40K Tactics: Tyranids – Hormagaunts
Hello there ladies and gentlemen, my name is Learn2Eel and today (or tonight) I want to discuss the most adorable little aliens in the galaxy, the devilish Hormagaunts.
With a face that only a mother could love and two scythes for arms, you might be mistaken for believing these critters are fearsome or nasty. Fortunately for everyone in the Milky Way Galaxy, these little reptiles only want to give you hugs – big, lovely hugs! – and lick your skin just like a puppy dog. What isn’t there to love? Well, I have this tactics article here. I guess we should find out, no?
There are two sides to every coin, and the opposite of Termagants are the screeching and deadly quick Hormagaunts. These predators sacrifice ranged weapons for boosted damage output in combat, with AP6 melee strikes from their Scything Talons and surprising mobility for a foot-slogging unit. At a slightly higher cost per model, Hormagaunts have a bit to prove over their scuttling siblings. After all, Termagants can shoot, allowing them to force grounding tests on flying monstrous creatures, Overwatch, take some Snap Shots when they are Pinned and so on. Happily, Hormagaunts are statistically one of the strongest melee units in the book, with each Hormagaunt putting out three attacks each.
Even with mediocre Weapon Skill 3, Hormagaunts in significant numbers – remembering they are even cheaper than Ork Boyz – can dish out an absolutely ridiculous amount of attacks, all at a high Initiative 5. They will strike before Space Marines, though this is reduced in value due to their lack of assault grenades. As with Termagants, they are also fragile Toughness 3 bodies with pathetic 6+ armour saves. The idea is not to upgrade them fully and try to keep them alive, but bank on how inexpensive they are and drown your opponent in bodies. Without Synapse support, additionally, Hormagaunts become far less effective. Synapse gives them Fearless which is just brutal on ridiculously cheap horde units, while their Leadership 6 makes passing any kind of morale or pinning test when outside of Synapse especially painful.
Sadly, Hormagaunts suffer more from Instinctive Behaviour even than Termagants, mostly due to 50% of the results the brood will suffer. Once they fail that test, the unit will literally start to eat itself most of the time, typically losing just under half of a unit once it happens. It wasn’t enough that Termagants had to fall back, but Hormagaunts will actually sit in place and kill themselves; they are unable to perform any actions after damaging each other. Where Termagants rely on Synapse, Hormagaunts absolutely require it. Once in Synapse though, Hormagaunts become almost analogous to Ork Boyz at a slightly lower cost, one that can still be Fearless and thus hold up monsters like Wraithknights interminably as long as a Synapse creature is nearby.
What makes Hormagaunts unique in comparison to Ork Boyz is their speed even without transports. Hormagaunts not only have Fleet for re-rolling their charge and run distances, already a great advantage for a melee unit, but they also add 3″ inches to any Run move they make due to their Bounding Leap special rule. With Fleet, that means a Hormagaunt brood moving through open terrain has a total average movement distance of 13″ to 14″. Add in Move Through Cover and the distance covered through actual terrain isn’t lessened by any significant amount either. Who needs transports when your basic Infantry move almost as fast as Rhino-mounted Space Marines, and are able to assault at any time instead of waiting a turn once they jump out? This is what makes Hormagaunts so valuable even without guns; they are so darn fast, cheap and damaging in combat against other infantry – and potentially monsters when upgraded with Toxin Sacs – that they put early pressure on any enemy list. Their speed is what defines them more than anything else, leading to turn three charges on average, something that almost no other standard infantry unit lacking a transport in the game can lay claim to.
How to Equip Them
Hormagaunts only have access to two upgrades; Adrenal Glands and Toxin Sacs. Hormagaunts already possess Fleet, so Adrenal Glands are cheaper than usual for these little critters. Furious Charge is still a worthwhile upgrade for Hormagaunts though, especially as it is actually cheaper than Toxin Sacs, allowing them to damage the rear armour of most vehicles. Getting a surround on a Rhino packed with Tactical Marines, for example, and wrecking it with massed Strength 4 melee attacks will lead to a ‘double kill’ as the Tactical Marines are unable to be placed. Toxin Sacs are better for actual close combat damage output and at only a slightly higher point cost per model, so I recommend Adrenal Glands more so that your Hormagaunts can actually threaten vehicles.
On that subject, Toxin Sacs turn Hormagaunts into mass murderers, able to put unbelievable amounts of wounds on literally anything with a Toughness value. Having a stock infantry model with three attacks each on the charge – or four if they fail an Instinctive Behaviour test – with Poisoned (4+) on each strike is incredibly nasty, but it also jacks the cost of a unit up rather significantly. That is what you always need to keep in mind; taking either Adrenal Glands or Toxin Sacs on each model in a twenty-strong unit is roughly equivalent to fitting in an extra ten bare bones Hormagaunts. Are the extra models more worthwhile than the upgrades? I believe that the best use of Hormagaunts is as cheap, surprisingly fast Fearless hordes that are the most cost-effective melee unit in the codex. They don’t really need the upgrades and the fact that they are a horde unit of cheap, throwaway models has me leaning more to larger stock units than smaller upgraded units for a similar cost. If you are going to go with either upgrade, I think Adrenal Glands is better if you expect mechanized spam lists such as Chimera walls or Wave Serpents, but Toxin Sacs give Hormagaunts the better melee boost.
