Tuesday, 9 June 2009

My new Tyranid tactic

Before I start working on my entry for the local GW painting contest, I think it’s time to finally post those thoughts I’ve recently having in my mind. They all started when reading some post of my fellow bloggers, and took shape in a battle report I finished last February (soon to be published here, I promise). That was a special battle not only because my opponent was a great guy and brought with him a balanced (although hard) list, but because that was the first time I used my newly developed game tactic: the “reserve all” tactic.

Ok, I know, you’re gonna tell me “Hey, that’s not new, lots of people are using it out there with big success”, and that’s true. But on the very basis of this tactic I approach it from a different point of view. See, most of the guys who use it have fast armies mostly comprised of vehicles, skimmers, bikers and similar units; and take advantage of this tactic by a counter-deployment to their opponent’s army. They rely on confusing their opponent, and then strike first (and strike hard). They keep moving fast and concentrating their attacks in specific opponents/critical objectives, behaving like a surgeon with a scalpel. This tactic has been extensively used by guys like Fritz from Way of Saim Hann, and has proved to work well.

My approach is similar, but different. My army has no vehicles, no skimmers, and no very-fast units (I don’t use raveners or gargoyles – maybe if they become plastic…), so every model on the table moves 6” plus 1D6” if they run, and that is a VERY slow army. But, on the other hand, I field four units of 15 gaunts, a brood of shooty warriors, an ALWAYS outflanking Broodlord (outflanking is almost the best new rule of 5th Ed. for my bugs), a couple of zoanthropes and four monstrous creatures (one Tyrant and four ‘Fexes). And now guys, that is a BIG amount of models to kill (a total amount of 104 wounds, generally immune to instant death).

What do I do with this? Simple: overwhelm my opponent. It’s easy, you’ll see: I generally choose to go second, and after my opponent has deployed his units in cover, strategic places and so on, I simply declare everything to be in reserve (and the Broodlord to be outflanking). This gives me two strong points and two weak ones, explained as follows.

The first strong point is that my opponent spends his first and second turn shooting at nothing; and two turns without putting wounds on my models means that in the final and most critical turns of the battle I’ll have most of my models on the table, an amount that usually doubles that of my opponent. That’s great when you’re facing loads of gaunts and monstrous creatures, and puts a lot of pressure (and fear) on my opponent as he sees that he’s running out of time to damage severely my army, while I simply overcome his defences with a ton of bodies.

Second strong point is double: this deployment effectively allows me to counter-deploy my opponent concentrating my units where they’re most needed. This is specially useful in a spearhead deployment, when my reserves can come form ANY point of my own board edge, thus ignoring the initial limitation of deploying only on my quarter side (and having to walk a looong way to exchange “opinions” with the enemy). This deployment also gives me the first shooting turn, that meaning that I’ll strike first. Yeah, well, I play with ‘nids, and you may think that my shooting is poor. But that’s the mistake that most of my opponents make: with my full army I place every turn two S5AP3 small, two S8AP5 pinning big, four S6AP5 small, and one S4AP5 pinning big TEMPLATES (the new rules for templates are by far the best new rule of 5th Ed. for my bugs), plus some short-ranged fire (30 fleshborers and 30 spinefists and a Dakkafex). I’ve lost count of the amount of space marines I’ve killed by just spitting acid, throwing carnivorous beetles and worms, shooting toxic needles or growing strangler plants inside my enemy’s lines. And for specially recalcitrant units, the energies of the Warp Blast are like music to my ears (get a “hit” against a unit of marines in open field and you’ll know what I mean). I assure you that in my games, I almost kill more enemies in the shooting phase that in the close combat one, and that means something!

But every head has its tails, and this tactic is far from perfect. Its main weak point is the “randomlyness” inherent to reserve deployment. I mean, I’m not sure of which units or at least how many of them I’m going to have deployed each turn; these could be the units I need most at that moment or simply a bunch of good-for-nothing bugs. This is something very dangerous especially with the gaunts, who specially rely on the proximity of a synaptic creature to do their job properly. To counteract this risk I field enough synaptic creatures to hold my lines tight (my zoanthropes are also synaptic creatures, of course). I’d pay gold for a tyranid-eldar autarch, but the only unit I have that affects reserves is the lictor, and I’m not gonna field one of these for their 80 point cost just to get a re-roll for reserves each turn he’s alive, sorry. At 1.500 points I think he’s a waste of points, so I have to live with the burden of not knowing with what I’m going to play each turn; but on the other hand this adds more dramatic intensity to my games, and I appreciate that very much.

