Monday, March 29, 2010

Tyranid Armies Raptor has Tested

Currently, I've tested one real army type, and that's bringing Hive Guard with Tyrannofexes for a solid gun line, and packed Tervigons in for psychic support and troops.

Tyranid Big Guns, Model 1
Tyranid Prime
3x2 Hive Guard
2x10 Termagant
2 Tervigons, Catalyst, Adrenal Glands, Toxin Sacks
2x18 Gargoyles, Toxin sacks & adrenal glands
6x Shrikes, Lash whip/bone swords & scything talons
2x Tyrannofex, Cluster Spines & Rupture Cannon

Tyranid Big Guns, Model 2
Tyranid Prime
3x3 Hive Guard
2x10 Termagant
2 Tervigons, Catalyst, Adrenal Glands, Toxin Sacks
3x3 Spore Mines
3x Tyrannofex, Cluster Spines & Rupture Cannon

Basic Thoughts on the Components & the Whole
This kind of firepower is adept at taking out vehicles. Hive Guard allow you to hunt light mech, while Tyrannofexes can hunt light mech and threaten heavier armor. Don't RELY on them to KO the heavier stuff, but they might be able to slow a Land Raider (I mean, you're happy if you just immobilize the thing).

You will be using the Tervigons as point-defense; you'll basically be launching waves of beefed-up Termagants at anyone that wants to assault you, and the monstrous creatures CAN be thrown into assault. Timing's an issue, since you don't want the Tyrannofexes in assault longer than ncessary. That said, T-fexes and Tervigons both have four S6 power weapon attacks, though the Tervis are poison, so you're generally looking at a 4+ with a re-roll to carve something. (...unless it's, I dunno, a Wraithlord? Then it's just a 4+)

Against infantry, you have Cluster Spines, and in a pinch the Tyrannofex thorax swarm. S5 AP5 is reasonable; it'll wound most things handily, if they don't have better than a 5+, well...

The Tervigons and Termagants
The obvious con? Kill points. Against something like a double-raider army, expect to lose at least two units to screening your assets and absorbing the assault. If the enemy gets close, you shoot the crap out of them, then make sure your Tervigons are close enough to buff the termagants.

On the bright side, the Tervigons can score, and you should be able to solve your troops worries, unless your dice are bad. On average, you'll get about 20-22 termagants out of each Tervigon, and you'll get that over two turns. 3d6 should see doubles after a couple turns or so, and rejoice if you get more. Cry if you see three 1's the first time you drop the dice.

Cons with the Build
The latter build lacks speed and mobility. You'll have to plan ahead to take the objectives downfield, since there's the issue of your slow speed. I like that build one has some speed to it; the Gargs and Shrikes are a mobile reserve AND good for cleaning folks off objectives in a pinch. The gargs function as added punch, and a flying cover save.

Frankly, if you're going to range far ahead, you either need shrikes/warriors to detach and advance, or you need to make sure you can get Dominion off reliably, and trail some gargoyles back. However, if you get out of synapse, bear in mind that gargoyles have something like Ld6 and can't survive losing a combat.

The Mobile Element
Think of Gargoyles as a crossbreed between Hormagaunts and termagants that can't score. You have speed, a gun, and are reasonable on the charge; on average 20 gargyles will hit about 20 times; you'll auto-wound 2-3 times and you'll probably rack up another 8-10 wounds, roughly, after that. Not BAD, but you're still T3 and have an amazing 6+ save.

Shrikes...well, I think I'd prefer poison; it costs a little extra but it lets you tag monstrous creatures and makes you nastier against the smaller gribbles; S4 that wounds about 75% of the time against T3-4 is not bad at all, AND can handle larger gribblies. The downside is the 5+ save, so you HAVE to bring 5-6 or so, and it's an expensive unit. Use cover, don't fear the terrain checks, and trust the lash whip to even things out for you when you have to go into terrain.

