"This isn't a war," said the artilleryman. "It never was a war, any more than there's war between man and ants."
- - H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds
"We cannot live through this. Mankind cannot live through this. In a single day they have covered this planet with a flood of living blades and needle-fanged mouths. Kill one, and ten take its place. If they are truly without number, then our race is doomed to a violent death before every shred of our civilisation is scoured away by a force more voracious than the fires of hell themselves. Death! By the Machine God, Death is here!"
- - The last words of Magos Varnak
The Tyranids (often shortened to simply nids) are a race of extragalactic "alien locust" in Warhammer 40k, that seemingly exist only to devour biomass, evolve into a more perfect species and grow in numbers. They are extremely adaptable, and frequently engineer and modify traits and characteristics in their genome, by devouring other unfortunate species into their own, in order to improve their combat effectiveness and survival. As a result, they are constantly evolving and becoming more dangerous. The Tyranids are most commonly seen in the galaxy in the form of Hive Fleets, large collections of space faring organisms that are capable of transporting and birthing the smaller strains of the species, as they travel from world to world, attack and consume all biomass on/in that planet, leaving it a lifeless rock. Even bacteria and archaea are consumed from the atmosphere. They are probably one of the oldest races when you think about it, and are, together with Orks and Necrons (if they don't nom the orks and maybe destroy the necrons), probably going to win this galactic war. For this reason pretty much every faction in the galaxy sees Tyranids as the ultimate threat and would ally even with their sworn enemies to fight them. Thus the race is called The Great Devourer.
"An alien threat has risen from beyond the abyss, a swarm so vast that it blots out the stars. This horror fights neither for power nor territory, but rather to feed a hunger so insatiable that it will eventually devour the entire galaxy."
Before they arrived to this galaxy, the Tyranids were probably lying dormant in intergalactic space because there was nothing there to consume (probably). Despite this, they had sentinel organisms, looking constantly for any sign of life in distant galaxies. We actually don't know how many galaxies they have already left bare, or why they came to this galaxy - the most facts we have on them are simply not more than speculations. It could be that we have only seen a fraction of their numbers, or that said current numbers are all there is. We simply don't know.
The Tyranids have hibernated until they were triggered by, and attracted to, concentrated sources of psychic energy like moths to a lightbulb. One of them was the Astronomican, the psychic signature of the Emperor of Mankind spanning throughout the entire galaxy. Also, In the 30k Horus Heresy era, an alien device known as the Pharos on the Ultramarine realm planet of Sotha sent up a huge psychic energy pulse, effectively giving the Milky Way a big neon sign that called it an all-you-can-eat buffet. Thus the Tyranids set off, taking roughly the next 10,000 years to do so, but just who would be insane or evil enough to summon such an apocalyptic force of alien nature to the Milky Way? A pretty cool guy who had no idea about what he would eventually call to dinner, actually. Still, the possibility that the Tyranids are retreating from something more terrifying than even them remains open as of now.
The Tyranid species is mentally connected and controlled by the extremely powerful and near godlike HIVE MIND. The Hive Mind is the collective consciousness of the entire Tyranid race, a psychic embodiment of Tyranid instincts and racial imperatives: to devour and evolve. It is so powerful that its mere presence (the Shadow in the Warp) makes even psykers and Chaos their metaphysical brains out in terror. The power of the Hive Mind is such that it casts a stifling influence over the Warp in the area, and therefore, warp travel becomes almost impossible. Hence it is that a world that finds itself a target of a Hive Fleet is unable to call for help or receive reinforcements by the time it detects the Hive Fleet's presence. This super consciousness allows their forces to move with a unity of purpose and cohesion that makes them extremely dangerous. The individual intelligence of different strains of the species is variable, however, and many of the smaller species lack the psychic power to communicate over long distances, and so the swarm relies on larger organisms, the so-called "Synapse Creatures", to act as relays and communication nodes in the psychic network (if the Hive Mind is the Internet (Internid), then synapse creatures are ISPs (ISynaPse) and routers (router-warriors)?). Outside of the range of a synapse creature, such as a Tyranid Warrior or a Hive Tyrant, smaller varieties such as those found within the Gaunt genus revert to animalistic behavior. However, certain strains, such as the Genestealer or the Lictor, are designed to be able to spend long periods of time beyond the reach of the Hive Mind, and are consequently considerably more intelligent and autonomous than other Tyranid organisms.
