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Tyranids in 6th Edition: Or, How to Polish a Turd

13 Minute Read
Jan 15 2014

Yeah, I said it.

Hey everyone, Reecius here to talk about the new Nid dex and how to try and pull something slightly resembling a good list out of it.

And here I thought we were on a roll with 6th ed. Space Marines? Aweome. Love that book. So many good builds and a few outstanding builds that actually play like the fluff! Sweet.

Eldar? Brilliant book. The Jetseer Council is lame and I would prefer the game to not have that type of unit and combo, but, I will accept that for what is otherwise a beautifully crafted Codex with multiple viable builds and the biggest problem is deciding which awesome unit to use.

Then we get Nids. Wow.

This book feels like someone has a few extra minutes on the crapper and scribbled down some notes on a piece of toilet paper and turned it in to be printed. We got everything from last edition…but worse! Wee!

I don’t know what happened, maybe someone on the Dev team was getting owned by Nids all the time and it skewed their perspective of them. I can’t say. But all I know is that at this point in time, I can honestly say I think this may be the weakest, most disappointing codex I have ever read. And I have been playing this game for a LONG time. We’ve played about 7 games so far in the shop and they have been massively disappointing. I still hold out hope that there are some good builds in the book that we have simply not discovered yet (and I believe a few will rise out of the crap) but so far it’s been brutally bad.

Without devolving into an emotional rant (and I love Nids, I have a huge Nid army, fully painted which is one of the reasons this book pisses me off so much) I will just touch on some of the key points that really grind my gears:

Synapse is crippling. You have to invest points into units that stop your army from falling apart. While everyone else is putting points into units that actively participate in the game, do damage, take objectives or force multiply your army, Nids have to take babysitting units that simply stop something negative consequences from happening.

The inverse of this is, obviously, the other guy simply has to kill your synapse to make your army fall apart. This is alarmingly easy to do and once the Synapse web starts to collapse, the whells just come off the bus and the Nid army folds. This would be acceptable if the Synapse creatures weren’t so easily dispatched.


A lot of already weak units got weaker. A lot of weak units stayed weak. This to me smells like a dev team that either didn’t have time to do it right, don’t know what needed to be fixed, or just didn’t care. I can’t imagine things like Genestealers were deemed to be just right as they were? Tyranid Warriors? Rippers going UP in price? Haha, what? It is seriously comical and defies logic.

Losing BRB powers was not needed at all. Wow that hurts. That was one of the only thing Nids had to keep them alive and kicking in the meta. Now granted, most of the new Nid powers are really good, the fact that you pretty much have to use Dominion a lot and take it as a power, and the randomness of the others means you just can’t count on them being there and plan strategies around them.

But enough of that, I’ve already covered a lot of this negative stuff, let’s look at some of the positive.

So what seems to actually be playable so far?


These gents got a lot better! Basically what we had before, but BS4, cheaper, and Mastery Level 2. Tyranid Powers are actually really good, but I have found you pretty much have to take Dominion all over the place to be able to cover wholes that appear in your Synapse web. As Flyrants are so dynamic, this is almost a must, IMO, or the rest of your army can be in serious peril as the Flyrant flies all over the table.

Their extra Tyrant upgrade powers are OK, I don’t really use them or see much of a use for them, honestly, not for the points. Flyrants have a short shelf life and many amount of dedicated AA, or even a lucky shot, will bring these guys down easily. Don’t invent too heavily in them as they are a risky unit to use.


Not having BRB powers hurts a bit, but they only got one roll before, so for me it’s not too bad.


For me, these are auto-include. I always took a unit of 3 before and now they got so much better! Nice! Cheaper, another wound, etc. This is a fantastic barrage unit, and barrage is such a great tool. Particularly in a meta of Cultists, Scouts, Fire Warriors, Guardians, Horrors, etc, these guys do great.


Very good! So far we have found him to be a standout unit with his huge points drop. His 2+ and 6 wounds really make a HUGE difference and this is one of the only models I would consider putting Regen on as a good player will always seek to choose a target and shoot or punch it to death in a single turn, not allowing the opportunity to regen. For how expensive it is, and only working 50% of the time, I would only ever put Regen on the most durable units to protect the investment.

Acid Spray is fantastic as a torrent, Str6, AP4 weapon is sweet for killing all of the 4+ or low tough troops we see now a days. It’s good against light vehicles and even Marines, really. Stinger Salvo is a dud, but hey, more shots. Adding a Thorax Biomorph to him is worthwhile, too, as it increases his assault defense and as he is an aggressive unit going forward, he will often get into range to use it, particularly with Onslaught. Again, TMCs are really, really easy to kill in general terms, so keep them points light and take lots of them. I really dig the T-Fex so far, though. Just be careful as a few fists or something similar in combat will make short work of him. He needs support units to really work.


