Tau Empire Symbol

The sigil of the Sept of T'au, the T'au homeworld, often used as a symbol for the entire T'au Empire


A Tau Fire Warrior

The Tau (Imperial binomial classification: Tau tau), known in their own language as the T'au, are a young, humanoid and technologically-advanced intelligent race native to the Eastern Fringes of the Milky Way Galaxy who are fighting to expand their interstellar empire and extend a philosophical concept they call the "Greater Good" (Tau'va in the Tau Lexicon) to all the intelligent species of the galaxy.

The Tau claim to be a peaceful race when possible, asking if others will join their cause voluntarily instead of fighting against them. However, if their peaceful overtures are refused, the Tau may well decide to conquer a planet and add it to their growing interstellar empire for the Greater Good, searing the flesh from the bones of anyone who stands against their benign intentions.

Tau society is divided into a number of castes, each responsible for managing a specific aspect of their society. The Tau's central motivating ideal is that everyone in their empire regardless of their species will work for the collective betterment of everyone else, an almost mystical philosophy they call the Greater Good.

The Tau are the central figures of the T'au Empire, an interstellar polity which is composed of several different intelligent species, primarily the Kroot of Pech, the Vespids of the world of Vespid and the nomadic Nicassar, though there are now several human Tau Septs derived from conquered Imperial humans or humans who voluntarily joined the T'au Empire because they were impressed by the concept of the Greater Good. These people are known as Gue'vesa in the Tau Lexicon and they are considered amongst the most vile of Traitors and Heretics within the Imperium of Man.

The Tau are a relatively young race (it has been only 6,000 Terran years since Imperial Inquisitors first noted that the Tau had only just mastered fire and the wheel), and they have evolved rapidly over the past few millennia. Unlike other young intelligent races of the galaxy, the Tau have made remarkable leaps in technology and now represent a real threat to Imperial domination in their region of the galaxy.



An astrographical representation of the T'au Empire


A more detailed astrographical map of the T'au Empire following the end of the Third Sphere Expansion


Known Expansion of the T'au Empire by 998.M41


Map of the T'au Empire at the time of the Fifth Sphere Expansion after the opening of the Great Rift

The exact date of the founding of the Tau Empire in the Imperial Calendar is unclear, however the way in which the Tau were united as a species is a well-known tale. What is known is that only 6,000 standard years ago, in the 35th Millennium, an Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator fleet had discovered the Tau homeworld of T'au and determined that its population of sentient xenos were a primitive people at the Stone Age level of development who had only just mastered fire. They have developed very rapidly as a space-faring species.

Earlier in their history, the Tau were a culture built upon warring tribes. During this time, the Tau's legends tell of the first appearance of the Ethereals at the city of Fio'taun. The fortress city of Fio'taun was under assault by the Tau warriors from the plains. Though negotiation had been attempted, the fierce plains warriors would settle for nothing less than the annhilliation of the city of Fio'taun. For five long Tau years the inhabitants held off the savage assaults with their thick walls and plentiful cannon. However, disease and starvation began to take their toll. As the tide of the siege turned, two mysterious Tau appeared. One made his way into the camp of the plains Tau, exuding a quiet authority that no Tau was able to resist. Soon, the leader of the plains warriors was persuaded to parley with the settled Tau of Fio'taun. Similarly, the other mysterious Tau made his way deep into the fortress. Within a few short hours, the gates stood wide open, and the Tau of both sides stood ready to talk.

The Ethereals spoke of the importance of peace and understanding between all Tau. They described a Greater Good that each Tau must strive towards. The besiegers and the besieged quickly agreed with the Ethereals and a truce was reached. Across the world of T'au, Ethereals emerged, each with the same quiet authority and message of harmony and cooperation. With the Tau united, they were able to rapidly develop their civilization's technology, ultimately attaining faster-than-light spacefaring capabilities.

The Tau Empire soon expanded its borders through a series of so-called Sphere Expansions. The Tau Empire has gone through 3 phases of expansion as of the turn of the 42nd Millennium. These phases are marked by Tau military campaigns during which nearby worlds are colonised, conquered, or sometimes peacefully persuaded to accept the Greater Good through diplomacy and a manifest demonstration of the benefits provided by advanced Tau technology.

Therefore, apart from the star systems directly colonised by the Tau, which are called Septs, the Tau Empire also includes the worlds and star systems belonging to the species of the Kroot, Vespid, and the Nicassar. It is currently unknown if the Demiurg are full members of the Empire, allies, or mere trading partners. The Tau Empire is composed of over twenty fully-developed Septs and around one hundered settled worlds, but the exact number and most of their names are unknown to the Imperium.

A known splinter faction among the Tau are the Farsight Enclaves founded in the Damocles Gulf by the Tau Commander Farsight against the orders of the Ethereals. Also, more recently, some worlds and star systems of the Imperium of Man have been conquered by the forces of the Tau, while a handful have seceded from the Imperium and pledged their allegiance to the Tau Empire.