The normal Tyranid modus operandi is to locate a delicious looking planet, usually by following the psychic emanations of vanguard organisms like the Genestealers, who are sent ahead as scouts to infiltrate and form cults while obtaining genetic information about the local species (hence the name Gene-stealer), drawing the fleet towards a viable target. The Tyranids are capable of non-Warp-based FTL travel, which they achieve by using gravity to manipulate spacetime and travel extremely quickly towards large gravity wells such as stars, and once they are relatively close, they must rely on STL travel to close the gap with their target. Once they reach the world, infinite swarms of creatures flood down to the surface to overwhelm all resistance and consume the planet's population and resources in a manner reminiscent of a Korean StarCraft champion performing the devastating "Zerg Rush" (Note that the Zerg were supposedly based on Tyranids, which in turn were based on aliens in from movies like Starship Troopers and Alien. All these organisms are based on eusocial Hive insects such as the order Hymenoptera, which includes ants, bees etc.) In the later stages of the invasion, the Fleet manipulates the planet's biosphere and seeds it with aggressive plant life that grows extremely rapidly and assimilate all nutrition/life left on the planet, which is then consumed by the creatures of the swarm and massive feeding tentacles/tubes, dropped by Tyranid bio-ships in low orbit, and hence conveyed to the Hive Fleet as a whole. The fleet literally grows in size and mass, and moves on to the next planet.
This makes the Tyranids a very dangerous foe to fight. Even the Imperial Guard and Orks will find it difficult to beat them in a war of attrition, as individual losses are meaningless to the bugs. As long as they are able to recover the biomass of the dead, it is simply recycled into new warriors and ships. It's worth noting that going against technological species, results in fewer and fewer recycled biomass, so a Hive assaulting a high-tech heavily fortified fortress, loses some of its total biomass bit-by-bit, but there are only few cases where the Tyranids really bite off more than they can chew. Even a Hive Fleet that has taken terrible losses and is forced to retreat, may soon return to terrorize strong worlds, as capturing and consuming a few poorly defended backwater planets is all that is required for them to replenish their forces. Even Hive Fleets considered defeated by the Imperium, may still be dangerous, as the splinter elements that have survived, may continue to infest worlds in the region. It is worth noting that, in the rare event that two different Tyranid fleets encounter each other, they are apt to attack each other. This is generally believed to be some sort of Darwinian selection mechanism to compare the competitiveness of the traits the individual fleets have accumulated, with the victorious fleet consuming the other, absorbing their best traits, and culturing a deadly hybrid with the best of both worlds.
So far, only fragments of Tyranid Hive Fleets have made it to this galaxy, and they were given monstrous names such as "Behemoth" and "Leviathan" and ate untold numbers of planets before finally being destroyed or stalled. It's also known that these are merely scouting fleets for the unimaginably large swarm that has yet to arrive, still currently in transit from another galaxy (Imperial scholars suppose them to be either en route from a galaxy they successfully scoured of all life, or retreating from some force even nastier than they are). Noted Imperial scholars believe that the only possible plan that stands any chance against the arrival of this force involves giving a melta gun to everyone that has hands and praying to the God-Emperor for the best. They have been expected to arrive on Terra's doorstep any day now for years, being stalled by a force even more malicious then they are: GW's refusal to move the story forward.
And if they intend to retcon the above so that Leviathan is in fact the main force, they can easily write it off as ravings of a crazed Inquisitor.
