Big eaters – a look at the new Tyranids

I realise I still owe you part three of my 2013 review. No worries, it’s still coming, but I want to do it justice, event though I may run the risk of it being totally outdated by the time I get around to posting it. But while we are all waiting for my creative juices to get flowing, why not take a look at the new Tyranids in the meantime?

Tyranid release (1)
The Tyranids have sometimes been dubbed “Alien Dinosaurs”, and it’s a strangely fitting description. Sure, they are taking design cues left and right from sci-fi staples like Giger’s Xenomorph, the bugs from Starship Troopers and many other slimy and chitinous monstrosities we know and love. But in order to make a range of creatures into an army, there also has to be a pecking order of sorts, an ecology of bigger and smaller creatures that nevertheless need to look like they are part of the same species, at least at the basic level.

Getting this particular element right took GW quite a while: The Tyranids started out as a wildly disparate race, with models that shared very little common ground except for a general “alien-ness”. There were also enslaved races (like the Zoats) and genetic “infection” of other races (the Genestealer cults, only added into the Tyranid background after the fact, IIRC), the latter possibly leading to the general idea that the Tyranids as a race would make use of their prey’s genetic makeup. So a pretty large redesign during the late 90s/early 2000s saw the codifying of some common anatomical traits (the six limbs, the bone protusions on the forehead) as well as the idea of mirroring characteristics of certain races in the different creatures’ design. Since then, this has been the basic design template for the Tyranid race. Tyranid players received a new model here and there, but things had grown rather quiet for the fans of omnivorous alien gribblies. And now, a new release that finally brings the Tyranids up to snuff for the 6th edition. So, what have we got here?

Harpy / Hive Crone

Tyranid release (2)
Most Tyranid players were dearly hoping for a big flying creature, I suppose, in order to get their part of this new aircraft fad. The Harpy / Hive Crone neatly fills this role, giving us…well, a huge, flying Tyranid creature.

The model features all the hallmarks ofย  Tyranid design, while also striking a pretty good balance between a living creature and an attacking aircraft. If anything, I’d say it adheres to the design formula a bit to closely, essentially making the model look quite a bit like a flying Carnifex, but that might just be me:

Tyranid release (3)I’ve always felt slightly ill at ease with the idea of flying Tyranids not having any kind of hind legs (to serve as landing gear, as it were): It just seems biologically dubious to have a flying organism that has no way whatsoever to land and then take off again. But then, this might actually become a bit of fridge brilliance when you imagine that those creatures are either intended to deliver their payload to the battlefield and then get back to the mothership to be reabsorbed, or the Hive Mind doesn’t even expect them to survive their first attack run in gthe first place, in which case any legs would be surplus to requirements anyway. It’s a small detail that actually begins making more sense the longer you think about it ๐Ÿ˜‰

The one thing that doesn’t make sense, however, is the fact that the wing membranes have these open spaces instead of being fused to the creature’s carapace, as can be seen here:

Tyranid release (4)
Now I am not a biology major, of course, but it just seems off to me for some reason. Maybe there’s an explanation (apart from the requirements of the model’s production process)?

Anyway, the other option to assemble the kit gives us a slightly different weapons loadout and a bioconstruct that’s named Hive Crone:

Tyranid release (6)
This version of the kit definitely gets a thumbs up in the extra grossness department, what with the fleshy ammo feed running directly through the creature’s mouth. Ewww…

And there’s the way those evil little spore mines (or whatever they are) attach to the underside of the wings. You have got to love that attention to detail…

Tyranid release (7)

A (smaller gripe) I have with the kit is that, while we do get different head variants for both builds, the heads still end up very similar – not only to each other, but also to the rest of the bigger Tyranid creatures’ heads:

Tyranid release (5)
Visual consistency notwithstanding, this seems like a bit of a missed opprtunity.

All in all, Tyranid players get a big flying monster that looks more or less like everyone expected. No more and no less.

