"What is mercy? Does it taste like marrow?" - Phage, Tyranid Hive Mind

Home Page - Gaming - Warhammer 40,000 - Tyranids -Early Diary

A Rambling Diary of My First Month (or so) Owning Tyranids

This is here mostly to help you understand that you are not the only lunatic. This was my first army for Warhammer 40,000, so I was being exposed to the hobby and the game at the same time.

This particular page is a catalog of ramblings about my first WH40K experiences, starting 21APR2001, when I received a Tyranid army as a present, to 07MAY2001, when the information reached critical mass and dedicated web pages were the only way to go.


I played a demo game of WH40K once to see what it was like back in the previous edition of the rules (second) and someone was nice enough to loan me a Tyranid army to try out. That's really putting the horse before the cart though. I would not have bothered trying it out if someone had not loaned me a Tyranid army to try. They were the only army that looked interesting enough and they had the added utility that they could be used as monsters in the RPGs I run. Now another edition is out (third) and I have a stack of boxes of figures to paint. GW uses model to refer to figures, vehicles, etc. I will do the same on this page.

21APR2001 Decisions, Decisions

So I have a bunch of unassembled Tyranid models to paint. I open up some boxes and I am immediately confronted with a lot of bits and pieces that look cool but have no explanation. I flip through the Tyranid Codex and the WH40K rulebook and find some immediate concerns. There are literally hundreds of combinations and I haven't a single idea how to decide what I like and care about.

22APR2001 Buy, Buy, Buy!

Our hero discovers the WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) mechanic - ". . . any weapons options or model upgrades you take must be represented on or by the models in the unit." [Pg. 167, WH40K rules, 3rd ed.]

The positive way to look at this is that it's appropriate to have your armies look exactly as they should and it's the only fair thing to do with regard to informing your opponent of your units' capabilities. However, there are no modelling suggestions for establishing modularity in your models. If I just heed the advice of the GW books and throw together a basic army and play around until I find what I like, then I foresee hundreds (perhaps thousands) of dollars in future expenses buying redundant units so that I can have a versatile array of permanently constructed mutants/variants.

I can see it now, "Yes, here you see my 30 different units of Termagant mutants, all with different mutations and each consisting of 32 models apiece."

How much for one full brood (a unit)? A brood of Termagants or Hormogaunts is 8 to 32, according to the Codex; this disagrees with the main book, which gives 10 to 30 and 10 to 20, respectively. An annoying disparity, but since the boxed set gives you 8 of each, perhaps the Codex was modified to agree with the marketing strategy. The Codex supercedes the main book, so I will go with the 8 to 32 numbers. [I did not know at this time that the Codex completely supplanted the list in the main book]

Anyway, if I went with just boxed sets, I would need to buy 4 boxes for a single full brood of Termagants, which would run $100 before tax. Of course, I would have one full Hormogaunt brood and five Ripper swarm models which, according to the Codex, are enough to make one base of Ripper Swarm, which is not even the minimum for a Ripper Swarm Brood.

If you really only wanted one unit type, you could go to the online GW store and buy the individual sprue (AKA bitz), but they run $8 apiece. Since you get 7 sprue in the boxed set, that's more than twice as expensive overall. Yipes! Yet if you just want the troops and don't want the biomorphs, then you can spend $64 getting your Termagant brood, but you don't have the Hormogaunts or Biomorphs. Pretty slanted towards buying the box, huh? However, being able to buy individual sprue is quite cool if all you need is the one sprue in the box. I can't knock it too much, but the price seems truly excessive in this case.

So, it seems my first quest will be to decide how hard it will be to construct my Tyranids such that I can modify them after the fact without having to repaint them. Some immediate ideas:

  • rubber cement or some other weak fixative that will allow parts to be removed/replaced easily
  • drill some holes with my Dremel tool and insert some rods/dowels to the parts in question

23APR2001 - Inventory!

1 Hive Tyrants, 1 Carnifex, 2 Lictors, 1 Ravener, 1 Zoanthrope, 2 Boxes Tyranid Warriors, 2 Boxes Genestealers, 1 Biovore w/ 3 Spore Mines (3 total: Acid #1, Explosive #3, Poison #2), Spore Mines (6 total: Acid #1 & #3, Explosive #1 & #2, Poison #3 x 2), 2 Boxes Gaunts.

