The air was still, broken only by the gentle lapping of the waves at the shore and the screech of the Dhhji-birds as they wheeled overhead. Aun’ui Au’taal Draira sat cross-legged on the sand of the beach, meditating in the evening light. He closed his eyes, letting the sound of the waves roll over him.
The tranquility was broken by the sound of a Devilfish, coming in fast and low over the water. Opening his eyes, Au’taal saw the ship painted in green livery scream overhead, the pilot pulling a sharp turn to bring the ship around, landing it expertly on the beach a few hundred feet downwind from him. The ramp hit the beach and a lone Fire Warrior hurried out, dashing down the beach towards the Ethereal. As he reached the venerable T’au, he slowed and bowed his head in a gesture of respect. His training is commendable, Au’taal thought, that he remains silent until spoken to despite the urgency of his message. With a wave of his hand, the Ethereal motioned for the Shas’ui to speak.
‘Your grace, our Pathfinders have reports of hostiles approaching from the west, and fast. Your eminence, we believe-‘, he inhaled deeply, ‘-we lost communication with our teams, but we have reason to believe that the Tyranids have found this world.’
Au’taal pushed himself to his feet, brushing sand from his robes. ‘What are the odds of this information being incorrect? I was not advised that our long-range scanners had detected any Tyranid presence.’
The Shas’ui swallowed. ‘Your grace, we haven’t been able to determine how the Tyranids approached us without our systems recognizing them, but recon drones report a 98.7% bio-match between the approaching creatures and the Tyranids known as Hive Fleet Leviathan.’
Au’taal nodded. ‘Give the order to evacuate the colony, Shas’ui, and gather your squad. We must ensure that there is time for our research to be removed before those creatures arrive.’
The still evening air was pierced by the shrill wail of klaxons and sirens from the human bastion, as the T’au and their Gue’la auxiliaries hurried to the transports and defensive positions. On the horizon, Au’taal could already see the shadows of alien shapes moving towards them.
* * *
Warhammer 40,000:8th edition has been released! A friend and I were keen to try it out as soon as possible, so once our orders arrived in the post we set up the terrain and arranged our forces. His stalwart T’au would be facing off against my Hive Fleet Leviathan Tyranids. The T’au force consisted of:
Commander with Burst Cannon and Missile Pod (148pts)
11 Fire Warriors (91pts)
11 Fire Warriors (91pts)
Riptide with Ion Accelerator and two Fusion Blasters (418pts)
6 Stealth Suits including one Fusion Blaster (200pts)
3 Crisis Suits with two Plasma Rifles each (192pts)
3 Broadsides with Missile Pods and Smart Missile Systems (612pts)
Hammerhead with Railgun and Smart Missile System (195pts)
The Tyranid army consisted of:
The Swarmlord (300pts)
3 Tyranid Warriors including one Barbed Strangler (83pts)
3 Tyranid Warriors including one Venom Cannon (77pts)
20 Genestealers (240pts)
30 Hormagaunts (150pts)
30 Termagants including ten Devourers (160pts)
3 Tyrant Guard (111pts)
3 Zoanthropes (120pts)
20 Gargoyles (120pts)
5 Spore Mines (50pts)
2 Carnifexes each with Monstrous Scything Talons, Devourers and a Thresher Scythe (204pts)
We chose the basic ‘Only War’ mission to keep things simple, rolling the ‘Slay and Secure’ primary objective that meant that each objective marker would be worth 2vp at the end of the game to whoever controlled it – and that, if we managed to slay the other person’s warlord, we’d earn an extra D3 victory points. I chose the Swarmlord as my warlord, while Tom went for his Commander.
T’au turn 1
Perhaps unsurprisingly, very little of the T’au army moved! The mighty Riptide advanced forward, bringing its heavy weapons into short range. With a fizzle of dissipating energy, a team of Stealth Suits appeared on the right flank near the Tyranid Warriors, accompanied by a roar of jets as a team of Crisis Suits boldly landed in front of the Swarmlord. Jet-pack engines blazing, the T’au commander joined his forces, landing alongside the Stealth suits.
With a crackle of energy the Riptide opened fire on the Swarmlord, dealing a total of six wounds. The nearby Tyrant Guard were ready, though, two of them leaping in the way to sacrifice themselves for the swarm leader. The Crisis Suits added their weapons to the barrage, most of the shots bouncing off the Swarmlord’s chitinous carapace and the remaining Tyrant Guard. Pulse rifles barked as the Fire Warriors and Fireblade shot too, though all of their shots bounced off the Swarmlord. On the far right flank, the Stealth Suits burst cannons whirred into life, obliterating one of the Tyranid Warriors in a hail of fire. The Commander fired into the warriors, wounding one, but unable to finish it.
