"Remember - SHOOT THE BIG ONES."
- – Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer on Tyranids
EVERYONE START SHOOTING!!
DISTRACTION CARNIFEX is a psychological wargame tactic which can be used by most Warhammer 40,000 armies, some Warhammer Fantasy Battle armies, and in several other wargames for good measure. The short version is that you plonk a huge, scary-looking model in the middle of the table, which draws a tremendous amount of enemy gunfire, while the real threats make it up the field relatively unmolested. Basically like an RPG tank.
It's named after the Carnifex, one of the big monsters of the Tyranid faction, because the DISTRACTION CARNIFEX was one of that faction's most popular tactics after their 4th edition codex. Many models other than the Carnifex can be used as a DISTRACTION model; in that case, it might still be called a DISTRACTION CARNIFEX (even if it isn't a Tyranid), a DISTRACTION <WHATEVER> (e.g. "DISTRACTION RIPTIDE"), or simply a DISTRACTION. The use of all caps is not optional.
- 1 DISTRACTION TACTICS
- 2 Some good DISTRACTION models
- 3 Variations
First, choose your DISTRACTION model. A DISTRACTION model must have the following properties:
- Physical size. Remember, you want the DISTRACTION to get shot. You still want it to stay alive, so by all means chase after cover saves as best you can, but if there's ever a ranged threat on the table that can't see the DISTRACTION, then you're doing it wrong.
- Toughness. DISTRACTIONS don't necessarily need offensive punch -- they're actually fairly likely to die before they hit melee -- but you need them to grip the table for as long as possible.
- Scariness. Remember that DISTRACTION is a psychological tactic; the bigger and scarier your model looks, the better your chances are of it pulling enemy gunfire.
- Low(ish) points cost. The DISTRACTION is a support model (indirectly) -- it should not be hogging your army points. By all means, give it all the toughness-boosting wargear you can get, and maybe one really scary-looking melee weapon wouldn't go amiss, but you want the rest of your army to be able to compensate for the loss of the DISTRACTION in the early game.
Second, choose the rest of your army. Anything that can boost the DISTRACTION's toughness without being too vulnerable itself is a must. Aside from that, try to build your army with a focus on smaller models and glass cannons -- if the DISTRACTION is taking fire, you don't need to worry so much about the little guys.
When you're deploying your army on the table, put the DISTRACTION down first, and put it right in the middle of the board (unless there's an obstacle in the middle, in which case you should put it in the longest unobstructed lane from front to back). Alternatively, you can deploy the DISTRACTION model through Deep Strike, but only if you have a Drop Pod or some other method for guaranteeing that it'll enter from reserve by Turn 2 at the latest.
- As of 8th Edition rules, deep strike rules and all their mishaps and issues (e.g. scattering and delays) no longer apply, but you can only deep strike units outside of your own deployment zone starting on Turn 2, and even then the deep striking has to be at least 9" away from enemy models. As a result, it's best suited for things which either have a way to reroll charges or have something to shoot with in case they don't make the charge.
- You could also plonk your DISTRACTION down last, after building an intentionally-there hole in the middle of your army. Make it nice and memorable, and the other guy won't even remember you put the rest of the army there to begin with.
During the battle, move the DISTRACTION either first or last in your turn order, and keep it in front of the rest of your force to keep its alleged threat fresh in your opponents' minds.
If the DISTRACTION pays off, the battle will go something like this:
- Guard turn 1: Everything shoots the DISTRACTION CARNIFEX.
- Tyranids turn 1: Tyranids advance.
- Guard turn 2: Everything shoots the DISTRACTION CARNIFEX.
- Tyranids turn 2: Tyranids advance.
- Guard turn 3: Everything shoots the DISTRACTION CARNIFEX. DISTRACTION CARNIFEX finally dies.
- Tyranids turn 3: Remaining Tyranids eat everyone else's face.
How to counter a DISTRACTION
To be honest, if you can recognize a DISTRACTION play, you already know how to counter it; don't dedicate your entire army just to killing the DISTRACTION. If you spread your firepower in a vaguely sensible way, then you can weaken the DISTRACTION and the rest of the opponent's army. For example, if you have some weapon which only hurts the DISTRACTION on a 6+ and doesn't break its armor, maybe don't shoot the DISTRACTION with it.
Is it really a DISTRACTION model?
