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Tyranid Close Combat Micromanagement

Submitted By: Date: May 5, 2006, 12:00:00 AM Views: 4418
Summary: <p class="heading">I. Introduction</p> <p class="body">Tyranids are commonly considered a very straightforward and simple army, besides the synapse part. This is a common misconception based on their general close combat preferance, which often is seen as a "no brainer". Our opponents rarely realize that there are a lot of subtle details that contribute to the success of a tyranid army, mostly because we simply don't tell them about these, and they eventually don't realize that certain things happened on purpose instead of random chance.<br /> <br /> The following micromanagement suggestions are based on 4th edition 40K, using the „old“ 3rd edition codex. While the upcoming new codex will change certain wargear and statlines, most of these tactics certainly will remain valid in one form or another.<br /> In some cases i might seem to contradict myself. This happens because i generalize the tactical situation, and depending on the strengths and abilities of your and the opponent's models which are involved in the respective situation things can differ a lot. In other cases such as "frontal assaults" a previously disadvantageous way to charge can be turned into an advantageous one by applying some refinements and following other intentions than just to kill as much as possible, which i will introduce gradually here.</p>

II. Distances

First off, you need to carefully estimate the assault ranges of the different units, and in which order to move them into base contact. Being able to do this accurately is a key skill for tyranid players, and many of the following tactics depend on it. Knowing the precise dimensions of pieces of terrain  which you frequently use is a great help, so you have something to compare the distances to.

III. Charging

Charging the same enemy unit with several own ones happens very often in a game with tyranids. There are several thing to consider in order to optimize the effect and reduce the own casualties.

Leaping (!) tyranids of different types are shown in red, their position before the charge is light red. Marines are blue. The dark blue one is a squad character with power fist – located in the back in order to be able to avoid base contact with monstrous creatures which would be able to pick him off. He can contribute his attacks from the second line.

3.1 Avoiding Power Fists


If you charge straight forward as one probably would do in this case, you would have to move the warriors first, as you otherwise probably wouldn't be able to reach base contact to the enemy with them anymore, as the gaunts use up all the space.

Still, this won't leave you in a good position. Many of the marines will be able to strike back, and the sarge will be able to direct his attacks against the warriors unless you kill enough marines before he can strike. This is caused by the rule which forces you to start the charge with moving your closest model to the closest enemy – which happens to be one with the sarge in support range.
A part of this problem is not difficult to solve. There are three alternatives:

3.1.1 Flank Charge


Simply move the warriors slightly to the side before you assault, and move them in a way so that they are barely in assault range (preferably with only one model). It is important that all models which they can reach are further than 2“ away from the sarge. It also isn't a bad idea to line the warriors up, so that only one or two of them can actually reach that enemy model. The result will be that the sarge is unable to direct his attacks against the warriors, and they will leave few enemies that can strike back against them in general.

3.1.2 Blocking Space


The other version works similar. This time you have to guess the distance for the gaunts, and it works by blocking the space with gaunts, so that the warriors cannot reach base contact with those enemies that you want to avoid, even though they otherwise would be able to do so (different to 1.). This leaves you a slightly bigger margin for errors, as you get to measure the precise distance to the enemy unit when you move the first model, and the following ones can be moved in any order that you desire.

3.1.3 Tying Up


If there is more than 1“ between the enemy models, simply move one gaunt into base contact with the sarge. Then the sarge will be forced to direct his attacks against the gaunts.


3.2 Frontal or Flank Assault

As mentioned before, if you frontally assault an enemy unit many enemies will be able to strike back. This is a double edged sword. If the enemy wants to strike back at a lower initiative, then he has to leave at least one model in base contact to yours. If he doesn't, then you won't be able to pursue and wipe them out, they can flee freely. In case of a frontal assault there is a chance that you simply don't even kill enough models for your opponent to be able to remove all of those that you have base contact to.

If you do a flank assault, then there is a good chance that you wipe out all enemy models in the kill zone, taking away this choice/chance from your opponent. This can turn out to be a disadvantage to you, even though no enemy can strike back.

