Tyranid Codex Reviews – HQ: Tyranid Prime

Hello all, Danny here from TFG Radio, and yet again, we take a look at the leader beans of the Tyranid Codex, and today brings us to the Tyranid Prime, under-utilized but now our most economical budget character.   Of course, you should check out bevy of articles over at Frontline’s Tactics Corner!

**This article has been updated for Chapter Approved 2018**

The Tyranid Prime is a budget leader that provides Synapse, spreads around Shadows of the Warp, and can still offer some punch, all for the lowest prices in the codex.

Weapons and Upgrades

  • Scything Talons: Melee weapon, Strength user, AP -0, D1, reroll 1s to hit. If equipped with 2, +1 attack.
  • Devourer: Range 18 Assault 3 S4 AP 0 D1 gun.
  • Spine Fists: Range 12 Pistol 4 S3 AP 0 D1 gun.
  • Deathspitter: Range 24 Assault 3 S5 AP -1 D1 gun.  If you want range, this is the best option.
  • Rending Claws: Melee weapon. Strength User, AP -1, D1, and on a roll to wound of 6, the attack becomes -3 AP.
  • Boneswords: Melee weapon. Strength User, AP -2, D1, and +1 attack for each pair.
  • Bonesword and Lashwhip: Melee weapon. Strength User, AP -2 D1, and if this model is killed in melee before it attacks, it may be chosen to attack before it is removed.
  • Flesh Hooks: Range 6 Assault 2 S5 D1 gun that can be fired within 1 of an enemy and can target enemies within 1 of a friendly unit. You can take this as well as a ranged weapon or two melee weapons.
  • Adrenal Glands: +1 to charge and advance rolls. If you want melee, auto-include.
  • Toxin Sacs: Rolling a 6 to wound is +1 damage in melee. For 1 point, not bad at all.

So that is a lot of upgrades. It is worth noting that a Prime can only ever take one ranged weapon (except for Flesh Hooks, which you can add on).  Again, I really do think a Prime would see more table time if it could take a basic bio-cannon.  Bone Sword and Lashwhip is also not really enough to consider as Boneswords are just better for the +1 to attack, and Primes just don’t hit hard enough to where it is worth it to guarantee some swings.   As always, Adrenal Glands are worth their points if you want to be melee focused, which is where the Prime excels. Toxin Sacs are so cheap on a single model unit that isn’t a monster, namely the Prime, so it is typically worth it.

Special Rules

  • Shadow in the Warp: -1 to psychic tests within 18″. Does not affect TYRANID units.
  • Synapse: Fearless bubble of 12 inches.
  • Alpha Warrior: +1 to hit for HIVE FLEET Tyranid Warrior units within 6 inches. That’s +1 to any To Hit roll, so shooting and melee. Also, the Codex Prime does not buff Shrikes anymore as they are no longer in the codex.

So there are not a lot of special rules here, but the ones that the Prime has matter quite a deal.  Synapse is crucial for Tyranids, particularly for our little bugs as being essentially Fearless is huge, and since the Prime is cheap, having a Synapse creature that can hide thanks to being a 6 Wound character is not bad at all, especially for ensuring that fast moving or reserve-entering Bugs have Synapse somewhere nearby, if only to mitigate Instinctive Behavior. The same goes for SitW as being able to have a forward beacon of -1 to cast can really help slow down psychic heavy armies like Chaos.   Lastly, Alpha Warrior can be huge if you build for it, which most do not, but that might change.

So, what can we do with this bug?  First, and likely the most common use, is a budget HQ slot for a detachment.  At 74 points base and 70 points if taken with only scything talons, this is now cheaper than a Neurothrope, but it does provide either some offensive output that is not reliant on any psychic abilities.  Even with just scything talons, that is 5 attacks that reroll a WS 2+ at S5.  While these attacks don’t have any AP or extra damage, they are certainly enough to add a few wounds to a chaff unit or even sneak in a bit of extra damage on a more durable unit.  Since the Prime is all about granting Synapse, it is going to be up close to the front lines as is, so being able to send it forward to do some damage along with Hormagaunts or some melee Warriors is not a bad idea.  Remember, it is a character so can Heroically Intervene, which can help skew the math for you if your chaff line gets charged. The Prime can also load up to do a bit of damage with a Deathspitter for essentially a short range heavy bolter, and this can be a great build for simply escorting a Gant wall of some kind or as camping the backfield with some Biovores or Hive Guard

A dedicated melee Prime isn’t a terrible investment. With 2 boneswords, adrenal glands, and Toxin Sacs, a melee Prime is pumping out 5 attacks at WS 2+, S5 AP-2 with a chance for 2 damage.  Really, if you are looking to cut points, losing the Adrenal Glands saves a bit, but this makes the Prime a mini-Broodlord for about 50 less points.   This is a decent amount of punch for the price, and if you are using the Prime as a frontline Synapse beacon to get stuck in with your Gant screen, this is a good way to do it.  This is especially true if running Leviathan where you need to keep other bugs within 6 of a Synapse creature, and the Prime is cheap enough to bring several, but still capable of doing some decent damage when the line gets stuck in.   The bonesword Prime also works well as Gorgon for a reroll 1s to those melee attacks, and a unit of 30 fleshborer Termagants with a melee Prime for support is not all that expensive but with a surprising punch when run in Gorgon or even Hydra.

