Tyranid Codex Review – Part 1: Hive Fleets

One of the most convoluted parts of 8th edition army building with new books so far has been keeping in mind specific stratagems, trait bonuses and warlord traits for each <insert special collection of war dollies organisational description>. What I have found quite beneficial is to list them with each other and then take a look.

Tyranids make this more complex with Genestealer Cults and are in a rather unique position in their access to other armies through the Tyranids keyword for Genestealer Cults who then provide access to a detachment of Astra Militarum. This is very important to consider if you are after multiple Hive Fleet bonuses as you will then start to chew into your allotted detachments (this complexity will also increase as Genestealer Cults get their specific <Cult> rules though it still boggles my mind that they removed Regimental Doctrines for Blood Brothers).

So as a preface to the Codex Review (eh screw it, call it Part 1), let’s dive in.

Hive Fleet Behemoth 

Adaption: Re-roll failed charge rolls.

Stratagem: 1CP; For each model of a unit within 1″ of an enemy model roll a D6, on a 6 (2+ for a Monster) that unit suffers a Mortal Wound.

Bio-Artefacts: Replace Monstrous Scything Talons for +1S, -3AP, 3D and generate additional hit rolls on a 6+.

Warlord Trait: Wound rolls of 6+ in the Fight phase increase their damage by 1.

Hive Fleet Behemoth is all about combat and re-roll failed charges is great for an army that has a lot of combat options. Trygons popping out of tunnels (along with Hormagaunts or Genestealers) besides cheap Carnifexes all love the extra reliability of getting longer charges off and more normal charge lengths (i.e. 7″). The Stratagem on the face of things seems pretty solid for a lot of the little units such as Hormagaunts where you can get lots of bites at the apple to fish for 6’s and it does key well with the Hive Fleet adaption in that units get into combat more often. That being said, you do not get your pile in or consolidate moves before this Stratagem is used and you can only re-roll failed charges so this can limit the amount of maximum dice you are rolling (you can get two deep with standard 25mm bases to be within an inch of the opponent). At 1CP it is useful to keep in the back pocket but not something you should be reaching for / planning your army around. Caustic Blood is similar but from a dying perspective as well which each Hive Fleet has access to.

The Bio-Artefact at +1S for Monstrous Sycthing Talons is stealthily a solid option. S7 on the Hive Tyrant is so much more important if you want him hunting vehicles or other monsters. This is your only option though as every other character model is either a special character or has massive scything talons. If you are rolling a Flyrant with some talons, Behemoth is probably a strong pick here. The Warlord Trait is easily replaced by Toxin Sacs though which at 4 points, you can generally just buy this ability instead.

Behemoth likes assault based units, particularly ones that like the charge / have charge benefits (Deathleaper, Carnifexes / Old One Eye, etc.). It’s Stratagem is okay and if you are looking for a combat Flyrant, the Bio-Artefact is a must. The Warlord Trait is easy to ignore though so you are really relying on that strong combat improvement to get the most out of Behemoth. It may not be the best choice for an assault based detachment though…

Hive Fleet Kraken 

Adaption: Roll three dice when a unit advances and pick the highest. Units can Fall Back and Charge in the same turn.

Stratagem: 1CP; double the result of an Advance move (i.e. 2(D6)+M”).

Bio-Artefact: Subtract 1 from all to hit rolls for ranged weapons that target this model.

Warlord Trait: During each Fight phase, pick a unit within 6″ of the Warlord and that unit acts as though it charged this turn (if the other player has units with this ability / units that charged, alternate units with the controlling player starting).

Kraken are fast. While advancing limits what units can charge, your units will be moving swiftly – whether it is clogging up movement space, getting to objectives or protecting your own more important units, everything in Kraken can move in a pinch. This is doubled down with the Stratagem to get a unit Advancing twice – roll a 5 or 6 (on 3D6 no less) and you have a unit moving M”+10/12″. That’s some Eldar impressively high numbers there. Oh and let’s throw in Onslaught and / or the Swarmlord’s Hive Commander ability – that unit is now flying across the table and charging you. This does not even count the ability to be charged and effectively counter-charge the following turn after Falling Back. You cannot tie a Kraken down.

