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Kilgore and Eibel At the Gaming Table: Reviewing the New Tyranid Codex
Kenton Kilgore: Because Pat and I both play Tyranids (see his Hive Fleet Azhdarcoid and my Kurindans), we thought we’d do something a little different and review the new codex the way that Siskel and Ebert used to review movies back in the day. So let’s get started.
Like all other recent codices, the Book of Cucarachas begins with a lengthy background, or “fluff,” section that describes what the Tyranids are (Bug-Eyed Monsters from Outer Space), what they want (nothing less than eating literally every living thing in the entire galaxy), and notable moments in their history.
The codex describes some events veteran gamers have heard before—the attacks on Tyran, Macragge, and Iyanden—and goes on from there. And on, and on, and on, ad naseum, ad absurdum. When the basic story is “Bugs attack in huge waves and either kill everyone or are just barely beaten back with massive loss of life by the victors,” do we really need to read all those pages and pages about Hive Fleets Naga, Gorgon, Jormungandr, et. al.? No, I think not, but then, I prefer a “less-is-more” approach to fluff. And once—just once—I would like to read a bit of fluff where the Nids get their exo-skeletons kicked big-time, maybe by some mysterious, reclusive, but muy-macho alien race whose operating motto is, “Mess with us and you die a LOT.” But maybe that’s just me.
Patrick Eibel: I agree with Kenton up to a point. I don’t think that the fluff section is too long, I think that they actually dropped the ball a bit. While the expanded descriptions of the major and minor Hive Fleets are nice, they do not actually help you construct your own version of these fleets by detailing their coloration and typical units.
Also gone is the Structure and Analysis chart, which I thought nicely laid out the evolution of the Tyranid sub-species, so that if you wanted to focus on a particular strain you would know which Nids were related. This has been replaced by several charts of Hive Fleet movements and specific Hive Fleet timelines. Really? This is better? The movement charts I guess help to work fleets into the story lines of other armies in those sectors, but multiple timelines is just overkill. I have to give the Background section a big “thumbs down.”
KK: I agree with Pat on GW mostly failing at an excellent chance to do something useful with the fluff. “Thumbs down” from me, too.
Pat, let’s get into the meat of the matter and talk about the Tyranid forces. I’m cool with the special rules Synapse Creature and Shadow in the Warp (found on page 33) and I like the new “Feed” sub-rule of Instinctive Behavior. I’m bummed that not all Bugs have Move Through Cover, as they did under the previous codex, but I’m sure all the non-Nidders are playing thumb violins for us. What’s your take on the special rules, and how do you feel about the HQ choices, including the special characters?
PE: The big change to Synapse is that you no longer get to ignore Instant Death. The unit most greatly affected by this will be Warriors, which got an extra Wound to compensate but are still only Toughness 4. The addition of the “Feed” option to Instinctive Behavior is brilliant and means that those broods might actually continue to be useful even out of Synapse range. The loss of Move Through Cover has been mitigated by the addition of Mycetic Spores. Why worry about moving through terrain when you can just drop in on the enemy from above?
Before we get to HQ, we should note a major change to the weaponry: weapon Strength is no longer tied into the beastie carrying the weapon. This means that a venom cannon carried by a Warrior or Tyrant is just as powerful as one carried by a Carnifex. To this point, the heavy version of the barbed strangler (aka the stranglethorn cannon) is fine for killing troops, but will not do much for taking out a vehicle. Not that you can field a Carnifex with a venom cannon/barbed strangler combo anyway, so I see much converting happening in many armies. I’ll talk more about specific weapons in the appropriate entries; on to the HQ.
The Hive Tyrant is still a badass in close combat, especially with two sets of scything talons and wings. I suppose you could give him a heavy venom cannon and tag on some Tyrant Guard to protect him, but really there are better anti-tank options, and you would be squandering the Tyrant’s WS of 8.
The buzz on the Internet has players getting gooey about the Swarmlord, and with 4 Attacks with bone sabres and the Leech Essence ability he is nothing to scoff at. However, at a whopping 280 points, he is just a wee bit too pricey for a Monstrous Creature with only 5 Wounds and a 4+ Invulnerable Save (only in close combat, mind you) to keep him around.
