BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

Warhammer 40K: How The Tyranids Travel The Stars

3 Minute Read
Mar 15 2023
Hot story icon

The Hive Fleets of the Tyranids came from beyond the Galactic Rim – but how do they travel through space?

Tyranid Hive Fleets are massive, almost locust-like swarms of Tyranid bio-ships. They have several different bio-ships types and are evolving more and more for various roles as the situation requires. That said the Tyranid Bio-Ships don’t have Warp Engines — so how do they get where they need to go and cross the vast distances between systems and galaxies?

The Narvhal

It all comes down to the Bio-ship known as the Narvhal. These bio-ships are small, innocuous, and have almost no weapons or armor. But they provide the entire fleet the ability to travel Faster Than Light. How? They manipulate gravity.


via Lexicanum

Tyranids do not travel via Warp jumps, such as the Imperium does, and so instead rely on their Narvhal ships. Through the use of monofilament spines clustered along a Narvhal’s bow which can interpret a wide range of sensory input and even a broad spectrum of gravimetric signals, a Narvhal can detect the presence of a planetary system at an incredible distance away. It can then somehow harness the system’s gravity to create a corridor of compressed-space through which Tyranid vessels can travel towards the system at a swift rate. Whilst slower than proper warp travel, this method is infinitely more reliable.

Tyranid Hive Ship – White Dwarf 146

Sounds pretty unique in terms of how they travel through space. However, there are some side effects which actually work in favor of the Tyranids. The target planets will typically have “earthquakes, solar flares, tidal waves or other natural disasters” as they are the target of the Narvhal’s ability. These side effects help to keep the defenders busy and disorganized on their approach.

A Tyranid Hive Ship


When you combine that with the Shadow in the Warp that disrupts Warp Travel and Psychic communication you can see how foreboding a Hive Fleet can be.

Once a Tyranid Hive Fleet starts to make its final approach to a system the bio-ships do switch to a more conventional style of propulsion. This does slow their approach considerably but these bio-ships can still move relatively quickly when compared to the propulsion of Imperial Ships.

The question still remains: how did the Tyranids make the trip between the galaxies? That’s one we’re still not 100% sure on. In fact, it’s one of the mysteries we may never get solved. Perhaps the range of the Narvhal’s ability is just that vast. What we do know is what attracted the Tyranids to the galaxy. And we know that the Silent King encountered them in the void. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter how they got to the Grimdark Galaxy — they are here now and they are hungry…

You rang the dinner bell…the Tyranids answered. 


Author: Adam Harrison
  • Warhammer 40K: Gloriana Battleships - Chariots of the Primarchs