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40k – X vs Y – Tyranid Hive Tyrant vs Tyranid Prime

6 Minute Read
Sep 28 2011

Looking for a nasty Tyranid HQ and can’t decide between the badass Hive Tyrant or his little brother the ass whooping Tyranid Prime? Time to see which one is the best from Imperius Dominatus.

Hive Tyrant

The Basics
Like all monstrous creatures in the codex the Hive Tyrant is overpriced in points. The Tyrant’s base cost is 170 points and for that you get WS8, BS3, and the usual monstrous creature profile – so not excellent on shooting at least. Standard wargear is lash whip, bonesword and scything talons, which makes the Tyrant only slightly better in combat thanks to re-rolling 1’s. The Tyrant comes with a selection of four psychic powers as standard, only two are only really worth it; Leech Essence which causes D3 S3 AP2 wounds and gives wounds back to the Tyrant and Paroxysm which reduces a enemy unit to WS1 and BS1. The other two powers play with leadership tests, but with so many units having high leadership or fearless these aren’t worth it much. On a final note the Hive Tyrant is a synapse creature which also comes with Shadow in the Warp (3D6 for psychic tests for enemy psykers if within 12″).

The Tyrant is a very flexible unit and can be moulded into a variety of roles thanks to large range of wargear it has available.

Available ranged upgrades are devourers and deathspitters, both for 15 points. The latter aren’t worth it so I wouldn’t give them a second glance, but the devourers are interesting. Devourers are S6 AP- and can cause a morale test on a enemy unit at -1, very handy for chasing units off the board. The devourers are not also too bad for vehicles, though just remember it’s -1 on the damage table thanks to AP- . They are only really good for side/light armour shots and stun locking vehicles etc.

A cheap setup is taking the standard lash whip and bonesword along with a pair of devourers. This allows the Hive Tyrant to use one of the psychic powers (which is a shooting attack) without wasting a secondary weapon. The Tyrant can cause some damage on a unit, softening it up prior to assault and then pile in to finish the unit off. The lash whip is handy for assaulting through cover. This is an excellent setup for taking out small medium-low threat units i.e Guardsmen Veterans, Tactical Squads etc.

Two other ranged weapons are available on the menu the stranglethorn cannon and the heavy venom cannon. Stranglethorn is anti infantry in a blast form, so I’d personally stick with the devourers as I think they’re better. The HVC like any many other units in the Tyranid army is about synergy, the HVC doesn’t blow tanks up but suppresses them for assaulting units to get their claws into.

The Tyrant has some funky abilities which other units do not have access too. The Tyrant has a choice of three, two of which are useful and the other again plays with leadership. The first one Hive Commander gives +1 to reserves and allows a single troop choice to outflank, very handy for deep striking ‘Nid lists. Old Adversary gives every unit within 6″ of the Hive Tyrant preferred enemy – including the Hive Tyrant itself. This makes for an excellent combo with buffed up Termagants.

The other two main things worth mentioning the Tyrant has access to are armoured shell (2+ save) and wings. Both require you to pay through the nose, especially the wings. I find the armoured shell is very nice for a Tyrant on foot (which should have a Tyrant Guard) as the popular choice in krak missiles this 40k fashion season just bounce off it. Alternatively wings allow for some mobile synapse.


How it works

If the Tyrant is going on foot then at least a single Tyrant Guard is needed and possibly armoured shell. This will allow the unit to get cover from AP2 fire (Guard should be in cover which counts as 50% of the unit) and take on AP3 easily with a 2+ armour save. As the Tyrant is slow you want ranged fire power, so a heavy venom cannon or maybe two pairs of devourers. Yes I know devourers are only 18″ but they should be in range on turn 2 depending on enemy deployment and movement. A walking Tyrant works nicely with a army list running Tervigons, the Old Adversary power makes Super-Gaunts even better thanks to re-roll to hit :).

If you want to run a flying Tyrant/Flyrant you’re going to need a living shield ,so make sure the Tyrant has got a nice brood of Gargoyles with it, say at least 20. Add Old Adversary so the Gargoyles can re-roll to hit amongst other things such as toxin sacs and adrenal glands on the Gargoyles. Old Adversary also works nicely with the Gargoyles Blinding Venom rule. You could also take Hive Commander allowing reserves to deep strike to support the Tyrants position i.e Mycetic Spores filled with DevilGaunts and perhaps a Tervigon to outflank to keep the monstrous creature pressure on.

The main thing to remember about the Tyrant is like many other Tyranids it’s about synergy. Make sure you use the Tyrant to your best advantage in synergy with the rest of your army and using the abilities it has.

Tyranid Prime

The Prime is basically a HQ Tyranid Warrior with +1 to the majority of its stats. Basic wargear is a pair of scything talons and a devourer. It is also is a synapse creature and independent character. The Prime does have another special rule, Alpha Warrior, which gives +1 WS and BS to any Tyranid Warrior unit the Prime is attached to.

While not as flexible as the Hive Tyrant the Prime does have some room to adjust. Various combat upgrades can be given to the Prime such as a lash whip, bonesword, dual boneswords and rending claws. Limited shooting upgrades are available in the flavors of a deathspitter or spinefists.

The Tyranid Prime is more close combat focused so it’s best to stick to that. A nice setup is lash whip, bonesword and adrenal glands. This makes the Prime S6 I6 on the charge and will deliver a serious beat down on typical foes wounding mostly on a 2+ and striking before most things. It also has the lash whip if charging into terrain.


How it works

The Tyranid Prime is a simple creature and has two different roles in the army. Place it with a Tyranid Warrior unit to make the unit more shooty, lets face the fact that adjusting the weapon skill is still going to make the Warrior unit hit on a 3+ mostly anyway, but a decent size Warrior unit with deathspitters hitting on a 3+ is going  to be nasty.

The other role the Prime has and the more popular role is to fill a HQ slot. With the Prime being an I.C it can easily hide away inside other units. A popular setup is to join the Prime to a Carnifex. Personally I’d take the ‘Fex with two pairs of twin-linked devourers, frag spines and adrenal glands. This will allow the ‘Fex to be I4 when charging (thanks to living battering ram rule) so it will be striking the same time as Marines and still will be I4 when assaulting through cover thanks to the frags. Add the Prime’s whip which will make any enemy models strike at I1 (note the Prime will be I1 if assaulting into cover as it does not have frags) if any are still living after the ‘Fex’s ranged and assault attacks.


I have a lot of love for the Hive Tyrant as it’s a cool model, but the Prime is a very cool customer.

The Prime is a watered down Tyrant and has a single role; close combat. If you’re not running many monstrous creatures or don’t want the big blighters absorbing all your points then a Tyranid Prime is probably the HQ for you. You just need to decide if it’s going to offer its single benefit to a unit of Warriors or just fill the FOC as a cheap HQ choice. So if you’re stuck on points then grab a Tyranid Prime.

The Hive Tyrant can be a nasty piece of work and give some really nice supporting benefits for the unit. The question you have to ask yourself is will I use those benefits. If not then the Tyrant is probably not worth it. It also should be noted if you was running the Tyrant as a gun beast might be worth using a Carnifex instead, same ballistic skill, armour save and wounds 😉

For me it’s the Hive Tyrant as I think it’s a cool model and I really love the combo of paroxysm supporting a unit of Termagants or Genestealers while one of those units receives feel no pain from a Tervigon’s catalyst power.

How are you leading your splinterfleets my fellow Norn-Queens?


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