Archive for tyranids

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

Posted in 40k, Conversions with tags , , , , , , on December 5, 2014 by krautscientist

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!

Big eaters – a look at the new Tyranids

Posted in 40k, Conversions, Pointless ramblings with tags , , , , , on January 16, 2014 by krautscientist

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 of  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 😉

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 😉

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 a  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!