Tyranid Tactica Part 3 – Underpowered?

TyranidWell I’m coming to the end of my rant, though I may end up breaking this part into 2.  “No more please! I can’t take anymore Tyranids!”  Well tough, the moaning on forums got me on my soap box and I’ve got to get it all out of my system.

“The Tyranids are under powered and will suffer in tournaments”  Their performance in tournaments is something that will be seen in due coarse, and will be dependent upon more factors than just the army list; what units you have taken, how you deploy and play and ultimately how you roll your dice.  Lets face it, you can pick the perfect army and use your best tactics but if you keep rolling 1s you’re screwed.  That’s all I’m going to say about their future tournament performance.

As for the under powered that’ll take a lot longer to look in to, so prepare yourself for another yarn of biblical proportions.

Let me start with this.  If you want an army in which you can choose a handful of high-powered units, wait until the time is right and then lay down a hammer blow in an almighty alpha strike…then the Tyranids ARE NOT FOR YOU.  If this is how you want to play then I suggest you go for a Marine, Eldar or Tau army.  I can understand why this style of game play has come to dominate not just the tournament scene but ‘friendly’ games too.  There are plenty of lists on the net so you don’t have to put a lot of thought into it, somebody else has already done that part for you.  You could argue that this is just being a little lazy, but from another perspective if that list works then it works, why change it?  Another factor will be cost and effort.  GW’s stuff is expensive so if you can get a winning army for less then you’ve saved some cash, and a smaller army is quicker to paint and thus easier to get ready.  The problem is that the Tyranids don’t fall into this style of play, and I think this might be why some people see them as under powered.  They are at heart a horde army, not an elite alpha-strike army, they lack the instant death, hard-hitting units that’ll kill everything in a turn.

“What about the Nidzilla list?!”   I hear you cry.  Well I don’t see this as much more than a novelty list.  It has serious limitations.  First of all there wont be many units in the army, and thus not many models, and more importantly not many wounds.  Monsters are tough but not indestructible, there are plenty of krak missiles and dark lances out there and some enemy units will nigh drop a monster in a single round of shooting.  Plus there’s the factor of target numbers (I’ll speak more of that later).  In melee they wont do as well as you’d think.  Each monster only has 3-6 attacks, so how are you going to cut through an Ork horde? And then more dangerously are the Assault Terminators that your enemy will have taken.  With 3+ Invulnerable saves, you’ll be lucky if your monster kills 2 Terminators, then they have 3 left to retaliate back, more than enough to kill your creature.  My final advice against Nidzilla is that many games (again I’m sticking to the basic scenarios in the rulebook) will be won by controlling objectives…well in most cases they can’t do that.

So you can’t really do a good elite strike force.  What other weaknesses does the Tyranid Codex bring?  Well Instinctive Behaviour isn’t that big an issue (see part 1) and the psychic powers aren’t weak like people are saying (see part 2).  For real weaknesses they do have a limited amount of long ranged weapons.  You only have 2 weapons with a range beyond 36″.  Your ‘heavy’ weapons tend to have a range of 36″ with most of your Infantry weapons being 12-18″.  I have found this to only really be an issue with Dark Eldar and their rather annoying Nightshields…reducing weapon ranges by 6″ is a pain.  They don’t have a lot of AP2/3 weapons.  This has been improved in this codex with 2 new AP 2 weapons, one of which is a Str 7 Large Blast.  That’s a dead unit of Marines.  They don’t have 3+ saves beyond the Monsters & characters, but they’re not Marines so why should they?

I can understand that the Tyranids not having Fortifications or Allies can be seen as a restriction, especially if you rely on the extra HQ, Elite etc slots in your army to make an alpha strike.  But they didn’t have that before the new codex, so it’s not a new restriction and fits perfectly with the Tyranid background.  You must adapt your play style to what you’ve have got.  If players are bring in allies so they can have a 4th elite, fast attack & heavy support, then they are not spending the points on Troops, which means you can control more objectives.  Remember that in most cases you will only need to control one more than them to win.

Strengths of the Tyranids

Hopefully the past 2 posts and the above have helped to show that the new Tyranid codex isn’t as weak as people are making out.  Most of what is being said seems to be by people who have either not read the codex properly or want to play Tyranids as if they were Space Marines.  They are not Marines, accept it!  So what are their strengths?

