Is the main issue with Codex: Tyranids that it is under-powered, or is it that too many other codexes are OVER-powered?
Hello again! Having the Friday off as well I thought I'd finish my musings on this topic today rather than wait for next week. I ended the first part with the question above, and while the first part went into some glaring (albeit fixable) errors in the codex design, I feel that the answer lies more in the latter part of the question than the former.
Balancing a game as complex as Warhammer 40k is an extremely hard process, compounded by the rate of codex releases and other additions/supplements such as Escalation and Stronghold Assault. Not to say it is impossible, but I think the community as a whole can agree that, regardless of your opinion on Games Workshop, they could be doing much more to provide more balance.
It's not to say that they don't make any effort, as FAQs are released from time to time to address wording and ambiguity issues, however I think (and in light of the less-than-stellar financials, which you can read about at Faeit 212 and many other blogs) that a bit more focus in this area would be hugely beneficial to their end-game, i.e. building a healthy, growing, profitable community.
So back to the main question. Codex: Tyranids has been out just over a week or so, and some of the best competitive minds have been poring over it trying to find a few nuggets in a fairly bland codex. There are some potential combos, but they mainly revolve around keeping our squishy synapse creatures alive longer, which summarizes the main woe of this codex.
To be clear, I don't want Codex: Tyranids to include a Screamerstar, a Farsight Bomb, a Jetbike Counsel, Wave Serpent spam or any other silliness I read about. In fact, this addresses the crux of the issue head-on: If these over-powered death-stars/combos were removed (or toned down significantly), would Codex: Tyranids really be regarded as poorly as it is? Yes, the Synapse issue still remains and would have to be addressed, and no, I am not saying that in a meta free of power-gaming combos that it would be the most competitive, but I think the main problem with the codex is that is under-powered specifically BECAUSE a lot of the previous 6th Ed codexes allowed for a lot more tactical flexibility and power combos.
Codex: Tyranids, from a rules perspective, would still be considered much less imaginative and lacking the flair of some of its 6th Ed cousins. From a gaming perspective, however, where the goal is to create a system that allows (or as close as possible) equal opportunity for any army to win in a competitive setting, the problem is less with Codex: Tyranids and more with unbalanced units in the other books. The Tyranids do not have a go-to unit (or units) with the same utility as a Wave Serpent, a Wraithknight, a Riptide, a Flying Daemon Prince, or a Helldrake, but they shouldn't NEED one. The closest thing we had was the 5th Ed Tervigon, and that is no longer in the same category as the others.
Nor do Tyranids have a codex like Space Marines, which may not have a go-to unit per se, but seems to have a significant amount of synergy that aides in list building and allows for creativity and diversity. However, believe it or not, I feel that this codex isn't far off this mark. Will it be FAQ'ed to fix some of the main issues? Extremely unlikely.
So there you are, we are left with a little bit of a "the chicken or the egg?" scenario, where each successive codex release changes the meta of the game, and then the meta of the game changes the opinion of subsequent releases. When we get 2 or 3 strong codex releases, followed by a seemingly lacklustre one, all hell breaks loose. We all know about power creep, a somewhat inevitable effect when the company making the rules wants to sell you new models every few years (or months), but is the solution more power creep? If Codex: Tyranids was a competitive beast, would we be holding our breaths for the IG (or Ork) codexes to help stop the Great Devourer? And then what?
So with that in mind, and an empty coffee mug in hand, Games Workshop (because of course they are reading my blog religiously, I am sure the dozens of referrals clicking through here via www.vampirestat.com are not spambots but actually GW executives who have a vampire fetish): Tweak away. Update points costs, re-write some rules. Don't turn the whole meta upside down overnight, but hey, at least do something to address the roar of the internet. Make your fan-base happy. Who knows, maybe in another 6 months your financials will look a bit different...