Following in the footsteps of the Hive Fleets before it, Leviathan has been destroyed at Baal by the Blood Angels and the Ultramarines, apparently with a little help from Ka'Bandha the Bloodthirster. Admittedly, that campaign only involved the tendril not engaged in war with the Orks on Octarius, meaning that there may be significant elements of the fleet still roaming around the galaxy. However, since GW has been officially referring to this as the 'Fall of Leviathan', it's probably safe to say that Leviathan too is now splintered like Behemoth and Kraken. Of course, this still isn't good news for the rest of the galaxy, because there are four new Hive Fleets in the neighborhood, one of which has apparently dedicated itself to vacuuming up all the splinter fleets left behind by Kraken, Behemoth, and Leviathan, thus gaining all their tasty biomass and DNA.
This new hive fleet is known as Kronos, after the Greek god of time, and with Warp Rifts and Chaos Daemons now running amok in the galaxy, the Hive Mind has turned it towards a previously untapped niche: fixing the mess left by Chaos. Its take on the Shadow in the Warp is one of a complete and total "HAHAHA FUCK YOU!" towards the Ruinous Powers, capable of smothering psychic abilities of any kind, causing Daemons to wither in its presence and closing Chaos portals and small Warp Rifts just by proximity. In other words: Chaos energy is arguably the deadliest, most corrupting, most powerful power source in the galaxy... and the Hive Mind has produced a Hive Fleet with the primary mandate to tell it to shut up and go to its room.
On a smaller note, thanks to the Devastation of Baal, it has been confirmed that Tyranid troops and monsters aren't even a singular organism. Instead, they are a collection of symbiotic species working in tandem with one another to create a killing machine. Tyranid blood? a living parasite. Tyranid weapons? well, that's self explanatory. Tyranid organs? a separate critter that could survive just as easily outside of its hosts when it is needed to swap gibblets. This means that those giant Hive Fleets you see aren't just one massive creature but a multitude of smaller creatures working as one, similar to that of the Portuguese Man o'War. This realization kind of solves some of the bizarre-looking Tyranids that would be biologically impossible. This isn't actually much of a big deal, since most living things are technically made up of a collection of cells which are living things unto themselves. The tyranids can them be thought of as a multi-bodied organism the same way we are multi-cellular organisms.
On the Table
Printed in the ancient past of 1993, the first Tyranid codex brought the hive mind to the tabletop of 40k and instantly won over the hearts of a thousand vile xeno lovers. Or not. It's hard to tell as most of those original fans have since moved on to collect power armor armies or died from several decades of soul crushing disappointment. Either way, the codex was notable for including both Genestealer Cults and Tyranids in the same book.
8 years after the 2nd edition codex came out, a new one burst onto the scene in 2001. Again, not much is remembered from this time, though it is notable that it did premier the first plastic gaunt kit. Yes, the one they are still selling on the GW web store. This codex was extremely limited, but did feature some...interesting rules for customizing your models. None of these would last to 4th edition, but the nostalgia would linger for a long time after.
In 2005, a new tyranid codex emerged along with an entire host of redesigned units and metal kits. It was at this point that the modern designs for the lictor, genestealers, raveners, and hive tyrants were introduced. Also, the first plastic carnifex kit was released, and GW capitalized by giving the unit a cubic metric shit ton of options. Indeed, this was the theme of fourth edition nids. The codex deliberately axed 3rd edition characters like old one eye or the red terror in favor of giving players a wealth of options for customizing their models. Want a hive tyrant with a 2+ save? Go ahead. Want a carnifex with a better bs? there you go. None of this would last into 5th edition and the flaws were pretty glaring as time went by. Nids simply did not have the tools nor the depth of an army design to succeed against every opponent, and many of the options turned into expensive traps.
When the 5th edition Codex released, it was met with split opinions, as usual. Some were angry at how overpowered the army looked, citing the facts that the Tervigon could create more units out of thin air using "broken" special rules, that the anti-psyker powers were so broad, and that the Hive Guard and Zoanthropes were so good at tank hunting at a time when tanks were kings.
However, after some time passed, people who decried the cheesy aspects of the army faded from view as people began to realize the army only seemed cheesy on paper, and that, in truth, any cheese the army had was drowned in the army's drawbacks. The Termagants the Tervigon could spawn? Stats like a Guardsmen in close combat, but with half their weapon range and weaker armor. And to get Tervigons to the Troops slot from the HQ slot (where they were practically useless), you had to pay Guardsman prices for a unit of them. In other words, you had to use the "cheesy" special rule or they were overpriced into uselessness.
