As a long-time Tyranid lover, I always enjoy seeing changes to the army. Although the last few editions (since the 2nd/3rd ed glory days, really...) have not been particularly kind to Tyranids unless you are a fan of Hive Tyrants, it's been interesting to watch the changes that the army has gone through since I started playing in 2nd edition. With the release of 8th edition we have the biggest sweeping changes for years, not only to the army but to the game itself, so there's a lot to digest (get it?) Luckily as a store we've had our books for almost a week now and I've had plenty of time to read the various indexes and more importantly, the Tyranid index.
Even my daughter was excited to read about #newnids!
Today's article is part one of a massive roundup of Tyranids in 8th edition. It is primarily focused on Tyranids in matched play, but most of it is also applicable to other play modes too. We hope it will help you in your mission to turn your enemies into delicious, delicious biomass!
As a side note - anything with the keyword "Tyranid" is considered a Tyranid for army selection purposes, and therefore you can happily mix and match Genestealer Cult units in your Tyranid detachments. This is certainly very advantageous, though for the purposes of this article series when I reference Tyranids I'm not going to include Cults except at a few select points where they are specifically worth mentioning. If you're a more competitive player, you should certainly consider the cult units and the gaps they fill in the Tyranid roster.
Tyranids - Overview
Army Special Rules
Much improved from last edition's horrific Synapse rules, Synapse now simply makes your units immune to morale tests. If you've played Age of Sigmar, you'll know the battleshocking units is one of the best ways to get them off the table, and played right Tyranids can be completely immune to this. The effect of this on the game cannot be overstated - it's an incredible ability, especially for an army that can run swarm units.
The downside to being out of Synapse range, Instinctive Behaviour, really isn't too bad - forcing you to only shoot or charge the nearest enemy unit. Oftentimes this won't even be a downside, though a savvy player will be able to exploit it when the opportunity arises.
Tyranid psychic powers are looking pretty good within the context of what Tyranids want to do, and that is to stay alive long enough to inflict damage. Both Catalyst and The Horror are great ways to increase your units' survivability, and easy to cast at values of 6 (many armies needing 7s to cast some of their powers). Likewise Onslaught is a really good power for keeping your army mobile or closing into melee more quickly (particularly combined with the Swamlord who can fling units the entire length of the table and into melee with his double-move ability plus Onslaught!)
Shadow in the Warp, woo!
Finally, Shadow in the Warp returns to its former glory; with most psyhic powers needing a 6 or 7 to cast, -1 to psychic rolls really makes a difference. Combined with Deny the Witch rolls requiring you to beat the enemy roll, this small increment in your favour should add up a lot over the course of a game and give you a definite edge as far as psychic powers go.
Tyranids have a lot of good toughness, decent save, high wound models, as well as lots of cheap, average toughness, low save models - not unexpectedly. Some units such as my beloved Carnifex are pretty cheap for their survivability, whilst others such as Trygons seem relatively fragile for their points cost. When you look at the maths, T6/7 with no invulnerable save is going to be easy prey for special weapons such as meltaguns, plasma guns, and most heavy weapons - weapons that armies such as Imperial Guard and Space Marines are capable of fielding in multiples. Supercharged Plasma Guns (Str 8, -3 Save, 2 wounds per hit) for example are going to be particularly bad for us, as are Meltaguns if we're trying to get up close, which we will be often. Not until you hit toughness 8 do these weapons start to get a little less scary, but even then, the abundance of high strength, multiple damage weapons that can deny or mostly deny 3+ saving throws is bad for monsters. In these situations, good use of the Catalyst power is going to be key, although unfortunately it can only be cast once per turn in Matched Play.
The Carnifex isn't as tough as it once was, but it's very tough for its points!
Standard infantry units, including Genestealers, fare a lot better. They are cheap and effective, and don't care about weapons with a low shot count and big save modifier or multiple damage per hit. There aren't really any great horde-killers in this edition; old blast and flamer weapons simply get a variable number of hits now (mostly D6), which won't trouble cheap infantry too much.
What it boils down to is this; special and heavy weapon gunlines are really, really bad for monsters but fine for troops. If your opponent has a lot of guns, you'll want to be in melee to be safe from them - though that won't help much if you want to play shooty nids.
Selling three sets of these. RIP TLBL :(
Tyranid design philosophy changed a few editions ago to "everything must have a low save modifier" and by extension "Tyranids are bad at killing armour that they can't glance to death". With the save modifier compression in 8th, Tyranid shooting has this been hit really hard. In past editions Tyranids were at least able to rely on their guns generally having high strength, but even that is often not good enough now - most of the midrange high strength guns such as Brainleech Devourers are now wounding on 3s instead of 2s and we can no longer use our high strength, high shot count weapons to glance vehicles to death (wounding vehicles on a 5+, they get a save, and have a lot of hitpoints makes shooting vehicles with mid-strength weapons a bad option). Combined with Tyranids' BS being generally mediocre at best, and the high cost of heavy support beasts, Tyranid shooting is not looking to be in a generally good place (although there are some exceptions).
