Tyranid Codex Review: Special Rules, Powers, Artefacts, and Warlord Traits

Hello everyone, Danny here from TFG Radio to start my series on the faction closest to my heart, the team that always plays together, and our one, true God in this world: The Great Devourer! Of course, if you want to learn how to kill bugs good, you can check out Frontline’s Tactics Corner.


So Tyranids are not always the most feared army on the tabletop, and I’ll be real-real, they have some pitfalls, but man, I’ve played the hell out of them since they debuted in 2nd Edition, and I’ll be damned if I ever stop. The Tyranid codex gives you a lot of options, and while certain builds are clearly optimal, this is a beast that rewards ingenuity. So for today, let’s look at the overall special rules and gear, and next time, we’ll start going through the codex unit by unit.


Special Rules:

Instinctive Behavior – Tyranids outside of Synapse at the beginning of the turn (after Reserves but before movement) must make a leadership test, and if they fail, you roll on one of these three charts, depending on the unit: Lurk, Hunt, and Feed. You do not need to take this test if the unit is locked in combat, gone to ground, failing back, or just arrived from Reserves.

Shadow in the Warp: All enemy units and models with the Psyker, Brotherhood of Psykers, etc, special rules suffer -3 Leadership when within 12 inches of one or more models with this rule.

Synapse Creature: All friendly Tyranids, including the model with this rule, within 12 inches of a Synapse Creature are Fearless and do not need to roll on the Instinctive Behavior Chart. Note that it only takes one model from a unit to be in range.

So, the army wide special rules are very much built around fluff, and a good Tyranid player knows how to use these to great effect while also managing the downsides. Speaking of downsides, the Instinctive Behavior tables can be a bit brutal, and so you need to be sure to keep your units in Synapse range. The big table that hurts is Feed as it is possible for your own unit to start killing itself, so any unit with this Instinctive Behavior needs to stay in Synapse range at all times, otherwise you’ll see Rippers or Hormagaunts tearing themselves apart. Lurk and Hunt are not too bad, but there are plenty of options on the tables that make the unit worthless until it gets back to Synapse.

Synapse is actually a solid rule as Fearless is huge. With Tyranids’ ability to take large squads of disposable bodies, being Fearless means you can tarpit the hell out of your enemy, and it means that they will stay camping or bubble-wrapping an objective to the very last bug. When building a Tyranid list, you need to be sure you have Synapse, and the more basic units that you take, the more Synapse you need.

Shadow in the Warp is not as strong as it used to be when manifesting powers was built upon Leadership rolls, but it still has some utility. Seeing as most Perils of the Warp results require a Leadership test to avoid the worst side-effects, it can be very helpful to suddenly drop a Librarian from Leadership 10 to 7. I cannot tell you how many times I had a Librarian blow himself up and take a few friends with him when they rolled a 1 on the Perils table and then rolled an 8 for their Leadership check. This is especially helpful against Daemons as units like Pink Horrors or any other Brotherhood of Psykers suddenly have terrible leadership.

So overall, with special rules, you need to know them, and you need to remember when Shadow in the Warp matters and how to manage Instinctive Behavior, so it doesn’t foil your plans.


Warlord Traits:

Nature’s Bane: At the start of each movement phase, you can make one Twisted Copse within 12 of your warlord Dangerous Terrain for the rest of the game.

Heightened Senses: Warlord and all friendly Tyranids within 12 have the Night Vision special rule.

Synaptic Lynchpin: Add 6 inches to the Synapse range of your Warlord

Mind-Eater: You gain 2 additional VP for every Independent Character your Warlord slays in a challenge, and only in a challenge, and not through a Sweeping Advance.

Digestive Denial: Before Scout/Infiltrate, you can weaken the cover save by 1 of any piece of terrain in the enemy deployment zone, so long as they did not purchase that terrain feature as part of their army.

Adaptive Biology: If your Warlord suffers or more unsaved wounds, starting from its next Movement phase, it gains the Feel No Pain special rule for the rest of the game.

