Friday, November 28, 2014

To Re-base or Not to Re-base?

Because I carry the geek gene, my oldest daughter has found herself attracted to 40K. Unfortunately, the cost of building an all-metal Sisters of Battle army prevented her from doing her first choice. Her second choice was Blood Angels, with her first model kit being a squad of Death Company. I've been closely following Blood Angels rumors ever since.

The Temptation of Tyranids
I admitted a while ago that the new Tyranid models had tempted me to start a Tyranid army. Not long afterward, I heard about an upcoming "Shield of Baal: Deathstorm" kit. Along with essential Blood Angels models and a paperback rulebook that my daughter could use, it would also come with several basic Tyranid models and a unique Broodlord, all for a great price. The kit was tailor-made to finally convince me to start a Tyranid army. Thanks to Jake, local HobbyTown owner and fellow Cabal member, I was even able to snag a copy of the woefully underproduced Shield of Baal: Leviathan book set.

Deathstorm and Changing Base Sizes
It wasn't long before we started getting leaked images of the Deathstorm kit, one of the first of which being this one:

Some eagle-eyed readers spotted some interesting details in this picture. One of the most obvious was the fact that the Death Company Marines' bases were clearly larger than the Genestealer bases (25mm) but slightly smaller than the Terminators' bases (40mm). Until now, all power armored Marines have been mounted on the same bases as Genestealers. [Update 11/29/14: I've since found that Ahriman and Krom Dragongaze from the Sanctus Reach: Stormclaw kit are on 40mm bases despite wearing power or artificer armor.] However, these Death Company Marines were almost certainly standing on the 32mm bases that were also supposed to become available on the same day gamers could pre-order Deathstorm.

Slightly less obvious was the fact that the Tyranid Warriors were mounted on larger bases than before. More detailed GW photos show that they're mounted on the same 50mm bases as Space Marine Centurions:

Left: Warriors on the old 40mm bases
Right: Deathstorm Warriors on the new bases

Finally, it looked like the Carnifex was mounted on a larger oval base. Again, officially released images show this to be the case:

Left: Carnifex on the old 60mm circular base
Right: Deathstorm Carnifex on the new oval base

Only the Genestealers, the Dreadnought, and
the Terminators are on their original bases

This is a good change in the long run. Jump pack Marines are notoriously unstable on the smaller bases while Warriors and Carnifexes all seem a bit too big for theirs. The latter problem can make "base-to-base contact" an impossible ideal (there are way too many things hanging off some models to ever get up next to their base) and gives some of the more creative hobbyists very little room to play with. Now GW has the option of mounting infantry on 25mm, 32mm, 40mm, and 50mm bases while Monstrous Creatures have 60mm bases and several oval bases to work with.

It's great that GW is starting to provide more appropriately-sized bases for existing models, but the big question is what this means for gamers' existing armies. Rules-wise, it doesn't seem to make too much of a difference. Page 9 of the rulebook says the following:

Models and Base Sizes
The rules in this book assume that models are mounted on the base they are supplied with. Sometimes, a player may have models in his collection on unusually modeled bases. Some models aren't supplied with a base at all. In these cases (which are, in all fairness, relatively few and far between), you should always feel free to mount the model on a base of appropriate size if you wish, using models of a similar type as guidance.

In other words, if you put your Death Company or Warriors or Carnifexes on the 25mm, 40mm, or 60mm bases they originally came with, you are in full compliance with the rules. Presumably, if you have a few Warriors on the older 40mm bases and a few on the new 50mm bases, you're still okay. But heaven help you if you're as obsessed with consistency as I am.

Even after seeing the Deathstorm photos, I was feeling pretty confident that I wouldn't end up re-basing any of my models. I haven't built my Assault Marines yet (I'm assuming the Death Company bases reflect the new base size for jump pack Marines), so it's not a big deal to buy a pack of 32mm bases before I start them. I haven't started building Tyranid models, so I won't feel it necessary to re-base any Warriors or a Carnifex. And my Daughter has yet to base her Death Company, so we can pick up some of the new bases before she gets to that point.

The only thing that would seriously affect me is if they put Tactical Marines on the new bases, and I seriously doubt that GW would ever do that...


Wait a minute. Power armored Space Marines' feet usually hang off the edges of their 25mm bases, right?


But the Blood Angel Tactical Marines shown in that recently leaked photo don't seem to have that problem. And the trend shown in the Deathstorm kit is that of mounting models to more comfortably-sized bases. Could those new Tactical Marines be on 32mm bases?

Plenty of room for an Astartes on these new bases


What Next?
Honestly, those Blood Angel Tactical Marines look great on 32mm bases. Guardsmen and even Space Marine Scouts are fine on the smaller bases, but power armored Marines have always looked a little funny with their toes hanging off. And since Deathstorm has shown that GW isn't opposed to re-basing existing models, I can only assume that the Blood Angels won't be unique and that all power armored Space Marines are eventually going to start getting packaged with 32mm bases.