At some point, the Tau sent an expeditionary force to the Imperial planet Malbrede where they came into conflict with the Ultramarines Space Marine Chapter in 936.M41. However, the planet proved to be a cursed Tomb World when the fighting of the Tau and the Ultramarines awakened the sleeping Necrons from their tomb beneath the surface. In an effort to combat this terrible threat to both races, the Tau and the Ultramarines combined their forces to defeat the Necrons. Once the conflict was over, the Tau were allowed to evacuate their forces by the Ultramarines Chapter Master Marneus Calgar who proceeded to destroy Malbrede through the use of an Exterminatus order.

In 966.M41, the Tau fought against the Astartes of the Space Wolves Chapter during the War for Kvarium Alpha. On that Ocean World, the Space Wolves' Drop Pods landed deep in the oceans where their occupants, their Power Armour altered by Space Wolf Techmarines to operate in undersea environments, made a move to engage their enemy. On the surface, the battle was fought between the two sides with an equally deadly conflict erupting in the depths of the sea between the Space Wolves and Tau Battlesuits. Thunderhawk gunships armed with torpedoes, prop-bombs and missiles were used to great effect against the Tau's Hammerhead tanks and Manta gunships. Ultimately, the Space Wolves proved to be the victor in the conflict, though hundreds of Tau and Space Wolf corpses floated to the surface. With their mission complete, the Space Wolves made the long trek back to land across the sea bed.

The Taros Campaign was an Imperial military campaign fought by the 4621st Imperial Guard Army and elements of the Adeptus Astartes to reclaim the Imperial desert Mining World of Taros from the Tau Empire and its Kroot and human (Gue'vesa) allies of the Taros Planetary Defence Force in 998.M41. The campaign was ultimately unsuccessful for the Imperial forces due to the high amount of casualties taken and Taros remained in the possession of the Tau, who renamed it T'ros.

Damocles Gulf Crusade

The Damocles Gulf Crusade, also called the Damocles Crusade, was the first military conflict fought between the Imperium of Man and the rapidly expanding Tau Empire in the Lithesh Sector of the Ultima Segmentum in the galaxy's Eastern Fringes during the late 41st Millennium. The conflict essentially ended in a stalemate, as the Imperium was forced to conclude its military offensive early to deal with the encroaching Tyranid threat while the Tau sought to begin diplomatic negotiations with the Imperium to show humanity the benefits to be had by accepting the Greater Good.

Members of the Tau Water Caste had established trade agreements with Imperial worlds on the frontier of the Tau Empire, near the Damocles Gulf region of the Ultima Segmentum in the galactic east, and exchanges of goods and technology were common. Alarmed by the threat of alien contamination, the Administratum readied a suitable response and almost a century later, the Damocles Crusade smashed into Tau space, destroying several outlying settlements and pushing deep into the Tau Empire.

When the Imperial fleet reached the Tau Sept world of Dal'yth Prime, however, the Crusade ground to a bloody stalemate as the formidable numbers and high technology of the Tau and their Kroot allies thwarted every attempt to capture the world or its star system. Many months of terrible fighting ensued with nothing gained on either side. By late 742.M41 the Crusade's commanders eventually agreed to requests from the Tau Water Caste for peace talks. The negotiations were successful and the Imperial fleet withdrew from Tau space unmolested, primarily due to the impending approach of the Tyranid Hive Fleet Behemoth. Or, depending on the source, the Damocles Gulf Crusade was ended in 988.M41 due to the emergent threat of Hive Fleet Kraken to the Imperium.

Hive Fleet Gorgon

War Without End by MajesticChicken

The Tau repelling the Tyranid swarms of Hive Fleet Gorgon

The Tau Empire was invaded by the Tyranid Hive Fleet Gorgon, a splinter fleet of the much larger Hive Fleet Behemoth, in 899.M41. The Tyranids of Hive Fleet Gorgon were exceptional for their ability to quickly adapt on a biological level to new circumstances of battle, such as evolving immunities to the Tau's energy-based weaponry. This rapid pace of defensive adaptation may have been unique to the Tyranid breeds of Hive Fleet Gorgon, or it may have been a response to conflict with the Tau, who are also a highly adaptable species, but on a technological rather than biological level. The combined forces of the Tau and the Imperial Guard destroyed Hive Fleet Gorgon in 903.M41, albeit after both humanity and the Tau lost several colony worlds to the rapacious Tyranids.

Tau Physiology


A Tau Fire Warrior in full kit

The Tau's physiology is closely tied to their society, with the Tau of each caste effectively being a subspecies of the larger Tau race. This was initially a result of adaptation and evolution to suit the different environments each group of the proto-Tau species found themselves in, although interbreeding between the castes was later forbidden by the Ethereals.

The Tau are humanoid in shape, although they have hoofed feet and four-digit hands (three fingers and one thumb). Their skin is grey-blue (although this can vary in pigmentation between Tau colony worlds), rough in texture, leathery, and exudes almost no moisture. Their faces are flat, wide around the eyes, with an "I"-shaped slit running from the center of the forehead to where a human's nose would be. Tau vision is considered slightly superior to that of humans - their visual spectrum extends a little more into the ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths. However their pupils do not dilate, giving poorer depth perception and providing slower vision focusing reflexes than humans. The olfactory organs of a Tau are inside the mouth. Physical strength and size varies between the Tau castes with the Fire Caste being the strongest of their kind, roughly the size and slightly weaker than an average baseline human because the Tau homeworld has gravity slightly weaker than that of Terra.