In all honesty, the Warlord Traits are pretty bad. The only one that is typically solid, depending on army build, is Synaptic Lynchpin. The extra 6 inches can really help keep flanking forces inside Synapse. Digestive Denial seems good, but Tyranids lack a lot of low AP shooting, so cover saves really aren’t that important, and Adaptive Biology also seems good, but too often, if your Warlord is taking wounds, it is probably on its way to death already. Mind-Eater could really help you win the mission, but getting to melee is not easy for our HQs.

Overall, you are better off rolling on Strategic in the main rule book. Stealth Ruins is way better as is reserve manipulation.


Powers of the Hive Mind:

Primaris: Dominion. Warp Charge 1. Blessing. Add 6 inches to your synapse range.

Catalyst: Warp Charge 1. Blessing. Psyker and its unit as well as one other friendly Tyranid unit within 12 inches gain Feel No pain.

The Horror: Warp Charge 1. Malediction. A target within 24 inches must take a pinning test with a -2 penalty to Leadership.

Onslaught: Warp Charge 1. Blessing. Whilst power is in effect, the target unit can both Run and then shoot in its Shooting Phase.

Paroxysm: Warp Charge 1. Malediction. A target within 24 inches suffers a D3 penalty to Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill (roll once for both) until the next Tyranid psychic phase.

Psychic Scream: Warp Charge 1. Nova. 6 inches. For every enemy unit in range, roll 2d6+2 and substract the target’s leadership from this roll. The unit suffers a number of wounds equal to the result with no armor or cover saves allowed.

Warp Blast: Warp Charge 2. Witchfire. As a blast, range 24, Strength 5, AP 3, assault 1 small blast or as a single shot, range 18, Strength 10, AP 2, assault 1 Lance.

So, Tyranids can only generate their powers from Hive Mind, and there are a few stinkers here but also a few winners. The Primaris is never bad as again, being able to add 6 inches to Synapse can be huge, and it can be an easy way to auto-rally a unit. Catalyst is great as giving a Hive Tyrant and then another unit Feel No Pain can really up survivability, particularly since Tyranids lack a lot of invulnerable saves. Since it is essentially 2 for 1, you can protect your Psyker and a whole other unit. Psychic Scream is huge as it is only WC 1 and a Nova, so with a Flying Hive-Tyrant, you can swoop into the middle of the enemy and do some big damage, particularly against units with a 2+ armor save. This is often Tyranids’ best answer to Riptides and Wraithknights. Warp Blast is situational as it looks great on paper, but you have to remember that it has a lot of points of failure. You have to roll to manifest first, then roll to hit, then roll to wound, then apply any saves the target may have. That’s a lot of places where the dice can fail you. If you roll this power, it can save your life, but it can also let you down, and most times, it will. Paroxysm can be helpful at times, particularly against Tau or Necrons who shoot but have no psychic defense, or it can be used to tip a combat’s favor to you in a blob on blob melee like against Orks. Onslaught and The Horror are pretty corner-case, and in at least a hundred games since this Codex dropped, I’ve used each maybe twice.

So yes, we are forced into this discipline, but there are some good moves here if you remember to utilize them. There are a lot of “if the conditions are right” type of powers, but if you are mindful of these conditions, you can get a lot of mileage out of these powers.


Bio-Artefacts of the Tyranids:

The Maw-Claws of Thryax:

S: User, AP 5, Rending, Assimilate claws. You gain preferred enemy against all models chosen from that same codex after a kill.

The Norn Crown:

Add 6 inches to your synapse range.

The Miasma Cannon

two firing modes: Range 36, S1, AP4 assault 1 Poison(2+) blast or Range: template, S1, AP4 assault 1 Poison(2+).

The Ymgarl Factor:

At the start of every assault phase, you must alter your form and choose one of the following benefits. This lasts until te end of the phase, and you cannot choose the same form in two consecutive turns.

