the enemy unit which “must assault” gets ripped to shreds by the Flechette Dischargers.
The one big risk in performing a trick like this is that the assaulting unit may contain an assault weapon like a meltagun, or perhaps a plasma pistol. Since most units in 40k assault 6”, this will mean that those high strength weapons will be inside the safety umbrella of the Disruption Pods, rendering them useless. It is therefore incumbent on the Tau player to ascertain whether such a weapon exists in the enemy squad before executing this “Here boy! Chase me!” manoeuvre. Should no such weapon exist, the "Chase me!" game can start in earnest, much to the delight of the Tau player and the frustration of his opponent!
3) “Darn it! Switch ‘em off!”
Unlike their Imperial counterpart the Smoke Launcher, Disruption Pods are “always on”. This is a Big Plus, as we can benefit from them for up to 7 turns (if we manage to roll well!). It is only our own inability to judge their working distances which will prevent them from being an effective defence. Getting the judgment right though and then watching the growing annoyance on your opponent's face and hearing his muttered curses as you continually pass those Cover saves is priceless.
Danger in the Sky.
In games against opponents fielding aircraft, Disruption Pods are a vital part of the defensive package for our vehicles. They are vital because LOS can never be blocked between aircraft and target, so you can never claim a cover save unless you have some form of wargear that provides it. Step forward the Disruption Pods.
An aircraft has no adjustment to its weapons’ range when targeting enemy units. By contrast, shooting at an aircraft normally requires the firer to add 12” to the distance to the flier. This renders many weapons incapable of actually hitting an enemy aircraft. However, although even a Devilfish can potentially do damage if it is 6” or less away from the flight path (‘flight path’ means the line which the aircraft follows from the start of its move to the end of that move), placing it in such a position may render its Disruption Pods ineffective against return fire from the flier.
When confronted by Hammerheads, aircraft have a great problem avoiding being shot at by their Railguns or Ion Cannons due to the enormous range of these guns, even with the 12” adjustment! As a result, the fliers can tend to stay at the maximum range of their own weapon systems which thus allows the Disruption Pods to function as usual.
The most important vehicle to equip with Disruption Pods if the Tau player knows he will be facing aircraft is the Sky Ray. Since its missile platform can be upgraded to an Anti-Aircraft Mount (sources: “Imperial Armour Vol.3, p.170”, and “Apocalypse Reload, p.45: Sky Ray Missile Defence Wing”), the Sky Ray is a target that the aircraft owner will want to remove as soon as possible. This is because AA-mounted weapon systems use their own Ballistic Skill to try to hit enemy aircraft rather than the set roll of a 6. Since a Sky Ray’s Networked Markerlights have a range of 36”, are designated as AA-mounted and can launch the Sky Ray’s own Seeker Missiles the aircraft needs to stay outside this range! This forcing the aircraft to adopt a safer distance allows the Sky Ray’s Disruption Pods to function, thus providing it with a cover save as usual.
The Little Brothers.
So far we have been dealing mainly with the Tau “Big Brothers”: the Devilfish, the Hammerhead and the Sky Ray. We have seen how these vehicles benefit from, and indeed can make use of, Disruption Pods for defence and aggression. Keeping our Troops alive while embarked on a Devilfish, or maintaining our Big Guns in working order is vital to our success on the battlefield. These are not the only vehicles available to the Tau, however; the “Little Brothers” can also benefit from this upgrade. We are of course talking about the Piranha and the Tetra.
Many players tend to dismiss both of these units out of hand because of their main perceived weaknesses: low armour value allied with being classed as open-topped. There is also an on-going debate - as yet unsolved through an FAQ from GW - that any vehicle carrying Gun Drones will give up 2 Kill Points if it is destroyed and the Gun Drones killed. Putting these elements together with a Damage Modifier on the Vehicle Damage Chart certainly does not endear these fast little skimmers to some players, as they are very susceptible to enemy shooting. Even a standard Boltgun can bring down a Piranha if it can target its side or rear facing.
Having said all this, let’s remember what it is that Disruption Pods can do. That’s right – they can completely negate any and all hits from beyond 12” away. This can turn a “tissue paper skimmer” into a potential “pain in the tail skimmer” that just won’t die! It can mean the difference between getting your Fusion Blaster-armed Piranha to a spot where it can do real damage and getting splashed before they get a chance to nuke anything juicy at all!
The author can proudly report that one of his Disruption Pod-equipped Piranhas survived 15 hits, allowing it to deliver the coup de grâce to a Leman Russ Battle Tank.
With a Piranha’s Fusion Blaster being only the same range as a standard Meltagun, it is important that the approach to its target be judged well so that the effects of the Disruption Pod can be used to deliver the Flying Gun to that target. Again, it is in the hands of the Tau player to be able to judge that all-important 12” well.
Tetras on the other hand are blessed with a much longer ranged “weapon” – their Markerlight. This allows them to remain considerably further away from dangerous units than the Piranha. Unfortunately, it is not usually too long before your opponent realises that these little squirts are markerlighting his beloved tanks and turns his guns on the Tetras. If he should succeed in hitting them, it is always good to have that “sorry mate, you missed” upgrade on them!
The Disruption Pod is now very much at the forefront of our vehicular defensive armoury. It is inordinately cheap for something that can protect a vehicle costing 40 times its own value. It is not a “one shot wonder” like the Smoke Launcher. The only way to shut down a Disruption pod is to destroy the vehicle. Its main benefit of course is that it allows a Tau vehicle to benefit from Obscured Target anywhere on the table, regardless whether it is in the open or not, as long as the 12" rule is fulfilled.
Like all good things though, there are inevitably some downsides to the “Wunderkind”.
1) It requires the Tau player to be able to judge 12” very accurately and to be ‘all-around observant’ regarding the disposition of his opponent’s units.
2) It is totally ineffective against weapons with very high strength and 12” range, like plasma pistols or meltaguns.
3) It has potential difficulties against fast-moving enemy units like Landspeeders or Attack Bikes, as these can bring weapons like multimeltas and assault cannons 'up close and personal' very quickly indeed. The Tau player needs to be very alert and astute in his dealing with such threats as these.
Such disadvantages are not insurmountable and as the Tau player continues his learning curve in the use of his vehicles, he will more often than not find himself indebted time and again to the wonderful little upgrade that is the Humble Disruption Pod.
Shas’vres SpartanTau, Elliott and revrandom for editing/proofreading
Shas’ui §plit§econd for input in the “Aircraft” section
Shas'ui Gniknok for input about negation of cover saves and clarity re when the Disruption Pod save is rolled