Only two female Tau have ever been illustrated. The first, Commander Shadowsun, appeared to have a more human face than male Tau; being smoother and sleeker with larger eyes, a nose-like facial feature and a "Y" shaped facial slit. It is not known, however, whether Shadowsun is representative of all female Tau. The second known Tau female, the subject of an Imperial dissection by the Magi of the Adeptus Mechanicus, had the facial characteristics of a male Tau.

The Tau do not possess psykers and as a result have little knowledge of the Immaterium beyond its existence. This gives them some level of resistance to Warp-based powers affecting the mind, but it offers little, if any, protection against physically-manifested offensive psychic powers. This is because the Tau have virtually no psychic presence in the Warp. To the daemon, they appear as a shifting will-o-the-wisp rather than the burning fire that represents a human's soul. As such, Tau can never have psychic powers.

They are largely unaware of the perils of the Immaterium and for this reason the Tau have conducted research into the Warp on Medusa V, however, the conclusion was reached that further research was unfeasible, and that "the Warp is no place for the Greater Good and is best left to those foolhardy races who cannot pull back from that terrible realm." Ethereal Caste members also have a diamond-shaped bony ridge on their head. It is believed by Imperial scholars that through this organ the Ethereals exert a pheromone-based or latent psychic control over the other Tau castes to keep them focused on the Greater Good, but this is mere speculation, and no evidence of this has yet been found.

Due to their notable absence of psychic ability, the Tau have no equivalent to the Navigators of the Imperium, limiting their Warp jumps to short-distance "shallow jumps" or "Warp dives." Their interstellar vessels therefore take much longer than Imperial vessels to traverse the vast distances between the stars, having to "skim" the surface of the Warp rather than making extended, long-distance Warp jumps directly through the heart of the Immaterium.

Tau warriors receive only limited training in the arts of close combat, usually depending on Kroot mercenaries to fight in the horrible melees so common in 41st Millennium battles. However, due to their superior range of vision in the electromagnetic spectrum and a predilection for patience, the Tau have proven themselves to be extremely efficient sharpshooters with the ranged plasma weapons they rely upon.

The Tau tend to look upon other intelligent races as backwards or misguided. Before the commencement of hostilities they almost always try to reason with their opponents and establish some kind of agreement that will make military force unnecessary. Noted exceptions to this policy are Tau battles with the Orks and the Forces of Chaos, with whom the Tau have little to no diplomatic relations. This is due to the fact that the Tau see no way to reason with them, and do not want them in their empire.

Tau Caste System


The High Ethereal Aun'va, the leader of the Ethereal Caste and thus the Aun'o of the Tau Empire

The Tau employ a caste-based social system that places the good of the many over the good of the few or the individual. In Tau society, every person is viewed as an essential part of the whole society. Social standing is judged primarily by a being's standing within a caste of the Tau, with 'La being the lowest (Shas'la: Fire Warrior, Fio'la: Earth Worker, Por'la: Water Bureaucrat) and 'O being the highest (Shas'O: Fire Commander, Fio'O: Earth Planner, Por'O: Water Ambassador). The castes are as follows:

  • Fire (Shas) -- The Fire Caste composes the bulk of the military of the Tau Empire, and as such are the Tau most often used in the game. They average as tall as or slightly shorter than an average human, and are generally muscular. This comes from the Fire Caste's origin on the plains of T'au, the Tau homeworld, where they survived as hunters and warriors. Tau from the world of Vior'la tend to have slightly greater muscle mass because of the increased gravity of Viorla.
  • Earth (Fio) -- The Earth Caste is composed not only of laborers and technicians, but also artisans, scientists and engineers. They are usually credited with the significant leaps in technology that the Tau Empire has enjoyed. The members of the Earth Caste form the foundations upon which the Tau Empire is built. The inhabitants of this caste are generally short and stout of build.
  • Water (Por) -- The Water Caste is primarily composed of Tau merchants and diplomats. They are tasked with seeking and maintaining diplomatic relations with the other species of the Tau Empire, as well as maintaining the ease of communication and cooperation between the other castes. The Water Caste are generally taller and slimmer than other Tau, and favor diplomatic training and social grace over confrontation or combat. They are more capable in communicating in the languages of other intelligent races than most other Tau. From the time when the Tau discovered the Imperium of Man, there are several accounts where Water Caste ambassadors were dispatched to Imperial worlds, and those worlds were turned over to the Greater Good without a fight to become new Tau Septs.
  • Air (Kor) -- The Air Caste of the Tau function not only as messengers, but also as the bulk of the Tau Navy. The Tau of the Air Caste are even taller and more slender than the Water Caste, with long, skinny appendages and hollow bones. These traits are attributed to their lives lived mostly in low to zero-gravity starships and space stations. This is exacerbated by Air Caste reluctance, if not outright refusal to land on planets, as their skeletons have atrophied to the point where injury and broken bones are commonplace when they spend time in a gravity well. In the past, before the time of the Mont'au, the Air Caste had membranes stretching between their limbs, which allowed them to glide on air currents. Tau pilots are recognized as superior to human pilots due to their better fighter craft, though they lack a normal Imperial pilot's level of combat experience.
  • Ethereal (Aun) -- The Ethereals are the political and religious leaders of the Tau. They resemble the Fire and Water Castes physically, but are marked by a diamond-shaped ridge of raised bone in the center of their foreheads. Their origins are unknown, and most Tau will never refuse a request by an Ethereal. They are sometimes also found on the battlefield, but whether as leaders or observers remains to be seen. The leader of the Ethereal Caste is a Tau named Aun'va, who is the Master of the Undying Spirit and the leader or Aun'o of the Tau Empire.