People often confuse DISTRACTION units with death star units. To alleviate these misconceptions, we'll give a brief run-down of each role:
- DISTRACTION - a DISTRACTION unit, is large, menacing, and most importantly expendable. It needs to serve as its namesake suggests: as a distraction. It's not meant to be a line-breaker (although it can certainly act as one if given the chance), it's an assistant to your line-breakers, by re-directly damage to them that would otherwise cripple your main force. A DISTRACTION unit doesn't have to be heavily armed or be an avatar of destruction, it just has to be cost-effective enough that it seems menacing that your opponent can't leave it alone for too long (as it can still do a number to their units if it got close enough to be effective), but at the same time: cheap enough that losing it doesn't cripple your chances of victory.
- Death Star - like the Star Wars superweapon its named for, a DS unit is large, but is destructive, valuable instead, as it costs a lot of resources to field, and losing it is a hard-hit for your side (also that it has a glaring weak-point that can quickly destroy it, if exploited). It's meant to wreck your opponent's shit in, but unlike the DISTRACTION units; you can't afford to lose them (or at least you can't lose them before they managed to do their intended role). So, the main tactic is that you have DISTRACTION models close in on your opponent to draw fire, then your DS moves in for the kill.
It should be noted that there are cases where the line between a DS and a DISTRACTION starts to get blurry, either because the unit is far more powerful than its cost would suggest or because the rest of your units are almost as expensive as the unit in question. While very rare, such hybrids are by far the most effective DISTRACTIONS of all since if they're not killed immediately, they place an opponent in a no-win situation where ignoring the DISTRACTION is as likely to make them lose as falling for the DISTRACTION.
Some good DISTRACTION models
- DISTRACTION CARNIFEX: The original, but not really the best any more, because the Carnifex's point cost and access to toughness-boosting abilities have bounced back and forth a bit between editions. It was essential in 4th ed, impossible in 5th ed, and possible but not great in 6th, was up to the RNGs 7th, but work fairly well for the role in 8th. Scythefexes can do a huge amount of attacks at S6 for their relatively low points cost (and if you splurge for Screamer-Killers instead they get a LD debuff aura and an improved Bio-Plasma that messes up MEQs/TEQs), and Dakkafexes can put out absurd amounts of S6 firepower with much better accuracy than other Nids might get: A full brood of Dakkafexes with two Devourers each can put out a whopping 72 S6 AP-0 shots, hitting on 3s with enhanced senses; their Thornback cousins don't get quite as many shots due to only getting one set of Devourers, but their Stranglethorn Cannons still give them a bit of punch and they ignore cover with all their shots. You bet people are gonna put firepower into them. Because they'll have no choice as your Dakkafexes will turn their infantry into mulch otherwise. Also you need it ,because 8th is the horde edition.
- They can also get a built-in -1 to hit via Spore Cysts for only 10 points per fex. Needless to say, it's totally worth it since it frees up your Venomthropes to protect other units.
- DISTRACTION HARUSPEX: A 6th ed beast that seems to be practically made to fill the DISTRACTION role, especially since it can regain wounds by killing models in melee (if it gets there). So the new unit replaces an old one that can't do its job any more -- JUST AS PLANNED. AS of 8th, they've kinda fallen out of favor in favor of cheaper models or more powerful models, but it retains its melee power and self-healing effect.
- DISTRACTION STONECRUSHER CARNIFEX - Same as the Carnifex above, but it absolutely annihilates enemy vehicles, as opposed to making mincemeat out of medium infantry.
- DISTRACTION HIERODULE - Your Tyranid Knight equivalent. Massive damage sink and can be buffed to be nigh-invulnerable. For ~400 points, they put out titanic amounts of hurt and can absorb just as much.
- DISTRACTION AXE DREADNOUGHT: Again, drop pod one of these guys face first into the opponent's army and watch your opponents cry as your Dreadnought shrugs off even the strongest of attacks with it's 3++ save on top of its AV12. Be careful though, if they get your back armor you're dead.
- DISTRACTION DEATHWING KNIGHTS: Put Belial with them, deepstrike them right next to all the most dangerous units in your foe's army, and watch them squirm to murder them all. They may all die either by the sheer amounts of firepower or melee directed towards them, but it's worth watching your foe ignore Devastators, Deathwing Terminators, Ravenwing, and other such unit, just for the sheer infamous reputation that the Knights have gained.
