I believe I'd promised the other week that there'd be a breakdown on Tyranid troops. Well, after a nutty week, a crazier weekend (and neither of those in the good way...) and a short nap and bike ride, it's time for that breakdown.
The way I see it, there are three basic focuses on Tyranid troops: Termagants/Tervigons, Hormagaunts, and Warriors. They can mix to an extent, but you should usually pick one and run with it.
Termagants and Tervigons
Also known as: '...how do I build this big guy, and how many of these little things do I have to PAINT?!' (the answer: I'll have my conversion of one up soon as I do cleanup on painting, and the latter is about 50-60). This is one of the popular ones on the inter-tubes so far as I can tell; everyone is enamored with the ability to spawn endless hordes of them.
This generally takes the form of two units of ten Termagants (50 points each) and two Tervigons taken as troops choices with adrenal glands, toxin sacks, cluster spines, and either Catalyst or Onslaught (195 each). Grand total? About 500 points.
1) Quantity Problems are Usually Solved.
You can crank out 3d6 termagants per tervigon per turn. Averages suggest that you'll get two turns of production before you see doubles, and you'll produce 10-11 termagants each go. That means you can guess on a couple of units of ~10 termagants. This means in an objective game, you can casually crap out something to sit at home, then advance.
2) Termagants Get Nasty with Poison, Furious Charge, and Counterattack
Individually, a Termagant is crap. It's basically a guardsman with a BS3 bolt pistol and a 6+ save that 'benefits' from fearless. You generally hit on 4's, wound on 4-5's, and die in combat to fearless wounds.
Now, give yourself poison (always wound on that 4+) and furious charge (re-roll that 4+ against T4 on the charge, and against T3 all the time). That's kinda nasty. If you get charged, you get a Ld10 roll to get Counterattack. All this for the low, low price of staying within 6" of the Tervigon (read: making sure ONE GUY is within that crucial six inches).
3) Charge Range
A freshly-minted unit of Termagants can reach out to 18". You spawn within 6" of the Tervigon, you get your 6" move, and your 6" assault. It's worth considering, since a unit of 10 of these with Furious Charge can put some solid hurt on stuff.
4) Psychic Support
Do you like handing out Feel No Pain? Yeah, the Tervi can do that. The big draws of FNP are making units like Warriors and monstrous creatures much more durable, or helping your little guys take small-arms fire or Fearless wounds.
In a pinch, your Tervigon ought to be charging with four S6 monstrous creature CC attacks. Don't underestimate the graphic damage that S6 poison can do to another monstrous creature. I lucked out against a buddy's bugs (really, really lucked out) and a Tervigon ate HALF of a Trygon in one assault phase. (His other Trygon promptly prioritized the Tervigon it was facing, and put four wounds on it...)
1) Kill Points
Termagants aren't THAT hard to kill, and against something like Land Raiders or faster assault armies, you're going to use the first rank to absorb the hit as best you can. In KP games, don't spawn unless necessary.
2) Traffic Jams
It's a lotta guys, and the biggest problem? If you really want to get the benefit of the poison/furious charge, you need a guy within 6" of the Tervigon. It's very easy to let a moment of inattention cost you.
3) Shoot the Big One!
Note that losing a Tervigon inflicts 3d6 S3 hits on all Termagant units within 6". KO'ing the Tervigon thins the horde, and renders Termagants merely an annoyance instead of nasty.
A final note...
While Termagants are pretty much crap without a Tervigon to buff them, a minimal unit or two of ten make cheap objective-holders even if you're focusing on Warriors or hormies. You don't REALLY want to sit hormies back at home; they can actually kill things in assault without a mommy bug nearby shouting encouragement like an annoying soccer mom.
I covered Hormies a bit here, but the short version: buy adrenal glands and toxin sacks. It's worth dropping 10 points a Hormagaunt for something that charges at I6, and throws out a metric crap-ton of poison attacks that wound 75% of the time against basic troopers (excluding Plague Marines, that is...). Consider 40-50ish or so in a 2,000 point list, ideally in 3 or so units. You want to balance KP, the ability to get there in sufficient strength, and the ability to engage enough of the enemy.
They're quick, lethal, and...well, that honestly sums it up. They're capable of dragging down monstrous creatures and just about any infantry in sufficient numbers. In a pinch, you can S4 charge a vehicle and glance the crap out of it.
