[WIP]Tau Drone Army - New expansion incoming!

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Kiblams
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[WIP]Tau Drone Army - New expansion incoming!

Post#1 » Jun 10 2012 02:10

Not sure if I am alone in this, but part of why I was drawn to the Tau Empire was in their use of drones (which also look awesome) and so I have been itching to use them in a viable way in my games, this is presently limited mostly to Shield drones alone.

I know that I am not the first to propose using Drone 'counts-as' models for the infantry in a Tau Cadre, though I think that I have a chance to justify them through both fluff and the use of accurately dimensioned models to both reduce the effect on gameplay and make them acceptable.

Now I am by no means a good writer, though I have tried to make the explanation as narrative as I could to make it as entertaining as possible for you guys, and there are some finer details such as names that I have left out as I am simply terrible at inventing them.

-----------Let the fluff begin!--------------

On the outer fringes of Tau Space a remote Water Caste trading outpost received instructions by the Tau Empire high command to arrange a trade with the Imperium of Man.

The water caste emissaries had managed to lure a Gue'la commander into the trade agreement for detailed star maps of imperial space needed for the continued expansion of the Tau Empire, this in return for an automated army of Tau drones. An Earth Caste team was deployed to the outpost to setup a research facility which would be developing the drones for the trade.
The Tau Water Caste believed the Gue'la arrogant and overconfident and that they thought Tau technology of immense strategic and technological benefits would be theirs though this trade.

The Gue'la had been convinced by the Water Caste emissaries that the Tau A.I. systems on the existing gun drones were more sophisticated and far more capable than they actually were, and that they would be provided drones to rival the military might of the Fire warriors and Battle suit variations of the Tau Cadres.

For the purpose of the demonstrations to the Gue'la the drones were to be pre-programmed for combat simulations, and the actual drones to be delivered would have oversimplified and flawed A.I. systems worse than those employed in existing Gun Drones and as such would not betray Tau tactics or advanced technology systems but would provide enough time for the Tau to relocate the outpost before the deception was discovered.

The arrangement was progressing as expected with the Gue’la remaining in close vicinity to the outpost to observe its progress, though shortly before the contract had come to completion, the Gue'la in an unexpected manoeuvre; laid siege on the Tau outpost facility. Catching the Tau off-guard they achieved swift control over the tau facility. After capturing the Tau, the exposed Gue'la renegades revealed their plans to force the Earth Caste engineers to produce untold number of drones for their obviously nefarious plans.

The Earth Caste seemingly obeying their captors had worked in secret, aided by the Gue’las very basic understanding of the Tau language and script, produced the expected drones while also making preparations to take back the outpost. Unfortunately with little to no Fire Caste surviving the initial siege and no access to either armour or armament; the plan could not rely on the normal Tau troops. This left only one, unusual, though fortunate option; which was to use the drones already produced for the Gue'la and the piloting skills of the Air Caste crews in the task of taking back their outpost.

Arrangements were made for modified remote Battlesuit control interfaces to be constructed and distributed amongst the Tau and for the outpost systems to be hacked to facilitate the plan.

The few remaining Shas were provided with the remote control systems in order to control a small number of basic drones with Pulse Rifles, though Jet pack manoeuvres had proved too much for their limited training and so only basic anti-grav propulsion could be used. For the Air Caste; taking the leap from piloting anti-grav gunships and fighters to the bigger jump pack equipped Crisis drones was simple enough, and so the plan was set.

With the groundwork in place thanks to the initial trade agreement preparations, it was not long before they were ready. While most of the Gue'la slept, the Tau initiated their attack. By restoring control of the outpost’s security bulkheads they were able to dictate flow of the battles through the tight corridors into small skirmishes where the drones would excel in killing their captors. With minimal losses to the Drones thanks to the added bonus of the surprise attack; the outpost was back in Tau control in no time at all.

This experimental Drone Army while not widely accepted within the Military of Tau Empire, does have support from a small number of Ethereals who can see the merit in its application throughout the Empire. These Ethereals have enough influence to keep the Drone Cadres deployment active, though with strict conditions imposed to ensure that their use is both limited and beneficial to the Empire.

The experimental Cadre were also provided with a small Starship outfitted with an advanced Sensor and broadcasting suite and the latest engine technology for faster and less detectable intersystem travel. Both of these features are ideally suited to the long range control of drones, and deploying the Drone Cadre to a multitude of worlds and thus; in differing environs.

