40K 8th Edition: Tyranid First Impressions

8th Edition has been kind to the Hive Mind. Here’s why Tyranids are a strong contender in any game.

Did you miss me? Or better yet, do you remember me? It’s Danny from TFG Radio here, and after about a month of 8th edition 40K in our lives, it is time to talk about the Hive Fleets and where we stand. Of course, check out the ever-expanding database at Frontline’s Tactics Corner, so you can keep up with all the awesomeness of our new dawn.

So, let’s just be blunt: In 7th edition, Tyranids had very few competitively viable options on the tabletop. Is that true today? Oh, no. No, not at all. 8th edition has been kind to the Hive Mind, and Tyranids are now well positioned to be a strong contender in any game. Why?

Our Units are Better

Might actually be seen on the tabletop.

While all other armies received some significant restructuring of under-performing units, the fact that most Tyranid units needed some kind of boost means that we received far more in this department than other, stronger Factions. There are few units that received any toning down of power in our army list, and even then, they are not worthless, simply different and still viable depending on the build.

Yes, Flyrants are not auto-includes now, but they are not at all bad. Gunboat Flyrants are great flankers and skirmishers, able to lay down some hurt on lighter targets with the speed to either avoid the scarier units or strike out and charge a weak unit. Since they can fly, they can fall-back and go about their shooting. Mawlocs were toned down, but they are one of our cheapest monsters that excels at inflicting some surprise mortal wounds as well as taking on larger units of chaff thanks to quite a few attacks.

We actually have a few invulnerable saves now spread out across the army list, we have some decent shooting beasts, and a lot of our worst units were brought up to at least playable if not downright great (Pyrovores).

I have successfully been fielding lists with Carnifexes, Trygons, Tyranid Primes, Crones/Harpies, and walking Tyrants. This is a brave new world. Of course, there are a few stand-outs.

Genestealers are Amazing

Genestealers are pound for pound one of the scariest melee units in the game. For just over 10 points, you get a S/T4 model that moves 8 inches, can advance and charge, has a 5++ save, has 4 attacks a piece when the unit is over 10 models, and hits on a 3+ with easy access to an aura that increases this to 2+. Oh, they also have -1 AP on their melee attacks and 6s turn to -4 AP.

Just on average dice, a Genestealer threatens any unit within 18 inches. Since S4 can hurt anything now, Genestealers are a dominant threat since they will shred any light or medium infantry like Orks or Conscripts, but with -4 AP on a wound of 6, they can absolutely threaten the biggest targets out there. Will Genestealers one round a Knight? No, but they can certainly wear it down or cripple it.

Combined with some of the other cool tools in the Tyranid box, Genestealers are almost an auto-include, and they have finally come back to their glory days. It is quite satisfying to throw out 20 genestealers into a first turn charge, which is just about a guarantee with…

The Swarmlord is the Hero We Need

The Swarmlord has the most character and identity amongst the disposable trillions of Hive Fleet Organisms, and its fluff has always been so damn cool, but on the table top? Well, 7th edition wasn’t too kind. Now, the Swarmlord is an absolute beast, and when I am building lists, I really have to ask: “Why wouldn’t I take it?”.
First and foremost, Hive Commander is an ability that you can build a list around, and it is a guaranteed first turn charge. Just deploying on the table, you can get Genestealers to advance 16+2d6 up the board before charging. With a Trygon or Tyrannocyte, you can guarantee a charge by moving whatever pops out their movement value right into the teeth of the enemy. Of course, you can also drop Swarmie in a Tyrannocyte and use Hive Commander on itself for a guaranteed charge.

And Swarmie in combat? It is a blender and one of our best melee assets with a ton of attacks that are -3 AP and do D6 damage, hitting on 2+. Of course, Swarmie still has a 4++ in melee, so it is far more durable than just about any of our other units. If you need a hard asset dead, the Swarmlord is one of our most reliable choices.