If you plan to include Termagants in your army, then plan on also taking the Tervigon. The additional range for Synapse that Dominion will give you, and the Onslaught ability that allows a unit to run AND shoot, are just useful. Add in that he can create more Termagants, and can be taken as a Troops choice, and you have a solid choice.
The Tyranid Prime is probably my favorite HQ choice. While it is not flashy, or even Monstrous, it makes the troops around him better for a small point cost. I am using my old 2nd Edition-era Hive Tyrant as my Alpha Warrior and attaching him to my Warrior brood that all have Deathspitters. So, I have seven figures (6 Warriors + the Alpha), each using a 3 shot, Strength 5 weapon at Ballistic Skill 4 (the Alpha Warrior ability). And they rock in assault, with Weapon Skill 6 and rending claws. Trust me, this is the hidden gem of the choices.
The Parasite of Mortrex is an attempt to make Ripper Swarms cool again. I do like the “Sarge is Acting Strangely” ability, but there are much better choices available for both Troops and HQ than Ripper Swarms.
I give the combined special abilities, weapons, and HQ sections a big “thumbs up” for increasing the diversity of choices available to the Tyranid army and for making the venom cannon a viable anti-tank weapon again.
KK: “Thumbs up” for special abilities and weapons, “thumbs down” for HQ. Robin Cruddace (the writer) and the design team (you don’t think these books are really done by one person, do you?) neutered the Broodlord, an outstanding HQ choice under the previous version of the codex, by demoting him to nothing more than a squad upgrade (more about that when we get to Troops). Gone, too, is the option for Tyranid Warriors to be HQ, though I am in full agreement with Pat that the Tyranid Prime is an awesome choice, especially for low-point games.
I also agree with Pat that the Hive Tyrant is money—okay, points—well-spent, but when your basic Tyrant starts at 170 points, you will find that it can get very expensive very quickly, especially if you slap on wings or armored shell, or if you field him with Tyrant Guard. You can field the Tyrant as is, with no upgrades, and still tear the enemy a new hole to defecate through, but the temptation to pile on the biomorph gravy may be too great for many gamers to withstand. You’ll pay a lot for a Tyrant, but you’ll get a lot.
I appreciate the effort that the game designers are making with the Tervigon and the Parasite to make two frankly lame-ass Troop choices more interesting, but I think these units should not be HQ, and are (or would be, in the case of the Parasite) better as upgrades to Termagants and Ripper Swarms, respectively. Compare the statlines and abilities between the Tyrant and the Tervigon, look Wicked Uncle Kenton in the eye, and tell me honestly that you’re going to take the latter and save yourself a mere 10 points. You aren’t, are you? No, me either. Unless you’re really into Termagants or Rippers ("Paging Dr. Lacy, paging Dr. Lacy") and want to do a themed army—minus some significant hitting power—around them, skip the Tervigon and the Parasite and go for the Tyrant or the Prime.
And concerning the Parasite, and the Swarmlord, let me say, for surely the 318th time, that I have never liked special characters, and I continue to dislike them. Most gamers (not all, and certainly not you, Gentle Visitor) use them as a crutch to overcome their weak tactical skills. And I can’t stand how GW encourages, just like they did in the Space Marine codex, players to buy special characters and rename them in a feeble attempt to “personalize” their armies (see “Legendary Creatures” on page 85 if you don’t know what I’m talking about). You can buy the sure-to-be-upcoming Swarmlord model (how much will THAT retail for?) and paint him in lavender and call him “The One-Eyed-One-Horned-Badass-Purple-People-Eater” and everyone will still think of him as the Swarmlord…only with a really tacky paint job.
Enough ranting about HQ. Let’s move on to Elites, of which I like the Zoanthropes, the Ymgarl Genestealers, and the Hive Guard. I’m glad the designers moved Zoats from Heavy Support, making room for all kinds of bad boys in that category (more about that later). I’m also glad they gave them BS4 and a 3+ Invulnerable Save. And they’re even cheaper! Golden.