The Earth Caste who had developed this system have been given permission to explore further alternatives to the standard Tau military forces, this is to ensure that they can be tested within the confines of existing Tau battle tactics and strategies. The remote control interface system has even been expanded to include Tau vehicle systems such as Hammerhead Gunships in an effort to explore their applications also.

The Water Caste were instructed to continue their role in piloting the more advanced drones such as the Crisis and Broadside along with the newer vehicle adaptations, while the Shas numbers were increased to mimic a standard Cadre for their size.

The Cadre is currently being deployed in skirmish battles across the outer fringes of Tau controlled space and continues to battle a wide variety of enemies on several different worlds, regularly sending data to be analysed by the Ethereals.

------------The fluff ends------------

UPDATE:

Army so far
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Guide to conversions
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Last edited by Kiblams on Apr 03 2013 02:57, edited 11 times in total.

im2randomghgh
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#2 » Jun 10 2012 02:51

Maybe it can be because they can fight without risking tau lives?
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Kiblams
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#3 » Jun 10 2012 03:11

im2randomghgh wrote:Maybe it can be because they can fight without risking tau lives?


Thanks for the idea, it is indeed the simplest of reasons, though it doesn't explain why this Cadre alone would chose to do it. Though it could be that the Fire Caste refuse to let it become widely spread?

So do you think that the concept seems sound then?

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Mal'Caor
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#4 » Jun 10 2012 04:07

Perhaps it's now a field test drone cadre. Command may well like the idea of not risking Tau lives, but if previous attempts at drone cadres were unsuccessful it wouldn't be widely adopted until the Earth caste engineers responsible had managed to prove the worth of the drones on a larger scale.

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U'mos
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#5 » Jun 10 2012 05:17

It could be their way of adapting to a newly colonised planet?

With the abundance of mechanical forces this cadre could risk going to extreme environments, too dangerous for units that would need costly armour adaptations, that could still have some benefit to the greater good. Maybe it has potential for mining useful Fio construction material, but it's close enough to Gue'vesa territory that it needs the drone defence force for supervision.

Well that's what sprang to my mind. I reckon if you distinguish the different types of drones enough on the models this could look great, I look forward to seeing how this goes. :D
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#6 » Jun 10 2012 09:50

Kiblams wrote:
im2randomghgh wrote:Maybe it can be because they can fight without risking tau lives?


Thanks for the idea, it is indeed the simplest of reasons, though it doesn't explain why this Cadre alone would chose to do it. Though it could be that the Fire Caste refuse to let it become widely spread?

So do you think that the concept seems sound then?


It could be that the tau Empire at large is afraid of a drone uprising, but since it seems that by and large commanders decide their cadre composition, so it could be that your commander is not afraid of that eventuality.
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#7 » Jun 11 2012 06:20

It seems that a collection of the suggestions so far would be appropriate:

The commander of the cadre has seen its potential and has been given permission to continue this to gain data for further analysis. Part of this is data collection is using them in hazardous environments.

Though the cadre has some Aun backing, it is not universally appreciated and so concerns in the higher levels of Tau command are also halting it’s wide spread usage.

Thanks for the ideas guys, those look like a fairly comprehensive scenario for the continued existence of the Drone Army.

U'mos wrote:I reckon if you distinguish the different types of drones enough on the models this could look great, I look forward to seeing how this goes. :D


I have begun creating the basic Fire warrior Drones, and I must admit that I am struggling to vastly differentiate them from standard Tau Gun drones other than simply replacing the two carbines with a single rifle. I do have plans for basic green stuff modifications such as covering the vents at the rear (as they don’t have the heat producing jet packs) and maybe the slots for the antennae, though if this will be enough to set them apart is yet to be seen – pictures soon ;)
I have some great ideas for the Crisis Drones and will be using Forgeworld components with the already magnetised weaponry from my Crisis battle suits, these are the models that I am most excited about converting, and should get the Forgeworld stuff delivered tomorrow so you can expect some prototype Crisis Drones pictures before the end of the week. :D

I have also been toying with an idea of using the squarer Earth Caste symbols from the codex on the vehicles rather than the rounder standard Fire ones, to reinforce the fluff and the aesthetics of the Cadre.

