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Behold the Devourer of countless galaxies, destroyer of empires, ender of countless species, and the end of evolution. You now want to play Tyranids.

The Swarmlord, also known as Schwarmführer (due to his first leaked images coming from scans from a German White Dwarf, also it sounds way cooler), and Gargamel (owing to how he fucked over Papa Smurf), is one of the few Tyranid characters with a little bit of personality. He is as ancient as the Tyranids themselves, a veteran of conflicts across countless galaxies. Essentially the apex predator of the entire species, the Herald of the Hive Mind and granddaddy of all Hive Tyrants, the Swarmlord is the Creed of the Tyranid army, and also the most intelligent, cunning and experienced Hive Tyrant of the swarm. Whenever the Hive Mind can't overwhelm the opposition with sheer numbers or adapting new tactics, it spawns the Swarmlord, and he gets shit done. And on top of being a super-general, the Swarmlord is also a close combat monster and powerful psyker, capable of facing off with the Despoiler himself, though with the advent of 8th edition he now has some stiff competition for who can mathematically whoop Abaddon’s sorry ass the hardest. Although it should be noted this is ONLY in crunch as, in fluff, the Swarmlord has rarely managed to win a fight against serious opposition and is weaker than Marneus Calgar in a duel, meaning Abaddon is the stronger fighter in the actual narrative. Plus, it's pretty obvious that the big-name heroes will win almost every fight they get themselves into, while the Swarmlord's resurrection ability means the writers can kill him off as many times as they like. In addition to his huge size (which allows him to literally stomp and crush lesser enemies) and various psychic powers, he also wields four massive bone sabres which ripple with psychic energy capable of cutting through virtually anything with ease (this includes both adamantium and force fields).

He's also immortal, as his memories and personality are constantly saved by the Hive Mind and are placed in brand new shiny body if the previous one happens to get blasted apart by massed melta fire. While the hive mind could potentially spawn a new Swarmlord without the previous one being slain, which could lead to multiple Swarmlords on different battlefields, no evidence of such cloning exists. However, if the Macragge Swarmlord is still alive, hibernating under the surface of the planet, there ARE at least two Swarmlords in the Galaxy. The latest Octarius book hints that there may actually be more than one Swarmlord body being controlled by the same consciousness at more than one location, simultaneously. It's possible that due to their psychic potency that they might not be able to be within a certain distance of each other (like, interstellar) without interfering with each other or perhaps the Hive Mind or Swarmlord's mind getting confused as to which body it is controlling. He's something of an Ensemble Darkhorse on /tg/, well-liked by 'Nid players who regard him as incredibly badass. And lest we forget, giving /tg/ as a whole something to smile about by shitting all over Calgar. Little victories.

He serves as the Super-Heavy unit of the Tyranid Army in Dawn of War 2.

List of deeds[edit]

