Hive Tyrants in 6th edition have changed more than most units. Because of this, my review is sure to be long-winded (but hopefully pretty thorough). I’ve broken it up into sections and tried to stick to reviewing only the things that have changed since 5th edition. That way, if you have questions on a particularly subject, you can hopefully find the answer quickly.
If you find something I’ve written in error, please let me know and I’ll change it. Likewise, if you think I’ve missed something significant, speak up and I’ll add that as well. Either way, I’ll credit you with the information.
Where possible, I tried to quote where I got each of the rules with abbreviations. These follow the format (NAME-##) where NAME is the name of the source and ## is the page number. The abbreviations I used for source names are:
- DEX = Tyranid Codex
- RB = 6th Edition Rulebook
- TFAQ = Tyranid FAQ (the theory would be that I might reference other FAQ’s eventually)
Each rule should be on (or about) the page I referenced. Hopefully that helps.
Also, before I begin, I wanted to thank Cole (formerly of the 08ak1 blog) for proof-reading and coming up with some great tips. Without his help, I’d surely look like an ass…
That said, onto the Hive Tyrant Review!
To save time, I’ll just go over the weapons that have been changed (or affected by changes) in the new codex.
- Lashwhip: As a set-value modifier, this happens last in the order of applied modifiers. Because of this, (RB-2 / TFAQ-5)your opponents will almost universally be at I1 when fighting against lash whips. These are practically mandatory on assault units.
- Boneswords: Per the codex, these aren’t power weapons, so they didn’t get reduced to AP3 like power weapons did. Instead, “no armor saves can be taken against wounds inflicted in close combat by a Tyranid with a bonesword” (DEX-83). While these didn’t get any more powerful (especially on MC’s, who are already AP2), they are comparatively better than power weapons now. Also, since Feel no Pain now can’t be used against these as they cause Instant Death (though it can be used against other weapons that ignore armor)(RB-35).
- Stranglethorn Cannon / Heavy Venom Cannon: Note that blast (and other template weapons) use their full strength value when rolling to penetrate vehicles—not just the center circle (RB-73). Blasts also can’t be fired as snapshots (RB-13), which again, doesn’t affect MC’s much, but it does on overwatch. Pinning / Blasts. Additionally, there are now ways to remove “fearless” from units, to enable you to pin more targets (RB-423).
- Twin-linked Devourers w/ Brainleech Worms: Nothing changed on these per-se, but having 6 str6 shots with rerolls to hit isn’t a bad choice due to the chances of glancing vehicles—particularly flyers (who can only be hit on a 6 when zooming around). I’m not a super-huge fan of this selection, but since Tyranids don’t have much in the way of anti-air, it’s worth noting.In the case of the Heavy Venom Cannon, it also is noteworthy that you still must deduct -1 from the chart for penetrating hits, but it is no longer necessary to do so for glancing hits (since glances don’t roll on a table anymore) (RB-74). Because of this HVC’s are quite adept at knocking down armored vehicles.
- Hive Commander: Since units that outflank can’t charge on the turn they arrive (RB-125), you may want to reconsider this ability; however, with reserve rolls starting at 3+ on turn 2 (RB-124), giving yourself a +1 to the die roll practically guarantees you get in the units you want immediately.
- Indescribable Horror: This is effectively wasted, since all MC’s now cause Fear (RB-48). Practically speaking, Indescribable Horror affects the unit before they charge, and Fear affects them before they attack (RB-35), so they’re not strictly incompatable, but it’s a minor advantage. I think the points would be better spent elsewhere.
- Old Adversary: This grants, all Tyrands within 6” preferred enemy, which no longer lets you reroll misses in assault. Instead, it lets you re-roll all 1’s in both shooting and assault. In effect, this received both a nerf and a buff at the same time, and ensures that your Tyrant can act as a force multiplier for both shooting and assault. With this, I expect Tyranid players will be trying to make some more competitive shooty-list builds…
- Adrenal Glands: Since these grant furious charge and that has changed (RB-37), they no longer benefit from increased initiative. The good news (particularly on smaller units) is that massive numbers of glancing hits will automatically destroy a tank due to the rules on hull points (RB-74).