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J'Kaara Nan
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#8 » Jun 11 2012 06:56

I actually can help on the "FW" gun drones, as at one point having an excess of drones and rifles led me to create enough to make three squads of "Drone fire warriors". Simply enough, add the rifle to one side, and attach a fire warrior shoulder pad to the other next the rifle at a perpendicular angle. Some other bits can be added on, and up armor'ing the shoulder pad side with additional bitz makes it look more combat ready.

For differentiating the drones from other drones, consider using different antenae on certain types, two on others, none on others, etc etc.

Also, as a reasoning for "keeping them in use", use your backstory as the reason. Clearly the cadre/ outpost is limited in its production or connection to reinforcements, and having a drone security force that is already produced is a logical means to maintain an armed force in numbers. Drones are also equipped with the most basic of AI, and while their linking together in larger numbers strengthens this AI, the drones are primarily designed to protect Tau, so it is logical that a stronger AI network would simply make them more determined to protect the rest of the Tau among them. Especially true with the large presence of earth caste you mentioned(unless you saw Prometheus lately, in which you may feel that the whole creator/creation thing leads to... wait, spoiler...).
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#9 » Jun 13 2012 07:08

Thanks J'Kaara Nan, that is certainly one application of the Cadre that justifies it's existence.

I had a delivery today that I have been eagerly awaiting since I started this thread as I feel it is the Crisis Drones that would make or break this concept, see if you can guess what I ordered ;)

Two Crisis Drones with bitz box flamers and chopped up missile pods blue tacked to them, to get an idea of how it will finally look:

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It is worth remembering that these will be on 40mm resin bases eventually with the height perfectly matching the head/shoulders of the Crisis suit.

Here they are with a Crisis suit and (from left to right) my WIP Fire Drone, Gun Drone and Shield Drones.
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Looking at the size of the drones I think that they are almost spot on, as when the Crisis suit has its weapon load out magnetized it is roughly the same width and the height will be perfect.

Let me know what you think guys, I am personally very happy with the dimensions, I just need to convert and magnetize them until they look great.

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Kiblams
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#10 » Jun 14 2012 10:02

A bit of an update on the Crisis Drones guys, i have kept the normal Drones int he shot for reference of size.

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Modelling work so far is limited to filling in some details with Green stuff, magnetisation and the rounding of the mack of the drones to give them the more circular and traditional shape over the flat backed Remora stealth fighter look. I have kept the seeker missile backs as I think they look like cool jump pack thrusters also shortened the rear middle thruster which I hope has made them look more balanced as they are quite long as standard.

I still have a little more work to be done such as adding antenae, but they are getting there...

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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#11 » Jun 14 2012 01:22

At first I was skeptical, but the Crisis drones look pretty cool. What are you using for the main disk on those?

As far as distinguishing them, colorful patterns might be a way to do it. If you have a squad of Fireknife drones, maybe paint flaming knives on the tops or something; in addition to looking cool, it's visually distinctive and keeps the army from looking monotonous. You should certainly do something interesting with the huge amount of space you have on the drone tops; it's what most people will see when looking at the models across the table, and it's where most of your painting real estate is.

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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#12 » Jun 15 2012 02:04

SparkSovereign wrote:At first I was skeptical, but the Crisis drones look pretty cool. What are you using for the main disk on those?


I totally agree, I feel the success of this whole concept lies on the shoulders of the Crisis drones.

I thought it was obvious what I had used (Remora Stealth Fighter Drones) and was concerned that they would look too similar, you sir just made me very happy :D

Here is the Remora sprue as it comes from Forgeworld and here they are assembled and painted.

I have bought scanner suites for the Devilfish and Hammerheads, as I plan to make those look as though they are piloted remotely by replacing the cockpit with the suite of sensors. Though in the long run I may just make a custom drone deployment vehicle with the stats of the Devilfish.

I am also struggling to decide how to model the Tetra, and this is looking to be a huge challenge. Do I scratch build one based off a big drone? or try to incorporate drones into the existing Tetra design? Tough one.

As for the paint scheme, I plan on painting them up with my current scheme and then deciding if anything is missing after I have put the earth caste markings on them.

As always guys the input of the ATT community is very welcome, I very much value your feedback.