Planting their feet firmly in the ground, the Broadsides loosed a barrage of missiles into the Swarmlord. When the smoke cleared, the final Tyrant Guard was dead and the mighty Tyrant was reduced to two wounds. The second squad of Fire Warriors wounded a Carnifex, while the Hammerhead Gunship brought its weapons to bear on the Zoanthropes. The psychic will of the creatures were strong, though, deflecting the railgun rounds.
Tyranid turn 1
As one, the swarm advanced. The ground rumbled as a Trygon burst forth near the Hammerhead, six-limbed Genestealers swarming out of the tunnel it left behind. A section of wall seemed to detach itself from the ruined cathedral as a Lictor shimmered into view, appearing near the Crisis Suits. Overhead, Spore Mines drifted lazily to earth near the Broadsides, their tendrils wafting in the breeze.
Psychic energy crackled around the craniums of the Zoanthropes, their powers dealing a single mortal wound to the Hammerhead from Smite. The Swarmlord used her connection to the Hive Mind to Smite the Crisis Suits, though I had to spend my first command point to cast it. She also cast Catalyst on herself, hoping to weather the next round of T’au shooting.
The Carnifexes fired their Devourers at the Crisis Suits, the brainleech worms managing to burrow through their armour to the soft pilot inside and killing one Crisis Suit. The Tyranid Warriors fired at the Stealth Suits, but the T’au technology proved more than adequate as their weapons failed to hurt the shimmering figures. Meanwhile the Termagants and Gargoyles rounded the building to shoot at the Broadsides, but again the T’au armour proved impervious to their weapons as dead Fleshborer beetles pattered against the thick hulls and fell to the ground, their short lifespan expended trying to burrow through the armour. The Warriors fared better, their Venom Cannon taking a wound from the Hammerhead.
With a sibilant hiss the Hormagaunts bounded into the T’au Fire Warriors, their Bounding Leap ability letting them engage the Stealth Suits, Commander, Fireblade and Crisis Suits too! The Genestealers tried to charge the Hammerhead, but failed to reach it even with a re-roll from another precious command point. Incredibly the Trygon also failed to charge, as the Hammerhead’s Rail Cannon overwatch hit the creature and took off six wounds! The Gargoyles managed to charge into the Broadsides, though fully half their number was shot from the air as they did so. One Carnifex barreled into the Crisis Suits along with the Swarmlord, while the second Carnifex attacked the Riptide. Finally, my remaining Warriors on the right flank charged into the Stealth Suits.
The Hormagaunts set about them with their Scything Talons, wounding a Stealth Suit and the Fireblade before cutting down six Fire Warriors. In response the Fireblade cut down two Hormagaunts, and the Fire Warriors drew their ritual blades to kill two more. The Warriors killed a Stealth Suit, but in return were beaten down by the T’au stealth suits. More worryingly, both the Swarmlord and the Carnifex fluffed their rolls and failed to hurt the Crisis Suits, though the T’au pilots were unable to hurt them in return. With a bellowing roar the Carnifex slammed into the Riptide, its Monstrous Scything Talons cutting through the advanced technology with brute force to deal 3 damage to the battlesuit. The Gargoyles flapped ineffectively at the Broadsides, who swung their heavy fists to smash one of the creatures out of the air, killing it. Five of the Fire Warriors lost their courage and fled, abandoning their remaining comrade to the Hormagaunts. Over-extended and out of Synapse range, the remaining Gargoyles took flight and fled the battlefield.
T’au turn 2
The Fireblade and the remaining Fire Warrior fell back from combat, as did the Crisis Suits and the Riptide. As the mighty battlesuit fell back, its weapons barked again, but both the Carnifex and the Swarmlord survived the barrage. The Stealth Suits and Crisis Suits added their weapons to the fusilade, but the Swarmlord’s Catalyst power held firm and she saved all the wounds. A pinpoint volley of missiles from the Broadsides dealt two damage to a Carnifex, and dealt five damage to the other one to leave it on two wounds left! Seeing the rapidly approaching Tyranids, the Hammerhead’s crew brought its weapons around to fire again, but were only able to kill a single Genestealer. Finally, in an attempt to bring her down, the remaining Fire Warrior squad shot the Swarmlord, dealing a single wound – hoping to keep her alive, I opted to spend another command point and managed to save the wound.
Tyranids turn 2
Tasting blood and seeing the enemy falling back, the swarm continued to advance into the T’au lines. The Swarmlord summoned the psychic energies of the Hive Mind to Catalyst herself before casting Smite on the Crisis Suits for two wounds, while the Zoanthropes dealt three wounds to the Broadsides with their own Smite power. On the left flank, the Broodlord also cast Smite to take two wounds off the Hammerhead, psychic power tearing chunks of metal from the elegant T’au vehicle.
