Love it or hate it, super heavies are part of the main game now. But, you’ll especailly hate the Tyranid Harridan!
Welcome to my weekly article, Level(ed) Playing Field, where I examine the shifting meta of Warhammer 40,000 and the growing presence of Gargantuan Creatures and Superheavy Vehicles on your local tabletop battlefield.
First off, let’s get one thing out of the way: love it or hate it, super heavies are part of the main game now. You may have your old school “things were better in 3rd edition” mentality. You may think the GW design team has lost its collective mind. You may ban superheavy vehicles and gargantuan creatures at your local store. But they are not going away any time soon. They’re part of the game, not just an optional Escalation supplement anymore and no longer reserved only for Apocalypse, so get used to it. I will be using this article to examine superheavy units individually, and dissecting their presence in normal games of 7th edition Warhammer 40,000 as well as Apocalypse.
The Tyranid Harridan
A Tyranid Gargantuan Creature which has had a model since 3rd edition or so, exclusively from Forge World, this flying monstrosity makes for an interesting addition to any Hive Fleet, and boasts a range of benefits for all-flying Tyranid swarms, or a potent aerial asset to support scuttling ground units. This week’s focus is a unit which few people use, and may be somewhat controversial given its appearance purely in FW’s Imperial Armour and GW’s Escalation books. But, it’s 7th edition and anything goes!
As a Flying Gargantuan Creature, a Harridan has all the special rules- Unstoppable, Stomp, Fear, Fearless, Hammer of Wrath, Move Through Cover, Relentless, Smash, Strikedown, Vector Strike, and yes, Feel No Pain. There is some controversy as to how many weapons a Gargantuan Creature can fire- some people seem to think only two weapons as per a monstrous creature; others seem to agree that the wording “it may fire each of its weapons at a different target” to mean that the GC/FGC can fire all weapons it is equipped with. Either way, this shouldn’t effect the Harridan, as it only has two weapons to shoot with.
As a Flying Gargantuan Creature, the Harridan also uses the unmodified rules for Flying Monstrous Creatures- it must be set to swoop or glide each turn, it can Jink, it’s Hard to Hit, and if wounded, it must take a Grounded Test- which if failed can severely hamper the beast’s performance. Back in the day, there was a rule called “Born in the Air” which killed a Harridan outright if it was grounded (or so I’m told, I’ve never read the rule myself)- no such rule currently exists in either Escalation or Imperial Armour IV: The Anphelion Project, Second Edition.
Of unique benefit is that the Harridan can act as an open-topped transport for up to 20 Gargoyles, thus providing an incredibly swift means of grabbing objectives or bringing a good number of (small and weak) bodies to a fight.
Harridans come equipped with a set of Scything Talons- bog standard for any Tyranid unit, and a pair of Bio-Cannons (two, not twin-linked). These weapons boast 48” range, S10, Ap3, Heavy 6, meaning you’re likely to hit with about half your shots at the creature’s BS3, and put the hurt on any MEQ type units across a very wide threat range. Furthermore, as a Fearless unit with no Synaptic Behavior rule and LD10, the Harridan is free to roam far and wide as it hunts new targets, including other flyers- Swooping Hunters allows Flying MCs (including FGCs) to fire their weapons in any direction all around, and choose whether to Skyfire or not when they shoot.
Bring Down the Beast
It’s unlikely a Tyranid player will ever voluntarily drop a Harridan into gliding, so you won’t be able to go full on Van Zandt on its ass (….am I the only other person who remembers Reign of Fire? Clearly Moloch/Marco Shulze does). However, there are plenty of ways to tackle a beefy Lord of War such as this. AA weaponry in the form of an Aegis Defense Line is available to most every army, but even then S7 AP4 isn’t going to do a lot against a T8, 3+ save, 8 Wound, FNP xeno-dragon.
Dogfighters and Air Superiority Flyers are likely your best bet- every army has a flyer, and with enough volume of fire, cover-save ignoring weaponry, or high-strength shots you can pierce the Harridan’s armor and force it to the ground, or kill it outright- and if you’re lucky take a few of its passengers with it! It may shrug off a few wounds with FNP, but volume of fire is the key to taking it down.
The following are some extremely potent anti-flyers who can put the hurt on the Harridan. Though every army has different answers, nobody is truly lacking in options.
Donkey Punch: The Onager Dunecrawler is the Flyer’s worst enemy. With a barrage of relatively high strength, Skyfire, and Interceptor shots, this Skitarii walker can put one or two wounds per turn on a Harridan in range. The only downside is the walker’s relatively short range and slow speed- it may be outmaneuvered if the Tyranid player is clever. If you’re not using Skitarii (and therefore the fun donkey-related header is inapplicable), dedicated AA units such as the Space Marine Hunter/Stalker or the Necron Sentry Pylon with Gauss Exterminator will suit your needs perfectly.
Hunt the Hunter: Crimson Hunters are the Craftworld Eldar’s best anti-fighter airpower. Although admittedly suited more for hunting nonorganic flyers with armor values, its twin heavy weapons (star cannons or bright lances) can clip a FGC’s wings in short order. With its own Jink and the Vector Dancer special rule, the Crimson Hunter (or a small squadron of them) can hunt down a Harridan on their own terms.
Mind over Monster: Psychic powers are always a good option for dealing with tough opponents. Although Flyers are difficult to hit, Nova Witchfires auto-hit everything effected, specifically including Flyers and Flying Monstrous Creatures (and therefore Flying Gargantuan Creatures as well). However, Nova powers are absurdly short ranged at 9” for all Basic-Rulebook ones, meaning you will have to be practically base-to-base with the Harridan above your psyker. Malediction powers don’t need to roll to hit, and can target flyers with no penalties- these can be extremely damaging to an enemy Flying Gargantuan Creature, so powers such as Misfortune (used in conjunction with AA weapons) or Hallucination can have an incredibly potent effect.
Despite being an incredibly potent threat, the Harridan is not without its own weaknesses. Yes, it will take a large chunk of your army to damage or destroy one, but remember that as a Lord of War your opponent is likely to only field a single Harridan, and its hefty 735 point cost will ensure that the rest of the Tyranid army will be severely hampered by its loss. Do not despair at the site of a Flying Gargantuan Creature (or any superheavy), they are powerful weapons but far from unbeatable!
What is your most dreaded Superheavy?