Original of the species? A look at the Tyranid second wave

Actually the first army to be overhauled in 2014, the Tyranids have received a second wave of releases. Because nothing says Christmas quite as succinctly as a boatload of vicious, slimy alien dinosaurs, right? 😉 So let us take a look at this latest bunch of kits and talk about the ups, the downs, the ins and the outs — and, as always, let’s also consider the conversion options.

One thing that seems noticeable right off the bat is how each of the three new kits serves as a multi-kit, allowing for two distinct kinds of assembly, thereby multiplying the different types of creatures you can get out of this release. It might be argued that Tyranids lend themselves to this treatment particularly well, but in any case, this is really a nice bit of synergy! But are the kits themselves any good? Let’s find out?
Toxicrene/Maleceptor

Tyranid Release 2014 (1)
First up, another big creature: The first kit in line will produce two kinds of hulking beasts, and the first of those is the Toxicrene, obviously the oversized lovechild of a Lictor and a Carnifex. Now even after having taken some time to grow familar with the creature, it still feels slightly awkward to me for some reason — I think it has something to do with the combination of the massive body and those many thin tentacles?

Speaking of which, the Toxicrene unfortunately shares one of my main points of criticism with the Haruspex kit: Once again, the tentacles on both sides of the model seem strangely symmetrical.

Tyranid Release 2014 (2)
Now while this may have something to do with visual balance, you still have to ask yourselves: What are the odds…?

One of my other gripes has been addressed, though: The creature’s head isn’t yet another tired rehash of the Carnifex look, but rather a tentacled abomination closer to the Lictor or Yrmgarl Genestealer:

Tyranid Release 2014 (3)
It’s an interesting concept, to be sure, although I cannot help feeling that the Cthulhu effect loses some of its effectiveness at this size.

I really like the foreclaw resting on the downed Terminator, though:

Tyranid Release 2014 (6)
All in all, I am not quite sure what to make of this creature: It somehow seems like the designers were cycling through a collection of the various Tyranid design elements and at random and came up with a rather peculiar combination, then said “Oh, what the heck?” and sent the result off to be produced. There are some cool touches to the model, but it does seem strange and ungainly, and I may just have to call it one of the less successful big Tyranid creatures.

But there’s also the option of assembling the model as a Maleceptor:

Tyranid Release 2014 (8)
I like this guy quite a bit better than the Toxicrene for some reason — maybe it’s due to the fact that I really have a thing for eyeless heads on Tyranid models?!

Anyway, once again, the model seems like a recombination of existing visual elements — and actual Tyranid creatures: The Maleceptor resembles nothing so much as a missing link between a Carnifex and Zoanthrope, if you ask me, and it seems like that is a pretty apt description of its battlefield role as well.

Like I said, the head is really my favourite part of the model, because it’s so sinister and Gigeresque:

Tyranid Release 2014 (11)
The bits of Tyranid brain matter are also a pretty nice touch, of course. Then there’s the fact that the model does have a rather striking silhouette if seen from the side.

But some of the awkwardness remains, to be honest: The Maleceptor may look quite a bit better than the Toxicrene, but once again, the whole kit has the slight feel of a randomly generated creature with some odd elements sticking out at awkward angles. A big creature like this should possibly be the high point of a release — but that’s not the case here, at least not for me…

 

Sporocyst/Tyrannocite

Tyranid Release 2014 (12)
Okay, this is where it gets more interesting! First things first: Both the Tyrannocite and Sporocyst variants of the kit are proof that an alien creature can be truly disgusting and disturbing even without any kind of head or face — kudos for that, GW!

As for the actual variants of the kit, let’s start with the Tyrannocite: This thing is basically a Space Marine drop pod by way of the Hive Mind’s hyper-evolution, and it perfectly embodies that look:

Tyranid Release 2014 (16)
I think it only really takes one look at this thing to instinctively understand that this is a drop pod, and that’s quite an achievement on the sculptors’ part! The thing is also brilliantly hideous, with tentacles and chitinous armour in all the right (or should that be: wonderfully wrong) places. And of course there’s that hideous lamprey mouth on top:

Tyranid Release 2014 (18)
The option to assemble the outer “limbs” of the Tyrannocyte in various poses is a nice bonus as well:

Tyranid Release 2014 (17)I am usually not at all excited in transport vehicles since, let’s face it, they tend to be some of the more boring kits (Rhino, anyone?). But the Tyrannocyte easily wins the award for the most exciting transport vehicle in quite a while! I really like this thing!

