Top 10 Tyranid kits, a model review

Hey everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today, I am going to do something different. I usually talk about Tyranids from a competitive standpoint, but I do love the models, and I love painting them, so I thought I’d share my top 10 picks.  If you want some tactical discussion, never forget the ever-growing range of articles at Frontline’s Tactics Corner!

Methodology: LOLz.  This all personal appreciation of art, so of course, take it for what you will.  When evaluating a kit, I looked at raw visual appeal, composition, unique appeal, ease of painting, ease of building, customization, bitz, and just good old “I likes it”.   So let’s go!

The Toxicrene/Maleceptor

This is my favorite kit for a variety of reasons.  The first, the Toxicrene is just an amazing model that has a great depth of motion, of menace, and just on the table “wow” factor, especially when painted to a high quality.  The mix of the octopian and insectoid physiology is really stunning, and while a bit cumbersome for play, the grasping tentacles really do add this great layer of movement into the model where it feels far more organic than other big beasty kits.  There are a lot of open spaces on the carapace to paint some really good free hand designs on the chitin, and there is just the unique visual appeal as while it aesthetically matches the rest of the line in many ways, it also has some of the largest visual divergences from the rest of the line.  I also love the extra spice on the base with the dead space marine, so it immediately comes with something to make that big base pop just a bit.  Whether just a standard base coat, wash, drybrush paint job or a more refined one, the model just looks wonderful.   As a nice bonus, because it is a dual kit with the Maleceptor, you do get some good extra bitz like big scything talons.  The model isn’t entirely complex to assemble although the main carapace does require some careful love to make sure to aligns well.


Coming in at number 2, this dual kit gets a lot of points for producing 2 different and exceptional models.  The Haruspex is my favorite of the two because much like the Toxicrene, it is visually distinct from the rest of the line.  First, it is a decent sized model that is impressive next to just about anything, and the gawping maw with all of its Sarlacc tentacles and teeth is just nerdtastic.  The Digging Claws are also hefty, and you can see the power in them as opposed to other crab-like claws on Carnifexes.  The Exocrine is also a cool looking bug in its own right with a respectable cannon right there on the carapace. It definitely screams “bio-engineered weapon” as opposed to “sentient creature with a big ass gun”.   Each build has both great natural details that are easy to bring out with some basic painting techniques, but it does have those large, flat surfaces where an expert painter can really do great work.  The kit also gets points for easy magnetization as it is not that difficult to magnetize the Haruspex head and Exocrine head/gun, so you can easily swap between the two.  Lastly, if you are building an Exocrine, the Digging Claws are excellent for making an awesome Old One Eye.


Another of the dual kits, and while not as easy to magnetize as the Haruspex, this kit gives you some iconic monsters that both bring a great sense of menace.  If going with the Tervigon, it is hard not to see the “Mama bug” vibe with this kit.  While the larger model does not have a big sense of movement in the sculpt, the incubation chamber on the Tervigon does with a pulsating vibe from the bulges in it to the extra Termagant popping its little head out to say hello.   It is that little detail that really adds life to the model.  For the Tyrannofex, there is nothing quite like seeing a cannon that is longer than a Carnifex is tall. The Rupture Cannon is beastly, and even the super-flamer has a great visual appeal to it.  The kit is definitely the opposite of the Exocrine in the sense that the Exocrine appears like a creature designed to be a weapon as opposed to the Tyrannofex with is a creature with a weapon in many ways, but it is so large and impressive that it is hard not to love it.  Even the Fleshborer Hives really add a distinct visual appeal of this lumbering monster with the most alien-like weaponry you are going to find in our kits.  That’s actually my visually favorite build of the Tyrannofex as it captures how strange the Tyranids are compared to other factions.  There’s also big bonus points for bitz here as a Rupture Cannon makes an excellent relic weapon for a Flyrant (or just quadruple-devourers if you do a bit of modification), or you can use the Fleshborer Hives as well for quad-devs.  If you build the T-Fex instead, you get some nice giant crushing claws and scything talons as well.  The only hit here is that the central carapace/torso can be a bit fiddly in terms of fit, and since the other weapons/incubation chamber attach to it, you do need to be careful and make sure you get the fit right as otherwise there are some unsightly gaps.


The super-snakes are one of our tallest kits (if you include a flight stand for the Harpy/Hive Crone), and much like the Toxicrene, they are visually so much more distinct than the other kits in our range.  GW has done a great job of giving certain through lines to our models, so Tyranids all share characteristics, but the Trygon takes those and adds in a physiology that is unlike everything else.  The serpentine body reared up gives the model a great sense of fluidity, and it really does capture a snake posturing up to strike.  Whether you got Mawloc and the giant maw (which can be a pain to put together from my experience), or a Tyrgon with three sets of massive talons, you get a model that just looks impressive on the tabletop.  I really do enjoy the subtle differences in the kits as Mawlocs have all of these tiny talons with make it look more millipede than serpent, which is a great, subtle distinction in the kit.    While this is one of our older big plastic kits, it really doesn’t show its age at all.  There are enough small details to really bring out, but as a larger kit, the back carapace is just a huge open canvas for artists to do their work.  With the way the lower body/tail is positions, it is easy to do some cool basing where you can make the Trygon appear like they are emerging from the ground.  You do get a variety of heads as well which can be useful for the bitz bin, and overall, the big snakes are just lovely to have on the table.

