Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Comparing Gribblies - Stealers, Goyles and Horms...

COMPARING GRIBBLIES - what's the tactics, Suneokun?

Who's the top gribbly?

A recent post of mine solicited the following excellent response from Warhammer 39,999:

Warhammer 39,999

I disagree that hormies are superior to 'stealers in combat--especially verses marines (or anything with a decent armor save).

When I did the math, base stealers will kill more marines per turn than a comparable points total of hormagaunts--regardless of upgrades. Feel free to correct my math, I used 84 points as my baseline:

1. stealers (base) x6 = 18 attacks, 12 hits, 6 wounds (1 rends), 3.33 saves = 3.66 kills.
2. hormies (base) x14 = 42 attacks, 24.5 hits, 8.16 wounds (0 rends), 5.44 saves = 2.72 kills.
3. hormies (adren) x10.5 = 31.5 attacks, 18.375 hits, 9.1875 wounds (0 rends), 6.125 saves = 3.0625 kills.
4. hormies (toxin) x10.5 = 31.5 attacks, 18.375 hits, 9.1875 wounds (0 rends), 6.125 saves = 3.0625 kills.
5. hormies (adren + toxin ) x8.4 = 25.2 attacks, 14.7 hits, 11.025 wounds (0 rends), 7.35 saves = 3.67 kills.
6. gargs (base) x14 = 28 attacks, 14 hits, 6.22 wounds (0 rends), 4.14 saves = 2.07 kills.
7. gargs (adren) x12 = 24 attacks, 12 hits, 7 wounds (0 rends), 4.66 saves = 2.33 kills.
8. gargs (toxin) x12 = 24 attacks, 12 hits, 7 wounds (0 rends), 4.66 saves = 2.33 kills.
9. gargs (adren + toxin) x9.33 = 18.66 attacks, 9.33 hits, 7.38 wounds (0 rends), 4.92 saves = 2.46 kills.

My math could be wrong, but if not, it shows that base genestealers are superior to almost any form of hormagaunt or gargoyle in pure hand to hand vs. marines (the only exception being fully upgraded hormies). Also, keep in mind that the two best scenarios for hormagaunts rely on adrenaline, which means their performance will drop signifncantly after the first round of combat. On top of the fact that they're just better in combat, 'stealers also get the option of taking a broodlord, a general immunity to staying in synapse, infiltration, and outflanking.

Of course, retaliation and or just surviving across the board to get to the assault might make a huge difference as well, but once in the thick of it... give me 'stealers every time.

The Response

Well first, it must be said that a big thanks go to Warhammer 39,999 for inspiring the following post. And it should be noted that the majority of the above is true IF (and its a big if) you manage to catch that enemy unit out in the open (oh, and ignore shooting) ... Today, I'm going to set out my objective as follows:

"Compare and Contrast the different abilities of the minor gribblies of the New Tyranid Codex and give an appraisal of which is most effective when charging into cover."

The Three Gribblies I'll be analysing are Hormagaunts, Genestealers and Gargoyles. It's my assertion that these three smaller models should form a considerable phalanx of a Tyranid attacking force and that they've been designed to be 'interchangable' in points and effectiveness. As can be seen in 39999's analysis above, the kill ranking for each are very very close ... and I think this explains GW's thinking on this. So without further ado ...

The Genestealer

Now, I've been pretty disparaging about the old stealer in the last few weeks. In my opinion the stealers been hardest hit by the loss of flesh hooks, and the days of the stealer horde are long gone. That said, they are now significantly cheaper and come with some nice features...

Genestealers have been upgraded with infiltrate and flanking as standard, they've also retained their 'fleet'. This also counts for the broodlord, who can now deploy as a S5 fleet squad leader. However, even with a higher armour save and T5, the option for a couple of 'meh?' psychic powers isn't really a justification of the 60 pts for the model. Genestealers don't need an initiative bonus.

(NB: It should be noted however that a five man genestealer unit is majority T5 and 4+ save after the first stealer dies - which isn't to be balked at when facing S3 opponents!)

Vanilla genestealers run at a cost effective 14pts each. They haven't gained an attack (like hormagaunts), but their 3 rending attacks on the charge are considerable. They can have indentical upgrades to the Hormagaunts and Gargoyles, but they do suffer by paying significantly more for the benefit. In each case, toxin sacs or adrenal glands will set you back 3pts a model.

Genestealers do have strategic strength, in that they are not dependent on synapse to stick around... so securing objectives and the like can be a good role for them. But a 14 pt 5+ T4 objective holder ... hmm.

This is where the crux of my argument lies ... the 'value added' for your return on investment. Added to this, the loss of 'flesh hooks' means that even with a 2 pt drop in base price and infiltrate or flanking, you will have to choose your targets carefully. The stealers strength is their high WS and high initiative. The initiative counts for nothing when you charge into close combat. but more on this later...

