It's taken awhile but I think the armies of the Hive Mind might finally have gotten a competitive army akin to the days of the old dakkafex. The Tyranids as a faction have been struggling to catch up in the past few editions and the index version so far has been no different. While they did get better compared to previous editions, the other factions gained just as much or more in terms of an improvement. The Tyranids lacked a cheap, "untargetable" synapse option (for those playing without access to Forgeworld and the Malanthrope) and not only has the Codex brought us such an option, it has also given a fluffy and characterful set of options for the army.
So what has improved for the chitinous swarm? As this is a first impressions article, I won't break each unit and option down in detail like I did in the Index Tactica previously (which is obviously outdated by now) but will go through some of the new options and combos that spring to mind.
One of the biggest changes is the base range of synapse (12" now instead of 8") and how Instinctive Behaviour works. While units out of the range of synapse could only charge or shoot the nearest target in the Index, the range at which a unit would not be affected by Instinctive Behaviour has been increased to 24" (not just synapse range). For those affected by Instinctive Behaviour, they can now shoot or charge any target but will suffer penalties if those targets are not the closest. Shadow in the Warp has also had its range increased to 18" instead of the paltry 8" in the Index.
Hive Fleet Adaptations (aka Chapter/Craftworld/Regiment traits)
Behemoth: Re-roll failed charge rolls
Kraken: Roll 3 dice, pick highest for Advancing. Able to fall back and charge in same turn
Leviathan: 6+ FnP that doesn't stack with Catalyst psychic power
Gorgon: Re-roll wounds of 1 in Fight phase
Jormungandr: Non-flying units are always in cover unless the unit has advanced or charged
Hydra: Re-roll hits in fight phase if the unit outnumbers the target unit
Kronos: Re-roll shooting hits of 1 if the unit did not move in the preceding movement phase
While Leviathan and Jormungandr are the most universally applicable and straightforward traits, I can actually see a use for all the adaptations with none being significantly stronger than any of the others (looking at you Alaitoc...). The Behemoth, Kraken, Gorgon and Hydra adaptations all cater to the Fight phase and Kronos caters to a more shooting style of play. It has been said that this encourages mixing different Hive Fleets (each detachment can have its own Adaptation) and we can definitely see some design intention towards that regard. That means you can bring Hive Fleet Kronos Exocrines, Hive Guard and Tyrannofexes in one detachment and Hive Fleet Behemoth Trygons, Genestealers and Hormagaunts in another to take advantage of the different adaptations. There is a cost however. Tyranids seem to be able to bring a Brigade detachment (+9 command points) at the lowest cost (600-700 points) out of all the factions. By breaking up the detachments to get different adaptations, you do have to sacrifice a few CP which can be very useful now with that we have Stratagems (and some fantastic ones at that).
1. Caustic Blood - Khorne Beserkers making short work of your Gaunt screen? Imagine dealing a mortal wound to them for every 6 dead gaunts on average.
2. Single-Minded Annihilation - 24 Impaler cannon shots from 6 Hive Guard or 180 S4 Devourer shots from 30 Devilgaunts? Who can say no to that?
3. Pathogenic Slime - 12 S7 Ap-3 Damage 3 shots from an Exocrine or 24 S6 damage 2 shots from a dakkafex/tyrant? Say what?
4. The Enemy Below (Jormungandr specific) - Deepstriking Broodlords to accompany Genestealer units or deepstriking Zoanthropes/Venomthropes/Shock cannon Hive Guard/Pyrovores without a Tyrannocyte. The options are staggering and the cost is a mere 69+ points for a unit of Raveners as their "transport". It does cost 1 CP per unit inserted into the tunnels which is why I'm finding CP so important for the new Codex version of these aliens.
5. The Deepest Shadow (Kronos specific) - Irritated by Warp Time or Prescience? Or Guide, Fortune or Mind War? With this Stratagem, you can now say "Nope" to one of those powers every psychic phase in Matched Play games from now on.
6. Opportunistic Advance (Kraken specific) - Ever seen a unit of Genestealers move and advance 20" in a single movement phase? (29-34" with a Swarmlord) Or a Haruspex double time it 19" into the enemy's lines (and charge with Onslaught) for an across-the-board flying ball of hunger? NOW YOU CAN!
Standout Warlord Traits & Bio-artefacts/relics
Heightened Senses - Irritated with that Alaitoc Hemlock Wraithfighter or Ranger unit with all those negative modifiers? Say no more with a Hive Tyrant with a Heavy Venom Cannon that always hits on a 3+ (except when firing Overwatch).
Soul Hunger (Kronos only) - Remember 'The Deepest Shadow" above? Now you can have them eat d3 mortal wounds per failed psychic test while you're at it. Lets you play mind games with Eldar, Chaos, and Primaris Psyker opponents all day long.
Chameleonic Mutation (Kraken only) - Gives the wielder a -1 to be hit by all ranged attacks. Great for Hive Fleet Kraken Hive Tyrants and Tervigons.
Miasma Cannon - A heavy venom cannon that becomes a flamer type weapon within 8" and always wounds targets except Vehicles on a 2+. Probably one of the better relics for the Tyranids as not much else stands out.
Point costs are more of less the same with the exception of the Haruspex (down by a whopping 80 points) and slight downward adjustments to almost all of the monstrous creatures and their melee weapons.
While I may have been super excited about Codex: Craftworlds, I've been waiting for a competitively viable Tyranid codex for almost 10 years now and it seems we may have finally gotten it. None of the units and options have been boosted to insane levels (see also pre-FAQed Pink Horrors and Conscripts) but the possible combinations might currently be the most varied out of all the Codexes released thus far. Synergy and supporting units seem to be the key to making the new Tyranids work. It gels fantastically with the lore of how adaptive the Hive Mind and its creations are supposed to be and I look forward to analysing the units and mathhammer out their efficiency like I did for the Tyranid Tactica series.
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