Tyranid Codex Review – Elites: Hive Guard

Hello everyone, Danny here from TFG Radio, and today, let’s talk about some long distance death, and afterwards, you should also check out all the good gems over in the Tactics Corner! Do you love to gather biomass at range, all while in the comfort of your deployment zone and out of Line of Sight? Well then, let’s meet the Hive Guard.

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

Equipment and Biomorphs:

  • Impaler Cannon – Range 36”, S8 AP -2 Dmg D3 Heavy 2. Ignores Line of Sight and cover. (So good)
  • Shock Cannon – Range 24”, S7 AP -1 Dmg D3 Assault D3. Against Vehicles, any wound roll of 4+ causes 1 mortal wound in addition to any other damage. On a wound roll of 6+, causes D3 mortal wounds.
  • Toxin Sacs – A wound roll of 6+ in melee causes 1 additional damage.
  • Adrenal Glands – +1 to advance and charge distance.

Special Rules:

  • Instinctive Behavior: Unless within 24 inches of a HIVE FLEET synapse creature, -1 to hit for shooting attacks against any target that is not the closest, and -2 to charge a unit unless it is the closest.

Hive Guard have gone up and down since their debut, but they are back to form with a better BS and hardier constitution. This is the premiere shooting infantry of the Hive Mind, and for good reason.

Hive Guard are one of our best point for point shooting units, especially for high value shooting.  While Devil-Gants bring the rain, Hive Guard bring some heavy hits that are great for taking out harder targets like vehicles or even other Monsters.  First, the Hive Guard went back to shooting better than any other bug save for a Tyrant with a stock BS 3+, and they even gained an extra wound.  They are a bit slower, but then they are not designed for speed but built for comfort.  With T5, 3 wounds, and a 4+ save, they are hardy little bugs, especially in cover, which is easy for them to utilize with a max squad size of 6 and also access to a weapon that doesn’t need LoS.

The Impaler Cannon is one of our best weapons with one of our longest ranges (36), S8 AP -2 and D3 damage.  The fact that it ignores cover is a cherry, but ignoring LoS is huge.  You can safely place a squad of Impalers safely hiding in terrain and still lay on the firepower. This is what makes them key: you do not need to expose them in any way to ensure that they are going to cause problems.  A unit of Hive Guard hiding in your backfield lock down a huge amount of real estate as anything that enters into their range suddenly becomes a target even though the Hive Guard cannot be seen.   Their defensive stats mean that most other LoS ignoring weapons are not that scary to them, so as long as you keep them protected from enemy reserves or flyers, they are going to last a long time.   Throw in the fact that Hive Guard can shoot twice for 2 CP, and you a full unit is suddenly putting out 24 shots a turn of pain.  While not ideal to take out Knights, a double-tap from the Hive Guard can absolutely put some pain down on a Knight before another threat finishes them.

Shockcannons are also a worthy choice, especially in a heavy Knight meta, as they are cheaper, potentially more shots at Assault D3 (and more mobile), and on a 4+, they do a mortal wound to vehicles in addition to any damage (and the sweet D3 on a 6).   Against any light vehicle, they will likely wreck it in a single volley.  Against a Knight, The average math isn’t exceedingly kind to them as a minimum unit will do 2.41 wounds to a Knight total, most of that mortal, but really, you are looking for the spike as if you are rolling 5/6s for those many D3s, that same minimum squad is doing 7.75 wounds in a single volley.  Keep in mind that a minimum squad of Impaler Cannons only do 1.46 wounds on average, and Shockcannon Hive Guard are 39 points versus 51.   Shockcannons are our best bet at doing real ranged damage to T8 vehicles, but they are not quite as useful against other threats.  If you want to run multiple squads of Hive Guard, one full set with Impalers and then another full set with Shock Cannons gives you some good coverage.

Hive Fleet here can really up their awesomeness, particularly Kronos.  Impaler HG are not going to move much, so the reroll 1s to hit in shooting is legit as it increases their chance of hitting from 67% to 77%.  This does not benefit Shock HG as much, but then Shock HG really benefit from Jormungandr for the 3+ armor save to shooting and the ability to come in from reserve with Raveners.  That’s a pretty cheap ride.  Kraken isn’t a bad choice as Shock HG can utilize the extra speed to get into good positions, and they are still mildly accurate thanks to their inherent BS 3+.  Leviathan can help both with a 6+ Feel No Pain which makes them just a bit more resilient although that means needing a synapse baby sitter to stay close to them.  Hydra, Gorgon, and  Behemoth do not really work well for them simply that these are melee focused traits that do not help a shooting unit.  That said, Impaler HG can go with any list, and really, it is hard to imagine just about any Tyranid list that doesn’t have a set somewhere because they are just so good, even if they do not get any real benefits from the Hive Fleet.