  • Headquarters
    • Hive Tyrant - 1
    • Tyrant Guard Brood - None, not in stores (?)
  • Elites
    • Lictors (2): brood 1-3. Max of one unit in an army, or max of 3 models in an army.
    • Warriors (2 boxes @ 3 apiece, total of six): brood 3 to 9
  • Troops
    • Genestealers (2 boxes @ 12 apiece, total of 24): brood 6 to 12.
    • Termagant (2 Gaunts boxes @ 8 apiece, total of 16): brood of 8 to 32.
    • Ripper Swarm (5 pieces per Gaunts and Warriors box x 4 = 20, 1 per Hive Tyrant and Carnifex; total of 22 or 4.4 stands): Brood 3 to 10 stands.
    • Hormagaunt (2 Gaunts boxes @ 8 apiece, total of 16): brood of 8 to 32.
  • Fast Attack
    • Ravener - 1; Brood 1 to 6.
    • Gargoyles - None
  • Heavy Support
    • Carnifex - 1
    • Zoanthropes - 1: Brood of 1 to 3. Max of one unit in an army, or max of 3 models in an army.
    • Biovores - 1: Brood of 1 to 3. Max of one unit in an army, or max of 3 models in an army.
      • Poison x 3
      • Explosive/frag x 3
      • Acid x 3

OK, so assuming I take just the basic unit values and field my whole army, I have the following points:

  • HQ - 98 to 250 + ?
  • Elites - 80 + (156 to 340 + ?) = 236 to 420 + ?
  • Troops - (384 to 528) + (112 to ?) + (50 to ?) + (160 to ?) = 706 to 850 + ?
  • Fast Attack - 43 to 55
  • Heavy Support - (94 to 210) + (39 to 59) + 40 + 36 + 30 + 48 = 287 to 423
  • Total: 1370 to 1998 + Mutation costs, if any

Hmm, looks like I need to have extra stuff to field a 1500 point army, but at least I can actually do it if I want to. I definitely need another Carnifex, they are just too damn cool; however, I want to get one of the old ones that look like the image at top of this page.

23APR2001 - Buying Some Archive Carnifexes (The metal 2nd edition ones)

Sources - My favorite local retailer (they also give me a great discount) did not have any in stock. So I checked GW's Online Store and E-bay (auction site). GW wants $50 for one, but I found a couple for auction starting at $10 on E-bay. This is my first use of E-bay actually. I looked a little more and found a New Carnifex and two blisters of Gargoyles for sale as well. Warning: I found an auction for a Red Terror, an Old One Eye, and a Carnifex, but the minimum bid was the standard suggested retail price, be careful!

I purchased some more stuff at the store. Did I say more? I meant a LOT more:

  • 1 box of Genestealers (that brings me up to 36 total, muhahahahahahahaha!)
  • 1 Hive Tyrant (new total of 2)
  • 1 box of Gaunts (new total of 24 Termagants and 24 Hormogaunts). I wanted 2 more, but tomorrow is the restock day. :-P
  • 2 Tyrant Guards (I didn't have any to begin with and that's enough for a brood)
  • 1 Lictor (new total of 3, so I can field the max number of these models)
  • 2 Packs of Biovore with spore mines (new total of 3, so I can field the max number of these models)
    • (recap, Mines with Biovore #1 - Acid #1, Explosive #3, Poison #2)
    • Mines with Biovore #2 - Acid #1, Explosive #2, Poison #2
    • Mines with Biovore #3 - Acid #3, Explosive #3, Poison #2
    • Looks like there is supposed to be variety, just not my luck. :-P
  • 2 Packs of Spore mines (I neeed something for the Biovores to toss around)
    • (recap, Mines pack #1 - Acid #1 & #3, Explosive #1 & #2, Poison #3 x 2)
    • Mines pack #2 - Acid #2 & #3, Explosive #1 & #2 [#1 is no good], Poison #1 & #2
    • Mines pack #3 - Acid #1 & #2, Explosive #1 & #3, Poison #2 & #3
    • Well at least I have at least two of each type except for Poison #1. That's all right, Poison #1 looks like a slacker anyway.
  • 6 Blisters of Gargoyles @ 2 models each (Total of 12; brood 8 to 32)
  • 1 Red Terror (Hey, it's unique and cool, I had to buy it. Maybe I'll use it someday)
  • 2 Zoanthropes (new total of 3, so I can field the max number of these models; all of my models are the first of the two possible types that come in the blisters, no mechanical difference, just cosmetic)
  • Miscellaneous stuff
    • Paints - I finally broke down and bought Citadel Paints and some Inks (see next log entry)
    • How to Make Wargames Terrain - looks pretty cool but it's rather slim for a $25 book.
    • Collecting Wargames Armies - This is practically an expensive catalog in disquise. The painting tips are not as useful as those in the Codex for my army, so I would definitely not recommend this.
    • White Dwarf #256 - GW's monthly hobby magazine. Well, thought I'd give it a go.