If you are new to Tyranids, a Hive Tyrant box (to make Swarmlord) and a few boxes of Genestealers are a great way to start.

Amazing Morale Control

Synapse is the truth. Morale is a big deal, and if you’ve been watching the nascent meta of this game, you’ll see that strong lists either don’t care about morale (because they utilize many single model units where it is not a factor) or have layers of morale control like Ork Hordes or Conscripts and Commissars. Thanks to Synapse, the Hive Fleets can field large units of squishy bugs and not suffer the double attrition nature of morale.

This is huge for several reasons. The first is that it makes the little bugs like Termagants and Hormagaunts exceedingly useful. They are designed to be taken in hordes, but with T3 and a 6+ save, they are not going to live very long. They will take casualties, which is their job, but ensuring that they will stick around is what matters. A Hormagaunt tarpit has won me games, and yes, most of a 30 bug unit of Termagants will evaporate under fire, but as long as enough stick around to block charge lanes or contest an objective, they have done their job.

Second, this segways nicely into….

Controlling Objectives

The fact that objectives are now controlled by the number of models around it rather than number of units or rules like Objective Secured, swarms and hordes are powerful in the mission. Tyranids have some solid swarm units, and 30 Termagants is not much over a hundred points. That’s not too bad at all for a unit of 30 that will never suffer losses from Morale so long as they are in Synapse. The Hive Fleet can easily have a ton of big monsters on the table and still have points for 60-90 bodies to play the mission.

This is one of the Tyranid benefits: We have some decent, cheap troops that we can easily use to fill out a battle field while still leaving a lot of room for other units. Let’s not forget that thanks to the Character rules, a Tyranid Prime or Malanthrope, both quite inexpensive, cannot be targeted if they are not the closest unit, so having these Synapse beacons walking in the center of a ring of Gants ensures that they are not going anywhere.

Threat Vectors

Tyranids certainly live up to the fluff when it comes to being able to hit enemies where and when they are not expecting it. Thanks to Tyrannocytes, which are more expensive but much more useful on the field, any infantry or monstrous creature 14 wounds and under can appear on the board wherever is best. Dropping a Dimacheron or Haruspex can be hilarious or the previously mentioned Swarmlord.

Thanks to the new and improved Trygon/Prime rules, all of our Troops choices can now pop up where they are needed, and not just limited to 20 bug squads. A full unit of 30 devilgants popping out of a Trygon hole means 90 S4 shots wherever you need them, or a full squad of 30 hormagaunts with adrenal glands now only need an 8 to make a charge out of reserve, and if you saved a Control Point for a reroll, the odds start to inch closer to your favor. Hell, even a full squad of melee Tyranid Warriors with Boneswords and Adrenal Glands popping out of either a Trygon hole or a Tyrannocyte can ruin some days.

Of course, there are also units that can just innately deploy via reserves like Raveners, Ripper Swarms, Mucolids, and Lictors. All in all, Tyranids have plenty of ways to come out opponents from a variety of places, and it is not hard to adjust our lists to have significantly lower drops than it may first appear thanks to the Trygon and Tyrannocyte.

Mortal Wounds

This has been bandied about the competitive web for a bit, but the idea of massed mortal wounds thanks to Smite is something that Tyranids do quite well. First off, the Hive Tyrant can be one of the best Smite batteries around. With a solid melee statline, a 5++, and 10 wounds, a Hive Tyrant doesn’t mind being close up to the action, and if you take only rending claws, a Hive Tyrant is cheaper than a Broodlord. Of course, you can also just take a Broodlord who has the benefit of hiding behind a screen of gants. We also have Maleceptors who get +1 to cast, making smite even more likely, and our big hitters in this regard, Zoanthropes, will put out 2d3 (or even d6+d3) mortal wounds.

