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 Post subject: YATF: Shooting bio-weapons
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 11:45 am 
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(Agh. Another wall of text. Apologies, vonny!)

In my experience, the wide range of available bioweapons and the vaunted mutability and adaptability of the Tyranids is completely unnecessary in the current codex, because the entire bioweapons section could easily be reduced to the following without any effect on most of the lists I make: fleshborers, devs, brainleech devs, impaler cannons, electroshock thorax swarm

And that's pretty much it, other than an occasional pot shot with a tervigon's stinger salvo. This is an utter travesty, as it points to the relative uselessness of the other weapon choices and the ineffectiveness of several broods that have built-in weapons. So on the whole, my goal with the bio-weapons is to make them all have distinguishable roles within the army, fall into identifiable clades (instead of just a mish-mosh of different "cool" names), and have related special rules that contribute to the overall Tyranid aesthetic and range of play-styles.

Another overall design goal of mine is to remove the unique stuff from the list, including special characters and "bio-artefacts"; the only worthy exceptions, I think, are the unique creatures of legend (the Deathleaper, the Red Terror, and Old One Eye). Swarmlord, Doom of Malan'tai, and especially the Parasite of Mortrex can all go away in favor of suggestive modifications to their core genus, warlord traits, special rules, and other bits and pieces in the codex to explain why opposing soldiers thought they were seeing a unique tyranid (oxymoron).

Of the existing weapons, the brainleech devourer is clearly overpowered (why else would you see successful lists designed around putting as many of them as possible on as many flyrants as possible?). That many twinlinked S6 shots on a mobile platform is a threat to anything that doesn't have a 2+ armor save or AV13+ all around. Conversely, most of the other traditional Tyranid weapons (spinefists, spike rifles, deathspitters) are a combination of overcosted and underpowered, making them unattractive on platforms (like warriors) that are hardly fieldable to begin with because they cost too much for how quickly they die.

Fixing this is an effort both with the qualities of the weapons and with the bugs that carry them, but also with tweaking the weapon stats to differentiate them (how many S5 guns do we need in the list, really?) without fluff-crime or violating any of the unspoken Iron Laws of tyranid shooting:
* There shall be no AP3 volume shooting
* There shall be no AP2 or AP1 shooting at all, except for the Warp Blast (blessed be its name)
* Thy guns shall not shoot past 18" unless they be one per brood (or monster)
* No brood shall exist to support a single special model with a better gun. We are not Imperials.
* Solve thy problems with rolling (and rerolling) more dice, not with better strength or skill

What I would like to do is make the choice of shooting weapon an actual choice between the kinds of targets you want to kill, and not just a knee jerk "cheap" vs. "effective" decision.

Here's how I would like to see shooting weapons and roles covered:

>> Pre-assault: there should be weapons that complement point-blank shooting and getting into assault. Currently, shooting is inimical to assault because if it's effective (and if it weren't, why are you doing it in the first place?), you're possibly making your charge distance longer. This seems like a natural role for the "spine" series of weapons:

* Spinefist: 12" S3 AP- assault X, twinlinked, frag [frag: a model with this weapon ignores the effects of terrain on charge distance and Initiative in the same way as if it had assault grenades]
* Spine banks: 12" S5 AP- assault 4, twinlinked, frag ["back" mount for Fexes and assault supermonsters; replaces stinger salvo and cluster spines]

This profile makes it somewhat scalable to all sizes of beasts, and a benefit to all with the penalty that you are forgoing a better shooting weapon or another close combat weapon in order to attack in initiative order (valuable for a subset of creatures that have decent initiative values). This should (??) make spinegaunts more attractive (I'm sure many players have boxes of these guys getting dusty on the shelves) as well as making them a viable option for warriors and tyrants (where they were originally back in 2E; I still remember the shocked gasp of converting hordes of cheap spinegaunts back in 3E when all they could get was fleshborers and spike rifles). I could see this as an even swap weapon with fleshborers on gaunts, and for scytals on the bigger ones.

>> Infantry: when you're getting attacked by big blobs of guardsmen, orks, or daemons, you just need moderate strength and lots of shots; AP is pretty irrelevant (due to either poor armor or invulnerable saves). Since the Iron Laws prevent high-volume AP3 and any AP2 shooting, the answer to all infantry is about the same (overload better saves with more shots). This set of targets lends itself to the "devourer" series of weapons, but I don't really like the current incarnation where they are just strictly better than a fleshborer in every way (and you pay double the model cost to get them), as it creates a class of gaunts that you really don't want to see die. I'd prefer to see devourers stick to their anti-infantry role, but be reduced in power and cost so you can lay down more models on the battlefield for the same points and capability.