There are precisely zero melee weapons in the Tyranid arsenal that give a strength bonus (and only a couple with Power Fist-style x2 strength), all weapons instead being strength "user". This would be fine if Tyranids had the strength you may expect of giant monsters, but they don't; Hive Tyrants, Carnifexes, and many more are only strength 6. This is a pretty weak number, since it only wounds average T4 infantry such as Marines and Orks on 3s, and is not high enough to do significant damage to even medium vehicles who are mostly T7. To put this in perspective, Ork Warbosses have str 6 and a default Big Choppa makes them str 7; why exactly are Tyranids so pillow-fisted? There are also a distinct lack of monsters able to use our main armour-cracking weapon, Crushing Claws, and the ones that can have enough deficiencies in other areas (attacks or WS or both, I'm looking at you Carnifex) to make the claws a poor choice anyway.
Trygons are mildly disappointing in the killiness department
Tyranid monsters are also often deficient in the attacks department. This is partly due to the tail issue (see below), and party just because some of their overall numbers are just too low for 200-250 point models. When you factor in their average WS of 4+, a lot of the monsters just don't inflictanything like the damage that units of their cost need to be able to, despite the -3 AP and 3 damage of Scything Talons looking great on paper.
Another issue for Tyranid melee is how bad most of the non-dedicated bugs are at it. If you compare a Tyrannofex or an Exocrine to similar heavy support you'll see that there is definitely a cost associated with being able to melee (plus they have to buy Powerful Limbs for 12 points that you never want to have to use), but these units are just terrible at it due to their WS and attack numbers. Yes it's a nice to have, but it's not ideal to pay what seems to be a lot of points for the privilege on a monster that you'd rather keep away from the fighting. Similar logic applies to monsters such as Carnifexes when equipped with ranged weapons. This makes these units a lot less attractive than they would otherwise be as they aren't really the "shooty but still good in melee" units you'd hope to get when you pay that many points for them.
Where Tyranid monsters do excel is in killing multi-wound models with T6 or less. Bikers, Walkers, and similar are their ideal targets as monsters get to capitalise on their high damage per hit of 3 which makes up for their other deficiencies.
Non-monsters, conversely, are looking good in melee. Unburdened by low numbers of attacks, poor WS, or both, Hormagaunts, Genestealers, and Tyranid Warriors can put out good damage against a range of targets, even vehicles (thanks to sheer volume of attacks and/or rending claws). Their high volume of attacks per point and/or high weapon skill and effective but cheap weapons means that they are effective against most targets, and they're all reasonably costed to boot.
They're back... and you're going to see a lot of them!
Finally, let's talk about tail weaponry. If you haven't read the Tyranid index yet, you're going to be cursing tails every time you come across one. The majority of tails MUST be used for one attack a turn and in general they are significantly weaker than the attacks of the monsters to which they are attached - AND you are forced to pay points for them! I really don't know what the designers were thinking here, and I do wonder if the intent was for tails to give an extra attack (as it certainly doesn't seem that the forced tail attacks have been factored into profiles by giving the monsters +1A), but right now it seems we're stuck with them. You'll be happy to find that some tails are not forced-use and so look out for those. The "tail tax" to buy the non-enforced use tails such as the Thresher Scythe or Biostatic Rattle is generally worth paying. If you arm your monsters with guns then the tails become a little more relevant, but paying points to increase the effectiveness of a single melee attack on a ranged unit is not ideal. Oh well.
Completing the trinity of our combat effectiveness overview, along with Damage and Survivability, is Maneuverability. This is an area in which Tyranids are pretty good. Many units have high movement values or the ability to "Deep Strike" onto the battlefield, and with Trygons and Tyrannocytes (though the latter are probably too expensive) we can bring other units along for the ride. The Onslaught power lets units advance (run) and still shoot and charge, and the Swarmlord lets a unit move twice in place of shooting. We have units with wings. All of this means that we can put our melee units in melee pretty well, where they are not only safe from shooting but also able to inflict maximum carnage - and we can do this, for the most part, without needing to pay for transports as other armies do.
Tyranids in 8th edition look very much like they are going to be a melee-focused faction, which in my opinion at least is a good thing. Though their melee across the board is far from amazingly powerful due to their poor melee weapon options and often mediocre stats, it will be effective when the correct units are given the correct tasks.
Special weapon spamming lists are going to be common, given how easy and points-cheap a tactic it is to accomplish, and this is going to be something Tyranids will have a hard time dealing with. Getting into melee quickly will be key, though meltaguns, plasma guns, and similar are going to give us fits.
Armour (particularly T8 armour) is going to be the biggest problem for us - we really don't have a ton of great ways to crack it, and the ways that we do have can be played around by smart opponents. I've got some solutions to this issue I'll talk about as I get deeper into talking about specific units, so hopefully that'll work out!
We have some nice army abilities in Synapse and Shadow in the Warp that will eke us out a few extra percentage points sometimes, so there's that to be happy about too. Mostly though I'm just happy to see Tyranids looking like they will play like Tyranids again - there are lots of viable units, melee is feasible, and most of all we get to put cool monsters on the board and feel like we have a chance of winning if they aren't Hive Tyrants!
That's all for this article! The next one will be up soon, so don't forget to check back for more gribbly goodness. Please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to keep up with our articles, and if you want to support us please consider preordering your 40k 8th edition supplies from us!