As with the other kits in this release, there’s also a second variant of the kit that will give you the Sporocyst and Mucolid Spore:

Tyranid Release 2014 (13)The Sporocyst mostly looks like a Tyrannocyte that has become a little more familiar with its surroundings. Most that was cool and disgusting about the Tyrannocyte remains, so this thing is looking pretty cool as well! I really like those “questing” tentacles at the bottom!

The really interesting part is the Mucolid Spore, though:

Tyranid Release 2014 (15)
First of all, the creature looks as though its lower body was made from the same parts that also form the lower parts of the Tyrannocyte — that is some nifty sprue engineering right there! But the spore itself is also very cool, with its hideous, fleshy head and lazily dangling tendrils:

Tyranid Release 2014 (14)
By all means, this should have been a pretty dull part of the release, but it ends up as one of the best parts for me! Certainly more interesting than the Toxicrene/Maleceptor, at least! And I also think that this kit will give you quite a bit of bang for the buck when it comes to the conversion options — but we’ll be getting to that…

 

Zoanthropes/Venomthropes

Tyranid Release 2014 (19)
Yet another multi-kit, and one that gives us two reasonably different squads to boot. First up, the Zoanthropes:

I’ll have to admit right up front that I haven’t been a huge fan of the last two incarnations of the Zoanthrope. Call me crazy, but I somehow preferred the old 2nd edition version that was basically an upgrade for a Tyranid warrior. The modern version with its huge cranium and atrophied, vestigial body seemed like a nice idea, but the sculpt itself just wasn’t quite there — especially in the case of the more recent version, where the creature’s tail was balancing awkwardly on some Tyranid growth emerging from the floor (compare Adam Wier’s very insightful look at the various Zoanthrope models)

However, with this third and latest iteration of the concept, GW have finally managed to sell me on the design: Not only have they strengthened the neck portion to make it more believable…

Tyranid Release 2014 (22)
…but the whole creature looks more balanced now. And I particularly like the added option for building a Neurothrope, both because it perfectly channels the look of the Doom of Malan’tai and because the resulting model looks like one creepy, hideous beast in his own right:

Tyranid Release 2014 (20)
Just look at that disgusting extra spine. Ewwww:

Tyranid Release 2014 (21)
I also think that the Neurothrope provides perfect villain material — I mean he/it just looks like an evil alien pupeteer, right?

All in all, the redesign/upgrade of the Zoanthropes in plastic form is quite successful. Good job!

As has been the case with the Hive Guad/Tyrant Guard, however, there’s a price to pay: You get some and you lose some, as we can see when we proceed to the kit’s other variant, the Venomthrope:

Tyranid Release 2014 (23)
Now, to be fair, that creature was always a bit of an acquired taste. Here’s the original version:

Tyranid Release 2014 (26) Kind of like a Lictor who watched too much tentacle hentai, if you ask me (ugh, there you go, Google, another tag to add to my blog…).

Erm, anyway, the one thing the new Venomthropes have over the old model is that they look a bit more balanced in their composition:

Tyranid Release 2014 (24)
But at the same time, there’s just an inherent goofiness to the model that’s just hard to ignore. Sure, many Tyranid creatures straddle a very fine line between the disturbing and the downright silly (some more successfully than others), but the Venomthrope just seems off to me. And the fact that the faces just seem somewhat…dorky doesn’t help of course:

Tyranid Release 2014 (23b)
You know what: I think the original concept for the creature was pretty flawed, and maybe it shouldn’t have received a plastic upgrade in the first place but rather been quietly pushed in front of a bus while no one was looking. I, for one, would have preferred a plastic Lictor to these strange creatures…

All in all, the kit seems like a bit of a mixed bag: If you’re going for the Zoanthropes, it’s great. The Venomthropes, not so much. But no one’s forcing you to build them, I guess…

 

Bonus Content: The Spawn of Cryptus

Tyranid Release 2014 (27)Okay, this guy is actually only available as part of the (probably already sold out) Shield of Baal boxed kit, but while we are talking about new Tyranid models anyway, we might as well throw him in, right?

Now you certainly don’t have to be a brain surgeon to realise that the model is a slightly dolled-up Space Hulk Broodlord — that much is blantantly obvious. And since the Broodlord was absolutely fantastic, the Spawn of Cryptus also has quite a lot going for it.