Kraken’s Bio-Artefact may be one of the best for the Monsters of Tyranids – unfortunately the Swarmlord cannot take it but Hive Tyrants would love to be that much more durable. Tervigons probably are still best left on the shelf but again, a nice durability uptick. Even the Malanthorpe / Neurothrope as backfield characters would love the -1 to hit (extra in the Malanthorpe’s case) whenever they become exposed. Oh hey, Trygon Primes are characters, too… Solid all round Bio-Artefact, most obviously on the characters that can already be targeted.

The Warlord Trait is also stealthy good – trail a big unit of Hormagaunts back that have advanced crazy fast and suddenly a normally easy combat now has 30 Hormagaunts (minus whatever died from the first unit that attacked) piling into their face and playing Edward Scissorhands. If the armies are snapping at each other in combat already and your Warlord is closer to the fray, a more deadly Monster or Genestealer unit is suddenly throwing out extra attacks. The range is limited and it has lots of little applications but does have to be on a unit closer the other units (so Flyrants may not be good picks here).

Overall, Kraken can be disturbingly fast for a combat army. Behemoth has the raw re-rolls but Kraken gets you there basically Turn 1; you just have to survive the counter assault. Unlike Behemoth, Kraken also controls their increased movement – you choose when you want to advance rather than needing to be at least within 12″ to get your charge re-roll. While 12″ is quite easy to get into in 8th edition, failing that leaves all that space between you empty; Kraken fills it and combos nicely with some other abilities of Tyranids.

Hive Fleet Leviathan 

Adaption: Roll a D6 each time unit within 6″ of a friendly Synapse model loses a wound, on a 6 that damage is ignored. This does not stack with Catalyst.

Stratagem: 1CP; during the fight phase, select an enemy unit that is within 1″ of at least one Leviathan unit that can Fly and one that cannot; you can re-roll hit and wound rolls of 1 in this phase for attacks from Leviathan models that target this unit.

Bio-Artefact: Replaces Monstrous Boneswords for SUser; -2AP, 3D and +1 Attack. Roll a D3 at the end of the Fight Phase for each Infantry or Biker model that was not slain but suffered a wound from this weapon; if the result is greater than the remaining number of wounds, that model is slain.

Warlord Trait: Once per battle round, you can re-roll a single hit / wound / damage / Advance / Charge / Saving roll for your Walord.

Another 6+++ option but this is keyed to having a Synapse model around. Thankfully it is unit and not model based (so your big squads will not have to bunch around a Synapse model) but one of the best things the new Tyranid codex did was reduce the need for Synapse models by making Instinctive Behaviour less punishing and increasing Synapse range. It can be viewed as better than Jormungandr’s +1 save through cover as it cannot be ignored or punched through by AP but it is not as good as the flat 6+++ other armies have access to. Great for making your bigger creatures last a little longer or appear to have more wounds.

The Bio-Artefact is meh; it’s great for finishing off characters but you are not getting much above and beyond normal Boneswords and the -3AP of Monstrous Scything Talons along with re-roll 1’s can often be better against most targets than what Boneswords (math pending so may eat my words!). Likewise the Stratagem requires several hoops to jump through (well several is an exaggeration…) and while the benefits are fantastic for units with lots of attacks, it can be a pain to have happen. The number of Fly units that Tyranids have access to, particularly cheap access, is limited. Shrikes through the Index, Sky-Slasher Swarms, Gargoyles, Flyrants and the Harpy / Crone. Lot of not strong units in that list. [Edit: Realised spore mines also have Fly so easier to access than originally thought.] [Edit 2: Woops! Spore mines would have exploded as the charge phase had finished though theoretically your opponent could have moved within 1″ of them in their phases but not reliable, go back to the original list!]

