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 Post subject: Yet another Tyranid Fandex
PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:32 am 
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Harpy
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So...
It's been one core rule set and at least one Tyranid codex since the last time I tried my hand at a rewrite, and it appears the 7th Edition meta has somewhat settled down, with most of the main armies being 7E compliant now...

Although I think the current 7E Tyranid codex is playable, the competitive armies seem to be in a "how many dual-dev flyrants can I fit into the list" rut, and are heavily reliant on formations to make that happen.

Also, there (still) appears to be a wide open opportunity in the 7th edition metagame for an army that is actually effective with moderate to light shooting and majority assault. Historically, that play style has been a feature of Nids, Orks, and Daemons, but since the Ork and Daemon codexes are definitely not pointed that direction (with Orks being meh and Daemons being dominated by Tzeentch / Cursed Earth / Invisibility / Summoning lists), it's still up for grabs.

Making it work without grossly violating the rest of the game and armies (i.e. external balancing), and still maintaining the Tyranid aesthetic, play style, and continuity with previous codexes is the challenge. That, as well as maintaining model continuity (don't make anything someone has bought unplayable) while altering things that don't work to make them both role-distinct and compelling (e.g. pyrovores, warriors).

Also, acknowledging and dealing with the limitation that any fandex is inherently limited compared to an official dex because GW owns the means of production for creating entirely new models, weapons, etc. That's less of a problem for Nids because of kitbashing (they're all mutants, hybrids, and clones after all, so it makes sense that you would see new things based on old things glued together).

That said, I'm starting to work the issue, starting with the basic principles...

- Tyranids should be an assault and point-blank shooting army, with enough mid-range fire support and early/light tarpit assaults to suppress the enemy force during approach of the main swarm.

- Lots of numbers (even of big guys, like monstrous creatures), redundancy, can take enormous damage and still accomplish the mission (capability is not focused in 1-2 models per unit, cost and unit structure provides incentives to make large units of cheap models; MSU tyranids should be something no one serious considers).

- They're Everywhere: ability to deploy from above, sides, rear, infiltrating, deepstriking, etc. Not hyper fast (no jetbikes or supersonic flyers), but can come in from anywhere and everywhere.

- Fear: morale suppression; you're not getting shot and killed, your dying from the inside out and being psychically suppressed and eaten. Despair. Some way to overcome the omnipresent Morale support in every army (commissars, fearless, stubborn, rerolls, etc).

- Anti-psyker: psychic powers under shadow should be nearly impossible. Kill the synapse creatures for maximum damage and make the rest of the swarm go instinctive.

- Adaptation/Synthesis: forced evolution permits rapid adaptation to the enemy, interwoven capabilities (no stand-alones except by specific design and role). Network of capabilities gives extra capability, but also extra vulnerability if the links can be cut.


More as I have time to post, especially my take on what is wrong with the current conception of various models in the army, and what can be done to fix them (conceptually), before putting it all into the Great Work. I do realize that this entire project is a massive exercise in egotistical futility, since the odds of it ever being played are essentially nil; I would like to think it allows me to explore the possibilities of the current dex and rules to find better ways to express Tyranidness to and with the broader 40K community.

I whole-heartedly invite comment throughout; my perspective is limited due to how (in)frequently I play and only having access to one local metagame.

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 Post subject: Re: Yet another Tyranid Fandex
PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:41 pm 
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Norn Queen wut can has cookie
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I think you should add an extra basic principle, or adjust your 'fear' basic principle, to...

attrition: Tyranids don't fight small scale combats and surgical strikes, they fight everywhere, on all fronts, and do so relentlessly.

This is more in line with what I think is one of the tyranid's greatest strengths, it's something described in the first (2d ed?) codex, and something that's been given some 'screen time' in the recent leviathan campaign (with a mission where the adepta sororitas are low on ammo).

This means, low on ammo, low on fuel, but also - which is why I said it could be an adjustment on your fear principle - low on morale. There's no rest for the troops fighting the tyranids, which, combined with shadow in the warp even affecting non-psykers, should not be good for morale.

edit: Also, great to see you working on this again, it's always been a fun excersize and interesting read!

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 Post subject: Re: Yet another Tyranid Fandex
PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2015 2:31 am 
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Hatchling
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Gonna let you in on a little secret, Eidre...

I've been doing the same thing now for over a year solid, since the release of the last Tyranid Codex. It's been this massive long-running project of mine, an obsession even. I've been poring over every Tyranid rulebook, supplement and White Dwarf article ever written all the back to 2nd edition. I've written, rewritten, playtested, revised, and rewritten again. Got this whole big plan to even get hard copies made one way or another, and custom artwork included. Also, there's supposed to over 50 pages of original fluff in the beast. Going for the full experience.

