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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Operational Status: Tyranids

Hi all,

from now on, Wednesdays are going to be the day for army discussions, tactics and reviews- all part of the new schedule here at G.A.A. or the inaugural post, I thought I'd let you know about some of my experiences with Tyanids in 6th Edition 40K.

The first thing to say is that Tyranids are a very different animal now- Tarpits are back, Vehicles are less imposing and psychic trickery is a potential boon. That said, I've tried to approach the Tyranids with a fresh perspective, rather than carrying over old pre-conceptions from previous editions- I've really gone "back to basics" with the list, to try and figure out what works now and what to leave at home.

So I'm leaving a lot of the potential dirty tricks out. Mycetic Spores are an unknown quantity for me right now, as are flying Warriors, Pyrovores etc. My over-riding feeling with the army at the moment is that you need to pin the enemy in place, and then devour them at your leisure. Now to explain that a little further...

The Tyranid Codex gives players access to lots of cheap, fearless bugs. 20 Termagants are 100 points- that's a bargain. I did a little math-hammer on these: 20 Termagants charging 10 Tactical Marines (I'm assuming Flamer, Missile Launcher, Power Sword as upgrades.) The Overwatch accounts for 2 Gaunts (optimistically!) In combat, the marines account for 3-4 Termagants a round. So the Gaunt unit can tie up a Tactical Squad for 4-5 rounds of combat, as long as they are fearless- that ignores any damage the Gaunts may do in the meantime, which would further reduce the numbers of attacks coming at them, and so increase the number of turns they can stay locked.

This means, for me, that 2 or 3 squads of Gaunts are a must- they allow you to tie up enemy units for long enough that your big bugs can come in and deliver the killing blow. Hormogaunts are also valid, especially with Adrenal Glands for S4 on the charge. I've been using a squad of 20 to down enemy transports through hull-points (20 of them is enough to do 3 Hull Points worth of damage to AV10, now that they hit on a 3+ and re-roll 1's to hit.) They are also another tarpit unit, but are even better at attrition rates during combats due to their higher number of attacks.

Now, in order to keep the tarpits Fearless, you need Synapse within 12"- that's Hive Tyrants, Tervigons, Zoanthropes or Warriors. Currently, I'm using a mix of all of them. Tervigons are a bit of a no-brainer if you are running Gaunts, thanks to the ability to pass on Adrenal Glands, Toxin Sacs and Counter-Attack, as well as being Synapse. The big problem is keeping them alive (that hasn't changed), and currently I'm using Warriors to do that- they are large enough to grant 5+ cover to the beast, and mobile enough to keep that cover save constant. Yes, warriors are vulnerable to Instant Death- your Gaunts are there to tie up enemy threats, so realistically, they should only be vulnerable for 3 turns, and that is if the enemy has the discipline to keep firing at them- in my experience, once the Gaunts get too close, the Frag templates start to make an appearance :) It's worth noting that I run Warriors in groups of 6, so that I can spread the unit around the Tervigon's flanks and further increase her survivability.

It's worth mentioning at his point that everything I've discussed so far is a Troops choice. These are the units which the rest of the army plays off, at least that's how it seems to me right now. You're not worried, at this point, about the penalties for assaulting through cover, these units are purely ad simply there to get into combat and remain there for as long as possible- so you need Fearless spread over them (Warriors and Tervigon) and lots of numbers- minimum unit sizes for me right now are 20 for Gaunts, 15 for Hormogaunts.

The question now, is how do you kill units, and how do claim objectives? Well, the first one is simple- Monstrous Creatures. Pin the enemy in combat, and you're MC's can run around unmolested. Trygons are great for this- reasonably quick and reliable (thanks to Fleet), the ability to Deep-Strike to line up assaults and lots of AP2 attacks, re-rolling hits and wounds (Toxin Sacs are compulsory now!). I'm also tinkering with Carnifex broods, so far with quite a high degree of success. By leapfrogging the 'Fexes, I've been spreading out wounds among the unit and ensuring that both get in to combat- at which point, they murder whatever unit they are facing (10 attacks +2 Hammer hits, re-rolling, on the charge- I run them basic, with no upgrades apart from Toxin Sacs.) However, they are a heavy points investment, and are vulnerable to concentrated fire, which they tend to receive an unfair amount of!) Hive Tyrants are also fantastic now as well- if they are walking, I give them Armoured Shell, and if they are flying then I keep them a little on the cheap side, to reduce the impact when they die (plus every 10 point upgrade is 2 less Gaunts.) Either method has proved pretty survivable for a while, and they are a real pain for enemy units to deal with once the Gaunts start doing their job.