The Carnifexes managed to wound the Riptide with their Devourers, the frenzied beetles managing to bore through even the advanced armour of the T’au battlesuit. A hail of fire hit the tenacious Broadside battlesuits from both the Termagants and the nearby Warriors, but the combined fire only managed to deal a single wound to the T’au artillery.
Moving into combat, one of my Carnifexes charged into the Riptide, taking an astounding four wounds from overwatch fire as its twin followed it in. The Hormagaunts charged into the T’au commander, losing a couple of their number to his Burst Cannon, while on the far side of the field the Genestealers and the Trygon barreled into the Hammerhead. Meanwhile, the Lictor charged into the Crisis Suits. The Swarmlord followed her, but calamity struck as Tom’s Crisis Suits used the T’au army-wide ability For The Greater Good, opening fire on her and bringing the mighty Hive Tyrant down! Ah well, at least she’ll just be reabsorbed by the swarm to be reincarnated soon :)
The Genestealers fell upon the Hammerhead in a sea of claws, tearing open hatches and scuttling inside. Their ferocious attack tore the tank apart, rupturing one of the delicate fusion-reactors in the process and causing an explosion of plasmic energy that killed one Genestealer and took another two wounds off the Trygon. The Lictor tore apart the remaining Crisis Battlesuit, while the Carnifexes dealt another six damage to the Riptide. Battered and rent, the mighty T’au battlesuit continued to operate, though it was unable to deal any damage back to the Carnifexes.
In a sea of claws and ferocity, the Hormagaunts fell upon the unfortunate T’au commander, tearing his suit apart in a frenzy of attacks and taking Tom’s warlord from full wounds to 0 in a single round of combat! Two Fire Warriors also fell to their wicked Scything Talons, though the T’au gave as good as they got with their ritual blades and killed two Hormagaunts in retaliation. Far from Synapse and out of control after killing the T’au commander, two Hormagaunts fell to Battleshock.
T’au turn 3
Red lights blinking and alarms sounding inside the cockpit, the pilot of the Riptide drew his mighty battlesuit back again from the Carnifexes, readying its weapons for another barrage. Nearby the Fire Warriors also fell back from the Hormagaunts, while the Stealth Suits moved towards the Carnifexes to support their brethren. The Riptide opened fire again, this time killing one of the Carnifexes. The Stealth Suits opened fire on the Lictor, reducing it to one wound, while the Broadside battle suits re-targeted their weapons on the Zoanthropes this time, their barrage of high-impact rockets proving too much for even the psychic might of the creatures and killing one.
Tyranid turn 3
In retaliation, the Zoanthropes unleashed another blast of psychic energy with Smite that wounded a Broadside. The Trygon’s Bio-Electric Pulse overloaded the Broadsides’ systems, causing another wound. The Termagants opened fire on the Riptide this time, the sheer volume of fire from their Devourers finding some of the cracks in its armour caused by the Carnifexes and dealing another wound. Readying itself for a charge, the Lictor’s flesh hooks whipped out to wound one of the Stealth Suits.
Bursting from the woods, the Genestealers attempted to charge the Broadsides. Three of them died to overwatch, and my charge roll wasn’t quite enough to reach them. In an attempt to finally deal with the tenacious T’au, I used my last command point to re-roll one dice and managed to make the charge. The Broodlord also failed to reach the Broadsides, while the Lictor died to the Stealth Suit’s overwatch fire. Both the Termagants and the remaining Carnifex tried to charge the Riptide, but failed to reach it. Finally, in a moment of stupidity, I tried to charge the Hormagaunts into the Riptide, only to roll a double one. In hindsight, I should have charged the Fire Warriors – not only were they within 2″, but the Hormagaunt’s Bounding Leap ability would have then let them reach the Riptide as they piled in. Ah well, lesson learnt….
The Genestealers attacked the Broadsides, their Rending Claws cutting through the armour to deal eight wounds and drag down two Broadsides.
T’au turn 4
Things were beginning to look a little bleak for the T’au, as the Tyranid left flank of Genestealers finally reached the main battle line and began to cut a swathe through them. The Riptide moved back from combat, as did the remaining Broadside, while the Stealth Suits moved further forward to reinforce the T’au lines. Their Burst Cannons whirred again, failing to wound the Carnifex but killing two Termagants and a Genestealer. The Riptide’s weapons fired again, though fate favoured the Carnifex as it only took one wound, surviving with a single wound left. Under the command of the nearby Fireblade, the remaining Fire Warrior squad – who I had discounted compared to the threat of the Riptide and Broadsides – suddenly let loose a volley of accurate fire, killing ten Genestealers and reducing the unit to two models! At least the Synapse Broodlord was still nearby to keep them in check.
Tyranid turn 4
Still moving as one under the guiding influence of the Hive Mind, the swarm of Hive Fleet Leviathan continued its advance on the remaining Tyranid forces. The Broodlord cast Smite on the final Broadside, though the tenacious battlesuit still stood. However, the Zoanthropes floated up to the abandoned bunker, their craniums cracking with nebulous energy as they finally dealt the killing blow and blew the Riptide apart in a storm of psychic power!
The Termagants fired a hail of beetles into the Stealth Suits, the voracious little creatures managing to burrow through the armour of one unfortunate T’au and kill him. In an attempt to capitalize on this success the Termagants tried to charge the Stealth Suits, but failed to reach them. The Carnifex also prepared to charge, but the Shas’ui stood firm and a searing beam from his Fusion Blaster finally killed the titanic Tyranid. The Hormagaunts, however, charged into the Fire Warriors before using their Bounding Leap ability to also engage the Stealth Suits, their Scything Talons cutting down five Fire Warriors and one Stealth Suit. Ritual blades drawn, the Fire Warriors cut down one Genestealer to leave me with one left.
T’au turn 5
The T’au forces disengaged again, but the Fire Warriors were still surrounded by Tyranids. Nearby, the Stealth Suits fired their Burst Cannons in an attempt to thin the horde, but to no avail as they failed to land any wounds.
Tyranid turn 5
The Zoanthropes and Broodlord both cast Smite, killing a couple of Stealth Suits. Another fusilade of shots from the Termagants killed another, and the Warriors finally brought their Venom cannon to bear to wound another.
In a moment of over-confidence, I declared that my Broodlord would lead the charge into the Stealth Suits. Again, the Shas’ui stood his ground, his Fusion Blaster hitting my Broodlord and dealing five wounds to take her down to her last wound! The Fire Warriors joined in with their For The Greater Good, and in a hail of Pulse Rifle fire my Broodlord fell. In an attempt to make up for my over-confidence and finish off the remaining T’au forces, my Hormagaunts and remaining Genestealer charged back into the fray. The Hormagaunts managed to kill a Fire Warrior and wound the Fireblade, but the few survivours of the T’au force still stood defiently.
Turn five complete – in the immortal words of Private Hudson, ‘Game over, man! Game over!’. Neither of us had managed to completely wipe out the other (despite some pretty heavy casualties on both sides of the board!), so it came down to objectives. Tom had killed my Warlord and rolled 2vp, while I rolled 3vp for killing his. Combined with my Trygon and Termagants holding two objectives, the game ended in a 7-2 victory for the Tyranids!
* * *
That was a really enjoyable game. From what I can tell after the first experience, 8th edition plays more neatly than 7th edition – it’s great having most of the rules included in the unit’s profile, and changes like the new WS and the removal of initiative help to speed the game up. On the latter one there, I was worried that was something I wouldn’t like, but with the reintroduction of the movement stat and ‘charging units go first’ it’s not such a big deal. Generally, fast units you’d expect to strike first (such as Genestealers and Hormagaunts, for example) have a high enough movement stat that they can basically dictate when and where they’ll get in melee, allowing them to strike first by virtue of charging. The psychic phase was another part of the game that stood out to me as a fantastic change – it’s far simpler to cast powers now, and (at least the Tyranid ones and Smite) feel more like you’re supporting and buffing your army rather than having your psykers run riot doing all the work!
So, what stood out in this game? The Fly ability being on so many battlesuits is incredible, allowing large parts of the T’au army to fall back from combat and still fire at full effectiveness – just as I’ve always envisioned them to do! It makes them a very mobile and hard-hitting army, since you can’t just tie them up in combat to avoid the damage they can (and will!) put out with those ranged weapons. The Broadsides and the Riptide in particular pack an awful lot of firepower, which is made even more potent by the ability to fire weapons at different targets nowadays. On the subject of my Tyranid army, I learnt that 12 wounds and toughness 6 are not enough by themselves to keep my beloved Swarmlord alive, and I still need to be more careful where I deploy her! The Hormagaunts and Genestealers are incredible combat units, and the Bounding Leap of the former is just amazing – perfect to charge one unit and then leap over them to engage two or three others without risking their overwatch! I can imagine that gunline armies without Fly will have to be very careful with their positioning, and Hormagaunts will be a priority unit for them to target. On the other side of the coin, I didn’t feel like I got much use out of the Spore Mines thanks to their slow movement, and the Gargoyles were a bit of a let-down (though I think I sent them at the wrong target, so that one may be on me – I was hoping to tie down the Broadsides, not expecting the Gargoyles to completely disappear within one turn!).
Well, that’s a quick write-up of my thoughts after the first game. Looking forward to Wednesday now, when my Tyranids get to hit the table again!