Allies have been on my mind a lot, mostly becuase, like most experienced 40k players I have more than one army (Tau, GK, and a dash of silver marines for the old daemonhunters ally rules, FYI) and there are obvious advantages to it. It’s one of my favorite things about 6th ed, btw, as it breaths new life into old armies, and it gives people like me that have mostly complete armies an excuse to buy “just a few” of some new army….which will probably segue into an entire army at some point. (which of course is GW’s plan, but I forgive them their mercantile intent driving rules this time; it’s just too fun)
This has been mostly a GK blog so far, but truth be told most of my time has been spent thinking about Tau….they have new viability with the change to rapid fire more general vehicle changes (massed str 5 is a vehicle killer now). However, unlike GK, which are pretty well self contained, Tau almost need allies because their weaknesses are so profound (assault and anti-psychic, lack of flyers).
I think we can assume for the sake of argument that ALL armies have something that potential partners will want; even Black Templars have cheap 5 man las/plas squads, terminators with tank hunting cyclone launchers (and a double dose too), and 20 point cheaper typhoon land speeders.
But there’s a cost here: obviously we have to buy 1 HQ and 1 Troop, and just obviously, not all HQs are created equal. HQs are usually not nearly as “points efficient” as regular troops — one of the main mistakes new players tend to make is over-tooled-up, bloated HQs– but most provide a decent “punch” that let you enforce local dominance in a small section of the field. Troops can vary everywhere from fastastic, as capable as the elites of other armies, to near wastes of points that people have always felt forced to take. We’re going to call these mandatory HQs and troops the “Tax”, which will be low when things are either cheap or super effective, or high when they’re useless.
There’s a second, more subtle factor going on that is probably under appreciated, though. Internal synergies and force multipliers, ways in which the army is meant to support itself. A good example would be Tau markerlights. These are pure force multipliers, and they obviously work better if you have a certain mass of Tau to utilize them properly. So, you’re unlikely to get much use out of markerlights in a small ally force, and conversely, by adding allies into a Tau army you’re creating some portion of your force that can’t use them. Less obvious internal synergies include things such as SW Wolf Guard and BA priests (both of which require an Elites slot) and Necron courts (which are a free slot, but still need units to put them in).
These are just things to keep in mind when adding allies into your list…..it’s fun and exciting but you are usually paying a premium to do so. It’s good to understand what that cost is and make sure it’s worth it.