What’s wrong with them? Well, they are an investment.  Their minimum is 3, which isn’t inherently bad, but it does mean that  they get real pricey.  A full unit of 6, which you need to take to get the most mileage out of Single-Minded Annihilation, is damn near 300 points, which is worth the investment, but it does mean that a good piece of your army is already taken.  With the new costs for Tyrannofexes and Exocrines, you do have to start wondering if 1.5 T-Fexes or Exocrines are a fair trade.  In my mind, Hive Guard are still the top choice thanks to Single-Minded Annihilation, but I can see arguments for the other big beasties now. Hive Guard are slow, so you can’t expect them to reposition quickly, and especially in the end-game where you may have few units left, they can struggle to run out and grab an objective or cross into another board quarter to score Recon.  They can’t fight their way out of a paper bag, but what do you expect from a shooting unit? Still, if they get engaged, they are likely stuck there or having to lose a turn running, and that’s if you have something to keep whatever tied them up busy.For Impaler HG, you also need to dedicate a synapse babysitter as you never want them to suffer the penalty for shooting at a unit.

For Shock HG, really, their biggest downside is that they need a Tyrannocyte to be where you want them to be like flushing out Artillery in a corner, but this is easily countered by chaff. At least the Tyrannocyte is cheaper now, so that does help a bit. Jormungandr is a good workaround as Raveners make a much cheaper delivery system, but still, chaff or just smart positioning can make it difficult to get that sweet shot.   Strength 7 on the gun is good, but against the hardest targets where you really, really need the Shock HG to work, you don’t get the double-dipping bonus of causing normal wounds and mortal wounds as much. -1 AP is also not ideal as most hard targets will still save on a 4+ or better, so that means that you are banking on those mortal wounds to really do work.

Overall, Hive Guard are just about an auto-include in a competitive army, particularly Impaler Canons, but Shock Cannons are a bit of a meta choice, but could be used effectively.

90/100. Absolutely great unit that is now ubiquitous is most tournament lists.  Thanks as always for reading, and may the Hive Mind make your biomass sweet and easy to catch.

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.
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3 years ago

Hive Guard are awesome. Such a powerful unit when you double shoot.

3 years ago

Another weakness of Impaler Guard is it’s relatively short range, which on many deployment maps, especially where terrain is scarse. A sollution is Onslaught power, which allows them to shoot normally after advancing, so they can get in a cosy ruin in the middle or just in range of a target. Sometimes it’s worth it to hide them out of range and use Metabolic Overdrive to move them twice to get them in position out of sight safely to use in later turns.

3 years ago

I often hear that impaler Hive Guard is the best unit in the codex. I don’t think they’re that good, but I don’t think they’re bad neither. They are just a bit costy (just a tiny bit, let’s say 4-5 points per model). I always try to avoid shooting stratagems, as they don’t give the some board control value as movement and combat stratagems. When you take Hive Guards, you need to shoot them twice in order to deploy a good firepower for their cost. Shoot with them once, you’re wasting points, shoot with them twice and you’ve got good firepower, but at the cost of valuable cps that you will probably miss later in the game.

On the other side, they’re good hurting some hard-to-chew sneaky targets, like flying and/or cc specialists units with 2-3w, like shinning spears, tomb blades, agressors. Ignoring LoS is a big deal, and the range, while not great, is decent, and can be combined with onslaught (and with opportunistic advance, to threat almost any place of the board).

I play them from time to time, and I don’t feel them to be usually good, but decent enough when you confront some list compositions.

Shock cannons, on the other side… They’re too random to be worth it. In a extremely lucky turn, they can take down a vehicle in one round, but most times, the whole unit will do just 1 or 2 mortal wounds per round. They don’t fire enough shots to dish a decent quantity of mortal wounds, but those shots don’t have the s and ap required to do damage beyond that. But who knows, perhaps they can find a place in a heavy ork buggy meta.

Alex macdougall
Alex macdougall
3 years ago

Hive guard are a weird unit in that they arent good enough for there points but are more than good enough when you factor in shoot twice strat. if the strat didn’t exist I probably would never use them.

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