Hive Tyrant

Oh, a classic.  I remember when the plastic tyrant came out, and it had wings! Oh man, I had dreamed of a proper Flyrant from Forgeworld for so long, and it was so lovely to get a kit in plastic.  The Hive Tyrant kit is not the size of our other big plastic kits, but it has character, and especially the flying version has so much more motion in the sculpt than other kits.  The image of the flyrant, wings spread in flight, the tail barely touching the ground, that is special. While the walking Tyrant may be a bit static, it is still a menacing pose with great, subtle details like the veins in the head or how sharp and tightly packed the teeth are.   The wings are impressive, and there are enough flat surfaces to give artists room to work, but with enough detail in the sculpt that a simple drybrush will bring them out.  Another huge factor here is the bitz! This is one of the best kits for just a variety of useful pieces like an extra set of legs, abdomen if you go Flyrant route, guns of all varieties, bone swords, and talons.  There is hardly anything in the kit that can’t be used somewhere else for a cool project.  The only real hit against the kit is that if you are going Flyrant, there are not enough sockets for all the weapon options, so you do have to get a little inventive if you want to be truly WYSIWYG by having 4 devourers or rending claws (which don’t come in the kit).

Barbed/Scythed Hierodule

So, I had to put a Forgeworld piece here, and while the Hierodules are not so good on the table, man the kit is beautiful.  The amount of detail and the sheer crispness of it in the resin is just gorgeous.  Especially with the Scythed Hierodule and its arched posture, there is a really wonderful sense of predatory aggression.  The carapace is textured and pock-marked with bullet holes, and the open maws are alien yet oddly recognizable.   The model is a hefty size although it does show its age as it is not much bigger than our big kits, but weight wise, man you feel that resin.  I do give it love for the fact that is incredibly easy to put together if you know how to work with resin, and so you can easily get it cleaned, built, and primed in an hour or so.  There’s also bonus points for this model that because it is resin and the details are so clean and solid, if you know how to drybrush and wash, you can get a lot of great painting out of this model, and it does a lot of work for you.  Of course, if you are a master painter, then the galaxy is your buffet, but I do appreciate a model that can look stunning without requiring the most expert hand.


While Warriors aren’t tearing it up on the table, except in Kill Team, you get a lot of model for the price with this kit.  They are so much larger than you might realize, starting to rival the Carnifex in terms of sheer size and bulk, and their progression from 2nd edition to today is outstanding.  They are our most pose-able and customizable model kit by far, taking that customization from the Hive Tyrant kit and turning it up to 11.  The bases are huge, but that gives you a ton of room for positioning them and making it look good on the base.  You get tons of bitz here of all varieties, and you can make just about any combination you want.  The models themselves also look great.  There are nice details in the chitin on their chest, but again, room to really go crazy with freehand designs on their backs.  A large unit of Warriors looks intimidating and stunning on the table.  Bonus points if you can source wings for them and make them Shrikes (or use weird bio-jetpacks from some other larger Tyranid gun bitz).

Hive Guard

The Hive Guard/Tyrant Guard kit is another little treasure trove of bitz.  You get a variety of melee weapons, and 2 different sets of guns.  Besides the bitz though, these are good looking models that trade a more sleek, predatory aesthetic for a brusier, beetle-like frame.  They are a good deal larger than their metal predecessors, and especially the Tyrant Guard have a width to them that makes them feel solid.  You can definitely see why these bugs are T5.  The flaired carapaces of the Tyrant Guard are distinct, and they certainly add to the motion of the model as if it is an insect expanding its wings to scare something away.  Besides Warriors, they are our largest infantry, so in the hands of a painter, you can make them wonderfully distinct with a lot of space to paint, but again, they also have some clean details that are easy to bring out with basic techniques.


I do love this kit for a variety of reasons.  The first is that it is huge. It is really hard to see the scale sometime as well, they are not super common on the table, but especially a Tyrannocyte is so tall.  These kits are instantly recognizable in their Alien egg shape, and you have expect a face-hugger to pop out.  The Tyrannocyte just looks cool with its floating mass and spindly tentacles underneath, and you do get the sense of these monstrosities floating down from atmosphere. It is very much a Cthulu-like vibe (or War of the Worlds) of this ponderous creature slowly floating about the battle-field.  I very much dig that the designers put in the very Tyranid, very aesthetically aligned carapaces with a body that is distinctly not similar to the rest of the line. It again gives the Tyrannocyte a unique visual while also keeping the entire range in theme.  There are also a ton of bitz out of this box from new spore mines to a Mucolid. I will say that getting the main body to fit together can be frustrating, so take your time, and be sure to dry-fit.