The Warlord Trait is a standard allow multiple re-rolls for a character which can save on valuable command points but does not allow for a re-roll on a psychic test *sad face*. Free re-rolls are great so there is nothing bad to say about this trait and it’s more about what options are you losing out on.

Overall, Leviathan adds some nice durability (6+++ on small units is so frustrating and likewise can extend the life of Monsters) but requires short range contact with Synapse creatures – the opponent takes those out and you have no benefits from your Adaption along with needing more Synapse than other Hive Fleets. The Warlord Trait is a great all-round option you will always get use out of but the Stratagem and Bio-Artefact are lack lusture. This combination makes Leviathan appear to be one of the weaker options taking all of the bonuses into account but the Hive Fleet Adaption and Warlord Trait can still be very strong all by itself.

Hive Fleet Gorgon

Adaption: You can re-roll wound rolls of 1 in the Fight phase.

Stratagem: 1CP; use during the Fight phase, a Gorgon unit with the Toxin Sacs biomorph does the extra damage on a 5+ instead of a 6+.

Bio-Artefact: At the end of the first phase this model loses a wound, add 1 to its Toughness for the rest of the game.

Warlord Trait: At the end of the Fight phase, roll a D6 for each unit with 1″ of the Warlord, on a 4+ that unit suffers a Mortal Wound.

Gorgon is about combat with its Hive Fleet adaption but we have already seen two really strong Hive Fleets in Behemoth and Kraken (and we have already given Kraken the nod there). Gorgon looks to increase damage in its Adaption by re-rolling wounds of 1 in the Fight phase. The Stratagem also looks to increase damage through the actual damage stat; however, the Stratagem requires Toxin Sacs, not always the best take, depending on the units. Toxin Sacs work best with units that have lots of attacks (i.e. Hormagaunts) but those units are not always the most efficient targets against multi-wound models. Trygons or Carnifexes though would love this to start ticking their damage over to 4 on half of their wounds (more often than not). I personally like Genestealers with Toxin Sacs in theory but have yet to run the math. Genestealers are pretty much the most points efficient unit against nearly every target for Tyranids so Toxin Sacs making their rends -4AP 2D is great; doing this on 5’s is even better. Unfortunately, Tyranids do not have access to a +wound ability, otherwise this could turn silly.

The re-roll ones from the Adaption also helps make those Toxin Sac triggers more frequent.

What appears to be a strong Bio-Artefact to make your Warlord more durable – a Flyrant at T8 is a Flyrant at T8 but if they can shave off a significant portion of its wounds that first phase it takes damage, less cool. Likewise, the Warlord Trait requires you to be in close proximity to a lot of units and then it’s only a single Mortal Wound. Lots of better options here.

The Adaption and Stratagem for Gorgon are both solid options – a lot of Tyranids can already re-roll 1s in combat so adding in some re-roll 1’s is handy to have, Kraken / Behemoth are better combat options and the Stratagem requires the Toxin Sacs hoop to jump through. Gorgon could be a semi-decent option for some Genestealers running around with Toxin Sacs popping out of Trygon tunnels but I am leaning towards them Advancing from a 3D6 and assaulting or re-rolling their assault while popping out of tunnels. Gorgon’s Bio-Artefact looks good on paper and would be fantastic if it was a straight +1T. Instead, it just incentives your opponent to one round your Warlord.

Hive Fleet Jormungandr

Adaption: Units (other than those with Fly) has the benefit of cover for shooting attacks. If the unit Advances or Charges, it loses the benefit of this Adaption until the start of your next movement phase.

Stratagem: 1CP; when setting up a Infantry unit it can setup within tunnels. When a burrowing unit (Raveners, Trygons or Mawlocs) arrives, you can setup any number of units wholly within 3″ of that unit and more than 9″ from the enemy. Models that cannot be setup are destroyed.

