Tyranid Codex Review: Elites: Hive Guard

Hello everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today, we are going to start down the bug-hole that is the Elite slots for Tyranids.  The very first one is a strong gun platform that brings a lot of answers to specific questions: The Hive Guard! As always, check out Frontline’s ever hungry article database over at the Tactics Corner.


The Hive Guard are some of the best and most reliable shooting units that Tyranids can bring to the table outside of the standard Flyrant as HG provide some durability and unique weapons that can really spoil the plans of several army builds.



Impaler Cannon – A range 24, S8, AP4 assault 2 gun that ignores Line of Sight and cover!


May replace Impaler Cannon with a Shockcannon (Range 18, S5, AP5, assault 1, blast, Haywire)

May take Toxin Sacs (4+ poison) and/or Adrenal Glands (Fleet and Furious Charge)

So the mighty Hive Guard get access to two unique weapons for Tyranids, and both have strong matchups.  Impaler Cannons are good all-around guns with S8 (for doubling out T4) and ignoring LoS and Cover, meaning you can hide Hive Guard inside terrain and still pump out the fire power.  The Impaler Cannon is great at taking out any light vehicle or unit that relies on cover to live.  The Shockcannon is great for heavy armor, especially Superheavies as the small blast helps mitigate BS3.  At S5 and a small blast, the Shockcannon also has some utility in dealing with larger squads if there are no vehicles within range.   Again, the upgrades are not terrible as Hive Guard are not too bad in a fight, and getting them to S6 on the charge can be surprising, and Poison helps them get the most mileage out of their 2 attacks against T4, but really, they are already a bit expensive, and adding on more and more upgrades that don’t add to their strength is not too wise.

Hive Guard, Zoenthrope, Warrior

Special Rules:

Instinctive Behavior (Hunt) – On a 1-3, go to ground, 4-5, no running and must shoot at closet enemy and in Line of Sight. If no targets, cannot do anything in the phase or assault, 6: same as 4-5 but with preferred enemy.

Very Bulky – counts as 3 models. Not too important as the max unit size is only 3.

Ok, so pretty light on the rules here.  Hunt isn’t a terrible IB to have as 1-3 isn’t too bad, and the rest can be more or less a non-issue, particularly for Hive Guard who want to shoot anyway.  Failing IB is never good, but as far as results go, this is likely the friendliest in this situation.


Ok, so how do you put these bugs on the table and get some results?  Well, the Hive Guard are great when their matchup is relevant.  They are meta-benders, and when you can reasonably expect certain builds, they are absolute gold.  With Impaler Cannons, they make an excellent answer to Dark Angels and their Black Knights as they can easily start stripping hull points from Dark Shrouds or making the Bikers rely on their 3+ armor save rather than a 2+ rerollable cover save.  That’s a huge decrease to their defense, and if you pop the Dark Shroud, your Flyrants or other shooting elements have a chance to start whittling down the bikes.  Impaler Cannons are pretty much a perfect answer to any AV10 or 11 light vehicle that relies on jink or even Marker Drones in the Drone-Net formation.  S8 also lets them double-out any T4 running around, so popping Eldar on bikes, Crisis Suits, or Bloodcrushers/Khorne Dogs.

With Shockcannons, Hive Guard excel with Tyrannocytes.  The shorter range is mitigated by dropping into the backfield and laying out 3 Haywire templates can reliably pop a lot of vehicles or strip a Knight down for a death blow elsewhere.  With a blast template, it is much harder to flat out miss the attack, and again, against tightly packed infantry blobs like Conscripts or Zombies, S5 can start to rack up wounds.   Tyranids can struggle with heavy armor, so Shockcannons really provide a nice answer to this, and against heavily mechanized lists, HG with Shockcannons can absolutely be devastating.