The Y-Stealers are extremely effective: hardened carapace gives them a chance against bolters and flamers, and “Dormant” lets them pop out of a terrain piece and get up in the enemy’s face tout de suite. That’s much better than Deep Striking, because they don’t deviate, and they can assault on that turn. Y-Stealers are also extremely cool, because they can alter form and they rock those Cthulhu-looking face tentacles.
Hive Guard are BS 4 and T6 with a 4+ Save and packing a S8, AP4, Assault 2 gun that can ignore line-of-sight rules. You can take three of these dudes in a brood and they’re only 50 points a pop. What’s not to like? I plan to use mine to kill Rhinos, Razorbacks, and Land Speeders, not to mention Ork Trukks and those fruity little Piranhas and Dark Eldar Raiders.
I hate, hate, HATE all the other Elite choices. Venomthropes? Crap. Why does a critter with no ranged weapons, which relies on close combat, have WS3 and BS4? No, I don’t know, either. Pyrovores? Dude, if you manage to trundle this T4, W2, 4+ Save critter close enough to the enemy to use its heavy flamer—errr, “flamespurt”—odds are, the rest of your army—which is probably much faster and/or more resilient—is already done jumping up and down all over the other guys’corpses.
Lictors? Crap, crap, crap, CRAP. The only thing the Lictor had going for it under the previous codex was the ability to assault on the same turn as it Deep Struck. The enhanced cover saves and the Pheromone Trail thing were nice, but really not all that: once the Lictor got into hand-to-hand, it could fairly easily be smacked down. At best, you’d tie up a heavy weapons squad for a turn.
But now? Now the Lictor doesn’t even have its happy “jump-from-cover-and-charge-you” ability: now when it appears, it waves its arms and yells “Boo!” (or fires two flesh hook shots at BS3—scary!) and the other guy simply flames its skinny ass and blasts off a few boltgun rounds (or, more embarrassingly, lasgun shots) and finishes off the Lictor. Ho hum. The Lictor has not been kickass since the Bad Old Days of 2nd Edition, and it still sucks.
Deathleaper and the Doom of Maalox, or whatever it’s called, are special characters, and you know how I feel about those. I’m not sold that Deathleaper’s “Where is it?” ability is going to prevent him, like his Lictor friends, from also getting his spindly bottom flamed and basic-weaponed into a quick death. And Doom is hideously underpriced: read the stats and abilities and tell me that Doomy should be 90 points. Really? REALLY? Less than two Hive Guard? Cantankerous Uncle Kenton thinks otherwise.
“Thumbs down” from me: the joy I receive from the Zoats, Team Y, and the H-Guard is overwhelmed by my violent abhorrence for the rest of the Elite units. Let me have a cup of tea and calm down while Pat says his piece.
PE: Kenton got all excited there and passed the ball to me thinking that I might have a differing opinion. Unfortunately, I pretty much concur with his assessment. Zoanthropes are double plus good in the new codex, especially with the ability to take a Mycetic Spore. Hive Guard offer a nice backup for taking out tanks and are only docked because they come in squads of three. I am not totally down on the Pyrovore, but you have to put them in Mycetic Spores if you use them. Remember that in these days of swarm armies and ubiquitous cover, flame weapons can really save your butt.
Ymgarl ‘stealers are at least interesting and won’t have you sawing off your arm like you're waking up next to Lady Gaga. The Deathleaper attempts to be cool by having an assortment of goofy abilities, but by being unique is just a waste of an Elite slot. All of the other choices blow chunks like a drunk sixteen-year old at a frat party. Really, we needed an update for this? “Thumbs down” overall.
As Oddball says in Kelly’s Heroes, “All these negative vibes are bringing me down.” So let’s move on to the Troop selections, shall we? As previously mentioned, Warriors have been moved to Troops and get an additional Wound to compensate for the fact they can be insta-killed. I guess GW did not really feel too bad about “Godzilla” armies, because you now can field an army with no one-Wound models.
Genestealers, Termagants, and Hormagaunts have all been improved just by having their point costs reduced. The ability to put them into Mycetic Spores offers the Tyranid player the option to drop their army in a la Drop Pods (about the only use for Lictors is to help with the inevitable Reserve rolls such a tactic would entail). Rippers are almost made cool by the Tunnel-Swarm ability, but let’s be real, the other choices are far superior.
