40K Editorial: Carnifexes are Awesome

Carnifex 4th cover

Carnifexes are Da Best! Let’s take a look at the beast that helped to define “Big Bug” for years.

Hello BoLS Readers! AdamHarry back with a 100% completely unbiased and factual article about the Mighty Carnifex! (Editor Note: Where is the sarcasm flag…)

Carnifex comes from the Latin words “Car” and “Fex” which we all know when used with the conjunctive “ni” translates into the quite literal “A bug the size of a car!” Okay…you got me. It actually does come from ancient Roman word for executioner. This is actually quite fitting as this Tyranid was one of the original bad-boys of 40k. All the way back to the earliest editions of the game the Carnifex had a special place in the ‘Nid book as THE Big Bug. Yes, Tyrants were around too, but Carnifexes were walking tanks of destruction. They struck fear in to the hearts of opponents and would smash your tanks as well as your infantry with their monstrous blows!

Carnifex Screamer KillerThe Screamer Killer

The OG of Carnifexes was the ferocious “Screamer-Killer” variant. This was the earliest encountered Carnifex as it was used heavily by Hive Fleet Behemoth for boarding actions as well as full on assaults leading up to the battle of Macragge. For me personally – this was the an iconic hunk of metal that has stuck with me since my first days of playing Warhammer 40,000. It’s called a Screamer-Killer because of the sound it makes as it charges it’s Bio-Plasma blast. They would also generate an electric field around it’s claws to help contain the ball of plasma before launch. The mental image conjured up by this Carnifex has been an inspiration to me with my own Tyranid army.

Carnifex V2This is the  “And we almost got sued” variant…

The second incarnation of the Carnifex was this bad boy from 3rd Edition. I like to call this version the “Crab People” Carnifex. This design was created during the awkward phases when many of the Tyranid models got a much needed redesign. However the designed skewed a bit to close to another IP and there was rumors of threatened lawsuit. Sadly, I don’t really have many fond memories of this particular model. I do know that this was the same period GW was mixing in plastic bits with their metals. The plastic bits have stayed – the metal bits have long since been redesigned. So long crabby, we barely knew ye.


This is the current design of the Carnifex. It’s a great kit even by today’s standards. It’s versatile and all plastic – which leads to some great conversion options. This kit has all the weapon options (except for a second set of devourers…) and a slew of extra heads, armor plates and doodads. When I stared collecting ‘Nids this kit was a staple of bits. I really think this kit helped usher in the Tyranid’s heyday during 4th edition…that and the ridiculous fire power that the uber list “Nidzilla” put out at the time. I still have nightmares out that list. In fact, as much as I like modeling, painting and playing my Tyranids, that list has forever scarred myself and many of the other players that endured during that era of Warhammer. But that’s all in the past, right? RIGHT?! Mostly…

This same kit has taken us through 3 editions of 40k and it doesn’t really need to be updated as the design esthetics of the Tyranids hasn’t changed. But it has lost some of it’s luster. There are several newer kits of even bigger bugs. Which, if you think about it, is sort of odd. Why? Well look at the art piece at the top of the article.

That’s a classic Carnifex plowing through a rhino chassis. It could just be the artists take on the big guy – but Carnifexes are still supposed to be massive 8-9 ton beasts! And if they are that size how much more massive are the new beasts like Trygons and Tervigons? The Exocrine/Haruspex, Tyrannofex, Toxicrene/Maleceptor and heck even the Tyrannocyte are all larger than the Carnifex. But does that mean the mighty Carnifexes’ days are done? Far, far from it!

Not dead Yet Monty Python


Games Workshop just released a teaser for the upcoming version of the Screamer-Killer variant. And I’m super excited about it:

I have been sitting on 3 Screamer-Killer Style Carnifexes for a LONG time just because I wanted to have them. Their Plasma is short, their claws were awkward, but man, when they get in there they ripped things up. I’m not sure what all the future holds for this new-old school option but I’m ready to plop them on the table!

Another thing that was mentioned was the “Thornback” which is “an anti-infantry horror” – what does that mean, exactly? Well according to the lore it’s a “Tyranid with large blade protrusions from their carapace.” These were basically used as wrecking balls of spikes that would slam into the enemy lines impaling folks on the way in. Now, the Screamer-Killer seems to fill that role based on how it looks – so will the Thornback stay the same? Who knows!? But I do know that I want one…


For more on the Carnifex throughout the ages why not check out our Sister Site Lexicanum for all the canonical info on the OG Big Bug!

