One of the most ambitious Games Workshop digital releases this year has been the Rising Leviathan series, with the last installment finally coming this weekend. The Rising Leviathan are a larger format than typical Dataslates, but like all Dataslates comes in a Ipad or eBook version.
Rising Leviathan chronicles a Hive Fleet devouring a planet. The Dataslates are a continuous story, with the first installment Tyranid Vanguard focusing on "vanguard organisms" of a Hive Fleet, like Genestealers and Lictors.
If you choose the eBook version you get more pages, with individual gallery pictures and glossary filler, where the iPad version has the same information integrated in pop-up widgets. Making Dataslate: Tyranid Vanguard in reality about 42 pages of real content. The major selling point with the Rising Leviathan Dataslates is the campaign meant to be played by Tyranid players against a variety of opponents. Dataslate: Tyranid Vanguard background helps to get players invested in trying out the missions and formations presented.
The reason had a thousand names across a thoursand worlds, but they all boiled down to the same thing. The Great Devourer. The Doom of All Things.
Dataslate: Tyranid Vanguard Contents
Chapter I: Introduction
Chapter II: Rising Leviathan -- Vanguard
Chapter III: Formations
Chapter IV: Echoes of War Missions
The first chapter is nothing more than the rules for using the Dataslate and Formations, it is the same information you find in all Dataslates.
The second chapter, Rising Leviathan sets the stage for the missions later in the book and is a compelling read. The planet targeted for nom-nom is Satys a slightly radioactive place, stuffed with ancient ships embedded deep in the planet's crust. These archeoships keep one half the planet in perpetual darkness, while the other side is bombarded by radiation from the local sun. What makes Satys even more interesting is the irradiated side has a tree that produces radiation sunscreen, making it a vital planet to the Imperium.
Of course, this is all inconsequential to any biomass hungry Hive Mind, but important for the missions and is Sci-fi as all get out.
In the typical GW fashion, the 1st person perspective is interspersed within historical retellings of the events. The 1st person vignette titled "The Gathering Darkness" jumps the reader right into the impending doom Tyranids bring; as all stars in the night sky are blotted out by the impending invasion. Generally, Tyranid fluff has exclusively been told from the food's perspective, in Dataslate: Tyranid Vanguard we get a Tyranid voice for a change, as the Hive Mind reacts, adapting to the defenses assailed against it.
The forces defending the planet are Imperial Guard Catachans led by Stormdog Krelm & the Aurora Space Marine Chapter commanded by Captain Norensis. The Catachans are mostly a speed bump for the Tyranid invaders as Lictors snatch many in the jungles.The Aurora Chapter on the other hand protects vital positions and waits for the main invasion to come. The central feeling for the background reads like Aliens, Predator, and Pitch Black all rolled into one ball of fun.
The third chapter is the Formations, and are clearly not what the Dataslate writers obsessed over, but the internet crazed players certainly have. Since Tyranids cannot Ally with anyone these formations garnered even more focus than usual.
There are five new formations.
- Lictor Forest Brood
- Manufactorum Genestealers
- Death Leaper's Assassin Brood
- Broodlord's Hunting Pack
- Gargoyle Bio-Bombs
Formation: 1 Lictor Forest Brood
Formations Restrictions: Consists of one unit of five Lictors
Special Rules: Deadly Fruit
Deadly Fruit: All models in this Formation have the Shrouded special rule, in addition when infiltrating in any Forest can set-up within 6" from any enemy unit.
Analysis: This formation is limited because it requires forest for the special rule. Worse, Shrouded Lictors will still easily fall to mass shooting and high strength weapons especially if they are within 6" from the opponent. Your only hope is going first and striking with 10 shots from Flesh Hooks to get First Blood.
Formation: 5 Genestealers Broods
Formations Restrictions: Manufactorum Genestealers Broods may not include additional Genestealers
Special Rules: Unsuspected
All models in this Formation have the Hit & Run special rule, in addition when infiltrating in any Building or Ruins can set-up within 6" from any enemy unit.
