I have finally had a game with my Tyranids in 9th edition, just as we have the new edition coming over the horizon! I’ve been thinking about my big army of bugs quite a lot over the years, but somehow they’ve always lost out to something else. Well, finally they hit the table, as I had a small-scale battle with JP, and it was just glorious.

It helped, of course, that I won!

Tyranids in 9th edition are a little bit confusing, I have to admit. I think this is perhaps symptomatic of the fact GW have tried to make all armies really unique and feel really customised, but it does come at a bit of a cost. There are, of course, the standard things that we know and love about the big bugs, but it all just feels like there are wheels within wheels at times. But let’s go through and see what the Great Devourer can offer.

To start with, we have the classic Synapse rule, which applies to a lot of the units across the army. Synapse creatures allow other models within 6” to auto-pass morale tests. Marvellous! In addition, there’s a thing now called Synaptic Link Range, which is basically a 12” bubble around the Synapse creature, and can come into play with various aura abilities, and psychic powers. The big change for 9th though is that other Synapse creatures will allow that range to extend, so in the codex example, a Broodlord can affect a unit of Genestealers well outside of its own 12” bubble if there is a Hive Tyrant within 12” of it, and a Zoanthrope unit within 12” of the Hive Tyrant, creating that real “hive mind” feel. It actually needed me to play it to see how that would work, but blimey, it was useful in the game!


See, in addition to the rules that each model has, Synapse creatures also have Synaptic Imperative abilities that you can choose to be active at the start of the battle round. For example, a Tyranid Prime has the Guidemind ability which allows friendly units within 6” who are targeting enemies within 24” to get exploding 6s to hit. Trying to get these to line up is a bit of a puzzle, because sometimes you might want more than one to be going on (the Maleceptor allows a unit to make ranged attacks and still perform actions, so coupled with the exploding 6s, could be good!) However, whichever Synaptic Imperative is active for that round, every Synapse creature on the board can grant its effects, so you don’t need to have all of your shooty bugs clustered around the Tyranid Prime, because the Tyranid Warriors, the Zoanthropes, the Hive Tyrant, and all the other Synapse creatures are also granting the same thing.

As we know, each army has its own set of Chapter Tactics, the Tyranids being Hive Fleet Adaptations. These are subset rules that give your army its own feel, and I have really liked seeing how different armies can be made by adopting different ones. For yesterday’s game, I went with Hive Fleet Behemoth, because it’s a pretty aggressive subset, giving +1 strength for units when they charge, were charged, or performed heroic interventions. However, this edition we have a sub-subset of rules, where we can swap out different rules based on our needs. It’s very Tyranids, and is very good at giving that kind of representation of the fact that the army has learnt from previous battles. However, it just feels really confusing!

Each Hive Fleet has an Adaptive rule, which for Behemoth is to re-roll charges, and a Hyper-Adaptation, which allows you to instead change the Adaptive rule to one from the Biomorphologies table. There are three different Biomorphologies to choose from – hunt, lurk, and feed – and each one has a choice of five different rules. Behemoth can swap out its Adaptive rule for a Hunt or Lurk rule, and you can do this after deployment but before the first round begins, so it’s really quite flexible. But it just feels like it’s yet another step to go through, another decision point prior to the battle beginning, and I can see why the rules for 10th talk about being streamlined.

We’ve also got the standard sort of army-wide things, so Shadow in the Warp makes enemy psychic tests more difficult (and makes Perils of the Warp more deadly), there is a rule for the small bugs called Swarming Masses which increases the Engagement Range for these guys to 2.5 inches, which kinda makes sense. 

So let’s get down to business. We were playing a 1000-point game, mainly because it has been a long time since either of us played, and so it was much in the sense of keeping things simple. My list was as follows:

Tyranids list

I often try to stay away from heavy investments into models, for fear of them being shot off the table and therefore being a waste of time. However, I think both of the big bugs in this list, the Tyrant and the Carnifex, have had a lot of work put into them, and they really did pay dividends during the game. The Hive Tyrant has the relic Shardgullet, which replaces his heavy venom cannon and has quite the souped-up profile. In the first turn, I one-shot a Maulerfiend off the table by dishing out 15 damage to it, then in turn two I was able to destroy a Venom Crawler which got too close before shooting the Lord Discordant off the table in the third turn.

At first, I was a bit annoyed with myself for poorly positioning the carnifex, but he was able to tear apart a rhino, then due to the adaptive physiology allowing him to always fight first, he killed off the marines inside of it as well. I think the carnifex has had the most investment, though, both in terms of points and command points. I had spent some time in the afternoon before the game working out timings and whatnot, and with all of the buffs going on, he was able to get extra attacks, dish out mortal wounds when charging, spit acid in the face of his enemies, and then crush them unto death with Strength 12 crushing claws – he proved to be so damn deadly that I was actually disappointed to be killing stuff too early!

These big bugs can clearly shred through enemies!


Another shout out has to go to the Genestealers, who were able to kill the Daemon Prince over two rounds of combat (it would have been more, if only I had a full squad going into it). I think I ended up charging with 7 of them, but each of them does 4 attacks, and with all of the Synapse buffs going on they proved to be quite accurate! However, they are the poster-child for my usual tactic of just drowning a model in saving rolls. Making 28 attacks, 12 of which got through the first time, and 15 the second time, it was quite straightforward to take off those 8 wounds in short order.

Even though they were kinda pointless, I also enjoyed the fact that the Termagants proved to be just annoying, and they were able to halt the progress of the Lord Discordant simply by being in the way. A unit of 10 probably isn’t going to do as much as I’d want, though, so I think I might have to get building up some more soon, as it would be nice to have a bigger, more annoying blob to impede progress!

However, I’m under no illusions that, firstly, the smaller board size really worked in my favour, as the units were able to cross distances with ease and get into combat early. I also lost a lot of models – I’m just thankful that I could take out key pieces of JP’s army before he could turn the tide! Genestealers are awesome when they’re shredding through things, but left out in the open, they’re vulnerable with only 1 wound and a 5+ save. Once the Daemon Prince had gone, they were picked off upsettingly quickly! 

But it was a great game, and I’m looking forward to getting them to the table again soon! I’m even thinking I might reward some of them with paint!