Tyranids! again


Well folks, after last week’s game with my Tyranids against JP and his Word Bearers, we’ve had a rematch where I have basically brought the same list, and he decided to change things up considerably. After seeing two squads of Havocs staring at me from across the board, I think I was just paralysed with terror and played quite badly for the first couple of turns, especially when I had my units of termagants and genestealers just scythed down in short order. Losing my Warlord in turn two was a significant blow as well, but after an initial feeling like I wanted to just give up, I decided to just try and see what happens, and was quite surprised.

I think this is something that is talked about a fair bit, when playing games and you think there’s no way you can claw something back, you just sort of give up and either don’t try, or just check out from the game and it becomes un-fun for everybody involved. When I lost that key piece, the warlord, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to come back, as he was providing a major source of synapse for the rest of the army. However, I was able to make a few things work, and it did seem to go in my favour as the game went along.


The tooled-up carnifex is quite the beast, equipped as he is with all manner of things that make him an absolute beast. Without command points, he isn’t quite as horrific, but he still hits like a brick, and was able to scythe through the Daemon Prince and the Dark Apostle with ease. The Venomcrawler put up a slight fight due to the fact JP had a stratagem that reduced all incoming damage to 0 once per battle, so my crushing claws doing 12 damage suddenly did nothing, but even so, I was able to kill it before anything too drastic happened. He was then able to charge across the field to take out a squad of Havocs and then a squad of Cultists, so he really was the MVP in that game!

The genestealers were a particular loss, I felt, as I was upset with not getting to use them as I had wanted. Well, I didn’t get to use them at all, unfortunately. That is the effects of having a shooty army vs a melee army. But regardless, through a combination of objective control and the Cranial Feasting objective, I was able to get a lot of victory points. When round 5 came around, I had reduced JP’s army to a single Havoc holding one objective on my turn, and it was 39-43 to me. We shook hands, then thought “let’s play out his turn, to see what would happen”, whereupon we realised that Havoc scored him 5 victory points without doing anything, for a Word Bearers win at 44-43! What an utter reversal!

We’ve agreed that lessons have been learnt, on both sides of the board, and I for one am already planning my next list, as I feel like changing it up a bit. Playing at 1000 points is a little hampering, although it is also good for both the size of the table we’re playing on, and for ensuring games don’t go on into the small hours of the morning. That said, given the points investment that I have made with some of my units, I don’t feel like I’m getting a lot back in terms of table control.

So I’m going to make some changes. 


Let’s start with some Hormagaunts. JP actually gave me a bunch of Tyranid nastiness back in 8th edition, although it was around the time my eldest was born, so I never really got to look at them until recently. Turns out, there are 18 Hormagaunts, alongside a bunch of Termagants, and some other gribbly bits. Taking the melee gaunts as a starting point, let’s do some math-hammer…

I like the Hive Tyrant, I really do. However, he’s a massive points sink for a 1000 point game, and he’s also a massive target. So let’s look at the Broodlord, instead. The Broodlord can improve the AP of a core unit within synaptic link range when that unit rolls a 6 to wound in melee. The Tyranid Prime can allow a core unit within synaptic link range to re-roll a wound roll of 1 when it makes an attack. The best supportive Warlord Trait for our purposes here is Direct Guidance, which allows the warlord to select a core unit within Synaptic Link range and grant them +1 to hit when they make an attack. So we’ll make the Broodlord the new Warlord, and keep the Prime in there for his ability.

A unit of 10 Hormagaunts with adrenal glands and toxin sacs costs 110 points, and will move 11”, will hit on 4s and will wound power armour on 4s thanks to the glands. The toxin sacs will make any 6s to hit auto-wound, which is very handy indeed. 

The Bounding Advance stratagem allows them to advance a flat 6” and they can still charge in a turn in which they advanced, all for 1CP. So they are moving up 17” in the move phase, and can still potentially move a further 12” during the charge phase. They have the Bounding Leap ability which allows them to pile-in an additional 3” as well, so once they’re in base contact, they can really swarm a prey unit. This works well with the Swarming Masses rule, which extends engagement range to 2.5”.

When in close combat, they have 3 attacks each and the Adrenal Surge stratagem gives them +1 attack for 1CP.

Synaptic Imperatives are the new thing for Tyranids, and give Synapse creatures additional benefits that are chosen at the start of the turn. The Broodlord allows an infantry unit within 6” to receive the benefits of light cover against an attack. Tyranid Warriors have possibly the best one for them, though, as 6s to hit in melee score one additional hit. With the amount of dice being thrown here, odds are there will be a few 6s coming out!

In terms of psychic support, there is Onslaught to allow them to advance and charge, which is fine if you don’t need that extra 6” and/or don’t have the CP to spend on Bounding Advance. There is also Paroxysm, which prevents a unit firing Overwatch, and that unit is -1 to wound when it fights back, which gives them some help if they’re going to be stuck in melee.

Once the combat is over, there is the Overrun stratagem for 1CP which allows a core unit to make a normal move after the fight phase, provided they are no longer engaged with an enemy. There is also Endless Swarm, which allows you to return D3+3 destroyed models to the unit in your command phase, to bring back the swarm to go through it all again.