Bodies over bullets.  This is a common theme for Tyranids and now that most of the units have had a points drop this principle is even more important.  Don’t just think about how many models you can have in an army, but more importantly how many units you can field.  The more units you can field, the more targets your enemy has to deal with.  Target saturation is the key.  They can’t shoot everything so your opponent will have to think really hard about target priority.  You can make this even harder for them by having multiple redundancies built in.  So even if they kill one of that unit, you still have another.  The extreme example would be that you can get 6 units of 30 Termagants for 720pts.  That’s 180 models, and in a 2000 point army you still have 1280pts for other stuff.  Even if you don’t have that many Termagants it is so easy to get 6 Troops units, and a Tervigon will only enhance this.  Think about long term goals, that’s 6 objectives you can control, plus more with a Tervigon, and you still have plenty of points to spare.

A side note to this is cover saves.  This is how you get over the lack of 2+ saves or Invulnerables.  Gaunts provide a 5+ save to Warriors, Warriors do so for Monsters etc.  Throw in a Venomthrope and you’ve got a 3+ cover save.  As for the gaunts at the front…they’re 4 points each and you have 100+ of them, who cares if they die?  Also with a synapse creature around they’ll all be Fearless…who else has 4pts Fearless units with a Str 4 gun?

My advice then would be to try your best to max out your unit slots.

Shooting.  Tyranids might have short ranged shooting but it’s devastating.  They’ve gained 3 haywire weapons, one of with is a flamer template and can be used by a Tyrant (winged perhaps).  Their firepower is generally short-medium ranged, but there are a lot of shots.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the guns they have.  If it’s in the hands of anything larger than a Termagant then it’s either multiple shots, blast, large blast or template.  There has been an increase in the number of AP2 weapons.  You might not always want to assault with Tyranids, their medium-short ranged firepower is nasty.  One gun even has 20 shots.  Your close combat Trygon Prime comes with 12 Str 5 shots.  None of this has gone down since the previous codex, and if anyone hasn’t noticed the venom cannons no longer suffer a negative penalty against vehicles…the first time ever.  Still think their weak?  The only real weakness to this firepower is the Dark Eldar Nightshields as this can reduce many of your weapons to 12-18″.  Oh and did I mention they’re all Assault weapons, even the artillery, so no worries about moving & shooting.

No Vehicles.  How is that a benefit?  It’ll take 4 Railgun shots to down a Carnifex, yet a Land Raider can be taken out with just one.  This is counterbalanced by their susceptibility to small arms fire, but most of that will only wound your monsters on  a 6 and you’ll get your 3+ save, and besides you’ll have a mass of Gaunts between your monster and those Bolters.  A more important bonus of monster over machine is that they all count as denial units, every single one of them.  This includes those that are flying.  There is nothing I’ve found in the rules or FAQs to address this, meaning your Winged Tyrant in swoop mode will still be able to count as a denial unit (feel free to correct me if you’ve found it).  This will probably be addressed in time, but if so you can still drop it into glide mode.  Remember in most games you’ll only have to control 1 more objective than your opponent to win.

Multi-wound Creatures.  When 6th Edition first came out I did an article on how units of multi-wound creatures can ‘play the system’ of wounds allocation.  As wounds from shooting have to be allocated to the nearest model to the shooter, when your models have taken wounds you can reposition them in your next movement phase as you move your unit, placing them deeper in the unit leaving the unwounded ones in the front.  It’s not like Fantasy where you have to apply all wounds to a single model until it is dead.  If it is not the nearest model, then it wont take wounds until the nearest model is dead.  This way you can take wounds across the whole unit without loosing a single model.  When it comes to melee with units that can instant death them, make sure your models with 1 wound left are near the front.  They’ll have to take the wounds first (as they’re the nearest), but the Instant Death wont mean much as they’ll only have 1 wound left anyway.

Well the past 3 articles are my thoughts on the why I think the Tyranids are not as underpowered as people have been saying.  It all depends upon how you play them and what style of play you favour.  Remember they are a horde army, so the tactics you and your gaming buddies like to use when playing Marines or Tau wont work with them, so be creative and do something new.  Enjoy playing with the new Tyranids.