Another interesting tactic is to go MSU with Hive Guard and have 3 to 6 solo HG running around with Impaler Cannons.   Let us not forget that they are S5, T6, 2W, and Ld 7, so they are a bit durable.  With an Impaler Cannon, you can hide them all over your deployment, staying out of the way of enemy fire but still laying down their own shots.  Small outflanking units cannot necessarily pick them up in combat easily, and with Ld 7, they are much less likely to fail IB when out of Synapse.  If you aren’t planning on Lictor and Mawloc spam, this route can work to complement your Flyrants.


So why aren’t these bugs everywhere? Well, their big strength is their big weakness.  They are great for playing the meta, but they are worthless if the matchup doesn’t show.  3 Hive Guard with Shockcannons in a Tyrannocyte is setting you back Land Raider sized points, and if your opponent is running a psychic deathstar or not running any vehicles at all, that is a lot of points that will not do as much as you need it to do.  Impaler Cannons are better for dealing with a variety of threats, but against a horde or tarpit, they don’t pump out enough shots to do much about it.  If you run heavy on the Hive Guard, you move your list farther away from the mythic Take-All-Comers list, which means that the more games you play, the more likely you’ll run into a bad matchup.   Also, they are a shooting unit that is BS3, so you can only rely on landing 1 impaler shot per bug and you have to factor in an average scatter of 4 inches to the blast of a Shockcannon.  That’s not so good.  They are also a bit pricey, especially in full squads, so you again start running into the problem of investing a lot of points into a unit that may not be able to contribute much in a game.

Are Hive Guard competitive? I think so if you go a bit strange with them as MSU objective campers/snipers, and they can be devastating if you know your matchup or have a distinct flavor to your meta, but in the wider world? Probably not.  There are too many common competitive army builds that really make them less than useful, and bugs cannot afford to spend points on units that won’t perform.  Thanks as always for reading, and feel free to check out TFG Radio, and I hope you all enjoyed the LVO.

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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.

6 Responses to “Tyranid Codex Review: Elites: Hive Guard”

  1. Avatar
    abusepuppy March 15, 2017 3:08 am #

    Losing BS4 for no particular reason when the codex got updated was a HUGE hit to Hive Guard’s functionality, not to mention the price increase that went with it. Sadly, I struggle to find much use for them anymore- 24″ just doesn’t catch most of the things you want to be hitting with them.

    The Shockcannon is even more problematic, as that 18″ range means that you basically won’t get to engage enemies unless they let you and/or you spend a bunch on the Tyrannocyte- and even then, putting 2-3 HP on a vehicle for 250pts is not a fantastic deal when they really can’t do much else.

    • Avatar
      Dakkath March 15, 2017 3:48 am #

      And also the fun fact that the Hive Guard, arguably the shootiest-designed bug outside the biovore, has WS 4; higher than most of the close-combat bugs in the dex.

      • Avatar
        abusepuppy March 15, 2017 8:41 am #

        Yup. The statlines in the Tyranid codex are absolutely _baffling_.

    • Danny Ruiz
      Danny Ruiz March 15, 2017 9:05 am #

      Yes, losing BS4 was dumb. They offer some good answers, but they aren’t consistent enough to really make it into the hyper competitive lists.

  2. Avatar
    winterman March 15, 2017 9:20 am #

    GWs fascination with small blast haywire is a bit annoying. The chance of actually doing more than non-blast haywire is slim to none, yet you typically pay the ‘plasma cannons were scary in 3ed’ tax for it anyways. I was hoping the template would go away in the next edition but saw they were in the new Shadow War boxset so that doesn’t bode well.

    Loss of BS4 and the preferred enemy bubble from the tyrant ended my use of Hive Guard. Reiterate what I have said elsewhere – being in synapse should provide the instinctive behavior signature USR to the unit (on top of fearless). Just for starters

    • Danny Ruiz
      Danny Ruiz March 15, 2017 9:38 am #

      Yah. It has some utility in that it is at least S5, so you can use it on light infantry, but really, it seems designed to help you assure a haywire hit against the massive bases like Knights, but they overvalue it.

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