Then there were the special powers that supposedly buffed the army. Again, at a first glance, they looked broken. Certain upgrades allowed any unit within 6" of certain models to gain rules like Feel No Pain, Furious Charge, Poison, cover saves, and so on. It sounded like a serious boon, but it had a funny effect. Aside from the fact that most Tyranid models are too expensive unless you capitalize on the bubble-buffs, it also does a horrible thing to your freedom to play the army. Mainly, it forces players to keep all their units bunched up within 6" of a few key models, requiring them to spend the entire game in a rigid formation that can spell disaster for the army when broken. Tyranids already suffered from this problem somewhat due to their synapse rules, but the 6" range on the mandatory buffs only shortened the leash. Not to mention it also made blasts even worse for an army already vulnerable to them.
Tyranids do seriously lack effective long range support as well. While they possess some weapons capable of mincing infantry units, most things with a range over 12" come at a premium. With an army so focused on close combat this shouldn't be such a problem, but synapse and buff leashes actually make it a valid concern. Mainly, the short buff leash pressures a player into a castle formation, but the lack of medium and long ranged weaponry pressures the player to advance the entire castle towards the enemy, which has a way of creating chinks in the formation. And you can't just move a few key units - when a unit moves forward, the model providing the buffs has to follow them, and then the other units relying on the buffs have to follow the model providing the buffs; it just makes the army obscenely inflexible.
Tyranid monstrous creatures, their heavy support, also got drastically nerfed in the 5th edition update. The Tyrannofex, for example, has a 2+ save and six wounds at a toughness of six, the damn thing is almost indestructible, but the weapons are short-ranged, and if you buy it an expensive long-range cannon to shoot at tanks, you can't change any of its other short-ranged weapons which are designed to kill infantry. You just can't quite kit your heavy support to do the things you specifically want.
Which brings us to the final problem: on top of mountains of tactical inflexibility, the Tyranids also suffer from the drawback of design inflexibility. Unlike Guardsmen or Space Marines, the Tyranids don't get a lot of options to change the way the army works. When you buy hormagaunts, you get them at face value - you can't equip them with frag grenades, give them pistols, add heavy weapons, or mess with their gear in any way. You can buy them the poison special rule if you want, or maybe the Furious Charge special rule, but those are your two choices. Almost the entire army is that way, which is vastly different than the way they worked in 4th edition. The Carnifex alone lost eighteen weapon and biomorph options between 4th and 5th edition and it doubled in points value. And with no upgrades taken! And for twenty points more, you can get a trygon. Which is better then the carnifex in almost every way. Cept looking good. It's possible that Tyranids are now the least adaptable army in the game.
The last kick in the teeth is that Tyranids are one of the more expensive armies to collect, requiring a larger number of models than most. Their HQ choices, short of the Tyranid Prime, are big monsters which run at prices edging nearer and nearer to $100 each. For the fact that most Tyranid armies will play exactly the same way, having all the same exploitable weaknesses and no unique wargear surprises, it's not a wonder that the army has seen a huge drop in sales since the release of their 5th edition codex. The shorter lesson to take from all this is, if you're thinking about beginning a 40k army, even with how expensive it's all gotten, Tyranids are not the best army to start with.
The one good legacy of the 5th edition codex was the radical expansion of the army list. The previous codex had featured the addition of a single new unit (the brood lord) and the removal of two special characters. Both were brought back for the 5th edition codex and the total units jumped from fifteen to thirty-four. While several of the characters (the doom of malan'tai and the parasite of mortrex) did not survive past this codex, many others did and eventually grew into popular options in their own right.