I have to give the Troops section a “thumbs up” in general for making each of the selections better than in the previous version of the codex. What say you, Mr. Kilgore, now that you have calmed down?
KK: Right off the bat, Nid players have to be happy to have so many Troop choices: five (six if you count the Tervigon). How many do Space Marine players currently get? Two. Orks? Two (four if you count Dreads and Nobz, but you have to take certain HQ to finagle that). Necrons? One. Nid players have nothing to whine about when it comes to variety.
Warriors, Genestealers, and Hormies are all solid choices. Warriors can give you decent firepower, good close combat ability, or both. Genestealers still rule in close combat, but they no longer have the option of getting extended carapace and being able to shrug off bolter fire. I am not happy about what they did to the Broodlord, and to me, he’s a little expensive for what you get: 14 points for a basic Stealer + 46 points for the upgrade, and he no longer counts as being armed with power weapons, as he did under the previous codex. The designers changed how the Hormagaunts’ Leaping works, making them more likely to get to the fight quickly instead of counting how many can attack the enemy.
I’m not sold on Termagants as anything more than cannon fodder or screens for other, harder-hitting Nids, and Rippers…well, I suppose you just have to really like Rippers to bring them, because, like Pat, I don’t know why you’d bother, given your other choices.
I’m going to
politely disagree with Pat on the usefulness of Mycetic Spores. I’ve never
been a fan of Deep Strike because your guys come in, as our friend
Hill points out, “piecemeal and paralyzed.” “That is, you don’t know
what unit is coming in when (and it may land wildly off-target), and that
when each unit does come in, it isn’t going to be able to assault (which
is where Tyranids excel).
Nids can have good firepower, but honestly, no one really sweats it: any casualties you take from Nid shooting usually pale in comparison to the hurt they could put on you in hand-to-hand. In (American) football terms, shooting scores them field goals, while close combat scores them touchdowns. And Nid armor usually leaves a lot to be desired: if you plop down a typical Nid brood near a Space Marine Tactical Squad, a mob of Shoota Boyz, or—God help you—a squad of Fire Warriors, you’re gonna be yanking most, if not all, of that brood right back off the table at the end of the other guy’s Shooting Phase. If you have anything left, he’ll probably assault it and wipe it out without even breathing hard. No thank you.
Despite Rippers and Mycetic Spores, I’m going to give the Troops section an enthusiastic “thumb up.”
Let’s go on to the Fast Attack. I love them, all of them. Love them, love them, love them, even the Sky-Slasher Swarms. Shrikes (Tyranid Warriors with wings) can hit hard, but best of all, provide Synapse control that will keep up with the other Fast Attack units and Hormagaunts: I can’t tell you how many times—or how annoying it is when—my Hormies have outrun their coverage.
Raveners are still awesome and are even cheaper than before (four Ravs with rend and talons under the previous codex were 160 points; now, they’re 140). To be honest, I’ve never used Deep Strike with them, for reasons I expounded on above. I don’t care for Rippers, but Sky-Slashers can serve the same function as Necron Scarabs: get to the enemy lines quickly and tie them up in close combat—silencing their big guns—long enough for the others to arrive and take over in assault. Gargoyles, same deal, but for only 6 points, and they have Blinding Venom. Turbo!
The Harpy can bring some big guns (twin heavy venom cannons is like pr0n for Nidders) and a big target that will distract heavy weapon fire away from other units. And I like how they streamlined the effects of Spore Mines: previous codices had various options (acid, frag, whatever) that were too much hassle to keep track of.
Tyranid Fast Attack: zoggin’ ‘uge “thumbs up” from me. Pat?
PE: I give the Fast Attack choices a “thumbs up,” but maybe not as big as Kenton’s. The Shrike brood is really no different than the Winged Warrior option from the old codex, and are no bargain starting at 35 points before add-ons. As noted, Raveners are basically a wash from the old codex, which still makes them an ugly assault unit because of their speed. Gargoyles are monstrously improved (pun intended) by being half-price and getting an actually useful weapon.