But yeah, real life constantly getting in the way as it does, and my perfectionism being a pain and causing me to constantly reformat things until they not only read well but look nice, has slowed me considerably, so its still a long ways from being done. I think, maybe, it's time for me to stop being so secretive about the thing and open it up for community input, and I would love to collaborate with you on it. I've actually been a fan of yours for years, been lurking Warpshadow for over a decade under different accounts. I have your name listed in my Special Thanks portion at the Preface. :)

So let me start by going over your basic principles of design and how I approached them, because you totally nailed it and I came to the same conclusions.

1.
Quote:
Tyranids should be an assault and point-blank shooting army, with enough mid-range fire support and early/light tarpit assaults to suppress the enemy force during approach of the main swarm.


Mainly achieved by a combination of three things:
- Melee bio-weapons and biomorphs that actually do something. Scything Talons, for example, have the Scything special rule, which allow for additional attacks on To Hit rolls of 6 (these do not generate further additional attacks). Also, there is an Army-Wide special rule Biologis Tyranicii, which among other things, alters the way Tyranids fight with multiple close combat weapons. Instead of getting +1 Attack, they make a number of attacks with each weapon equal to their Attacks characteristic. Bonus attacks granted from other sources must be applied to one weapon, they don't apply to both. Example: A Hive Tyrant (Attacks 3) with a set of Scything Talons and a set of Boneswords which charges into close combat will make 3 attacks with the ScyTals profile and 3 attacks with the Boneswords profile, plus 1 additional attack from charging with the profile of the controlling player's choice.

- Making ranged bio-weapons more specialized in their use. For example, Devourers now simply have one profile at Strength 4 with the Brainleech Worms special rule, which grants Fleshbane if they are wielded by a Monstrous Creature. This way, they are still strong against infantry, but not auto-take weapons for punching through light vehicles and flyers.

- More reliable access to Pinning and Overwatch suppression. There are THREE psychic power tables for Tyranids in my Codex (which I will get to later), one of which is called Xenotheurgy and has The Horror as its Primaris power. Barbed Stranglers have also been reworked to be more flavorful - I won't post the entire special rule right now, but in essence they are no longer blast weapons but single-shot weapons that infect the target model instead of removing it as a casualty, and it later can be triggered to detonate and cause havoc in its unit, which is treated as being locked in close combat until the end of the turn and therefore cannot benefit from things like Counter-attack, Defensive grenades or Overwatch.

2.
Quote:
Lots of numbers (even of big guys, like monstrous creatures), redundancy, can take enormous damage and still accomplish the mission (capability is not focused in 1-2 models per unit, cost and unit structure provides incentives to make large units of cheap models; MSU tyranids should be something no one serious considers).


Two ways I accomplish this.
- Lots of biomorph upgrades are costed per unit rather than per model. This makes them prohibitively expensive to get for 10 hormagaunts, but significantly cheaper for units of 30.
- Formations with minimum unit size restrictions or benefits for having larger units. I've written up the "Tyranid Decurion" equivalent, or rather I should say equivalents, as there are three of them. Stage I: Invasion Swarm, Stage II: Predation Swarm, and Stage III: Consumption Swarm. I'll get to those later.

3.
Quote:
They're Everywhere: ability to deploy from above, sides, rear, infiltrating, deepstriking, etc. Not hyper fast (no jetbikes or supersonic flyers), but can come in from anywhere and everywhere.


- Liberal application of Outflank/Scout via upgrades or Formation special rules.
- Fixed Trygon tunnels.
- Different Pheromone Trail special rule for Lictors that allows "Outflank Lock-On" rather than "Deep Strike Lock-On".

4.
Quote:
Fear: morale suppression; you're not getting shot and killed, your dying from the inside out and being psychically suppressed and eaten. Despair. Some way to overcome the omnipresent Morale support in every army (commissars, fearless, stubborn, rerolls, etc).


- As stated, Xenotheurgy psychic discipline, which has no less than three powers which reduce Leadership or punish units for failing Leadership tests.

5.
Quote:
Anti-psyker: psychic powers under shadow should be nearly impossible. Kill the synapse creatures for maximum damage and make the rest of the swarm go instinctive.


Accomplished two ways:
- Synapse Creatures are all Psykers (Warriors are Brotherhood of Psykers and so forth), so gain bonuses to Deny the Witch, and can make Deny the Witch tests for any friendly Tyranid unit within their Synapse Range in the same manner as a Psychic Hood.
- Non-Tyranid Psykers within SitW range must re-roll successful Psychic test dice that are not 6's. Generally, this will cause them to either fail, or Perils, with much less in-between. Therefore they can get the powers off if they are really determined, but they will suffer for it. Furthermore, Perils incurred while within SitW only roll D3+1 on the table, so there is no chance of them getting a lucky roll and powering up.