 

Haruspex / Exocrine

It falls to the release’s second big monster to feature some kind of craziness, and boy does it deliver:

Tyranid release (11)
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! We’ll take a closer look at that maw in a second. Before that, let me just say that I am certainly not going to lament the fact that neither the Haruspex nor the Endocrine look anything like their Epic 40,000 forefathers, because those models really didn’t look like anything, and they also came from a time where the only unifying characteristic of all Tyranid kits seemed to be that they all looked completely different and highly disparate.

Their updated versions conform to the basic design outline for the Tyranids once more, which is probably for the best.

So, back to the elephant in the room: The Haruspex’s gaping map (that clearly reminds me of a certain scene from Beetlejuice, by the way):

Tyranid release (12)
So yeah, this is certainly something different, an element not seen so far in the army. Good job! While the look may be a bit of an acquired taste, I think the mout cavity certainly offers painters around the world a very good chance to really let rip with their colours and gloss varnish, in order to create something truly disturbing. After having the Tervigon model actually give birth to Gaunts, this was probably just the next logical step…

There’s one problem with the model, if you ask me, and that’s the fact that the whole layout of the maw, including the tongue, seems to be perfectly symmetrical. Take a look:

Tyranid release (13)
I think some of those “feelers” (for lack of a better word) should have been a little less symmetrical. And the tongue might have looked better if it had been coiled in a more erratic way. Again, this might be due to the production requirements, but an organic horror could have used a little more visual chaos, if you ask me.

Since this is yet another multi-kit, it can also be assembled to make an Exocrine:

Tyranid release (8)
There’s not much to be said about this one: It’s basically a giant walking cannon, and the design nicely communicates that. In fact, my one gripe with this guy is the head, once again: It really doesn’t look all that threatening, but rather cartoony, if you ask me.

Tyranid release (10)
It feels like this model would really have profited from a more sinister design: What about an eyeless head? Seeing how the Tyranid cannons seem to be covered in eyeballs anyway (which is a bit of a strange concept, come to think of it…), wouldn’t it have been cool for the model to actually feature an eyeless head? It would have been fun to imagine by which senses the creature does its actual targeting. Instead, we get yet another rehash of the Carnifex look, only that this particular head looks far less interesting than all of the heads from the Carnifex kit for some reason.

Again, the kit gives Tyranid players what they were looking for, although it doesn’t seem all that surprising (apart from that Haruspex mouth region, of course) — do we see a theme emerging here?

 

Hive Guard / Tyrant Guard

The Hive Guard and Tyrant Guard were only available in metal and Finecast so far, so making both unit types into a plastic combi-kit seems like a very sensible choice indeed! But do they hold up to their older incarnations?

Tyranid release (14)
The Hive Guard took a hit, if you ask me, but that’s because I really loved the older version:

Tyranid-release-21
When seen in silhouette, the model just looks perfectly proportioned to me — well, as perfectly proportioned as is possible for an alien horror, of course, but I think you get my point. Much of the effect relies on the dynamic between the head and the carapace above, that seems to act almost as a cowl of some sort. The new version has a more recessed head and gives the Hive Guard a slightly more hunched pose. Not all that different, to be sure, but it somehow ends up looking more awkward than the older version, at least in my opinion.

Tyranid release (16)
And again with the eyes… I mean, I get it: These weapons are symbiotes, creatures of their own. But why would they have eyes? I realise that this is a characteristic that can be found on nearly all the Tyranid kits, but I only realise now that it seems like a strange choice somehow…

Then again, I might have the answer to that one:

Tyranid release (15)
Buddy, I realise you are doing your best to hit the opponent, and even though the cocentration is clearly evident in your face, shooting without eyes seems like a pretty bad idea…

Seriously, though, I actually like the eyeless head! It makes the model look more alien — there is a reason why Giger designed the Xenomorph without eyes, I suppose…

So while the Hive Guard gets the short stick in this particular deal, the Tyrant Guard are much improved:

Tyranid release (17)
Where the Hive Guard look more awkward, these guys have finally come into their own thanks to the slight overhaul: They seem more massive and threatening. And I like that they now seem able to actually do something with their frontore legs, even if it is only seen on one of the models:

Tyranid release (18)
A lovely detail, that ๐Ÿ˜‰

All in all, I am going to call this an improvement. Sure, that subtle bit of extra coolness on the Hive Guard is lost, but considered the improved Tyrant Guard and versatility that comes with a plastic kit, it seems like a fair deal. Definitely one of the high points of this relase for me!
Tyranid Warriors

Tyranid release (19)
These one are not exactly a surprise: The design remains the same, but the new kit finally gives us all the weapon options we need — and then some. Yet while the added flexibility when arming them is a big plus, it’s not easy to get all that excited over the models, seeing how these are exactly the same designs as before.