Bio-Artefact: Monster only – enemy units within 6″ have -1 to their Leadership.

Warlord Trait: Enemy units never gain the bonus of cover saves against attacks made by the Warlord or Jormungandr units within 3″ of the Warlord.

Jormungandr gets the “reserve for a CP” stratagem but with a catch. Unlike Leviathan’s Adaption, this catch is easily worked around and super worth it. Raveners are cheap (squad of three is 69 points and can spread out for lots of space) and Trygons are scary when they get into combat (incidentally, Mawlocs may be criminally cheap at 104 points but are not a good choice for The Enemy Below given they get to ignore the 9″ rule). Importantly, the units that are tunneling do not need to be Jormungandr so please take Behemoth tunnelers to get re-rolls on their charges. Be prepared for this to be FAQ’d away. While Trygon tunnels are still a thing, this allows you to put any infantry unit (so Hive Guard, Pyrovores, Venomthropes, Zoanthropes and Tyrant Guard can all be used and are viable options – Biovores we can keep at the back, yes?) along with the Troops options in normal Trygon tunnels. Great to minimise first turn damage, particularly if you are buying cheap spore mine units to make sure you are deploying half your army. Be mindful of your board presence though…

Okay. Enough about their Stratagem… Jormungandr’s Adaption is decent – less useful than Leviathan’s 6+++ as it can be shot through by cover ignoring weapons or AP but also does not require proximity to Synapse models. Still, making all basic weapons giving little gribblies a 5+ save (or Genestealers a 4+ or 3+ with Extended Carapace! haha who is doing that? stop it.) or Monsters a 2+ save is nothing to sneer at. Also bringing -1AP weapons basically back to null AP is great – Autocannons, Heavy Bolters, Missile Pods, etc. might not be as amazing as they once were (well for Autocannons / Missile Pods), they are still common. Fly keyworded units do not get this so best to steer away from them in this detachment.

The Bio-Artefact is not super important; -1 Leadership is great, particularly for an aggressive Monster like a Trygon Prime but probably the best option here, the Flyrant, does not get the Adaption bonus. The Warlord Trait is likewise not as important as may have been in past editions – there are units where it will be really important against (like Rangers) but there are better generic options.

All in all, Jormungandr is a strong choice just based on its Stratagem and importantly, this can be used in conjunction with tunneling units that are not from Jormungandr. This allows you to protect units from first turn shooting, get units really close and with their Adaption, have a bit of improved durability. Their Stratagem is what puts them ahead of Leviathan even though Leviathan is straight up more durable when the bonus is being accessed. I think Jormungandr will be a great addition to another detachment. They help a Behemoth army by giving options to take up space (but there is still that 9″ no man’s land that Kraken can fill up). Kraken can also act as the first wave with cheap running Hormagaunts which can subsequently tie up units / be a pest with stronger units landing behind them for a one-two punch. There are better Warlord Traits / Bio-Artefacts though, so look elsewhere.

Hive Fleet Hydra

Adaption: You can re-roll hit rolls in the Fight phase for units that target units containing fewer models than their own.

Stratagem: 2CP; At the end of your movement phase, select any Hydra infantry unit from your army that has been completely destroyed. Add an identical unit to your army and set it up as reinforcements wholly within 6″ of any board edge and more than 9″ enemy units.

Bio-Artefact: Replace two Deathspitters with Slimer Maggots; Assault 6, 24″, S7, AP-1, D1 and can re-roll failed wound rolls with this weapon.

Warlord Trait: At the beginning of each of your turns, roll a D6 for each lost wound. On a roll of a 6, your Warlord regains a lost wound.

Hail Hydra. Hydra’s Adaption is all about having large units of little gribblies – Monsters are never getting any bonuses here unfortunately. Re-rolling hits for small units which normally hit on 4’s is nothing to sneer at – Hormagaunts, Gargoyles and Genestealers will all love this and with the new To Wound chart, the more dice you can get to grab some 6’s can drag down even the most durable of models. Once those units start getting smaller though, they lose their re-rolls and larger units see play time in 8th unlike say 5th edition.