The Prime
I've grown to like the prime. On the one hand, a Hive Tyrant is much nastier in combat, and can bring a heap of support abilities/psychic powers to the table. On the other hand, a tyrant with guard and a gun is close to 300 points. A Prime with the minimal whip/sword is 95 points, and can hide in a unit. He's a few extra anti-S8-hits in a Warrior unit, or a little extra durability for a Hive Guard unit, and it's hard to ferret out THAT synapse.

In the Future...
I'll be testing out triple trygons, and eventually harpies. Zoanthropes are on the to-build list for April, as well (albeit scratch build, but I'm not buying 9 of THOSE too. Hive guard are cool and will see lots of use. Not necessarily the same for Zoanthropes).

Also, I intend to test Hormagaunts as the core as well, perhaps with some Warrior support. We'll see.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tyranid Experiences, Part 2: I like guns

I've got a few more games with the bugs under the belt, and have tweaked the builds a little. I'm still forming opinions on some units, and I figured I'd share my thoughts.

I have to apologize for the lower number of posts in March; admittedly that's because I spent about a week down with allergies + sinus infection, and the antbiotics pretty much floored me for about a week.

Hive Guard: I LIKE GUNS!
Ok, honestly, I have to recommend the Hive Guard. This might be a bit of a no-brainer, but these guys are a solid army-enhancing support unit for just about any 'nid army. S8, BS4, 24 inches, and no need for LOS means they're easy to use and can sort out most light armor.

Note that their range is only 24 inches, so against longer-ranged armies you will have to move up to engage them. Then again, if you know the enemy isn't going to come to you, you can deploy forward enough to try to get to them, and unless it's a fast, mobile army you can probably bring them to bear. I know that when I go back to guys with REGULAR guns, it's going to mess me up.

Note also that in a pinch, T6 with a 4+ save can stop-gap a good number of troops if it really does come to that. I had to throw them into assault once in my recent game against double-raider Templar, and it's really hard for stuff like regular space marines to wound 'em with S4. Obviously, this doesn't apply against hard-core melee troops with access to poison or higher strength. It's not something you WANT to do, but it's worth keeping in mind that you CAN sacrifice shooting to hold up lesser troops.

Bottom line: unless you're going for an aggressive posture with drop-podding Zoanthropes (or taking Zoeys with Onslaught-packing Tervigons) then you can probably make use of Hive Guard in your army more often than not. I own 9 now.

Spore Mines: I'm in your DZ, fouling up your deployment...kind of
I've used spore mines a few times now, and the jury is still out. As far as I can see, the major appeal of spore mines is to try to foul up the other guy's deployment. If you want to do this, I would suggest taking three units of three. Past that, it's a matter of making an educated guess about your opponent's deployment, and then chucking spore mines in those locations and hoping they land in a manner that hampers the enemy drop zone.

Once they're down, you can't rely on the mines to do any damage. They move 1d6 in a random direction, and detonate if they end any movement phase within two inches of the enemy. It's an S4, AP4 large blast. It might occasionally draw fire IF it gets close to something. Worst-case scenario, it will let troops that can shrug off the blast assault it and get a consolidate move off it, or something like that.

Bottom line: if you aren't using your fast attack slots and have 60-90 points to spare, you might be able to futz with enemy deployment. Obviously, if the enemy has drop pods or something like that, well, you might not DO that much...

Trygons: ...that's a pretty big mole to whack
I've used triple-trygons once, and it was in a Battle Missions game where only fast attack could start on the table. My initial thoughts with Trygons was to play reactively; see where the enemy deploys and then slap them down accordingly. I got my reserves in first, and Chaos had a Defiler and most of the rest of the army were fellows in Rhinos, along with obligatory Obliterators.

I picked up two lessons from that game:
1) Have a backup plan for Trygons other than 'react to the other guy', like 'slap them on an objective' and dare the other guy to come play
2) Six wounds at T6 with a 3+ is REASONABLY durable, but things like Oblits, that can deep-strike accurately and peg you with twin-linked plasma guns....yeah. You're a melta magnet, hence you bring multiples

Tyrannofexes: Ka-BOOM
You'll bring tyrannofexes only in shooty armies, and you'll bring 2-3 of them. They have a 48-inch reach, which means it's difficult to out-range them. They have an S10 gun, which means they're pretty good for nailing light armor, and can in a pinch threaten heavy armor. Note that even though you ARE S10, you'll still need a decent amount of fire to down land raiders. I would take them with units of Hive Guard, just to get good weapons coverage and to make sure you can halt any lighter armor swarm in its tracks.