Ethereal Control

One of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Tau concerns the Ethereals' control over other Tau, and how the Ethereals initially managed to unite a fractured, nomadic people constantly at war into a single people and military force. The proposed causes of this range from the psychic (as displayed in the Tau novel Fire Warrior) to the biological, that the Ethereals' diamond-shaped forehead ridge produces a set of pheromones that make Tau, and to a lesser extent other intelligent species, open to suggestion. This concept was introduced after people complained that the initial Tau Codex described the Tau in too much of a positive light, and that they were too "good" for the grim Warhammer 40,000 universe. This also led to the Vespid communion helms, which have a much clearer Orwellian feel that the Vespid are being directly manipulated by the Tau thanks to the helmets that are supposedly for "communication purposes."

The Greater Good

The Greater Good, or "Tau'va," is the central philosophy that unites all Tau. It teaches that every sentient being is equal and plays an important part in Tau society. It tells its adherents to put away petty squabbles and unnecessary things to unite for the greater good of the rest of the race. As implied in Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, the Tau have no desire to destroy another intelligent species' religion or culture - though it may not mean that the Tau respect the right to live. However, while many embrace this ideology (even some Imperium worlds have willingly joined the Tau Empire) other races fiercely resist adhering to the Greater Good to pursue their own freedoms, much to the dismay of the Tau, who see these desires as selfish and unenlightened.

Tau Ranks

The rank of a person in Tau society is second only to the caste they are born into in determining their position in Tau culture. The ranks are as follows:

Rank Fire Caste (Shas) Air Caste (Kor) Water Caste (Por) Earth Caste (Fio) Ethereal Caste (Aun)




Warrior Messenger Bureaucrat Worker Prince


Veteran Carrier Envoy Senior Prelate


Hero Pilot Magister Overseer King


Knight Captain Diplomat Engineer Holy


Commander Admiral Ambassador Planner Ethereal

  • 'Saal - Cadet. This rank is typically given to Tau as soon as they enter service in the Fire Caste.
  • 'La - The first and lowest true rank of Tau society. A Shas'la would be a standard Fire Warrior, while a Fio'la would be a manual laborer, and a Kor'la a crewman on a ship.
  • 'Ui - The second rank among the Tau. A Shas'ui would be the leader of a squad of Fire Warriors (equivalent to an Imperial Space Marine Sergeant), or a Tau Battlesuit pilot, while a Por'Ui would be a mid-ranking envoy or diplomat.
  • 'Vre - The third Tau rank. A Shas'vre is a Battlesuit team leader or bodyguard, a Fio'vre would be the foreman of a Tau factory, and a Kor'vre a fighter pilot.
  • 'El - The fourth and second highest Tau rank, acknowledged as one of high esteem. Shas'el are Commanders, Kor'el command Tau spacecraft, and a Fio'el would be an engineer.
  • 'O - The highest Tau rank. Kor'o would be the title of a fleet admiral, while Shas'o would be of the highest levels of command and fearsome warriors (usually placed in command of one or more cadres), and an Aun'o is the highest rank of Ethereal as Ethereal Supreme and head of the Ethereal High Council, revered by all Tau as the leader of their race.

Before the unification of the Tau Empire under the rule of the Ethereals, the four main castes (Fire, Earth, Water, and Air) were constantly vying for power with each other. The sudden appearance of the mystical Tau of the Ethereal Caste led to the unification of the Tau under the philosophy of the "Greater Good".

The Tau are the most open and tolerant of the intelligent races in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. They are the only army that prefers to settle their differences peacefully. They are appreciative of humans, Eldar, and the other sentient races, but hold their own values to be superior to those of others because they view themselves as seeking to build an unselfish society. Their tolerance also extends to themselves, as the Tau recognise even lowly Fio'la workers as being as important to the operation and well-being of the Tau Empire as Shas'vre Battlesuit leaders or even the highest Aun'o.

Tau names are tied closely with their lives within the Empire. A Tau's full name always starts with their caste and their rank, followed by the Sept (planetary system) of their birth, followed by their personal name, which is often determined/extended by their notable actions or achievements in life. Thus, the Tau named Shas'O Vior'la Shovah Kaius Mont'yr (see below) would be broken down as follows:

  • Shas -- The individual is a member of the Fire Caste...
  • O -- ...Who is a high-ranking Commander and hero...
  • Vior'la -- ...Who comes from the Sept of Vior'la...
  • And has a personal name translated as being far-sighted (Shovah), skilled (Kauis, possible variation of Kais), and having seen many battles (Mont'yr, meaning "blooded").

Tau Combat Doctrine

Tau with kroot

Tau and their Kroot allies, fighting for the Greater Good

Tau warfare is carried out almost exclusively by the Fire Caste, with support from the Air Caste in the form of transport and air support. The Tau draw their tactics from their ancient methods of hunting across the plains of T'au. Each force is usually drawn from the same Sept, and is called a Hunter Cadre.

