Friday, March 9, 2012

And My Next Army Will Be... Tyranids?

That's right, Tyranids. Now I know what you may be thinking; "Mr. Nuclear Potato... or Radioactive Tuber... or whatever you call yourself, didn't you write about how disappointing Tyranids were just a few months ago? Wasn't it so bad that Bryce even wrote a sympathetic post about how thoroughly his Guard wiped them out?" Yes, that's all true. However, my decision wasn't rationally arrived at nor does it have anything to do with the army's competitiveness (or lack thereof).

Tyranids? Wait, how did this happen?

For several months I've been thinking about the army that I'll build after I finish the Ultramarines. I've had some difficulty in this since I didn't really feel the same enthusiasm for other armies as I do for Space Marines. For a while I leaned towards Chaos Marines. Later I thought about doing Necrons and was initially excited about the last year's releases. That enthusiasm waned and I began to look at Chaos Daemons, then Black Templars, and then Tau. When rumors began to circulate about 6th Edition Chaos Marines, I had all but decided to start a Chaos Marines army if their new codex significantly improved on the previous codex. All this time I hadn't even considered Tyranids, although I often found myself admiring their models on GW's website and was impressed by the new plastic figures. My slow painting speed discouraged me from doing any kind of horde army and the difficulty that 5th Edition Tyranids seem to have competing with other armies was something I had read about over and over again. The notion was seemingly confirmed when I finally played them.

This past week, while I was recovering from gallbladder removal surgery, I found myself with some time on my hands and decided it was time to get serious about planning the rest of my Ultramarine army. With only the Codex to limit me, I began to develop a series of 2000 point lists in anticipation of future games against members of our cabal. Each of these lists included a Sternguard Squad that I've wanted to build for a while. I had decided to build this unit when I saw that a number of Ultramarines players online were building them as Tyrannic War Veterans. Since then I've been collecting fancy shoulder pads, unique helmets, and other bits with which to decorate the squad. Bryce has also given me a variety of Tyranid pieces to serve as trophies from past battles. I planned to build a suitably decorated Razorback/Rhino for them and bought a pewter Chaplain Cassius to lead them.

My fate was sealed when they released
the Hive Tyrant in plastic
[Model by Games Workshop]
After planning builds to fight horde armies (Jon's Orks), artillery armies (Bryce's Imperial Guard), and highly mobile armies (Kevin's Dark Eldar), I decided to have some fun by making a list designed to fight a force dominated by monstrous creatures. After all, you can't have a squad of Tyrannic War Veterans and not expect them to have to face the occasional army of monsters. In addition to the Sternguard and Chaplain Cassius, I included a number of monstrous creature-killing units like Scout snipers, Razorbacks with twin-linked lascannons, an Annihilator pattern Predator, a Vindicator, and a standard Land Raider. I put in a lascannon-equipped Venerable Dreadnought when it occurred to me that I could also build it to be a Tyrannic War Veteran. The list was inspired by pure Ultramarines fluff and instantly became my favorite.

There was only one real problem with my monster hunters list: none of our players actually uses an army with a significant number of monstrous creatures. Bryce has quite a few points of Tyranids dating back to the 3rd Edition, but he has no interest in playing them when he has his Imperial Guard and his Eldar. It seemed like I had a army with no one to fight. That's when the little voices in my head started to have a discussion:
I've always liked the Tyranid models. And the new plastic Hive Tyrant and Tyrannofex/Tervigon models are awesome. It probably wouldn't hurt to have one or two just to paint.

I could never paint anything like the Hive Fleet Leviathan models that GW is always showcasing, though. They look great but I couldn't ever do such a white-dominated army. But Hive Fleet Behemoth and its offshoots have the cool red, black, and blue coloring. That would be a lot easier to do and would be appropriate for an anti-Ultramarine army.

I've promised myself that I wouldn't build a horde army, but the Tyrannic War Veteran list is for monster hunting and I could load up a Tyranid army with monstrous creatures to reduce the model count.

But 5th Edition Tyranids are often considered to be non-competitive, especially Godzilla army builds.

What does competitiveness matter to me? Our group plays for fun and I like the game mostly for the models anyway. I want a Tyranid Godzilla army to fight my Ultramarines...

And maybe I could slowly expand it to include horde elements over time. Termagants and Hormagaunts look like they could be surprisingly effective...
I was doomed.

Nothing ruins your day like a horde of Tyranids
[Models by Games Workshop]

The truth is that, for me, 60% of the fun of Warhammer 40,000 is in building the models while only 40% is in playing the game. And the only reason I build the models or play the game is because I enjoy the sci-fi setting of the 40K universe. Although I've been very impressed by the models that Games Workshop has been producing for Warhammer, I would never actually buy them because I'm just not interested in the fantasy storyline. In contrast, I love the Ultramarines models and their history. And although I'm not convinced of their effectiveness on the game table, I've admired the Tyranid models since I started playing 40K and I like the amalgam of 60 years of sci-fi/horror concepts that makes up their fluff. As luck would have it, the story of the Ultramarines is directly linked with that of the Tyranids.

My previous problem in choosing a second army stemmed from the fact that I was listing the pros and cons of the other armies and was deciding to wait and see if they got better or worse with 6th Edition. I was trying to come to a conclusion rationally and never got the gut response telling me 'I want to do this army'. However, I was immediately excited by the thought of building a Hive Fleet Behemoth army. (Actually, I was giddy about the idea, but that was probably the influence of the post-surgery pain killers I was taking.) I had briefly played the 5th Edition Tyranid codex and found it lacking, yet I didn't care about the codex's weaknesses. I wanted to build a Tyranid army, both for its own sake as well as to have an enemy force to go against my Ultramarines. If 6th Edition makes the Tyranids more competitive, so much the better, but it isn't the deciding factor.

Given the recent release of Tyranid and Space Wolves models, it's unsurprising that this month's White Dwarf features those two armies. What is interesting, though, is the fact that the Painting Workshop section of this issue includes a detailed tutorial on painting a Tervigon in Hive Fleet Behemoth colors. Clearly fate (or the Hive Mind) has decided that the Tyranids will follow the Ultramarines.

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