- Acid Blood: While this ability itself didn’t change, it may prove to be more valuable when assaulting walkers, as they receive a glancing hit on a 4+, since glancing hits are more effective now.
- Thorax Swarm – Shreddershard Beetles: Well, all of the thorax weapons are somewhat interesting when you’re receiving a charge because they’re template weapons and so cause an automatic D3 hits (RB-52). Shreddershard beetles are rending though, so they get an automatic +1 on the damage table for vehicles (not a big deal, but it changed!)
- Toxin Sacs: Granting poisoned attacks (RB-40), allows you to always wound on a 4+, unless the unit has an equal-to or lower toughness, in which case you get a re-roll. This part is the same as 5th. The big difference is now “ it always wounds on a fixed number (generally shown in brackets), unless a lower result would be required.” For MC’s who have typically high strengths, this means that you still get to wound on your normal strength value vs. toughness (unless you’d be better off with 4+), and you still get your re-roll (if applicable). In short, toxin sacs are a must-buy on Monstrous Creatures.
- Armoured Shell: Increasing your armor to a 2+ has improved vs. hand to hand attacks. Since the majority of power weapons have been decreased to AP3 (or worse), it will lend you some survivability in assault. Of course, the biggest boon to survivability then will be to get yourself a tyrant guard and use Look Out Sir (see below).
- Wings: These upgrade the Tyrant into a Flying Monstrous Creature (see below).
As a synapse creature, there are a few changes that need to be noted:
- Shadow in the Warp is now about the best psychic defense in the game (only Eldar and Space Wolves have anything to compete with it). The rules for it haven’t changed (people within 12” roll 3D6), but the rules for psychic hoods have. Keep this in mind when playing the game.
- Fearless, which is granted to anyone within 12” of synapse,has the same upside as it used to, but the downside of taking excess wounds when losing combat is gone. Indeed, the only downside I can find for fearless is that you can’t choose to fail a morale test when you’re up against a model you can’t hurt (RB-35). Since that already existed in the previous edition, this is a clear buff to ‘Nidz as a whole.Edit: theGravemind also pointed out that going to ground can’t be performed by fearless units (which is anything in synapse range now), so that’s definitely something to consider when you’re placing your synapse around the board. I think it peculiar that synpase is now in two ways considered a detriment (going to ground, and IB). Someone should do a post on whether Synpase is necessary (or even valuable) to the Tyranid force in 6th edition.
- Instinctive Behavior used to be something you really didn’t want to happen. This was particularly true of those units that would FEED. Since feeding simply gives the unit Rage (RB-41), feeding units are now completely under your control. You can move and run them as you see fit, but just can’t fire their guns (but they couldn’t fire in the previous edition either). Lurk however, is unaffected by the new rules edition. This is definitely something to keep in mind when you position your units with synapse.
Since rule changes for synapse got better in many regards and didn’t become worse in any way, synapse is a great set of rules for us in this edition.
Deny the witch is a new ability that gives anyone targeted by a psychic power the ability to ignore it on a 6+. Enemy psykers can improve this to 5+, or 4+ if they’re of a higher mastery level than you are (which isn’t hard, considering most Tyranids are mastery level 1). Psychic hoods (for defense) no longer can nullify all of your powers, but do allow their bearer to dispel if you target his friendly units within 6” of him—so keep that in mind.
New psychic powers/abilities have been classified into several categories: Blessing, Conjuration, Malediction, & Witchfire (which have several categories) (RB-69). The categories themselves are pretty much clarification, and don’t have much real bearing on the Tyranids—except to say that Broodlords won’t be able to use any Witchfire powers (because they have no BS). One thing to note is that if you arrive from reserve on a turn you can’t use Blessings, Conjurations, or Maledictions (RB-67-68).
Tyranid Psykers have access to the Biomancy, Telekinesis and Telepathy special powers decks (RB418-423). Doing so, however, will force to you “unlearn” all of the powers the unit already knows. At first glance, Biomancy seems like the best fit for the army. Telepathy also looks good, but the two best powers are only usable by the Swarmlord (since they’re Warp Charge 2) (RB-66).
