This year I decided to do Tyranids as my first new army of the year. I had a reasonably-sized swarm gestating in the bottom of a Land Raider box that I had put together a while back and never gotten around to finishing, so with a new book and a new year it seemed fitting that I brought out the bugs.
The first and foremost concern was that the Tyranids had to be the ever-elusive ‘fully painted’ army. The painting process was wild and well-documented in a Project Log on Dakka, which can be found here, if interest dictates. The second concern was to play them religiously until I got comfortable with them and felt competent with the army. I’ve played the bugs every week since then, with usually one game in the books each week, and occasionally an extra one here or there. When I set out to play, after sitting with the book for a while, I had the following initial thoughts:
- Trygons were going to be excellent; even if their deployment tech would rarely be useful.
- Mawlocs were too random to be reliable (though I did appreciate that they represent a new design concept for GW).
- Venomthropes would be clutch tech-pieces.
- Assault is the strength of the army, since BS3 really doesn’t pass muster when you consider the cost of some of the better shooters.
I was on the fence about Zoanthropes and Tervigons, and didn’t factor Harpies and Tyrannofexes into my thinking at all, since there’s no model, I wasn’t interested in the conversion work, and I’m not a big fan of proxies. Also absent from my initial wrapping-of-the-head around the list were Hive Guard, not because they didn’t look awesome, but because we sold out immediately at the store before I got a crack at them, and GW’s been out ever since!
Once I had my rough sketch, and the army was finished and painted, I took them to the table, and put my theories to the test. After some hard fought lessons, I came to the following conclusions:
- Trygons are great, but they’re such a huge target that they can easily become a giant liability, particularly when I expected them to do too much. Seasoned players can counter them easily, and my tactics had to change to address that. Trygons went from a ‘shock and awe’ terror-tactic, to a more moderated approach, even occasionally serving as a bullet-magnet for a turn, so the lesser gribblies could do their work.
- Venomthropes are less useful than I first anticipated, probably because of the dominance of mech, and their inherent reactive nature. As a support piece they’re neat, but I feel that they’re only really handy in very specific builds such as a strong gun-line of shooty bugs. All told, for me, they were often little more than a fancy kill point. I was upset by this, since I love the model, but such is life. I may pick up a few more and run them as Hive Guard, since there’s no telling when GW make more.
- Poisoned Hormagaunts and Screamer-Killer Carnifexes turned out to be surprisingly effective, despite being panned in early commentary. Half the price of a Marine, a Hormagaunt with Toxin Sacs is fast, numerous, and hits hard enough to kill nearly anything. Mine have racked up an impressive tally of kills, including the Deceiver and Ku’Gath. And for the price, a brood of 2 S-K Carnifexes is pretty devastating. The pair of them can hold their own in combats where one would get bogged down, they’ve got some close-in ranged threat, and they’re relatively effective AT pieces.
- Zoanthropes were an overall disappointment; there’s just too many dice rolls between them and what they should be doing. You have to pass the psychic test; he has to fail his attempt to stop the power with psychic hood/runes/whatever; you have to hit; you have to penetrate; he has to fail his cover; then, after all that, you get a 50-50 shot at popping the vehicle. That’s a lot of dice to wade through to get where you want. I’ve had success with Zoes, but on the whole they stay in the case. This means that I basically have to ignore Land Raiders, but I’m comfortable with that.
- Tervigons and Termagants are a very mixed bag. The little ones are so bland as to be transparent, and I only ever took them when I wanted Big Mama, who turned out to be full of more fail than win, at least for me. She had one stellar game where she netted me upwards of 50 extra gribblies over the course of the game, but mostly she crapped out a handful of whelps and promptly shut off. It’s my luck, I know, and I know that many swear by her, I just don’t count on having a baby-makin’ machine. I count on having a giant scoring monster. The babies are a bonus.
- I was surprised by the efficacy of 6 Ymgarl Genestealers. Over and over, these boys had great games; jumping out of terrain, making quick assaults, and generally causing my opponent headaches. They, along with the Swarmlord, who needs little more praise from me, became my go-to ‘special character’ units for my lists. The other named beasties just ended up being too gimmicky.
- I like Tyranid Warriors. I know many don’t, in particular ‘fighty’ warriors, but I’ve had success with both Deathspitter-armed walking heavy bolters, and rending-claw wielding dedicated assault pieces. With or without a Prime, who is a respectable if fragile piece on his own, Warriors usually end up forming the backbone of my army.
- Genestealers are still a grey area. I think an outflanking unit can be useful, but I’ve seen them hung out to dry on the wrong flank, or simply outmatched in the ring, as often as they’ve been effective. I'm going start running Hive Guard to fill that slot in the list.
- Lash Whips are Tyranid frag grenades. I've been trying to squeeze as many as possible into my recent lists.
- An assault-heavy Tyranid force runs out of gas real quick. I found my tactical options running thin around bottom of 3, because I was running red-line at my opponents to get the swarm in hand-to-claw ASAP, and without the shiny metal boxes my lemmings used to be packed in when I was running vanilla Marines, I was taking so much heat on the way in that what made the trip wasn’t terribly ‘combat-effective’, to use an old west-coast GW management term.
After all that table-time, as well as talks with plenty of people whose opinions I respect, I’ve settled on the following as my standard list.
2 Tyrant Guard (lash whips)
2 Hive Guard
2 Hive Guard
Tervigon (toxin sacs, adrenal glands, catalyst)
4 Warriors (deathspitters)
3 Warriors (lash whips/boneswords)
24 Hormagaunts (toxin sacs)
2 Carnifexes in a brood (adrenal glands, frag spines, bio-plasma)
11 Kill Points
Minimum 6 Scoring Units including Tervigon spawns
All of which weighs in at around 2000 points, so it's at the ceiling of what will hit the table for most games and can easily be pared down to fit into smaller sizes. One thing I have missed from the Tyranid book are little odds and ends of wargear to fill out the last couple points in a list. Call me superstitious, but I've always felt that 'perfect' lists of exactly the points value of the game, do better.
All this is what I’ve determined based on my local meta and the models I choose to play with. I never tested Shrikes (though I’ve had them applied painfully to my face) myself, so they were left out of this writing, along with anything else I didn’t spend enough game-time on. What to take in a Bug list depends greatly on your local scene and your personal preference. I like big monsters. They’re cool to look at, fun to paint, and pretty intimidating, so long as you’re not staring down a bunch of Rune Priests! Despite all this, I may not have the bugs much longer, since Lola has been asking after them ever since I started Blood Angels, and I get the feeling she’ll be ‘taking possession’ of the Tyranids before too long! Regardless, they’ve been a fun experiment, and I’ve had a great time with them.