This abortion of a codex was so bad that GW stock crashed by 23%. After several years of having only a few viable units, virtually everything the Tyranids needed to stay competitive was either removed or nerfed to uselessness. Tyranids no longer had Mycetic Spores, the Doom of Malan'tai, Ymgarl Genestealers or the Parasite of Mortrex (GW lost a court battle with Chapterhouse Studios and simply deleted all their models from the game). They even lost the ability to use psychic powers from the Biomancy table along with their Hive Mind powers being nerfed. Why GW thought that the most underpowered army needed even MORE nerfing will remain a mystery, but odds are that Cruddace had something to do with it. A perfect example of unnecessary nerfing is the tyranid prime; it was rarely fielded in 5th edition, and the 6th edition codex inexplicably increased its cost by over 56%. At any rate, it looks like the Tyranids will soon be joining the Sisters in GW Hell. GW stocks were already dropping due to the financial disasters that were 6th ed Apocalypse, Strong Hold Assault, and Escalation. Meanwhile in Warhammer Fantasy there's 3 armies which are at least one edition behind in updates. Along with the announcement was plans to close many GW stores, including their headquarters in Germany... yeah, this might be the beginning of the end. Looks like there were more Tyranid players than everyone thought, not everyone plays Space Marines.
To compensate for their failure, GeeDubs released some Dataslate formations which allow you to ignore the force organisation chart and spam flying monstrous creatures to overwhelm an opponents anti air defenses because the flyer rules are an even bigger catastrofuck than the tyranid codex. **SSSS rippaaaahhhssss will be put in crudfacessss bedssss for what he hasssss done to ussssss**
7th Edition, DLC, and white dwarf updates
Geedubs finally noticed how badly nerfed Tyranids have been during the last editions so they took opportunity to get your money by releasing new waves of Tyranid units supported by White Dwarf updates. Things started poorly with a pair of monstrous creatures who really didn't bring anything new to the table. The Toxicrene was fine on paper, bringing Poisoned 2+ Instant-Death-on-a-6 attacks, but as yet another floot-slogging MC it had trouble catching the things it WANTED to kill. The Maleceptor was just an overcosted, overcomplicated, and underpowered hunk of plastic that would be lucky to kill more than 20 points worth of models in a given turn.
But then things got interesting. The Mycetic Spores came back, under the name of "Tyrannocytes", and they were well worth the wait! Alongside the new spores were a Tyranid "fortification" (that is, a Heavy Support that didn't take up a force org. slot) that could boost synapse range and drop spore mines around, and a new super-sized Muceloid Spore Mine that could assault fliers. Soon afterward came the Doom of Malan'tai in a new body: the Neurothrope! While slightly nerfed -- his signature "fuck you" bubble is now a psychic power rather than just free damage -- it's far from unusable and can even be put in a squadron to make Look Out Sir rolls!
The most unexpected announcements came from GW around Fall 2014, coinciding with the coming of The End Times: New models for the Tyranids. The first pack that was announced was a Dual Kit for the Maleceptor and Toxicrene. While the Maleceptor proved to be unpopular within minutes of having its rules announced in White Dwarf as it was an overpriced drain of warp charges, the Tocxicrene proved to fare a bit better, as the copious amount of poison and Instant Death on a 6 to-wound using said poison made it a menace against Monstrous Creatures (though its intended targets, the Riptide and Wraithknight, merely scoffed at it because they're jumping monstrous creatures, and thus able to kite it like a toy). The second release proved to be the most popular by far: The return of Mycetic Spores (now Tyrannocytes), the living fortifications known as Sporocysts, and new Mucolid Spores that not only assault flyers, but are also the cheapest troop choices, making starting an army of Tyranids a much simpler task. While the Tyrannocyte proved an incredible weapon that made several units (including the infamous Pyrovore) suck slightly less, that power came with a hefty price tag (for a Transport, not as a Monstrous Creature), and Sporocysts are completely immobile and are equally pricey in exchange for synapse bonuses and the ability to spam spore mines. Needless to say, people actually thanked GeeDubs for this rare show of intelligence.The third release gave new Sprues for the Zoanthrope/Venomthrope as a multi-part kit with a new set of rules for the Zoanthropes: The Neurothrope, a sergeant that gave the brood a new power that could potentially give them more Warp Charges to spend on Warp Lance. Not bad, but the new sprue was still welcome.After these releases, it became clear as to why the Nids got new shit: promotions for a new Campaign called Shield of Baal, which involves Nids chomping through a system near the territory of the Blood Angels, meaning that Dante has to call all the successor chapters to stop the mob. He had to take help from Anrakyr to save even part of the system. This now concludes the awesome part of all things Tyranid. If you look at the gallery below the Cutenids, you will require a mind scrubbing and be lobotomized into a servitor. No exceptions. Of course you now have players mocking Nids as being a DLC faction.