Being an Independent Character grants some distinct advantages including Look Out Sir (RB-16/26/64) Leadership, Precision Shots, Precision Strikes, ability to fight in challenges (all RB-64). These give him:
- Look Out Sir grants the ability allocate hits suffered on the character to another model in the same unit that’s with 6” of the character. This works in both shooting, and assault (except when fighting in a challenge). As an Independent character, the bonus goes up from 4+ to 2+, so this is huge.
- Precision Shots allow you to assign the hits from shooting attacks that roll natural 6’s. This will let us pick out models like special/heavy weapons, as well as characters (who still get to Look Out Sir). Note: these can’t be used for snapshots.
- Precision Strikes allow you to assign the hits from assault attacks that roll natural 6’s. This will let us pick out models like special/heavy weapons, as well as characters (who still get to Look Out Sir).
- Challenges are a new way to snipe enemy commanders in a unit. When you charge, your characters can issue challenges to another unit, in which any other character can choose whether or not to accept. If they accept, only they can strike each other (and Look Out Sir goes by the wayside). If they decline, they can’t fight at all during the combat. This works great for high toughness characters, as they can choose to punk “hidden powerfists” and the like before they get a chance to strike back.
Wound allocation changes in this edition also grant more durability to characters that have joined units. Since there’s no rule that says characters are always a unit unto themselves, other models in base to base with the enemy can absorb wounds for them. This goes both ways though, as excess wounds done to the unit also spill onto the character.
For the record, the Tyrant is not natively an IC, but when he joins a unit of Tyrant guard, he becomes an IC and benefits from all of the same rules (TFAQ-2). This, coupled with the fact that he confers Move through Cover to the unit he’s in (RB-40), and they extend his durability, really makes it a no-brainer to put him with guard.
MC’s had a lot of changes in the new edition. Their new special rules include Fear, Hammer of Wrath, Move through Cover, Relentless and Smash (RB-48). I’ll go over each briefly below:
- Fear causes a test at the start of assault, which can potentially make the opponent fight at WS1 for the combat round. It sounds good, but requires them to fail a leadership test first, so it likely won’t happen that often. When it does, it will make most of your units more durable as well as more accurate in combat. It’s a small plus, but it’s a positive change.
- Hammer of Wrath allows you to get a free AP –, Initiative 10, hit on the turn you charge at your base strength (assuming you didn’t multi-assault). Some people are touting this as a big improvement, but it seems rather minor to me as well because it doesn’t ignore armor. A free hit at high initiative is nothing to scoff at though.
- Move through Cover is something they had in the last edition, but it’s changed a bit. Whereas it previously just allowed you to roll an extra dice and pick the highest (which it still does), it now makes you immune to dangerous terrain tests as well. I’m a big fan of this change.
- Relentless just allows him to move and shoot with heavy weapons and they can charge in the same turn that they fired them. This rule has no practical value in the Tyranid codex, as every weapon is already an Assault weapon.
- Smash (verses vehicles) allows you to half of your attacks characteristic (rounding up) to strike at double your strength, and allows you to re-roll your armor penetration. Against other targets, smash counts as AP2. In total this is a mixed blessing. Essentially, they already had AP2 (although now, AP2 grants +1 to the damage roll vs. vehicles, so that’s a plus). The question winds up being if it’s better to strike half as much for twice as much strength. I haven’t done the math myself, but I’m going to guess this is going to be a slight improvement to most MC’s, as they only half their Attacks characteristic—not their total number of attacks, so things like crushing claws might prove to be a huge advantage in this edition.
They also aren’t affected by cover like they were in the previous edition as they now can receive a save for standing in area terrain, or if only 25% of the model is obscured (RB-18). This is a huge benefit to all big bugs. Some people will point out that cover saves have moved from 4+ to 5+ as a whole, but I don’t agree with them, this really only affected forests and area terrain (as well as cover granted from standing behind other units), but ruins, ruined fortifications (and presumably buildings) still all grant 4+. Additionally, nothing in the book prevents MC’s from going to ground for another +1 cover save (except, of course, if they’re in Synapse range, and therefore, fearless).
Like in the previous edition, they can still fire two weapons each shooting phases , of course each has to be fired at the same target (RB-48).
In total, I think MC’s got better with the new edition.