3.2.1 Which Flank


In the above scenarios the warriors attacked one side of the enemy, while the gaunts assaulted frontally. In case that you are able to choose the side from which the warriors are supposed to attack, the rest of the enemy army is the decisive factor. If there are other units or models with power fists or other weapons which are dangerous to your medium or big bugs around and about to counter charge, make sure that there are only gaunts and gargoyles on their side – rather disposable stuff. Meanwhile the warriors can rip apart the other flank, and hopefully kill enough to make you win the close combat.


On the other hand, if the unit which is about to counter charge has very few chances to harm a hive tyrant or carnifex and it is not suitable for tying it up with a horde of cheap troops either, then it would be a good idea to place your monstrous one between the gaunts and that other unit which is about to counter charge. While the loss of gaunts wouldn't hurt us much, it certainly is not desired either though, and it can make your opponent count as the winner of the close combat, taking away your chance to make him fall back and to pursue.
Often it won't be possible to completely screen the gaunts against the charge, but at least you can hold some enemies off with the monstrous creature, which then cannot direct their attacks against the gaunts.

3.3 Assaulting Multiple Enemy Units At Once


It can be advantageous to assault two enemy units at once, one of them being barely involved in the close combat. This will silence the second unit's guns, and save you from their counter charge bonus attack. If you assault with more than one of your units, then make sure that only one of them has base contact to the enemy unit,so that the others still can pursue the primary target if it fails the morale test after losing the close combat even if the second unit passes. This works particularly well if you use montrous creatures in that assault, as these make it easy for you to accumulate an enormous outnumbering morale penalty for the opponent – of which both enemy units are affected. Still, since the numbers of the other hardly attacked unit counts too, you will need a lot of stuff in order to accumulate a proper outnumbering penalty (psychic scream might be a good idea), but it's worth it. You can potentially wipe out the second enemy unit by pursueing it without having killed a single model of it with normal attacks. Keep in mind that you need to keep base contact with at least one of their models. Remove your own casualties accordingly.

IV. Overkilling a Kill Zone


Even though this will reduce your number of kills, it can be advantageous to overkill a specific kill zone. This is a good idea if it helps you to ensure that a specific dangerous model such as a power fist wielding sarge has to be removed too. Be warned: If you fail to do so, then the consequences might be messy.

In the above drawing i have shown the kill zones of the warriors and the tyrant with those circles. The tyrant and the warriors cleans up the kill zone, the opponent is forced to remove the power fist sarge with them as nothing else can have been hit.Even if you kill all but one of then models in the combined kill zones you are safe of the power fist in that turn:

The power fist character would have to be removed if the model in base contact with the tyranids was supposed to survive, and if the character is supposed to survive then the model in base contact would have to be removed, thus denying the power fist attacks too.

In this case move the tyrant into base contact with that sarge in your pile in move (in your turn you are the one who piles in first), in order to be able to pick him off directly with your tyrant next turn.

Another use of overkill is to ensure that you don't finish off the opponent within a single assault phase, leaving you unprotected during his shooting phase. By limiting your potential number of kills you can improve your chances to wipe out roughly one half to two thirds of the enemy unit without something being able to strike back, and you can finish it off or at least break it during their own next assault phase with minimal own casualties. There is a risk that your opponent will be able to flee though, without you being able to chase him down as you don't have models in base contact left. In order to balance out this risk you should assault in a way so that at least 50% of his unit is killed, so he at least won't be able to regroup anymore unless your opponent happens to play marines. Of course this risk doesn't really exist in case of fearless opponents, only those additional armour saves which they have to take in case of being outnumbered and having lost the close combat can eventually end the close combat if no more than three of them survived and all fail the saving roll.

If you use large gaunt hordes to accomplish this, then you once again need to carefully estimate the distance to the enemy unit before charging, and move them in a way so that they simply cannot reach more enemies than you want with their full charge range.

V. Independent Characters In or Near Enemy Units

In 4th edition, Independent Characters always fight as an independent unit in close combat, regardless if they have joined another unit or even have a retinue which they cannot leave. Treat them exactly like the squad characters in the above scenarios, with the single exception that you do not have to watch out for a 2" support range – they require their very own base contact to make attacks. Avoiding base contact with them on the charge is sufficient to deny them to attack. But be careful: If the Independent Character is only near the enemy unit and not a part of it, then he will not get tied up in that assault, and he will be able to move to a position where he can charge exactly what he wants to attack next turn. In this case it will be a better idea to sacrifice some gaunts to his attacks than to have e.g. a librarian with furious charge and lightning claws take apart your warriors or even your hive tyrant in his next assault phase.


