Tyranid Tactica 1.01

After my rather uncomfortable game last Saturday, I have thought long and hard about how the new Tyranids work in battle.  I have also managed to get another game in in the week (2000 pts), and I’m starting to get a picture of how they work.  So with this I have decided to talk about some of the new tactics that can be used with the Tyranids.  I’ve heard that there is some fuss over the Swarmlord and the Doom of Malan’tai, and for now I will not be adding my voice to these debates.  As my gaming friends can tell you I have a slight aversion to using special characters.  I can see the negative comments coming in right now, but I find that most of the time they are over priced for what they do, and almost never make their points up.  This might be because I tend to play games no larger than 2000 pts; in which case a 250pt character is a bit too much, or that they have been used badly by my opponents.  Also throughout most of the Tyranid’s history there have never been special characters to use.  But this is off topic; back to Tyranid Tactica.

I know I have only managed 2 games with the new codex, but I have spent the past 16yrs using this particularly nasty alien race and feel like I’m in a good position to comment on their latest evolution.  From the two games I’ve played with the new edition I’ve walked away with 1 draw and 1 win (just) and I can tell you now that they fight in a very different way.

The first is the Synapse Creatures.  This has always been one of the defining features about the Tyranid army, that the will of the Hive Mind overcomes that of the lesser creatures.  There are now more synapse creatures than ever before (Hive Tyrants, Tervigons, Tyranid Primes, Zoanthropes, Tyranid Warriors, Tyranid Shrikes and Trygon Primes), giving you at least one synapse unit for each of your unit options.  The new Tyranids however are less dependent upon the synapse creatures than before.  In previous editions any creatures beyond synapse range would have to take a leadership test (LD 5 for most); if they passed then all was well, if they failed then they fell back automatically.  This ment that synapse was both a strength and weakness to the Tyranids, as the loss of synapse creatures caused your army to run away.  In the new edition this is less of a problem.  If the lesser creatures fail their leadership test then they will either lurk (sit there and shoot at the nearest enemy target) or feed (move and assault the nearest enemy).  I’ve found this works really well, as the stuff you want to get into combat will still run forwards and hit stuff.  You do however have less control over your swarm, and your units are no longer fearless.  Loss of synapse is still a pain in the butt, but it no longer means the end of your army.

Secondly is the way Tyranids fight in combat now.  Most of your units are not equipped with assault grenades (in fact only 3 have them – Lictors, Harpies and Carnifexs).  This means that assaulting into cover is often a very blood affair.  I’ve found that you can no longer just throw units in there (that and the Know No Fear rule for Space Marines is a pain) and expect to win.  You have to think more about your options.  There are ways to overcome this; 1. send in a LARGE unit of something expendable (Termagants cost 5 pts each, use them!) to soak up the attacks, and then follow up with a smaller unit of better fighters (Warriors or Genestealers).  The downside to this is that it leaves one of your more elite units open to enemy fire. 2. send in one of the units that does have assault grenades. 3. send in something that has a high toughness and armour save that’ll survive getting hit first.  In combat just make sure that you don’t do what I have done the past 2 games; forget that scything talons give you a re-roll (yes I did forget it again).

Thirdly (and perhaps most controversially) there is the very real option of a shooting orientated Tyranid army.  The Hive Tyrant, Zoanthrope and Carnifex have been the main source of high powered ranged weaponry for the past 2 editions.  Add to that the new Hive Guard, Pyrovore, Harpy and Tyrannofex.  Plus Warriors are BS 4 if you add a Tyranid Prime.  The Hive are fantastic models, with 2 Str 8 shots they pose a threat to infantry and tanks; their T6 means that they don’t get instant deathed and they don’t need to see their targets to hit them.  The only down side I’ve found is that with a 24″ range you wont be able to hit the vehicles you really want to kill (i.e. barrage artillery).  But this is where the Tyrannofex comes in (I’ve yet to try this model) with its 48″ S10 Assault 2 cannon.  The only problem with this tactic is that you are lacking in AP3 weapons, so you’ll still have to get up close and rend those marines.  The other problem is that some of your more powerful ranged weapons (Warp Blast & Lance, Paroxysm, Leece Essence) are psychic powers and are thus vulnerable to psychic hoods etc.

One of the things that is lacking in the Tyranid army is Invulnerable Saves.  Only the Zoanthropes, Swarmlord and Doom of Malan’tai have one.  This can be a bit of a problem as lascannons wound your monsters and Warriors get instant deathed by krak missiles.  But this is where tactics take over.  In second edition one of the ways to overcome this was the way you deployed your army.  Use your units to provide a 4+ cover save to each other.  Make sure that the units at the front are large and expendable (30 Termagants is only 150pts), place the medium sized creatures behind those (4+ cover save against krak missiles!) and the monstrous creatures behind them – remember that real line of sight applies for the cover saves for monstrous creatures.  Add to this a unit of Venomthropes (I would recommend a full sized unit of these) and a Tervigon with Catalyst to give Feel No Pain to either the unit at the front or to a monstrous creature thats out on its own, and there you have it, your entire army has a 4+ invulnerable save.

For my closing comments, a thought on monstrous creatures.  I’ve heard some people moan about the increased points cost for these beasts.  I will admit I was taken back with it myself.  In previous editions I would never have had a Hive Tyrant that was over 200 pts, now I have little choice.  I personally feel that the Hive Tyrant is worth the points; it’s a powerful commanding model and is capable of taking on tanks and infantry; especially if you have Hive Guard with it.  Paroxysm is a fantastic psychic power for use against Ork mobs and Assault Terminators.  The Carnifex is a lot of points for what it does, and for the first time I’m coming up with army lists that don’t include one.  I used to always use them as there was little else that could take out a tank, but now there are so many other choices.  I wont stop using them totally, and I’m looking forward to using a brood of them, but I’m just going to try other options too.  I’ve found that the Mawloc is great for initial impact as the best part of a unit is swallowed up into the whole it’s just dug, but with only 3 attacks it can get quickly overwhelmed if not supported; especially if the enemy is armed with a powerfist.  After using it in both battles I’d recommend sending it off to take out small squads by themselves, tanks or artillery – especially if these vehicles have been left un-supported.

Well those are some of my thoughts for the first of my Tyranid Tactica articles.  I’ll write more as I come up with ideas and try out new combinations.