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Blood Vow

Happiness is success... (Buddha)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Positional Play for Tyranids and it's Strategic Importance

If you have followed my blog over the past couple years since its inception you'll know that I written the vast majority of tactical and strategic articles about the following fifth edition armies in the order as immediately outlined below:

— Daemons (Khornate)
— Blood Angels (Descent of Angels - jump infantry)
— Dark Eldar (mechanized)
— Grey Knights (Draigowing)
— Tyranids (Reserve army)

The first two armies are your basic rocks - very simple to play and almost solely dedicated to melee. Dark eldar was the first xenos army and my first excursion into a fifth edition army with a heavy shooting element. Draigowing is fairly static army that excels at both shooting and melee - Grey Knights are one of the top armies currently. I then recently decided to start playing Tyranids after buying an army from a good friend here in Clearwater.

I started playing Tyranids as a ringer in a small local tournament facing off against a daemon army then two Grey Knight armies. I realized over the course of the three games that Tyranids are much better than I had originally given them credit and decided to give them a serious go. I did toy around with Tyranids for a short time towards the end of playing my Khornate daemon army but did not extensively play them at that time. A lot of my current tactics though are still based upon those thoughts; since then I have heavily modified the original list based upon both what I have available and the removal of expensive units such as the Hive Tyrant which I have since found to be largely ineffective for their points cost. My current Tyranid army has five troops which is very rare for me as most often I will only play with two to three scoring units. Daemons, Blood Angels and Grey Knights can win by massacring the opponent over the course of the game. Dark eldar are very fast and can dish out a lot of punishment. I have learned the most during fifth edition in general playing Tyranids and a lot of what has been learned has come from having those five scoring units. Tyranids need to use positional tactics to win versus the top armies such as Grey Knights and Space Wolves. I haven't had the opportunity to play my Tyranids versus Imperial Guard yet but my gut instinct tells me that IG is soon going to slip from the top tier due to the introduction of the new Necrons.

A Couple of Caveats
1) I have to say that while Tyranids have turned out to be better than I first thought the codex along with its FAQ are the worst written rules I have ever read and that goes all the way back to the beginning of third edition. There are many small things that could easily have been implemented to have delivered a much better codex overall without making the army as a whole broken or over the top. Your finished work is a reflection of yourself. My philosophy is don't start anything unless you plan to do a top notch job and you should always be meticulous to the nth degree when necessary. The Tyranid codex as a whole is epic fail in my opinion. You have to just ask yourself the question "Were 5th edition Tyranids intended to be a non competitive army?". It also seems like each codex that was released following Tyranids were all designed to effectively curb their strengths. I won't waste any time rehashing what are the major problems faced by a Tyranid player as they are all very well known to most everyone who has avidly played 40k over the past couple years.

A reserve army can overcome a lot of the inherent weaknesses in the codex and you can definitely design a solid army. To do so requires that you focus on fielding only the best units such as genestealers and Trygon Primes. You also need to have synapse spread throughout your battle line. Still most often versus a top tier army when you do win it will be by only a small margin at best. I know that the majority of my wins versus Grey Knights and Space Wolves were all decided by a few key rolls of the dice towards the end of those games. Overall my luck has been quite good and I'm very thankful. You must always be honest with yourself if you want to win consistently with Tyranids. It is an army that can't survive mistakes and you have to make a lot of good decisions over the course of each game.

2) To win with Tyranids requires a fair amount of terrain (fair being at least 25 percent as a minimum) as well as some pieces that block line of sight (LOS). Unfortunately for whatever reasons often when you go to a tournament the tables don't have much in the way of terrain. Barren tables are really bad news in general for Tyranids... Your army can be reduced to targets lined up across the table waiting to be shot down, one right after another. It is what it is and there's no getting around that in the grand scheme of things. The rulebook does tell us there should be at least 25 percent terrain on a table so always keep that in mind.

