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Thursday, April 7, 2011

How To: Tervigon Spawning

This was promised a while ago after my time at Centurion. I do deliver..finally! So Tervigons are an integral part of many Tyranid army list. Whilst they aren't essential they are a very good Troop choice thanks to their MC status and high toughness/wounds count. What really makes them shine however is their ability to spawn and buff Termagants. There are two main schools of thought here: spawn early and quickly to take maximum advantage of potential continuous spawns or use the Tervigon as a transport and wait until later in the game to spawn and release Termagants into your opponent's lines. We'll look at both of these as viable tactics on the tabletop and examine when they are their most useful.

But first! some basics we need to outline with the Tervigon. On average you should get roughly 14 22 spawned Termagants per Tervigon. You have a 44% chance of rolling doubles on 3D6 so if you have two Tervigons in your army you will most likely get three spawns and upwards of 30 termagants. These numbers vary greatly though. At Centurion for example I pooped out my Tervigons all but once on their first attempt and regularly got fewer than 10 Termagants. This is obviously against the grain in terms of statistics but it does happen. At the same time, Loriness spawned over 70 Termagants in his last game and I myself have spawned 111 from two Tervigons in one game. It varies and this is one of the reasons why spawning early can be bad. We'll reach that later.

With Tervigons your Termagants obviously want to stay as close as possible. This can be difficult at times particularly if you are aiming to spawn and charge. Termagants by themselves are very weak (they are 5 points afterall) so you want to try and maximise their proximity to Tervigons to ensure they gain benefits and are within range of support, Catalyst, etc. At the same time, being in this range means you are more likely to suffer dead little Termagants when the Tervigon dies. The easiest way to do this whilst not restricting the Termagant's mobility is to leave a string of Termagants back to within range of a Tervigon (see picture). This allows the Termagants to gain the benefits whilst not losing too much combat/shooting effectiveness and provides the whole Tyranid battleline with more potential mobility. Remember when you assault or react with these guys though the appropriate rules and canny opponents can drag your Termagants out of bubble range.

And the final thing before we look at the two different ways to spawn Termagants. Tervigons are quite literally transports but act in a very particular way. First, you spawn before the Tervigon moves and once your spawning is done, you must then move the Tervigon if you wish to move her. This ability can also be used in assault which is quite awesome and can be combined well with Hive Commander against bubble-wrap based armies (Tervigon outflanks, charges bubble-wrap, locks bubble-wrap, can't get shot, spawns Termagants, yay). When the Termagants are spawned they are spawned anywhere within 6" of the Tervigon. This is exactly like disembarking from a transport but without any restrictions. The Termagants can then get their full movement, shooting and assault phases in which can give spawned Termagants an effective 19" assault range and 25" shooting range. Not bad.

So with these concepts in mind let's start to look at the two primary schools of thought for when to spawn. We'll start with the ASAP option.

Spawning Early

First off, by spawning early I generally mean on Turn 1 (Turn 2 DoW unless the Tervigons were deployed).

Spawning early obviously increases your chances of having more Termagants. If you never roll doubles and delay spawning, you're obviously going to get less Termagants! Although this isn't really a 'tactic' and the statistics may seem against you, you do have a roughly 10% chance to spawn for four turns with a single Tervigon. Over a series of five to six games with multiple Tervigons you are quite likely to do this but remember you are still at a 44% chance to spawn out on the first attempt. If your dice love you a lot or you want to gamble on (or need) lots of Termgants, go for it.

Spawning early allows you to setup more impressive bubble-wrap defenses and layers. This is very important against aggressive armies (particularly ones which can jump over intervening units). When I mean aggressive I mean in your face and assaulting your bubble-wrap Turn 1 or 2 resulting in dead Termagants pretty quickly. You'll be needing those extra Termgants quickly then to ensure your important units are safe from assaults you do not want. Essentially this is ensuring you are keeping these type of armies at arm's length as much as possible. This allows you to dictate when and where you fight and are committing your forces to battles you can win. If you stave off on your spawning until later your lines may have already been breached.

Spawning early in Dawn of War missions is also very beneficial if you've deployed Tervigons, particularly if you've deployed first and deployed them aggressively. Aggressive deployment + spawning movement can cover a significant portion of the board and put your opponent on the back foot early as they have to deal with a bunch of Termgants in their face from the get go supported by Tervigons and potential HQs. Meanwhile the rest of the Tyranid force is marching up the board and shooting all the while.

Another reason to spawn early is in defense of your Tervigons. If you feel your Tervigons are likely to die quickly or have had a lot of wounds put on them early, spawning ASAP ensures you are gaining some extra bodies if the Tervigon goes down. This is generally more of a salvaging technique than actual tactic if your Tervigon(s) get significantly wounded early but ensures they could potentially impact future turns.

So let's take a quick look at the strengths and weakness of this technique then.