23APR2001 - What Is An "Ink"?

So, I was checking out some pages on Tyranid painting schemes and techniques and I came across something called chestnut ink, which the author thought was quite nifty for Gargoyle wings. I also remember reading about blue ink in the Codex. From the way it was described, I figured out it was used like a wash. I was mostly right. An ink from GW is actually an ink' it is used for washes/glazes, and requires further thinning depending on your needs. One cool thing they have is a flesh ink, which, unlike the other inks, does not refer to its color; rather, it is used as a wash for flesh. From what I saw in one image, it looks like it works great and I look forward to trying it on my role playing minis as I don't have any plans for flesh-colored Tyranids.

[Addendum - Inks can be used to create some great effects and are different enough from a wash to be a unique technique. A common use for them is a glaze, which is a very thin wash. A good rule of thumb is to dilute the ink until you can paint over a newspaper and still just barely red the print. There are other vendors of ink - try some out and see what you like]

23APR2001 & 24APR2001 - Hobby Gear

After years of relative inactivity, I have only recently started painting miniatures again (for my Shadowrun RPG campaign to be specific). A lot of paints I have are dried out, some brushes are missing and/or frayed, my knives are dull, etc. I picked up replacement paints from Horizon Games, buying my first ever GW paints and inks (see above). I would rather restock my missing Polly S (Floquil) paints, but they are scarce in Houston and I don't have the time.

[Addendum - I have since discovered that many GW paints (or, more rightly, Citadel Colour paints) have a variety of opacity. More transparent paints can be nice for layering, but are annoying when putting down your basecoat. A top-of-the-line paint can be found in the Vallejo Model Colors line of paints; they are harder to come by in some cities, but you might want to try them out. Although they appear to be expensive, they tend to win out in cost-effectiveness because you need less (greater opacity), you waste less (dropper bottles), and most folks report better performance (finer pigments).]

Epoxy putty - it's the stuff you use to fill in cracks. The nearest game stores were out of the GW stock, so I went to Home Depot's plumbing section and picked up a 4 ounce tube of it for $7. If it works, I think I will have a new first choice for putty.

[Addendum, not all putties are alike! Some folks get by with what they call plumber's epoxy, but you have to realize that different stores/countries stock different things as plumber's epoxy. I have since created a page on putty.]

Terrain goodies - I was inspired by the Planetfall article in WD 256. So I wandered about glassy-eyed in Michael's, an arts & crafts store, for a few hours and pondered how I might misuse their materials. I was happy to find that in their floral section, they had the usual stuff, but also some fake birds eggs of various sizes, textures, and colorations. In their styrofoam area, they had medium-sized egg shapped styrofoam which they called goose eggs; tricky, huh? I also picked up a dowel wreath styrofoam shape that is basically a large ring. I am thinking it will either make a great start for a large crater or nest, or perhaps I can cut it up and fashion some strange curving monoliths. I also picked up some craft paints to allow me to accomplish the usual stony finish, but there is something called a cracklin finish, which ultimately looks, well, crackled. I also snagged some putty and wire.

Work space - I picked up a wooden tray with handles. It is sturdier than the paint station that GW makes, but a little less paint friendly in that it lacks the cool shelf. For my needs it will do well. I also picked up a creative box which is a silly name for a small (about 8" x 6") hinged wooden box. I picked up some acrylic sealer to allow me to seal wood.