The Hormagaunt

Now a paltry 6pts each, hormagaunts can more than compensate for losses into cover by cashing in at nearly half the price! A basic hormagaunt has 3 attacks at WS3, S3 and I5 - more than enough to give a Guardsmen trouble or even put a space marine on the back foot (but not for long...) However against other xenos (such as Orks) or frenzied armoured foes (Space Wolves or Chaos Marines), the hormagaunt is more likely to go squish.

The key advantage the hormagaunt has is three fold. Firstly its speed. I may not be a beast anymore (and therefore capable of a 24" charge), but its replaced that total speed with a 'move through cover' like fleet movement. This means that Hormagaunts have a much higher chance of getting to the enemy faster turn on turn and making it through cover and into combat. Additionally, the hormagaunt gets scything talons as part of its price. So the new Horm is nearly half price, has the same number of attacks, higher initiative, a lower weapon skill, but this is compensated by a reroll of all 1's to hit! It's not quite WS4, but a reroll of 1's goes some way to make the hormagaunt so much better than it's predecessor.

Their low profile, combined with their low price, mean that Hormagaunts can attract less attention than say genestealers... but this should be the case. Hormagaunts can considerably 'upgrade' their effectiveness with toxin sacs and adrenal glands. Although this won't give you the turn on turn durability of the genestealer, it will give you the impact for a first turn rout!

The Massacre should be the objective of the Tyranid Player - because T3 and 6+ isn't going to survive long after turn one. You ideally want to be into combat - murdering everyone and then rushing on to the next target.

The lack of leadership means that hormagaunts can 'whig out!' and revert to their instinctive behaviour. They will charge the closest opponent and jump into close combat. So deploying a swarm of Hormagaunts and then 'losing' them isn't actually that much of a loss ... unless they charge a dreadnought! Remember however that the unit doesn't have to test if engaged in combat, already falling back OR gone to ground.

A cunning plan can therefore be hatched as follows:
  1. Tyranid Turn: Hormagaunts move, fleet and charge a useful target (say an uber squad of Imperial Guardsmen or Orks), but they purposely charge outside of Synapse range. The Hormagaunts should draw or win the first turn of combat with their 3 attacks each. Enemy unit either holds or falls.
  2. Enemy turn: Combat continues and the Hormagaunts lose badly. Outside Synapse they fail their Ld (IE: Ld6 minus x) and withdraw. Their I5 should get them away from the opponent (especially Orks), back into Synapse, rallied and ready to charge again...
This rinse and repeat charging gives you a sort of 'hit and run' light. Obviously it's only really useful against Guard or Orks ... but running out of Synapse range could also keep the Space Marines on the back foot - especially when running toxin sacs.

The Gargoyle

The Gargoyle has gained and lost in the new codex. It's price has shot down, equalling the Hormagaunts. In addition, the absense of decent competition in the Fast Attack area means that Gargoyles are very likely to feature a lot. Just like Hormagaunts, they struggle with IB - but unlike Hormagaunts, these guys won't run into the fight.

Synapse is key to running Gargoyles ... whereas Hormagaunts can effectively be 'fire and forget', Gargoyles need the strategic hive mind to deliver their payload. On first glance, the Gargoyle doesn't really impress as a close combat monster ... it's basically a termagaunt with wings ... but here's the trick, it's upgrades are cheap!

The Gargoyle can roll with both adrenal glands and toxin sacs for a meagre 8 pts. Add into this the combination of the jump infantry rules, the flesh borer (not as good, but still solid) and their blinding venom (autowound on a six to hit, otherwise known as 'rending light') ... in addition, the Gargoyle might lose fleet - but it's jump infantry - meaning it can leap over terrain, circumvent charging through cover and have a higher chance of using its I4 in combat. On top of this, it has a gun ... therefore points for points - I think the Gargoyles a real contender.

Charging into cover - Rules analysis, statistics and conclusions

As discussed above ... all three of these choices have a movement of up to 12" a turn and an 18" charge. Of the three, the genestealer comes out quite solvenly, as the 'jump infantry' and the hormagaunts 'bounding leap' rule will leave the genestealer run dust. However the Genestealer can cheat ... and can infiltrate!

Let's assume you are forced to charge into cover ... you're speed and jumpiness aside, the rules are as follows:

"If ... any models in the assaulting unit will have to go through difficult or dangerous terrainas part of its assault move, the unit must take the relevant terrain test before moving"
W40k BRB Pg: 36

So the first thing to note is that the Genestealers and Hormagaunts will get 3D6 to move through cover (as they have the ability), whereas the Gargoyles only get 2D6. Once this has happened (and assuming you make it into combat), the enemy hits you first.