You can also go for a more shooty Prime with a Deathspitter for camping in the back and keeping a gunline in Synapse.  While 24 inches isn’t a big deal, it is enough range to engage enemies that start to close in on the Gun-beasts.  While expensive for our budget HQ choice, a Deathspitter/Bonesword Prime is a good babysitter as it can shoot at threats and still get into combat.  Since the Prime is a character under 10 wounds, it can safely sit between two Exocrines or a gaggle of Biovores and be safe while adding just a bit of firepower of its own.   Of course, Kronos helps here too by giving the Prime just a bit more accuracy when it shoots.    Since the Prime only gets to bring one gun, it is not going to be an overwhelming fire base or a sniper, but it does grant Synapse to those bugs that do, and it can still roll up its sleeves and punch when needed. Deathspitter and Boneswords gives you a pretty versatile character that can fight well enough but can also still shoot at more distant threats.

The other tactic is to fully dedicate to Warriors and get the most mileage out of the Alpha Warrior rule.  This is not a tactic to ignore, but I understand that Warriors have not been that great for a few editions, but times have changed.   I won’t belabor the point too much (I’ll save that for the Warrior article), but granting a flat +1 To Hit bonus to Warriors is a lot of extra value.   This is particularly true for melee Warriors as they are exceedingly inexpensive for 3 Wounds at T4, and with 4 attacks with a reroll thanks to the +1 to Hit and scything talons at only 20 points, that can result in a high volume of attacks at a low cost.   You even get more out of the high volume Tyranid shooting with upgunned Warriors packing Deathspitters.  Getting them to hit on 3s (with maybe even reroll 1s in Kronos) makes a unit of 9 Warriors a veritable fountain of death, especially with the whole Single-Minded Annihilation stratagem.  While this may not threaten Magnus or Mortarion, it will blitz through most chaff screens.   If you really worry about heavy armor, a squad of 9 with 3 Venom Cannons near a Prime and Single-Minded Annihilation does a bit of work although again, not against Magnus or Mortarion.

You can also go for pure melee kill and give each Warrior Boneswords for 5 attacks each at -2 AP. If you do Gorgon, you also get a reroll 1s to wound, and this also gives you access to Hyper Toxicity, with on a unit of 9 Warriors near a Prime equals a lot of extra damage if they bring Toxin Sacs.   Another interesting avenue for shooting is to actually go Jormungandr for the cover save. Warriors and a Prime with Deathspitters and Boneswords can walk up the field laying down suppressing fire, and the Warriors are packing a 3+ armor save (and the Prime is packing a 2+ in case of any pesky Snipers).   You could also go with Leviathan for a nice 6+ Feel No Pain style save for the Warriors and the Prime, making them just a bit more resilient, and since they are Synapse, they always have that save, and you also have plenty of Synapse beacons to spread the save to other units in your army.

In general, it is not a bad idea to consider Jormungandr simply for the ability to deploy a Prime along with a Ravener escort after a Trygon delivers a big unit of Warriors right into the enemy’s face.  This ensures that you can always keep your Prime nearby Warriors, but you can also simply delay a turn or 2 and walk the Prime up and have the Warriors arrive nearby.   Really, in just about any Hive Fleet, the Prime has its place.

Of course, the Prime is going to get passed over a lot, and sometimes, this is justified. If you just want a dirt cheap HQ to help fill out a detachment or babysit a fire base, The Prime is there you for you. A Neurothrope is a better entry simply for the sake that a 3++ and Smite is likely more output than a Prime, but then now you pay the extra points for that increase.   The Prime also has no multiple damage weapon, so you have to rely on Toxin Sacs to be able to do a quick burst of damage. At Strength 5, you are not going to threaten armor, and you are still wounding on 3s against basic infantry, which is not at all ideal.  Yes, as the Prime is a character, you can use Voracious Appetite for the reroll to wound, but that is better saved for Monsters and Characters that hit far harder.  The Prime is also one dimensional in many ways: having a 3+ to hit Deathspitter is nice, but is it 75 points nice? Not really.  I hate to say it again, but I think GW missed the mark by not giving Prime’s access to bio-cannons or at least double-stacking on shooting weapons.  It would open up more possibilities for the Prime.

Well, the Prime isn’t the red-headed stepspawn of the Hive Mind anymore, and there are certainly some fun and interesting ways to use one, but really, the best thing a Prime can do is be cheap. If you just want 5 CPs, two naked Primes and 3 ripper squads is only setting you back 239 points.  You can certainly try to build around a Prime with Warriors, and there are moves there, but they are just not as effective or effecient as other choices.

