Tyranids: 9th ed Forgeworld review – Barbed Hierodule

Hey everyone, Danny from TFG Radio, and today, going out of order again, we are going to take a look at the toughest bug this side of a Heavy Support slot, the Barbed Hierodule. If you like your bugs chonky and resilient, then you want to look right here, and be sure to check out the ever growing compendium of information at Frontline’s Tactics Corner.

The Barbed Hierodule is a backline anchor, an obelisk that sits in on a chosen objective and rains down death from afar, all while requiring significant investment to shift. 


  • 2x Bio-Cannon: Range 48″ Heavy 6 S8 AP-2 D2
  • Hierodule Scything Talons: Melee. S+2 AP-3 D3+d3. Reroll 1s to hit in melee.

Special Rules:

  • Instinctive Behavior: When more than 24″ away from a friendly HIVE FLEET Synapse unit, This model suffers -1 to hit on ranged attacks against targets that are not the closest to it and -2 to charge rolls against targets that are not the closest.
  • Death Throes: When this model dies, roll a d6. On a 6, it explodes and does 3 Mortal Wounds to all units within 3″.

The Barbie has an impressive stat line: Strength and Toughness 8, 18 Wounds, BS 3+ when healthy, and of course, a 2+ armor save. The first thing that pops out to me is the vaunted, rarified, delicious 2+ armor save.  Nothing in the actual Codex: Tyranids has this, and traditionally, the 2+ save was something withheld from Tyranids as a balancing mechanic and somewhat lore driven.  In all of 8th, we only had one 2+ armor save and that was the Hierophant, so getting one in a heavy support slot is delicious.   With a 2+ save, it means that you really don’t need to spend an Adaptive Physiology to get a 5++ on the Barbie as it will have a 5+ against most attacks. Really, you only need to worry if your opponent is packing a ton of -4 AP weaponry, and even then, if you can park in cover or use Jormungandr, then you are still at a 5+ save either way.  It also means that despite being 18 wounds and cannot hide in Obscuring Terrain, this doesn’t bother Barbie much as it is durable enough to take a punch.

To math it out real quick,  6 Eradicators shooting twice within half range (no other buffs) does not kill a Barbie on average dice if it is in cover, doing about 14.6 damage all told.  With Salamanders and rerolls, a full 6 can certainly kill a Barbie in one go, but since the Barbie should be in your backfield and with proper screening, it should be real hard for the Eradicators to get into half range.  A single lascannon from a BS 3+ platform only does about .78 wounds per shot, so it would take about 20 lascannons shots to kill a Barbie.  That’s some legitimate defense right there for sure.  That doesn’t even factor in the usual defensive buffs like a Malanthrope or Maleceptor nearby either.  Thanks to that combo of T8 and 2+ armor save, there is no bug more resilient outside of a Hierophant. The Tyrannofex used to be our most resilient gun bug, but well, move over.

So the Barbie can take a punch, but what about offense? Well, it has 12 S8 AP-2 D2 shots at BS 3+ at 48” of range, and on a standard sized board, that’s pretty much anywhere it can see.  The Barbie packs essentially the same gun as the Exocrine but with longer range, more strength, less AP, and less requirements to get BS 3+ and 12 shots.    You can also Pathogenic Slime here to get those guns up to D3, which can absolutely be the difference between vehicle hunting and medium infantry hunting.  With AP-2, you can do decent damage to Primaris bodies, but if they are in cover, you aren’t going to do a whole lot honestly, and against light vehicles, you’ll do impressive damage, but the Barbie is much more a defensive tool than an offensive one.  The Barbie just doesn’t have the volume of fire, particularly for its points cost, to overwhelm your opponent with ranged death, so you can’t take three and expect to table your opponent over 5 turns.  Still, it will do solid damage to just about any target, so it will reliably do damage, but it won’t be dominating the Shooting phase.

For some comparison, an Exocrine is 170 points and kills 4 Primaris bodies out of cover on average with both shots.  The Barbie, for 275, kills the exact same. Against a Rhino? 7.11 wounds on average for the Barbie and 6.67 for the Exocrine.   That is a 100 point difference, and again, the overall kill power is more or less the same.  That said, the Barbie can move and still get 12 shots at full effect while the Exocrine cannot or must use 1 CP to do so.  So overall, for sheer kill, the Exocrine is more points efficient of a killer, but it is nowhere near as survivable.  For 25 more points, you can take 6 Hive Guard, which do 7.11 wounds against a Rhino like the Barbie, but that’s only with 1 volley, and Hive Guard can shoot twice, ignore cover, and ignore Line of Sight.  So if you want sheer offensive power, Hive Guard are still a better choice.

