Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tyranid Codex Review: One Month Later - Intro

Astute readers will know that I am an avid Tyranid collector. I've amassed something like 12,000 points with hundreds of little guys painted and tons of MCs and some Apocalypse units. I love the Tyranid aesthetic, the fluff, the idea of these huge hive fleets descending on planets and stripping them bare. Many of the models are amazing - certainly one of the most iconic armies in 40k.

The Tyranid codex of 5th Edition introduced some new models and ideas that were pretty cool. It caused a lot of issues with a ton of uninspired poor rules, but we could now play Tervigons that actually made swarm lists useful and fun to play. Hive guard gave us ranged AT that was tough. It was fun but it seemed like you were having fun despite the codex, not because of it.

I had high hopes for this codex. The Space Marine codex was inspired, fun, and a cool way to play your collection on the tabletop. Eldar and Tau also received fun boosts. I didn't necessarily want to table my opponent on turn two or provide hobby killing unfun scenarios. I just wanted to use the models I really liked and hoped the ones that weren't so good last edition would get boosts this edition.

Before I start reviewing anything, providing any opinion, I will state that this release has been a weird thing on the internets. There is definitely a large backlash (justified or not) against GW lately. On the one hand, they've provided a ton of new models, codexes, etc. lately. On the other, they've raised prices exponentially, provided ambiguous rules with no FAQs or errata, and continued shady business practices. It seems like they're really floundering with certain aspects of their business and customer outlook when other companies are firing on all cylinders.

There has been a lot of backlash against the backlash, so to speak. Dudes are tired of the negativity, they love Games Workshop, they think other players just need to see things in a different light, etc. I can certainly understand wanting to have fun with the games provided and ignore the haters.

Why do people get so passionate about the game when they feel it is going in the wrong direction, be it game rules, army rules, models, or prices? Lots of people don't just create an army. We have actual collections. With Tyranids and Space Marines I've collected pretty much everything possible. I have invested in this army and they're the main way I play 40k. I want the stuff I spent a ton of money and time on to be good and fun and inspired.

I've listened to pretty much every podcast's ideas on the the new Tyranid codex. I've read dozens of articles. I've read through the codex a few times cover to cover and compared it to what was available before and what other armies have. I realize nothing can be compared in a vacuum - you must take opportunity cost, options, and combinations into account. (I will avoid the word synergy. In 40k talk synergy is used as a word to say 'use this trash option and make this other trash option at least sub-par)

Why should you read this? I've played Tyranids probably 65% of the time that I've played 40k since six months or so before the previous codex came out. I've used most of the options from the 5th Edition codex. I have played in tournaments, funsies games, narrative campaigns, leagues, convention events, etc. I'm not a super competitive player but I do understand what makes things good in 40k. A few things to keep in mind:

Key strategy elements: 40k is all about rolling dice. Roll as many dice as possible. Make your opponent roll as many dice as possible during your turn for armor / cover saves. With extreme range on most guns, fast models and no activation order 40k is less about movement, speed, and placement and more about dice. Lately I've been trying to apply tactical thought I've used in Hordes / Warmachine lately and it doesn't apply as much here - try to throw as many dice as possible and build a solid list.

Models I liked to use in the 5th Edition codex: tervigons buffing termagants making swarm armies legitimate, hive guard, flying hive tyrants, carnifexes, genestealers.

Models I want to use but didn't as much: genestealers, lictors, raveners, hormagaunts.

I don't play tournaments in 40k anymore. I prefer to spend my tournament time for HWM. I spend my 40k time doing narrative campaigns and funsies battles.

I only play painted models. I have not had a ton of experience with the few brand new models we have with the new codex.

I'm going to go through this review like many other people do: start with the army wide special rules, warlord traits, psychic powers, etc. Weapon options will be talked about on each unit that would likely use them.

I will attempt to list pros, cons, and possible uses for each model. If there is something that hasn't been talked about I'll talk about that. Comparisons will be done to the previous codex because that is relevant. I realize that Games Workshop has to release new models to make more profit and sometimes models will become not as good to make you purchase other things. I'm fine with that. That is OK as long as they don't become useless.

With that, lets start the review.

Army Wide Special Rules
Synapse is the key to Tyranids. The big space dinosaurs control the small space dinosaurs using a mind-link. I won't list the tables because they're huge. If a model does not have synapse at the start of the turn and has an instinctive behavior then it must pass a leadership test or do its instinctive behavior that turn. You roll on a chart - 50% of the time it is awful and the others are less relevant.

For termagants, you'll likely run away off the objective you wanted to be on. Hormagaunts will eat each other and then run away (from the morale test). Shooting units will likely just sit there gone to ground. You have a 30% chance of failing a synapse test and having the worst option happen to you.

While you're in synapse you're fearless. This is pretty awesome and lets you tarpit stuff as long as you're in synapse. You can also do shenanigans when you make models go to ground, then make them in synapse and they can be regular again.

The problem is that this key feature, the defining trait of the Tyranids, is 99% a detriment. 'Kill the big ones' is cinematic and sweet but only for your opponent. Oftentimes it feels like you're playing so your opponent can have fun and get achievements, basically.