I’ve been playing my Tyranids as Behemoth so far, even though they’re painted in the colours of Hive Fleet Gorgon. Behemoth, though, has got some very good utility for an aggressive bug build. To start with, they are all +1 strength on the charge. They get +1” move and can consolidate an additional 3” so they are quite vicious there. The psychic power grants a unit within Synaptic Link range +1 to wound in melee. So that group of 10 Hormagaunts is making 40 attacks at S5 and +1 to wound, with all the additional shenanigans going on. 

Gorgon makes any wound roll of 4+ a success, which is very nice to have, and can reroll one wound roll either to shoot or to fight. I really like the Gorgon psychic power, which allows unmodified 6s to wound to cause one mortal wound in addition to normal damage (to a max of 6 mortal wounds). Their unique stratagem improves toxin sacs to a 5+ auto-wound in melee.

Leviathan grants a decent camouflage for units by making it slightly more difficult to wound these models. They can re-roll one hit roll either in the fight or shooting phase, which is nice. However, I particularly like the Leviathan psychic power that allows two synaptic imperatives to be active for the army, which can be really useful. The Leviathan unique stratagem allows you to improve the AP for a melee attack for a unit, if there is another Leviathan unit also in the combat.

I think out of these three, I prefer Behemoth for the brutality of it all, although Leviathan certainly has its place!


This is all well and good, of course, but I’m fighting with the idea that actually, Genestealers might be a much better investment for all of these bits and pieces! Of course, a unit of 10 Genestealers will cost 160 points, so we’re already starting from behind, and adding in toxin sacs will bring that up to 190 points. However, the additional 80 points does buy you a more accurate, and more resilient, bug. They’re hitting on 3s and would wound normal marines on 4s without any kind of investment of command points or outside influences, plus they have the Vanguard Predator rule that allows you to set them up anywhere more than 9” away from enemy models or the enemy deployment zone.

Let’s take a look and see what can be brought over from all those buffs. The Broodlord’s aura will be very useful here, especially as he can also be set up the same as the Genestealers. The Warlord Trait of +1 to hit makes them effectively hitting on 2s, which is very useful. 

For 1CP, Vanguard Onslaught allows them to re-roll the wound roll if they charged or were charged. They also get access to the Overrun stratagem for 1CP, which lets them move normally if they finish the fight and have killed everybody. Now, their normal move is 8”, and they don’t have the myriad ways of increasing that like Hormagaunts, because you can’t give Genestealers adrenal glands.

However, when they’re in the fight, their claws and talons are S4, AP-3 and D1, with 4 attacks base meaning that is a lot of saving rolls to make for the opponent – if indeed, they get a save with that AP. Remember, the Broodlord can allow any 6s to wound to be AP-4 as well. If they gain the Tyranid Warrior synaptic imperative ability of 6s to hit causing one additional hit, that could be devastating when they’re hitting on 2s already from the Warlord Trait.

Obviously, Onslaught can allow them to advance and charge although, given how far up the field they could potentially start the game, that might not be necessary. Behemoth Genestealers will be hitting at S5 and with the psychic blessing, they’d be +1 to wound, so they’re still wounding marines on 3s but could very easily shred a unit of Cultists by wounding on 2s.

The more I’m looking at this, I think I like the idea of Hormagaunts and Genestealers working together, rather than trying to weigh up one or the other. So that’s that decision made, then. A Broodlord, a Tyranid Prime, a unit of Warriors, then the Hormagaunts and Genestealers. So I’m getting somewhere with the army now.

So with all that said, let’s take a look at the list!


The Broodlord should be a beast with all this going on. I had no idea until this week that subfaction-specific Psychic powers are known, in addition to the powers you select from a faction discipline. I know this is almost useless now because the psychic phase is going in 10th edition, but it has kinda blown my mind that it’s the case! The Broodlord can only cast one power though, so it’s not going to massively change the game. I’ve given him the Maw-Claws of Thyrax, which increase his attacks to 7, lets you re-roll the wound roll in melee, and whenever he defeats a unit in melee, he gets +1 attack until the end of the game (to a max of +3 attacks). I was toying with giving him the Resonance Barb for additional Psyker stuff, but it only allows him to know additional powers, he can’t cast additional powers unless I use the stratagem to allow that. However, 7 attacks hitting on 2s and wounding power armour on 3s with rerolls, he should be an absolute beast and I could definitely see him getting up to 8 or 9 attacks thanks to that relic. 

The Prime and the Warriors will all have some useful Synaptic Imperative abilities as we’ve discussed, so the big focus here is on sending up the Hormagaunts and Genestealers to cover the advance of the Carnifex, who will just wreck the place. Getting the Carnifex into melee is so satisfying, because he’s just so incredibly dangerous once he gets there. I think I often shy away from tooling up models like this – he has 65 points’ worth of weapons and upgrades, which is very much unlike me! But I think his recent performances have shown it is a definite investment. 

Hopefully, of course, I can make all of these plans work when the time comes, and it’ll all be just beautiful!