The Harpy is a sick addition and worth it just to get at least one fast unit that can’t be insta-killed by Strength 8 and 9 weapons. And it can carry a twin linked heavy venom cannon? Okay, I’m in. Flying Swarms are only marginally better than regular Swarms, so take them only if you desire the challenge of creating a Swarm-based army. Spore Mines have only one use: in an objective game, deploy your Mines on the objectives closer to your opponent and watch what happens while they move toward them. At 10 points per model, however, they really are too expensive to be that good.
If you look at the Heavy Support lists on pages 94 and 95 (English-language edition, anyway), you can separate the good stuff from the sad stuff as easy as left side versus right side. On the left side you have the Carnifex, Old One Eye, and the Biovore. These are the sad choices.
While the Carnifex got a boost by being able to be taken in broods up to three, their uses have been hamstrung by a couple of changes. I used to have a couple of barbed strangler/venom cannon-toting beasties to take potshots at tanks. This kept opponents honest, because they had to respect both weapons. Well, you can no longer take those two weapons, and even if you could, the heavy strangler would not be of any use against tanks. You can tool your Carnifex up for assault and drop them in via Spore. Oh, except that you are only getting one per Spore. So much for that. A Carnifex with twin-linked devourers with brain leeches (can you say “ewwwww?”) is still a pretty sexy option, and I am happy to have three of the suckers.
Old One Eye? A unique Heavy Support option that is only really good in assault? Child, please! You can do better. Biovores shoot Spore Mines. Spore Mines blow. Biovores blow more. Any questions?
At this point you are thinking, “So you are saying that you don’t like the Tyranid Heavy Support choices, then?” Not at all, because as mediocre as the left side is, the right side has me sporting more wood than a baseball team. The worst thing you can say about the Trygon is that it is a smidge expensive at 200 points, but man, for the points you get one ugly beastie. I like the Mawloc even more, as it is 30 points less and when it lands on an enemy unit via Deep Strike it does a bucketload of S6, AP 2 hits. That will even make Terminators sweat.
Saving the best for last, the Tyrannofex is the answer to your anti-tank worries. The rupture cannon is S10 and gets two shots, so the only downside is the Ballistic Skill of 3. While the 250 point price tag is high, the Tyrannofex has enough firepower, assault oomph (it is a Monstrous Creature), and resilience to make up for the investment.
So, the three entries on the right plus the slightly less-than-sucky Carnifex mean that the Heavy Support section gets a big “thumbs up” from me.
KK: Even if everything else in this book sucked, I would still like it just for the Trygon, the Mawloc, and the Tyrannofex. “Tyrannofex”—even the name is awesome: it’s the answer to the Jeopardy question, “What do you get when you cross a dinosaur with a Nid?”
It’s hard to begin describing how much I love the Tyrannofex. T6, 6 Wounds, 2+ Save: those Space Marine Devastator Squads can shove their suddenly nigh-useless missile launchers right up their Chapter-Approved, power-armored butts, because they ain’t takin’ down this big dog with anything that doesn’t have “melta,” “plasma” or “lascannon” in its name. Of course you’re going to take the rupture cannon, though it might be amusing to have the fleshborer hive if you’re facing all-infantry Guard or Orks.
How sick is it that of the three “Monsters of Rock” here in the Heavy Support section, the Trygon is the LEAST interesting? Which is not to say that it sucks: far from it. I’ve spent plenty of pixels bitching about how Deep Striking Nids is a colossally bad idea, but that doesn’t apply to the Trygon, who is tough enough (T6, 6W, 3+ Save) and badass enough to pull it off. I guarantee you that if you Deep Strike a Trygon (or two) into the other guy’s deployment zone, it will attract all of his attention, leaving the rest of your army unmolested to either Deep Strike in or run across the board. And as kickbutt as the Trygon is, the Mawloc is, as Pat described, even harsher: I can’t think of any other 40K unit that kills people just by moving onto the board.