Now here's where the points versus durability raises its head.... as follows:

Versus MeQ: 1 attack = 0.17 stealers, 0.37 Hormagaunt or Gargoyle
Versus GeQ: 1 attack = 0.11 stealers, 0.21 Hormagaunt or Gargoyle

(NB: MeQ - Marine Equivilent T4 WS4 S4 3+; GeQ - Guard Equivilent T3, WS3, S3 5+)

So a squad of 10 Marines will kill 2 genestealers or 4 Hormagaunts/Gargoyles. In the same breath, a Guard squad will kill 1 stealer and 2 Gargoyles. In retaliation the units will all kill the following (assuming 140 each squad):
  • 10 Genestealers - 8 Genestealers (you already lost 2) will kill 4.66 MeQ and 9 genestealers kill 9 GeQ.
  • 23 Hormagaunts - 19 (you already lost 4) will kill 3.69 MeQ and 21 Hormagaunts will kill 12.25 GeQ.
  • 23 Gargoyles - 23 shots and 19 gargoyles (you lose 4 to defense) kill 5.44 MeQ and 21 Gargoyles will kill 12.27 GeQ.
So even without upgrades, and offering the Guardsmen a 4+ cover save ... the gargoyle still outstrip the Genestealers AND the hormagaunts points for points ...

But added to this are toxin sacs and adrenal glands. Let's make the average 170pts, and keep the stealers to just toxin sacs (as adrenal glands don't add any further benefit). The reroll to wound really benefits the stealers as adds another chance to reroll 6's for rending!
  • 10 Genestealers - 8 Genestealers get reroll to wound and kill 6.21 MeQ, 9 stealers kill 12 GeQ.
  • 17 Hormagaunts (AG&TX) - 13 Horms kill 5.69 MeQ
  • 21 Hormagaunts (TX only) - 19 Horms kill 16.63 GeQ (AG dropped as no advantage against GeQ)
  • 21 Gargoyles (AG&TX) - 21 shots plus 17 Gargs kill 6.46 MeQ
  • 24 Gargoyles (TX only) - 24 shots plus 22 Gargs kill 16.22 GeQ
As can be seen above ... the Gargoyles outperform everything else point for point. Toxin Sacs are the 'must have' for all units - but in the hands of the gargoyle they are a particularly cost effective.

The double bubble of the blinding venom and the toxin sac produces disproportionate wounds, and the shooting before combat evens out the losses into cover. That said, shooting into combat should only be advised when you are easily in charge range.

Toxin Sacs also seem a no brainer for the genestealer, giving it a reroll to wound on most infantry on the board, and vastly increasing the chance of rolling 6's to rend... It looks like enemy monstrous creatures will be a no go against nids from now on as toxin sacs will quickly become the upgrade of choice.

While genestealers do well against normal marines and guardsmen, against assault marines/sternguard/vanguard or even basic chaos or space wolves - they should really be left at home. The introduction of a relic blade also makes genestealers redundant as I4 S6 is a 2+ to kill no matter ... the only advantage is a 16% reduction in to-hit rolls.

Strategic Uses of Gribblies

To my mind the gribblies have the following strategic usage:

Against Guard: small group of Genestealers infiltrate within move-fleet-charge range of vehicle squadrons and attack. Although a genestealer brood is durable in combat, they'd get easily tied up, mortared, flamered or rapid fired to death. Main focus should be Hormagaunts and Gargoyles with Toxin Sacs.

Against Space Marines: Gargoyles with Adrenal Glands and Toxin Sacs out fight Genestealers. They're jump infantry move of 12" should keep them outside rapid fire damage and allow them to close. Otherwise, genestealers with toxin sacs are a worthy investment for maximising hits and wounds. The broodlord isn't worth it as he's 60 pts you should be spending on toxin and more stealers.

Against Chaos Marines and Space Wolves: the combination of cover, counter attack and two close combat weapons (including a scattering of relic blades) means that wolves are tyranids worst enemy - closely followed by Deathguard (T5 with two close combat weapons and blight grenades!) - Best thing is to not rely on 'gribblies' at all but send in the Monstrous creatures ... after they are engaged you can pile on the pain with Toxin Sack'd and Adrenal glanded Hormagaunts (coming up through the Trygon's deep strike preferably!).

Against Orks: Apply the maximum impact with lots of Adrenal Glanded and Toxin Sac'd Gargoyles. With little armour, genestealers are an expensive habit and the wings will allow you to control the charge. Remember that 30 double pimped Gargoyles will kill up to 25 Orks on the Charge.

Against Tau and Eldar: the prominence of mostly T3 with some T4 and lots of mech means that a mixture of the above is ideal. Pimped Gargoyles that deep strike, kill the skimmer with rear armour shots and then deliver close combat on the inhabitants is great. Gargoyles are probably the most vulnerable to shooting (being a big target) but the fastest and the most flexible ... deploy from reserve.


Let's not lose sight of the fact that both genestealers and hormagaunts are troops, whereas gargoyles are fast attack. This means that in objective games - those running gribblies WILL attract more firepower ... but have more strategic value.

In addition, it's worth noting the genestealers value as a highly nasty objective holder for those objectives in cover. Infiltrating those 5 genestealers on the objective will force the opponent to either concentrate a lot of firepower to clear them out, or use flamers...

Go to ground on the objective for 4 turns and then stand up in the fifth. If you get charged while gone to ground, you lose your defensive benefit ... but for an I6 model - that's not a worry!

And Finally ...

Just a quick showcase for my completed Tyranid Alpha Warrior. More to come on making Alpha Warriors and the all important Lash Whips!