I actually dig this model a lot. He brings in some much needed AP2 firepower, pairs up with the T-Fex well, and is another aggressive TMC that goes up field adding firepower and eventually assaulting. Now, prepare for him to die almost every game. T6, 5W, 3+ is not hard to kill at all, and with his firepower he will draw a lot of attention, particularly if you are running him near a T-Fex or unit of Carnies which being harder to kill, will be a less appealing target. But, at only 20pts over a Dakkafex, I think he is a very tempting choice.


These little boogers are actually solid. At 4pts a pop, and the option to mix weapons (and the Devourer going down in points) they went from a strictly speed bump/scoring unit to a unit that actually has presence on the battlefield. I have been messing around with units of 15 to 20, with 10 Devourers and 5-10 wound chumps and the unit is actually really good. They shoot and scoot well, can go after objectives with enough mass to be hard to kill (so long as they are in Synapse of course) and can tie up units for a decent amount of time if needs be. For the points, I would go so far as to say this is one of my favorite scoring units out their right now. I no longer take Tervigons, I just take lots of medium sized Termagant units. This may chaneg but for now it seems to get the job done.



They didn’t really get better, they didn’t really get worse, but they’re still really useful. They lost offense (ScyTal nerf) gained Speed (+3″ run) and dropped a point naked but styaed the same cost with Poison…which was overpriced as it was. So, now I use them naked as a cheap scoring unit and tie up unit. With their speed they are good for going after objectives later in the game, or tying up a unit with bodies.


I was not sold on them at first but with their points drop and the really nice utility of Tyranid powers, these guys are not really great, but become borderline auto-include for many builds to provide reasonable Synapse. A 3++ is great, but T4 with 2W is disarmingly easy to take out. And if these guys are holding the backfield and get killed, it forces you to send offensive units back to keep Synapse up which is brutal. Therefore, a good player will do just that. Sigh. Nids are quite easily hamstrung if your opponent understand target priority.


This one is borderline bad, but it is cheap and if you play it wisely it can be good. I go back and forth on this, but for now let’s say good. It has a strength 8 vector strike which is great because we think of how nasty a Turkey is…and then you realize the Crone can only go 24″ and it isn’t nearly as rough as it seems. However, it is a FMC so it can start on the ground, it can assault, and it is overall pretty useful. It died turn 1 or 2 in most of our first games as it is SO fragile. You have to be ultra careful with it. As a counter flyer unit it can be good but you have to reserve and hope to come on second. It is really hard to hide it as it is a huge model and the only FMC that is actually on a flying stand. T5, 5W and a 4+ is brutally fragile, but I think this unit has a place. With 2 Flyrants and a Crone or 2, you have enough units to get across the table (unless you are playing Tau) and then do some work but you will almost certainly lose some to attrition on the way.

That said, with Flyrant support you should be able to dominate other flyers pretty well if you get a little luck and play well. If you are on board when other flyers show up though? Good night. Scythes, Storm Talons, etc. will gut a Crone in a single volley. Ouch.

I am coming around on the Harpy. At first I wrote it off as pure junk, but as an FMC with Grenades and providing a buff to other units on the charge, plus decent range, you could play it safe with this guy and hang back, shooting it’s blast and then going to where needed, Free Safety style. I will experiment more.


Ye Old Trusty, the Carnifex has gotten quite a boost from his sad days of 5th, but not back to his 4th ed Glory days.

His big points drop is the key. I still like the Dakkafex which with 12 str6, Twin Linked shots on a really reasonable price point TMC is a solid unit. Being able to take more than 1 in a slot is nice too, as HS is so crowded for Nids now (ohh, if only they could ally with themselves!). We’ve also discussed taking 6-9 of them naked, just run up field, take your licks and hopefully deliver a knock-out blow when you finally get across the table.

Again, T6, 4W, 3+ is very easy to take out. Keep them as cheap as possible to accomplish your goals and then cross your fingers! Their slow speed and short range is tough to manage on the tabletop, especially when they have to move around hordes of little bugs that take up a lot of space and get in the way.

The Haruspex falls into the Fex category, IMO. It has the advantage of being in Elites, but it is oh so slow, and has very few attacks. WS and I 3 stink, too. Even on the charge you will usually only get 1-2 bonus attacks, so it is hardly the lawn mower the Trygon was before the ScyTal nerf. The Trygon was also faster and had more wounds, more initiative, and WS, better shooting and you still rarely saw it. So again, maybe with Adrenal, Maybe with Regen (which would be a godo combo if you could actually get it into combat) but for me, I think he isn’t worth the points as of now.


Yeah, they got nerfed, IMO. No more Blinding Venom as it was and more expensive upgrades hurts a lot. They now cost 25% more for the same upgrades, but losing their old Blinding Poison means they really do not pack a punch in combat at all anymore. Blind and Poison 6+ is not great at all as a substitute.


However, they are still a cheap cover providing unit, tarpit and distraction unit. They are still fast, still have an OK shooting attack. They now fly forward and die, contest objectives. I run them dirt cheap and they serve that role fairly well.