Where to Put Them
Hormagaunts should be deployed aggressively on the edge of your deployment zone, even if it means sacrificing turn one cover saves. With their average 13″ movement distance every turn, Hormagaunts are capable of making turn two charges against the more mobile or short-ranged gunline armies – such as Grey Knights – while they should be getting into combat on turn three against the long ranged forces – like Tau and Imperial Guard. With Move Through Cover, Fleet and Bounding Leap, Hormagaunts are one of the fastest assault units in the game, even despite lacking any kind of transport option. You can freely move into terrain or deploy in it with little chance of actually preventing a turn three charge at the latest, though going through terrain each turn does increase the odds that a turn four charge will be their earliest chance against a static gunline. One of the added benefits of using Hormagaunts over Termagants is their more up-rearing pose, making it easier to claim cover saves for intervening models with any monsters or other units surrounded by them.
They lack ranged weapons and thus don’t really work as slow ‘bodyguard’ units that bubble-wrap – surrounding a monster with closely packed Hormagaunt models so that no attempt at a charge to the monster is possible – a gunline beast such as an Exocrine, though their speed makes them far better suited to performing the same job with a Haruspex or Tervigon. Ironically, that they are not affected by a Tervigon “explosion” makes them better suited to bubble-wrapping them, and their melee prowess can actually allow them to defeat – or at least bog down – flying monstrous creatures attempting to reach a Tervigon. Their inability to snap shoot – or shoot at all – does mean they can’t chance grounding nearby flying monstrous creatures, but not worrying about imminent doom from a Tervigon’s death does make up for it somewhat. Hormagaunts are likely to be too quick for your Venomthrope broods if you want them to make combat early, especially as Venomthropes lack both Fleet and Move Through Cover, but keeping Synapse creatures such as Zoanthropes nearby should be both easy and mandatory due to the 12″ regular Synapse range.
I’m a fan of twenty plus sized Hormagaunt broods, not too dissimilar from my preferred unit sizes for Termagants, but with a twist. Hormagaunts can’t really be taken in small broods like Termagants can because Hormagaunts both lack ranged weapons and have more punishing Instinctive Behaviour, meaning they really should be charging enemies and really need a Synapse creature. Hormagaunts are more expensive than Termagants because of Bounding Leap and Fleet, making them one of the fastest Infantry units in the game. I feel that not making use of this by having Hormagaunts rush forward to try and tie up enemy units as early as possible is a waste of their potential, and using them for home-sitting on objectives is just points better spent on cheaper Termagants. The only advantage Hormagaunts have for such a use is that they are completely immobile with their worst Instinctive Behaviour result, unlike Termagants that are forced to make a Fall Back move.
Using Hormagaunts as cheap speed-bumps works for units of fifteen, but opponents will be more cautious of them than of Termagants because they will be aware of both the boosted melee capabilities of Hormagaunts and how quickly and reliably they can make it to combat. This is why I recommend larger units of Hormagaunts than I usually would for Termagants, and I am also a believer in keeping them stock as well. They are more likely to lose models as they come in because broods of Hormagaunts can tear apart almost anything on the charge that is Toughness 7 or lower. If you do have the points on a twenty-strong brood, for example, to take Toxin Sacs on each model, then all I can say is “enjoy the feast”. I use Hormagaunts less as speed bumps but more as the forward scoring units that provide intervening cover for other advancing monsters like Carnifex broods, Tyrannofexes and Exocrines. They can still be used to hold up a Wraithknight or other deadly low model count unit for a turn or a few, just like Termagants, though they are a bit more expensive for that purpose.
These are a few example builds for the unit that I feel can fit into a number of competitive Tyranid lists. I’ll list some thoughts on each build and what kind of lists they fit better in.
Hormagaunts (30) – Do you need anything other than massive broods of stock Hormagaunts? Probably not. Hormagaunts are the most cost-effective melee unit in the codex, combining serious speed for a foot-slogging unit with piles upon piles of attacks. They are your bullet fodder and are a fantastic cheap tarpit unit that can hold down almost anything once in Synapse range with Fearless. Heck, they will even mash most other infantry units when charging in decent numbers.
The Unending Swarm
As the Hive Fleet descends, the signs of imminent planetary extinction grow exponentially by the day. One of the earlier signs of its arrival is the uprising of massive swarms of leaping beasts, creatures that are almost mindless in their dogged pursuit of civilians and defenders. These Hormagaunts are so terrible a threat not because of how dangerous each individual is, but the incredible rate at which they reproduce. All Hormagaunts give birth before rushing into battle, and their offspring too are born pregnant. It is this inhuman (and silly) trait that means dealing with a brood of Hormagaunts is only truly possible if their spawning point is located and purged completely. Similar to Orks, Hormagaunts can infest part of a world and make it a death zone that only elite military forces can hope to cross. When they revert to their basic instincts in the absence of a Synapse creature, they become even more ferocious and adapt cannibalistic tendencies, devouring each other and leaving only the strongest to survive for when another Synapse creature restores control.
So it turns out those “adorable” Hormagaunts actually are trying to kill people with those scythe arms. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but still….those faces! Oh, they make me squeal in delight! If you are able, please leave your thoughts on these children-within-children-within-children (ad infinatum) and how they have figured into your games. Please make sure to clean up any droppings your pet Hormagaunts leave behind!