Here’s the thing, though: I actually think the changes to the model aren’t necessarily for the better. Take a look at the Space Hulk Broodlord:

Space Hulk Broodlord
In many ways, this is the quintessential Tyranid/Genestealer model: Sure, the Giger influence is plain to see, but the design goes beyond that and created an original piece. I have read in WD back in the day that this Broodlord was expressly designed as a kind of “end boss” for Space Hulk — and that’s precisely what he looks like: A vicious end boss, lurking at the heart of the derelict spacecraft.

The Spawn of Cryptus makes some minor changes to the formula, and it feels to me like they actually detract from the original vision: the smaller pair of arms was wonderful on the Space Hulk version, but on the Spawn of Cryptus, its posing gives the creature an “Ohhh, what have we here?” kind of look that’s really hard to unsee once you’ve noticed it. I also think the tech-y base with the pile of skulls was a much better way of basing the creature than some lame organic growth — even though it may have been more clichéd, of course.

All in all, the Spawn of Cryptus is still an amazing model and an excellent leader for the Tyranid detachment in Shield of Baal — but it does feel like a slightly inferior retread of an even better piece. In any case, however, it’s much better than the Blood Angels Captain that comes with the kit — that is one messy fusion of far superior Space Hulk models if ever there was one…

 

Conversion options

What I said in my last Tyranid review also holds true here: The anatomy of the Tyranids is very firmly defined by a set of design guidelines, which is very much a part of their appeal. But at the same time, those guidelines also make all the bitz very recognisably Tyranid. In spite of this, there may be some use for these new toys, even if you don’t have an actual Tyranid army:

  • I think the Mucolid Spore would make for an absolutely excellent alien creature that doesn’t neccessarily have to be Tyranid in nature: My instinctive reaction to the model was “Enslaver!”, for instance. In any case, such a creature would be a very interesting addition to every INQ28 (and even INQ54) collection, if you ask me.
  • By the same token, the rest of the Tyrannocyte/Sporocyst kit looks like it would be an interesting source for conversion material when it comes to building alien terrain and Gigeresque organic architecture — and maybe, just maybe, there’d be a use for some of these parts on Slaaneshi Daemon Princes and Greater Daemons as well?
  • Like I said earlier, the Neurothrope would work very well as the monster pulling the strings of a Xenos/Genestealer Cult — granted, it’s not a Genestealer Patriarch, but it does look like the hideous pupeteer behind an alien infestation and, as such, would make an excellent “boss monster” for INQ28 or Necromunda.
  • And while we’re talking of Genestealer cults, the Spawn of Cryptus would be just as great as the monster at the heart of a cult as the Space Hulk Broodlord, of course…
  • And finally, an idea that may seem a bit out there: The Maleceptor’s body could maybe be used as the base for a huge daemon beast/Maulerfiend, with quite a bit of work?! There’s something peculiar and almost statuesque in its profile that might warrant further exploration, if you’re feeling adventurous… 😉

 

Like the first 2014 Tyrandid wave, I’ll call this a fairly solid – if mostly unsurprising – release. The big creature is a bit of a disappointment, and the Venomthropes are, frankly, pretty terrible. On the other hand, we get what may be one of the most interesting transport vehicles in the entirety of 40k as well as a very viable and interesting redesign of the Zoanthrope. If seen together with the first wave release, this actually becomes quite a competent package of new kits — still no Genestealer Cult, though, what a crying shame…

But seriously, I am not a Tyranid fan, so that may explain my relative lack of enthusiams. On the whole, though, I think Tyranid players were treated pretty fairly in 2014. And some of the kits are even legitmately interesting beyond their army of origin.

But what do you think? Do you like the new kits or do you find them disappointing? Or do you have any additional conversion ideas to share? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section?

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

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10 Responses to “Original of the species? A look at the Tyranid second wave”

  1. greggles Says:

    I love how you have taken these releases and looked at them under an artists scrutiny. It is one of the reasons why I enjoy your blog so much. It is always about the models and sculpts first and forthmost!

    I would have to say my favorite of the models is the neothrope guy, and the muculoid spores as well…but I do REALLY love the awesome tentacles from the toxicrene…though it makes it nearly impossible to actually play with (it just knocks everything over). It’s such a dynamic and gigantic model.

    One thing to really mention with some of these kits is the size…the spore pods are actually sized to make it feel like they could actually fit a giant creature inside of them (in some sort of embro sac). They are way larger then the photos make them seem!