The Stratagem is useless the way these types are worded / FAQ’d; needing to set aside points to bring the unit back – just buy a second unit. Hydra makes it better in that it can be any infantry unit but still. Buy two.

The Bio-Artefact is great; give it to a Flyrant or Dakkafex and half of their armament re-rolls wounds, one of the biggest issues for the middling strength shooting of Tyranids. Could even run a Flyrant with just this and a melee weapon I guess… Either way, one of the best straight weapon Bio-Artefacts for Tyranids.

The Warlord Trait is also nothing to sneer at – I have had games back in 5th edition where 6W models recovered double their wounds throughout a tournament. With the increased number of wounds, this has a lot more ability to trigger and make an impact for the Warlord.

Hydra has a useless Stratagem, buffs little units when they outnumber the opponent, a fantastic shooting Bio-Artefact and a so-so Warlord Trait. That’s enough going in the wrong direction unfortunately and puts Hydra along with Leviathan / Gorgon – useful options, particularly that Bio-Artefact, but Kraken’s / Behemoth’s ability to get into combat and the utility of say Jormungandr or Kronos (see below) outweighs that awesome weapon.

Hive Fleet Kronos

Adaption: You can re-roll hit rolls of 1 for units with this adaption in your shooting phase if the unit did not move in the proceeding movement phase.

Stratagem: 1CP; when an enemy Pysker attempts to manifest a Psychic Power within 24″ of a Kronos unit, your opponent can only roll 1D6 for the Psychic test.

Bio-Artefact: Replace Stranglethorn Cannon; Assault D6, 36″, S7, AP-1, D2, add 1 to hit rolls for this weapon when attack a unit with 10+ models in it and no invulnerable saves can be taken against this weapon.

Warlord Trait: Whenever an enemy Psyker fails a psychic test within 18″ of your Warlord, they suffer D3 Mortal Wounds.

Okay. Let’s skip the Adaption and look at what makes Kronos such a good secondary Hive Fleet to take – the Stratagem and Warlord Trait combination. Let’s throw in Shadow in the Warp as well. If an opponent is within 18″ of the Warlord, at the cost of a CP, one of their psychic powers will be at D6-1 instead of 2D6 and the rest of their powers will be at 2D6-1. Every time they fail, they suffer D3 Mortal Wounds. That is crazy huge as you can key off a really important psychic power (anything with WC6+ cannot be cast with the combination of The Deepest Shadow and Shadow in the Warp) and can put plink damage / kill off Psykers. While not every army has Psykers, Smite spam is still a thing and lots of armies have some sort of Psychic power. You don’t even need the Warlord Trait to put down negative pressure on enemy psykers.

The Adaption as well is great for particular units – Hive Guard, Biovores, Exorcines and Tyrannofexes which are all units who want to stay still or can hide out of LoS and thus do not mind if they do not move will all benefit from re-roll 1’s. This reinforces with the above, Kronos is not your primary Hive Fleet but a great secondary (or tertiary) option as not every unit needs or even cares about this Adaption.

The Bio-Artefact is easily the weakest link of the Kronos arsenal – Stranglethorn Cannons are not bad but the only benefit here is ignoring invulnerable saves as it’s not exactly a character killing weapon regardless. Great at poking Daemons though…

Really we’ve already done our Kronos summary but they are a great small detachment to provide improved psychic defenses and improved shooting for your sit still units. Even if it is just a Neurothrope and three Biovores (178 points) as remember, Spore Mines are Kronos units as well, that’s great to have. It forces you to not have Genestealer Cults with Blood Brothers. This would be the only way you can convince me why you do not have Kronos in your Tyranids army somewhere. Remember, you can mix Hive Fleets and lose Adaptions but still access Stratagems.