- DISTRACTION DREADKNIGHT: Take a T6 W4 Termi with a weapon for ~170 points and see the enemy focus him without really damaging him fast.
- DISTRACTION OGRYN DEATHSTAR: 10 Ogryn with 2 Primaris Psykers (faq stated each get 2 rolls) with biomancy for toughness and allied dark angel psyker for rerolls on everything and 4+ invulnerabilities. Watch it absorb loads upon loads of fire as your tactical units sneak up on the enemy.
- DISTRACTION LONE WOLF: Give your Lone Wolf 2 Fen Wolves and Terminator Armor and just let him roam. If you feel generous, slap a Chainfist on him. The fact that you gain points by letting this guy die means you can expend him without much consequence.
- DISTRACTION SKITARII VANGUARDS: To be honest, this only really works against someone who hasn't played against your army much, if at all (which, since it still isn't very common, should mean this works quite often). Bare bones vanilla vanguard will run you 100pts for a ten-man squad and with their basic guns can put a serious smackdown on anything with a toughness value; add plasma calivers for extra distraction, though realize that this will make the unit a prohibitively expensive meat shield. That being said, if your opponent is targeting one vanguard squad with plasma calivers while the other three are closing in with a plethora of haywire and rad-weaponry unscathed then you're doing it right.
- DISTRACTION KASTELANS: T7 W3 FNP 3+/(5++ against shooting) robots, take 4+ and a Techpriest Dominus with the Relic Pimp Cane in formation for extra hilarity. Give one of the Datasmiths the Robes of the Technomartyr for the sweet, sweet boon of giving everyone Cognis. Their ability to severely hurt assaulters on Overwatch will perturb your opponent even more
- DISTRACTION CUSTODES: The entire army is basically Terminators on Steroids (albeit lacking in anti-tank) at the bare minimum. Special mention goes to the Telemon Heavy Dreadnought, which is devastating in both melee and ranged combat, can take a heavy beating, is able to deep strike via From Golden Light They Come, and pretty much forces the opponent to either focus fire on it or die. And given that your other units will be moving up while the Telemon does its thing, the opponent may very well die even if he doesn't fall for the distraction.
- DISTRACTION CULEXUS: While this sounds as though it shouldn't work (the Culexus model is human-sized), the eighth-edition target priority rules force the enemy of an all-assassin army to shoot the closest model, even if that model is an invisible (hit on a 6+, always) culexus assassin. With a low cost (they're cheaper than most armies' infantry squads), five wounds apiece and a 4+ invulnerable save, they're almost impossible to kill too. Thankfully no longer possible with the Beta rules for targeting characters.
- DISTRACTION DEMOLISHER CANNON: Historically the Vindicator and it's cousin the Leman Russ Demolisher bounces back and forth between Distraction and actual killing tool. The sheer power and potential of the Demolisher cannon meant that players would focus fire on them and be at risk of over committing, especially with the Leman Russe's high armor. At the same time, if ignored they could get there points back just by shooting once. They become distractions because if left alone they can ruin an enemy's plan, allowing them to flip back and forth between distraction and asset almost at will. Sadly the lack of templates in the latest ruleset weaken there killing power, shifting them more toward distraction as there reputation form ages past means a player with any amount of beard will have had it drilled into them not to ignore them.
- DISTRACTION NURGLINGS: Take 6-9 bases of these cute little shits,Infiltrate them as close to the enemy as possible behind ruins, enjoy a tasty 2+ cover save while your army moves up. Just pray they don't have flamers or ignore cover weapons.
- DISTRACTION DAEMON ENGINE: A Forgefiend, Maulerfiend, Defiler, Kytan, or Heldrake will be a guaranteed fire magnet. Fortunately, they all have It Will not Die (tied for second best name for a 40k rule ever with He Has A Plan, only recently dethroned by the arrival in 40K of WHFB's best named rule, My Will Be Done), and the Drake has the added bonus of being a flyer when Skyfire is still a relative rarity. The reputation of the Defiler and Heldrake in particular will ensure that literally everything the enemy has will be hurled at you, including the models, the table, the dice, the players at the WHFB table, and chairs. Lots of chairs.
