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The Tiger Roars
Guest Commentary: Da Orcboy Pays Up

Being Different, Example 3: Orcboy’s Swarm  (Fifth of 11 articles)  by Ken Lacy

Editor's Note: Since the release of the latest Codex: Tyranids in 2005, this version of "The Swarm" is no longer viable as originally written. However, it is still an intriguing army idea.

At first glance, this army’s opponent sees piles of Ripper Swarms, a few Tyranid Warriors busy hiding in terrain, and a pair of nasty Carnifexes. Where to start? Level all guns at the Carnifexes...!!!

Composition

  • Three Tyranid Warriors w/ venom cannons and rending claws (HQ)
  • Three Tyranid Warriors w/ venom cannons and rending claws (Elite)
  • Ten Ripper Swarms w/ rending claws
  • Ten Ripper Swarms w/ rending claws
  • Ten Ripper Swarms w/ rending claws
  • Ten Ripper Swarms w/ rending claws
  • Ten Ripper Swarms w/ rending claws
  • Ten Ripper Swarms w/ rending claws
  • Carnifex w/ venom cannon and devourer
  • Carnifex w/ venom cannon and devourer
Total: 1850 points

Design
This is a tricky army by every measure. Most people just aren’t up on the fiddly details of the Tyranid Custom Hive Fleet rules, which I take advantage of in this list, and many players haven’t really bothered to learn much about the different bio-weapons options available to the Tyranids. This list has three different components, which I'll detail more in the “Tactics” section, below.

The heart of this army, however, is the Ripper Swarms. I’ve maxed out my Troops allotment with 60 bases’ worth. Very few people have ever seen more than 10 or so swarm bases (Nurglings, Scarabs, etc.) at one time, so they just don’t see how they can be a serious threat, even with advance warning. After all, swarms are basically just cannon fodder, designed to tie things up. But with the Custom Hive Fleet Rules, I’ve mutated every base of Ripper Swarms to have rending claws. With rending claws, the Rippers in theory can hurt everything in the game (save the Monolith), and because they work best with many attacks, the Rippers with 3 base attacks become incredibly deadly.

The other trick, though much more modest, is with the Tyranid Warriors. I have to take them for the army to work (there’s just no other way to create a Custom Hive Fleet with only three species, and with more than three, my Rippers can’t all be mutated).  I also like Carnifexes, so this means that these Warriors will have to be both HQ and Elites choices. Normally that means only 1 in 3 can get a decent ranged weapon like a venom cannon. But wait! I can mutate the other two also to have venom cannons, thus effectively fielding a Heavy Support choice in an Elites slot (for a few more points, alas...).

Tactics
My Swarm has three basic tactical elements, and several critical game advantages:

1. As Tyranids, they average just under 5" movement through difficult terrain (the Carnifex averages even higher with his re-roll). Basically, they ignore terrain to any significant degree, and Ripper Swarms in cover get a 4+ cover save!

2. These three species are, except in a few VERY special cases, completely Fearless and cannot be pinned or broken. Once the Swarm catches you, they hang around until they either win or they die.

3. EVERY model in my army list can ignore armor saves and rend vehicle armor (Carnifexes with brute Monstrous Strength, Warriors and Ripper Swarms with rending claws). This means that I don’t really care who or what I face; so long as they’re on foot and I can catch them, the odds are heavily, heavily in my favor. Munch, munch!

Now here’s the trick to the strategy, the reason why this army takes so many people off their game plan! It’s the Ripper Swarms that do most of the damage in this army. The two Carnifexes and the six Warriors are merely fire support (and fire magnets).

Yet even after they know what the Ripper Swarms can do, most people cannot grasp what this means. Instead, people go after the familiar threats, like the Carnifexes. Granted, both are real threats, but mostly they’re long-range snipers and decoys. That’s why they have lots of guns, 2+ armor saves, and very little else.

The Warriors handle the greatest weakness of this army: enemy transports. So long as the enemy is on foot, there are so many Rippers that no one can avoid them forever. If the enemy is in transports, however, the Rippers need real luck to slow them down: only 1 in 36 Ripper attacks can hurt a fast-moving or skimming vehicle. The eight venom cannons I field can usually stop those fast-moving transports, though, and then the Rippers can get to work.

Result
This army works well because it so dominates close combat that most armies simply have little chance if they charge in. Shooty armies have a better shot, but even then the shooty player MUST choose his targets carefully. Rippers shrug off most firepower (S5 or less) despite some losses, because they are multi-wound models (W3).

Against an opponent that does not know the Tyranid rules, or the Ripper Swarm rules, the combo is typically quite deadly. These sorts of opponents are operating without the knowledge needed to make good decisions, and The Swarm has a field day as a result.

Now, that said, I’ve managed to create a variant of the Swarm that is even deadlier than the list I’ve presented here. However, there’s a point where some armies are just so crazy that they’re not fun to use anymore. THAT variant list started by me looking at my “standard” version of The Swarm and wondering, “How can I do this differently...?”
 
 

Related Pages
 
Posted October 2004. Used with permission.
 

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Fighting Tigers:
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Other Pages:
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