The Monstrously Sized Forces of the Hive Mind

Hello, dear viewers! Art of War coach and avatar of the Hive Mind Alex Macdougall has emerged from the shadows to give us his thoughts on staying competitive with Tyranids and Genestealer cults!

Yea, this is late. I know. Luckily though, this means that I can write this with minimal assumptions and a fair amount of games to back it all up. It also conveniently lines up with the release of Forgeworld, and oh boy, is there some sauce in there.

However, where we should really start is in what way the Forces of the Hive Mind can compete. At this point, Forces are really in a bit of a strange spot. They can perform most things reasonably well, except the thing they should be best at, but we’ll get to that salt fest later. They won’t typically dominate any particular phase and will routinely be outperformed in one phase, but they can make up for this by overall being a very well-rounded list. They won’t out cast chaos or Tsons or Eldar. They won’t outshoot Guard or Ad Mech, but they can bring a very balanced attack all game. They also aren’t remarkably durable. Yes, Catalyst is suitable, and so is Unyielding Vigor, but t3 and 6+ armor is in a tough spot when your average Marine squad crams out so many shots and attacks. We will get into playing “Bodies the List”(tm) later, though. What Forces does do better than almost any faction is movement. Between multiple stratagems based purely around speed, plus Swarmlord in the Nids codex and the ability to show up anywhere with GSC, the board can be taken and retaken easily. In most games, the retaking will be the important part.

As discussed a second ago, it is very challenging to have the durability to actually stay on the board and claim those next turn primary points. Sometimes, the holding is not all-important, and all we are looking for is a barricade to slow the enemy’s movement, and for that, Forces still excels. Walls of albeit tighter-knit Gants still do an admirable job of cutting boards in half and simply preventing the opponent from getting primaries. Deepstriking fresh walls of Brood Brothers and Acolytes can continue to restrict movement, and in clutch cases, Lying in Wait can just remove an entire flanks movement phase. Never underestimate the power of road blocking units that can’t move through buildings with chaff you don’t care about. So now, let’s come around to the lamenting of combat. Currently, in 9th edition, the purpose of combat really has altered. Instead of attempting to completely shut down opponents shooting with wrapping and engaging vehicles or just dealing back-breaking damage, combat has moved to upping overall unit efficiency. Not only do we get to deal damage just like shooting units, but we also end up with our own units on the objectives. The problem with Nid and GSC combat is it isn’t very good, which hurts my little Nid soul so much. The problem that Forces have with combat is different for each of the two armies and is definitely going to need its own section to discuss

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Tyranids: Punching Problems

Nids just straight up don’t hit very hard comparatively anymore. We have all known that our monsters have been pillow-fisted wuss bags in combat right from the outset of 8th, minus a very select few, but even the glory of Kraken Stealers has lost its edge. As much as the game has moved more to board control and playing the objectives and away from killing, you do still need to have some killing power to remove opponents from objectives. In nearly the entire three year run of 8th, Stealers were absolutely the go-to choice. Good AP, reliable strength, lots of attacks, and the speed to land with all 20 models still alive. But damn, have times been tough. Not only has the general defensive abilities of Marines skyrocketed, but the rules of ninth themselves have also conspired against them. Coherency and engagement range has restricted damage and the almighty hug, and of course, the ability to fall back out of wraps is crucial. In my opinion, Stealers simply don’t get the value they used to. They used to get good damage done, buy a shooting phase, and eat up a monstrous amount of board space all locked up in their zone. Unfortunately, Stealers probably won’t trade points evenly at this stage and just won’t do much more than piece trade. This isn’t enough when they are being activated by a 270 point Swarmlord and probably using 2 cp a turn. Another issue with Genestealers in particular and the rest of the army is just how good ALL Marines are in combat. There is no more pushing into 20 intercessors with Catalyst and tying them up for four combats. That fight is over almost immediately, and the same goes for any other bodies we can push into them like Hormagaunts or Termagants. Genestealers will bounce off storm shield Terminators and then get punished in that fight phase. Essentially, with the raw power Marines possess, we are looking to slow Marine movement with the least amount of points possible now.