And due to popular demand, overall, Chapter Approved really boosted this little buddy to a healthy  75 out of 100.  From a purely competitive standpoint, it is likely better to spend the points for a Neurothrope, but then maybe not depending on the list as 20 points is not something to overlook.

Thanks as always for reading, and let us carry forth on this grand adventure of exploring everything the Hive Mind has to offer.  Until next time, why not check out my homesite of TFG Radio, and of course, be sure to get those tickets for LVO!

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



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.

12 Responses to “Tyranid Codex Reviews – HQ: Tyranid Prime”

  1. Avatar
    Shas’O November 28, 2017 11:53 am #

    Loving these reviews! Any chance you can add numerical ratings, like you did in the index review? I’d be curious to see your opinions on what changed.

  2. Avatar
    Brakhal November 28, 2017 12:04 pm #

    I’ve been playing lists with 24 Warriors since we got the ‘dex. If that’s not a Warrior heavy build, nothing is.

    Even in that kind of lists, the Prime is a bit disappointing. Not absolute garbage, but still lacking if you’re not using all those Warriors, with deathspitters, and all of them close around the Prime. I could have a smite and another power for less points, with a 3++. Hell, if HQ wasn’t so important to get more CPs I would rather field 4 more Warriors for his cost.

    I think he should be at least 33% cheaper, and with a larger aura (at least 9″, after all, it only affects one type of unit), or have it’s own improved weapons so he could be a real beatstick.

    Anyway, a think sword+whip is a real option if you’re taken a deathspitter for him instead of the 4 blades. Not because his attacks will change anything, but because he will still be in the field at the time you start activating your other Warriors.

    But the 4 bladed Prime is the real build, as he hits a bit better than a normal Warrior (+1S), having 2 extra attacks makes him strong enough to take down weak units with low model count by himself.

    • Avatar
      WestRider November 28, 2017 10:39 pm #

      Yeah, in a lot of reviews, you see people talking something up in a full Unit to convey the extent of what it can potentially do, but it’s generally understood that you’re not actually going to be taking that full Unit in practice, most of the time. When running a Prime to buff Warriors tho, that full Unit is actually pretty much the minimum investment that will make his buff more efficient than just buying more Warriors. Yet another entry in the list of “reasons I don’t think the GW Dev Team really understands math”.

      • Reecius
        Reecius November 29, 2017 10:22 am #

        I very frequently run a unit of 9 Warriors with a Prime. It’s really solid.

        • Avatar
          WestRider November 29, 2017 1:31 pm #

          Not denying that. Just saying that it needs to be presented in a different way than when talking about, say, Genestealers following a Trygon, who have ludicrously good damage output when you look at a 20-strong Brood, but are perfectly serviceable at significantly less than that. Tyranid Warriors with a Prime, on the other hand, *need* to have at least 8-9 Warriors around the Prime to make the combo worthwhile, and so someone used to the former presentation is going to get disappointed when they run the Prime with only 3-6 Warriors instead of 8-9.

          • Reecius
            Reecius November 29, 2017 5:12 pm

            Ah, yeah, good point. I agree, may as well go the full 9 with them.

  3. Avatar
    Nick November 28, 2017 12:16 pm #

    Just a quick one, you mentioned Gorgon gives warriors a 2+ rerollable, but Gorgon gives all units reroll rolls of 1 to wound, not hit.

  4. Avatar
    KundaliniHero November 28, 2017 12:49 pm #

    Tyranid Prime < Neurothrope

  5. Avatar
    N.I.B. November 28, 2017 12:57 pm #

    “Well, the Prime isn’t the red-headed stepspawn of the Hive Mind anymore”

    Actually, he is, imo. He’s a HQ for a casual game themed around Warriors, and even in that role he’s kind of luke warm. As Brakhal said, you would rather take another 4 Warriors if it wasn’t for the need of a HQ.

    He’s an overcosted missed opportunity and could’ve been much more. He should’ve costed around 60pts, or had some cool unique ability besides making a mediocre unit slightly better.

    • Danny Ruiz
      Danny Ruiz November 29, 2017 7:07 am #

      I’d argue that the Tervigon is the new red-head of the Codex as I can see myself using Primes much more than Tervigon.

  6. Avatar
    Dakkath November 28, 2017 8:40 pm #

    ” but I think GW missed the mark by not giving Prime’s access to bio-cannons or at least double-stacking on shooting weapons ”
    or the ability to take wings and be a shrike-prime.

  7. Avatar
    Xenos Player November 28, 2017 11:38 pm #

    I think if they reduced his points down to between 60 and 80 then gave him access to a bio cannon then I’d be happy with that. I think that eventually we’ll see a price hike for the Neurothropes they are a bargain auto include which means eventually the price will go up so hopefully the prime will go down at the same time!

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