I was thinking they would pair well with Venomthropes to provide cascading cover…and then I read that Venomthropes only work on MODELS in range. Wow. That blows. So yeah, with giant broods of bugs that isn’t so hot. Still works on Big Bugs if you keep them close to the Venomthropes but as you move around the battlefield that is not going to be something you can maintain without really limiting your mobility. Sigh. -Edit, Shrouded is conferred onto the entire unit if any model has it. Nice! Venomtrhopes are reasonably good again, glad I missed that! Still rough against the top tier armies that largely ignore cover, but better than I thought. 


So if you make the choice to play bugs, you are playing on hard mode. Accept that. I reserve the right to be bitter about it though, as while I like playing the underdog, this book missed the mark by a country mile and is so annoying in how easily it could have made so many more units viable.

But I rant again. Tactics.

Lots of Bodies

You need lots of bodies to do two things: harass your enemy and hold objectives with enough mass to be hard to kill in a normal length game. That means lots and lots of little boogers flying up the field to force target priority on your opponent and lots and lots of little gribblies in the back to be able to soak fire once the first wave dies horribly and the enemy turns their attention on your objective holding units.

I choose Hormagants and Gargoyles for operation die a terrible death, and Termagants for operation die a terrible death after the other guys, but hopefully not before the game ends!

Going all big bugs isn’t that viable in my eyes yet as they die so easily. Yes, Catalyst helps, but you can’t count on getting it. Assault armies beat them to death in combat, shooty armies blow them away.


You also need reliable synapse which gets hard to do as your army spreads out to take objectives and takes casualties. This is the hard part. Flyrants are so good, but they tend to die and fly away from the rest of your army so they are not reliable.

Warriors are pathetic, contribute almost no offense, are expensive, slow, die incredibly easily and pretty much suck. A unit of 3 just for synapse is an OK choice if you plan on hiding them all game but what a tax, yikes. If you still had sPods, they MIGHT be usable with a Prime (assuming they allowed them to come in in the same sPod this go around), but as of now, I’d pass in anything other than a friendly list. Too many things in the game ignore cover and a 4+ save, or are Str 8+ to warrant their huge points cost. Shrikes fall into the same boat and while they’re speed means ins some games they will kick ass, often a few bolter rounds is all it takes to shred them.

Tervigons are reasonably resilient, and Regen is a consideration here, but they are very expensive, can poop out on the first turn they spawn which makes their bloated points cost even more of a liability, and got nerfed hard. They are not what they were and I find myself moving away from them.

The Trygon Prime is interesting. He is very expensive, again, dies pretty easily and got a big hit on offense with no rerolls. He is relatively fast though, with the option to Deep Strike and decent shooting. Eh, he is OK. You rarely saw him in the last book and he was better. I doubt that will change.

The Tyranid Prime is such a rip-off in price, but he can hide in a unit of Gants which makes him much, much more durable. He competes with Flyrants though, who actually kill stuff where often, the Prime will simply sit there picking lent out of his belly-button with his little Gant buddies. For what he does, especially with a Norn Crown (which bloats his points cost even more) he can provide reliable backfield Synapse. Oh, and a lot of people seem to think he buffs any units BS and WS, but it is only Warriors.

Swarmy is dead to me. Don’t bring him up, it only twists the knife!

Zoanthropes are solid and probably the best choice. Again, not great, they can get some good powers but you need at least one in each brood with Dominion. They have a decent shooting attack, too. I see Zoeys as they go to choice for Synapse management. 2 squads of 2 will be reliable, reasonably priced and provide a good shot at getting solid buffing powers, too. Considering the other options, this seems to the best of some not so great options.

Look for Tricks and Ways to Use Units “Out of the Box”

Tyranids need to be tricksy. Maybe taking a unit or two of min/maxed Stealers with a Broodlord for the Horror on armies that are weak to it, or for going in as Skirmishers to hit backfield units. Broodlord still gets it done in combat but like so many other things in the book got nerfed hard for no apparent reason.

Combos don’t jump out at us yet, but maybe there are some there. A Carnie star…maybe? I struggle with it, too many combos in here strike as being of the Warp Talon variety…you know, the kind that sound good on paper but don;t actually work and usually end up getting you killed.

But don’t let that stop you, keep hunting for those combos that can unlock powerful tricks and units that we don;t see just yet.


It seems the Hive Mind has figured out triggers and that we can now use Fortifications. Ok, whatever, we can model up some cool Nid Aegis and Quad Guns like the ones Mr. Dandy makes.

Nids can use these to give themselves places to hide, cover, an invul save (Skyshield), more AA options, etc. Look for some good ones that might help you survive a first turn Alpha Strike if you find yourelf going second against a shooty army.

Maximum Threat Overload

You need to apply a lot of pressure. You cannot take a punch. You have to deliver it hard, and first. Play ultra aggressively, accept that half or more of your army is getting blasted off of the table, and hope what remains can do work.

So hopefully that helps a bit. I am bitter as hell about this half-assed book (as if that isn’t painfully obvious) but I hold out hope that we will find some playable lists in this book. Pray to the Hive Mind for a supplement though, haha, as we need to at least be able to ally with ourselves to get any real power out of this thing =(

Reece Robbins
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