This weekend saw the release of Games Workshop's newest supplement book - Codex: Farsight Enclaves. This is a variant army for Codex: Tau Empire, and the second release in a proposed line of supplementary army books (the first being Codex: Iyanden).
Price and availability
Firstly, the book is available only in electronic format at the present time. It can be ordered in epub or mob format from Black Library (at £19.99), or in iBook format from the iBook or iTunes stores (at £24.99). The print copy will be released in October. This review will focus solely on the iPad version.
So what do you get for the extra cost? The iPad version is, in my view, worth an extra cost. It includes clickable images which can be expanded to full screen, great for showing off 'Eavy Metal paintjobs. It includes fully rotatable imagery. Most importantly, it also allows you to click links which then include summaries of the actual rules (for example, you can click a character's name and it will link to the full stats, and include summaries of any special rules that the character also has). I understand that the Android versions don't do this, and are basically scanned copies of the book.
I won't go into a lot of detail here, but suffice to say the book includes the usual sections on fluff (history of Farsight, major battles, etc). Nicely written but standard GW fare: the sort of writing I would only read from GW. I still wonder why they don't draft in some Black Library authors for some of this stuff?
There are, of course, some lovely miniatures photographed at war. A variety of "Farsight-type" armies are featured, showing lots of colour schemes. I liked this over the fairly-neutral Tau photos (in which virtually every figure has the Tau ochre scheme).
There is a new wargear section and some rules for running Farsight armies (more on this below), then some (completely out of place) Cities of Death stratagems (which apparently Iyanden also had), and finally some Altar of War missions (recreating key battles in Farsight's history).
But I didn't buy this book for fluff, did I? I bought it for battlesuits...
Rules, army list and wargear
This is what people really want this book for: the Farsight variant army list.
And yes, it does deliver: you can take crisis battlesuits as troops. This was predicted as soon as the book was revealed, and this is what makes a Farsight Enclave different to a normal Tau army. The dream of having a super elite, super shooty army capable of fitting into a single Kaiser Rushforth storage case could be a reality!
But this section also disappoints. That is pretty much the extent of the special rules. True, there are a handful of extras: you must take bonding knives on all units where there is the option to do so (which, to me at least, seems to deter you from taking Fire Warriors and Pathfinders - they start to become prohibitively expensive if you're taking max strength units), you get some custom wargear, and you get a (weird) HQ choice called "The Eight". But this is all minor tinkering really, and doesn't change significantly how you'd play your army.
The wargear section has a couple of interesting choices, but they are ridiculously expensive pointswise. Some of these are very unreliable - such as the Seismic Defibrillator Node, which looks like a lot of fun until you realise that when used you have to roll a dice (on a 1 it doesn't work), and it's oneshot only. The signature gear replaces the usual signature systems from the standard Codex: Tau Empire. Therefore, you have to make an important choice in deciding to go with this army over the standard Tau list - access to juicy wargear like Iridium armour is lost...
The Eight (special characters) are interesting, but weird weapon combinations and high costs will again see them fielded rarely. I was most interested in the Riptide independent character! However, the rules on the use of these guys are very woolly - it isn't clear whether you can use them instead of Farsight's bodyguard, or you can use them without Farsight. I would prefer the latter interpretation, but I think that the former is probably correct. The rule is very badly written.
Finally, the army has some minor restrictions: you can't take Shadowsun or Aun'Va. This is an example if the list being "unimaginatively permissive" in my view. GW seems desperate to allow you to take everything in every army these days, whilst simultaneously describing how you should be telling a story with every game that you play. This extends to allowing you to take Ethereals in your Farsight army, which is explicitly discussed as being a representation of a historic Farsight army.
All of this might make it sound like I didn't like this book, which would be wrong. It's a nice addition to the Tau codex, and I will likely be building a Farsight Enclave army in the coming months. However, it always comes back to value: the book is simply not worth £24.99 for a page of additional rules and some nice pictures.
I don't play Eldar, but I've seen people commenting on the cost of Codex: Iyanden and the same arguments go for Codex: Farsight Enclaves. There is not enough variation on the core army, especially when the trademark character for this army is included in the main codex, to justify a separate book. Really, adding a box below Farsight's entry in the main codex which read "A primary detachment which includes Commander Farsight can take Crisis Suit Teams as Troops instead of Elites", would've more or less achieved the same goal of having an all-suit army...