As an extra bonus, the kit also contains the parts needed to build a Tyranid Prime:

Tyranid release (20)
It’s a bread and butter kit for any Tyranid player, so the selection of bitz is clearly a step forward. Then again, the kit also seems to have received quite a price hike. The sensible compromise seems to be that the new kit contains far more weapons than you’ll need for three models, so for those of you who still have lots and lots of the older models lying around, getting a box of these for the equipment options should last you a while.

 

Conversion potential

Hmm, this one’s a toughy… The very firm design guidelines in place for the Tyranids mean that all the parts from the kit will always look like Tyranid parts. That said, I suppose there are some uses for the new bitz if you’re feeling slightly adventurous:

The wings and tentacles as well as some parts of the carapaces might come in handy for your daemon conversion needs, especially for Slaaneshi daemons. There’s a certain combination of elegance and grossness in the Tyranid design that should nicely fit the servants of the Dark Prince. For the same reason, some of the parts would probably work like a charm to convert flesh-constructs for your Dark Eldar army: There are some hobbyists who are using Tyranid appendages to great effect when converting their Grotesques and Taloi (among them Mechanicum Jon with his beautiful Cabal of the Drowned Gardens), so I guess that might be a good use for all those bitz as well.

And it goes without saying that Tyranid players should find it easy to use some of those leftover bitz to make the rest of their army more interesting.
I’ll go out on a limb here, though, and state that this doesn’t seem like a release overflowing with cool new conversion bitz. But if you have fantastic ideas, you’re very welcome to prove me wrong — maybe I’m just lacking the necessary creativity here…

 

All in all, this release seems like aย  solid effort, yet one that is also far from groundbreaking: It’s great that the new release (and the new rules) will bring the ‘Nids up to snuff with the requirements of 6th edition, giving them stuff that seems to be standard nowadays (a flyer, for example). But it feels like this release lacks any real surprises: No bold reinvisioning, no huge kit, no characters (for obvious reasons). It’s a necessary update, but mostly one without any bells and whistles.

Let me also point out that one thing I would love to see for the future is a more fleshed out concept for Genestealer cults: In my opinion, these are one of the most interesting aspects about the Tyranids, and the one area where the Tyranids can actually transcend the – very obvious – source material that went into their creation. There’s also the fact that a Genestealer cult offers all kinds of crazy conversion opportunities (and a lot of potential when it comes to INQ28). Granted, the main codex release might not have been the perfect place to revitalise this rather specific background element. But I think it’s a shame how Genestealer cults have more or less fallen by the wayside, and a dataslate or supplement release would be a fantastic way of reintroducing them into the game, if only for those who like that particular element of 40k lore.

Oh, and one more thing: What I am really looking forward to is to see these kits with a very different paintjob: In my opinion, Tyranids should look more visceral, more disgusting: I want lots of glistening carapaces, distended fleshy parts and huge amounts of gloss and slime. All of this is lacking in the “official” ‘Eavy Metal treatment of the army. They are beautifully painted, make no mistake! But I think a more realistic treatment would go a big ways towards making the new models look slightly less cartoony and far more disturbing!

 

So, what’s your take on the new models? Were you, like me, ever so slightly underwhelmed? Or am I being unfair here? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section!

And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

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5 Responses to “Big eaters – a look at the new Tyranids”

  1. Your review is pretty much spot on. A decent effort but a bit lacking. The fact that the Haruspex strongly resembles the Muthalit vortex beast kind of made it a bit boring to me…

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