Let’s not forget that Tyranids have other ways to dish out mortal wounds. Biovores and Spore Mines just do a flat number of mortal wounds with the chance to spike, and Mucolids are pretty nasty that way too. The most improved in this regard is the Sporecyst who can essentially shoot Mucolids, so a Tyrannid gun-line of Biovores and a Sporecyst or two is a lot of high range mortal wounds, and if you miss, being able to put down some exploding bug-balloons to gum up charge lines is kind of awesome. Mawlocs are also great for doing some surprise mortal wounds, especially to characters in the backfield, and while they are not super killing machines, they can certainly threaten quite a few characters and light infantry.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see a mortal wound army come of Tyranids that makes all these Knight and Stormraven lists wary.

Some Allies Shenanigans

Something totally new to Tyranids in 8th edition is that we finally have a way to play with allies. At the end of 7th, we had Genestealer Cults, but with GSC’s new rule allowing them to take one detachment of Astra Militarum, you can have a 2K list with Tyranids, GSC, and AM. GSC Genestealers backed by waves of gants, a Swarmlord, and a Baneblade you say? It could happen.

Tyranids are no longer a lone island, and for better or worse, this opens up our list building options into some pretty insane and tricky places. I would not at all be shocked to see a tournament-winning list that uses this.

Combined Arms and Skew

Lastly, as I postulated before, Tyranids are pretty gosh darn good at building a variety of lists. You can do a mega-swarm of 200+ models, a monster-mash of about 10, a semi-horde of 10+ Carnifexes and a host of little ones, or a combination thereof. That’s the beauty of it, and it is the most exciting part of 8th edition for me: We have a ton of viable lists, and we even have several viable genres of lists to go to.

We can skew with the best of them and bring just an overwhelming amount of either Big Bugs or little bugs. We can do lightning fast assault armies or gun-lines. The only thing we cannot really do is bring massed flyers with the Airborne rule, but then we can bring massed Flyrants and Harpies/Crones. We can do TAC like champs with a well-balanced buffet of goodness. Whatever the meta solidifies into, we can respond to it.

There is no real way to tell how the meta will look in a year, but I am willing to go on the record and say that Tyranids will have at least 3 highly competitive builds. That’s a huge improvement over 7th, and all in all, I am a happy member of the Hive Mind. Next time, I’ll talk about the main “genres” of armies that Tyranids can do, and maybe go over a few sample lists. Until then, thanks as always for reading, check out TFG Radio for all of our adventures, and maybe I’ll see you at the SoCal Open or LVO.



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  • orionburn

    My only real complaint thus far is the lack of an invulnerable save on the Carnies. Yes, the Genestealers get an invuln because they’re super fast, but fluff wise a Carnifex is supposed to be a walking tank and they go down all too easy with 2-3 good rolls of the dice with lascannons.

    • Severius_Tolluck

      I agree. I didn’t read the nids so I wouldn’t know their rules.. Did they at least get some form of regen? that would also makes sense

      • orionburn

        Sadly no. Old One Eye (Carnifex character) does get a regen, but since he’s at 10 wounds he can be singled out easily. And again no invulv save with him either. It would have been better to only give him 8 or 9 wounds to avoid being singled out, but I get it…he’s a big monster.

        • mrbleak

          Well drop him on a pod and use hive commander on him, charge a 450 point Knight and get, easily, 15 wounds on it with a 140 points carnifex turn 1. I have done this and it´s pretty brutal, specially when you have some hive guard and an exocrine to soften the knight before hand. Very much worth the points.

          • Ryan Freivalds

            “Units that are set up in this manner cannot move or Advance further during the turn they arrive”
            I think you’re better off hive commander-ing something else anyway.

