As the unit assesments begin to wind down, we get to the ever-popular Death Leaper. He’s a corny spin-off straight out of the old Catachan codex, complete with cheesy rule names such as “What was that?” and “Where’d it go?”
Aside from the fact that he gets you thinking of this little game in a roleplaying fashion (which automatically adds color to any game), he does have quite a few rules that no other model in the army, and in some instances, the game, have.
He’s fearless, and has the hit-and-run rule. He can also reduce the leadership of a single enemy model by up to three points and scare all nearby infantry into moving slower through cover. All the while, he’s hiding so cleverly, he’s harder to spot than Grey Knights or Harlequins. And if you get too close? Well, he pops off the board to come on where he wants to next turn.
Aside from that, he’s a base Lictor, but with drastically improved Weapon Skill (watch out Swarmlord!), Iniative, and attacks, plus the ability to rend about twice as often. Like the cousins, he also gets the standard flesh-hooks (grenades & short-ranged gimpy assault cannon), sneaky deployment, and the ability to re-roll 1’s in hand-to-hand.
Well for starters, he costs more than twice as much as a standard Lictor, and is seriously lacking in survivability, and his rules only stick around as long as the model does. If you’re not using his new special rules to your advantage, you’d have been better off with his lesser cousin.
And of those special rules, only one (the reduction in leadership) seems a game-changer. While it can be used against any model, it’s really only beneficial against those models which intend to take many leadership tests, so there aren’t that many alternatives to use it on: Psykers, Guard Commanders, & “stupid” units come to mind. I look at him as sort of an insurance policy with a variable rate of return. If your opponent didn’t take a psychic hood, or even if they did and you roll poorly, you might’ve been better off spending these points elsewhere.
The rest of his abilities, while colorful, don’t do much to add to his survivability, nor do they add to his damage output. His best odds at living through an entire game are to hide far away or pick on isolated (small) units… but even this he won’t excel at.
While he’s little more than a standard Lictor, hopped up on Mountain Dew, he does have a couple of neat tricks up his chitin, but the one he’s most loved for is the protection he offers against psykers.
Oh, you didn’t read that rule in his entry? Well, it’s not called “Anti-Psyker Extraordinaire” (or even “Anti-Anti-Psyker Extraordinaire,” which would be more technically accurate), it’s simply called “It’s After Me!”
Deathleaper’s ability to decrease a single model’s leaderhip seems to be most adored as a means of increasing the chances of psychic abilities happening. The goal here is to lower the leadership of any model with a psychic hood, or similar device that enables the bearer to make a leadership test in order to cancel a psychic power. By reducing that model’s leadership, you are reducing their chances to nullify your abilities, and thereby increasing their success rate. Since the new ‘Nidz do have some amazing new abilities, this is a great way to use this power.
Spitballing tactics here, it might be possible to use him to slow down an advancing line of troops if he can put some impassable terrain between them. His improved nightfight, coupled with the cover of terrain (and his chameleonic scales) would give him a modicum of survivability at the front lines. Then, his ability to decrease the opponent’s difficult terrain tests with some impassible terrain between him and the enemy, he could be effective.
Of course, that’s a lot of if’s. Really, if you want to play it safe, he’s best held in reserve as long as possible, and then when he lands, he can contest an objective that nothing else is near. At a long range, he’ll be about impossible to kill, and if anything gets close, he can always vamoose and contest another objective next turn.
Due to the way he vacates the board and comes back automatically, he could also be a general purpose objective grabber late in the game–even if it means he needs to get close to the enemy. If you’ve gone 2nd (something I generally wouldn’t advise a Tyranid swarm in doing, mind you), you’ll be able to contest any objective you want.
Many tournament-type players will swear by this guy because of the protection he can afford. Along with that, he does have some reasonable tricks to play, but his conniving methodology doesn’t mesh well with my teeth, claws, death strategy I use when I play Tyranids. I used him in our recent Apoc game, and I’ll likely use him again–but I don’t forsee doing so very often.
How about you?
Kitty suicide photo from http://www.strangezoo.com