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40K Tactics: Tyranids – Part 3 – Horde Tactica!

12 Minute Read
May 14 2011

Guest post by Ghoulio of Legio Minimus.

After playing my last couple of Tournaments and casual games with a completely stripped down Nidzilla or All Reserve army I figured it was time to tackle the most Iconic Nid build of them all… the HORDE!

This one has really taken me a while, and a complete shift in thinking, to finally get the hang of. I think now that I have started playing it I am finding it a pretty fun and a refreshing way of doing things (I can’t believe as a Nid player I am actually saying playing a Horde is a refreshing way of doing things lol).

The obvious main focus on this type of list is your little dudes doing a bunch of the work instead of your big guys, which will only be there for support. Now, the big question is: “How to make all the pieces work together?” I think this style of play, more than any other requires synergy from your army. Both the “All Reserve” and “Nidzilla” type armies are fairly self-contained. A Trygon will kill the crap out of a unit of Marines regardless of what else is there while a horde of little guys will need some buffs and help making it across the field to actually do some damage.

First thing I want to do is post a sample sort of for fun list of what I have been running for my Horde list, and then break down what the essentials for making this work as there are a lot of subtle little things that I am sure many will question when they see it. So here it goes!

Tyranid Prime – Dual Bone Swords, Adrenal Glands

Venomthropes (2) – (Tyranid Prime goes here)
Hive Guard (3)
Hive Guard (3)

Termagants (20)
Tervigon – Toxin Sacs, Adrenal Glands, Catalyst, Cluster Spines
Hormagaunts (20) – Toxin Sacs
Genestealers (7+Broodlord) – Toxin Sacs

Fast Attack
Gargoyles (20) – Adrenal Glands, Toxin Sacs
Harpy – Twin Linked Venom Cannon

Heavy Support
Carnifex – Dual MC Devs
Carnifex – Dual MC Devs


Total Points: 1847

Here is a quick breakdown of the list and how everything works:

Tyranid Prime + Venomthropes: This is the one that I have been thinking about the longest and have done the most testing. The Venomthropes are the single most important unit in the book to make this list work. The fact they give everything a 5+ cover save completely changes the dynamic of the force. The biggest issues involving them and the thing I have put the most thought into is: “How do I make sure this unit isn’t turned to paste turn 1?” Putting the Prime in here greatly increases this unit’s survivability. The reason for that is because he can eat all those missile launcher shots that would otherwise kill these guys and you can start doing stuff with wound allocation. The point is to put as many wounds as you can on him. Another awesome thing about this unit is they are actually decent in hand to hand, specifically assassinating characters. The ‘thropes make anything they touch initiative 1, so you can freely get in those str 6 bonesword attacks (on the charge) before pretty much anything goes. Another nice thing is this unit can hold it’s own against hordes as well due to the fact that the Venomthropes have toxic miasma (so anything in base to base has to take a toughness test or take a wound) and you also wound most things in the game on a 2+ with a re-roll (2+ poison at str 4).

Their biggest asset, though, is the massive buff they give your army. Obviously the 5+ cover save on shooting is huge. The other massive benefit is how they change assaults when you get assaulted. Everything that assaults you has to take a Dangerous Terrain roll and your units count as having Defensive Grenades. I played an ork player over the weekend who charged my lowly 11 Termagants (free unit from the Tervigon) with 20 ‘Ard Boyz. He initially had 80 attacks, but after you take into account the dangerous terrain roll (he lost 6 guys) and the grenades it brought the attacks down to 42. So just having the Venomthropes there literally cut his damage output in half. When you have a unit of 3 with the Prime you can also spread it over a much larger area effecting as many units as possible (always place the Prime in the middle to help spread their influence). The last amazing thing with this unit is it allows you to play in any Terrain environment. Draw a table at a tourney with little to no terrain? Who cares! Just place your gaunts as a screen and set up your Venomthropes near them and now your entire army gets cover and you don’t have to make difficult terrain rolls!

Hive Guard + Zoanthropes: Obviously these units are just there for anti tank and I included the Zoans for extra synapse as well as the fire support. Since I don’t have Hive Commander I really don’t want to have anything that starts in reserve hence the lack of a pod. The strength of this list is having a massive amount of targets from turn one while everything marches forward, and the Zoans are no exception. These guys will eat up A LOT of the first couple turns anti-tank because people are terrified of their Lance shots. So if they go 2 rounds taking missile launchers in the face instead of the rest of the army then they have succeeded in their job.