The Tau prefer to carefully plan their assaults, and tend to fight only after coordinating their troops and weapons for the mission at hand. The Tau prefer to fight offensively, concerned more with the quick destruction of the enemy than the taking and holding of ground. If a Tau base is attacked, the Tau will usually evacuate, dismantle all important technology, and return at a later time to retake it.

The two primary Tau tactics are the Mont'ka (Killing Blow) and Kauyon (Patient Hunter). The Mont'ka is a carefully planned attack designed to wipe out critical enemy defenses or units in a single well-placed strike. Once the strongest points of enemy resistance are crushed, the remainder of the force can generally be finished off easily. The Kauyon is essentially an ambush, where the enemy is drawn by use of a "lure" into a carefully prepared killing zone. The Mont'ka is generally known to utilize more mobile support and vehicles, whilst Kauyon relies more on advanced infantry tactics and quick attacks.

As Tau forces generally prefer ranged combat they always use non-Tau alien auxiliaries like the Kroot for melee support. One Tactic is when a squad of Fire Warriors stands in front of the task force, making use of the superior range of their weapons to soften up enemy formations. A squad of Kroot Carnivores waits behind the Fire Warriors. When enemy units charge to engage the Tau in melee, the Carnivores leap in front of the Fire Warriors to give them time to retreat to a safe firing position.


Tau Battles

The Tau Fire Caste in battle


A selection of Tau weapons recovered from the battlefield

The Tau, though an extremely young interstellar state compared to the Imperium of Man, possess some of the most advanced weapons and equipment in the galaxy.

Pulse Rifle

This weapon is the most common amongst the Fire Caste, and its range and firepower far surpasses that of the Imperium's standard Lasgun. The weapon works well with the Tau way of war, as it allows extensive salvos, making their hunter tactics extremely effective. It works by using an electromagnetic induction field to propel a subatomic particle, which breaks down to create a plasma pulse as it leaves the barrel of the weapon.

Pulse Carbine

The carbine sacrifices range for portability and power. The weapon works in the same way as its larger pulse rifle cousin, but is a lot more effective when the prey gets too close.  It is much easier to get working in tight situations, and the rate at which it can be used usually knocks the charging enemy off balance, forcing them to halt their advance; the exception being when there is too much momentum behind the charge. The pulse carbine is also equipped with an underslung photon grenade launcher (see photon grenades below) for further stopping power.

Pulse Pistol

Recently issued to Tau personnel as a hold-out weapon, the pulse pistol is only normally used in desperate situations.  Again, this weapon works the same as its big brothers, only on a smaller scale.

Rail Rifle

While this version is a lot smaller than the weapons that are usually used in Tau warfare, it, like all Rail types, use electromagnetic linear accelerator technology to project a solid projectile at hypervelocity. Even with its smaller size, this weapon can lay down some impressive firepower.

Kroot Rifle

A primitive slug-thrower relying on chemical propellant and the transfer of kinetic energy. After contact with the Tau, the weapon has been adapted to fire a plasma pulse round, which gives the weapon increased stopping power. The Kroot have also adapted the weapon to suit them by adding staves at each end of the rifle for deadly effect in close melee combat.

Kroot Gun

A much larger version of the Kroot Rifle. Being a heavy weapon it must be mounted on a Krootox and a Kroot that is dedicated to its use. Because of its size and calibre it was designed with heavily armoured troops and light vehicles in mind.

Vespid Neutron Blaster

This weapon is used by the Vespid Stingwings. It is a hybrid of Vespid and Tau technology, as the Tau developed the weapon specifically with the Stingwings in mind. As the Stingwings emit a certain frequency that they use for communication, this is used in the weapons trigger system so only the Stingwings may use it. Its ammunition is again specifically designed for the Stingwings as the crystal mounted upon each blaster is grown on Vespid (the planet) and emits a powerful neutron blast that is able to bypass all but the most well-shielded armour.

Marker Light

A Marker Light is commonly used in the Tau's way of war as it allows for the utmost accuracy when targeting the enemy. It projects a simple beam upon a target, and it is used to guide other weapons to it. Normally this will be to guide Tau seeker missiles to a heavily fortified area, or even to take out the enemy from extremely long range. It is also a component of ambush tactics as it is used to mark up the enemy positions so that multiple targets may be destroyed simultaneously, causing havoc within the enemy lines.

Photon Grenades

A defensive grenade that blinds and disorients attackers with multi-spectral light and a sonic burst. It is hardly used in offensive situations as Fire Warriors do not normally charge enemies in combat and they are too complicated for Kroot hands. As a result they are thrown at charging enemies so that the Fire Warriors can dispatch them quickly.

EMP grenades

EMP grenades emit a brief but strong electro-magnetic pulse that overloads circuitry, causing fires, meltdowns and other critical malfunctions, sometimes leading to large explosions.

Honour Blade

This is a long, broad-bladed spear mounted on a lightweight metallic shaft. The honour blade is used to settle disputes between Ethereal Caste members in stylised bloodless duels. Ethereals often master this sword so well that it becomes almost invisible when wielded, making its extremely hard to defend against.