As far as claiming objectives is concerned, that is late game- turn 4 onwards. Once a Gaunt unit has been released from combat, they can Fleet towards the nearest objective as quickly as possible. In order to release them, get an MC into the fight as quickly as possible- this will maximise the number of Gaunts alive to Go To Ground on the objective, and hold it for as long as possible. Thanks to the new reserve rolls, going for this from Turn 4 means that you will see the enemy reserves, and be able to tie hem up if you have to- this means that you are giving up objectives when you need to, but it also means that you're MC's survive longer. Also remember that other units can contest Objectives, you don't necessarily need to hold them to win (you only need 1 more than the opponent.)

So in essence, what that leaves you with is a pretty simple plan- get big units of Gaunts into combat, clean up with the big guys, win late game. The threats to this plan? There are 2 problems- vehicles (as always!) and back lining by the opponent. Vehicles can be dealt with- Heavy Venom Cannons are a little more useful, since the template only needs to graze the vehicle to inflict a hit. They won't often kill tanks, but an Immobilised result or a Hull Point down are valuable. Against AV10, you can kill it in combat as long as you can catch it (Hormogaunts have S4 from Adrenal Glands, Gaunts get it from Tervigons.) If you can't catch it, then it's Fast- in which case it is lightly armoured. Deathspitters on Warriors are great at whittling AV11 tanks (6 Warriors = 18 Shots= 2 Hull Points) Devourers on big guys are pretty handy as well- although I'm running them as Combat beasts, mainly. AV 12 can be problematic to shoot away- which is Eldar. In which case, they have so few of them, you can spread the lines a little and get rear-armour shots, or force specific moves (you essentially have to heard them.)

To get around Back lining? Don't- just camp on the objectives and let the opponent realise that he can't shoot ALL of our units over the game- you'll win because they will be too afraid to move! (Back lining is when the opponent camps on their board edge, and forces you to come to them.- don't fall for it.)

Of course the big bug-bear are Flyers. What can you do about them? If they are AV10, try and shoot them. If they are AV11, try and Deathspitter them. If they are AV12 or more- ignore them. There isn't much you can do short of Psychic powers, you'll just have to accept the fact that there is a unit type that Tyranids can't deal with until the next Codex. Luckily, the high-end armoured Flyers are Transports, which means sooner or later they will Hover and you can tear them out of the sky- unless they are Necrons. Not much you can do then.

So those are the Startegy lessons I've learned so far. I'm not running Hive Guard, because they are no longer a compulsory choice for armour- there are other tools in the box for Nids now. In fact, my Elite choices are all there to complement the rest of my army- Zoanthropes, Venomthropes, Deathleaper. I m finding that they essentially make my army too safe, so I am looking at switching them and seeing what happens- I'm thinking of including Ymgarl Stealers right now, as a frustration unit for the opponent to have to deal with. We'll see.

There are some knock-on benefits from all of this- Shadow in the warp is likely to come into effect, and shut down the enemies psychic offence, which is a help. You will also have a load of Psychic powers to try out. I've settled on Biomancy as my go-to Discipline, for the simple reason that it has no Warp Charge 2 powers, so I don't need to swap out for the Primaris power (which is Smite in this case.) I can see some use for the others, but I haven't tried them yet. It's also worth mentioning that I always swap out powers for Biomancy. Zoanthropes I've found to be a fantastic support unit now, and I no longer feel like I've wasted points due to the darned Lance never hitting! Hive Tyrant powers are all a little Meh!, and getting 4 Biomancy powers to pick from each turn is just plain better. the only time I hesitate is the Tervigon- Catalyst is a great power. Then again, I've yet to feel disappointed by the new powers and the ability for the Tervigon to make everything around it a little bit harder (which is, after all, its job.)