* Screamer: 12" S3 AP- assault 3 [gaunt version]
* Devourer: 18" S4 AP- assault 5 [warrior version]
* Wyrmcannon: 18" S5 AP- assault 8 [MC version]

As justification (since I'm deliberately breaking a well-loved gun); the "Screamer" gaunt version is significantly less powerful than before, but still a threat to infantry with the three shots. I believe that that statline puts it on a par (maybe +1 pt) with the fleshborer, allowing them to be fielded as 5pt models (assuming 4pt gaunts), but doesn't overlap the fleshborer's role because it can't hurt AV10 or T7. The warrior devourer is more inline with what the original (2E) devourer was supposed to do, and should give warriors the option to be a little more shooty without conceding their second arm slot to another gun (something I want to avoid going back to for fluff reasons). The big one, taking the place of the Brainleech Devourer (hate hate hate that name), is a deliberate nerf; I think the current gun is too good at too many roles, evidenced by the fact that it's the only gun I see going on Hive Tyrants. This version of the gun would be cheaper (maybe 10pts?) as compensation for going from S6 to S5 (which takes out a lot of its anti-vehicular capability; this is then taken up by other guns in the inventory so you have to choose between a horde sweeper and a vehicle popper), and the increase in shots compensates for losing Twinlinked (personal preference; not sure why it needed to be twinlinked in the first place, and rerolls with lots of dice use up a lot of real time that I'd like to avoid) and gives it the chance of causing even more damage to the intended target (infantry).

>> Light vehicle / light monster (AV10-11 OR T5-6 w. ISv)
Although significantly different (light and transport vehicles and daemon MCs), the kind of weapon that works against them is largely the same; you need decent range, moderate to high Strength, lots of shots, and AP doesn't matter at all (for the vehicle, you're going for glancing to death). The current codex has lots of S4-6 shooting weapons with crappy AP, with the brainleech deathspitter being the biggest and baddest of them; since I've stripped that away from the devourer, I want to put it back in another Classic tyranid shooting weapon that already has the reputation for having the best Strength...the Fleshborer. I join these weapons together by making the fleshborer beetles get bigger and more acidic in the larger guns, giving them their increased punch.

* Fleshborer: 12" S4 AP5 assault 1 [gaunt version]
* Deathspitter: 18" S6 AP5 assault 2 [warrior version; up strength, fewer shots; sort of a grenade launcher analog that gives reasonable performance against T6 and AV10]
* Doomspitter: 24" S7 AP5 assault 3 [MC version; takes place of useless deathspitter option, acts as shorter-range autocannon for transport popping before a charge]

>> Infantry in cover
Killing infantry that relies on cover (instead of armor or numbers) for survival requires weapons that have enough punch to do damage, can bypass cover saves, but don't necessarily need AP. Normally, this is done with flamers, but since I don't want to have specialist weapons in most broods (especially gaunts), I'll twiddle the properties of a few things to get what I want.

* Strangleweb: 12" S3 AP- assault 2 pinning, ignores cover [gaunt version; available to the whole brood for +1pt or so]
* Stranglethorn: 24" S4 AP6 assault 1 blast, pinning, ignores cover [warrior version, 1 gun per 3 models; a little cheaper than current because of the smaller blast and shorter range]
* Barbed Strangler: 36" S6 AP5 assault 1 large blast, pinning, ignores cover [MC version; same as current stranglethorn with addition of ignoring cover, so costed appropriately]

I altered the order of names so I could put the barbed strangler and the strangleweb in their traditional spots (MCs and gaunts, respectively). Ignores cover should always have been a feature of this weapon, since it's not strictly exploding so much as growing strangling vines very rapidly.

>> Armored targets (Sv3+ and 4+ high-T, and eventually AV12+)
An underexplored niche in a list with very few guns better than AP4, but I think a small expansion here is due. I'm tying the three weapons below together fluffwise as evolutions of the concept of throwing a sharp spike at the target, and then making it increasingly large, sharp, and toxic as the weapon gets larger (with the highest end version also charging it up with a static bio-electric shock).

* Spike rifle: 18" S3 AP4 assault 1 poison (5+) [gaunt version, available to whole brood; totally new role for this gun using the fluff of the toxin in the spike]
* Piercer: 24" S5 AP3 assault 2 poison (4+) [NEW warrior version, 1 gun per 3 models; yes, this is an AP3 gun, but volume remains low. This is the monster hunter gun]
* Venom Cannon: 36" S6 AP3 assault 3 poison (2+), haywire [MC version; deliberately the best gun available, this can hurt anything reliably except Sv2+]

Of all of the weapon clades, this is the most radical re-imagining of the statline; the existing spike rifle, venom cannon, and heavy venom cannon are largely useless (high strength small blast weapons are pointless against any target because they can't hit vehicles reliably, only hit MCs once and don't pierce their armor save, and aren't big enough to catch hordes). Converting back to a direct-fire weapon was an easy transition, as was the addition of poison. Improving the AP was a little bit of a stretch, but justified I think due to the relatively rarity and cost of these sorts of weapon, as well as the descriptions in the background of hypersonic bio-electric rail guns shooting metallic toxin crystals.

I won't deal with the unique creature weapons in this section...more on that with them.

"And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."
- Edgar Allen Poe, The Masque of the Red Death

 Post subject: Re: YATF: Shooting bio-weapons
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 7:02 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 22, 2005 6:11 am
Posts: 2262
Location: the Netherlands
why are you apologizing for the wall of text? That's what I read these topics for :)

Unfortunately, I feel unable to deliver a wall of text back. I'm kinda in agreement with everything you've written down here. I'm not so sure about the crunch (that is, the specific stats on everything), but your justifications seem good.
The thing I'm worried about a bit is that we're forced into fielding large broods, and much redundancy, and if you want those two, then highly specialized weapons for a specific target group might work rather counterproductive. This isn't to say I don't like what you did here, because I do, but it's something to keep in mind.

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