Bonding Knife

This is a ceremonial knife, not intended for combat, carried by the leader of Fire Caste warrior teams who have performed the Ta'lissera ritual and bonded as a group. Among Fire Warrior squads it is considered a forging of brotherhoods, they live, fight and die together.

Tau Battlesuit Weapons

Battlesuits ready by majesticchicken-d33bobd

Tau Battlesuits

Battlesuits are the Tau's primary weapon of warfare. They have greater mobility and firepower than anything else in their arsenal.

Burst Cannon

The Burst Cannon is the bigger cousin of the Pulse Carbine. It sacrifices its ability to pin down the enemy for a greatly increased rate of fire. This weapon is very common on Tau battlesuits and vehicles.


Used mainly in close quarters and urban environments, this weapon is considered a back-up, as Tau avoid close combat at all costs. It is effective at close ranges, but can leave the user in danger of getting trapped in hand-to-hand combat.

Fusion Blaster

Used when hunting enemy tanks and commanders, the fusion blaster can punch through armor like nothing's there and can drop even the heaviest of targets with a single well-placed shot.

Missile Pod

The missile pod is used on Tau battlesuits as a long-range support weapon.  Its high rate of fire and long range make it arguably one of the best weapons for a battlesuit.

Plasma Rifle

Often used in conjunction with missile pods and fusion blasters, the plasma rifle is capable of penetrating the heaviest infantry armor. It becomes even more dangerous when one gets up close.


Mounted on the XV88 Broadside battlesuit and loaded with a solid slug, the railgun has no match when it comes to taking down infantry and vehicles. No armor is too thick, no vehicle too tough. It has more range than any other gun used by Tau infantry.

SMS (Smart Missile System)

One of the most unique weapons in the Tau arsenal is the Smart Missile System or SMS. It fires drone-guided missiles that seek out the target and track them down regardless of where they are hiding. Walls and cover will not protect a target from these missiles. The SMS can be mounted on Tau skimmers and XV88 Broadside Battlesuits.

Vehicle-only Weapons

The Tau vehicles are easily some of the best in the galaxy. They possess a wide range of upgrades and weapon choices, combined with speed and heavy armor. The Imperium has learned to fear them.

Hammerhead Railgun

One of the largest weapons seen on any battlefield, the railgun mounted on a Tau Hammerhead gunship is capable of firing either solid slugs or slower submunition rounds. The solid slugs can pierce even the heaviest armor with ease, while the explosive submunition rounds decimate infantry who clump together. The railgun is truly a fearsome weapon and one of the iconic Tau cannons.

Ion Cannon

The Ion Cannon is used to take down infantry and light vehicles. It fires a focused Ion Burst that reacts explosively on contact. Ion Cannon technology was developed by the Demiurg and provided to the Tau Empire after the conclusion of an alliance between the Demiurg and the Tau.

Forces of the Tau


XV22 Battlesuit

The XV22 Battlesuit is an experimental armoured battlesuit reserved for only the worthiest of Fire Caste commanders. It can be armed with a Burst Cannon, Fusion Blaster, Plasma Rifle and Flamer. It is protected by a small energy shield, generated from an emitter node worn on the left hand. Advanced sensor arrays can detect and identify hostiles even if they are protected by heavy cloaking. A Jetpack and thrusters are mounted on the back of the frame. The battlesuit can be equipped with a mobile stealth-field generator to keep hidden from sight. Tau Drones can be programmed to follow the XV22 and assist its wearer in defence and weapons tracking.

Tau Commander

The Tau Commander can either be a Shas'o or Shas'el in rank and always wears an XV8 Crisis Battlesuit. Tau Commanders are the highest-ranking members of the Fire Caste. The Battlesuit holds only one Tau and can be upgraded with a variety of weapons, wargear, and support systems allowing them to be flexible in any role. The Battlesuit plays an important part of any Tau army for they are not only the commander but they can be very deadly themselves. Some Commanders can be equipped to go tank-hunting or to obliterate infantry or they can do both! This highly customizable Tau Battlesuit is also very tough and strong, making it one of the best units the Tau have. Tau Commanders are often accompanied by 2 Shas'vre bodyguards, and as many Gun Drones, Shield Drones, or Marker Drones as they want. There are several modified versions of the standard XV8 Battlesuit for use by commanders only. These incorporate armour, weapons, or support items that can greatly enhance the commander's role in the Hunter Cadre. The Tau have built several experimental XV8 Crisis Battlesuits for Tau Commanders, some of which are custom-made for a specific commander, such as that used by Commander Shas'o R'myr.

XV8 Crisis Battlesuit Shas'vre Bodyguard

Shas'vre bodyguards are handpicked by the Shas'O. Normally close friends, the bodyguards wear the same type of battlesuit as their commander.


The Ethereal Caste brought the other four castes together in the name of the Greater Good. Known to be similar to human religious leaders, Ethereals also sometime take part in battle. Their mere presence raises the morale of every Tau unit fighting. But that's not to say they cannot hold their own. Some Ethereals are masters of bladed weapons such as the Ethereal Aun'shi who is famed for his skill with his double-bladed weapon. But having an Ethereal present on the battlefield is not without its downs. If the Ethereal were to die in battle, the entire Tau army would be demoralized. To know that their great leader had fallen can make many of the hardest veterans flee from the battlefield.