6.
Quote:
Adaptation/Synthesis: forced evolution permits rapid adaptation to the enemy, interwoven capabilities (no stand-alones except by specific design and role). Network of capabilities gives extra capability, but also extra vulnerability if the links can be cut.


My favorite accomplishment, and the real highlight of the codex:
- First, as mentioned before, all Synapse Creatures are Psykers, and there are three unique Tyranid Psychic disciplines. One of them is called Hive Mind Imperatives, and is entirely focussed on blessings which improve all friendly Tyranid units within the Psyker's synapse range. Vicious Insight, for example, allows you to nominate an enemy unit in the Psyker's line of sight, and the other units in synapse range gain Preferred Enemy against that target. Swarm Frenzy grants Counter-attack, and units with IB (Feed) also gain Rage. Predatory Cunning grants Stealth and Hit & Run. Dominion is the Primaris here.
- Secondly, synapse range grants Feel No Pain (6+), in addition to its other benefits.
- Thirdly, Synapse Creatures can make Look Out, Sir! saves in the same manner as a character, treating only friendly models with the Instinctive Behaviour special rule as part of their unit for this purpose. (There is a penalty to MCs for being so large and FMCs cannot do this while Swooping).
- Lastly, and this is very important, there is a 'Shoot the Big Ones!' clause in the Instinctive Behaviour special rules. If your army consists only of models with this special rule at the end of a turn, you automatically lose the battle. Thus, playing against Tyranids becomes a different game entirely.

Let me know what you think. Tell me what parts interest you most and I'll go over them in more detail. Having only managed to playtest with friends who are rather new to the game, it will be good to finally get some perspective from another source who actually has a clue when it comes to design. :wink:


EDIT:
Oh dear, after replying I realized you split up your thoughts into four other different threads already. I'll have to go and add my input on those.

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 Post subject: Re: Yet another Tyranid Fandex
PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2015 4:18 am 
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Harpy
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@Xenosmiles: the plot thickens...I appreciate the parallel effort, and I'm looking forward to sharing ideas. I'll continue to post my thoughts unabated, of course :D

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- Edgar Allen Poe, The Masque of the Red Death


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 Post subject: Re: Yet another Tyranid Fandex
PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2015 8:38 pm 
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Harpy
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As I dig further into development and mind-games, and as I read more of your (XenoSmile's) thoughts, I'm realizing that there are some underlying preferences and predilections that are shaping how I'm putting things together. Rather than discover them and defend them one by one, I'll try to put them all down so it's clear what I'm likely to do and not do as I go through the codex development process.

it's clear that I'm going to end with a substantially different product from you (XenoSmile), not because my ideas are better or worse but because there are certain things I am seeking out and avoiding based on my gaming experience that might be entirely different from what someone else wants. This will, of course, make my Fandex a work of narcissism, but there's really no way around that!

To wit:

Time
I hate running out of time during a game, especially when it's a tournament on the clock and the length of the game can influence scoring, seeding, and ultimately who wins and loses. Nids are by nature a mass army, but I don't want to exacerbate that by added a bunch of extra detail (time, die rolls, etc) that could be represented in an easier way.
- reduce the number of rerolls, especially on low-quality rolls (i.e. 6+ with a reroll is like rolling twice as many dice). Don't get me wrong, I *love* rerolls and have been saved by them numerous times, but ultimately having more dice produces the same averages and gives more opportunity to both succeed well and fail horribly. And it takes half as long, especially with mountains of dice I tend to have (brood of spinefist rippers anyone? or devgaunts?).
- reduce the number of follow-on rolls (i.e. if you roll a X, roll more stuff).
- reduce the number of randomly determined stuff during the game (pre-game is only done once so it's OK; IB is marginal because it's only once per turn).


Memory
I have a crap memory, especially under stress circumstances (like playing 40K in a timed tournament), so the fewer special rules, niche cases, etc I have to remember, the better. Rules that require remembering additional conditions turn-to-turn are bad for me, as are things that are imposed on the whole battlefield, or are out of the normal turn sequence. I'd rather have things represented within the normal move, psyche, shoot, assault paradigms rather than "at the beginning of the movement phase", or "between the X sub-phase and the Y sub-phase". In some cases "place a counter" type rules are OK, but too many gets messy as well (just having FNP counters is fine, but needing a lot of extra nerf counters for conditions imposed on the enemy is sometimes a problem for remembering when they went down, when they come up, how bad they are like with paroxysm, etc).