  • First seen on Tyran, leading Hive Fleet Behemoth's final assault on a Mechanicum outpost. Not quite clear why, because the battle was pretty one-sided, although he could have been gathering more data about human warfare or the Hive Mind wanted to put its best foot forward when facing an unknown enemy.
  • Showed up on Macragge and kicked major ass, outclassing Marneus Calgar in tactics, but only beating him in a fight because he ganged up on Marneus with his bodyguard. He cut off Papa Smurf's limbs, guts and one eye, but due to plot armor, failed to kill him. The honor guard managed to recover their Chapter Master thanks to the force-feeding heroic sacrifice of their commander to the Swarmlord to buy some time. While the Ultramarines withdrew to space, the Swarmlord led his forces to the polar fortresses to omnomnom the First Company and Ultramar PDF. And he succeeded. Unfortunately, the space battle for Macragge hadn't gone so well, mainly because the Imperial Fleet had the balls of steel More mass and numbers the Ultrasmurfs lacked; while the Tyranids won the planet, they lost the war. The Swarmlord was killed during this battle, but its "consciousness" (as far as any Tyranid bioform can be called conscious) was reabsorbed through the Tyranid synaptic network to be reincarnated later.
  • On Ichar IV Marneus and the Swarmlord had a rematch, this time with no minions getting in the way, and the Swarmlord lost outright, without even significantly injuring the Chapter Master. The Swarmlord, apparently, is just considerably weaker than Marneus as a fighter.
  • It's possible that the The Great Beast, who lead Hive Fleet Kraken's invasion on Craftworld Iyanden was the Swarmlord itself. The other option is that it was a normal Hive Tyrant with the now-defunct Armoured Carapace biomorph. The Avatar of Khaine attempted to goad the creature in single combat during the fighting. However, the Swarmlord, not really knowing nor giving a damn about honorable duels and such, tricked The Avatar into getting shit kicked by twelve Carnifexes. It also avoided all Eldar attempts to assassinate him until the corsair prince Yriel finally managed to stab him in the face with a cursed spear.
  • Showed leading Hive Fleet Leviathan at the last years of M41, where it once planned and executed multiple simultaneous and devastating attacks on the Hodur Sector, resulted in omnomnoming two dozens Imperial worlds (including one Space Marine Chapter home world) in less then two months. Such a rapid and unstoppable Tyranid advance is rumored to be the main reason for inquisitor Kryptman's decision to launch his infamous mass-exterminatus cordon project and stolen Genestealer project to redirect Leviathan into an Ork empire.
  • Now he's rumored to be in the Octarius War, trying to gain ground against the Orks. It seemed to be going well for a while, but then the Eldar went and purged the entire system of all life and after that Ghazgkhull himself showed up, hopped up on WAAAAGH energy and blessed by the direct intervention of Gork and Mork themselves, removing any semblance of a fair fight that might have existed. To make it even worse a World Eaters warband caught wind of all this and decided to join in. Within the year they had offered 8000 nid skulls to Khorne. This might not seem all that impressive... except for the fact that the smallest of these skulls was the size of a boulder. The Chaos Lord leading the warband, Vodha Bloodprice, managed to off a Hierophant with the the axe of a fallen Warboss and got promoted to Daemon Prince as a reward from the very pleased Khorne.
  • Appeared to lead the invasion of Baal where, once again, it died in single combat against a tired and exhausted Dante. If you haven't noticed, Swarmy has a critical weakness against anybody with plot armor and through this lost most of the menace that comes with being the pinnacle of all Tyranid evolution. At least in this case though, it's offset somewhat by the fact that Dante is unambiguously awesome, which takes some of the sting out for Tyranid players. Hell, it almost kills Dante, impaling him and popping up his secondary heart, damaging his spine and leaving him gravely poisoned before Dante evaporates its face with the Perdition Pistol at point blank. Dante only even survived due to the aid of the Sanguinor and the direct intervention of Sanguinius himself, who appeared in the ethereal plane to praise and revive Dante before returning him to the materium.
  • In the latest step of the Swarmlord's nonstop fall down the ladder of success on Loqe II the Swarmlord engaged, and was killed, in single combat by a single, random Custodian after killing a mere two others.
  • Won the Octarius War by killing the Overfiend of Octarius... In their second duel, the Swarmlord being killed in their first. Dammit, even when he wins, he loses.

On the Tabletop[edit]

The Swarmlord in its natural habitat: knee-deep in the dead.

The Swarmlord was one of the most deadly and expensive HQs in the game, being able to buff his army and slaughter almost anything in close combat with high weapon skill instant death attacks. While having only one wound more than a regular Hive Tyrant, he was more survivable in close combat due to a 4++ he got from parrying attacks with his swords. There were only a couple HQ models outside Apocalypse capable of killing the Swarmlord in a challenge with a chance of or better than 50% - Primarchs, Draigo, Lysander, Abaddon and Skarbrand primarily, but also anything with a lot of high strength/AP attacks, anything that causes instant death or anyone that has Eternal Warrior, and even that doesn't save them most of the time. Give him a unit of Tyrant Guard and he's damn near unstoppable. If you have a friend who is a Blood Angels player who won't shut up about how powerful Mephiston is, just say "Swarmlord" and you instantly end/win any ensuing argument. Also it's hilarious.