VI. The Order of Resolving Attacks


Personally i like to use leaping gaunts with I5. These can strike together with the warriors, before the enemy marines get to strike back.

However, despite of the fact that they count as striking at the same time, the order in which you resolve their attacks can matter. This is caused by the overlapping kill zones.

If you resolve the gaunt attacks first, then the enemy might draw the casualties from the warriors' smaller kill zone. This can render the warriors' attacks useless, as they eventually have nothing left to kill. If you let the warriors attack first, then the enemy has to remove the casualties from the limited kill zone, and there definitely will be plenty of models left to be killed by the gaunts.

In order to maximize your number of kills you should always resolve those attacks that suffer of a small kill zone first, if it is being overlapped by a larger one.

Note that technically it would not be legal for your opponent to remove the models from the warrior's kill zone as casualties caused by the gaunts due to the attacks counting as happening simultaneously, but this avoids accidental removal of those models due to the fact that in practice the attacks usually are not resolved all at once, but unit by unit.

A similar and rulewise perfectly legal situation in which your opponent might take advantage occurs in case of mixed initiative values.

As an example, if you charge an enemy unit which includes a chaplain with a hive tyrant and a carnifex, then move the tyrant (striking before the carnifex) into contact with the chaplain to take him down, whereas the carnifex should have base contact with both the chaplain and another model . This way the carnifex can finish the job if the tyrant fails, but if the tyrant succeeds the carnifex still can strike something else. Of course this applies to all other types of units than monstrous creatures too.

If the tyrant does not allocate its attacks against a specific model, then you need to ensure that the carnifex has base contact to at least one model outside of the tyrant's kill zone. Otherwise your opponent can remove the models in base contact to the carnifex as casualties, so that it cannot fight at all once it's initiative value is due.

There can be a reason not to do this though. If all the enemy models outside of the high initiative model's kill zone are no further than 2" away from e.g. a power fist squad character with no disposable gaunts in base contact, then this would mean that this character can direct his attacks against the carnifex unless the carnifex' attacks are sufficient to kill at least all but one of the target unit's models within its kill zone (see the overkilling a kill zone section for the reason why it's all but one). Anyway, it's dangerous business to do so and it might be better to risk that the carnifex might not attack than to expose it to power fist attacks.

VII. Denying Attacks


In some gaming groups extensive use of the following might be considered to be power gaming. Don't overdo it.

Previously i have explained how tyranids can avoid having some of their attacks denied by an opponent who carefully chooses his casualties, which he will usually try if a carnifex is involved. This of course works both ways, and you can use it to great effect if your opponent has mixed initiative in his forces, in particular if HQ choices are involved. It is important to make sure that your opponent can't get into base contact with too many of your models though, and that all of these are inside the kill zone of the HQ character.

Denying the attacks of a power fist squad character is more difficult. You need to remove all models in base contact with all models of his unit within 2" of that character. Still, it often can be accomplished, particularly if the enemy unit just (counter-)charged you. This way the enemy power fist can be almost neutralized. Be careful though, if it's your opponent's turn, then he gets the first pile in move and eventually can move the power fist in base contact with a warrior or monstrous creature. In this case it will be better to leave a gaunt in base contact and to take some more gaunt casualties.

Removal of Casualties and Pile In Moves

If a powerfist wielding model has disposable gaunts in base contact and nothing else, then you should avoid removing all of these gaunts if possible – otherwise it will be able to move into base contact with one of your bigger bugs at the end of the assault phase. With nothing else but gaunts in base contact it is forced to attack the gaunts, and it can't move to more rewarding targets. Consider the need for fresh gaunts when you do your pile in moves, send a good share of them towards the power fist models so they remain busy with gaunts for a while.

Another thing to keep in mind is the need to be able to achieve base contact in order to charge. If another one of your units is about to charge next turn, then you of course need to enable it to reach base contact by removing the casualties in your opponent's assault phase accordingly. However, the mandatory pile in moves might force you to close the gaps again, so choose these casualties carefully. There should be no other second line models around which are close enough to reach the gap with their pile in move and which do not have a pile in opportunity in another direction towards a different gap that has formed elsewhere.

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