- DISTRACTION MUTILATOR: Pretty much the only use for Mutilators with the new CSM book, Deep Strike one behind the enemy (bonus points if it's a Tau or Guard gunline) and it will die in style as the enemy wastes a turn of valuable shooting which could have been better spent trying to bring down that Land Raider full of Terminators, or the rampaging Maulerfiend in the corner
- DISTRACTION WRAITHLORD: It's big, scary, 3+ save, T8 and capable of fucking shit up.
- DISTRACTION WRAITHKNIGHT: Its bigger, scarier, and has more D than the average pornstar.
- DISTRACTION WRAITHSEER: Give it Mark of the Incomparable Hunter, a D-Cannon (for sniping characters), and the Psytronome of Iyanden (8x S9 AP-4 D6d attacks with a Ghostspear). Give it a Bonesinger to tag along, and combine with Tears of Isha to heal 2D3 wounds every turn. Make it Iyanden so its stats only degrade by half. Less a DISTRACTION and more a core Deathstar unit, but it's suprisingly cost effective.
- DISTRACTION TALOS PAIN ENGINE: The best part about DISTRACTION TALOS is that nobody plays DEldar. Therefore, the majority of the player population has no idea what to expect. Player: "Wait, Toughness seven?!" You: "Yep." Player: "With 3+ and FnP?!" You: "You betcha. Oh, also, enjoy haywire and Shred." Your enemy then proceeds to unload everything they have at your slow, dead 'ard, floating scorpion beast while your gunboats, Scourges, and Reavers tear them a new one. For better results, add a cronos with a spirit probe for a 4+ FnP. If you have the Haemonculus covens supplement then take the dark artisan formation and give your heamonculus the nightmare doll for a 3+ FnP, if you make him your warlord then you get a 3+ FnP re-rolling 1s.
- DISTRACTION DEFF DRED Just kit it out with a few scary looking weapons, let it stumble forward with the boys. This is really effective when your enemy takes less anti tank because you are playing a mainly infantry army. This is also better used in smaller games, as this thing looks like a scary, choppy hulk of metal (which it is).
- DISTRACTION BOYZ Let’s face it, as 8th is Horde Edition, a good old-fashioned Boyz mob and a Weirdboy using the psychic power Da Jump means you can deposit said Boyz Mob (almost) exactly where you want it. Just make sure the mob is 20-30 strong and they might actually survive past the DISTRACTION period. Also make sure you have several more 30-Boy mobz heading across the board. Kommandos also make an excellent DISTRACTION unit, especially when used alongside a Jumped Boyz mob. 60 Orks getting a 1st turn charge? Yeah that might DISTRACT someone.
- DISTRACTION DARKSTRIDER: Enemy has a charging focused army and you only took one Pathfinder squad, stick this guy in there with a Grav-Inhibitor Drone and laugh as your opponents thrashing, snarling wave of hate never comes anywhere close.
- DISTRACTION STEALTHSUITS: Dirt Cheap and pretty durable for their cost (T4, 3+ armor, 2W apiece and you can mount shield generators on the lot of them). Infiltration lets you deploy them right on top of relics and capture points, which will certainly draw the enemy to them. With a minus 1 to hit debuff that they benefit from all the time, your enemy will have a hard time hitting them. Plus you can mount some Fusion Blasters on them for added scariness.
- DISTRACTION GHOSTKEEL: The stealth field grants a -1 to hit with shooting attacks. The drones an additional -1. Most infantry will only be able to hit this thing at 6+, Marines at 5+ and Conscripts/Boyz can't hit it at all. This will goad them into charging into melee. 2 flamers are recommended to prevent reliable charges. Slap on a target lock for accuracy and a shield generator for survivability. Infiltration will allow you to place it right in the enemy's face, perfect for baiting them into wasting their firepower. Oh and you can easily field 2 of these for the cost of one riptide.
- DISTRACTION STORMSURGE: Its big and has even bigger gun. Slap it somewhere centerline and in plain sight behind some cover and perhaps drone or three and you have fine DISTRACTION that can sometimes hit something with said big gun.
- DISTRACTION NIGHTBRINGER: Now much faster, killier, and WAY more durable than before. This guy is going to chop up anything he gets his hands on, and the enemy is HEAVILY incentivized to keep him from dying anywhere near their army thanks to Reality Unravels. Bubblewrap it and charge it straight at something valuable, and your enemy is guaranteed to devote every gun he has to its destruction. However, being a sub-10-wound Character, he can't be singled out with shooting except by snipers, and Living Metal means they need to pile on the damage quick or he's going to get a bunch of Wounds back as he just keeps fucking running at them.