Analysis: This formation is limited because you cannot take large Genestealer units. It means getting lucky surviving long enough to use Hit & Run. The key here is assaulting with multiple units. Depending on the turn you can Hit & Run one unit out while another stays engaged. The ability to infiltrate in buildings or ruins is slightly more useful than forests since they are more ubiquitous.
Formation: Deathleaper & 5 Lictor Broods
Formations Restrictions: Lictor Broods in this Formation are individual units each consisting of a single model
Special Rules: Paranoia and Ill discipline
All models in this Formation have Preferred Enemy (Characters & Independent Characters). Any Enemy Unit within 12" of any unit in this Formation suffers -1 to Leadership.
Analysis: This Formation has some potential when you combine it with Deathleaper's already powerful Leadership penalty. It is just too bad the Leadership penalties don't stack because then you could have super anti-psyker weapon. As it is, the best use for this formation is in tandem with Horror driven Broodlords to keep enemy units pinned down.
Formation: 3 Genestealer Broods
Formations Restrictions: One Genestealer Brood must include a Broodlord. Only one Broodlord can be taken in this Formation.
Special Rules: Hidden Behind the City & Hunting Pack
Any unit in this Formation arriving from Reserve can set-up in any unoccupied Building or in Ruins as long as they are set-up more than 6" away from any enemy unit. When the Broodlord from this Formation is deployed all units in this Formation get Preferred Enemy against one chosen enemy unit.
Analysis: This is a clever Formation, but requires Ruins. Luckily you can get any large Genestealer units, but Preferred Enemy isn't that powerful for assault dedicated only units. One possible tactic with this formation is destroying an opponent's building occupants and have the Genestealers set-up inside. Overall, this formation just takes too much to be reliable.
Formation: 3 Spore Mine Clusters & 3 Gargoyle Broods
Formations Restrictions: None
Special Rules: Wings of Death
If a Spore Mine Cluster from this Formation starts a move at least 6" from a Gargoyle from this Formation then the Spores can move 6" and their run and charge distances are not halved.
Analysis: This strange Formation is way to get Gargoyles into your army without taking slots from Crones or Harpies. With no restriction you are free to set up Spores and Gargoyles any way. This is definitely a fun Formation if you want to force your opponent into dealing with waves of Spores Mines.
The last chapter is the missions. The two missions presented directly mirror moments in the background fluff.
Echos of War Mission: The Screaming Forest
This mission has the Tyranid face off against Space Marines with Imperial Guard Allies. This mission is great as the defenders are boxed in by Tyranids with only one exit. Each side has their own victory conditions. The Space Marines have to escort their units off one specific short table edge, while the Tyranids must destroy as many units as possible before they escape. Adding to the frantic scene are Jungle Events, bringing a bit of Death Worlds into the game with random terrain effects.
Echos of War Mission: Battle for the Underengines
The second mission has Tyranids against Imperial Guard. The twist with this mission is Army Contingents. Each player separates his army into three groups, you then must play one game for each group, and total up Victory points at the end of all three battles to determine the winner! This mission also has various other special rules effecting reserves.
This mission has lots of potential to play differently to most games. Just don't try it as a pick-up game. This mission takes planning; discuss with your opponent what units to use because you can easily end up with one Army Contingent without a way of hurting another. I would also suggest using 4x4 table for faster battles.
Dataslate: Tyranid Vanguard - Rising Leviathan I showcases Dataslates done right. It combines fluff and fun to create a unique story and campaign most Tyranid players can get into. For the competitive player this Dataslate won't have you pulling Lictors and Genestealers off the shelves. If you are a dedicated Tyranid player and have extra money this is a good buy; after you finish reading it you will eagerly pickup the other installments. Even with all the great things I can say about this product it is still overpriced, and that is what ultimately what brings it down. I can see paying around 10-12 bucks for this Dataslate. As it is, you get pay three times the cost of a normal Dataslate for about double the content. My hope is GW will at some point release a bundle of all three Dataslates together at cheaper price point.
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