07: Article in SIX IN THE HEAD #9 (2021)




In this epic segment of foggy memory and heavy embellishment, MICHAEL VAN GORE of Anatomy of the Heads (interviewed in Issue 8 of the zine) tells SIX IN THE HEAD of a most glorious time, when the Dark Eldar faced a devouring Tyranid swarm in a 2000pt game of 3rd Edition Warhammer.

The two armies clashed in the definitive standard mission of the era - Death Match, where two armies deploy in a 'hammer and anvil' position and there are no points, no primaries, no secondaries, no command points, no tactical card mumbo jumbo - nothing - just the eternal glory of a death match! Whoever kills all the minis in the opposing army first wins (although a victory by submission is also possible). For the uninitiated, let me sum up what these two armies are all about. Lore wise the Dark Eldar are tragically hedonistic space pirates that, after millennia of orgies, need to enslave and torture others to replenish what little is left of their dark souls from being consumed by demons. On the table they are the definition of a glass hammer. They can dish it out like the best of armies, but they cannot take anything and fold like cardboard when hit by the rain. Their only defense is their mobility and high initiative that makes them strike first in close combat. The Tyranids, on the other hand, are a body horror from beyond the galaxy with no individual minds to speak of. There is only the hive and its hunger for biomass, which is why this faction is also known as the great devourer. On the table they are a horde army with some giant monsters that are as tough as they come. They rush the enemy and decimate them in melee combat. That being said, both armies mix as well as oil and water in lore as well as on the table. Since Tyranids feel no pain and can't nourish the twisted desires of the Dark Eldar, while the Dark Eldar are too few and far between to make a good meal for the Tyranids. Equally, a horde facing up against a glass hammer can go either way with no clear advantage, so it is up to clever game play and lady luck to determine the outcome. Now that we're all up to speed, let's begin our tale of love, lust and bloodshed.


The armies were set up on a goblin green grassland table with some sparing industrial scatter terrain and a giant crater in the middle of the board. I knew from the beginning that Round One was going to decide my fate. If I seized the initiative, my Dark Eldar could unleash hellfire on the Tyranids. If the Tyranids seized the initiative, I would suffer crucial losses to the Biovore (imagine living weapons shooting spore grenades) artillery.  As luck would have it I made the initiative roll. With childlike glee I moved the few things that were able to move. Since I decided to spam as many dark lances as possible, my army was quite immobile for a Dark Eldar army. Even so, with this setup there were some crucible moves to be done in the movement phase. I had one mobile squad of Warriors (the common foot soldier of the Dark Eldar) with anti-infantry weapons that was on the mission to move as close as possible towards the Hive Tyrant (an Alien Queen© but without the egg sack) and its bubble of monsters to drop a webway portal so that the Archon (an ancient arrogant guy with a whip) and Incubi (armoured warrior monks with sci-fi halberds) could emerge from the webway and kick some ass. In order for that to work they would need the protection of a screen of flesh-crafted monstrosities. The basis for this wall of flesh was a few Grotesques (abominations made from the twisted flesh of slaves and something that is straight out of a Hellraiser© movie). In this edition of 40K, Grotesques are invulnerable towards anything below strength six, which renders them invulnerable to the horde of Hormagaunts (the bugs from Starship Troopers©) they would likely encounter. But they are also stupid, which made them unreliable movers as you have to pass a test for them to move without a supporting character. Hence, the need for a Haemonculus (basically a Cenobite©). To make the wall of flesh even more durable as well as to add some firepower, I threw a Talos into the mix (a sentient mobile torture chamber in the shape of a scorpion). Lastly, I put the Wytches, (gladiatorial space elves that provide the unwashed masses with the spectacle of pain and agony) on the Raider (an open-top flying pirate ship) and manoeuvered into a position that enabled them to flank the horde of Hormagaunts and deliver the death blow to them once they would be thinned out by the flesh priests. Then it was shooting time. Seventeen dark lances searched for a target. As much as I wanted to tackle the bubble of monsters at the end of the table, I had to get rid of the Biovores, whose artillery weapons were the bane of all squishy infantry troops. With that many dark lances it was no problem at all. Also, the Talos as well as the splinter weapons of the Warriors squads scraped off some Hormagaunts, here and there, but the giant horde would prevail for many more rounds. As effective as my turn was, the swarm of alien monstrosities marched on unaffected. The hive tyrant and her entourage of copyright infringements made up of two Carnifexes (imagine the spawn of The Hulk© being facehuggered), and six Warriors (basically mini hive tyrants) moved towards me like clockwork. In between the blob of Hormagaunts and the monster bubble was a squad of Genestealers (literally Alien© but with four arms and a less penis-shaped head), but the whole army would need another two turns to dish out any real damage in close combat. In awe and terror I made, drank and enjoyed a cup of coffee as the millions of Hormagaunts moved six inches. The opponent's strategy was clear. Use a cheap horde of Hormagaunts to bind as many of my units as possible in melee combat to give the second wave of heavy hitters time to advance and wipe the table with me. This type of glorious melee combat would be unavoidable, but I had to buy as much time as possible to soften them up. As predicted the Lictor (the Predator© if he would be a worm) popped out behind the five squads of Warrior to distract some dark lance fire. Then, all the venom cannons emptied their loads of bioplasm upon the Ravager (an open-top pirate gunship), and with a few more than lucky dice rolls the vehicle was destroyed. Finally, the Lictor went to work on the first heavy weapons team who offered little resistance to its rending claws, and I knew that depending on the situation, I would have to make strategic sacrifices to the Lictor in order to keep up the pressure on the monsters