Termagants: These guys are the back bone of this army. You will notice I didn’t just buy the 10 to get the Tervigon in the list (although a min of 20+ is better). The reason for that is you want a decent sized shield up from turn 1 that you can use to give the rest of your army a 4+ cover save. The tactic I really like using is actually casting catalyst on these guys on turn 1. Now you have a unit that is about as resilient as Marines giving the rest of your army a cover save. The larger the starting squad size the better. Their other main role is acting as a shield against assaults from other armies. You want those assault termies hitting these guys then countering with all your fast assault troops.


Another thing I really want to try is making a squad of 20 with devourers to go with these guys. I think they would do very well in this list as they can pump out so many shots. Just walk them forward, shoot something into the ground, wait for them to assault you so they have to take dangerous terrain rolls – you get defensive grenades and then you get to roll for counter assault with leadership 10 because of the Tervigon.

Tervigon: Horde list pretty much = Tervigon. With the way I have my army set up I have two main tactics that I enjoy using with these units depending on what is needed.

The first main tactic I employ with this list since I have Venomthropes in my army is to try and draw people into assaulting the Termagants with their assault units. The main reason for this is what I outlined in the Termagant entry, and that is my units now have Counter Assault on LD 10, Defensive Grenades and the enemy have to take Dangerous Terrain Rolls. So I basically remove all the benefits of charging for the enemy while applying almost all the benefits of charging for my own unit as well as taking out some guys because of the Dangerous Terrain rolls. The other major bonus is that you have drawn them close to the main bulk of your army which completely primes that squad for a counter charge.

The second main tactic I use is being able to go on the offensive when needed since I have added Adrenal Glands to the Tervigon. Just make sure you run your Tervigon instead of shoot so he stays within 6″ of your Termagants when you charge. It makes your Gants Init 5 and str 4 on the charge with Toxin Sacs so you re-roll wounds against T4 and lower which is super handy and greatly increases your damage output. Another really nice thing about having both buffs is after your main unit is in combat the extra squads that the Tervigon creates to help counter assault will also benefit as well. It turns your super cheap screening squad into something that you can use to do a considerable amount of damage.

Hormagaunts: I really enjoy having these guys in my armies. They are my answer to Assault Terminators, Thunder Wolf Calv, etc. Using their really high initiative and with toxin sacs means you can put a huge amount of wounds on whatever it is you charge. I love their speed as well. Rolling 3d6 for difficult terrain and fleet is also great. These guys combined with the Gargoyles are your heavy hitting counter assault units. As far as upgrades go I ALWAYS take Toxin Sacs and if you have left over points then take Adrenal Glands. In my opinion bare Hormagaunts are a complete waste of time. So take them and upgrade them or just leave them at home.

Genestealers: With this list I almost always infiltrate them (again, typically no Hive Commander). I like putting them on an objective outside of my deployment zone to start applying pressure before the game begins or use them as a counter assault unit. My normal set up is taking between 8-10 Stealers with toxin sacs and a Broodlord. They do amazing damage and have great utility with the Broodlord. Another great way to run them is totally naked and at maxed size (so 20). The unit comes in at 280pts and really fits the theme of the army well and can do a stupid amount of damage (60 rending attacks on the charge at Init 6, WS 6 is nothing to sneeze at). Regardless of how you arm/run them they are just a fun unit lol.

Gargoyles: This unit is made for this list. They have amazing speed are super cheap and can screen your larger models like the Carnifex’s and Tervigon or when mixed with Termagants can just flat out block LOS to your Venomthropes. This unit is so good the only reason I am not maxing the unit out is because I only own 20 of them currently lol. The biggest bit of advice I can give is ALWAYS take both upgrades. At only 1 point each there is no reason not to and it just makes them incredible. Another amazing combo with these guys is mixing them with a Hive Tyrant with Old Adversary. If you can paroxysm a unit first you now hit on 3’s with a re-roll… then wound on 4’s with a re-roll. Also, any 6’s to hit auto wound which means on T4 or lower you put out an incredible amount of wounds.