No other new army book has had detriments like synapse. Eldar are defined by psychic powers and battle focus. You don't lose wounds by doing battle focus, or lose the ability to activate the next turn, etc. Space Marines have chapter traits. These chapter traits don't have arbitrary problems that come up during the game. Necrons don't have phase out anymore, they just have FNP army-wide.

I definitely understand the sentiment 'synapse was just a side detail before'. It hardly ever came up and when it did oftentimes it was a bonus to you. If synapse provided eternal warrior it wouldn't be unbalanced and then I'd probably never ever complain about the random tables you have to roll on when your models get killed... but we didn't get that. You just get fearless, which is nice, but tons of models already have that in 40k.

The side effect of synapse being so punishing is that you now have to have tons of synapse and that synapse is more important, a bigger target, higher priced, and just as weak as ever. We only have one invulnerable save in the army and one model with a 2+ armor save. The invulnerable save is on a synapse creature, but it is toughness four and easily instant deathed. We have one independent character synapse creature, but it went up in cost by 40% and the options it can take also went up quite a bit.

Shadow in the Warp changed to -3 leadership to psykers within 12" instead of roll three dice on pyshic tests. It both got better and worse. The average of three dice is 10.5, most psykers have 10 leadership, so they're now a 7 which is the average of two dice. Not a big hit at all, probably not a big deal.

It did get better in that it makes all psykers leadership -3 (at least until an FAQ) when they're within 12". There are two issues with that: you're within charge range and sergeants can then run the squad instead of the psyker. Morale in general is not as important in 40k as other systems so I'd call this change a wash.

Warlord Traits
In general I treat warlord traits as a bonus. They're not super impressive most of the time and once or twice a game they're pretty cool to help you be more effective. I will likely keep rolling on the Tyranid chart just for funsies but these really aren't impressive at all.

Nature’s Bane: Once per turn before movement nominate a forest within 12 of your warlord to become a carnivorous jungle.

This would be nice if it was after movement, or anywhere on the board. Otherwise you're stuck nominating stuff you want your troops in =/

Heightened Senses: Warlord and all models within 12 receive night vision. 

This is OK, but how many models in the Tyranid army actually have the range to benefit from it? :P

Synaptic Lynchpin: The Warlord’s synapse range is 18".

This would be the one I hope to roll every time because synapse is such a punishment to Tyranid players.

Mind Eater: Win 2 extra VP for each character you kill in challenges with warlord. You don't get it if you sweep the character.

Cool and narrative-y. Not one that is scary or one I'd hope to roll. Tyranid warlords are not hard to kill in a challenge.

Digestive Denial: Decrease the cover save provided by one piece of area terrain in the opponent's area.

How many Tyranid ranged weapons actually cause a cover save from the opponent?

Adaptive Biology: If your warlord takes a wound you then get FNP in your movement phase.

How often do you think a Tyranid warlord is going to survive a shooting phase when it takes a wound? They are usually focus fired into the ground. Even then, it'd be nice if you got FNP when you got wounded, instead of in the next movement phase. Blergh.

Psychic Powers
The biggest takeaway here is that Tyranids no longer have access to the Biomancy tree for some reason. Actually, they don't have any access to any trees besides their own. I don't know this if this is some kind of shoehorned fluff reason ("They don't know english, so they can't say the words to the spells!") or if they felt that toughness 9 Tyranid monstrous creatures were too good, but this is the worst.

I've heard from a number of podcasts and articles that they felt Biomancy was a crutch for Tyranids and we shouldn't have access to it because you'd just spam the same powers every game. Bull. Biomancy is an actual, true, real synergy for Tyranids (I thought I wouldn't use that word) and it made them SOMEWHAT survivable. Just removing access to it and calling it a day is lazy, uninspired, and not creative in the slightest.

The book powers are mostly rehashes of last book's powers with a few being much weaker and one or two better. You will also see much less psychic power on the board from Tyranid players because some models were made much less useful - more on that later. Psychic powers can no longer be counted on as a key part of the strategy of Tyranid armies.

Catalyst: Overall a better power than it was.  It now grants FNP to the caster and the unit targeted.

The Horror: Pretty decent. The target must take a pinning check at -2 leadership. Nice for units that don't have assault grenades (most of our army).

Onslaught: Target unit can run and shoot in the same phase. I like this one as it allows you to close with the enemy faster. No longer a shooting attack.

Paroxysm: Target unit loses -D3 BS and WS. I loved this power in the last book. It was a shooting attack, though, so it took up a shooting attack for your HT. Now you can cast it in close combat as well. The problem: they changed it from -3 to -D3, so an average of one less. Marines will still be shooting and hitting on fives instead of sixes and will still be hitting gaunts on fours in close combat.

Psychic Scream: Nova6 that makes each unit take a leadership test at -2 and takes wounds with no armor or cover save possible for the difference. Marines suffer no wounds on an average roll. Each unit gets a deny the witch attempt =/

Warp Blast: The zoanthrope power from before. S5 AP3 blast or S10 AP2 lance. Lance went down in AP and the power is warp charge 2 so only the HT and zoanthropes can cast it. Still not bad on Zoanthropes.

Primaris Power - Dominion: Bonus of 6" to the caster's synapse range. This one is really desirable only because it helps to avoid the extremely punishing synapse issues.

Check back tomorrow for HQ thoughts. Thanks for reading!

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