I’ve played a couple of 5th edition games with my tyranids over the last few weeks. Unfortunately both games have been played against extremely mobile armies using the annihilation mission, which I’ve come to realize is probably worst-case scenario for my nids (especially gaunts). I lost both games but learned a bit about what works and what doesn’t in the new paradigm.
The first game was against Jay’s Blood Angels with pitched battle deployment. Jay had a death company squad led by Lemartes, an inquisitor with retinue and land raider, several jump marine squads, and three vindicators. I was using my flying dakkarant, four stealer squads with scuttlers, flesh hooks, and carapace, two squads of 20 termagants without number, three zoanthropes with synapse and blast, and two beefy gunfexes. In this game I flanked my four stealer squads and split the rest of my forces into a pincer to try and keep the assault marines nervous about moving out and getting charged. All four stealer squads arrived on the second turn, which seemed quite fortuitous for a moment, but in Jay’s next turn he moved his whole army to attack just one side and I realized I had made a big tactical error. The stealers on the right side would never reach any opponents, and without much in the way of help the stealers on the left would be annihilated. I actually managed to get a decent sized squad on the left into combat with one jump squad but the bugs totally whiffed (I had been thinking flesh hooks would serve them better than tendrils – another mistake – thanks Kingsley). The lictor arrived and blew out one of the vindicators, which was nice, but he was quickly gunned down in the next turn. The hive tyrant shot and assaulted the death company, inflicting only a few casualties before he was easily brought down by their rending attacks. Another mistake – I always succumb to the temptation to charge him into combat, when he’s probably better off just jumping and shooting every turn. After he finished off the stealers on the left side, he jumped up and wiped the two zoanthropes and gaunt squad camping out in the woods a short distance away. The gaunts came back the next turn from my table edge, but who really gives a crap in killpoints? I believe he ended up winning by two or three points.
For my second game I ditched “without number” and took two squads of 28 gaunts instead of the smaller squads. I also wanted to try out a close combat fex at least once, so I tooled one of my gunfexes up with talons, tusks, and a mace tail. Instead of flesh hooks I gave the stealers feeding tendrils. The rest of the army was the same. Robert’s back in town and he brought over his dark eldar army. I wasn’t ecstatic to see the dice roll for mission pick kill points again, but then again, I hadn’t played against S&Mdar in quite a long time so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad this time. It was. Robert played a fairly mixed force of two squads of wyches in raiders, three warrior squads with two dark lances each, two ravagers with three destructors each, a squad of 7 bikes led by an archon, a beastmaster with four warp beasts, a squad of 7 or 8 incubi led by a dracon, and a talos. When he reminded me what all the particular units were capable of, I knew I was in a lot of trouble. Their mobility, combat drugs, and wych weapons were going to negate the stealers better than possibly any other army. We rolled for table quarters deployment zones, and I went first. I decided to outflank with only two of the stealer squads, keeping the other two in the mix of gaunts and fexes in the middle. After a single blast from my gunfex’s barbed strangler wiped out nine warriors, the ravagers and warriors laid into him with destructor blasts and dark lances, destroying him in a single turn. He charged into the front-most gaunt squad with one team of wyches and did plenty of damage there. The fearless rule really works against you when you only have a 6+ save. Not such a good idea to let gaunts get assaulted. A squad of stealers and the combat fex quickly ate them in return, but the stealers were killed by the charging talos (though it died as well) and the combat fex was dropped by lances and destructors before he could regenerate any wounds. The hive tyrant also did very little damage to anything before he was shot down. The lictor arrived, deep-striking right into one of the warrior squads, and I rolled a 2 on the mishap table, meaning he was DOA. The first squad of outflanking stealers came in on my left but were intercepted by robert’s second wych squad (which had conveniently rolled for “always strike first” drugs). Brought down to just three stealers, they actually managed to push the wyches back and wipe them out with a sweeping advance. By this time, however, they were my last models on the table. The second squad of flanking stealers had tried to bring down the ravagers (which Robert had forgotten to move the previous turn) but could only destroy one, and it had exploded and killed three stealers in the blast. Yeesh. I will say that feeding tendrils still paid off in this game, doing much to alleviate my apparently abominable luck when it comes to rolling hits in close combat.
So, in closing, I learned the following lessons about bugs in 5th edition:
- feeding tendrils are good as they sound
- extended carapace on stealers is deader than dead – total waste and I'm ditching them as of today
- bigger squads of stealers are better as you really don’t want them to lose combat and have to take armor saves
- lictors, meh
- zoanthropes were decent – the 24” blast attack is especially nice
- close combat fex... I dunno about this guy yet. I mostly took him to keep opponents antsy about charging into gaunts holding an objective, but obviously in kill points that’s pretty moot. He's great when he can get stuck in and a tendrils unit is nearby. I still like the idea but he may go back to being gunfex #2.
- monstrous creatures in general do not last as long without cover saves available to them like in 4th edition. Unfortunately I may have to switch to the tyrant guard approach instead of the wings. With run he could still be in firing range by the second turn at the latest.
- gaunts are pretty meh, especially in annihilation games, but I still think their large numbers and synapse-range implacability would be useful in objective-type missions.