So Tyranid players – what say you? Is the age of the Carnifex on the road to a comeback? Let us know in the comments below.

  • euansmith

    I kind of assume that the Thornback would have shootable quills.

    • Jabberwokk

      All it did in 4th was double the out numbering value of the model which made it count as 20 models If I Remer it right. Basically you could set up scenarios with a squad of Gaunts and a thorns a k to auto kill w/e by “outnumbering”. I can’t remember the specifics though.

  • Arthfael

    Sorry, but what other IP did the second design stray too close to? It does not look close to any particular IP-protected creature that I know of. At least not closer than current tyranid models.

    • ZeeLobby

      Interested in this as well. First time I ever heard of it.

      • linguliformean

        Alien. The hive tyrants looked like alien queens.

        • ZeeLobby

          Many Tyranid still do. Seemed like they were specifically mentioning the carnifex. I remember reading something in the past about carnifex vs ultralisk, so maybe it was blizzard. Would still be nice if they clarified it in the article.

          • Randy Randalman

            They don’t owe us that explanation. Also, why does it matter? Furthermore, the old design looked stupid anyway, even for it’s time. We don’t want stork-legged smiley ‘nids anymore.

          • Arthfael

            We just are curious because we have an interest in how designs evolve and influence one another. That bad?

          • ZeeLobby

            Lol. Usually when you mention some other news worthy thing in an article you follow it up with an explanation or at least a source link. It would just be nice to know. Dunno why you’re so defensive, I wasn’t talking about GW. Oh Randy…

          • I_am_Alpharius


            “Well you came and you gave without roasting,
            But I sent you away, oh Randy,
            And you dissed me and stopped me from posting,
            And I need you today, oh Randy”

          • ZeeLobby

            Haha. Was not my intention but now I’m there with you. Lol.

          • Smiley ‘Nids? The Screamer-Killer is screaming! The second one has a menacing visage. You must HATE the new Poxwalkers…

          • TheEvilBlight

            Carnifex was first, blizzard second. New Carnifex definitely looks vaguely xenomorph.

          • ZeeLobby

            True. But they’re specifically mentioning the 3rd edition carnifex which came out after Brood War. While the original carnifex came out before it’s quite possible the 3rd edition one conflicted with Blizzard.

        • Arthfael

          Alien was an influence from the start,and especially on the Genestealers who were unified with Tyranids later. However, I feel that this Carnifex and other designs from the same time are probably the ones with the least influence from Alien, so it doesn’t work for me.

          • Commissar Molotov

            The old metal Hormagants looked an awful lot like Alien Xenomorphs, eh?

      • I_am_Alpharius

        Ditto. I’m calling pinocchio on this one.

        • ZeeLobby

          Seems very, “I heard from a guy who used to work at a GW store in the bathroom one day”.

          • I_am_Alpharius

            The final metal fex, that was done for during 3rd edition, was released in Feb 01′. The current plastic fex was released in June 05′. That means the metal fex was on sale for, roughly, 4 years 4 months; and, if I recall it was still available for a couple of years after that via direct sale – until GW started removing the bitz ordering capacity. The kit would not have stayed around that long if they where on the cusp of sue by anyone with any kind of valid claim. In addition, Old One Eye hung around for a fair while after that; and both kit are somewhat the same.

      • Jabberwokk

        It was the Alien franchise I think.

        • ZeeLobby

          I mean I could see that too. Just would love to know

    • Kevin Maloney

      Starcraft? The Fexes of old’s faces were a bit similar to Hydralisks.

      • Arthfael

        Uhhh… I guess we must’ve had a veeery different version of Starcraft I then… 😛 You could maybe make the case for current Raveners and Warriors, but 2nd version of Carnifexes… I don’t see any similarity beyond their being biomechanical alien monsters.

        • ZeeLobby

          Pretty sure it was the ultralisk and the melee carnifex. They both had similar builds and 4 scything talons. Closest I can think.

  • Randy Randalman

    The Thornback will probably have a high shot count, low strength shooting attack. Or it will be an aura like what other armies have in mortal wound bombs.

  • Wolf-Assassin

    I think the 2ed model looks more dangerous because of the placement of the scything talons. its like the aunt who came screaming after you demanding a hug.

  • memitchell
  • Who still has a Screamer-Killer?

    • Commissar Molotov

      I have TWO!