Tyranids – hungry, vicious star beasts from a distant galaxy, ruled by an all-seeing hive mind and intent on consuming every last molecule of biomass they can get their sharp, chitinous talons on.
Having launched in Rogue Trader in 1988, the ‘Nids are one of the longest-standing armies in Warhammer 40,000, as well as one of the most iconic, and as they recently got a major glow-up to coincide with the launch of the 10th edition, so now is an ideal time consider joining a Hive Fleet.
1. They’re Out of this World
Tyranids are unique in 40k in that they don’t hail from our galaxy. In fact, nobody knows where they came from, how far they travelled, or how many worlds they had already consumed before they reached the Milky Way. Even the name ‘Tyranid’ is a reference to the planet they destroyed when the Imperium first encountered them – Tyran.
Since then they have been classified into a series of Hive Fleets, including Leviathan, Behemoth and Kraken (which, incidentally, feeds into how you decide how your army is going to look and play). Their incursions have spread across the entire galaxy and as of the most current storyline, they have humanity on the back foot.
2. They’re Always Getting Better
The big schtick with Tyranids isn’t just that they’re an endless hoard of alien monsters (although that is indeed the case), it’s that they actively evolve in relation to every new enemy they encounter, every world they take and even every defeat they suffer. Everything the Tyranids muster against their foes, from weapons to craft, is alive, and able to learn. Some even have secondary brains which enable them to retain vital information even after their main body dies, like a black box.
All of this feeds back to the Hive Mind, a formless, omniscient consciousness connecting every individual creature in their ranks. This connectivity also enables them to do other horrifying things like reading minds and manipulating the fabric of reality.
3. They have Minions
Tyranids actually have two armies to draw from. The first is the standard bestial hoards, and the second is the Genestealer Cults. Genestealers are a special subset of Tyranids designed to infiltrate other species and corrupt their genetic code, gradually breeding into existence a race of hybrids, who themselves move out into different corners of society and fan the flames of revolution. Once they’ve taken the establishment down, the signal goes up to the awaiting Hive Fleet above and ‘Ascension Day’ arrives.
GSC play very differently to Tyranids, they’re much more built around stealth and cunning, able to move around the map at speed and keep regenerating smaller units to gum up the enemy’s battle line. You can also ally the two, which is a surefire way to lose friends.
4. They’re a Great Army to Learn to Paint
Because Tyranids all follow a very consistent style, they can be an ideal choice to get started with painting. Tyranid models almost all have a shell-like carapace and fleshly, biomechanical underparts, and the lion’s share of the work is generally just painting those two parts in whatever colours you decide you like or correspond to the hive fleet you’ve selected. There are other small details like teeth and claws, but it’s really up to you how much attention you pay to those.
Painting a Tyranid model can be as simple as base-coating the flesh and carapace, giving both an ink wash to darken the recesses, and then highlighting the edges with a lighter shade of whatever colours you chose. Like this, you can really hone your abilities, and get lots of models painted relatively quickly and easily. Once you get better, it leaves plenty of room to try out new things like spots, strips and blending effects.
5. The Model Range is Fantastic
Tyranids have always been one of the most unique armies in the game (putting aside obvious comparisons to Alien, Starcraft and Starship Troopers) and their range has been growing exponentially for decades. In 2002 there were 19 minis available to buy, now there are almost 50, and some of them are among the best models Games Workshop has ever produced.
This means that you can build your bug army in an impressive variety of ways, from an unending hoard of man-sized Gaunts to a swarm of winged units to a terrifying parade of monsters like the Screamer Killer, Haruspex and Trygon.
6. The Lore is Easy to Follow
The Imperium, Chaos and Aeldari all have long, complex political histories which, if you’re minded to delve into the lore, can be a bit intimidating. Tyranids have plenty of fluff to their name, but since their origins are so mysterious and their motivations so simple, it’s really not hard to get a sense of where they fit into the 40k universe.
In a weird way, they might be the nearest thing to good guys the game has – they aren’t necessarily making a conscious choice to kill, maim and burn, they’re just doing what comes naturally. What that says about you for piloting them into battle is between you and your god, but still, the point stands.
7. They’re Scary
Tyranids were in a bit of an awkward spot for the last couple of editions, swinging between ineffective and vastly overpowered as updates came and went. Part of this was due to their army lacking a certain focus. With the 10th edition, that focus has been found – fear.
The main ability the army brings to the field is to scare the enemy into giving up ground. They have a host of tricks which force enemy units to take battle-shock tests, as well as being more deadly against units who have failed said tests. This aligns perfectly with the lore, I mean, who wouldn’t be shaken at the sight of a thousand giant death beetles raining from the sky?
8. They’re Squishy
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of an army like Tyranids is they’re survivability. Aside from a few of the bigger, chonkier units, most of them start to drop pretty quickly once the bullets fly.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as a Nid player you want to have your opponent desperately trying to decide which monster to focus their attention on while you slowly close in on them. The thing to remember is not to get precious about taking models off the board, but if you want an army with fewer, tougher units, it might be better to look elsewhere.
9. They Don’t Have Much Character
This is kind of a given with an army of endlessly replicated bioforms controlled by a hive mind. Some people like to have specific characters (either canon or homebrew) on the battlefield to help them feel immersed, Tyranids can’t really provide this.
There is one major character – Old One Eye – as well as a few other more minor figures who have become infamous, but Tyranids aren’t an army with a wide array of grizzled veterans. You can, of course, build your own story around what they do have, but it’s something to bear in mind if you’re all about your Kharns and your Guillimans.
10. They’re heap
This isn’t in terms of money (although arguably you get more in a box compared to other armies), but points. Warhammer 40k runs on points, and Tyranids are relatively cost-effective almost across the board (until you get to the hulking Forge World models that only maniacs buy). This means that for 2000 points (the standard size for most battles) you can get a lot of bugs.
This is a bit of a double-edged sword, as it means you’re going to have a lot to paint, and will likely be painting 10 or 20 of the same model. That can feel a bit monotonous, but when you’re standing over your monstrous hoard of psychic murder critters, it’s going to feel pretty damn good.
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