And then 6th edition happened. It lost Eternal Warrior, and Tyranids as a whole lost access to the main book psychic powers, including their buffs. And he lost his special rule that made enemies reroll successful invuln saves, AND got 5 point price increase as a final slap in the face. What does he get from all of this? One additional attack and he's level 3 psyker. ONE, UNO, EIN attack and ML3 when there isn't really much to use it on due to the Tyranid psychic table being at most decent-ish and unspectacular, and he gets less rolls for powers than he used to. Christ...

Given the removal of the Parasite, the nerfs to walking Hive Tyrants (R.I.P armored shell), and the obscene overcosting of Primes, the general theory on why the Swarmlord and other Tyranid HQs was hit so hard is that GW wants to promote sales of Flyrants and Tyrant Guard which are not only big and expensive models, but big and expensive models you have to buy a lot of. Everyone already had walkrants, most people only ever got one swarmlord, and the prime is a rather small model by GW standards. Tyrant Guard weren't spectacularly buffed, but Flyrants are one of the clear winners of the new book.

The Swarmlord however was forced to sit the edition out with no FAQ, Dataslate, Supplement, or Forge World book to throw him a bone. So ended a year and a half of true glory, replaced with bitter mediocrity and memories of godhood now lost.

And then 8th Edition happened.

8th Edition[edit]

In 8th Edition Swarmie is back with a vengeance. An even 300 points nets you a monstrous 6 attacks at WS2+ S8 AP-3 D3+1 mortal on 6+ to wound and an additional one at S8 AP0 DD3 thanks to the pincer tail; a tough T7 12 Wound 3+/4++ (3++ against melee) platform that can run at a frightening 9". The range on Synapse and Shadow in the Warp is increased to 18" and thanks to Hive Commander the Swarmlord can pick one friendly Hive Fleet unit within 6" and have them move instead of shooting. This can be the Swarmlord itself to run a frightening 18" before charging, a fun way to suddenly spring a nasty surprise on your opponent, which is increased by 2d6" if you use Onslaught. The Swarmlord has a fixed Warlord Trait: Alien Cunning. This allows it to redeploy at the start of the battle to exploit the battle plans of your opponent. The downside is that this is a fixed ability, meaning it's predictable and loses its surprise because it cannot have a different trait. The Swarmlord knows three psychic powers: Smite and two from the Hive Mind discipline. Don't forget that the Swarmlord can use two powers per turn:

  • Dominion lets one friendly Tyranids unit within 36" both ignore Instinctive Behaviour and Morale tests for one turn. While useful it's also situational.
  • Catalyst simply grants a 5+++ save against all wounds to one unit within 18". Extremely useful, since the Swarmlord will draw a LOT of fire.
  • The Horror is pretty useful: an enemy unit with 24" of the user substracts 1 from all their hit rolls and Leadership tests. Not only does it protect you until the start of your next psychic phase (have fun shutting down enemy heavy weapons squads this way), any damage you do against infantry units will hurt even more.
  • Onslaught is by far the best of the bunch: if used on itself the Hive Tyrant can move 9", advance D6", then use Hive Commander to move another 9", advance D6" and charge after that. This gives the Swarmlord an average threat radius of 32", allowing for a first-turn charge in whatever vulnerable position your opponent has. Do note that afterwards your opponent will likely Fall Back and blast your Swarmlord to bits, but it'd be hilarious if you manage to take out your opponent's HQ unit with such an attack.
  • Paroxysm means that one enemy unit within 18" of yours is unable to fight until it's the last unit to have to do so until your next Psychic phase. This seems odd at first, but it means you can cripple the tactical effectiveness of this unit and assure it won't be able to overrun one of your units and charge another one until you're ready for them. Situational.
  • Psychic Scream hits the nearest enemy unit within 18" with d3 Mortal Wounds, and if they're a psyker they have to roll 2d6. If this is higher than their Leadership, pick one of their psycic powers: they can no longer use it in that turn. This is a tremendous way to fuck over an enemy psyker, but because of how targeting works you're not very likely to hit a lot of psykers with this unless you fight Grey Knights or something. But even then, d3 Mortal Wounds is always nice.

