Warhammer 40k Tyranids 9th Edition guide

Warhammer 40k Tyranids are a tabletop gaming fan's xenomorphic delight - here's a rundown on their lore, tactics, army building, and more.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids - neurotyrant model by Games Workshop

When the Warhammer 40k Tyranids hive fleets appear in the skies above a planet, it is already too late to scream out for aid. With a single mind and a billion bodies adapted for slaughter, the unending swarm of Tyranid biomorphs has brought death to countless worlds, leaving nothing but dead rock in its wake. The hive strips a world of life, and then moves on.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids are one of the oldest Warhammer 40k factions, with roots going back to the very first edition of the game. They’ve appeared as the adversaries in several Warhammer 40k games  on PC, most recently Deathwing. They’re also going to be one of the two title-fighters for Warhammer 40k 10th edition, pitting their alien chitin against the cold steel of the Space Marines.

If you’ve ever fancied being the telepathic overlord of a never-ending army of mindless warriors, or are a fan of the Alien film franchise and want to explore an army with a similar visual style, then the Tyranids may be the 40k army for you.

Let’s break down the Warhammer 40k Tyranids and learn how they tick:

Warhammer 40k 10th edition starter set Leviathan reveal - Warhammer Community trailer screenshot showing all the new Tyranids models in the Leviathan box

Tyranids in 10th edition

Expect lots of new models for the Tyranids in 10th edition: Games Workshop has revealed the Warhammer 40k 10th edition Leviathan starter set comes with a whopping 47 new Tyranid minis. Here’s what’s coming in the box:

  • Winged Tyranid Prime
  • Von Ryan’s Leapers x 3
  • Screamer-killer
  • Neurogaunts x 10 lead by a Node Beast
  • Neurotyrant, with two Neuroloid synapse extenders
  • Psychophage
  • Barbgaunts x 5
  • Termagants x 20
  • Ripper Swarms x 2

Warhammer 40k Tyranids Synapse rules by Games Workshop


The Synapse ability makes Tyranids more resistant to Battle-shock tests, as psychically charged Synapse creatures project an aura of control onto the swarms of lesser beasts around them. A Tyranids unit within 6″ of a Synapse model makes Battle-shock tests on 3D6 instead of 2D6. WarCom’s Tyranids Faction Focus article reveals that the Swarm Lord has an improved 9″ Synapse range.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids Shadow in the Warp rules by Games Workshop

Shadow in the Warp

The Shadow in the Warp is a very simple, very powerful ability, reflecting the deadening psychic pall that the Tyranid hive fleets generate in the warp. Once per battle, in either player’s Command phase, if you have a model that projects the Shadow in the Warp onto the battlefield you can force every enemy unit to take a Battle-shock test – with the potential to strip control of multiple objectives from your opponent, deny them the use of critical Stratagems, and inflict terrible casualties on enemies that disengage from melee.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids Invasion Fleet detachment Hyper Adaptations rules by Games Workshop

Tyranids Invasion Fleet Detachment

The Tyranids Invasion Fleet Detachment will come with the free Index rules for the army that launch with 10th edition 40k. So far, GW has revealed one bonus that it provides: Hyper-Adaptations allows you to select one army-wide buff from a list of three, after you’ve seen your opponent’s army. Each buff provides benefits against a specific type of unit, whether that’s Infantry and Swarms, Monsters and Vehicles, or Characters.

Tyranids Leviathan Datasheets

The Datasheets for the Tyranids in the Leviathan box set are available to download from the Warhammer Community website.

Screamer-Killer datasheet

The Screamer-Killer is a very simple beast: it’s a huge mountain of muscle and chitin, with Toughness nine, 10 wounds, and a 2+ armor save. Its Screamer-Killer talons will rip apart even elite infantry and carve big chunks out of vehicles and other monsters. Its Bio-plasmic scream attack is an effective infantry sweeper, with D6+3 attacks and the Blast ability, which also forces any unit it hits to take a Battle-shock test.

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Neurotryant datasheet

The Neurotyrant is equipped with what is, functionally, a powerful psychic flamethrower. It can provide up to two Tyranid Units with ‘Synaptic Relays’ which keep them within synapse range even if they move away from synapse creatures. Perhaps its most powerful ability is Psychic Terror, which turbo charges your armies Shadow in the Warpand; enemy units suffer -1 Leadership when you unleash the Shadow, making it more likely they’ll buckle and fail their battle-shock.

Ripper Swarms Datasheet

Ripper Swarms have negligible offensive power, very little survivability, and no objective control, but they have two useful abilities. The Core Ability Deep Strike allows them to pop up almost anywhere on the table, while the unique Aura Ability ‘Chitinous Horrors’ halves the Objective Control value of enemies within engagement range. They’re a useful nuisance that allows other units to steal objectives from your opponents.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids - Games Workshop artwork showing Tyranids battling a legion of Space Marines

Tyranids Lore

Even though the Tyranids are one of the oldest armies in Warhammer 40k, there is relatively little is known about them – inside the 40k universe that is, there’s plenty of Tyranids Lore. The reason for this is simple; if you encounter them, you either kill them or you die. There’s no opportunity to ask questions afterwards.

