Why is it spelled hormagaunt (with a U) but termagants have no U? To add insult to injury, they were both sold in a box called simply “Gaunts.” Dictionary.com defines gaunt as:
–adjective, -er, -est.
- extremely thin and bony; haggard and drawn, as from great hunger, weariness, or torture; emaciated
- bleak, desolate, or grim, as places or things: a gaunt, windswept landscape.
Though hormies are certainly thin and bony, they share the same basic composition as their ballistically inclined brethren. I do like the “as from great hunger,” as it ties in perfectly with the Tyranid theme. “Gant” however, is nowhere to be found in the dictionary. If you ask me, termies must’ve gotten the shaft years ago when they came to this country. Some lazy guy over at Ellis Island removed the U from their names. Enough for the mysteries of life and the oppression of termies for now… let’s move on to hormies!
Well, the obvious benefit is that they’ve slimmed down quite a bit since the previous codex–coming in at just over 50% of their original price. This is great, since it again allows massive swarms of gaunts, that haven’t really been seen since 3rd edition.
Their statline was slightly improved, giving them an extra initiative and an extra point of leadership. The initiative will put it above most other units, so effectively, their ability to strike first should improve the durability of these swarms. Their newly improved leadership, however, shouldn’t make a huge impact on the game. Like the termagants, the change is too small to provide any consistently better results, and though they’re slightly more prone to running out of synapse range, an extra point of leadership won’t account for a big difference. What will change the game, is the new changes to instinctive behavior–which helps out these little guys tremendously.
Previously, when synapse collapsed, all models had to take leadership tests or mill around aimlessly (unless they were stuck in combat). With the new rules, each unit type has one of several different behaviors that they revert back to. The primal instinct for hormagaunts is to charge forward and kill, and this is now reflected in the rules. When synapse fails them, they now just continue to charge forward and eat things in their path. Granted, this isn’t necesarily ideal, since it could force them to charge units they can’t kill–but at least they’re not just milling around doing nothing.
Some will argue the opposite–in that they want their units to “mill around and do nothing”–especially when they’re sitting on objectives, and there certainly is value to that. However, there are other units that are designed for that. If you wanted to sit around twiddling your thumbs, you can choose one of those units. If you’re buying hormies, you should be out for blood.
The changes to scything talons seem to help these guys out as well. Since they didn’t lose any attacks, but they also get to reroll misses. Again, the translation leaves something to be desired, as it’s not perfectly clear whether they get to re-roll 1 missed to-hit dice, or they can re-roll all dice that roll 1’s to hit. I suspect the former to be true, but either way, it’s better than nothing. If it does truly only allow them to re-roll a single dice, that opens a can of worms. What happens when you charge with a unit of 30 gaunts? Do you get to re-roll 30 misses? It’s not the same… For this reason, I suspect that the rule will be that you can re-roll 1’s, but only time will tell.
They also can buy furious charge, toxin sacs, and/or the ability to deep strike via a landing spore, like virtually all other tyranid units. I don’t forsee any of these happening all that much though, because hormies already start at a higher base cost and have to pay more for virtually every upgrade than their shooty-counterparts.
Likewise, the changes to their fleet help them out. Instead of rolling a single die, they now roll 3 dice and pick the highest (keep in mind, this isn’t all fleet, just fleet for hormies). Now, I’m no statistician, but it seems that this increases the odds of rolling higher distances dramatically. The odds of rolling a 6 increase from 16% to 42%, while the odds of rolling at least a 4 go up from 50% to almost 94%. So, you’ll be hitting their front lines fast, right?
Wrong. It seems that their ability to run negates their beast-like ability to charge. So, while the unit previously was able to move 6″, fleet 6″, and then charge 12″, they’re reduced to a 6″ charge now (for a maximum movement in any given turn of 18″). Likewise, the “Leaping” rule is now defunct and with larger squads, this will be noticed–especially when facing smaller, elite fighting units.
They also took a hit on their WS, but that shouldn’t affect things much. This means they’ll still hit anything with WS less than 7 on a 4+ (which really, is just about every model in the game), but they will be hit on 4’s by anything with WS4 or greater. While this will cause them to take more wounds from established combat troops, their reduced point cost and increased initiative should pretty-much negate the negligable difference.
They also lost some versatility in their inability to purchase additional Initiative, WS, armor, strength, and grenades (which are curiously absent from virtually the entire codex, I might add). Also, like with termagants, their squad size changed to include both a higher minimum number and a lower maximum number of models (10-30), equating to slightly less versitility. Cue the hotdog vs. hotdog bun argument again…
The loss of the “beasts” rule is undoubtedly the biggest downfall of the new unit. I believe this to be an attempt to take away the ability to perform a first turn charge (notice that genestealers also lost their scuttling ability), and while it means it will take longer to hit their lines, their increased numbers should allow them to whether the storm of bolters.
They’ve dramatically improved as a core unit, but ultimately they’re just a screen to tie things up until the big bugs arrive. Their combat abilities aren’t really amazing when compared to termagants with poisoned weapons (which are identically priced), and they lack the ability to receive as many buffs from nearby Tervigons. While hormagaunts are a decent choice, I predict they’ll be tabled for yet another edition of the rules in favor of their more tactically adventageous brethren.
One methodology I could see doing with hormies though, is to load up a large squad in a landing spore and dropping it on your opponent. Granted, they’ll likely be of little value (other than to tie up the opponent), since they’ll likely be out of synapse, but they will cause some chaos on the battlefield. One way to beat even a great strategist (aside from luck) is to throw in factors that they can’t predict. Hormagaunts landing behind his lines can be just what the doctor ordered. Aside from that, I don’t think I’d buy any upgrades for this unit, as their real value to the hive mind is to simply test the mettle of the defending squishies. So what if they die? Hormagaunt DNA can be absorbed by the fleet just as well as humans can…
Picture shamelessly pilfered from http://www.trendhunter.com/