Top Genestealer Cult Tactics Warhammer 40k- Nights At The Game Table -  Nights At The Game Table
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Genestealer Cults: All the Eggs

GSC has always punched harder than Nids. They are a later codex with more rules, better synergies, and a few crushing strats. The real problem with GSC currently outside of the plethora of Marine answers like infiltrators and auspex is the limits on CP and the cost of support now. GSC is a “slow” army. Obviously, deepstrike really doesn’t make them seem slow, but once they have planted the bulk of the army, they won’t move incredibly quickly to any new hot spots. Or at least not without CP. With the game being so heavily about board control, the old super Aberrant hammer really doesn’t work out anymore, and the reasons for that lie at the heart of GSC struggles.

  1. We just don’t have the CP that we used to. Old GSC armies would routinely run 18+d3 cp plus regen, and that was what gave them their power. All the damage is coming from deepstrike. An 8″ charge just doesn’t cut it when we are relying on the Aberrants to do the killing of not just the value of the Abs, but all those support characters too. We need the CP for Perfect Ambush, and currently, that means probably one Ambush per game… maybe.
  2. We don’t have the characters for support anymore. All successful 8th Edition Forces of the Hive mind were running three battalions, but most were 2 GSC and 1 Nid. This gave us access to 6 HQ and typically about 3 to 4 elite slot characters. In 9th though, those characters all went up 5 to 10 points, which really adds up over 9ish characters. It would also require three detachments again, which compounds problem one. I’ve also found it much more challenging to fit in the characters and to make the decision to run a mixed battalion for access to Inscrutable Cunning to gain the d3 CP.
  3. This tactic is just too many points in too small an area. The usual bomb I used to play with was Abominant, Primus, Magus, Aberrants, Patriarch, and 20 Brood Brothers to wrap around the non-charging characters for protection. First of all, we don’t have this kind of character access anymore, but also that little bundle is 750 points. That can be walked away from after the initial combat. Seriously. If someone was to run this against, you just run to other primaries.
Faction Focus : Genestealer Cult - The Art of War
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Well, that’s an overall round-up. Let’s get more into specifics, starting with unit selection. I’m not about to tier list the whole codex, especially since its beginning is a long list of F’s, and we aren’t here to be reminded about the bad stuff. Instead, I’ll try to run through the two codex’s highlights in order of slots starting, of course, with HQ.

The Nid HQ selection didn’t really change too much. Neurothrope is still impressive all around. Cheap enough to chill at home and babysit Hive Guard and Exocrine, spectacularly frustrating to kill, and gets super smite a surprising amount with resonance barb attached. Broodlord is still an excellent scalpel or backfield bully unit. Tervigon is still doodoo, and Tyrants are still underwhelming at best. Swarmlord was on the outs in my book since her love affair with Kraken Stealers was put out into the back 40 and shot, but she will make a thunderous return due to Forgeworld. Old One Eye seemed to be doing ok too, but when you compare Dimachearon and OOE and see the 10 point spread, it becomes very, very clear who to pick.

Tyranid Codex Review- HQ: The Swarmlord | Frontline Gaming
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Luckily, Nid troops are still pretty good, barring Stealers. I still feel warriors are just ok and take too much effort to make them what we want them to be but still passable. The real winner here is ripper swarms. Deepstriking and the best wounds per point ratio in the game? Hell yes. Plus, a profile so low they can get behind some random trash on the battlefield. Another thing to consider is that they are the best way to pack wounds into your list while still ignoring coherency and blast.