The second major disadvantage of this tactic is that, as exposed previously, my army is quite slow, and thus its performance depends heavily on the length of the game. If the game ends soon (according to statistics this means 33% of all games), I’ll have had barely time to approach my enemies and probably had chewed them less than they deserve. But if the game extends to turn six (or seven), business is done, and then it’s up to my opponent to prove if he’s a good general and can stop my army doing his job well (because my army is not unstoppable at all, you see, I’ve just prepared it as a good all-rounder list) or if he’s just one of those cheesy players I usually face (and hate despise dislike so much) who only prepares lists with the best units of his rulebook thinking in a single type of battle and doesn’t know what to do and how to use them properly if surprised by a tactic like mine (and will subsequently be assimilated by my genetically enhanced troops).

5th Ed. and this tactic have radically changed my approach to WH40K games, making of them a more interesting tactical challenge. Of course, I still retain some of that like for the random events all old WH Orc&Goblins players have (you’ll never have enough fanatics, squigs and black-orc-animosity-stoppers in your army!), and that makes much more fun out of my games (at least for me). I’ve enjoyed this new way of playing for the last moths, and just in case I had any doubt, results are there: three victories, one draw and one loss. And that loss was almost a draw, and nearly a victory; I played against a cheesy eldar army with ten wraithguard and avengers as basic units, with an Avatar and Eldrad and all that fluff, who went lucky and had the battle ended in turn five in a capture and control game… because in turn six his army would have run out of basic units (the Avatar and Eldrad were already dead), and in turn seven simply wiped out. Tails that time, heads for the next one :)


eriochrome said...

People certainly do not expect a shooty nid list but since Devourer armed tyrants and fexes can do serious damage to light infantry and the new blast rules do help a great deal.

Do you have a list for this army up?

I guess if the guants come in with no synapse you just try to run them into cover and the lurk and go to ground if forced.

suneokun said...

When reserving everything a Lictor IS very useful. After all you get the reroll for every lictor taken, regardless of whether its in play or not. I'd take this to mean you get the bonus regardless of whether the Lictor is in reserve, play or dead.

This means that you can provide that essential 'shoring up' of your synapse requirement, plus a Lictor DOES have a battlefield role. He's a great independent-esque character adding 'preferred enemy' to any unit. The disturbingly coined 'Lictor Buff' tactic can turn even weak gaunts into effective killers and allows you to distract with the Broodlord and retinue (I'm assuming he's got feeder tendrils) and then wham them with a Lictor buffed unit.

He might not be fleet, but he only needs to stay just behind his covering unit and thanks to the new cover saves he'll get a 2+ save!

Juahn F'rann said...

@eriochrome: I'll post a battle report in a few days, so you'll be able to see my general list (I almost always play with the same list).

@suneokun: yes, you're right, but 80 points and a elite slot is a high price for such a fragile unit (my broodlord costs 96 points and that IS a killing machine), and I prefer to drop some gaunts and get a Carnifex instead. I really hope that in the next Codex revision (early 2010?) GW will balance the lictor again... if not, I'll keep mine for higher point battles

Master Darksol said...

I think I agree with Suneokun. While the reserves buff itself isn't worth the points, the Preferred Enemy buff in addition to that IS.

If he's hanging out behind the unit he's buffing, he's hardly "fragile." The key here is to NOT deploy him via Deep Strike like most would want to. Have him walk on the board with the rest. Since he's not a Monstrous Creature, he gets cover from the unit he's behind, and it's 2+ for him.

In addition to that, I love your tactic of denying your opponent the first 2 rounds, ensuring that your 'nids will last longer... but if you had the Lictor's bonus to Reserves, you would hit that much harder, with more of your units arriving as soon as possible.

I think you should try him out a game or two and see if he works for you.

eriochrome said...

I believe that the Lichtor has to enter play be deepstrike into terrain. I will have to check that.

Juahn F'rann said...

Mmmm... maybe the lictor needs a whole post himself...

eriochrome said...

suneokun, I believe has a whole post on Lichtors at his pathfinder blog:


suneokun said...

Wow! I'm being plugged! How cool is that?!? The lictor DOES have to enter by deepstrike - just deepstrike him into YOUr terrain feature and have him flow along with the models he's supporting.

It's actually VERY useful as he can deepstrike and then RUN behind them.

He simply appears alongside a ignored unit next to an area terrain and then runs to BUFF it to a 75-88% hit rate unit.

This can potentially turn gaunts/gargoyles into good units against GEQs, or standard genestealer units into a truly unstoppable units.

Also remember that 2 lictors at 160pts will strategically keep your opponent on his toes by effectively guaranteeing the reserves YOU want and by offering multiple Lictor buffs.