Walk of text (with some pictures), mostly, over. There are no glaringly obvious bad options and there are no “wtf were they thinking” options here. Kraken is probably the one that takes the cake for me – they are fast and work well with so many of the other Tyranid options (Genestealers, Hive Commander, Onslaught, etc.) and we all know Movement is the most important phase of the game. Kraken maximises what Tyranids have to offer there. Kronos and Jormungandr are great for secondary detachments but probably not the best for a primary detachment unless you are looking at adding in Cults and Blood Brothers as the other two detachments.

Behemoth is also a strong option – re-rolling charges on all the strong combat options for Tyranids is not a bad thing and pairs very nicely with Jormungandr tunnel fun.

While I said above there are no glaring obvious bad options, the remaining Fleets (Leviathan, Gorgon and Hydra) just don’t do it for me. They are not horrendous choices – Leviathan when in range of Synapse are annoying but do not have much elsewise to offer; Gorgon improve combat prowess but do not help Tyranids get into combat, has a poor Warlord Trait and a Bio-Artefact that can be circumnavigated / minimised; and Hydra requires units larger than the opponent, a useless Stratagem, the best damned Bio-Artefact weapon you could want and a Warlord Trait that while nice, is not worth sacrificing other Hive Fleets for. Again, they all have their armies that could work, particularly in conjunction with other Hive Fleets, Genestealer Cults and Blood Brothers.

Well that’s the first step – we will take a look at the Psychic Powers, Special Rules, Stratagems and Warlord Traits in upcoming articles.

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10 Responses to “Tyranid Codex Review – Part 1: Hive Fleets”

  1. Alexis West says:

    I think the idea with the Behemoth Warlord Trait is that you take it on someone who also has Toxin Sacs, so they're getting +2D for every 6+. Sometimes combined with Re-rolls from the Voracious Appetite Stratagem, too. There are still better options, but that way it's at least doing something more than just saving you 4 Points.

    • Kirby says:

      Potentially though given GW has been very against abilities stacking, I would imagine they FAQ it in that way. Still, it does not say that it explicitly does not stack while most abilities (particularly in the Tyranids codex) that do not say this.

      As you said though, even if it plus +2D, not amazing. If Tyranids only had a +1 to wound something.

      • Alexis West says:

        Yeah, I went looking for a +1 to Wound Stratagem or ability or something before I posted it. Still probably going to be taking my Warlord from a Kronos Detachment even if I do run some Behemoth.

        • Kirby says:

          Tyranids would be a nightmare if they had such – 15 Genestealers w/Toxins on a 5+ (let's throw in Gorgon for a 4+!). I still greedily want such though…

  2. Vipoid says:

    If you don't mind me asking, are there any plans to do this sort of review for the IG book?

  3. Bobnid says:

    Great article! Good summary for each fleet.

    I just want to add this detail about the Leviathan stratagem:
    Zoanthropes, venomthropes, and neurothropes are flyers too 🙂

  4. Brakhal says:

    I'm playing some friendly games (4, exactly) testing different fleets and their advantadges, and I must say I was surprised at how Hydra performed his game (against ultramarines, but with no girlyman), and how decent was the upgraded stratagem. I played with 1600 points +400 reinforcements. Not a single MC, all units close to 200 points, all almost maxed. I lost my Shock Hive Guard at the begnning, and returned them the next turn, when I started charging. I kept the other 200 until turn 4, resurrected 8 Warriors and charged with them against a line of characters.

    It was my closest game with the 'nid codex, but still I won while I was convinced it was a lost battle from the beginning. I made a lot more rerolls than I spected, with units of 5/6 models, using my shooting phases and a few smites to reduce enemy numbers.

    Not saying it is a great fleet (I still prefer Kraken, Jormungandr or Leviathan for the main detachment), but I recommend to give a try to the kit, is a lot better than it seems.

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