But Let’s also not forget that the Barbie actually has decent melee prowess with 4 attacks at S10, Ap-3 D3+d3 that rerolls 1s to hit.  While that won’t clear a Barbie out of a tarpit, it will absolutely murder just about any hard target, and well, on average dice, it’ll kill most characters in a single hit.  The Barbie’s melee shouldn’t be aimed at infantry but rather taking out heavy target, but this is just miles away better than anything the Exocrine or Tyrannofex can do in melee. If the Barbie makes it to late game, it has significant melee threat, especially against vehicles or characters.

Thanks to its survivability, Barbies actually do make a good candidate for one Adaptive Physiology: synapse.  By giving the Barbie synapse, this allows you to cut down on a backfield sitter for any other shooters, helping you save points or send that Neurothrope/Broodlord up the field to do a bit more work.  It also opens up a fun trick with Hunter’s Drive as the Barbie can pop a few models out of a unit and one of your units can get that sweet 3d6 drop the lowest charge off on the target. You can bring in a melee threat from reserve from the side, have the Barbie clip a few models off the unit, and then watch the melee unit go to town. 

So what Hive Fleet? For me, the obvious choice is Jormungandr. So long as your Barbie doesn’t advance (why would you?), you have cover, so getting just extra mileage out of that 2+ save.  Jormungandr already does the Monster-Mash gunline really well with Carnifexes, so why not have some shooty Fexs backed up by the Big Bug?  Leviathan is actually another good choice as the 6+++ Feel No Pain save makes those 18 wounds go even farther (especially if you make the Barbie synapse), so you have even more resiliency there, or if you want to maximize kill, Kronos is great for the reroll 1s to shooting when stationary and access to Symbiostorm.

  In terms of custom choices, you can kind of take the best of all by choosing Biosphere Consumption for a 6+++ FnP save (so long as you sit still/it is the 1st turn and no enemy is within 1” of you) and Synaptic Augmentation for a free reroll on a hit dice when near a Synapse/Psyker.  If you can find yourself a good spot in cover to hold down an objective, that increases the Barbie’s defense and offense nicely.  You can also pair Biosphere with Metamorphic Regrowth and just heal a wound each turn, which adds up nicely on such a resilient model. 

Photo by Kociamafia on Reddit

So what’s the downside here? Well, a Barbed Hierodule is an investment to say the least. At 275 points, this is far and away our more expensive monster outside of the Lord of Wars, so it is not something to just idly take.  It also means if you take one and then the usual defensive tools like a Maleceptor and Malanthrope, you have invested quite a bit of points into a model that actually doesn’t have amazing offensive output.  The Barbie is a bastion, a backline anchor, but it doesn’t do a ton of damage, at least not as much damage as its points would suggest, so you have to keep that in mind.   It also is not obsec and isn’t great at clearing chaff, so while the Barbie can definitely live on an objective, a savvy opponent can just send obsec bodies to take it and the Barbie can’t do much about that.  Especially with its point cost, it is hard to just “splash” into an army, so you can get a bit forced into a Nidzilla build, which has some inherent weaknesses in the way that 9th plays.  Still, a single Barbed Hierodule can certainly add some ranged threat but more importantly, a tank to absorb fire.  Parking a Barbie on a backfield objective with maybe 10 Termagants to hide and keep it can give you a lot of flexibility in terms of pressing forward.

Overall: 78/100.  The Barbed Hierodule is all about taking damage, being just about the most resilient bug you can reasonably take, but it doesn’t have equal offensive output and is still vulnerable to some of the usual meta-problems that Monsters have.

Thanks as always for reading, and be sure to enter into TFG Radio’s annual Hateku contest for a chance to win some stuff. Stay safe all and play some games.

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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.

3 Responses to “Tyranids: 9th ed Forgeworld review – Barbed Hierodule”

  1. Dakkath December 7, 2020 7:56 am #

    Is the tyrannofex no longer a 2+ save? When did that happen?

    • Sandawg December 7, 2020 8:56 am #

      Hasn’t had a 2+ since the beginning of 8th edition with the Index.

  2. Ghosar December 7, 2020 9:54 am #

    I liked this analysis, but as someone who painted one just a week ago, and was initially thrilled to try these recent rules out, I have found it easier to fit the other FW beasties for 40-45 points less 8-9 termagaunts really counts turn 3-4 when you are almost tabled off objectives.

    I will try the barbed out most definately in my next “triple dima” list. Dimas for the offence, Barbies for the defence 🙂

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