Iron Arm is great if you can get it on a Flyrant, since it increases the strength of their Vector Strike, and gives you 1 more chance to reliably damage Flyers (D3 +1 S7, 8 or 9 auto-hits on side armour.) Enfeeble is fantastic for getting your tarpits to stick around a little longer. Endurance is a decent replacement for Catalyst. Life Leech is a little weak, but if a Psyker is down to 1 W could keep it around a little longer.  Warp Speed can be good, can be a waste- Fleet is handy on some of the big beasties, but wasted on Flyrants, bonus Initiative and Attacks are always welcome though. Finally, Haemorrhage can be devastating, but probably won't be- at best, you are gambling a series of 50/50 chances to get a high kill ratio. Then again, it is Focussed, so you can potentially snipe all of the specialist out of an enemy unit. In fact, the only power you don't want is Smite- the Primaris power!

So what does all of this look like in a list- well, I've got a 1500 point game against Craftworld Eldar tomorrow, and here's what I'll be taking:

Flyrant- Heavy Venom Cannon, Lash Whip and Bonesword, Toxin Sacs

2 Venomthrope

18 Gaunts
20 Gaunts
15 Hormogaunts- Adrenal Glands
6 Warriors- Scything Talons, Devourers
Tervigon- Scything Talons, Catalyst, Toxin Sacs, Adrenal Glands

3 Raveners- Rending Claws

Trygon- Toxin Sacs

The Raveners are an experiment- they've been 50/50 for me so far, free movement through cover and re-rolling charge die is fantastic, I1 when they charge isn't so great. I'm trying to find a way of keeping them alive long enough to do real damage. However, I am also contemplating whether units just over 100 points may be worth the investment as a mid-range kill unit- to go in and clean up combats where I don't want to commit an MC. However, they are directly competing with Gargoyles, which are a little over-kill on Tarpits but may free up Genestealers, and Harpies- I haven't made my mind up yet if committing fully to Flying MC's is a good move.

So that's where I am right now. Of course, there is a lot I haven't mentioned, but it gives you an idea of how I'm playing the army. My success rate so far? 6 games, 2 draws, 3 wins, 1 loss. Thankfully, the loss was entirely my fault (i didn't prioritise my targets very well.) 1 of the wins was against Grey Knights- the Flyrant killed the StormRaven as soon as it went into Hover mode (after following it around the table for a few turns like it was on a string!) and 20 Gaunts kept Draigo and his paladins tied up for 4 turns, and basically kept them out of the game- I love 100 point tarpits.

The next gaming update will be on Monday, so I'll let you know how it goes...

Questions and Comments are welcome.


  1. Nice post. I've never really been all that in to Tyranids - I find their lack of any personal individualism quite dull. I'd rather have Chaos and all their dark ambition and conflicting personalities!

    That being said, I've begun to appreciate that there's a lot you can do for the personality of the army by composing an army list, and you seem to be favouring the swarm here so with a bit of imagination, and a lot of reading through the codex, personalised forces could actually be an option.

    Not going to happen yet though, painting Dwarves at the moment...

  2. Ah, good old Dwarves, one of the best Warhammer archetypal armies :)

    As far as Nids are concerned, the appeal for me is that they are a "theme" army. They feel like Alien swarms, that you just cannot identify with. That means that I can just play in a game- I'm not attached to troops in the same way I am in Historical games, or with more humanistic armies where you do have, as you said, conflicting personalities :) Tyranids just free you up to send wave after wave of little bugs in, then have the big bugs go up and break their faces. So for me it's less "personality" and more "do what you like"- there's a great freedom to playing the army, and I just find them tremendous fun :) Other armies, I must confess I tend to take a little more seriously (to a greater or lesser extent) so Tyranids are my pick-up game force of choice- I know I'm going to have a good game, whoever I come up against!

  3. Good article, I might like to point out, only he Swarmlord gets to pick from 4 psychic powers, HIve Tyrants get 2, other than that, yeah I agree, the Nids are a new beastie and that with the new powers and tar pitting abilities I have found them to be far more versatile and more competative. It's the Drop pod armies that still frighten me though, they are far too easy to make and extremely dangerous to the Tyrant and Lord as they tend to pod them all around that target and let rip with Hellfire rounds, utter nightmare and completely destroys your tactics as you lose a very important componenet very early on (ie. turn 1!). Do you have any tactics to thwart them?