Harpy: Oh, Harpies. I have such a love-hate relationship with these guys. They are incredibly over priced, I would even go as far to say the most overpriced unit in the book, and are way too fragile for what you pay. That being said, I feel they fit this list very well. They provide long range stun support (with the Venom Cannon) which in turn helps your army get across the table (I have literally NEVER missed with the main gun in about 7 games). The fact that they have wings so are somewhat fast is great, too. This helps keep them out of trouble. I also like the two templates plus the spore mines they can put down. Mostly it does a decent job in this list as a support creature. Another nice thing about them is you can use them for multi charges on high initiative units (since anything the harpy charges cuts their unit in half) to allow your creatures time to get their attacks in first.

Carnifex: I have been using these guys more and more lately and have been having huge success with them. There are a couple of reasons why I am taking them in this list over Trygons and Mawlocs. First off they are small and can reliably get a 4+ cover save (but get the standard 5+ of the Venomthropes regardless). Secondly, it gives this army some decent mid-range fire support which I find really helps. In this type of list I always arm mine with Dual MC Devourers. It makes them good (no great) at everything and they are a constant threat. You can take out light to medium tanks at range, and you still have 4 base attacks to deal with things in CC not to mention being Str 9. These guys have been the stars of my list the last bunch of games I have taken them in. They have done everything from mashing Mega Nobz into a fine paste in CC to gunning down units of Space Marines at range.


Units that work that aren’t in my list:

– Parasite of Mortex: Oddly, this guy fits in very well. You put him with the Gargoyles so he kind of functions like a Broodlord. He also will start pumping out bases of Rippers when you get in CC which will help add to the “Horde.” Another nice thing is he gives you that forward Synapse to help keep everything moving.

– Hive Tyrant: Certain builds of Hive Tyrants are 100% made for this list. A Hive Tyrant with something like a Venom Cannon or 1-2 sets of MC Devourers and Old Adversary with some guard make all those little critters just incredible. These guys just improve everyone around them as well as giving some fire support for the rest of the army. Only reason it isn’t in the above list is just because I was going for something a bit off the wall.

– Biovores: These guys can add some serious fire support to help soften up enemy hordes. With that said, in all honesty these would be one of the last things I take just because your hordes have such large damage potential.

– Trygons: Like all Tyranid lists Trygons are always a welcome addition. Used pretty much the exact same as in the Nidzilla list. Your big heavy hitter.

– Tyrannofex: Again, like in the Nidzilla list just included for extra fire support/suppression of tanks. One nice thing in this list is you can get him that 5+ cover save from the Venomthrope and you can guard him with all your little bugs.


The main thing with this army is how you initially set everything up. I typically set everything up around the Venomthrope unit to maximize my cover saves. I set up the Tervigon behind the Termagants and try to shield the entire army with my Termgants (ie to give everything a “cover save”). Similar to my Nidzilla list I tend to bookend my army with the two Carnifex’s to help protect me from deep striking dreads and other edge threats. I will almost always set the army outside of cover with the exception of the Tervigon (or other MCs) just to make sure he doesn’t get shot at so I can max out my movement.

After the main set up it’s all about marching the army across the board, trying to pop transports along the way as well as suppress battle tanks with the Harpy. The key point is to use the Tervigon to try and keep that shield of Termagants going. This is incredibly important for 2 reasons: 1) Gives you the 4+ cover save for your army, and more importantly 2) Protects you from nasty assaults and gives you the counter assault (which is where this army wins). The biggest thing to keep in mind is to make sure you are MORE than 12” away from Transports (specifically Land Raiders and Stormravens) otherwise they will drive through your Termagant wall, forcing them to move out of the way with tank shock and then deliver those assault troops right into the heart of your army.

The main focus is getting units out of their transports, absorbing them into the Termagant wall then counter assaulting/shooting them with units like the Gargoyles, Hormagaunts and Stealers. It is such a simple technique, but it is amazing how effective it can be – especially against angry armies like Blood Angels and Orks. One last nice thing about how this army is set up is how balanced it is. Unlike ultra focused armies like Nidzilla and the Reserve Bomb this list really doesn’t have a specific weakness and there is definitely something to be said for that.


This is pretty much the most straight forward way you can play Tyranids. It is all about setting up your units in ways where they can support each other in kind of a “web of synergy.” While it is by far the least sneaky way of playing Tyranids something about it just feels right. I gotta say I love setting up this army seeing a bunch of big squads of bugs, with some middle sized bugs and a couple of large bugs supporting them. It just looks awesome on the field and is just incredibly fun to play.

As always, please ask any questions or post any comments in the comments section and I will be more then happy to answer them. Happy Hunting!

The Girl
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