Last, but not least in my heart, is the Carnifex.  This kit has been around a long time, but there are few more iconic Tyranid models than this bug.  You get a ton of customization here with a variety of heads, small bitz, guns, claws, talons, and tails.  You even get different carapace pieces with can be great for adding to other kits or just to create visually distinct Carnifexes, even if you aren’t trying for pure WYSIWYG.  Despite its age, there are still nice, clean details in the plastic that come out when painting, and there is plenty of flat space for more creative play.  While the legs are mostly static, they are not totally so, which gives you a chance to really pose and play with the kit to make it a bit more dynamic.  It also just pairs really well with other bitz, so you can make some really awesome Carnifexes that are yours and yours alone. I will say that assembling that main carapace/upper torso can be a bit of a bear to fit right, so rubberbands held keep it compressed while the glue sets.

Thanks for reading, and next week, I’ll start looking at Forgeworld and doing some reviews of those.  Keep painting, keep playing, and oh hey, if you are around the LA area in August, you should check out Hammer of Wrath.


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 “Top 10 Tyranid kits, a model review”

  1. Reecius May 19, 2019 7:19 am #

    Yeah, bugs have some awesome models. I have always been partial to the Trygon and T-fex.

  2. WestRider May 19, 2019 9:55 am #

    Glad to see you still have the Fex in there! While it could use a sprue recut like the Warriors got, the design itself still holds up just fine.

    There are also a couple where I feel like the Models are really cool, but the kit is lacking. Gargoyles and Raveners, really. C’mon, GW, give ’em some real options!

  3. Dakkath May 19, 2019 2:01 pm #

    Thanks for reminding me I can use my warriors for Kill Team since they’re not so good in full-scale 40k.

    • Reecius May 20, 2019 2:58 pm #

      We’ve batted around the idea of an army featuring loads of just basic Warriors as for 20pts per model, you get a lot. Lots of attacks, wounds, decent speed, morale control, psyker defense. If you were of a mind to do it, and built a horde of them, I think you could do quite well, actually.

      • Brakhal May 20, 2019 3:35 pm #

        I played a few games with cheap Warrior hordes. My impression was not good. Is a lot of wounds, but as they come in packs of 3, with average T and S, they are vulnerable to the whole range of weapons, so the enemy can pick 1 or 2 units to destroy each turn. The other problem is that they have a short attack vector, even with Kraken. Even when they get into combat, they don’t hit that hard, with just S4, no AP, and not that many attacks (comparing with cc specialists).

        They survive for a while, but they are not alive when turn 5 hits. They are unable to create momentum, and they lose a significant board presence every turn.

        • Reecius May 20, 2019 5:08 pm #

          Interesting. I wonder if a judicious mix of small and medium bugs would work?

          • Brakhal May 21, 2019 2:31 pm

            Decent enought, in the right hands. A big investment in Tyranid troop choices, combining Warriors, ‘stealers and gants can disrupt the enemy’s plan by swarming the board. It worked for me in the earlier days of the edition, but there are some hard counters these days, tho.

          • N.I.B. May 22, 2019 7:20 am

            Kenza Masquerade 3 was won by a Leviathan nids list with lots of Warriors and Termagants.

      • abusepuppy May 20, 2019 4:30 pm #

        I think the problem is that you’re getting the worst of both worlds in terms of survivability with them. Multidamage weapons, especially stuff like Dmg3 Thunder Hammers and Reaper Launchers, will give them absolute fits, especially as such weapons pretty much always cut through their armor as well; meanwhile, with a middling toughness and armor save, basic anti-infantry guns can still do a lot of work against Warriors.

        They aren’t awful, and when placed in cover they are actually relatively resilient overall, but as Brakhal notes they struggle a lot to do significant damage to most things, and their short range of engagement makes staying in cover continuously not really a feasible option.

        • Reecius May 20, 2019 5:09 pm #

          Yeah, I can see that. We’re arguing strictly from theory so you know, grains of salt and all. But mathematically, you get a lot for the points investment.

          • abusepuppy May 20, 2019 5:50 pm

            Yeah, your cost-per-statline on them is fantastic, but I think they are a good illustrator of why that sort of assessment alone isn’t enough to get a good understanding of whether a unit is good or not.

          • Reecius May 20, 2019 6:05 pm

            Yeah, good point. The game now is about combos and layered buffs. A statline alone, while it is the foundation, is not what makes the army/unit.

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