The elites are really what are keeping Nids in the game when it comes to having some kind of tech. Zoanthropes are still brutally hard to get rid of and off objectives and barely reduce in efficiency until they are truly gone. Hive Guard with their reduced points cost may actually be my pick (with proper support) for the best indirect fire in the game right now. Lictors are certainly valuable but don’t factor into Forces quite as well since I think Acolyte squads completely overshadow them. Also, an honorable mention for Pyrovore. I still don’t think they are exceptionally great. However, with the 9th edition ability to outflank, it considerably increases their stock. Also, brace your wallet on those models.

Tyranid Codex Review – Elites: Hive Guard | Frontline Gaming
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Yup. Nids do have fast attack choices. All of which are overshadowed by what GSC can offer.

The heavy slot is interesting. Exocrine is the by miles winner here, becoming an absolute Marine crusher in Kronos with the strat and Symbiostorm. The acid spray Tyrannofex is also frustratingly close to playable. With board control being king, taking one or two of these and throwing them to an objective immediately can be pretty tough to deal with. Once they no longer need to move, they have the range to touch one or two other objectives with all 4d6 flamer shots and are a key choice for overwatch. They will be on hiatus indefinitely until Eradicators are dealt with, however. Biovores are also a fascinating tech choice if you decide to play a full board control style army. Intentionally moving to miss and make strings of spore mines to impede movement has potential. There seem to be more applications with fly no longer being the best keyword in the game and being removed from Impulsors and Repulsors.

Warhammer 40k: Tyranid Biovore - Armada Games
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GSC headquarters are still outstanding. Most still have useful applications in most lists. Abominant is the only odd one out by no longer having Aberrants to support. GSC spells are excellent still, and the decision between Patriarch and Magus will typically come down to point pinching or whether you already have found space for a Broodlord. Jackal Alpha is an auto-include, as are Ridgerunners in my book, and the Primus is still situationally quite good as well.

GSC troops remain excellent. Brood Brothers are dirt-cheap deepstrike, and Neophytes have their place given certain builds. Really though, I am still all aboard the Acolyte bus. With Acolytes now being a quarter of the Aberrants’ price and Abs losing swing on death strats, they have become our go-to for damn near everything. At five mans, they are excellent for grabbing objectives, performing actions, zoning, and blocking. At 15 to 20, it’s time to start equipping them with hand flamers and rock saws and start investing some CP into them.

Necromunda: Genestealer Cults RULE - Bell of Lost Souls
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Fast Attack is Ridgerunners all day, all night.

GSC has heavy too, but we’re playing forces and have access to Exocrines and Hive Guard.

So we have narrowed down the codex to the quality units and talked about the general scope of how Forces will choose to play. Let’s take a look at a list and apply this to the moves on the board. The list we will be talking about is my GT winning list and a good place to start.


It is a Kronos patrol of Broodlord, Neurothrope, 2×4 ripper swarms, 6 Hive Guard, 5 Zoanthropes, and an Exocrine.

A Battalion of Bladed Cog Magus with familiar, Alpha, 20 hand flamer Acos with one saw squeezed in, 10 hand flamer Acos, 2×10 Brood Brothers, and 2×3 Ridgerunners.

Genestealer Cults Preview: The Achilles Ridgerunner - Warhammer Community
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This list shoots like crazy, has about as much durability as Forces can get, and plays the board super hard with every troop choice being able to deep strike. The specific tech I chose for the list was all in the HQ. The magus has the Crouchling and Cult Psyche for access to three known spells, and casting 2 or 3 spells a turn. I was looking to take Mass Hypnosis, Might From Beyond, and Unyielding Vigour. We have quick access to offensive and defensive buffs plus the ability to make an enemy unit unable to counter charge the deepstriking hand flamers in mass hypnosis. Warlord trait goes to the Alpha and is Single-minded Obsession to allow the Ridgerunners to absolutely crush a single target. On the Nids side, the Neurothrope sits with the resonance barb relic and keeps Symbiostorm rolling between the Exocrine and Hive Guard as needed. The Zoanthropes are self-sufficient tar pit with Catalyst, and the Broodlord is running with Onslaught to speed up that tar pit or keep Hive Guard accurate if they desperately need to move.

