Tyranid Troop Tactics

In the current Tyranid Codex the troop section contains all the common Tyranid creatures. For this reason we now see the Tyranid Warrior as a troop choice where they had been HQ or Elite choices.

General Tyranid Troop Tactics

Tyranids work best as a ‘swarm’ army. This means that you will want lost of cheap troops to absorb enemy fire as you get your bigger creatures in to combat.

With the release of the 6th Edition of the Warhammer 40k rules, the shooty troops are getting a slight advantage over the close assault troops. Fortunately, even though Tyranids are usually seen as a close assault army, they do have a moderate number of shooty options too. In the troop choices this means that for the time being you may want to favour fielding Termagants and Tyranid Warriors over the Hormagaunts, Genestealers, and Rippers.

Tyranid Warrior Brood

Warhammer 40k Tyranids and OrksTyranid Warriors are classically the back-bone of the Tyranid army. They are formidable fighters with a good range of close combat and ranged weapons.

Hive Mind

The Tyranid warrior has the ‘Hive Mind’ special rule. This is great because it allows you to have a troop choice taking the have mind role, releasing the HQ Hive Tyranids to do their monstrous creature stuff (like ripping tanks apart).

Tyranid Warrior Strength and Weapons

Warhammer 40k Tyranid Warrior

Mk2 Tyranid Warrior with Spine Fist, Bone Sword, and Rendering Claws

The Tyranid Warrior has a wide range of weapons available. These are close combat and assault weapons. With the update of the Warhammer 40k 6th edition rules, the game is now squad towards shooting troops over close assault troops. Fortunately the Tyranid Warrior has a selection of both. On play testing Warriors with shooting weapons are holding up ok, but close assault only Warriors are not doing well.

One additional point to mention is that the Tyranid Warriors Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill go up one point each if you have a Tyranid Prime in the brood too.

Close Combat Weapons

The Tyranid warriors get the Scything Talons as a basic option, however you can upgrade to have either Rendering Claws or Bone Swords. As usual it will depend on the enemy that you are facing as to which option will be the best for you. One thing is sure though, upgrading to have both Rendering Claws and Bone Swords together does not make any sense. Choose one or the other, or neither.

Shooting Weapons

To see which is the best we will calculate how many standard Space Marines each will kill ( if in range) per point of Tyranid Warrior model.

For blast weapons I estimated that with BS3 the blast template will clip 3 Space Marine Models half the time (3:6) and with BS4 that the template will clip 3 models 4 in 6 times (4:6).

Tyranid Warrior With Rendering Claws and Devourer ( 18″ Range ) 3 Shots, 3/6 hit, 4/6 wound
2/6 failed saves, 35 points
3x(3/6*4/6*2/6)/35 0.009524
Tyranid Warrior With Rendering Claws and Deathspitter (18″ Range) Blast, 3/6 hit, 3/6 wound,
2/6 failed saves, 30 points
3x(3/6*3/6*2/6)/30 0.00833

However when a brood has a Tyranid Prime attached, the Warriors use the Weapon Skill of the Prime, ( increasing each by one). This greatly improves the effectiveness of the Warriors.

Tyranid Warrior With Rendering Claws
and Devourer ( 18″ Range )
3 Shots, 3/6 hit, 3/6 wound
2/6 failed saves, 35 points
3x(4/6*4/6*2/6)/35 0.012698
Tyranid Warrior With Rendering Claws
and Deathspitter ( 18″ Range )
Blast, 3/6 hit, 3/6 wound,
2/6 failed saves, 30 points
3x(4/6*3/6*2/6)/30 0.01111
Tyranid Warrior With Rendering Claws
and Venom Cannon ( 32″ Range )
Blast, 4/6 hit, 5/6 wound,
2/6 failed saves, 45 points
3x(4/6*5/6*2/6)/45 0.012345

From these numbers you can see that with the Prime, the Warrior are about 30% more effective.