Ethereals can be accompanied by an honor guard squad of up to 12 Fire Warriors. These act to protect the Ethereal from harm and are generally more experienced soldiers. Any Fire Warrior would give his life to protect an Ethereal.


XV8 Crisis Battlesuit

Fire Warriors who work hard enough, can be promoted to the rank of Shas'ui. As Shas'ui, they can either lead teams of Fire Warriors or choose to become an XV8 Crisis Battlesuit pilot. A Battlesuit pilot gains the honor of piloting an XV8 Battlesuit into battle. A Battlesuit is a heavy exoskeleton that can lift heavy loads and protect the pilot from any danger. The suit is able to fire heavy weapons, use a jetpack for mobility(a common 40k tactic known as Jump-Shoot-Jump), and have various systems installed such as a drone controller. They can even be promoted to Shas'vre, not all are bodyguards though, there are also teams of a Shas'vre leader and two Shas'ui. The XV8 Battlesuit Series can be customized and equipped accordingly to threats that the Tau Empire will face; this versatility is what makes the XV8 Crisis Battlesuit one of the most useful units available to the Tau.

XV25 Stealthsuits

XV25 Stealthsuit pilots work alone, independently from the rest of their Cadre. They scout ahead of the rest of the Tau army, taking out key units such as commanders to demoralize the enemy, or ambushing tanks and infantry to cripple them. Stealthsuits use stealth-field generators, which allow them to fight unseen, even when in plain view. Stealthsuits can only take two different weapons, the fusion blaster or burst cannon.

This stealth capability allows the Stealthsuit teams to operate ahead of the main Tau force or even behind enemy lines. When deployed, Stealthsuits will always deploy in the last phase of deployment. They also may be deployed outside of the Tau deployment zone, effectively advancing on the enemy even before the main force is fully mobilized. Another option is for the Stealthsuits to strike deep into enemy territory during the battle. This is almost completely unpredictable for both the Tau forces and the enemy, albeit to a lesser degree for the former. Stealthsuits may arrive at any time during a battle, often positioning themselves directly behind important adversarial units. Even the exact location of their insertion when deep striking is not completely within the control of the Tau, representing the independent and unique nature of these teams.

XV15 Stealthsuits

Equipped with the XV15 Stealth Armour, these Tau troops are the 'lone wolves' of the Tau army, operating independently of other formations. XV15 Stealthsuits use stealth-field generators, which allow them to fight unseen, even when in plain view. Stealth Suit teams go ahead of the main Tau forces. Their role is to pick out the first targets while keeping enemy troops pinned down until the main army moves into position. Stealth Suit teams use their markerlights to provide targeting information for Seeker Missile strikes. This allows the Tau's main units to destroy tanks and other large threats before they have a chance to fire their guns.


Fire Warriors

The backbone of any Tau army, the Fire Warriors are the main troop choice for Tau. With the best infantry guns in the game, the Pulse Rifle, the Fire Warriors can take down most enemies from afar. Fire Warriors can also use Pulse Carbines which allows them to move and shoot at the cost of range. Stat-wise, they aren't the best units in the game but they make up for it with their advanced technology and fire power. Fire Warriors are called Shas'la and can be led by a Shas'ui team leader. The Shas'ui usually carries a Bonding Knife which is a symbol of unity within the group.

Devilfish Transport

The favorite of many Tau armies, the Devilfish is a unique and powerful transport. Being a skimmer, it allows units to fire underneath it (this makes for a very interesting tactic which is listed below in "Popular Tactics"). The Devilfish also has decent armor, making it resilient against multiple hits. It can hold a total of 12 Fire Warriors. The Devilfish can transport Kroot in addition to robotic Drones, Fire Warriors or Pathfinders and special individuals attached to the squad. There are three doors, one on each side of the skimmer and one in the back. This allows personnel to be deployed in the back or sides of the vehicle; coincidentally this allows the weaker points of the vehicle's armour to face away from the enemy at the same time. The Devilfish can receive a number of weapons upgrades that make it a much stronger and more useful transport for the Tau.


These are human auxiliaries from former Imperial worlds that have joined the Tau Empire as human Septs and accepted the Greater Good. They march into battle carrying both their Imperial weapons and Tau replacements, as well as Tau armor and equipment. Many of these mercenaries and traitors were left behind after the Damocles Gulf Crusade and then engulfed by the Tau Empire.


The Kroot come from their homeworld of Pech, a jungle world, which has resulted in the Kroot becoming experts in jungle warfare. The Kroot are an interesting race because they seem to evolve by devouring prey or the remains of their enemies. By eating the remains of their enemies their digestive system absorbs the enemy's DNA and then they develop the traits of their enemies. Since the Tau disdain hand-to-hand combat they employ the Kroot as melee auxiliaries. These Kroot can also be accompanied by Krootox and Kroot Hounds, variations of the Kroot genus who have become trapped in a genetic dead end.