+1 Strength, +1 Attack, or +1 to Armor Save.

The Reaper of Obliterax

S+1. AP3, Life Drain (6s to wound cause Instant Death), Shred, Swiftstrike (+3 Initiative in combat), melee weapon.

So, our special wargear is pretty terrible, no two ways about it. The Norn Crown is the most useful but it costs as much as a standard Termagaunt squad. The Reaper of Obliterax on a Hive Tyrant makes it S7 with Shred, but getting Tyrants into combat isn’t easy and again, it costs more than the Norn Crown. The Ymgarl Factor is the only way to get a Hive Tyrant or Tervigon to a 2+ armor save, but only in melee, and the sad fact is that Tyranids are not a great melee army. We shoot better than we fight, and anything hunting our Monstrous Creatures are going to bring high strength AP2 as is.

Quite honestly, there is nothing here worth taking. Save your points and buy more models, which is where Tyranids excel as is. If these items were half the cost, they may be justifiable, but right now, there is no real way to utilize them well on the table-top. Again, just save the points and buy 10 more Termagaunts or a Ripper squad.


Ok everyone, so that’s a general rundown of all the special rules/wargear, powers, and Warlord Traits for the bugs, and while there is a lot of ugly here, there is some good, and being a bug player, you use what you can. I’ll be coming at you with a lot of unit by unit analysis in the coming weeks, so stay tuned, and of course, check out TFG Radio for some of my random bug musings at times.

And as always, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off of retail, every day!

Frontline Gaming will buy your used models for cash or store credit!



About Danny Ruiz

Long-long time 40K player, one of the original triumvirate of head 40K judges at LVO, writer, educator, tyranid-enthusiast, disciple of Angron, man about town, afflicted with faction ADD.

28 Responses to “Tyranid Codex Review: Special Rules, Powers, Artefacts, and Warlord Traits”

  1. Reecius
    Reecius January 11, 2017 6:53 am #


    Poor Nids =(

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      AbusePuppy January 11, 2017 8:32 am #

      Also FAR and away the worst warlord traits in the game- there is not a single one I would be happy to roll most games.

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        CWDub January 11, 2017 10:09 am #

        I haven’t actually rolled on the Nid WL trait table in so long I forgot how awful it is. The “best” one (for a flyrant) is a gimped up FnP that won’t even kick in if your model is killed in a turn of shooting.

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      CWDub January 11, 2017 10:09 am #

      Bruh, 2+ armor Trygon Primes wreckin face for days!


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    Threllen January 11, 2017 9:04 am #

    When the sentence “the sad fact is that Tyranids are not a great melee army,” makes it into a ‘Nid codex review – you know something has gone terribly wrong with GW balance.

    • Danny Ruiz
      Danny Ruiz January 11, 2017 10:19 am #

      So much this. I remember when the Carnifex was feared, absolutely feared in melee! This is long before the Dakkafex became the standard.

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        Threllen January 11, 2017 11:38 am #

        Tyranids were my first ever army and I still love them, but I’m glad I sold them all (as well as the DE I bought next). Both armies have been nerfed into the ground. They’ve got almost nothing comparable to any of the top armies.

    • Avatar
      fleetofclaw January 17, 2017 11:51 am #



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    CWDub January 11, 2017 9:58 am #

    I have about 4k points of Nids that have pretty much been sitting on the shelf since Genestealer Cults came out. Outside of allying in an odd Flyrant here and there, they’re gathering dust. The first time you outflank a unit of Termagants with Hive Commander (or pod in 20 dakkagaunts), they fail IB and then run off the table/fail a LD6 check and get autoswept after being charged is pretty much the last time you try and run a horde army with Nids..