As for the other, lesser Heavy Support choices, well…does anyone use Biovores, anyway? In all my years of playing 40K (23 now, and counting), I think I’ve seen one guy do so. I suppose Biovores are one of those subtle units that master Nid players can use to spin straw into gold, but I’m not a master Nid player, and I don’t play subtle with Nids anyway. If I were in a very low-point game I might try Biovores, as they’re only 45 points a pop, but other than that….
Old One Eye = special character, and a very expensive one at that. Speaking of expensive, is it my imagination, or did Carnifexes suddenly get as pricey as Peyton Manning autographs? Under the previous codex, I used to run Carnies with all kinds of goodies (+1 WS, T, Sv, W), scything talons, and a barbed strangler for 182 points. Now they start at 160, and many of the goodies I used to slap on them before aren’t options anymore. Although, I do like the new “Living Battering Ram” ability, where they get +2 to Initiative when charging.
Overall, I have to give another most-manly “thumbs up” for this section of the book.
We should probably discuss the psychic powers, weapons, and biomorphs that we haven’t already mentioned. Shadow in the Warp has a lot of character and can be very helpful, but as I don’t often play against Eldar, Space Marine Librarians, or those mu-tards who are still partying like it’s 2007 with their dual-Lash Chaos lists, I’m glad I don’t have to pay extra points for it. I don’t like The Horror (why would I want the enemy to run away from my guys?), but all the other psychic powers are golden (especially Leech Essence, Paroxysm, Aura of Despair, and Hypnotic Gaze).
Best Weapons We Haven’t Already Frothed About: bio-plasma (S7, AP2 that uses a blast template, so no huge deal that your Carnie has BS3); cluster spines, ripper tentacles (would be much better if the Spore had something higher than BS2, but not bad for a Drop Pod clone), spore mine cysts (“Incoming!”), thorax swarm (especially desiccator larvae), boneswords.
Worst Weapons We Haven’t Already Whined About: acid spray (who would NOT trade that in for a rupture cannon or fleshborer hive?), spike rifle (congratulations: now your suck has an 18" range), strangleweb (Marines just laugh at this), crushing claws (let’s just throw away that “Living Battering Ram” benefit, shall we?).
Best Biomorphs Bugs Can Buy: adrenal glands, blinding venom, containment spines, frag spines, wings.
Worst Biomorphs Bugs Can Get Stuck With: acid blood (unless you’re playing against Orks, Necrons, or anyone else with low Init), chameleonic skin (no increase to cover save like it used to do), toxin sacs (on anything with S4+).
PE: The psychic powers, biomorphs, and weapons are all like a pretty dress on a hot girl: nice, but not why you’re taking her home. That being said, there are some very good new additions. Leech Essence is better than, and cheaper than, Regeneration, so save your points when you have the option. Hypnotic Gaze should always, always, always be used against a figure in base contact that has a power fist or power weapon (you will have to move to make this happen). One little change we didn’t note yet is Warp Lance being a lance weapon. That means you pit your S10 psychic attack against the vehicle’s (say, a Land Raider) now-armor of 12. Did we give enough love to the Zoanthrope yet?
As Kenton noted, adrenal glands are nigh-essential if you fight MEQ armies (Marine equivalent) on a regular basis. Giving Furious Charge to a Tyranid Brood is like giving Mountain Dew to an 8-year old. And probably just as destructive.
So, what is my overall grade for the codex? Reading over my review, there seems to be a lot that gets a “thumbs down,” but for the most part, these are in non-essential areas or missed opportunities. I think the codex succeeds in offering a variety of ways that players can configure their armies (not all necessarily successful, but variety none-the-less), and offers some kickbutt new models, too. More importantly, the codex made some of the core models of the Tyranid army cheaper and better (alas, not the Carnifex, but you can’t have everything). Even though the codex has flaws, I am still giving it an overall “thumbs up” for keeping the bugs competitive in 5th Edition. I cannot wait to try out the revised lists I have created on the gaming table and see just how fierce the new rules are.
KK: Overall, “thumbs up” from me, too.
Now if you don’t mind, I have a couple of Hive Guard to assemble…
Posted February 2010. Games Workshop images are copyright 2010 and are used for review purposes.
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