Fast Attack


Tau pathfinder team by slipgatecentral

A Tau Pathfinder Team

Pathfinders are the scouts of the Tau. They spot ahead and "light up" targets with their markerlight for the rest of the army. They are always accompanied by a Devilfish transport, allowing them to swiftly redeploy out of harm's way. Pathfinders are armed with Pulse Carbines, but three of them may be exchanged for Rail Rifles so the squad is able to keep a distance from attackers.

Vespid Stingwings

The Vespid are insectile assault troops in the Tau Army who have willingly joined the Tau Empire. Unlike the mercenary Kroot, the Vespid actually believe in the Greater Good and have joined the Tau to spread the Greater Good, though it is whispered that the Vespid only joined the Tau after their leaders were presented with crafted communion helms, worn by all Vespid Strain Leaders, to "aid in communication." In return, the Tau have made the Vespid their own armour and weapons which are unique to their race. Their main weapon is the neutron blaster, which is created by harvesting crystals that are formed on the Vespid homeworld and mounting them on a neutron containment and projection system, making them not only unique but the most deadly weapon of their kind. The crystals that form the heart of the weapon come from the deepest mines on the largest island of the Vespid homeworld also called Vespid).


The Piranha is a lightly armored vehicle used by the Tau in a range of capacities including rapid response, support of Pathfinder Teams, and even as battlefield transport for high-ranking dignitaries. By upgrading the vehicle to carry a Fusion Blaster or a pair of Seeker Missiles, it becomes an effective tank hunter, particularly when guided to a target by Pathfinder Teams.


The lightest skimmer in the Tau force, Tetras are minimally armed and armoured, and are exclusively scouting vessels, designed to range far ahead of Tau forces and mark targets for long range bombardment.

Heavy Support

Sniper Drone Team

A team consisting of a Tau Spotter and three robotic drones armed with rail rifles. The drones are remotely controlled by the spotter using a specially-designed interface.

XV88 Broadside Battlesuit

Veteran Fire Warriors may pilot more heavily-armed, but less versatile, Battlesuits. Armed with twin linked Rail Guns, it is almost guaranteed to hit and destroy any unit. They are also equipped with either a smart missile system or twin linked plasma rifles. It can be a very efficient infantry killer as well.

Hammerhead Gunship

The anti-gravity tank of the Tau Empire. It can be armed with two burst cannons or a smart missile system on the drone sponsons while carrying a rail gun, ion cannon, or twin-linked weapons on the primary mount. The Hammerhead is used for major firepower and is fast and mobile.

Sky Ray

A variant of the Hammerhead that is armed with air defense missile platforms. The Sky Ray is an ideal artillery piece except that it is unable to operate at full capacity unsupported. Players should use the Sky Ray with a team of Pathfinders for the utmost accuracy and destruction. Another good thing about the Sky Ray is that it has the power to bombard the enemy with multiple seeker missiles

Playing the Tau

In the Warhammer 40,000 game, the Tau are a ranged army. An effective tactic is to engage the enemy at the maximum range of Tau weaponry, which typically has longer ranges and greater firepower than the equivalent weapons of other armies. As such, the Tau have weaker Close Combat ability. Thus, many tactics involve staying at a distance, to wipe out the enemy or redeploying swiftly to further engage the opponent.

A more prevalent tactic amongst Tau veterans is the 'Mecha-Tau' approach, which utilizes the inherent mobility and speed of Tau vehicles and battlesuits to confuse and overwhelm the enemy by engaging them at all levels of the battlefield.

The Tau army is highly specialized, with each element normally having a specific task carried out in the support of the rest of the force. Fire Warriors make up the line troops, while forward scouts known as Pathfinders scout enemy positions, and provide fire support with rail rifles and marker light target designators. The Tau also deploy battlesuits in support roles, such as: providing specialized weapons to deal with any hot spots on the battlefield, providing heavy anti-tank fire, or as stealth warriors, operating independently of the main force.

The Tau also make extensive use of small AI-controlled Drones, typically equipped with guns or shield projectors, these drones can be used to protect teams of Fire Warriors and battlesuits and support vehicles.

The basic weapons of the Fire Caste are Pulse weapons, which propel a particle beam that breaks down into a plasma pulse as it is fired from the gun. This is commonly used as a long-range Pulse rifle or a portable Pulse carbine. A rapid-fire variation of the carbine is also used on vehicles and Battlesuits, and is known as the Burst Cannon.

The Tau are known to use Ion Cannons and Railguns on their ships and vehicles, as well as various guided and unguided missiles. They also arm their Battlesuits with a variety of weapons, ranging from Burst Cannons and missile pods, to Fusion Blasters, Pulse Rifles, and Flamers.

Notable Tau

Allied Tau Empire Species


The name "Tau" is taken from the letter of the Greek alphabet with the same name.


  • Codex: T'au Empire (8th Edition), pp. 6-41
  • Codex: Tau Empire (7th Edition), pp. 5-5, 9, 37-40
  • Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 17-19, 25, 27, 29, 106
  • Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pp. 4-9, 20
  • Codex: Tau (3rd Edition), pp. 56-57
  • Deathwatch: The Achilus Assault, pg. 118
  • Deathwatch: The Rising Tempest, pg. 6
  • Xenology by Simon Spurrier, pp. 14-15
  • Courage and Honour (Novel) by Graham McNeill
  • Tau Water Caste Envoy (Inquisitor Specialty Game) (Archived Web Page)

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