    Hopefully if they get a new codex I’d like to see Shadows in the Warp do something and the psychic powers get buffed and work on a different “system” (such as a “warp dice” per Synapse creature, ie. 1 for each warrior, 2 for each Zoanthrope, 3 for each Hive Tyrant, etc. with Synapse creatures being able to “cast” powers or different buffs available for each unit and a different perils chart) along with a Decurion that maybe makes casting powers take a -1 penalty to harness warp charge successes (ie. a 4+ becomes a 5+) and perils on any double that affects any army (including allies) except Nids. A troop recycling mechanic that doesn’t suck (that everyone else gets EXCEPT the endless wave army..) would also be neat along with some point revisions (ever compare a Dakkafex to a Riptide?). But hey, now I’m just wish listing =)

    • Danny Ruiz
      Danny Ruiz January 11, 2017 10:18 am #

      I have 10K, and yah, I use maybe 6 different models. I could wishlist all damn day.

      • Avatar
        mattblowers January 15, 2017 1:55 pm #

        I have more than double your points and I bet I play the same six models.

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    Byor January 11, 2017 10:00 am #

    You forgot one more point of failure in Warp Lance, enemy can deny the witch.

    Sigh, we need a new codex, and if it is possible, written by someone who cares about nids xD

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      Troy Graber January 11, 2017 2:58 pm #

      In the GW stream on Friday, they sang the praises of Warp Lance endlessly. Especially now that the FAQ made it so that “Witchfires no longer need to roll to hit”.

      They got called out in the chat for being wrong, but came back to that well again, and again. The commentary on the 1st game was PAINFULLY bad.

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        Threllen January 11, 2017 3:05 pm #

        1) If witchfires have profiles like a normal shooting weapon – they do need to hit. Is GW incapable of reading their own rules?
        2) Warp Lance is still trash. I liked it back in 5th edition on my Zoanthropes when I just had to pass a LD10 psychic test (so 33/36 chance of success with a slight chance for perils). Now I have to pass a warp charge 2 psychic power (significantly more difficult to get off and more likely to peril). In addition, my opponent gets the chance to deny it which did not used to be a thing for many armies.

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          Threllen January 11, 2017 3:08 pm #

          Also, back in 5th edition, things weren’t quite turned up to 11 yet so people were like “oh my god you get a S10 AP1 lance”? That’s so broken.” (believe it was AP1 back then but I could be wrong).

          Now-a-days it’s a shrug-your-shoulders for what it takes to get it to work.

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          punchymango January 16, 2017 4:40 pm #

          To be fair, most of the armies you’d meet in serious play in 5th brought psychic hoods or other power cancelling tech.

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    Dakkath January 11, 2017 12:07 pm #

    The miasma cannon is kind of nice stuck onto a nid prime, tervigon, or trygon prime. Gives the nid prime a long range weapon for when it’s babysitting biovores or other backfield units, and gives the other two a second weapon to fire.

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      Troy Graber January 11, 2017 3:03 pm #

      In our narrative campaigns, I sometimes use Hive Commander to outflank a Troop Tervigon with a Miasma Cannon, and Desiccator Larva. It is a fun build. If it had the ability to kill a rhino and cost 75 points less, I’d use it a lot more.

      The other Miasma Cannon gimmick is to take advantage of the Hypertoxic node, and give it to a tyrant. The formation makes all poison attacks instant death on 6’s.

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    MagicJuggler January 12, 2017 7:32 am #

    I “get” why some Psychic powers are there. Their actual in-game execution is a disaster though.

    Onslaught: Cool, advance your Monstrous Creatures into midfield to get better range while preparing for a charge next turn. Hopefully give them Adrenal Glands to run faster and hit harder on the charge. Now if only Grav wasn’t a thing.

    The Horror: Oh cool, pinning at a Leadership penalty. This shuts down overwatch and lets you offset the fact you don’t have grenades. Now if only you could pin Bikes or Riptides…

    I haven’t played Tyranids, but part of me wonders if it’s possible to make a Tyranid-heavy army that uses Genestealer Cults in the most token of secondary support roles, rather than the other way around where you have people taking GSC and a pair of Flyrants w/ Spore Tax.

