This past weekend my Tyranids took to the field for the first and second times. They did so closely supported by a Patrol Detachment of Genestealer Cults to make up the numbers (and who I had also never used before). The first game was against my friend Matt's Death Guard and the second against Tom's Imperial Guard. I lost both games but lessons were learnt.
For a start, I need more small things. The list I used included a unit of twenty Termagants, two units of ten Genestealers and a unit of ten Gargoyles. The Termagants did reasonably well in both games. I wasn't previously planning on using them as a deployed unit, the models I've been painting were originally planned as just something for my Tervigon to spit out and I didn't think the Tervigon would be much use with only a pool of twenty to generate. Contrary to my expectation they performed marvelously so it looks like I'll be trawling eBay for more of the cheap little fellows so I can have a unit to set up and plenty for the Tervigon to spit out.
The Genestealers did very well against the Death Guard, finally destroying my eternal nemesis the Blightlord Terminators and even took his Lord Of Contagion down to one wound (a personal best) before I got tabled. Obviously, against Guard they were shot to pieces and of the twenty only three made their contact with the enemy. I have plenty of spare Genestealers thanks to Tom donating an old and long unused Tyranids army to the project so fifteen man (insect) units are definitely something I'm going to work on.
Similarly, taking Neophyte Hyrbids at maximum unit strength would both help them survive and give me more shotguns. The two heavy weapons and two special weapons slots are nice but in a ten man unit you do start taking them off rather quickly. Plus, with only a Patrol Detachment to fill (I don't see the Cults running to a complete army in the near future) a large unit is preferable to two small ones.
I like having lots of psykers! In the army I had a Hive Tyrant, a Neurothrope and a Genestealer Magos. Usually I confine myself to a single psyker but between what I had to hand and the fact its a pretty common character rule in the army I ended up with the ability to manifest five powers and deny three.
I really need to remember that Shadow In The Warp is a rule that exists, however.
Less of a lesson learnt and more a lesson I already knew but had not power to exploit: I need to get burrowing units to exploit the Hive Fleet Jormungandr command stratagem that allows me to set up Infantry unit in their tunnels. That said, I would have lost the game against Tom one hell of a lot sooner if not for the enhanced cover saves from Hive Fleet Jormungandr's inate ability.
I love my Venomthropes but they don't love me. I need to put some real thought into how to best exploit them. They are not really combat bio-forms, I am beginning to feel. Rather than charging them in I need to work out how to best exploit their short range Toxic Miasma and Toxic Lashes abilities. My instinct, especially with an army like this, is to rush headlong into combat. An effective tactic against the Death Guard, to be sure, as it neuters their heavy firepower but Imperial Guard have a hell of a lot more guns and lose a lot less Ballistic Skill when firing Overwatch. I may start looking into some of the Heavy Support bio-forms but that will be after experimenting with the burrowers. Tom is very good at managing his backfield to minimise the places I can deep strike into.
Lictors are fantastic. I have to remember I have one in reserve and they are a bit of a glass cannon but they are fantastic character assassins which is what they were always intended to be.
As to the Genestealer Cults: what I took was pretty much just to paper over gaps in the main detachment. I had no Tyranids Heavy Support so Matt lent me a couple of Leman Russ and an Armoured Sentinel. There's no way I can describe two Leman Russ as a bad power level investment but I feel they'd work better in synergy with more Cults infantry. As it was they were useful but pretty much fighting their own battle separate from the rest of my army.
My Metamorph Hybrids didn't make it to combat in either game and I'm obscurely glad, to be honest. They have so many weapons options and I have no idea what half of them did. I need to have a sit down with the Cults list and properly learn at least some of the basic weapons do for this army.
I love the webber, by the way, which is worth its weight in gold against Plague Marines. Rolling to wound against Strength instead of Toughness is fantastically useful.
Imperial Guard shooting is my nemesis now, which is fine because its meant to be, and I really need to work on neutralising that advantage.
Whatever else I might have learnt (or not) from these games I've learnt that I really enjoy playing Tyranids. The Cults I am less sold on but I admit the spread of units I took for the Patrol Detachment wasn't the best combination or particularly representative of the army's main tactics. The Tyranids are fast and vicious when they get into close combat which is my favourite phase of the game. I need to concentrate a little more on shooting just to keep the enemy busy in the turns before I start clashing them up with talons and claws but I feel I am starting to get a handle on things.