Goonhammer presents Fury of the Swarm: Tyranid Horde Mode

The new Tyranid minis from the Leviathan boxed set are incredible, and there’s about to be a lot of them arriving in homes across the globe. I’ve met a lot of people who love the minis and want to paint them, but who don’t find the bugs’ gestalt Hive Mind to be all that relatable. Which is weird when you think about it; what could be more human than a self-propelled ecosystem that unsustainably consumes its own environment?

Now look, to unbury the lead here: I am writing a cooperative play mode for Warhammer 40,000 in which the players unite to survive against Tyranids following pre-programmed instincts. It’s also playable solo. If you like the concept of painting then battling against the infinite beasts of the Hive Fleet while trying to achieve increasingly vicious objectives, you’re in the right place.

In this post I’m going to outline the plan, and how that plan involves YOU, yes you, as we venture forth into this experiment.

To cover the ‘you’ part immediately: my plan is to put out the draft rules as an open beta, right here on Goonhammer. Your feedback will help shape the project over its 20 week development, letting us know what works, what doesn’t, and what we could do differently.

It’s an experiment

It’s important to be clear, right out of the gate, that this is an experiment. I may be about to fall flat on my design face. Sure, I’ve already played test games with friends, and those games have been fun, but that’s no guarantee of producing something that thrills other people. Other members of the Goonhammer crew have already thrown their hats in the ring, though, so I’m reasonably confident we’re about to facilitate some hobby joy.

The core concept

The ‘core’ rules in Fury of the Swarm aim to be reasonably simple – just a couple of pages – to tell you how the Tyranids will move and fight when there’s no player making the decisions for them. Obviously in a game like Warhammer 40K, no such system will be perfect. This leads us to the second most important rule:

Mission design does the heavy lifting

Tyranids naturally evoke all kinds of cinematic scenarios. One of the joys of designing co-op missions with such a narrative spin is that they aren’t constrained by needing to be two armies of equal points. In a defensive mission the bugs might heavily out-point the players; in a genestealer hunt the players might have far more resources, but if even one genestealer escapes, it counts as defeat. Victory needs to be hard won if you’re going to feel like you’ve triumphed against the odds.

The plan is to provide a range of scenarios, and generally, the mindless horde will be given a mechanical advantage against which you have to triumph using your brain.

Co-op campaigns

Any of the missions will be playable in isolation, but will also be designed to slot into a simple three-phase campaign structure. If you play one or more missions from each of the three phases, you’ll get to play through a Tyranid Hive Fleet’s invasion of a planet from the first mycetic spore to the last oceanic gulp.

Phase One: Sporefall
Missions designed for this invasion phase will be trying to evoke the early stages of the invasion. You could be battling Tyranids in the corridors of orbital defence batteries, helping them to kill as many hive ships as possible before they can deploy their repulsive cargo all over your precious biosphere. Perhaps instead you’ll be defending surface to air batteries groundside, or even hunting vanguard organisms as they probe population centres.

The price of failure during Sporefall is that the Tyranids will be even more powerful in the main battles of Phase Two.

Phase Two: the Fulcrum
This is named because it’s a fork in the road. Victory or defeat here determines whether Phase Three is about your glorious last stand, or instead about purging the hive mind from your world.

Missions might involve forming a cordon around a new and upsetting hole in the perimeter as bugs squirt through it, escorting a supply convoy, or hunting down the contents of a Mycetic Spore drop that fell somewhere behind the lines.

Phase Three: Extermination/Evacuation
This ‘set’ of missions falls into one of two categories, depending on whether you won the Fulcrum. It serves as an epilogue, and conventional wisdom should say one ends the story with the decisive moment, but then we’d miss out on all the cool scenarios you get in this stage of an invasion, so nurr.

If you lost, it’s time to fight missions revolving around catching the last shuttle off world, fighting a last stand beneath a banner on a hill, or setting off the virus bomb stored in the governor’s vault.

If you won, it’s time to initiate a xenopurge. Missions will involve the Tyranids defending their spawning pools and spore chimneys, or you hunting down the last synapse creatures. Failure here will curse your planet to a long, lingering and extremely toothy infection.

A Tyranid Warrior informs a lone Imperial Guardsman of the merits of the Hive Mind. Credit: Charlie Brassley & Tom Saunders

The release schedule

Fury of the Swarm will be a fortnightly column. Here’s what I’ve got planned:

  1. This post, announcing my hubris.
  2. The initial release. This will keep things simple, with just the instinctive behavour rules and a basic mission featuring a pitched battle set during the Fulcrum. That way we can check the core rules are working broadly as intended.
  3. Campaign mode go! This post will contain three missions: one for Sporefall, one for Evacuation, and one for Extermination. That’ll mean we’ve got four missions in total, and can play a three-mission campaign!
  4. This post I’ll talk about the feedback we’ve had from both internal and external playtesters, and any rules changes that resulted from it.
  5. This post will include 2-3 new missions, adding more variety to your campaigns.
  6. This post will include 2-3 new missions, adding more variety to your campaigns.
  7. This post will include 2-3 new missions, adding more variety to your campaigns.
  8. Again, we’ll go over feedback, and resulting rules changes. At this point I start work on laying out Version 1, with pictures and blackjack.
  9. A quick update post saying where version 1’s at, with a few previews of the laid out pages.
  10. The release of Version 1 as a downloadable PDF.

That’s all I’m committing to for now. Depending on the reception and general level of interest we could think about adding more missions in the future, or contemplating a new supplement for other 40K races, but I really do think Tyranids make the most sense. Moreover, I have to imagine this is a project with niche appeal, being made by a nutter who absolutely lacks the resources of the GW design studio. Ultimately if I get a cool co-op mode out of this that I can play with my friends, and which some other strangers on the internet have also enjoyed, it’ll be a net gain.

Edit: we did it! Version 1 can be accessed here.

Let’s Paint Some Tyranids

Half the point of Fury of the Swarm is to give 10th Edition’s new Tyranid players another reason to get some paint on their sexy new bugs. That includes me! I’m lucky enough to have a box on preorder and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get time to sling some paint at them while writing these rules. It’s gonna have to be a fast paint scheme.

Let us know if you’re interested in this galaxy-brained idea, and if it gets you painting some Tyranids then share those too! As ever, sling your thought splosms toward or, if you’re a Goonhammer patron, you can also @ me in the patron Discord – I’m Charlie B.

A Tervigon approaches some hapless Tempestus Scions. Credit: Charlie Brassley & Tom Saunders