Genestealer Brood

Warhammer 40k Tyranid Genestealer

Mk1 Tyranid Genestealer

Genestealers are the ultimate hand-to-hand combat troops. Blood Angles and Dark Elder think that they are good close combat armies, but compared to these they are just amateurs. The down side is that they are vulnerable in the open and to anti-personnel fire. This makes it imperative that you use every sneaky trick in the book to get them close. I tend to think of the Genestealers as elite troops rather than a troop choice, i.e. one or two squads in an army is about the right balance.

Genestealer General Tactics

Their lack of ranged weapons means that Genestealer have one task, get in to hand to hand combat as soon as possible.

Their 5+ save means that they will be shot to ribbons from Space Marine Bolters. Use whatever cover is available to get the Genestealers to your enemy. Use the ‘Run’ and ‘Fleet of Claw’ rules to get then there quickly. Think about using the infiltrate rules to start closer to the enemy.

Rendering Claws

Once the Genestealers are in close combat they are devastating against even the toughest troops and can devastate tanks. Direct you Genestealers towards the toughest opponents, especially those Terminators.

Use All Cover

Genestealers are very vulnerable in the open. Being few in numbers, and having on firearms, your opponents will stand back and whittle down your best troops as they approach. Placing your Genestealers in buildings will cause real head aches to your opponent, especially if that is the objective. I have found that placing them behind bunkers works better that placing them inside because inside they are too easily stunned by concentrated fire power.

Remember that the smaller Tyranid Termagants can provide cover on the move.

Engage their troops

As Genestealers have no ballistic skill, get them in to action as soon as possible. If your opponent is using fast troops, like a Raven Wing army, use your winged and leaping creatures to close them down and bring the Genestealers in as a second wave. Note: Marine players are learning that it is better to ‘elect to fail’ the close combat round rather than hang around for the Genestealers to get there. If your opponent has the habit of doing this then set up cross fire traps for him.

Cause Terror

Genestealers do not have the ‘Cause Terror’ special rule, but they do have a psychological effect on the opposing player in the same way that Hive Tyrants, Lictors and creatures created using the Monstrous Creature rules do.

Genestealer Broodlord

Warhammer 40k Tyranid Genestealer Broodlord and Genestealer Brood

A Tyranid Genestealer Patriarch ( Brood Lord ) and Genestealers

The Genestealer Broodlord was a HQ choice, so you can imagine that they are tough!

Genestealer Broodlords are better fighters, stronger, tougher, have more wounds, are faster, and have more attacks. On top of all that they are L1 Psykers that know the Horror psychic power. The downside is that they cost 60 points!

Genestealer Special Rules

Genestealers have a number of special rules that you will want to know.

Fleet of Claw

Fleet of Claw allows you to move another D6 (average of 3.5″) move during the shooting phase like the Run! special rule but you can assault in the same turn too.

Brood Telepathy

Brood Telepathy frees the Genestealers from the Instinctive behaviour rules. This added to their Ld10 value means that  you can have your Genestealers roaming around free from the Hive Mind leash. You have the option to use Genestealers to set up ambushes, protect the flanks of your main brood from flanking attacks, hold strategic buildings and terrain features (out of line of sight of the enemy), hit and disrupt tasks, etc. Another option is to threaten to do any of these and you will tie up some of your opponents force as he tries to counter your threatening manoeuvre. The really great generals will threaten, tie up troops and then attack an unexpected quarter, doubling the use, and value of the Genestealers.

Genestealer Options

In order to simplify the Tyranid codex many of the upgrades have disappeared, leaving only three upgrade options.

Scything Talons

Genestealers can be upgraded to having Scything talons. This allows the Genestealers to re-roll 1’s to hit. So against Space Marines the chances of hitting increase from 2 in 3 (0.66666:1) to 7 in 9 (0.77777:1). This is only a small increase but not only increases the number of dice that you will roll to wound your opponent, but those dice may come up 6’s and render them too. If you regularly get your Genestealers in to combat the upgrade may be worth the points.

