Friday, January 15, 2010

Went the way of the Dinosaur-bugs

With the release of the new Tyranid Codex, which I’m sure everyone is now aware of, it seems that the only codex I have ever used has finally gone the way of the dinosaurs and prehistoric giant bugs…

I've glanced through the store's codex, and have done some mini play testing. I'm going to give a brief overview of the changes and my concerns.

Most people look forward to the release of their codex, and are happy to have it. From what I've gathered on the Tyranid community, it seems this codex has upset many of the older players, I'll include myself into this. Normally its update a few rules, tweak something here and there, add a few cool things. Maybe unit and force choice dynamics a bit, but nothing hugely drastic. With the new Nids, it is as if they showed Robin Cruddace some names and pictures, and told him to have fun. They have completely redesigned Tyranids from scratch almost.

Now these things are fine for new players getting started with Tyranids, but for anyone who has been playing them it causes a bit of a mess. Viable options that have been around for the past two codices are now moot. I'm not talking about a unit or two being changed, almost all Tyranid models are going to need to have their arms/weapons changed. That's a lot of work, cutting, breaking and re-fixing. Not to mention the entire play style and tactics are changed. But we are the hive, we will adapt.

Next I want to address the codex hybridization, the loss of uniqueness, the vanilla flavored icing that was put on our codex. When I read this codex it feels more like they combined eldar and daemons together. We have high specialized units, tons of deepstriking options, and no vehicles. We have firedragons, but no transport to keep them safe or get them to the enemy. We have blood letters that can deepstrike in but not assault, and don’t have invuln saves. And then there are the copy paste drop pods, oh but not the one good rule of drop pod assault.

This leads me to what I see as the two greatest failures of the codex. Number one; the drop pod. It’s technically called a Meiotic spore or landing spore or something Tyranid like that. But it really is a vanilla drop pod, and that is what I’m going to call it. If it proves useful enough, I’ll call it a drop spore if I’m feeling nice. What you get is a drop pod that doesn’t have drop pod assault rule, so it has a huge inconsistency of when they will come into the game. Then they made it a Monstrous creature, so it cannot get cover saves. Now I understand this, it makes it more like a vehicle. What I don’t get is how an atmosphere entering, ground impact surviving pod only has toughness of 4, and three wounds. Yep, they are easily instant killed. Oh and they only have a 4+ save. And just to make sure they are vanilla, they can have a storm bolter or a deathwind launcher. Not really but pretty much the equivalent.

The second huge failure of the codex is the new lictor. The fourth edition lictor was good looking in hindsight, just very overpriced. First let me list the pros
Deploys like Marbo, deepstrike anywhere without scattering.
Hit and run,
One additional wound
Acts like a homing beacon and gives +1 to reserves.

Only +1 to cover instead of the past +2,
Can no longer assault when he enters play.
Must field as a single unit
Only gets +1 to reserves, not as versatile as re rolling reserves.
The homing beacon and +1 reserve only affect reserves the turn after the lictor comes into play.

Does anyone see the problem yet? The thing that is supposed to help us get reserves in earlier, suffers from its own problem. The earliest its bonuses would help would be turn three. There is no guarantee that the Lictors will come in on turn two. They are just as likely to be the last units to come in from reserves as the first. So the only way I can see them being useful is if I didn't have to keep them in reserves.

Since I’m talking about deepstriking, I’m going to go ahead and mention the Trygon's tunnel. You keep him in reserves, which draw upon all of the above listed problems, and then he has the drop pod minimum scatter rule, to make him more vanilla feeling. He cannot assault the turn he comes in, and he leaves a hole where he entered play. An infantry unit may come out of the hole from reserves on the next turn, but cannot assault that turn either. One, the standard having raveners following him out, which has been the staple of the hole for as far back as I can tell, is not possible, since they are not infantry. Secondly, you have to willingly keep a unit in reserves, without a drop pod or other special rule, just to have them come out of the hole. And if they randomly come in before the trygon, you are out of luck and have to bring them in from your table edge.

Now that deepstriking is out of the way, I’m going to move on to anti-tank. In fourth edition we had three unreliable ways of taking care of a vehicle from ranged. We had a 2D6+3 barrage from spore mines and Biovores. They were decent at taking out light mech, mostly transports. Then we had the venom cannon, which was either strength 8 or 10, and could only glance. It was good for stunning and possible weapon destroyed or immobilization if you were lucky. The last was the focused warp blast. It was a range of 18" and a S10 shot, problem was you had to do a psychic test, then hit with a Bs of 3, then penetrate, and then roll results. Jumping through four hoops to roll a 1 on the results table was horrible.

Now, spore mines are only S4 and can only glance side armor 10. The venom cannons are now set as S9, but are small blasts, and so will scatter off the vehicle 2/3rds of the time. (Average roll of 2D6 - average Bs = 4" which will take the center whole off almost every vehicle). That leaves us with focused blast from a Zoanthrope. It’s still 18" range, still S10, but now its lance and Ap1, and they got Bs improved by one. So they are really the only way to take down a vehicle at range, and almost at all since Monstrous creatures are going to be so rare and expensive, don't count on them making it to close combat.

The problem with this is that they are now squads, so the every focused blast has to be at the same target. So that is only one tank per squad per turn, and that's only if they are in range. So now they are going to become huge priority targets, and they are only T4, and lost protection from Instant death. So any S8+ shot that they fail their save, is going to be removing whole models. With one anti-tank option, this causes a problem with the general idea of redundancy. So now you are taking two squads zoanthropes so you can split fire and hope one survives long enough to pop some vehicles. That takes of two of the three precious elite slots that now almost everything is in. Then there is the idea of getting them close by using drop pods. Well I think you can guess my thoughts on that.

It is worth mentioning we have a S8 ap4 gun, but it too is an elite slot, and its range is only 24". I have yet to test it, but it seems mediocre at best.

My last gripe is they said they are trying to make us a more assault army again, and make us more swarm. Besides zoanthropes and MCs in combat, there are very limited ways to take down mech, so I don’t see how swarm got any more viable. And for being more assault oriented, they failed horribly. Here is how:
Many of our standard Assault units like Hormagaunts and carnifexes dropped to Ws3.... why?
We have tons of way to enter from reserves, and most of them suck, and all of them don't let us assault.
Many units lost fleet, or still don’t have it, and only one unit in the codex now has the 12". So most assault units will be eating rapid fire a lot more now.
We still do not have tough units, most things went up in points, and decreased survivability.
Lictors and Carnifex are the only two units that can have frag grenades now. For an assault army that needs cover to survive, this is game breaking.

If you have read this far or skipped to the bottom, let me summarize quickly. Every codex in Fifth edition has been slightly more powerful than the prior one. In addition, they had been giving out eternal warrior, invulnerable saves, and frag grenades. Those who play against Tyranids will be happy to know that both of those trends end with this Codex. We have far fewer options, more specialized units and no way to keep them safe or get them closer to the enemy. Monstrous creatures doubled in points, and most of our reserve options sound cool but in practicality are horrible.

All they managed to do was shift target priority around. I see the fifth edition Tyranid codex no more competitive than the fourth edition codex

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