          • Wampasaurus

            This is not a rule on the Tyrannocyte Datasheet. Or on a Space Marine Drop Pod either. Putting quotes around it does not help make it any more true. http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c2f548e6d5c450c8c694381b0064aeb6989fcb5f316a79a7c0ab9a6523a93440.jpg

          • Ryan Freivalds
          • Wampasaurus

            Valid point, however this does not apply since The Swarmlord’s Hive Commander ability is used during the shooting phase and rules on Datasheets overrule those in the Core Rule Book. This is a logic thing. Drop Pods and Tyrannocytes ability occurs at THE END of the Movement Phase, not during. It stands to reason models cannot move at the end of the Movement Phase

          • Ryan Freivalds

            Eh, it says “during the turn they arrive” not “rest of the movement phase.” I have to disagree. Otherwise I’d be doing it with Warptime.

          • Wampasaurus

            Once again though rules on a Datasheet supersede rules in the Core Rule Book. This is the important point. You’re right that a unit normally couldn’t Move or Advance for the rest of the turn during their Movement phase, but a rule like Swarmlord ignore normal rules for reinforcements. I think this point was made pretty clear by GW

          • Ryan Freivalds

            I think that clause was put in the rule book to explicitly forbid such combinations, otherwise it makes no sense because there are no rules for moving in the shooting or psychic phases in the core rule book. In which case the clause stops nothing from moving during the turn they arrive as all non-assault moves after the movement phase would be on data sheets — in short I feel your argument could allow me to re-roll rerolls, because even though it’s forbidden in the core rule book my data sheet just says “I may reroll the dice.”
            For my peace of mind is there a superseding bullet point on the datasheets or core rule book?

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            Then why does it specifically refer to the Movement Phase in the passage you’ve screencaped? It does go on to say that they “can otherwise act normally (shoot, charge, etc.) for the rest of their turn,” which I would interpret as allowing out of sequence moves, because the is no prohibition in most abilities that grant out of sequence actions on applying those abilities to recently placed models.

          • Ryan Freivalds

            I’ve wondered this myself, but regardless the clause “Units that are set up in this manner cannot move or Advance further during the turn they arrive” can be independant of these and would still have to be observed, you don’t get to just pick one clause over another, the prohibition to it the ability’s use doesn’t need to be in the ability and the rulebook. I see nothing in the core rulebook FAQ clarifying this.
            “Act normally” yes, but that’s in conjunction with an “otherwise” that refers to “cannot move or Advance further during the turn they arrive.”

          • Heinz Fiction

            This is an open debate and I’m wondering why it hasn’t been FAQ’ed already. RAI the Swarmlord’s ability probably does work on reserves as the reasons they usually aren’t able to move the turn they arrive don’t apply.
            RAW however the rules say they cannot move and the reason why are of secondary importance.

          • mrbleak

            Well according to ITC judges, organisers and 8th testers you can do this and that is why I do. Reece, uses hive commander on his Swarmlord after it comes in a Tyrannocyte so I play by ITC rules not your interpretation which is debatable (as clearly proven by other people on this thread)

          • Ryan Freivalds

            Good to know. I mean I’ve honestly wanted to use this kind of combo with warptime onto termies/warp talons, so atleast I’ll be able to do so at an ITC.

          • Brandon Prouty

            i like the idea but dont forget to factor in the 2 pods +200 pts and a swarm lord +300pts into backfield, alone, and then count them both dead. hopefully the swarm lord rolled extra well to get the charge and your opponent didnt bubble wrap. who do you people play?

          • mrbleak

            swarm lord moves an average of 13″ on a turn he does not need a pod to Hive Command a pod unit. I have strats to work around bubble wraps, hive crone flamers being 1. Also, you try to undermine the price by saying everything around it costs points but that´s like saying that Guilliman is worth 800 points cause you need devastators around him. For 140 points, OoE does far more damage than he´s worth and can soak up a fair bit of punishment. he always comes out on top just like my Hive Guard or my exocrine. and yes my combo together costs a bunch but killing a knight first turn can leave your enemy pretty crippled when it comes to retaliation and taking out swarmy + Oldy to equal the points when you are already down 450 is not as easy as you seem to think.

      • Commissar Molotov

        In previous editions you could buy it as an “upgrade.” Maybe the codex will bring it back.