Downsides? While you CAN tag vehicles, you really need support to kill them for you so you can get to the nougat center. Dreadnoughts MUST be a priority, since a dreadnought can tie you up indefinitely, and pile-in moves might make it difficult to actually get something into assault to deal with said Dreadnought.
Past that, folks DO know they're dangerous, and WILL prioritize them. You, in turn, must bring a means of dealing with things like Hellhounds and heavy flamer landspeeders. I suggest Hive Guard, and possibly Tyrannofexes, depending on the build.
Also, if you're used to playing Tervis/Termies, you might think 'Oh, I can get more!' ...well, you CAN'T. Sorry.
Warriors are the 'elite' choice. They're a nasty melee unit with some token shooty, but MAN is that melee nasty. The average warrior unit should carry lash whips and bone swords along with Toxin Sacks. Adrenal glands are optional, as Warriors are 50 points with the whip/sword and poison. Going up to S5 on the assault isn't that huge; the best it'll do for you is...um...get that re-roll against T5 targets, which is a short list: marine bikes, plague marines, warbosses, and ork bikers.
Note also that you CAN kit warriors out for shooty rolls. Deathspitters are 5 points and instead of the Devourer's S4 AP-, you get S5 AP5 for your three assault shots instead.
Warriors are ADEQUATE at anti-infantry fire. Don't tell me an S6 venom cannon is a viable source of anti-tank; it's for the wound allocation and the occasional shot that softens something up. S5 is simply not going to damage vehicles (...ok, I'm sure someone will say 'but what about open-topped AV10? Good job, it can do that. Big deal. Ask the Rhino and Chimera what they think about S5 gunfire. Go on, ask.)
You CAN pay 35pts per warrior to get someone with three S4 WS5 attacks that re-roll ones, and they have three S5 AP5 BS3 attacks at range. It IS extra synapse, and honestly it IS a possible camping unit.
However, if you want a camper you can spend 50 points on ten Termagants that just sit back and go to ground. In theory, the enemy should have to go through your army ANYWAY to pick off your objectives, so deal with it. I'd rather put 50pts to camp than 105 minimum for shooty warriors.
And, if it's anti-infantry you're after, you get it in much better quality going into assault. Sure, it's 50 points for whip/sword/poison, but it's the ONLY place you can get a unit full of power weapons that's NOT a monstrous creature.
While you CAN make warriors shooty anti-infantry, I just can't recommend it. They don't shoot that well, and they're a nasty second-hit assault unit capable of doing tremendous damage.
Warriors are ludicriously dangerous with whips and swords. Got an enemy MC in your lines? Charge them with a handful of warriors. You're going to go first, or simultaneously at the worst (you strike at I1 going into cover; anyone in base with you goes at I1 thanks to the whip). Take scything talons for the re-roll, and assuming you hit on 4+, you're going to crank 4 attacks/warrior on the charge, and then that's 20 attacks, 10 hits, one or two re-rolls generating another hit or two, and then an average of 5-6 wounds. If you hit on 3's, it gets worse, and pretty much guarantees nuclear death to any MC you can touch.
Great, ain't it? You might drop 15 points on a Venom Cannon just to get an S6 blast in there, or to use for wound allocation purposes. It's an optional thing.
I suppose you could go double swords, but you lose your ability to go into cover effectively, or horrifically subdue targets. You do get better at the insta-kill, but that's a very situational thing, given the prevalence of Eternal Warrior. (the list would be: nobs, warriors, some monstrous creatures, and some ICs).
You can't engage vehicles effectively. At best, you can drop another 20-30 points for furious charge to get S5 hits into the rear, but frankly, you should be using hive guard and monstrous creature assault to kill vehicles. It's what you have.
You are also a magnet for S8+ fire. If you are going to run a lone unit of warriors as melee support (which is perfectly viable) then you need other high-toughness targets to force the enemy to prioritize.
If you are going warrior-heavy (which is very possible) you'll be on the lower end of the model count, but you'll also have a crap-ton of T4 4+ wounds to force him to wade through.
You're not fleet and don't have Move Through Cover. 'Sad Face' is all I can say about that.
