Saturday 11 January 2014

Fear of a blank planet: Askepios’ first impressions on the new Tyranids

So the new codex has dropped like a spore mine cluster and I’ve spent a good chunk of today poring over the electronic version (pricey but so easy to navigate!), talking to fellow players and considering how to adapt… time to reabsorb the vanguard organisms and process all that bio-data…

Part 1 Recessive genes:  
One of the first things I look for in a new codex is how my favourite units have been affected.  As these tend to be the most hard-hitting, resilient or points-efficient units from the previous codex, it’s quite common for them to be taken down a peg or two in their new incarnation, but let’s go through them and find out!

Hive Tyrant:  Same stats but a slight points reduction, especially for the winged variant (which is a pleasant surprise!).  By way of his specialist upgrades, Old Adversary is cheaper but only affects him, so no more Preferred Enemy for nearby bugs :(  Hive Commander is however unchanged, except for another slight points reduction.  Have always been a fan of this one, having a shooty troops unit arrive by outflank is definitely useful.  As far as I can see he’s still as good at everything he did well before, but now for cheap!  The twin-devourer flyrant is still an attractive option.  Likewise, keeping him on foot with some Tyrant Guard will be strong, stronger even, as the Venom Cannon has finally lost that infuriating -1 to AP rolls.  

Tervigon:  No pleasant surprises here, all changes are for the worse and he is more expensive to boot.  You have to take 30 gaunts to get him as Troops.  You only have a 1 in 6 chance of getting the Catalyst Psychic Power.  He no longer confers the benefits of his Toxin Sacs and Adrenal Glands to nearby gaunts.  If he dies, he now explodes the heads of gaunt units within 12”, rather than 6”… That’ll do pig, that’ll do.

Termegants:  1 point cheaper!  Sounds like nothing but this is actually pretty great.  You can now take 30 bugs for the same points you pay for 20 Ork boyz.  This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that there is nowhere near the capacity for super-charging them as you could before (having Preferred Enemy, Furious Charge, Poisoned Attacks and Feel No Pain on a 5 point model did have a “too good to last” feel to it!).  But if you want, you can fill your deployment zone with bodies for under 400 points!

Genestealers:  I love genestealers.  As they are portrayed in the background they should strike hard, fast and without warning.  Your opponent should be afraid of them.  I was so looking forward to the possibility that they might be a viable option again (they certainly weren’t in the previous codex, they were hopeless!) but they’re pretty much unchanged.  I don’t know if I’ll ever understand why a creature that is typified by it’s stealthy shock attacks goes from to Initiative 6 to Initiative 1 when charging through cover.  A real disappointment.

Hive guard:  5 points more expensive, and they have the option to take a shorter-ranged, haywire blast gun for a further 5 points per guy.  It’s not a terminal points-hike in the grand scheme of things and they still have the ability to shoot at tanks round corners with their Impaler cannons.  I think this is more valuable than having the reliability of the haywire gun.  That extra 6” range makes a big difference, especially when you consider that if you use the haywire gun, next turn you are definitely going to be staring down the gun-barrels of the guys who’s transport you’ve just blown up.  

Doom of Malantai:  GONE!  I guess he finally failed his last 3++.

Gargoyles:  Considering the improvement Jump Infantry got moving from 5th to 6th ed, I’m surprised these guys didn’t go way up in points.  The upgrades are more expensive, but the changes to their ‘Blinding Venom’ has me considering using them in different way.  This now causes the same effect as the ‘Paroxysm’ psychic power used to.  So rather than relying on them to inflict damage on their own, you might be more cavalier with them, and wing them against a perceived threat and gimpify them for next turn.

Trygon/Trygon Prime:   Same as he ever was, again with a slight points reduction.  He suffers a little from the changes to Scything Talons but that’s army-wide and not disastrous.  He’s still arriving right in your opponent’s face if you want him to and is enough of a threat to demand a reaction.  With the loss of Mycetic Spores his subterranean assault rule might actually become useful, though annoyingly there is nothing in the book that lets you voluntarily delay reserve rolls.  The reason you would want to do this is that the Trygon has to arrive from reserve to make his burrow-hole, in order that guys can arrive from reserve via the burrow next turn.  As with the last Codex, there is nothing to help ensure that you get the guys you want coming up through the burrow when you want them.  So the chances are they will arrive the same turn as the Trygon, and they’ll have to walk on from your board edge, which is a bit rubbish.

Biovores:  I spoke to a fellow ‘Nid player for an hour about these guys today, and most of that conversation was spent trying to decipher how the Hell spore mines work.  So the biovores are a little cheaper, huzzah for that.  However the rules for spore mine explosions are all over the shop.  

If you hit with your spores, assuming you have 3 ‘vores in the unit you’ll get 3 barrage large blasts at the same (very average) strength and AP they were before.  But if you miss, you deploy the spore mines as a cluster as you did before (except that you now place D3 mines per blast template you would have placed had they hit, so potentially 3 units of 3 mines).  And here is where it all gets fuzzy - whereas previously the mines blew up when anyone came near them or shot them, the rules for their exploding are now referring to the assault phase.  As written the rules state that spore mines don’t make any attacks in close combat, but at the initiative 10 step they explode.  It’s implied that in order to blow up the mines have to charge or be charged.  Or is it?  It could mean that in the assault phase, at the initiative 10 step, whether the mines are in combat or not, they blow up.  The writing of this rule isn't very specific and is further confused by the increased strength gained from spore mines purchased as a cluster in the Fast Attack section, but boiling it down I think that if interpreted as intended it all just means that the spores are woefully ineffective.  

If they land via biovores launching them, they can try and charge into combat to self-detonate, subject to overwatch and actually very unlikely to even make it into combat (since they halve their charge roll).  If they land via Deep Strike as a Spore Mine Cluster purchased in the Fast Attack section, they inherently can’t charge as they have come in by Deep Strike.  So they have to weather an enemy shooting phase before they can do anything at all.  And the enemy need have no qualms about shooting them as they don’t blow up till the assault phase… let’s just imagine that for a moment… you shoot at what is essentially a floating jellyfish-come-landmine and rather than exploding in a spectacular fashion it - what?  Sort of damply deflates like a burst whoopee cushion?  I guess so… I know this is all very daft sci-fi but come on!  

There are a couple of practical applications of this I suppose, or perhaps I’m grasping at straws.  A spore mine cluster that has deployed due to a failed biovore salvo could be used to draw overwatch fire away from the unit you really wanted to charge with.   But then your opponent could call your bluff, not shoot it, and let the spores blow up at Init 10 and cause as much damage to your other bugs involved in the combat as the enemy.  Or by taking the (potentially) higher strength cluster from the Fast Attack section, you could threaten the enemy and draw fire away from your more valuable units.  But again with the amount of damage the mines are actually likely to cause, a canny player might well take it on the chin and shoot a more valuable unit.  I have a feeling though that there are better choices to be had from both the Fast Attack and Heavy Support slots!

And so…

That’s my run-down of how the old favourites match up against their new counter-parts.  Next up I’ll  be checking out the new stuff!

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