Positional Tactics for Tyranids
A lot of players are already aware of this style of play and you see it a lot in the plethora of MSU (many small units) armies that have cropped over the course of fifth edition. MSU is nothing new - its been around for as long as I have played and it has always worked well for many Space Marine armies. So what's good for the goose is good for the gander. That is if it can work for mechanized armies such as IG chimera parking lots brimming full with units such as undercosted veteran squads and SW razorspam then it can work for Tyranids as well. For example the mycetic spore is one of the best things to happen for Tyranids - you can safely position a large portion of your army where you need them the most. By playing a reserve army coupled with good placement of objective markers you can overcome both the inherent restrictions of deployment and also control key objective markers across the table top as a game progresses. On the flip side mycetic spores give up very easy kill points but that is the case with many armies such as IG and Orks. If you want to have your cake and eat too then you're going to have to work hard for it. Don't get me wrong as I'm certainly not advocating the MSU approach to designing a competitive army and that would go against the inherent horde theme for Tyranids. What you will need though as already pointed out is at least five scoring units and the majority should be composed of at least ten models each. I do run a unit of three Warriors mounted in a mycetic spore - they are there first and foremost as a synaptic anchor in the rear of my army - placed as such they can also halt broken units that are below 50 percent and falling back towards my long table edge.

Good placement of objective markers is fundamental to winning with Tyranids. You want to spread them out and place objective markers in key positions that will force your opponent to expose their units. Genestealers can outflank and they are very good at quickly reaching over extended enemy units. Yrmgal genestealers can basically arrive from reserve in the center of the table and hit an enemy castle head on. Both genestealers and Yrmgal genestealers are immune to the Grey Knight psychic power Warp Quake. Small elite armies such as Grey Knights have a problem controlling more than two objective markers - sure Grey Knights can field a high percentage of scoring units but they are still most often small armies with not many units. You can also place at least one objective marker (e.g., Capture and Control) deep inside your deployment zone where it will be very hard for your opponent to reach - if they do try to control or contest these markers then again you are forcing them to expose their units.

You have access to a large army and can cover a lot of ground. Tyranids also tend to be fast with fleet which is another advantage that works well with a large army. By spreading synapse across your army it will force your opponent to work hard to remove the bulk of your army. You want to protect your units with synaspse. My current Tyranid army has roughly one half of the units with synaspse (not including spores). My pair of Trygon Primes have to fight up front and will both inevitably be destroyed over the course of a game but they are there in the early stage of a game providing forward synaspse until my other synaptic units can move into key positions to anchor the bulk of my army. I've already discussed the main role my Warriors play providing synaspse. My Alpha Warrior is joined to a brood of Hormagaunts - they have to come in from reserve along the long edge of the table. They act as a counter assault unit and can take back objectives as well as extending my synaptic bubble. They can also pop out of a burrowed hole left behind by a Trygon - while this does allow you to place the unit towards the front over on a flank is nice but it's totally dependent on your rolls and more often than not I have found my reserve rolls unfortunately don't coincide that well to take good advantage... If it's there though I use this special deployment when it's advantageous to do so... It's extremely rare though so keep that in mind.

Abbreviated Tyranid Reserve Army List
Here is my abbreviated reserve Tyranid army list:

Genestealer Brood x2 {outflank}
Yrmgal Genestealer Brood {hibernate}
Trygon Prime* x2 {tunnel|burrow}
Termagants (mycetic spore)
Alpha Warrior* + Hormogaunts {normal reserves}
Doom of Malantai (mycetic spore)
Zoanthropes* (mycetic spore)
Warrior Brood* (mycetic spore)

* Synapse

I've noted how each unit arrives from reserve and which ones have synapse.

So I have covered how to use positional tactics to win consistently with Tyranids. You should only take the best and most effective units available from the codex if you want to emulate my style of play.

Some of the Tyranid units I eschew the use of (that is I don't use them) are as follows:

— Biovores
— Carnifexen
— Gargoyles
— Hive Guard
— Hive Tyrant | Swarmlord | Tyrant Guard
— Lictors
— Mothra ( :p )
— Pirovores
— Tervigons
— Tyrannofex
— Venomthropes

I'm sure my self proclaimed choice of which units I have decided not field will have some of you responding in total disagreement. So be it ! They all have some major weaknesses which all can all be easily exploited by the majority of other armies and that's the main reason why I don't like them. There are other units such Raveners, Shrikes and ripper swarms that could possibly work in a full reverse list but I'm overall very happy with my list I posted above.

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