Adrenal Glands

Adrenal Glands give the Genestealers ‘Furious Charge’. If you are frequently charging in to combat (and not being assaulted instead), then this may be a worth while upgrade.

Toxin Sacs

Toxin Sacs give your Genestealers 4+ poison in close combat. This is very useful against tougher creatures.

Tyranid Termagant Tactics

Warhammer 40k Tyranid Termagaunt

Mk2 Tyranid Termagant with Devourer

Tyranid Termagants make up the bulk of the Tyranid army. They come in many variations running, leaping and flying across the battle field normally as the first wave of the Tyranid onslaught.

General Termagant Tactics

With the release of the 6th Edition of Warhammer 40k the balance of the game has shifted so that shooty troops are more effective. This means that your Termagants need to shift from being the gun fodder of the Tyranid army and start being the backbone of the troop choices.

Termagant Strength and Weapons

The Tyranid Termagant is only S3, so even a puny Guardsman is a bit of a fight for a single Termagant. The trick is not to assault on small numbers. A better option is to use the Termagants as close range fire fight creatures. However this does mean that you have to get in to close range ( 12″ to 18″ ) for your shooty weapons to reach.

Termagants have 4 basic weapon options, the Fleshborer, the Devourer, the Spinefist, and the Spike Rifle.


Chance of Killing Marines


Points of Marines killed per point of Termagant

Flashborers (12″ Range ) 3/6 to hit, 3/6 wound, 2/6 failed sv, (4 points per model) *14 points per marine (18/216) /4 *14


Devourer ( 18″ Range ) 3 shots, 3/6 hit, 3/6 wound, 2/6 failed sv (8 points) *14 (108/216)/8 *14


Spinefist ( 12″ Range ) 9/12 to hit, 4/12 to wound, 4/12 failed sv (4 points ) *14 (144/1728)/4 *14


Spike Rifle (18″ Range) 3/6 to hit, 2/6 wound, 2/6 failed sv (4 points) *14 (12/216)/4 *14


This shows that the Devourer is the best weapon on the Termagant at the moment vs. Space Marines, specially as the Devourer has that 18″ range.

As a contrast, here is how a Codex Space Marine works out vs. a Termagant:


 Chance of Killing Termagants


Points of Termagants killed per point of Marine

Bolt Gun ( 12″ – 24″) 3/6 hit, 2/6 wound, 6/6 failed sv ( 14 points) * 4 point per Termagant (96/216)/14*4


Bolt Gun ( 0″ – 12″ ) 2 shots, 3/6 hit, 2/6 wound, 6/6 failed sv ( 14 points) *4 point per Termagant (192/216)/14*4


This shows that the Termagant is not going to be a games winner on their own! However if you manage to keep in that magic distance of 12″ to 18″ away from the Space Marines, the Devourer Termagants should go toe to toe with the Marines.

Special Rules

Tyranid Termagants get “Move through cover”. This mean that you can cover difficult terrain a bit faster. The usual move through cover distance is 4″, where as the Termagants have an average roll of 5″. Not a great difference but it may help.

The Scuttling Swarm special rule allows you to take 1 Tyranid Tervigon as a troops choice for every Termagant brood you take. Tervigons are really eating up the battle fields and are highly recommended.

Tyranid Hormagaunt Tactics

Warhammer 40k Tyranid Hormagaunt

A Tyranid Hormagaunt with flying base stick reattaching the Hormagaunt to the base

The Tyranid Hormagaunt is a faster variant of the Termagant. Is purely a close combat creature and excellent at tying up the forward troops while the larger Tyranid creatures have chance to arrive.

The Tyranid Hormagaunt does not have any shooting weapons so you can expect to Run in your shooting round. As most of your army will be using the Run rule, you should find this easy to remember.

The Tyranid Hormagaunt also comes with two close combat weapons. This will mean that each model that gets two attacks, and an additional attack if they charge in. Due to the speed of the Hormagaunt, this
will be most first rounds of combat.