    • SilentPony

      I guess they’re taking a more…realistic approach? Carnies don’t have magical powers or super technology, they’re just giant armored space elephants. Punch through that armor, and its not like they have nanobots to absorb to impact.
      High toughness, high strength, lots of wounds, but no invul makes sense to me for them.

    • Colton Krewson

      Well, a lot of normal tanks can be taken down with 2-3 good rolls with lascannons. They are the king of anti-armor, after all. I could see the Carnifex having a slight FnP equivalent, but definitely not invulnerable.

    • Julien Huguenin

      Carnifexes are in a weird but amazing spot.

      Lack of damage table makes them actually more “tough” (in the sense that they don’t become useless when down to 25% hp)

      They are not amazing at anything but are INCREDIBLY cheap.

      They really work as an all comer, well rounder resilient threat.

      Take 3 !

      • orionburn

        I already do…lol. Don’t get me wrong – I love the guys. It’s frustrating that 3+ save doesn’t go so far with all the save modifiers out there.

    • Nathaniel Wright

      Many things die to 3 good shots from a lascannon.

      It’s what lascannons are there to do.

    • Grand_Master_Raziel

      Most tanks will go down to 2-3 good lascannon rolls, so the Carnifex is not unfairly vulnerable in this regard.

    • AX_472

      yeah but its the same for dreadnaughts and wraithlords and such. and carnifexes get a scything something or other now that does multiple hit rolls for one attack so they mash troops better than any of the others in their class and can still hit big with other weapons. Although not as resilient as they could be they’ve at least got a good swiss army knife of uses. Wraithlords however, i’m struggling to not see them suck when fighting marines and nids, they have no role just a couple of things they’re OK at.

    • AX_472

      you can cast catalyst on them for the FNP effect so they’re potentially tougher than most things in their class. bet they’re cheaper too.

  • Heinz Fiction

    While I like Tyrinds in 8th edition quite a lot, I think they are a little to dependant on Genestealers to do serious damage.

  • benn grimm

    First turn charges need to go away, it’s not fun, it’s not tactical and it’s not immersive. It’s just irritating and as bad or worse as a DE alpha strike on planet bowling ball.

    • Heinz Fiction

      I don’t really see them any more problematic than first turn shooting. Compared to the latter you can block them with chaff, are allowed to fire overwatch and still are able to fall back in your turn if everything else fails.

      • benn grimm

        Depends on so many things, but I agree with you to an extent; overpowering alpha strike from shooting is probably just as bad as overwhelming alpha strike from melee attackers. Anything that reduces human interaction to the point where you feel like the game has been won or lost on turn 1, before the other guy gets to even move a model, for me is not good.

        • YetAnotherFacelessMan

          It sounds like you’d benefit from a turn 0. Just have a turn where you aren’t allowed to shoot or charge. If that gets you too close to eachother, then just make the table bigger. If that puts you about where you would have deployed anyways, then just go back to regular turn 1. 😉

          • benn grimm


  • Ragimund

    Last weekend, my brood of 20 genestealers with broodlord chewed through a squad of terminators, a defiler and a squad of berserkers before succumbing to enemy fire. NOM NOM NOM

  • Devourer

    I just feel bad for biovores. Reduced to direct shooting and doing one mortal wound when hitting (BS 4+) is just not what my artillery bugs should do

    • Tanithilis

      The FAQ/errata changed them back to indirect fire (and they can no longer overwatch, which is fair).

  • ReveredChaplainDrake

    I’m finding that, for every Tyranid unit whose power went through the roof (bless you, Exocrines, you beautiful, beautiful auto-includes), there’s one that really stifles me when I try to figure out what it’s for.

