So, on occasion, I'll mention in some online 40K community that I don't run Kroot. I don't really like the fluff, or the models, and I don't think the aesthetic matches the rest of the army. My infantry is Tau Fire Warriors all the way, and if that makes me a bit of a racist in the eyes of the Empire, well, so be it. The Tau are arguably a space-British Empire, after all, and I can't imagine many shas'els and 'os would look down their nose-holes too strongly at a cadre commander for preferring a purely Tau fighting force. Well, not unless a particularly liberal-minded Ethereal happened to be in the area, that is.
But every time I do, the reaction is always the same. Knowing nothing about me, my play style, my wider army composition or my win-loss record, complete strangers will start telling me how I need to take Kroot. And I don't mean 'oh, you should take a squad and try it, here are some ways you could incorporate them into various common strategies'. No, not only will people tell me that I should, nay, must take Kroot, they'll actually go so far as to argue that I am wrong for not taking Kroot. Because they're better. I've actually had people tell me, apropos of nothing really, that it's mathematically provable that Kroot outshoot Fire Warriors, and that a single, min-sized squad of Fire Warriors is all you'll ever need.
Now, obviously, I object to this line of thought. In particular, I found myself turning over and over the idea that Kroot are mathematically provable better shots than Fire Warriors. As anyone who's spent five minutes in an online 40K community knows, math-hammer is all the rage. The idea is that you can break down the odds of success for a unit, and with that, determine which unit is 'better' and which 'worse'. I'm not entirely averse to this idea, since it can give you some idea of whether or not you're actually getting value for upgrades or more expensive units or the like. In particular, it can be very helpful for deciding between high-damage, low-shot volume weapons and low-damage, high-shot volume weapons, figuring out if those extra shots are likely to actually add up to anything or if you're just trading a single guaranteed kill for a few extra savable wounds. But where it can really fall apart is in the comparison of units, largely because the math-hammer is usually done based off an arbitrary equivalence between the two.
For example, in the Kroot vs. Fire Warrior debate, the claim is that you're better off with Kroot, because mathematically they'll score more wounds. To compare equivalent points worth of models, between 12"-24" ten Kroot (70 points) will get five hits, which against the math-hammer standard Marine will yield two and a half wounds, which works out to .83 dead Marines. In comparison, seven Fire Warriors (70 points) will get three and a half hits, which yields 2.3 wounds, which works out to .78 dead Marines. The numbers aren't hugely divergent (though the Kroot do have the greater potential damage, since there are three more of them to get lucky with), but they do give a razor's edge to the Kroot. Right?
Well, maybe. You see, that false equivalence I mentioned earlier? Well, it's at work in that equation, subtly influencing the comparison. For instance, the example had the two units shooting at targets between 12" and 24", the standard range for a rapid fire weapon. But the pulse rifle's maximum range is 30", meaning they have an entire 6" threat envelope in which the Kroot simply can't compete. That could well give them two unanswered turns of shooting at a rapid fire-wielding target before they're in range to shoot back, which is to say, the enemy will already be a Marine and a half down before they get to shoot back. And the fact that the two units are shooting at Marines is another little way the comparison is engineered in favour of the Kroot. If, instead, they were shooting at Guardsmen caught in the open, say because their Chimera has helpfully been exploded by an XV88, the math goes a little differently. Suddenly, while the Kroot are getting 2.2 kills, the Fire Warriors are getting 2.9 kills, thanks to their weapons' higher AP. The same goes for light vehicles. Shooting at a Rhino, seven Fire Warriors will hit three and a half times, and get .58 glancing hit rolls on the damage table. Hardly great numbers, I'm sure you'd all agree. But the Kroot, while they'll still hit five times, will not get to roll so much as once for damage, because their S4 guns are simply incapable of penetrating the AV11 front. And for AV10, which the Kroot can damage, but which only the Fire Warriors can actually penetrate, that access to the significantly more decisive version of the vehicle damage chart is going to be worthwhile. And there are other things, beyond the scope of the equation. Unlike Kroot, Fire Warriors can benefit from markerlight hits, and while you'll often have more pressing need of those markerlights, even just one token spent on those seven Fire Warriors will see an even 1 Marine killed every round, statistically speaking. And of course, Fire Warriors have a 4+ save, which means if they're caught in the open, or hit by a weapon that ignores cover saves, they'll still have a good chance of being around next turn to keep shooting, while the Kroot will pretty much disappear.
Which isn't to say the Kroot have no good qualities. They're cheap, meaning you can get a lot of bodies, they're basically armed with the standard and respectable bolter, and they're equally average shots compared to Fire Warriors. Mostly they're used for two things. The first is assault-blocking, and to that end they have WS4 and S4, and two close combat weapons, though they're still only T3 and I3 with no save; they'll do average when they get to strike, but nearly everything other than a Necron will hit first, and with low toughness and no save those hits will kill a lot of Kroot. Their second role is serving as meat shields for the Greater Good, a complete inversion of Tau tactics according to the fluff, and to further that goal they get +1 to their cover saves in woods and jungles, and can basically ignore the negative features of that terrain. That means if they go to ground in a forest, they've got a 2+ save that can only be negated by certain cover-denying weapons. Of course, it also means they aren't shooting, and as it's not uncommon to hear advocates of Kroot suggest just such a tactic, their championing of Kroot shooting subsequently feels a little disingenuous. The best shots in the world aren't much good to you if they never pull the trigger.
I don't use Kroot because I don't like Kroot, and I've made no secret of that. But I certainly don't judge people who do. Unfortunately, I can't help but feel that those who do use Kroot don't share my live-and-let-live attitude. There's an unpleasant undertone of lecturing whenever someone responds to tell me how I'm wrong to not use Kroot, and loathe as I am to dive into the sordid little debate, it carries a certain whiff of the much-maligned Win-At-All-Costs attitude. People don't tell me to take Kroot because they think I'd like them if I gave them a chance on the tabletop, they tell me to take Kroot because 'everybody knows' that Kroot are best, and that you should always take what's best, regardless of your own thoughts on the matter. But I'm not interested in 'what's best'; clearly, since I play Tau Empire. I build my cadre the way I like it, and win or (more commonly) lose, I stand by the decisions I've made.
And hey, if it comes down to it, I can deploy my own meaningless barrage of statistics to buoy my decisions, too. So nyah.