In early editions of Warhammer 40,000, Zoats (Centaurus serpentius) were, in a display of what tvtropes called Early Installment Weirdness, centaur-like creatures that were genetically engineered by the Tyranids as a slave race; half of all units in a Tyranid army were required to be Zoats. Because the Zoats were capable of using tools, capable of some form of rudimentary speech understandable by other races, and limited independent action, they were employed as an advance guard for the incoming Hive Fleets. Much like the Squats, they weren't very popular, and so had to be exterminated like the former: by getting nommed by the Tyranids. This supposedly happened after the Hive Mind of the hive fleets felt that Zoats were a liability due to their ability to think for themselves, and so the Zoats rebelled against the voracious army of hungry space bugs in an attempt to fight for their survival, which didn't go so well.
They aren't part of the current army and are nearly extinct due to either being killed by the Tyranids or Imperial expeditions and crusades, but they did get a shout-out in the Horus Heresy novels, when a Crusade Fleet mentions having encountered "centaur-like" creatures infiltrating the galaxy. And...are getting a mini for Blackstone Fortress.
In Warhammer Fantasy Battles, Zoats had the opposite personality - instead of being gregarious pilot-fish on the INCOMING! Tyranid Hive Fleets, they were solitary, mysterious, morally neutral, and rather peaceful druidic creatures. They were rarely seen to the point of being "semi-legendary" and the subject of endless scholastic debate. That worked in the earlier, RPG-influenced days of 3rd Edition, but they became incongruous with the gameplay of Warhammer when it became a strictly army list-based pure wargame, the zoats were quietly dropped along with the unpopular and too-grimdark for the kiddies Fimir and the redundant-with-dwarfs-and-halflings Gnomes. They returned, decades later, in Storm of Magic, as totally badass, four legged monsters that kill people with vines.
According to Tony Ackland, they were heavily influenced by the character of Adzel from Poul Anderson's Polesotechnic League stories.
A New Start!
Zoats were just shown off at Las Vegas Open 2020. One of them, anyway - the alien will be in a Blackstone Fortress expansion, likely as a new adversary like the Dreaded Ambull, although we have no idea how they're going to retcon their survival. Though a fair guess, given how GW has given the Zoat a more "mechanically enhanced" look instead of using a mix of that and organic enhancements, it could be a case that GW retconned the Zoat's involvement with the Tyranids in their entirety, instead making them a separate xenos race altogether.
According to the new info, no one in the modern Imperium has any idea where the Zoats came from, but do know they are master manipulators who love self-cybernetic modification, have an obsession with ancient relics of any kind that is matched only by the Blood Ravens, and have a nasty habit of getting others to do what they want for them just to get them killed and leave the spoils ripe for the picking. This is in line with the newest preview which revealed the Zoats come with the keyword Unaligned, which means that you can include them in any army. Per the preview "If you’re feeling nostalgic, you could add one to your Tyranids force, or if you need a hard-hitting combat monster, you could include one in your T’au Empire army. Even the notoriously xenos-hating forces of the Imperium have been known to ally with the odd Zoat." They fully returned when the new Blackstone fortress "Deadly Alliance" add-on released on June 20, 2020.
The new Zoat figure for Blackstone Fortress is a character by the name of the Archivist who is on the station as a data-broker for Fortress raiders officially and as a team-killing adventurer unofficially. His sole goal is to loot as much archeotech he can possibly carry from the Fortress and book it to the next lawless hell-frontier to start it all again, leaving a trail of very peeved customers and "allies" in his wake. In the new add on he hires the player character to help him get a hold of a ship belonging to a dead Zoat called "the Forerunner" which has somehow managed to become trapped within the Blackstone fortress itself...how the hell that's even possible is a mystery and raises a lot of question of where the Zoats actually come from given the Fortress was originally built to fight the Necrons 65 million years ago. Maybe the Zoats were Old One creations that got hijacked by the Tyranids...? Or maybe there is no ship and he's making it all up as an excuse to get the player character to bring him to the fortress. In any case, the character sheet for the Archivist (which can also serve as stats for any Zoat character you want to use) revealed a cost of 4 power, a movement of 5", a weapon skill of 3+, a ballistic skill of 3+, a strength of 5, a toughness of 4, has 6 wounds, 4 attacks, a leadership of 9, and a 3+ armor save. As for how they deal out all that damage they have two ways. A raygun gothic sounding "Atomic Disassembler" weapon for ranged attacks that is classified as a pistol yet with a range of 18", strength stat of 8, armor penetration of -3, Damage of D6, and a special rule that when resolving attacks made with said weapon the target does not receive the benefit of cover to its saving throw. For up close and personal targets, on the other hand, the big centaur looking critters use an edgy sounding "Eradicator Glove" that's basically a Thunder Hammer.
A Zoat by the name Zolcath was also introduced for the Blood Bowl tabletop game recently as a Star Player that can be added to any Lustrian League or Elven Kingdoms team. He’s also got a humorous special ability that stuns an enemy player as they try to process “Wait is that a real Zoat?”. All of this being part of GW trying to capitalize on the success of the BB video games by expanding on their tabletop version.
Lastly, Zoats, like some other old fluff units like the Fimir and skin wolves, have made their way into Total War: Warhammer as a new unit introduced for the Wood Elves faction as part of the Twisted and the Twilight DLC pack. Since they are centaur-like creatures that wield giant two handed clubs, CA basically turned them into reskinned Dragon Ogres. Compared to Dragon Ogres however, they deal less damage overall but make up for it with their bound Earthblood, Flesh to Stone Lore of Life spells, and an unique ability to lower their enemies' magic resist in melee combat. Because of this, Zoats are hybrid support units that specialize as anti-large and anti-armor monsters, a niche that's in rather short supply for the Wood Elf roster.
Truly, 2020 was the year of the Zoats.
|Leader Organisms:||Broodlord - Hive Tyrant - Norn Queen |
Swarmlord - Tyranid Warrior
|Small Creatures:||Gargoyle - Genestealer - Hormagaunt - Ripper - Termagant|
|Biovore - Hive Guard - Lictor - Neurothrope - Pyrovore |
Ravener - Tyrant Guard - Venomthrope - Zoanthrope
|Monstrous Creatures:||Carnifex - Dimachaeron - Exocrine - Haruspex - Malanthrope |
Maleceptor - Mawloc - Tervigon - Toxicrene - Trygon - Tyrannofex
|Gargantuan Creatures:||Cerebore - Dactylis - Hierodule - Malefactor - Nautiloid - Viragon|
|Flying Creatures:||Harpy - Harridan - Hive Crone - Mucolid Spore|
|Spaceborne Creatures:||Tyrannocyte - Mycetic Spore - Ether-Swimming Brood|
|Bio-Titans:||Dominatrix - Hierophant - Hydraphant - Viciator|
|Floral Structures:||Capillary Tower - Reclamation Pool|
|Other Organisms:||Bio-Weapons - Cortex Leech - Meiotic Spore |
Spore Mine - Sporocyst - Zoats
|Unique Creatures:||Deathleaper - Laius Horror - Old One-Eye - The Red Terror|