So in short, Catalyst and Onslaught are the best picks. Something that makes the Swarmlord unique is that it does not have a fixed Hive Fleet trait: it can pick from any of the traits and as such has access to a couple of useful effects:

  • Behemoth grants re-rolls on failed charge rolls, which is alright since the Swarmlord is meant for combat, however with Hive Commander the Swarmlord can easily auto-charge after coming out of a Tyrannocyte or even when footslogging across the board, especially if it successfully casts Onslaught on itself, making this less useful.
  • Kraken lets you roll three dice when rolling to Advance and pick the best one, which is a massive boon if you have the Swarmlord run off by itself. It can also charge in the same turn as falling back.
  • Leviathan grants a free 6+++ for everything within 6" of a Synapse creature, which is valuable as your opponent will often focus a lot of high damage weaponry into the Swarmlord to bring it down.
  • Gorgon gives re-rolls of 1 on to wound rolls in combat, which will be useful if you send your Swarmlord to try and take out tanks, or just want more reliable damage output.
  • Jormungandr grants the benefit of cover out in the open... unless the model advances. Which given how you'll be running the Swarmlord is going to mean jack.
  • Hydra grants re-rolls on failed hit rolls in combat against units with fewer models than your own... which means nothing since the Swarmlord rides alone.
  • Kronos gives a re-roll of 1s to hit when shooting, but since the Swarmlord cannot do that this won't help him.

In the end Kraken is favoured because of the significant speed boost it grants, however Leviathan's durability increase and Gorgon's rerolls can also be decent choices.

Despite all this the Swarmlord is more vulnerable than ever with the advent of multi-wound weapons. His old reliable meatshields, the Tyrant Guard have especially suffered because of this: now REDUCED from T6 to T5 in 8th in return for 1 extra wound (so 3 total) and still only 3+ armour a single Lascannon shot has a good chance at popping one of them. While they can switch any wounds dealt to their charge to themselves as Mortal Wounds on a 2+, their relatively weak frames mean that this will rapidly kill them and focussed plasma fire will really thin the herd, leaving the Swarmlord vulnerable.

Another note is that the Tyrant Guard move 7", 2" slower than the Swarmlord at his highest stats, and thus they require adrenal glands to keep up with the boss. On top of this being not perfectly reliable, the difference in speed means there's a good chance that either unit will be able to outrun the other, meaning that using both at the same time is difficult at best. Then there's the point cost: 3 of them cost 111 points bare. Two additional points for the Glands and Sacs are worth it, and the 2 points extra on top of that are useful for the Lash Whip & Bonesword for the AP-2 it grants. Skip the Crushing Claws: they're way too expensive. There's one additional point of interest: Tyrant Guard can now be taken in units of up to 6. This is expensive, since such a unit sets you back 234 points fully kitted out, but it's a fun novelty.

Power Ratings[edit]

At 15 points the Swarmlord is balanced and doesn't get any other options. Nothing else changes.


Tyrannic Bio-Organisms
Leader Organisms: Broodlord - Hive Tyrant - Norn Queen
Swarmlord - Tyranid Warrior
Small Creatures: Gargoyle - Genestealer - Hormagaunt - Ripper - Termagant
Medium Size
Biovore - Hive Guard - Lictor - Neurothrope - Pyrovore
Ravener - Tyrant Guard - Venomthrope - Zoanthrope
Monstrous Creatures: Carnifex - Dimachaeron - Exocrine - Haruspex - Malanthrope
Maleceptor - Mawloc - Tervigon - Toxicrene - Trygon - Tyrannofex
Gargantuan Creatures: Cerebore - Dactylis - Hierodule - Malefactor - Nautiloid - Viragon
Flying Creatures: Harpy - Harridan - Hive Crone - Mucolid Spore
Spaceborne Creatures: Tyrannocyte - Mycetic Spore - Ether-Swimming Brood
Bio-Titans: Dominatrix - Hierophant - Hydraphant - Viciator
Floral Structures: Capillary Tower - Reclamation Pool
Other Organisms: Bio-Weapons - Cortex Leech - Meiotic Spore
Spore Mine - Sporocyst - Zoats
Unique Creatures: Deathleaper - Laius Horror - Old One-Eye - The Red Terror
Auxiliaries: Genestealer Cult