- DISTRACTION TOMB STALKER: Deep strikes reliably, doesnt deteriorate with damage, has good weapons and durability, and can carry a gloom prism to screw with psykers. Deep striking a T7, 9 wound MC that can make Deny the Witch rolls directly on top of your enemy's backline is sure to cause a stir.
Warhammer Fantasy Battles
- DISTRACTION HELLPIT ABOMINATION - A giant scary monster, which can wreck whole hordes of infantry with some luck. Due to it's ability to regenerate, any sensible enemy will focus it down... Except it also has a chance to RISE FROM THE GRAVE, which forces the enemy to continue focusing on it until it dies for good.
- DISTRACTION TREEMAN - Being worse than it was in last edition, it is still big and tall, and is a fine monster killer, and its shooting can wreck small elite units, so it is likely to attract much dakka (vs very inexperienced player). Beware of fire, or Treebeard's cousin becomes kindling.
- DISTRACTION WYVERN - Just flys behind enemy units the whole game. Wrecks chaos very easily, assuming the enemy doesn't realize that it's just a distraction.
Warmachine and Hordes
It can be done here too!
- DISTRACTION CENTURION - The Cygnarian Heavy Warjack Centurion is made for this - Though reasonably killy in and of itself, it's main job is absorbing stupid amounts of fire and hits while your shooty army gets into place, and with defensive buffs up the arse, Cygnar can easily make it even tougher.
- DISTRACTION BERSERKER - Khador is nothing but inventive - Though the Beserker Heavy Warjack is unstable and technologically weak compared to its predecessors, it can still majorly fuck up some unlucky sod with its twin axes. That is not why you use it, though - It is because it have a tendency to explode when given focus. It is fairly cheap too, so send it after whatever you want and watch as it gets blown up by anyone on the field - Your enemy if they manage to bring it down, or you, for the lulz.
- DISTRACTION GHORDSON BASHER - This might just be the epitome of distraction - A rather fast Heavy Warjack made for one thing, smashing things with its head. Really. That is what it does. Throw it into the enemy and watch as it bounces the enemy about like gravity went on a break.
- DISTRACTION AVATAR OF MENOTH - Arguably the best of the Character Heavy Warjacks (The Cryx Deathjack being the only other real contended for the title), it is big, scary, hits like an a freight train and is hard enough to endure the return fire. Throw the Choir Hymn of Passage, the Vassal of Menoth's Enliven and, if you are playing Grand Scrutator Severius, put Defenders Ward on it for a 12/23 monster that's immune to non-magical shooting, can move after taking damage and can lock enemy units in place/force them to move towards you for your next turn when shit is going to get fucked. This is literally the Sain Distraction Carnifex as it forces the enemy to move towards it instead of doing anything productive, and combined with Harbinger of Menoth's feat you either force the enemy to stay still, or get blasted by instagibbing Fire damage roll.
- DISTRACTION COLOSSAL - Basically every Colossal is a giant distraction tool to draw fire. Especially against inexperienced players who vastly overestimate their threat value.
There are a couple variations on the DISTRACTION Carnifex theme.
- High Axe Low Sword - Used primarily in fantasy wargames, especially pre-Age of Sigmar Warhammer, although it can be applied elsewhere. The idea is to place several Distraction Carnifexes on one side of the field, forcing you opponent to overcommit to one side with their "tough" units. On the other side of the field, a fast, hard-hitting unit or units is placed, allowing that group to strike before proper defense can be mounted.
- Magician's Left Hand - The magician's left hand is the opposite of a Distraction Carnifex. It is valuable, innocuous, and fragile. Typically it's worth far more points than it appears and can inflict massive damage if ignored. Small, elite units with attached characters often fit into this category (although they aren't tough enough to be Death Stars). Distraction Carnifexes are almost mandatory with these types of units, as it allows them to function properly.
- Space Created - Stolen from video game MOBAs, the term refers to a player character acting as a Distraction Carnifex. This generally allows that player's team to secure an objective or just deny the opponent farm, often at the cost of the player's life. Also used facetiously to refer to a player faffing about.