    Toxicrenes are an eclectic collection of gimmicks that seem like they’re supposed to take on multi-wound models, yet are bad at it because they have no answer to the kinds of armor that multi-wound models (or at least the ones worth taking) tend to have. In fact, a lot of theoretically melee Tyranid units are really bad at melee because they’re not swinging a lot and/or are hitting on a 4+. The Haruspex is in a similar boat, torn between its roles as anti-infantry and can opener, but at least it has its regeneration going for it. The problem with all of these wimpy melee units is that Trygons are better fighters and have a gimmick of their own with far deeper synergies than “mildly annoy engaged units” and “sometimes cause a mortal wound”. And speaking of mortal wounds…

    Mawlocs are more ammo than units. I don’t get why they had to be reduced to wimpy Hormagaunt talons when Monstrous Scything Talons, the next step down from Massive Scything Talons, are a thing. Sure that’d make the Mawloc more expensive, assuredly, but it’s just so baffling that a big man-eating land shark can be completely defanged with such ease. Personally, I’ll stick with my Trygons. At least they demand an actual response when they show up. Threat overload doesn’t work when the “threats” aren’t actually threatening.

    Speaking of hilariously non-threatening units, Pyrovores are *still* just walking heavy flamers with a death wish. Come on, if *any* unit needed a new lease on life after 7th, it was Pyrovores, easily the biggest laughing stock of the last codex, and arguably of the entire edition. Sure, they actually do their role now, but… what even *is* their role? What exactly is supposed to make them special? Auto-hit shooting? Would be cool if Tyrannofexes and Crones didn’t exist. -3 AP in melee? Would be cool if Rending Claws, Bonesabers and Monstrous Scything Talons didn’t exist. Dispensing mortal wounds? Would be cool if Mawlocs, Spore Mines, Mucolids, and literally every single psyker in the faction didn’t exist.

    Lictors, despite being one of my favorite units in the entire game, have always been tragic victims of 40k’s scale creep. Far better suited to Kill Teams / Shadow War Armageddon than the quasi-Apocalypse that is the standard game size, it really doesn’t matter how good a Lictor is for its points. Unless you fill out a Vanguard detachment with the things, you’re not going to be getting much done with them due to their low unit size and, worse yet, the fact that anything they charge can just walk away. For a while now, Lictors have been able to get away with assaulting and tying up scary shooting units without the obligation to cause heavy casualties because voluntary fall back wasn’t a thing. But it is now, meaning that Lictors’ inability to reliably kill what they hit comes into focus. At best, when you buy a Lictor, you’re buying one turn of relief from one shooty unit. Maybe a dead Marine. You don’t bring an air horn to a gunfight.

    Harpies and Crones, while admittedly alright, seem like they were meant to be actual flyers (Flyer unit type, -1 to hit, protection from non-flyer charges) before falling afoul of the Typo Fairy. I hear Helldrakes are in a similar position, given that all of the above are melee-capable flyers, but it just feels so odd that the Harpy and Crone were created specifically to be Tyranid flyers, but arbitrarily aren’t actually flyers. And now the FAQ is out, dashing any hopes that this was gonna’ get fixed. They were invented to fill a role that no other Tyranid before them filled, and which they could have filled easily. But now, for whatever reason, they don’t even fill the role. Without the uniqueness of being actual flyers, if you buy a Harpy and / or Crone, you’re doing it solely for their weapon loadouts, and there’s far better Tyranid firepower than these two.

  • Christopher Gallegos

    I may be wrong so let me know how you guys interpret this, but I don’t think Tyranids can ally with Asta Militarum. The Brood Brothers rule says that Astra Militarum and Genestealer Cult units can be taken in the same matched play army even tho they don’t share a faction keyword. However the Tyranids do not have the Genestealer Cult keyword so they do not get the ability to be taken in the same army as Astra Militarum. It seems to me that this is intended to give the Genestealers Cult the ability to ally with either the Tyranids or the Astra Militarum. All Units in an army still must have atleast 1 keyword in common and the Brood Brothers rule only excuses Astra Militarum and Genestealers Cults from that rule with each other.