Note that like trygons, these guys dictate your army. You will want to screen them, but in a pinch the cluster spines and thorax swarm CAN do some damage to larger numbers of lighter troops. This is a stop-gap measure, but it's good to bear in mind. If you do deal with Land Raiders and the like, still be prepared to punch them out.

Tyranids and Heavy Armor
Admittedly, I have yet to test Zoanthropes. I've still got to kit-bash them together and all that jazz. I like the Hive Guard model, but I have some plans for kit-bashing some reasonable Zoanthropes together out of Trygon bits.

Frankly, I have to conclude that 'nids have three options for killing heavy armor:
1) Shoot it with Zoanthropes
2) Shoot it a lot with Tyrannofexes
3) Punch it repeatedly with monstrous creatures

Against Land Raiders, 'immobilized' is a very tolerable result, as it prevents them from getting closer. Generally, you want this BEFORE the enemy gets close.

The worst nightmare for 'nids would have to be a later-game objective-contesting move from a Land Raider. You have GOT to take it out, and all the MCs other than the Carnifex have around S6, so you have GOT to devote them to assaulting it, and may not nail it first time around.

Hive Guard have a place in just about any army; every 'nid player should have at least a half-dozen.

If you aren't running any fast attack, 90 points in spore mines can provide a chance to disrupt enemy deployment against most builds.

Trygons are nasty, but not invulnerable, and you need a backup plan in case your enemy doesn't deploy normally.

Tyrannofexes are legitimate long-range threats with a nasty point-defense system, though they are army-warping units.

More to come as I get more games in with the bugs.

Friday, March 19, 2010

First Outings with Tyranids

I finally fielded my happy, happy little swarm of gribbles, and managed to eke out a couple of wins. I did not think to take my crappy little camera, and today, well, I'm still a weeeeee bit out of it on antibiotics. (Allergy season startup + sinus infection = floored raptor, add in the scorched-earth antiobiotics and I was motionless from about noon Wednesday to 4PM Thursday, and fading in and out of delightful madness today).

So, the list I ran with:
Tyranid Prime w/ 2x Boneswords
3x2 Hive Guard
2x10 Termagants
2 Tervigons w/ Toxin, Adrenal, Catalyst
6 Shrikes w/ whip/sword
2x18 Gargoyles w/ Toxin, Adrenal
2x Tyrannofex w/ Cluster Spines, Rupture Cannon, default thorax swarm

Played two objective games; one against Black Templar double-raiders and one against Tyranids.

Brother-Captain w/ Hood
Emperor's Chump w/ Preferred Enemy vow
2x 5-man assault termie squads (4 claws, 1 hammer/shield)
2x8-9 fellows in Rhinos w/ melta, fist
2x5 man las/plas
2x mm/hf speeders

Tyranid List:

Swarmlord w/ 3 Tyrant Guard
3 Zoanthropes
2 Hive Guard
2 large squads of Hormagaunts (~20)
2 small squads of Termagants (~10)
4 Warriors w/ Swords, Devourerers
3 Raveners
Trygon Prime

General Tyranid Thoughts
On Land Raiders
Frankly, I figured I'd shoot his support before I shot his raiders. This proved to be wise, as I had some good rolls and managed to total his Rhinos and ruin his speeders in 1-2 turns. (Well, he made the mistake of leaving a rhino in range of Hive Guard on turn one, so it got maimed, and the Tyrannos accounted for the other one and a speeder).

You will have to give yourself over to the idea that you're gonna be doing one of three things to kill a Land Raider:
1) Shoot it with a Zoanthrope
2) Shoot it with a Tyrannofex
3) Punch it repeatedly with a monstrous creature

The raiders were a pain, in part because even after one squad of termies broke from shooting and ran, he slapped one on my objective. I won the game against the Templars because it went into seven turns and I managed to kill the Raiders on turns six and seven. Admittedly, that was some pretty poor Tyrannofex shooting there, and then a Tervigon wandered over and punched one in the explosives.