[Addendum - I ended up stowing the tray. It was a little too small and awkward. I did pickup the paint station GW makes. I could imagine something more useful, but it is the best solution for me right now. Being able to relocate the bulk of my painting area is nice, especially since my computer keyboard and painting area have to share the same work surface.]

I picked up some helping hands, a base with a rod that has an alligator clip at each end. It's great for holding something for stability or just to allow glue to cure.

I wanted something that would put gentle even pressure on a model to serve as a press for gluing needs and or a temporary handle; I am going to try a heat sink. It is a clip-like object that would normally be clipped onto an object that is being soldered to carry heat so that the remainder of the object is not damaged from the heat of the soldering process.

[Addendum - That worked OK, but I found some nice lightweight locking clamps made by Xacto which are cheaper, more varied and less likely to bite into a plastic model.]

Daylight lamp - I stopped by the art store and got a bulb that is color corrected to produce a spectrum of light like daylight. This allows a more accurate assessment of color and appearance. Besides, the human eye is all set up for daylight anyways. This is great for those of us that cannot conveniently paint by a window and/or during the day. It's also good news for those that like to paint in less than decent attire... :-)

Foam cutter - Well of course I had one already, but it was the very primitive Wonder Cutter. I picked up a more expensive one at the art supply that allowed clean cuts at angles and such.

[Addendum - I ended up buying a bunch of tools from the Foam Factory and they made these other tools look useless. If you want to cut foam, check them out.]

24APR2001 - Two Old Carnifexes For Less Than the Price of One

So I finally bought something of eBay. I suppose it was inevitable. I scored two second edition metal Carnifex models that I am told are primed and partially assembled. I will say more when I receive them. I also won a bid for a new Carnifex and 2 blisters of Gargoyles. That will bring me up to 4 Carnifexes (2 Old, 2 New) and 16 Gargoyles (damn but they are expensive).

EBay and new WH40K stuff. There are far too many store-like retailres masquerading as normal folks in this arena. As a result, don't expect to get a very good deal. If you can get a 25% or more discount somewhere, do that instead.

EBay and old WH40K stuff - varies wildly. If the seller has done somethig with the model, it tends to discourage buyers. I suppose a stunning paint job that is well-advertised would make a positive difference.

EBay and scumbags - I have to say that the bids that drove up the cost of my purchases seemed reminiscent of a conspiracy. EBay people with years-long memberships but no transaction reviews; strange to say the least.

And the future - I lost out on some Gaunts and Genestealers, but the bid actually poked above what I would pay at my local store, so I don't mind. I am still in the running for Gaunts; Genestealers; 12 Gargoyles; and an Exocrine tank (OOP cast resin vehicle for Tyranids made by Armorcast, see next entry).

24APR2001 - Vehicles for Tyranids (At the moment)

Right now, there are none being put out by GW. Armorcast used to make a few under license, Exocrine, Malefactor, and Haruspex, priced at $28, $33, and $35, respectively. They also made vehicles for the prey, aka as the other armies. What happened? Let them tell you - "The following models were manufactured by Armorcast under license from Games Workshop from June of 1995 until October of 1998.Games Workshop terminated the license to produce these models in October of 1998."

Anyway, there are some folks out there trying to rid themselves of them and fatten their wallets at the same time. Some are being real greedy bastards, charging well over twice their original price and sometimes thrice. Such people should be food for the Hive.

I am currently bidding on an Exocrine, but the bidding is early. It is out of the box, old, and primed already, so if my experiences thus far hold true, it should be less popular than otherwise. Oh well. If I get the Exocrine, cool. If not, I have faith that GW will find a way to provide me with vehicles for more money. Honestly, I could live without vehicles. The Tyranids are slavering killing machines not big space cockroaches hiding from man.

[Addendum - Passed on the Exocrine, as the price got out of hand.]

24APR2001 Putting Some Models Together

So apparently, WH40K is not just an exercise in buying models. You are supposed to have fun and play games with them as well. So what do I do first? Well, the minimum units for the standard missions force organization chart are one HQ and two troops. So let's go with a Hive Tyrant and some troops, but which ones?