Synergistic Balance
Tyranids should be all about synergy. That said, I've seen the result of unanticipated synergy when there are too many inter-related rules around (i.e. tzeentch ISv reroll of 1's + grimoire + cursed earth + invisibility = invulnerable scoring horrors). Therefore, there should be a balanced number of rules and bio-objects with fairly clear roles; interactions should be measured and limited or they'll cause a vortex of "you're stupid if you don't have X, Y, and Z in your list". Conversely, each thing should have a clear purpose (or range of purposes), and no two things should be similar enough that it's possible to say "you should always get X because it does everything better than Y". Using point value to distinguish is ok (i.e. spend more get something that is strictly better), but that should be distinctly second best to having two things that are equally costed and balanced for an "all comers" army. This leaves it open to preference, style, aesthetics, and each player's assessment of their local meta to determine what they want to equip.


Rectification of Names
Everything called toxin/poison/etc should have similar game effects. Everything that is made of bio-acid should have common or related traits (S, AP, damage qualities). The number of wounds a creature has should roughly correspond to the size of the model (example: why do warriors have W3 but the larger, tougher tyrant guard only have W2? And if it's due to synapse, why don't other synapse creatures have more wounds?). There should be a revered continuity of the names of the various beasts, psychic powers, bio-weapons, biomorphs, special rules, background story elements, etc, that goes back to the first introduction of Tyranids. Tweaks and even complete reimagining is perfectly fine (especially to fix things that were horribly mangled at birth), but if something is radically changed it deserves a piece of backstory to explain why the Imperial observers described it differently in previous codexes (i.e. "Oh, you thought that Tyrant with four boneswords was some special, unique leader, and that's why it was able to circumvent your strategy and annihilate your army? A thousand just like it have been reported from battlefields across the Imperium! Vae Victus!")


External Balance
In the absence of massive playtesting (unlikely) I want to be able to gauge how over or underpowered the Fandex is, and the best way to do that is to benchmark it against other codices. Tyranids should not be able to:
- Overpower daemons in the psychic phase. They're made out of Warp, seriously.
- Put out better quality shooting than Eldar. If there's more S6-7 shots coming out of something in the Nid list than the same points worth of Wave Serpents, there's something wrong.
- Throw out more attacks than Orks (for base troops at least). This is what Orks do. If we do it better, why are there Orks?
- Roll more dice than Astra Militarum. If one of our units can put out more dice than a blobbed infantry platoon executing a "first rank / second rank" order, something is wrong.
- Outshoot Tau. Our shooting has to be shorter range, lower capacity, lower strength, and worse AP, or there would be no reason to assault to keep them from shooting.
- Weather fire better than Space Marines. If it's possible to construct a Tyranid unit that can withstand abuse (point per point) like Tactical Marines, Storm Shield Terminators, or Centurions, then it's too tough. Tyranids should be belligerant, numerous, and expendable.
- Out-Death-Star anyone. We shouldn't have special characters, one-of-a-kind artifacts, or anything else that would tempt someone to glue everything on a single model, surround them with bullet sponges, and trample everything on the board. Other armies can worship their Draigos, Farsights, and Fateweavers; we don't need any. Power is distributed throughout the force.

What we should be able to do as well or better than anyone else is graceful degradation; as long as there are a couple of troops and a synapse creature around, the army can still win, even after taking massive casualties. No one model is the lynchpin that makes the whole fall apart (with the exception of Synapse; killing *all* of the synapse creatures should be an entirely reasonable way to break a Tyranid force, since it's attested frequently in the fiction).


Consequences of the core rules
There are plenty of things that *ought to be viable*, but just can't be pulled off because of the way the rules are written.

For example, there should be a role for a slow, tenacious assault unit that can just walk down the table and assault in turn 4-5 to earn its points back. In the current ruleset and meta, shooting is good enough (and assault limited enough) that this just isn't possible, which is why walking assault units (CC carnifexes, haruspices, trygons, etc) are so much less favorable than the same classes of models with guns.

Similarly, Sv4+/AP4 *should be* only somewhat less useful than Sv3+/AP3, yet due to the game-wide prevalence of Sv3+ (power armor and most MCs), AP3 is enormously more valuable. Perversely, AP3-AP1 are fairly rare (typically single shot weapons that are expensive and available to only 1-2 models per squad), whereas mid-strength AP4 weapons are cheap, widely available, and frequently have multiple shots, further enhancing the value of a 3+ armor save and making Sv4+ and worse a death sentence in the absence of cover. Therefore, the benefit of Sv4+ is very difficult to cost properly (pretty decent or completely worthless depending on slight differences in circumstances).

And of course the rules just don't permit certain effects...for example, psychic powers that affect movement are pretty hard to pull off because the movement phase comes before the psychic phase.

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- Edgar Allen Poe, The Masque of the Red Death


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 Post subject: Re: Yet another Tyranid Fandex
PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2015 9:54 am 
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Harpy
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Apologies, I have completely dropped synch with this whole project between work and family health issues. I'll pick it up again when real life calms down.

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- Edgar Allen Poe, The Masque of the Red Death


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