Hive Guard
I haven't run the new Zoeys yet, but with everyone and their dog packing some kind of psychic defense, I have to admit I like the reliability of two S8 shots at BS4. These things are happy to maim up lighter mech, and against any T4 multi-wound bug? Ouch. My tyranid opponent made the mistake of leaving Warriors in the open for a turn, and they paid for it. They're also good for taking out Zoeys, or at least forcing instant-death saves.

Now, I know there have been some critics of the t-fexes, but I have to say they have a place. Why? Several reasons.

1) S10 shots
2) 48"
3) T6, 6 wounds, 2+ armor save

S10 means it CAN threaten AV14, but against lighter armor? Two shots at BS3 mean that 25% of the time you'll see 0 hits, 25% of the time you'll see 2 hits, and 50% of the time you'll see a hit. Against Rhinos, Landspeeders, and even AV12 (other than Eldar skimmers...) you're probably gonna get a pen. Seriously, it's some decent firepower.

48 inches means you can shoot pretty much from the start. Considering that you NEED all the shooting you can get to stop/slow mech, this means there's nowhere to really run.

The durability means that against shooting, either the opponent brought a crap-ton of lascannons or he's not going to bother engaging your Tyrannofex at range. He'll either melta it, throw powerfists/thunder hammers at it, or ignore it. That means you get to shoot, and you'd BETTER screen the bloody thing.

As an added bonus, the Cluster Spines and flamer templates are nice point-defense goodies. I lost the Gaunt screen to a Hormagaunt charge in game two, and dealt with this by burning half the brood (bad consolidation roll) with the t-fex, and gunning the rest down with fleshborers.

Bottom line? It's a solid performer, but it is for a shooty-heavy build.

On Gargoyles and Shrikes
I won't lie; I was a little worried about taking these guys. I like the gargoyle sculpt, and I figured that the Shrikes would provide some punch/synapse. It gave the build some speed and a rapid-response element, which turned out to be useful.

The down side? Hello, traffic jam. Thank god I didn't see a crap-ton of templates or such early on, as that's just a lot to deploy. Additionally, that's a LOT of ground to cover; Gargoyles will be taking dangerous terrain tests, but you should be able to avoid moving through terrain for the assault.

Shrikes? Mmm, power weapon love. The whip is absolutely a keeper. Instant death is nice and all, but robbing the enemy of the initative is big. Going into cover? It's 4th-ed frags. Going into a faster creature? Slap one in base-to-base contact. Shank with power weapons. Enjoy.

The gargoyles help in a charge, but honestly you need a little more punch to take stuff down. They DID manage to drag down a Tyrannofex, but that was after knocking off one wound with massed small-arms fire, then going poison + to-hit wounds all over it. Granted, it TOOK several turns, but it stopped the big brute.

Still, there's nothing like watching 10-20 of them around a target, and seeing a few heads and powerfists above the mass. It made it totally worthwhile.

The Swarmlord
...what a beast. Frankly, as 'nids, I don't have enough high-AP shooting to reliably drop wounds on him. Ok, we have plenty of S8-10 fire available, but sometimes it was going elsewhere and we've all played Space Marine players with hot dice before, right? This guy took some serious dog-piling to drop. I managed to KO one guard before it got there. Then, I threw Termagants, Gargoyles, and Shrikes at it, and drug it down over a couple of turns. It managed to kill a heap of gargoyles, termagants, and all but one Shrike (which was busy holding it down).

Lesson learned? GET POISON ON THE BLOODY SHRIKES. Would have made it SO MUCH EASIER.

Still, all things considered, the Swarmlord is a nasty foe for bugs to deal with. You pretty much have to drown 'im in poison weapons and expect to take heavy casualties. As well it should be, for 280+ points of the army...

Or, 'we have reinforcements!' Anyone who's pulled off the Kroot Shield knows what I'm talking about. Round one, I managed to spawn one brood each, and game two I managed a total of four broods. Honestly, it's enough. You get into some serious traffic-direction issues in the backfield...