Well, as a new player, I have to say that I am oh so happy to see that some species of Tyranids are still genofixed. I am sure the experienced players are slavering over the hundreds of choices of available to them in making mutant Termagants, but I just want to put some models together, paint them and play around some first.

I started with some Genestealers and a Hive Tyrant. Thus far, I have found GW models to have a lot more flash than other minis I have. It is annoying, because I spend a lot of time cleaning up each individual model. Not a big deal for a single Hive Tyrant, but for 36 Genestealers...

24APR2001 Basic Problems

I like magnetic bases. I want to have magnetic bases for my Tyranids.

Generally, I use 1" square bases and slap some magnetic tape on the bottom. GW uses a standard 1" diameter base for most units and their bases are slottabases. So if I want to use magnetic tape, I have to find a good way to punch out circles or find a lot more free time. I could have a die made and cut them out that way.

I went shopping for a long time. There are no readily available 1" diameter disks other than flat head wood plugs that can generally be found in a lumber supply. Even then, they are not as good as metal or plastic. I do have 1" round ceramic magnets however. So how to decide?

  1. Slottabases with magnetic tape - lots of time, but ~same height; a die might speed things up dramatically
  2. Slottabases on top of 1" ceramic magnets
    1. Quickest
    2. Adhering may be tricky - perhaps squish putty between slottabase and magnet?
    3. Adds another 1/4" to the height of the figure. Is that a problem with the rules?
    4. Thick bases are easier to grab, thus protecting the model that much more.
  3. Cut off slottabases and glue directly to magnets
    1. Possibly about as quick as 2.
    2. Not as mechanically robust, but after feet glued down, maybe things will work out fine.
    3. No change in model height.

Well, right now I think I favor 2 unless the added 1/4" poses a rules complication.

[Addendum - Here is what I later learned about playing with magnets.]

25APR2001 - Sample Fight

"Guns hurt us!" - Phage

Well Lars and I did a quick demo fight between some 20 Marines and 20 Genestealers (Gs). I immediately see that Flesh Hooks would be a great addition to all of my units. Gs have a great initiative, which would normally mean they could gut a unit before it gets to attack, but when you assault something in GW (go into close/melee combat) a unit in cover automatically goes first. Marines can mitigate that with frag grenades; Tyranids use flesh hooks. Both are supposed to encourage the target to keep its head down; the mechanical effect is that the target in cover no longer automatically gets the first attack. Rather, the attack is simultaneous. So there appears to be no way to take advantage of a high Initiative when making an initial assault; of course, the cover only affects the first round, so Initiative will make a difference if the fight lasts for more than one round.

Unfortunately, Genestealers can only have one biomorph, so it will be a tough choice.

[Addendum - If you are shooting for efficiency, don't put a biomorph on a Genestealer unless you are in love with the idea.]

25APR2001 - Base solution?

The factors to consider:

  Standard base Ceramic magnet Magnet tape & standard base
Base height 0.140" 0.155" 0.170"
Hold None great good
Money Free, comes with model ~$0.30 apiece ~$0.07 apiece
Time None extra None extra A few minutes each

If I just use ceramic magnets for bases, then: For the small units, I am just going to cut strips of magnet tape and stick them inside the slottabases. Two layers is just thick enough to stick out just a hair, allowing the magnets to make contact but not elevating them in a noticeable way.

For large units, I will probably just slap a single layer of magnet tape on the bottom and anyone that has a big problem with the 1/16" height change can bite me.

[Addendum - Here is what I later learned about playing with magnets.]

30APR2001 - Flexible Biomorphing

Some ideas, check them out.

03MAY2001 - Base solution

The two choices are down to 1) slottabases with magnetic strips or 2) slottabases with epoxy resin putty and zinc washers. I have tried both. #2 is by far better, but it is permanent. I have e-mailed GW to find out if the 1/16" increase in height is a problem with the rules. They say it is not, so that is my first choice now. The methods have been posted (see the links above).

[Addendum - Here is what I later learned about playing with magnets.]


That's it for random ramblings. The rest will be placed on web pages in an orderly fashion.