Monday, August 9, 2010

Tyranids: Base Size

This is a follow-up to my commentary about GW being responsive. One thing I've seen some debate on is the base size for the as-yet-unreleased sculpts for the Tyranid codex.

Tervigon, Tyrannofex, I'm looking at you, mostly. However, I can see some room for debate when it comes to the Harpy as well, and maybe even the Parasite of Mortrex.

Page 3 says that if your model comes with a plastic base, you should use that. If you're using a larger scenic base, then you should 'make sure it is ok with your opponent.' This tells us nothing about units that are without a model. I believe that putting stuff on a smaller base than intended is usually frowned upon (especially if it's a 40mm vs. 60mm deal, IE Bloodcrushers), and putting stuff on a larger-than-intended base is usually considered ok-ish if it's for modeling purposes and/or doesn't confer you a huge advantage.

The source of this post actually comes from a time when I was playing my Tyranids and someone actually walked up to me out of the blue and told me I was some win-at-all-cost cheating jerkass for putting my Tyrannofexes on a small base. His evidence was that "He had seen a rumor on a forum of a forthcoming tyrannofex kit, and it was on the new large oblong base," and that since I wasn't privy to the internet rumor (as I don't hit forums very often; staring at a screen for 8 hours a day at work doesn't make me keen to do another 3-4 hours of that at home...) I was obviously a terrible person for scratch-building a model that he did not approve of, which brings me to:

Raptor's Pro Tip On Courtesy
If you think someone is disobeying the rules, endeavor to make your point logically and point to the rules. An internet rumor is an internet rumor, no more and no less.

Back to your regularly-scheduled blogging...

His logic was that by putting the MC on a smaller base, I was actually looking for an advantage because he 'couldn't fit as much in melee with it.' Well, let's go back to the part where there's no official kit. Could GW have bothered to put out a base size indicator? Honestly, if they'd done this when they released the codex, we'd all be fine. Instead, since the new book significantly de-values the Carnifex, there are plenty of folks using Carnifex kits to construct the new MCs, and people using both of the high-end bases.

The Nuts and Bolts
What it boils down to is a contrast between the 60mm round and the big oval base (henceforth referred to as BoB for comedic and space reasons).

So, let's look at the game effect a 60mm and a BoB would have on the two new MCs most likely to come on the BoB.

1) Tervigon
Frankly, I think the BoB favors the Tervigon. You want your Termagants within 6" to benefit from the glands and Counterattack the critter-spitter came with. You want other stuff within 12" or so to benefit from your psychic powers.

Honestly, I think if I've got a choice between base size, the BoB is a clear winner for the Tervigon, simply because it offers a great increase in ability coverage. Take two of those, put them long-ways-forward, and see how much of your front you cover. The flip side is that you'd have to work your assault screens a little more diligently, but you'd be much more likely to get the benefit as well. You'd also have a much greater area to place your newly-spawned termagants, but the death throes from it would reach further.

If I had to eyeball it and guess, I'd say it maybe doubles the coverage?

2) Tyrannofex
I don't think this one wins so much from the larger base. You have a 48" gun (...unless, for some reason, you decided to take the Assault 20, S4 gun on a BS3 platform or the short-ranged flamer), so technically you get even more coverage. The shorter-ranged weapons DO gain some range off it, and your flamer gets placement options (so you can do things like poke an edge out and kick off a shot between your troops, but that's something you could probably finagle anyway...).

I think it's so-so at best for benefits. You do get more coverage out of your guns, since it measures from the base edge at the model's eye. It's probably not the same kind of benefit as the Tervigon, because honestly, what's another inch or two for the gun in a couple directions?

The Others
Should the Harpy get a 60mm or a BoB? Good question. Given the range of its gun, it's not such a huge deal. The question the Harpy has to answer is how the base size interacts with the spore-mine-on-black-car ability: you want to fly over the enemy to hit him with the mines. A larger base allows you more freedom to just 'graze' a unit, but also makes landing placement more difficult. I'm not sure if it's a benefit or not.

The Parasite of Mortrex? I'd wager most folks are modeling this one up like an upgraded Shrike or Alpha. I am ASSUMING the Alpha goes on a 40mm since it's an upgunned warrior, and by that logic I'd say the Parasite went onto a 40mm as well. I suppose a larger base increases the are of effect for its Synapse and 'don't die, little Rippers' special rule, but I don't see that as being a huge advantage.

Bottom Line
I wish GW had simply released some guidance as to base size. Frankly, since you're releasing the codex and some sweet units that have no models, you've got to expect people will kit-bash them. Is it really that hard to put a little blurb in there about base size?

Then again, I've also seen the 'joy' that comes from having stuff with an ambiguous footprint; there's no hard-and-fast guidance for how much space a Defiler/Soul Grinder should take up. Are they sweet models? Yeah. Can they have as big or small or irregular a footprint as you like? Yeah. I've seen some folks answer this by putting them on a base, though it's best if that base is detachable so that it can move through terrain.

On the BoB in general
This one gets more into the op-ed mode, but does anyone else have lukewarm feelings on this thing for foot units? I mean, I can understand it on Flyers; you want the size and shape for stability, and you're measuring to the Hull for shooting purposes anyway. It all works out.

My issues with it are the potential difficulties involved in basic movement. On a round base, your facing is irrelevant as you will always take up the same amount of space. Vehicles care about facing because it determines the armor, and on vehicles with potentially confusing facings they often have identical armor values (...not sure where you'd draw the 'x' to divide up a Wave Serpent, but at least the front and sides have the same AV, and frankly it deserves to die if you let someone get a rear arc shot on it...). Honestly, I don't think it's THAT big a deal, but it is a bit annoying.

So, spinning in place, yes/no? It DOES change how close you are to the enemy; is that movement? Honestly, I'd rule it as yes, and just try to be careful when I rotate the base as I move. No one's given me any trouble for how I've moved it, but I've also only run Trygons a few times (...then the Reserves Nerf Bat hit, and I was a sad panda).

I wish GW would put out some conclusive guidance on base size. It wouldn't be that difficult for GW to do; it honestly wouldn't. I have a hunch, though, that the first we'll know about an 'official' base size is when GW finally produces a kit. Given that it's taken them a long time to release the Manticore/Deathstrike kit and the Space Wolves are STILL waiting on a Thunderwolf other than the hero (AND it's metal, and thus a pain to mod...) I'm not expecting anything 'til mid-2011 at best.

Look, I can appreciate that it DOES take time to craft and then produce a new sculpt. In an ideal world, I'd try to make sure that the big-ticket items (IE: Thunderwolf Cav) are ready to go with the codex release. In lieu of that, though, I'd like clarification on stuff as closely related to gameplay as base size.

Right now, my Tyrannofexes and Tervigons are on 60mm bases, and if/when I get guidance that they should be on the BoB, I'll put 'em on it.