On the other hand, there's a LOT of fun to be had with Catalyst. Fun uses for Feel No Pain include:

1) Making Termagants last
2) Making Gargoyles last in the open
3) Keeping Shrikes alive against small arms
4) Softening the impact of 'No Retreat!'

Number four was the big one. There are some furballs you're just not gonna win quickly. You're going to have to wear the enemy down, and the problem is lsoing troops with 'No Retreat'. Well, now you lose half of them. If the enemy doesn't have power weapons or the like, then you can last. Plus, your piddly little T3 6+ save fellows can actually endure a little more abuse. Why, you're about as tough as an Eldar Aspect Warrior!

General Tyranid Thoughts
Traffic direction is an issue. This army's deploying something like 60-70 figs off the bat. No tanks. The only thing that relocates more than 6" a turn are the flyers. With Tervigons, you're dropping even MORE of them on the table.

The games have been close so far, and I think that might be partially due to the build, and partially due to getting used to a new playstyle. This current build reminds me of my Tau, except I can actually fistfight in a pinch.

Mild Apology
I'm still a tad bit loopy. This crud actually started ramping up around last Sunday, but didn't hit in full force 'til Wednesday. There'll be some more lucid-sounding points eventually.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Non-Basic Army Building: Psychological Warfare

I file psychological warfare as a non-basic part of army building because it's in your head, and in your opponent's head. As such, it's harder to guess what will work on any given individual. The short version of psychological warfare: the percieved danger of a unit causes an opponent to deviate from their battle plan.

Note this is the percieved danger, not the actual danger.

Psychological warfare is, simply put, about screwing with the other guy's head. At the moment, the best I can think of is to offer some examples of psychological warfare units, and how/why they are percieved as such. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of psychological warfare units; it's just an example of some and a few thoughts on why they qualify.

The Doom of Malant'ai
Well, let's go right on ahead and start with the one everyone's talking about. See, part of its impact is the fact that everyone seems to be talking about it. It's all 'OH MY GOD! IT CAN GET 10 WOUNDS AND THROW OUT AN S10 AP1 BLAST! IT CAN KILL 10,332.77721 INFANTRY IN ONE PHASE!' And then there's the whole rules debate about whether or not infantry in transports are effected by the whole 'psychic vampire' deal.

Now why, exactly, do people worry about it? Here's what I can think of:
1) On a good drop, it can potentially effect several infantry units
2) It can potentially force morale checks/retreats on said infantry units
3) It turns around, has 7-10 wounds to its name, and applies a thermonuclear psychic blast to something important
4) Oh, and it also arrives via drop pod, so there are fewer issues with mishaps

So, we've established (in people's minds) that it can potentially ruin your day single-handedly. Ok, now let's pierce the psychological veil:
1) the average roll on 3d6 is 10-11; most units have ld 8-10. This is 1-3 casualties. Big whoop.
2) S8 doesn't care how many wounds you have after you fail a save
3) Can't shoot that psychic blast if you're in assault
4) Psychic hoods, etc. still stop the Cataclysm

Now, the Doom probably WILL kill some infantry (if it hits 'em in transports), but unless you really cluster up and give the doom a sweet spot to land in, it'll kill a few, and hopefully your army has some S8 around to deal with the problem. Can you hit it with three S8 wounds? Then you can probably solve the problem. Or, can your army take out a marine squad in a turn? Then the worst the Doom did was absorb fire.

Guardsman Marbo
Marbo is, in my mind, a bit more credible of a threat than the Doom. Marbo is a mere 65 points for a guy with Stealth that appears where he wants to. Once there, he has a nasty pistol, a demo charge, and poisoned melee attacks.

Why is he scary?

He can't be within 1" of the enemy. He is one infantry unit. It is very easy to leave a hole (as he only needs a 2inch + 20mm hole to appear in) he can inhabit. Then, he chucks a demo charge at something expensive.

Rambo basically makes you ask 'did I deploy in such a manner as to deny the enemy a demo charge shot into the rear of a vehicle?