This was it. First contact. At the end of this turn I would engage the first wave of Hormagaunts with the Wytches and Hellraiser© units. I moved the wall of flesh aggressively forward, the Wytches disembarked from the raider and emptied their ineffective splinter pistol fire into the mob. Even though, with a bit of luck they would be able to dish out five attacks each when attacking, the size of the swarm made every dead body count. The webway portal team fell behind and got ready to stay out of close combat and circumvent the large brawl that was about to take place in the crater. The Lictor was still busy with the last six survivors of the warrior squad and would probably chew its way through the rest of the warrior squads in the next few turns - a sacrifice I was willing to make as long as I could knock off as many monsters as possible. So this time twelve dark lances went into the two Carnifexes and the monster turned into the type of primordial soup they were made out of. Also, some more Hormagaunts died because of splinter fire, but the sea of bodies that filled up the table knew no end. And just like that all the shooting was done. The Talos, Grotesques and Homunculi, as well as the Wytches, declared a charge against the Hormagaunt mobs. At this point it must have been still seventy or eighty models that filled the crater in the centre of the table. The Wytches knocked off another fifteen Hormagaunts, the Talos got lucky to get four attacks and the Haemonculus brought the body count up to twenty with some very unfortunate rolls on his scissor hand. But overall the blob of bodies was reduced by half at this point. The only thing left to do was to watch the Lictor devour the last two warriors of the first unit it had attacked. This time there would be no coffee... Everything went by swiftly and brutally. The monsters moved towards the brawl and focused all of their venom cannon fire on the second Ravager and blew it up, which meant that only eight dark lances were left. Another two would be tied up by the Lictor. By this time every single shot counted. But of course the main event was the giant melee brawl. Without the charging buff the damage output of my units drastically went down, and I only managed to take another ten Hormagaunts out before the sheer number of their imbecilic attacks took out half of the Wytches. However, the Hellraiser© units stood boldly and impervious, and I was confident that they would eventually burn through all the termagant bodies. Meanwhile, the Lictor gorged on another four Warriors...



From the blood of one hundred Hormagaunts rose a glorious melee brawl that has since been ingrained into my memory and is the sole reason for this tale; three of the tyranid Warriors, twelve Genestealers and the hive tyrant vs. ten Incubi and an Archon. The webway portal had successfully dropped and everything had died. I was the one who could charge and dished out thirty-eight attacks that ignored any armour. The warriors died and the hive Tyrant took as much damage as possible to protect the many attacks of the Genestealers that were enough to cut through my forces. When these attacks came down, a particularly poor dice roll together with the might of the hive tyrant lead to the destruction of all Incubi, but the Archon was still unscathed. The Archon hit back and wiped out half the squad of Genestealers in retaliation. Then there were no more bodies left to protect the leader of my army. His shadow field would be tested to its limits. For the uninitiated it is necessary to point out what this is. The 3rd Edition rules for Dark Eldar described it as follows: 'A shadow field provides the wearer with a two plus invulnerable save' (which is like the best armour in the game), but if the save is ever failed then the field is destroyed. As this situation would have it, I had to roll twenty-eight dice, one after the other. While the attacks of the Genestealers were many, they would only inflict one wound but 3rd edition Warhammer 40K also had a Sudden Death rule that came into effect when the strength of an attacker was at least twice the toughness of the opponent. Which means, a wound lost to one of the Hive tyrants attacks wound insta-kill the Archon. Rolling ones was not an option and I rolled all these dice one-by-one and succeeded. After the twelfth successful dice roll my opponent began to become frustrated and shouted “DIE! DIE! DIE!” with every roll I made... By the time I rolled over twenty successful invulnerability saves a small crowd had gathered around the table to see where this was going and how much damage the Archon could absorb until tragedy or triumph. The Archon survived, and finally took out the rest of the Genestealers.

Now it was mano a mano with only the damaged hive tyrant clawing at the Archon, and again I passed all six wounds. Everyone was invested and smiling; it wouldn’t matter who wins because the build-up was so epic and the finale so razor-thin. The crater was filled with dead bodies and hip-high blood, but apparently that is a turn off to lady luck, who, fickle as she is, left the table and the Archon failed to do any damage. The Hive Tyrant struck back and my first roll was a one. Everybody groaned and that was it: I had lost... But it was a damn cool match-up.