Friday, February 24, 2012

The Tyranid Archive - Epic 40k

In honour of 40k's 25th Birthday this year, I'm working at an ongoing series called "The Tyranid Archive," which is meant to be a historical look back on where Tyranids came from and how far they've come. As I wasn't sure I'd have time for a Flesh Friday this week, here's a little Tyranid Archive side trip. Apparently there was a goodly amount going on back in second edition, and a complete Tyranid Archive would not be the same without the inclusion of...

Epic 40,000
(Also known as Titan Legions, Warhammer Micro Machines, and Sorry My Cat Ate Half Your Army)

I can't tell you very much about the Epic game system, unfortunately, since I never had any interest in/experience with it. However, Games Workshop did a pretty good job of shrinking down all of the second edition Tyranids into epic models, while also expanding the overall Tyranid line to include some massive bugs that we'd never seen before. Though the designs for the bigger bugs were a bit wacky, and, in some instances, a bit too sluggish for my tastes, they created a space in the imaginations of Tyranid players that has persisted to this day, encouraging people to take on conversions to represent things like DominatrixesExocrines, and Dactylis.

So, without further ado, here are the Tyranids of Epic 40k. Special thanks to Warpshadow member Markconz for providing us with photos of his swarm.

First off, the devils we know:

Here we find the sum total of the Tyranid Plastic offering in epic. Among their tiny number (if you click, the image will get only slightly larger), you should be able to distinguish the mantis claws of Lictors and the wings of gargoyles most readily. Next, we have the red-fleshborer-totting, white-carapaced termagants on the left and right sides of the front row, with the white-clawed hormagaunts bringing up the middle. Most difficult to discern may be the groups of three warriors in the back, and the clawed genestealers hanging out with them.

Here we have three tiny Hive Tyrants. well as three bulbous-headed Zoanthropes. I am oddly fond of these models :) am I a fan of the Epic rendition of the old metal Carnifex, though the claws could, of course, use a bit more curve to them.

 This one is a bit of a mixed bag, with a Zoanthrope and some Warriors in the back, keeping synpase coverage on the slew of Biovores in the middle of this pack. The front line is being held down by termagants.

Next up, the big boys of Epic: the Tyranid Bio Titans that introduced creatures far beyond the scale of anything the bugs had seen.

If I recall correctly, the Dominatrix stood in for the Hive Tyrants as main synaptic nexus and commander of the Epic swarms. If you look on his back, you can see a cannon and a crescent-shaped growth. This crescent was meant to be a throne-type structure that held a Hive Tyrant or similarly psychic creature. It was this creature that worked symbiotically with the Dominatrix to lend it some psychic might. When Hydra made his first Dominatrix in normal 28mm/40k scale from a Forge World Hierodule, he had a warrior-sized "rider" on its back, and I did similarly when I created mine. I also tried to, sort of, replicate those odd sail-like growths in the carapace plates I placed around the psychic rider to shield him.

Oh, and I just realized that there is a termagant running along beside that Dom to give an idea of scale.

To give the Epic swarm some air support, GW invented the Harridan, a biological gunship with an impressive wingspan. The Harridan also served as a means of deploying gargoyles, and you can see a flock of the plastic gargoyles encircling this model.

 The biggest boy of the Epic scale was the Hierophant (fitting, that, as the Hierophant remains the biggest Nid you can find in the Forgeworld line today). Though I can't tell you how they performed on the battlefield beyond guessing that they went toe to toe with Reaver and Warlord Titans, the pewter model outlived the Epic game system by a ways. A number of Tyranid modelers got hold of that spidery frame and attached all manner of Tyranid Monstrous Creatures to the front of it. Further, I guess you could say that elements of the overall design aesthetic live on as when Jes Goodwyn drew up the sketch that Forgeworld based their Hierophant on, it had a similar, spidery bearing.