Flying Monstrous Creatures:
With the addition of wings, the Tyrant becomes a Flying Monstrous Creature and gains an entire page full of rules. To summarize, he gets: Glide, Swoop, Hard to Hit, Dive, Vector Strike, & Grounding (RB-49).
- Glide is just the equivalent of moving with a jump pack. In effect, this is what a flying MC was in the previous edition. Alternately, you can forgo the jumppack movement to re-roll your assault range and ignore intervening models. So, this is a bit of a buff for the flying bugs.
- Swoop is a new mode of flight. Effectively this turns the model into a flyer for the turn, but has it’s own set of stipulations (including limited maneuverability, required move of 12-24” per turn, running 2D6” (instead of 1D6”) and the inability to charge. It also conveys a couple of other rules like:
- Hard to Hit which simply says he can only be shot on natural 6’s, unless the firer has the skyfire rule, and makes you immune to template and blast weapons.
- Leave Combat Airspace allows you to leave the board and enter ongoing reserves (RB-155). Particularly clever players (or those with particularly dimwitted opponents) could use this rule to kite a slow-moving enemy unit into a less desirable position, and then fly off the table—leaving them stranded).
- Dive gives the creature the “Jink” special rule (RB-38) which gives him a 5+ cover save. When combined with night-fighting, this might be pretty solid form of defense. The limitation here is that it can only make snap-shots unti l the end of it’s next turn. So, this cover save is probably best used on h2h based models that are trying to close with the enemy quickly.
- Vector Strike allows you to inflict D3+1 AP3 hits at the model’s strength. Since these aren’t in the assault phase, they’re not affected by the Smash rule (RB-43). It counts as one of your shooting attacks, but may work great for models who intend to Dive.
- Grounding is the one downside of FMC’s. Essentially, each time you are hit from a unit’s shooting attack, you must roll a 3+. If you don’t, you fall to the ground, taking a strength9 hit with no save (which basically equates to a wound). The only good news here is the rule says “one or more hits from a unit’s shooting attack,” so you don’t have to roll for each lasgun that fires at you—just once for the entire unit.
Popular opinion now is that flying MC’s are insanely powerful. While I’m a bit more reserved about their power level, they certainly have some improved durability (which was drastically needed in the case of Flyrants). Time will tell just how good they are, but something tells me that even if they’re great, Demons will be benefiting from these rules far more than bugs will.
I knew it was going to be long, but I had no idea it would be that long. I think Tyrants got better with the new ‘dex, almost universally. I intend to run mine similarly to what I’ve done in the past. The following upgrades I see as great (borderline “mandatory”):
- Tyrant Guard Bodyguard – For increased durability, and inclusion of all the super rules that being an Independent Character conveys.
- Toxin Sacs – More wounds, more fun!
- Venom Cannon – It was always my favorite gun before, and it only got better now.
These upgrades I think are potentially good, but not necessarily game breaking:
- Wings – Flying MC rules are enticing, and the folks around here are giddy with how powerful they think it is. I have a feeling that it won’t be as uber as they believe though. I will still use my flyrant though, because I love the model, and I think this will help increase his durability, it’s just not a “must have.”
- Armored Shell – Depending upon what people around here start to use for weapons, this could prove to be a great upgrade, but it’s so expensive, and he’s already so durable that I’ll hold off for now.
- Old Adversary – Not so much for assault based armies, but the thought of deploying my Tyrant surrounded by a shooty force (perhaps on a skyshield landing pad for an invulnerable save?) is pretty interesting…
- Psychic abilities (Biomancy) – I’m still pretty fond of running my Tyrant with Paroxysm & Leech Essence, but some of those Bio powers on a tyrant could be pretty sick. Iron Arm, Enfeeble, Endurance, & Warp Speed are all great. And Life Leech is just a slight downgrade from Leech Essence. Heck, with that in mind, why wouldn’t I switch out his powers? Especially since I already have a chance of knocking an enemy’s WS down to 1 using Fear alone! Ok, maybe I’ll use this more than not…
Thanks again to Cole for helping out with writing this. Also, I wanted to mention that this will likely count as part of the content I’ll use to create my army specific page for Hive Fleet Proteus (a failed New Year’s resolution from 2011). That’s why I’ve included pictures of my Hive Tyrant models throughout. Next up: Swarmlords!