To discuss the list, we need to start with its weaknesses, and its biggest drawback is going to be very aggressive lists. When we talk about Forces of the Hive Mind being underpowered, we mean that in a very deliberate way. They have tons of good strats and cool abilities and tech but not much raw, bludgeon the opponent down, power. This list is about as raw powerful as Forces gets, but it gets there by cutting screens and on-board threats like crazy. Against certain, fast, powerhouse, combat armies, this list is riding the razor’s edge of being swamped early and never being able to dig its way out. This is why the Zoans and Broodlord are so vital. They are the only thing durable enough to stall for the gunline for more than a turn. Really the gunline in this list is just protecting and activating your point getting deepstrikers. If the shooting elements start to dwindle to enemy shooting, that’s fine as long as they can’t remove your troops from flooding the board. Priority for your guns shouldn’t necessarily be killing their killiest or shootiest targets. It often needs to be taking away board control, hunting zoning units like infiltrators, or taking away speed by getting rid of anything that moves 12″. If you can get Brood Brothers into a back corner for linebreaker and scramblers, and they have nothing to go and catch them, then it’s just free points for the rest of the game.

Skitarii vs Genestealer Cults | WARHAMMER ART
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The final big trump card is the Acolytes. Although I never really had the prime targets for the hand flamers, they still had excellent utility and, if absolutely needed, could be given 3 to 4 CP to be nearly certain that you absolutely would remove an enemy from an objective. Now 3 CP is expensive, but 81 s5 attacks that are super accurate and have inbuilt Ap is still very, very strong. Finally, the Acolytes can still be given Lying in Wait to chop the board in half, steal objectives you should never rightfully get to, and put those hand flamers into things that your opponent thought were safe. The secondary game is also solid since the list is built to be able to win by completely ignoring the enemy if it has to. With total redundancy on things like Engage on all fronts, linebreaker, and deploy scramblers, your points are in your hands.

The next list we will look at is much simpler to discuss. This is “Bodies the List”(tm). 2x Broodlord, New and improved Malanthrope, 50 Hormagaunts, 60, Termagants, 6 Hive Guard, Magus, Patriarch, and 45 hand flamer Acolytes. This is 160 bodies with minus to hit and 6fnp or better. Swamp the board control the primaries and profit. The triple Broodlord variant gives you very safe kill power since they will not be able to be targeted 99% of the time, and the Hive Guard is just that one unit that keeps your opponent honest. Able to kill objective holders, the horde isn’t fast enough to reach and swamp the list denies points and plays secondaries well. Knowing when to use your movement stratagems at the right time will be crucial and punishing.

Tyranid swarm image - Warhammer 40k Tyranids Group - Mod DB
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Finally, I was going to discuss a brand new Kraken Dimachearon and Swarmlord list, but that will wait for a very special Forgeworld: Xenos Edition. For now, we have an excellent understanding of how the Forces function on the tabletop. Play cagey. Play tricky, and never let them know the uprising is coming!

Thanks Alex! If you liked this article, or want to just learn more about following the four-armed Emperor, make sure to check out Alex in the Art of War War Room!

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One Response to “The Monstrously Sized Forces of the Hive Mind”

  1. Avatar
    Ghosar January 26, 2021 1:37 am #

    Great analysis, thanks for this, words on exactly what I was thinking about FOTHM.

    On ths lists front, it seems to me none of the two lists would survive boyz spam or slannesh demon rush or white scar / BA rush, it seems to me, but I may be wrong here.
    The first one might even fall to harlequins too, hmm many bad match ups IMHO

    Woudl be great if the article gave more thoughs to match ups.

    Also “Brood Brothers are dirt-cheap deepstrike, and Neophytes have their place given certain builds.” makes me think this article was written pre-FAQ.

    The second list probably works but not many people want to play that.

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