The Hierophant's younger sister was the Hierodule. To this day I'm not sure I can tell what the difference between the two models was, but I'm assuming the Hierodule was slightly smaller. Though the Forgeworld Hierophant seems to have taken cues from the original Epic 'phant, the same can't be said for the Hierodule as it abandoned the original's spidery look for the current Killer Chicken design.

Finally, Game Workshop decided to introduce some Tyranid creatures to fill some holes at the tank-sized-Tyranid level.

From left to right: the Haruspex, Trygon, and Malefactor. All three of them dubbed "Assault Spawn," with each filling a slightly different role. The Haruspex was just meant to bust things open: it was equipped with explosive frag spines and an acid jet for softening up its foes a bit before it brought its giant claws to bear on them. The Trygon was mostly stabby, but it had an electric field that was either meant to be static or psychic, and it could channel this field using its four, carnifex-like claws to make things go boom. The Malefactor was one of the only transports the Tyranids ever received (well, other than the Harridan), and though I think it, too, had Frag Spines to protect itself, it was mostly meant to ferry the squishier Tyranid organisms to the front line under the protection of its armour.

The Tyranid Exocrine was the closest the bugs ever came to standard artillery. It was simply a slug-y transport creature for a huge bio cannon.

The Dactylis formed our other Niddy artillery. Named "The Ol Tomato Chucker by some, those red balls you see in the creature's claws were spore mines that it grew under its carapace and then quite literally threw at the swarm's opponents. In my opinion, it was definitely the wackiest of the Tyranid tanks.

Though the Epic scale got a bit nonsensical with some of the models, with the introduction of these Epic Tyranid bio tanks at sizes only slightly larger than the Hive Tyrant and the Carnifex, it seemed that it would be easy for Games Workshop to reproduce these models in Warhammer 40k 28mm scale. At the time, though, GW seemed to lack the technology and the company was not sure if there would be a demand for larger models, so they wound up farming the project out to a certain third party company in the United States, a company that was destined to forever change the scale of combat in the 41st millennium.

More on that on Sunday.


  1. I have many of those figures in various states of assembly, waiting for their time in the sun. Some are a bit goofy and the conversion from 28mm to 6mm isnt always flattering, but they have a lot of charm I reckon. Some of them are better than the dodgier 28mms that came before too I think.

    Markconz' army is lovely, much more muted and bug like than the colour schemes prevalent in that era. You should see the fugly few that I finished...

    That edition of Epic strained at the seams even before Hive War came out. The bugs finally made it collapse when they arrived.

  2. I really wish you did more Epic posts... ><
    (even more if those would be Tyranid xD)

    1. Sorry friend! Never got into it as there's not enough to sculpt :P

      Maybe if it gets reborn via FW...?

  3. Nine years late to the party, but here's some further info on the Epic Tyranids:

    Like 40K, Epic went through several editions. The Tyranids arrived in the system (as it were) during 2nd edition Epic, also known as Space Marine / Titan Legions. The Epic Hive War supplement was released shortly before Codex Tyranids for 2nd ed 40K. The two projects were pretty much done at the same time--masterminded by Andy Chambers, IIRC.

    The Hive Tyrants and Carnifexes in the photos here are resculpts from 3rd edition (Epic 40,000). The older Titan Legion era sculpts were bigger--way out of scale with the little plastic Nids--and they're much more common on the secondhand market.

    In 2nd ed Epic there was only one Zoanthrope sculpt, one Exocrine sculpt, and so on. In 3rd ed they kept the old sculpt for each creature in the range, but added various new ones with different head frills, spikes, etc. I think Trygons and Harridans stayed the same. So did the Bio-Titans, thankfully. (3rd ed Epic had some really awful Titan redesigns.)

    Sadly, 3rd edition Epic crashed and burned, so the revamped Tyranid metal range wasn't available on shelves for long. The resculpts can be harder to find these days than the older Titan Legions range with its outsized Tyrants and Carnifexes. Another difference is that the older metals were usually cast in lead--at least those sold in the UK and Europe--while the newer ones were cast in white metal.