Basically, he's enough of a bargain (in non KP missions, anyway) at 65 points to make the other guy deploy a little more carefully.

It's nastier against armies that have multi-wound T4 creatures, as S8 can insta-kill priority targets like Crisis Suits, Tyranid Warriors, and Zoanthropes just to name a few. It also can harm vehicles, especially if you tag them from behind.

On the other hand, once he chucks the demo charge, Rambo is not THAT frightening. He'll throw out pistol shots, or try to stab something, but you can usually turn around and just shoot him down or assault him. All he does after the demo charge is beg for bullets and a gruesome death.

Indirect-Fire Artillery
This is actually a category as opposed to a specific unit. Basically, something like a Whirlwind or Basilisk sits back and chucks explosives at you, and you can't shoot it back (unless you have ordnance of your own). This is frustrating because it feels 'unfair'; nevermind that your opponent paid points for it normally. It's shooting YOU, but YOU can't SHOOT IT BACK! It's frustrating for some folks.

Outflanking Troops
But, but, what happens if they're suddenly on your flanks? The scare value of outflankers depends on the outflankers and what they can actually do when they get there. You're gambling that you'll get your troops on the right side (66% chance, or the same as a power armor save before any re-rolls) at the right turn (...good luck computing those odds) and they'll be able to do something (which is rather up to your opponent).

If you're outflanking a smaller unit or only 1-2 selections, it's not a credible threat. If you outflank too much, you risk diluting your main forces. I mean, you COULD outflank a Land Raider full of Terminators*, but what happens when it shows up on turn 5 and 600 points of your army did precious little?

It's a gamble, but it's one I honestly don't think much of. However, that's me.

Psychological Warfare versus Legitimately Deadly Stuff
Some units draw fire because of their percieved danger. Other units draw fire because they actually ARE that frightening. Here are some examples of units that draw a heap of fire just because of the damage they can reliably do to your army, and they'll rarely last a match.

Space Marine Land Speeders w/ Multi-melta, heavy flamer
Did you bring tanks? It can nuke 'em. Did you bring non-power-armor infantry? We can roast 'em. It's an AV10 platform that's in your face, threatening your assets with death on turn 2. The only armies that don't abjectly worry about them are those that tend to 'spam' stuff like razorbacks or chimeras. Anyone relying on heftier tanks or camping infantry have GOT to pay attention to these things, or risk losing expensive tanks or swathes of infantry.

Tau Piranhas
They have BS4 meltaguns. They are fast. They can get in your way. They are AV11, so you HAVE to use anti-tank weapons on them. Oh, and did I mention they'll block you and/or kill your expensive stuff if you don't handle them? They may not always kill stuff, but they CAN impede progress and buy time for the Tau player, which is well worth it.

Eldar Fire Dragons
How do 5 meltaguns at point blank strike that Land Raider, monstrous creature, T4 multi-wound unit, etc.? I think the answer is 'very nicely' if you're Eldar, and 'OW!' if you're not. Fire dragons draw so much fire because they really ARE that good (and cost-effective) at killing stuff. They're a legitimate threat to any armor short of a full-on infantry horde.

The Real Perk of Psychological Warfare
The real goal of psychological warfare is to make the enemy make a mistake. You're bringing a unit whose percieved danger is out of proportion to their actual danger, or at least you hope that's how the other guy views it. Is it viable? The answer is actually the two most powerful words in the English language: 'It Depends.' It depends on the unit you're calling on to do this task, and on how the other guy percieves it.

That's why I consider psychological warfare a gamble. It will work on some people some of the time, and you're hoping that's enough.

*Provided you take Khan, and take the Land Raider as a dedicated transport.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Painted Tyrannofex

So, I finished painting this monstrous, walking gun-beast thing. I've constructed a white backdrop for pictures, and attempted to locate a better camera than the one I've sort of been given. (There was a reason it was a 'gift'...)

Enjoy. The thing was fun to convert, though my paint scheme came out a bit bluer than I'd thought, but I kinda like it. at any rate, I don't feel like stripping this one and 20 Termagants.