I don't believe that there is any rule conflict with using Marines on either 25mm or 32mm bases, so I'm left with a choice: do I re-base all my existing power armored Marines, do I keep the finished Marines on their old bases and put all subsequent Marines on 32mm bases, do I continue to mount all power armored Marines on 25mm bases (including Sternguard, Devastators, etc.), or do I put all subsequent Tactical Marines on 25mm bases and decide how to base other types of power armored Marines as appropriate? Really, which choice is less likely to make me crazier?

Even with their toes hanging off, those bases don't look too bad

Most of my power armored Marines are still on plain gray bases, so I wouldn't be losing a whole lot of work if I re-based them, but my newest models have texture and static grass. I've even brought several of my older models up to the same standard. Although I've put some work into the newer models' bases, at least they would be relatively easy to dismount since they're only held in place by a small amount of glue on each foot. Unfortunately, 15 of my 19 finished Tactical Marines are from the old paint set or the Black Reach starter set. These models were designed to fit into slotted bases and I used plenty of glue in those slots to keep them in place. It would take some serious manhandling to dismount those Marines.

Eventually, I want to be able to run up to four 10 man Tactical Squads. Right now I have about half that number and I don't really want to change their bases, especially if it could mean damaging some of them. Thus, for the sake of consistency, I think I'll continue mounting my Tactical Marines on 25mm bases.

However, I still have plenty of other power armored units to build that could benefit from the new bases. I have bits set aside for a 10 man Assault Marine Squad and a jump pack Captain that could use larger bases for the stability. For a long time I've wanted to make my Sternguard something special; larger bases would go a long way toward setting them apart. And using larger bases for Devastator Marines with their comically large weaponry makes a lot of sense.

Now that I think about it, I'm kind of excited about the new base sizes and the options they present. I bet some of the Ultramarines characters like Chief Librarian Tigurius, Chaplain Cassius, or Captain Sicarius would look pretty good on 32mm bases instead of the tiny 25mm bases they came with.

The Master of Sanctity demands a bigger base!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Even More Tyranid Models!?

Dear Valued Tyranid-playing Customer:

We're sorry that you weren't happy with your last codex. As compensation, we're going to give you some awesome new models. You've already seen the Maleceptor and the Toxicrene, but we don't feel that those are enough. Remember the missing Mycetic spore that had you so upset? Well, please accept our apology in the form of the Tyrannocyte; a combination drop pod and gunship. Oh, and we might have thrown in a couple more things, too.

Games Workshop

Or at least that's what I imagine GW is saying with the wave of new Tyranid models. Not a day after I suggested that GW might eventually give Tyranid players a Mycetic spore, we get leaked White Dwarf images of a replacement unit called the Tyrannocyte (source here). It has the same transport capacity as the old Mycetic spore and it won't mishap by drifting onto impassible terrain or another model. However, the Tyrannocyte also comes with five deathspitters (which can be upgraded to barbed stranglers or venom cannons) and it can move after the unit inside has disembarked.

The Tyrannocyte model can also be built as a Sporocyst (source here). This thing, which has the same armament as the Tyrannocyte, is an immobile pod with the Infiltrate special rule. Once per turn it can produce a Spore Mine Cluster or, once per battle, it can produce a single Mucolid Spore instead (this is essentially a giant spore mine).

To top it all off, the White Dwarf that introduces these new models says that the following week will bring "Psychic Horror". While writing my previous blog post, I noticed that the Venomthrope was missing from GW's web store. Now I've noticed that the Zoanthrope is missing, too. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that they'll be releasing a joint Zoanthrope/Venomthrope kit in the next couple weeks.

It must be an exciting time to be a Tyranid player.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

New Tyranid Models

In one of the most unexpected moves since the introduction of the Imperial Knights, GW has just released the Toxicrene/Maleceptor kit for Tyranids. Both are monstrous creatures, with the first being a highly toxic Cthulhu-like critter while the other is a psyker with a potent witchfire ability.

Fluff and Rules
According to the fluff, Tyranid bioforms such as Warriors, Hormagaunts, Termagants, and Gargoyles are essentially more advanced and/or specialized forms of Rippers. The Hive Mind can further enhance these forms to monstrous proportions: e.g., Trygons are essentially enormous Raveners (which are themselves a variation of Warriors), Harpies are big Gargoyles, etc. The new models are no exception. According to the recent White Dwarf, the Maleceptor is an "adaptation of the Zoanthrope", while the Toxicrene is an "expression of the 'family tree' begun with the creation of the Venomthrope".