Humanity first encountered the Tyranids in 745.M41, although rumours persist of previous contacts being covered up, which is in-keeping with all we know of the Imperium of Man. When more was learned about them, it became clear that the Tyranids are not of our galaxy. Instead, they have descended upon the Milky Way from the void between galaxies.

The Tyranids were drawn to our galaxy by the Horus Heresy, despite having no interest in the eternal war between mankind and Chaos. During Horus’ rebellion, the Pharos device was found – a beacon that allowed Ultramarine ships, among others, to sail the tides of the immaterium during a period of intense warp storms.

In one battle the Pharos device became overloaded, sending a psychic signal out in all directions. This won the battle for the loyalists – but it also burnt like a lighthouse for any psychic entity stalking the cold dark between galaxies.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids - Games Workshop photo of a painted Tyranids army

It took ten thousand years before the Tyranids even breached the edges of the Milky Way. Now, however, they are here, and they’re not likely to leave.

Their forces are innumerable and diverse. The most commonly seen creature is the Tyranid Warrior – fierce monsters with elongated skulls that bring fear and death wherever they go. The Tyranid Warrior exemplifies everything that makes this faction a threat: they’re adaptable, durable, and even show signs of intelligence, wielding weapons in their four arms.

Tyranids are all telepathically connected, linked together to form a colossal alien hive mind. Their movements are forever spiralling towards Terra and the Golden Throne of the Emperor of Man, perhaps incited by the beacon of the Astronomicon.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids - Games Workshop artwork of a Hive Fleet

Tyranid Hive Fleets

The Tyranids did not arrive all at once but split their forces into several different Tyranid Hive Fleets. Each of these humongous, biomechanical armadas were given names by humanity, and many have been encountered or destroyed.

Little is known of how many Hive Fleets are currently descending on the galaxy. What’s more, no one knows if these Hive Fleets represent the majority of the Tyranid forces or just a tiny scouting party.

Each Tyranid Hive Fleet has its own specialisation, making them entirely unique despite some shared features. Here are some of the most famous Hive Fleets known to us:

  • Hive Fleet Behemoth was the first to make contact with humanity (that we know of, at least), and as a result has become the most infamous of them all. Striking deep into Ultramarine space, it was eventually defeated at the Battle for Macragge, with its supremely aggressive Tyranid Warriors proving no match for Ultramarine forces at the end.
  • Kraken was the second Hive Fleet that humanity encountered, ultimately being responsible for the Second Tyrannic War. Kraken Tyranids are known for their speed, moving faster than believed possible to strike behind enemy lines.
  • Defeated by the Tau and the Astra Militarum, the Tyranids of Hive Fleet Gorgon specialised in adaptation, twisting their forms to the requirements of any situation. While many Hive Fleets rely on a few stalwart bioforms, Gorgon fielded variations never seen before, and never seen again following its destruction.
  • This Tyranid Hive Fleet was smaller than most but became a juggernaut through smart, stealthy methods. Its Tyranids would hurl their spores at unsuspecting planets; their submerged Norn-Queens breeding an army out of the ground itself, burrowing and forming networks under the feet of their enemies before rising to feast. This Hive Fleet has since been largely destroyed, but given Tryanids’ nature, it’s impossible to ever be certain of their destruction.
  • Leviathan is the largest Tyranid Hive Fleet to ever assault the galaxy. Leviathan’s unique ability relates to the strength of its synaptic network that semi-telepathically binds its Tyranids. It allows them to fight long past most normal Tyranids would be laid low, always serving the hive mind even when mortally wounded.
  • Hive Fleet Hydra was encountered not by humanity but by Dark Eldar. Finding them still slumbering before their invasion of the galaxy, the Drukhari’s curiosity saw them attempt to capture the Tyranids. Unfortunately for them, and us, Hive Fleet Hydra regenerates faster than any other Hive Fleet, seeing the fleet awaken and fall upon the unsuspecting Eldar with horrifying alacrity.
  • Hive Fleet Kronos is unique even among Tyranids, as it seems to specialise in fighting the forces of Chaos. One of the ways it achieves this is to stand back, unlike many other Tyranid forces, preferring to shoot from a distance rather than scuttle into the melee and risk the taint of the Ruinous Powers.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids - Games Workshop photo of an army of miniatures with a Tyranid Haruspex at its centre

Tyranid Paint Schemes

One of the benefits of collecting a Tyranids army is that they have a look and feel completely different to anything else on the battlefield. You’ll find no metal armor here, no sci-fi guns or tanks (unless you count the related Genestealer Cults armies, but that’s a different matter for a different day). Instead, the Tyranids consist of flesh and bone, with many Tyranids paint schemes highlighting their unique xenology.

Official Games Workshop Tyranids paint schemes are an excellent place to start when looking to paint your own Tyranids collection. For example, Hive Fleet Behemoth uses rich dark purple tones on the bone armor with pale flesh underneath. This allows you to highlight areas such as eyes, tongues, teeth, and weapons, drawing attention to their wickedly sharp blades or bio-engineered guns.

If you want to create your own paint scheme then the sky’s the limit for your creativity. