The Imperial lines were quiet. A soft dawn mist rolled over the empty fields, shrouding the scattered trees and rocky outcrops in a swirling fog.
Along the rockrete fortifications, black-armoured marines of the Holy Inquisition’s Deathwatch stood, weapons ready. Watch-Captain Artemis stood in the centre of the lines, his superhuman eyes scanning the mist-enshrouded field for any sign of movement. His team had received a report from a Red Scorpions garrison of a Tyranid attack earlier in the week – an attack the Astartes had repulsed, but Artemis had fought the Tyranid menace before and was well aware that this would hardly be an isolated attack. Evolve, adapt, survive – that was the Tyranid way. Cradling his Boltgun in his armoured hands, the Watch-Captain continued to scour the fields.
Out in the mist, amongst the trees and the rocks, six-limbed creatures silently crept forward towards the Imperial lines.
* * *
I had a second chance to play the Invasion! scenario for the Fate of Konor campaign, hoping to do what Tyranids do best – learn from their losses, evolve, and win! This time, my swarm would be taking on Mark’s Deathwatch for our Tale of Gamers battle this month. So, could my bugs overrun the Imperial lines this time?Mark didn’t manage to seize the initiative, leaving the Tyranids to go first again. The Genestealers bounded forward, along with the Broodlord, positioning themselves for a first-turn charge against the Assault Marines, Librarian and Venerable Dreadnought. Unleashing the psychic might of the Hive Mind, the Broodlord cast Smite on the Librarian – clearly unprepared for such a psychic assault, the Librarian failed to deny the power and took three mortal wounds! I decided to go heavy on the left flank, using the Swarmlord’s Hive Commander ability on one of my Carnifexes to allow it to move even closer to the Deathwatch lines. The Carnifex charged into a Rhino, wrecking the vehicle, while the Broodlord charged into the Dreadnought and the Genestealers charged the Librarian, the Assault Marines and the Dreadnought. Fearing the retaliation of the Counter-Attack stratagem I elected to attack with the Broodlord first, her Monstrous Rending Claws dealing a total of eight damage to the Venerable Dreadnought after its armour saves! However, the veteran Space Marine inside clearly had other ideas as he passed one of his 6+ saves, leaving him with one wound left. Mark elected to use the Counter-Attack stratagem, his Assault Marines ploughing into the Genestealers and crushing some of the xenos beneath their Thunder Hammers. In retaliation, the charging Genestealers took out the Librarian, the Assault Marines and the Dreadnought in a flurry of claws! Not a promising start for the Deathwatch, with four units down and three Tyranid units already on their side of the board.
Undeterred, Watch-Captain Artemis joined the fight personally. His Stasis Grenade hit the Carnifex dead on, dealing an impressive five mortal wounds! His fellow battle-brothers were quick to capitalise, the potent Hellfire rounds in their Boltguns bringing the Carnifex down. Other squads blazed away into the Genestealers, taking down more of the four-armed creatures, while the remaining Rhino drove straight forward towards the Hormagaunts. Guns blazing, the driver ploughed the vehicle straight into the advancing Hormagaunts, crushing one of the gaunts under the tracks! The bounding creatures leapt around the vehicle to retaliate, but their Scything Talons struggled to find any weak spots and they only caused a single wound. Behind the Tyranid lines, a Drop-Pod thundered into the ground, and the Deathwatch Veterans strode forth, their heavy weapons blazing. The Zoanthropes threw up their Warp Field against the blizzard of fire, but the elite Adeptus Astartes were used to such xenos trickery, their accurate fire killing one of the psychic creatures. Seeking to hold up parts of the Tyranid advance, the Razorback charged into the Genestealers while the remaining Rhino continued to hold the Hormagaunts in place, doing a stellar job as it crushed another one and only took one wound in return! The Tyranids ignored the Deathwatch Veterans behind them, the driving will of the Hive Mind pressing them forward into the Imperial lines. The Termagants scuttled forward into a ruined bunker, now able to bring both their Devourers and some of the Fleshborers into range. A hail of living ammunition rained upon the Deathwatch and, while their 2+ save from being in cover held firm, one Marine was still killed by the volley of fire. Hissing a challenge against the valiant Watch-Captain Artemis, the Swarmlord prepared herself to charge him… only for me to roll one inch less than I needed to engage him. Not to worry, I only need a seven on two dice and I want this epic commander showdown to happen, I’ll just spend a command point to re-roll that two… and roll a one. As fate had decreed that this epic warlord duel was not to be, I charged Artemis with the Broodlord, while the Genestealers piled in to the Razorback. Their Rending Claws tore through the armour, but the tank held firm with two wounds left. Meanwhile, the Broodlord’s Rending Claws flickered out, met by Artemis’s glowing Power Sword. Blade met claw as the two duelled, but the inhuman speed of the Broodlord won out as she cut Artemis down.
The Imperial lines were starting to crumble, but these Astartes were the inscrutable members of the Ordo Xenos Deathwatch – the best of the best, long used to the horrors of the xenos. Mark’s Veterans in my back field continued to punish the Zoanthropes, their heavy weapons firepower taking down another of the psychic Tyranids. The surviving Deathwatch Marines manning the barricades focused their fire on the remaining Carnifex, their Hellfire rounds punching through its carapace and taking some wounds. The Razorback was finally destroyed by the Genestealers, though the Rhino continued to hold the Hormagaunt brood in place as it lost a single wound yet again!
The Termagants scuttled into the Imperial deployment zone, their weight of fire killing most of a Deathwatch squad and leaving one Plasma Gunner alive. Determined to engage the enemy this time, my Swarmlord moved up close to a Deathwatch combat squad before charging into them. The xenos-hunters Boltguns dealt a wound, but one of the nearby Tyrant Guard leapt in the path of the shot. Bone Sabres flickered out, and the Swarmlord stood victorious over the corpses of the squad. Enraged by the wounds it had taken, the surviving Carnifex charged into the last Deathwatch squad, killing a Marine but taking more wounds in return from their Power Sword and Xenophase Blade. Faced with the horde of Termagants and having just seen the nearby Swarmlord butcher his battle-brothers, the lone Plasma Gunner failed his morale check and fled.
With precious few models left, the Deathwatch bravely resolved to take as many bugs as they could with them. The Veterans fired their weapons at the lone surviving Zoanthrope, but it had floated out of the range of some of their weapons and those that could reach it weren’t able to penetrate the psychic barrier around it. The Astartes in combat with the Carnifex fared better, dealing more wounds to the creature but sadly unable to finish it off.
And with that, we had run out of time for the evening and the game came to a close in an 11-1 victory for the Tyranids. The Deathwatch had fought bravely, but the sheer number of Tyranid units who had managed to cross the centreline tipped the vp rather alarmingly.
From my side of the table, I think it went wrong for the Deathwatch when the Genestealers were able to charge three units at once due to their close proximity to one another. I usually try to deploy my Genestealers last so I can place them opposite whatever I want them to kill, and they’re just so darn fast that they can be on an opponent before you know what’s happened. Having three units next to one another like that made for a very disruptive charge as opposed to, say, if the Genestealers had only been able to charge the Assault Marines and not the Dreadnought. We’re still in the early days of 8th edition, too, so it’s always a bit confusing facing a new army for the first time – and I don’t think most people expect Tyranids to be quite as fast as they are! I still get surprised by armies in 8th – I didn’t expect T’au to be as mobile as they are with all those battlesuits!
* * *
My Tale of Gamers force, as of the end of July, stands at:
3 Tyrant Guard with Scything Talons & Rending Claws
30 Termagants including 10 Devourers
2 Carnifexes with Devourers, Scything Talons and Thresher Scythes.
I’ll try and do some group shots sometime soon! In the meantime, my Hive Fleet has managed to acquire enough bio-mass to keep growing, and is now headed towards Konor itself…