Return in 8th Edition
Tyranids have returned with a vengeance! Tyranids are one of the early-middle released codex of 8th and has become one very powerful army mostly due to how fast they are, like 'my hormagaunts just moved 20" in one turn and my Stratagem can give them a second Movement Phase' fast. This speed has given them absolutely amazing board control combined with their easy access to deep striking units, good mix of swarms (which is very important in 8E) and big monsters for heavier damage and the absolute cheese that are Biovores. Carnifexes have also gotten a bunch of their biomorphs back! They are now excellent and cheap Swiss-army knives that you can insert into almost any role.
But for all their buffs, they still have their weak points. Tyranids, while being ostensibly a melee focused army, tend to suffer from relatively low strength melee attacks which compensate for their lowered wound chance by having higher damage. This means that while they deal a lot of damage when they wound a vehicle it's a toss-up as to whether or not they can actually wound it; Space Marines have easier access to Anti-Tank melee than us. Some of the big beasties are still overcosted and underpowered for their roles, and the flyers aren't too good either. While the little guys are at their worst meh and our big guys are either very good or just suck, the mid-sized ones are decent but tend to require some planning to make the most of them; Lictors are fragile but are useful as deep strike beacons, Warriors and Raveners are a bit overcosted but can stick around much longer than before now that Instant Death is gone, and Zoanthropes are stuck as the obligatory Smite spammers.
- Tyranid Bio-Weapons
- Hive Tyrant
- Hive Fleet
- Tyranid RPG
- Hive Fleet Nidhoggr
- /tg/'s homebrew modifications that make 5E nids get awesome
- Another /tg/brew 'Nid modificaton, now based on 7E and made into fully blown codex
- Genestealer Cult
- Unlike other 40k factions there is not clear Warhammer Fantasy counter part for the Tyranids. They seem to combine the Skaven and Ogre Kingdoms for tactics and lean closer to the Ogres for motivation, namely 'eat it all'.
- Phyrexia, a faction/category from Magic: the Gathering with some similar fluff
- Slivers a creature type from M:TG that bares some similarities with 'nids.
|Leader Organisms:||Broodlord - Hive Tyrant - Swarmlord - Tyranid Warrior|
|Small Creatures:||Gargoyle - Genestealer - Hormagaunt - Ripper - Termagaunt|
| 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|
|Bio-Titans:||Dominatrix - Hierophant - Hydraphant - Viciator|
|Other Organisms:|| Bio-Weapons - Cortex Leech - Mieotic Spore - Mucolid Spore |
Mycetic Spore - Spore Mine - Sporocyst - Tyrannocyte - Zoats
|Playable Factions in Warhammer 40,000|
|Imperium:||Adeptus Custodes - Adeptus Mechanicus - Imperial Guard - Imperial Knights - Space Marines|
|Officio Assassinorum - Inquisition - Deathwatch - Grey Knights - Sisters of Battle|
|Sisters of Silence - Squats - Militarum Tempestus|
|Chaos:||Chaos Daemons - Chaos Space Marines - Lost and the Damned - Renegade Knights|
|Xenos:||Aeldari:||Dark Eldar - Eldar - Eldar Corsairs - Harlequins - Ynnari|
|Tyranids:||Genestealer Cults - Tyranids|
|Others:||Necrons - Orks - Tau|
|This article contains PROMOTIONS! Don't say we didn't warn you.|
Thus far the Cutenids. From down here there be many promotions. Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
Eldrad leaves no woman unsatisfied.