    • Cheers, greggles! Glad you hear your enjoy these posts, as it’s quite a bit of work to get them sorted out 😉

      That’s an excellent point about the size, too! If anything, that aspect makes the model even more awesome — and who ever would have expected a drop pod to be awesome, right? 😉

  2. Got my last copy of Visions (literally last and won’t renew my subscription..). There the same miniatures are portrayed. I also agree that the MCs are really disappointing. Just look at the difference in the MCs and the drop pod thing for example. The first is borderline comical while the latter is something nasty out of a scary as shit dream. For me nids are not comical. They are and should be portrayed as a terrifying chittering horde of your worst nightmare.

  3. Aasfresser Says:

    First off: Great job. I really enjoy those posts.

    *smart ass mode: activated*
    “Speaking of which, the Toxicrene unfortunately shares one of my main points of criticism with the Haruspex kit: Once again, the tentacles on both sides of the model seem strangely symmetrical.”

    After reading this again, I have to tell you that for a biologist this is pretty obvious. It has to be that way, every animal is built according to a symmetrical plan (look up bilateria), asymmetry is a very hard to find treat in nature. And if you find it, it has a weird and complex evolutionary history and a very convoluted embryological development e.g. in snails where the initial symmetry is being undone. And although Tyranids are supposed to come from outside of our Galaxy, they still show bilateral symmetry on every other aspect of their appearance. So, if life functions outside our galaxy similarly as it does here on earth the odds to see such perfectly symmetrical creatures are quite good.
    *smart ass mode: deactivated*

    The only problem I have with it, is that those tentacles are supposed to be in motion and the fact that they look weird is due to their synchronized movement. They managed that way better with the Venomthropes

    • There you go: That’s exactly what I meant! It’s not the symmetrical anatomy I am taking issue with, but rather the fact that the position of the tentacles looks like it’s been mirrored — thanks for pointing this out, though: I realise that this part was poorly worded.

      [On a semi-related note, if you’ll just allow me to activate my own smartass-mode: I hope we can all agree that very little about the Tyranids makes sense from a biologist’s perspective, but don’t get me started on that — your point still stands, though 😉 ]

      • Aasfresser Says:

        Ah, then I misunderstood you 😉
        I’m a biologist myself, so every time I read GW fluff about Tyranids I start twitching.

  4. Nice write up.

    I also like the vision mag. its not what i would like to have, but somehow i prefer to look at miniatures in a booklet instead on the internet only.

    I have the same problem with those mirrored tentacles too.
    But i guess its not that hard to change. Add some hot air form the hairdryer and slowly bend some of them and it will look way better.

    You worte that you miss a plastic lictor. Why not use a venomthorpe head on a warrior? Add a pair of the big MC scyting talons and voila, there you have a plastic lictor.

    Concerning the droppods. I think the are great. I never expected GW to do them.
    For me there is one thing on them that is not correct within the actual designline of the tyranid race.
    When you look at he chitinplates and the guns, there are only five of them. Yes five. Any other tyranid has six limbs. Thats basic tyranid design. And here its just five. No idea why they did that.
    Somehow i understand that the droppod kind of looks like the fivesidede marine counterpiece, but i would have prefered it the other way.

    so enough blabla.
    hrld

    • Cheers, mate!

      A valid point regarding the Lictor, although I have to say that I would disagree slightly: The warrior body doesn’t seem quite lithe enough to really work as a Lictor (although it could be possible to change that), and the Venomthrope head just seems slightly awkward to me — ultimately, it probably boils down to personal taste, though.

      You make an interesting point about the number of limbs on the Tyrannocyte, though — maybe those legs serving as the “anding gear” are the “official” limbs, though? If so, are there six of them? It’s hard to make out in the GW pictures…

  5. Hivefleet Proteus. Says:

    Hi guys I’ve been pondering the anatomical/biological argument about tyranids. The first point I would make is that Tyranids don’t need to make sense biologically because they are bioengineered rather than evolved naturally so they don’t need to make sense.

    The second point was about the tyrannocyte having six limbs. The Tyranids warriors etc like us have bilateral symmetry and have, obviously, three limbs on each side. The Tyrannocyte has rotational symmetry like a sea urchin or a starfish so it wouldn’t have six limbs, it would have three on each facing, therefore it would have 15 limbs rather than six

    I however agree about the models being a bit too symmetrical, it makes them a little to computer generated looking but as someone said a little hot water or air would fix that, or a little more creativity in the posing would also sort it.

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