Strengths -
  • can potentially have a large amount of Termagants spawned
  • can create very effective and multiple layers of bubble-wrap; very important against aggressive lists
  • can pressure the enemy early in certain situations (i.e. Dawn of War, against infiltrators, etc.)
  • generates multiple targets earlier
  • ensures the Tervigons get at least one spawn
  • easy to ensure spawned Termagants stay within 6" bubble range 

    Weaknesses -
    • if the Tervigons poop out, no surprise factor; your hand has been shown
    • follow-on effect of the above means you have no later game spawns to alter game outcome 
    • your battle-lines can become very crowded very quickly which reduces the ability of the army to function effectively
    • cannot always take full advantage of potential 19" charge range of spawned Termagants
    • although there are more targets for your enemy the Termagants are able to be shot up earlier and if you poop out, the Tervigons may drop in target priority

    Seems pretty good for spawning early but the lack of tactical options later in-game hurts spawning early if you poop out which is quite a likely possibility. Let's look at delayed spawning then.

    Delayed Spawning

    Delayed spawning is generally on Turn 2 or later as the Tervigons reach the opponent's lines.

    Spawning later in the game gives you a lot more tactical flexibility. You are never forced to spawn so when your horde gets thinned down, more Termagants can suddenly join the fray. Not only can you spawn Termagants and essentially assault 19" with them but you can create new Troops to sit on objectives, create midfield bubble-wraps or tarpits or as discussed above, throw the Tervigon into combat to protect it from shooting and then spawn Termgants from there. There are many things you can do with spawnable Termagants once the Tervigon gets to midfield and it will often depend upon the situation how you use them. For this ability to be available in midfield, the Tervigons have to hold off spawning to ensure unlucky dice don't ruin their ability to do so.

    The ability to thrown Termagants 19" forward into an assault is also a huge asset which spawning early only gets in particularly deployment situations or if the opponent has been particularly aggressive. However, throwing those Termagants so far forward can often leave them out of the 6" bubble range without some creative movement so you  need to be careful how you deploy/move them and the Tervigon. Make sure you aren't over-extending yourself and potentially exposing your Tervigon.

    A key thing to understand about this potential 19" charge range however is your opponent has to compensate for it. Supported Termagants in assault are pretty scary (hitting and wound on 4's with all re-rolls? and they're 5 points?) and not something which can be blithely ignored and a Tervigon in midfield can send those Termagants in any direction they wish. This is the heart of the matter in tactical flexibility, you can create a new unit in midfield and do with it what you want. Not only that but staving off the spawning allows the rest of your army more room to manoeuvre and therefore operate more effectively.

    In the end when you are delaying the spawning of your Tervigons the Tervigon is quite literally becoming a transport with an unknown quantity of Termagants inside. Let's look at the strengths and weaknesses of this technique and then compare the two.

    Strengths -
    • tactical flexibility; holding off on spawning is essentially an ace up your sleeve and allows you as a general to have options later in the game. This is true of any Tervigon who doesn't stop spawning but is a guarantee if you hold off on spawning. These tactical options include...
    • more room to move your army around
    • can setup bubble-wraps in midfield
    • larger assault ranges for Termagants
    • creating units to hold objectives late game
    • supporting units already in combat
    • ensures Termagants aren't shot before they can affect the battlefield

    Weaknesses -
    • makes the Tervigons higher priority targets for longer
    • potentially lost Termagants if Tervigons die whilst still capable of spawning 
    • potential for over-extension or exposure of Tervigon
    • harder to ensure Termagants are kept within support range

    In the end, spawning later is going to give you more tactical options later if the Tervigons survive to be able to do so. Even the most basic ability of being able to deliver a unit of Termagants right into the thick of it unmolested is a huge advantage for Tervigons who haven't pooped out and this can be ensured if you delay your spawning. At the same time, you are obviously less likely to generate a significant amount of Termagants this way so should ensure there are more bodies and targets available in the list.

    Comparison and Conclusion

    Spawning early is really going to reap the benefits when it's going to make an immediate impact such as against an aggressive army to deploy multiple layers of bubble-wrap/as a counter assault or in certain deployment situations where the 19" assault range can engage enemy units and put your opponent under pressure. Even when these situations do not arise however spawning early does allow for a large amount of Termagants to potentially be spawned but the statistics are stacked against you after a couple of spawn rolls.

    On the flip side if these scenarios do not exist, delaying the spawning of your Tervigons can ensure your Tervigons reach midfield with the ability to spawn which opens up tactical flexibility. This is going to be much more useful against mid to backfield armies which are less likely to come to gripes with you in the early stages of the game. The risk of course is the Tervigons dying before they are able to spawn once or are more likely to die with the ability to spawn remaining to them. This is lost potential but having the guarantee of tactical flexibility in midfield is often all worth it. Furthermore, by spawning later the spawned Termagants are less susceptible to incoming fire and are therefore more capable objective holders, shooting and assault units.

    Overall there are pros and cons to both schools of thought. After my string of bad luck in terms of multiple spawns I've certainly been more appreciated of the guarantee delayed spawning gives you in terms of midfield tactical options but spawning early does have its place in many scenarios.

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