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      abusepuppy January 12, 2017 9:43 am #

      Onslaught is actually an okay, if not hugely exciting, power. Devourers are pretty short-ranged and it’s not that hard for the enemy to avoid them many turns of the game; Onslaught can help mitigate that. You’d always rather you rolled Catalyst, of course, but Catalyst is basically the one power on that table that is actually something that another codex would want.

      The Horror is great when it works, but there’s just so many things that can’t be Pinned these days. It’s not even Fearless units anymore, it’s bikes and transports and MCs/FMCs and the million other things as well.

      Really, I would say that Dominion is arguably the worst of the psychic powers- which is a problem, because psychic disciplines are almost always defined largely by their Primaris. Extending your Synapse range is a cute trick, but most of the “good” Tyranids don’t care a whit about Synapse, and with 3-5 Flyrants on the table if you’ve lost Synapse coverage then you’re probably well on your way to getting tabled. But the biggest problem is that Dominion doesn’t _do_ anything at all- it just prevents your own rules from screwing you.

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      punchymango January 16, 2017 4:41 pm #

      “If only grav wasn’t a thing” is the sentence that should end any codex review for Tyranids.

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    winterman January 12, 2017 11:38 am #

    Oh boy an article about the faction with the worst warlord traits, worst relics and most disappointing faction wide rules and most underwhelming psychers. I’m kinda dreading the rest of these Tyranid articles because they will likely just be salt on an already salty wound for us bug players.

    I know wishlisting is pointless but it still baffles me that the USRs in the Instictive Behavior results of 6 aren’t also an inherent bonus of being in synapse. How does a tyranid organism have a chance of being better when out of synapse? Being in synapse should bring out the absolute best of each organism, not simply make them fearless and un-stupid.

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    Grizzyzz January 12, 2017 12:32 pm #

    Little to no AP shooting.. No way of getting into combat… no way to protect your HQs as ignores cover is assumed to be available by most armies… Rough times indeed.

    There is so much inner balancing that needs to be done with the codex; completely aside from the fact its under powered compared to other armies.

    Some day maybe I will buy back my Nids and see them in glory once again!

  9. Avatar
    MidnightSun January 12, 2017 12:35 pm #


    AbusePuppy wrote this article, containing all the same information, plus insight on all the units within the Codex, THREE YEARS AGO TODAY.

    I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but *please* stop writing these noddy filler articles and put your effort into writing more of the great articles I know Frontline Gaming is more than capable of producing.

    • Avatar
      Threllen January 12, 2017 12:50 pm #

      Three years ago the overall landscape was much different than it is now. Has the ‘nids codex changed? No. But lots of things around them have. And some people would like to hear how their armies are faring now-a-days even if the codex hasn’t been updated in a while.

      If you don’t want to read the article – don’t read it. Simple enough.

      They have plenty of writers working on reviewing new books as well as old ones.

    • Danny Ruiz
      Danny Ruiz January 12, 2017 5:13 pm #

      Sorry you feel that way, but three years is a long time in this game (and an edition change). Plus, of all the codex reviews on this site, there were pretty much none for bugs, which is a shame.

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      Jural January 13, 2017 4:10 pm #

      The Codex is MUCH worse now, AP’s review seems… dare I say it?… optimistic now.

      Of course with Genestealer cult and all of the other supplements for Tyranid we can’t really be judged by the Codex alone anymore… and thank goodness, because it is the worst codex in the game, bar none.

    • Avatar
      MidnightSun January 15, 2017 3:26 pm #

      All of which would be very valid points if they were actually relevant. You’re absolutely right, the overall landscape is completely different now, but read the article – there’s *one* mention of something outside the Tyranids book, and that’s that Psychic Scream is one of Tyranids’ only vaguely efficient ways to put hurt on Riptides and Wraithknights. Both of which were around when the Tyranids book dropped, and neither of which has changed in any relevant way other than the WK being FnP now.

      Why does there *need* to be an article saying that Tyranids are bad and have worthless Warlord Traits and relics?

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