The downside of the Hormagaunts is their lowish strength and toughness. They are great against Imperial Guard, and ok against Space Marines, but against anything tougher and you will be struggling. This means that you will want to know what opponent you will be facing as soon as possible and adjust your army list (if possible) to match.

Ripper Swarm Tactics

Warhammer 40k Tyranid Ripper Swarm

Mk1 Warhammer 40k Tyranid Ripper Swarm

Ripper Swarms are the smallest of all the Tyranids. Do not under rate them. They are very effective at what they do and cheap.

Ripper General Tactics

The Tyranid Rippers have a surprising number of tactics because of the size and relatively low points cost.

Guard Areas

As Rippers are mindless you can detach them from the Hive Mind leash and use them to protect strategic points. If your opponent does decide to take on the Rippers then their three wounds a base should tie them up until reinforcements arrive.

Use to Flank and Penn In

One tactic for static Shooty armies adopt when being assaulted is to move un engaged troops 4″ away from the combat. This is so that after you win the combat, they can have another shooting round at you as you do a sweeping advance, or catch you in the open if you try to do a 3″ consolidation. An effective counter measure to this is to use your rippers to flank your opponent and confine him to the assault area. This enables your close combat specialists to devour their way from squad to squad without being shot at.

The ‘Fly Paper’ manoeuvre

Rippers have a great advantage with multiple wounds and mindlessness in that they are very stubborn in close combat. If you move a squad of Rippers in to combat with your enemies elite of HQ. units then those units will have to kill every wound of the Rippers before they can move on. This even works well with Dreadnoughts that the Rippers have no chance of killing. Done right the enemy will loose the use of an expensive squad for the whole game at the cost of 10 points a base to you.

Counter Assault Fire Wall

Warhammer 40k Tyranids and OrksSome times you will come across opponents that will try to assault you. Generally this is a good thing for you as you get in to combat sooner where you excel and protected from gun fire. However if you are assaulted then your opponent will get to choose who will be in base to base with whom and will receive the +1 attack bonus. There are several counter measures for this, the Horror mind power, assault troops with 12″ assault moves. Use cheap troops like Rippers to take the brunt of the assault and allow your bigger creatures to counter charge and get the benefits.

To create a fire wall place a line of rippers between you enemies assault troops and their likely target. Likely targets are usually your larger more expensive creatures like Carnifexes, Hive Tyrants, Warriors, etc. This works better if the Rippers move at the same speed as the target and not be left behind. Add & tunnelling and wings as applicable.

Special Rules

Rippers a few special rules too.


Rippers are fearless. This means that there is no benefit from keeping them near the Hive Mind. This releases them to be used for flanking the enemy, causing diversions, or sneaking of with the mission as your opponent grapples with the main brood.


Mindless is a Tyranid specific rule. Basically, if your Ripper Swarms are outside Hive Mind range at the start of the turn they take a leadership test and loose a wound for point that they loose the leadership test by. As Rippers only have a LD5 score this causes casualties fairly quickly. The trick here then is to keep your Hive Mind close to hand. No change there then!

Blast and Template Weapons

Be wary of template weapons like flamers. A particular flamer to avoid is the Sisters of Battle Immolator. With the Chapter approved rules this tank causes double hits and added to the double wounds that Rippers suffer, they will burn like tinder. Fortunately flamers are short ranged and often in hand to hand combat by the time the Ripper get there.


Warhammer 40k Tyranid Sky Slasher Swarms

Necromunda Ripper Jacks filling in for Sky Slasher Winged Ripper Swarms

Winged Rippers are called ‘Sky Slasher Swarms’ and can be very effective. Their independence from the Hive Mind, Speed and survivability mean that you can send them on sub-missions tying up Heavy Weapon Squads etc. Highly recommended.

If you take wings for your Ripper Swarms they become a Tyranid Fast Attack options.