Final Note On Warriors
If you need a little extra assaulty punch, and you can spare 250-300 points, you can get 5-6 warriors to bolster the lines and get a little extra synapse. It's mostly for the extra CC power, but it's a support option to consider. (Well, them or Shrikes...which are just a huge bullet magnet because you only have to watch them rampage through your troops once...).
But Wait, What About the Rippers?
Well, they don't score. You can't really build an army around them, so they're firmly in the 'support/filler' bin. For hilarity, you can buy them the ability to deep strike. Past that, if you have the spare points, consider poison. If you have enough points to get more than 4-5 bases, consider a better investment.
They're not bad as a tarpit, but you need to be in Synapse, because if the Hive Mind isn't reminding them to breathe, then they kind of die when they flub that ld6-ish Instinctive Behavior check. Then they Rage at something. I had them rage at an immobilized Land Raider after a bad deep strike, which was good for the laughs.
...and the Genestealers?
But Raptor, you forgot the genestealers!
Indeed, I did. However, let's do some thinking. A 'stealer is 14 points base; 17 after you grab poison. You're already S4; Furious Charge doesn't do much on top of Rending.
So, let's compare a poison stealer (since S4 gives us a lovely chance to re-roll wounds against most anything we'll attack) to the 10-point hormagaunt.
Speed? The Hormie is faster.
Number of wounds? You get almost two hormies for one 'stealer.
Durability? I'd rather have more wounds, given that there's effectively nil save attached to this thing. A 5+ is NOT much better than a 6+; you still get pasted by small-arms fire and flamers, and the T4 isn't a major help, honestly, when you have the choice between more wounds. You should be in cover anyway.
So, let's do some quick math. Let's go with 170 points; that's 10 lethal 'stealers and 17 pumped-up Hormies.
Charge: 51 attacks from the Hormies > 25.5 hits + re-roll 1/3 of your misses = 29-30 hits. Vs troops, that translates to 15 wounds, and re-rolls bring you up to 20-21 wounds. Oouch.
30 Stealer attacks; you'll get 20 hits. You'll get ten wounds (and about a rend) off the bat, then re-rolls should grant you another 5 wounds and MAYBE another rend, so you get ~15 wounds and 2 rends.
So, let's drop the poison and get more stealers! We can get ~13 stealers; that translates to 39 attacks, 26 hits, 13 wounds with ~2 rends.
What did we learn? Unless you're trying to rend down vehicles (and maybe you're noticing a theme: KILL VEHICLES WITH STUFF IN OTHER SLOTS! INCLUDING DREADNOUGHTS!) the hormies are nastier.
The only major perk genestealers have (past their ability to infiltrate, and I'm sure someone will try to outflank them for the lolz and questionable disruptive value) is that they don't need Synapse and have Ld10, so they're fine to operate solo.
Mine are getting converted into other things, if that tells you anything. If you want heavier melee punch added to your force, get WARRIORS; sure they cost 50 points to equip for assault but a warrior is so much nastier than a genestealer it's not particularly funny.
I have to reiterate that it's best to pick a focus on your troops and roll with it.
Tervigons + Termagants provide a tide of bodies that are great for taking objectives and deceptively nasty in melee (until someone caps the Tervigon in the midst of its horde...). Tervis can even provide a little S5 large blast fire support. You get a troop package that can handle troops and MCs alike (depending on who hits what), and you are committing to at least a couple more monstrous creatures.
A unit of Warriors can provide melee support, points permitting.
Hormagaunts are a scuttling wave of 'I touched in in assault, buried it, ate it, and went looking for its family.' They'll take losses, but are deadly en masse. It's crucial you bring enough, and you bring anti-tank. It's not a bad idea to consider 50-100 points of Termagants to sit in the back and cheer (when they're not going to ground) on an objective.
Warrior-heavy does cut down on your model count, but Warriors are also just plain nasty to anything they can touch in CC; while they have fewer attacks than Hormagaunts they can get POWER WEAPONS that can KILL YOU INSTANTLY and whips that MAKE THEM GO BEFORE YOU HIT. Read the caps and you kind of get a neat summary. You're also allergic to S8.
When you get down to it, all the troops choices are geared towards tearing up anything that has a toughness value. Bring anti-tank or you will suffer.
-Pictures of Raptor's Tervigon conversion(s)
-Thoughts on Making Carnifexes Work