I’ve decided to do something a little bit different this week and, rather than write about video games, talk about what I’d like to see happen in the 6th edition Tyranid codex for Warhammer 40k. Even though I’ve dabbled in a couple of different armies, I fully consider myself to be a Tyranid player first and foremost. If you follow 40k at all, you’re probably familiar with how disappointed a lot of people were with the 5th edition codex for Tyranids. The Tyranids are an iconic army; they’re the original form of the Zerg race in StarCraft and the focus of the popular old PC and board game, Space Hulk. On the tabletop, they’re unique in that they are easily the most “alien” looking faction and feature some of the coolest models available. I feel like everyone just wants to see the Tyranids get the recognition that they deserve, and there’s no better way for that to happen than for their refreshed rules to accurately portray their style.
So what’s wrong with the current Tyranid codex? More than anything, it funnels you into picking certain units if you want to be successful. Ask any current Tyranid player what the best way to field the army is. He’ll likely tell you that you absolutely need to have a winged Hive Tyrant, a brood or two of Hive Guard, and one or several Tervigons. It’s not so much that these units aren’t cool; they’re very cool, but rather that the only way to be successful with Tyranids is to field these specific things.
Another big problem is that the elites slot is too crowded. There are simply too many elite choices out there that no one has any reason to pick. When compared to the absolute necessity of Hive Guard and Zoanthropes, why would you pick anything else? Ymgarl Genestealers are cool, but being cool won’t win matches. I think everyone agrees that each choice in each slot needs to be both viable and cool.
There are other issues at work in the current Tyranid codex, like the fact that several units have weird point costs that don’t seem well thought out. But rather than pick apart each individual problem, let’s consider some ways the new codex could really make the Tyranids a unique and thematic faction.
Venomthropes have a kickin’ rad model and the concept of a heavily poisonous Tyranid is really neat. With a few tweaks, Venomthropes could be exactly the kind of support creature many people are itching for. One way to do this would be to make Venomthropes Independent Characters. Let them attach to another brood of creatures and provide their 5+ cover save to that attached unit. Or, alternatively, simply make Venomthropes a unit upgrade option that gives the cover save, in the vein of an optional sergeant. Doing this would go a long way to making Tyranid concepts like “the endless swarm” viable again. A massive unit of Hormagaunts charging across the table fits this theme great and with an attached Venomthrope giving them a cover save, it would actually be a viable way to play!
Speaking of Hormagaunts, make them beasts. Seriously, that’s all you have to do. Their Bounding Leap rule could be totally removed for all I care. Hormagaunts classified as beasts would move 12″ in the movement phase and have the Fleet special rule. One of the reasons they’re not so great at their intended “mobile cover” role right now is that they simply move too slow. Plus let’s face it, Hormagaunts are way cooler than Termagants; so let’s make them do their job correctly.
Tervigons are really neat, but enough is enough. The idea of having a monstrous creature in the troop slot is an idea I can get behind, but when you have to use them to be successful, something is broken. Let’s just debuff Tervigons. Make their spawning not as effective or make their bonuses to nearby Termagants not as good, either way make them not required. Now if there was an upgrade you paid points for that dedicated them to spawning either Termagants or Hormagaunts, that would give them some interesting variation.
The Elite Slot
Hive Guard and Zoanthropes are great…too great. Zoanthropes are one of the best anti-armor units in all of 40k. The first time I ever fielded one, it one-shotted a Necron Monolith. But there’s other cool stuff in the elite slot too. The lore and concept for Lictors is awesome, terrifying, and has a real Tyranid feel to it. How about making Lictors able to charge on the same turn they arrive on the table? With the advent of special rules like Interceptor, I don’t feel like it’d be overpowered. Ymgarl Genestealers are cool too, but they’re overshadowed by the requirement factor of Hive Guard and Zoanthropes. I feel like the points cost for Hive Guard and Zoanthropes should be increased so that things like new and improved Lictors feel like a viable alternative. However, the elite slot would still have too many choices in it. The only idea I’ve come up to fix this so far is that maybe Ymgarl Genestealers should be removed from elites entirely. Then make them an upgrade that you buy for your regular troops slot Genestealer broods.
The Fast Attack Slot
I honestly don’t have much experience with Tyranid fast attack. That’s part of the problem, though: nobody got much experience with Tyranid fast attack in 5th edition. When there are so many other models/units that are required to win, there simply aren’t the points left over to try out any fast attack. There’s definitely potential in the Harpy. I feel like a brand new gun option for the Harpy to make it our anti-flyer creature would be a good start.
Tyranid Warriors and Shrikes
I don’t care what anyone says, Tyranid Warriors and Shrikes (winged Warriors) are awesome. They’re so customizable that you can tool them for any army style. However, they’re simply too expensive in points when you consider how easy it is to instant kill them. They need one of three things to make them worthwhile: increase their toughness, give creatures who are in synapse the Eternal Warrior rule, or give them an invulnerable save. I’m going to go ahead and say the invulnerable save is a bad idea, so that leaves two options; either works by me. The Shrikes probably need better armor, too. Also…how about some actual wings in the Warrior kit to make Shrikes? C’mon, guys.
Who has ever fielded a Pyrovore? I mean, seriously, who’s done it? How about removing Pyrovores from the elite slot and moving them to heavy support. Then, make Pyrovores and Biovores a 2-in-1 plastic kit that can make one creature or the other. Then, make Pyrovores useful. I think they’d be nice if they were retooled into some sort of Skyfire cannon creature. Biovores, however, are terrific. They can just be left alone.
Its name alone made me want to field it until I saw its ballistic skill and points cost. I believe there is room for the Tyrannofex to be a useful cannon monster, but that’s certainly not what it is right now. It needs to have the same ballistic skill as a Hive Guard and a somewhat lower points cost. Because let’s face it, nobody is even considering using these things right now.
And finally we come down to it, the most legendary of Tyranid monstrous creatures. Carnifexes are described in the lore as “battering rams” and “living siege engines.” Let’s make them live up to that! They’re way too expensive in points right now and their stats don’t accurately represent what we’re supposed to believe about them. Even worse, currently the most effective way to field Carnifexes is with devourers. The idea of a Carnifex shooting things instead of ramming into them just seems wrong to me. Here’s a crazy idea: let’s make Carnifex broods a troops choice. Maybe you unlock it through your HQ or something like that. It’s a great looking model with great lore, so let’s make people afraid of the charge of a Carnifex again!
There are lots of other things that can be mentioned. For example, the lore talks about how Tyrant Guards are the most heavily armored of all Tyranid creatures, yet they have a 3+ armor save. Hormagaunts are described as self-reproducing, yet there’s no rule in place to reflect this in any way whatsoever. Mycetic Spores, Harpies, and the Doom of Malan’tai all need models. Some sort of assault grenade biomorph is desperately needed. Then again, there are some things that are fine. The Swarmlord is pretty much fine. Trygons are both fine and totally awesome. Mawlocs are, while somewhat novel, fine. Hive Tyrants are fine, though a little over-costed.
People are currently saying that the next Tyranid codex is due sometime early next year. Other people are saying that GW’s philosophy for the new book is that every creature is a viable option. I sincerely hope that ends up being the case because I’m so tired of dual Tervigon armies being led by flying Tyrants and backed by Hive Guard. Let’s see some variation! This is a very exciting time for Tyranid players and hopefully by this time next year, the bugs will have the book they deserve. I’m imagining people playing everything from armies made up of only monstrous creatures to armies staying true to the concept of an endless swarm, and every possibility in between. Here’s hoping it happens!