Imagine these guys, but big enough to actually need limbs

Both have the standard Tyranid WS and BS, as well as the same toughness as most monstrous creatures. The Maleceptor's strength is one point higher than the Toxicrene's, while both have five Wounds. The Maleceptor, being a Synapse Creature, has a higher Leadership. Sadly, both have a 4+ save, meaning that they won't get armor saves against the majority of weapons suited for monster hunting. A 5++ on the Maleceptor and Shrouded on the Toxicrene improve their survivability, though.

The Maleceptor is essentially a psychic assassin with a pretty mean focussed witchfire attack. This power, and the big bug's mediocre close combat ability, mean that it's designed to stand back and pick off high value targets. The cost of the unit seems too high for what it does, although I don't have a whole lot of experience with 7th Edition Tyranids. Regardless of its abilities, I find the model to be pretty boring.

The Maleceptor

It's the Toxicrene that really interests me. This bug has a very short range Poisoned (2+) large blast attack that can actually damage a vehicle that has lost one or more hull points. Where it really excels, though, is in close combat. The Toxicrene has six Poisoned (2+) attacks that strike at I6 thanks to its lash whips. Being a monstrous creature, all of its close combat attacks are AP2. On top of that, it has the Hypertoxic rule, which means that To Wound rolls of 6 have the Instant Death special rule. GW threw in Toxic Miasma and Acid Blood for kicks and giggles.

Although the Toxicrene model shares most of the same parts as the Maleceptor, the model is a lot more interesting to me. The lash whips and the tentacles around the mouth make an enormous difference.

The Toxicrene

Although I appreciate that GW is continuing to develop new models and rules, this release is downright odd. Tyranids got their most recent codex in January 2014, making theirs the second to last full codex of 6th Edition. (I don't count Legion of the Damned or Imperial Knights given that they aren't really meant to work as stand-alone armies.) Now, a mere nine months after getting a new codex, Tyranids have two entirely new units.

In recent years, the only new units added to an army outside of a codex release were the Stormtalon and the Ork flyer variants. The reason for this was obvious; when 40K 6th Edition introduced Flyers, the new models ensured that Space Marines and Orks would have Flyers along with those armies that had models grandfathered into the Flyer category (i.e., the Stormraven, the Razorwing, the Doom Scythe/Night Scythe, and the Valkyrie).

But the Toxicrene and Maleceptor aren't new unit types at all, they're just monstrous creatures with new abilities. So why were they released less than a year after their army's latest codex?

Third Party Paranoia
We're all aware of GW's newfound phobia of third party model makers and the crusade to eliminate any pre-existing units that don't have a model or to avoid introducing rules for a new unit unless they're accompanied by a kit. It's possible that GW wanted to release the Toxicrene and the Maleceptor earlier this year, but didn't want to introduce even more models at the time of the Tyranids' 6th Edition update. Or perhaps their manufacturing capability wasn't sufficient to simultaneously produce another large kit. Rather than risk creating new units for 6th Edition and allowing third parties to produce models of them, they simply decided to release the rules only after the models were ready.

Appealing to the Hobbyists
It seems to me that a lot of people who are attracted to Tyranids enjoy them as much, if not more so, for the modeling aspects. It's very possible that the Toxicrene and Maleceptor were thought up after the codex release as a way of interesting Tyranid players into buying even more large models. Modern CAD/CAM drastically shortens design and manufacture times, meaning that even large models could be devised and produced within less than year.

Big models seem to be the thing right now, with Imperial Knights, Wraithknights, and the new giant Fantasy models selling pretty well. Maybe GW believes that there's a critical mass of large models that will get hobbyists interested in starting a new army that can be filled with them. Two and a half years ago, I was strongly tempted to start a Tyranid army dominated with monstrous creatures. I have to admit that these new models may have re-sparked my interest.

Filling a Gap
The Tyranid codex may have been one of the most disappointing codexes of 6th Edition. After their mediocre 5th Edition codex, Tyranid players were hoping for a competitive boost. The new codex wasn't exactly what they were looking for. (Although some players believe the Rising Leviathan dataslates released afterward significantly improved the army.)

While the new units look interesting, opinion on their rules has been mixed. No one seems to be able to figure out how they're supposed to improve the army or what gap they're supposed to be filling. If GW believes that these new models fill a niche in the army, I have yet to see any guesses on what it could be.

The fact that GW is releasing models outside of the codex is a good sign, though, since it suggests that they may become more flexible in addressing armies' weaknesses in between codex releases. Maybe they'll finally release a model for the Mycetic spore along with a re-release (or an improved version) of its rules.

Preparation for a New Codex?
Not long ago, I suggested that GW would update the 6th Edition codexes to match the style and power levels of the 7th Edition codexes. I guessed that this would happen within three years of the last update of a codex. With these new models, I wonder if GW is testing the Forge World method: release a new model with experimental rules, allow the gaming community to play test it for you, adjust the rules as necessary, and publish the rules in an updated book.

Come to think of it, it's strange that GW hasn't been doing that all along.

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