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Kiblams
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#13 » Jun 16 2012 06:19

Hey Guys,

I am one of those people who can't envisage a finished model without putting a basic thin layer of paint and wash on, I find this helps me to see what works and what is missing.

So I thought I would post some images of the Crisis Drones with this basic paint to see if anyone has any feedback before I continue with the painting.

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And finally, a picture of them with the other drones I have made.
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Some are official like the gun drones and 1 of the Marker drones, though the rest are conversions. All of the drones and magnetised to the bases.

I am still unsure of the Fire Drone on the right, it still needs the 25mm resin base to be made like the Crisis Drone ones.

I am starting to formulate some ideas for Broadsides etc, and look forward to converting them :D

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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#14 » Jun 16 2012 06:59

On the warrior drones, I wonder if it would help to give them another layer underneath, a bit like the shield drone disc or something more mechanical looking, to add a bit more variance and help distinguish the difference between jetpack and non-jetpack. A bit more bulk would give a more "flightless" impression, and explain the lower grav-tech used.

I like the crisis drones though! The weapons slots are nice and obvious, and the fact that it's almost exactly the same size is a nice bonus. I am already starting to see what SparkSovereign was getting at though, there's lots of blank space looking at that group shot, but it sounds like you could have plans for that.
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Kiblams
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#15 » Jun 17 2012 10:52

U'mos wrote:On the warrior drones, I wonder if it would help to give them another layer underneath, a bit like the shield drone disc or something more mechanical looking, to add a bit more variance and help distinguish the difference between jetpack and non-jetpack. A bit more bulk would give a more "flightless" impression, and explain the lower grav-tech used.


I have taken your advice this morning :biggrin: and think that I have made improvements to the Fire Drones, on the left is the first attempt, and the right is the new Drone with the 25mm resin base that they will all have eventually:

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And here they all are three more (in need of the 25mm resin bases):
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Thanks for all the input on this guys, I am slowly making progress but getting there. :D When I have sorted how I am going to model the rest of the needed units I will paint them all up, will keep you posted.

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Kiblams
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#16 » Jun 25 2012 05:03

Apologies for the extremely bad quality of these images, but I have been working on a Broadside Drone prototype using some of the DIY railguns that I have made. The actual drone will be using the new resin railguns when they are released, so these are just to get a feel for the look.

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As you can see the railgun replaces the seeker missile on the converted Remora drone, let me know what you think :)

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Arcani
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#17 » Jun 27 2012 02:16

Love the whole idea and the modelling. The FW drones look much better now.
I came up with two reasons for why this Cadre would exist:
1- Testing because of low level AI and the Ethereals don't want to see lives waisted.
2- Only one Cadre because fighting is an honor thing for the Fire Caste and they want to keep proving themselves in battle, not that they can play videogames ;)
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Kiblams
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Re: Kiblam's Tau Drone Army

Post#18 » Jun 27 2012 10:38

Arcani wrote:Love the whole idea and the modelling. The FW drones look much better now.
I came up with two reasons for why this Cadre would exist:
1- Testing because of low level AI and the Ethereals don't want to see lives waisted.
2- Only one Cadre because fighting is an honor thing for the Fire Caste and they want to keep proving themselves in battle, not that they can play videogames ;)


Thanks Arcani, all of the ideas added to each other seem to back one and other up into a fairly good justification. :D

I have been busy working on getting the basics modelled and painted to a basic level (good from a distance) to get a feel for how it will look, here is what I have so far that conforms to my Drone Army:

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I can't be the only one who thinks that a whole army like this coming down the table at the enemy will be a hilarious sight? ;) All of the bases and lots of weapons are magnetised, I counted 62 small and 12 big magnets used in that photo! :eek: As you can see there are no details painted on most of it, I am working up the motivation to get in there soon.

Plans to expand on this are to build 14 more Fire Drones to take the total up to 2 squads of 12, and try to decide how to get much needed markerlights into it. After much success with Tetras as a source of markerlights, I am trying to think of a way to model a drone version. :-?

Also missing is the Broadside Drones which will be modelled in the same way as my Crisis Drones but with the new resin broadside upgrade packs from GW, in much the same way as the 'fit up' I posted the other day. I also have plans to use the technical drones from Forgeworld as the drone controllers for the sniper drone teams which will add another 9 drones.

This really isn't a cheap alternative army to buy/build, though it has turned out not far off the conventional Tau costs.

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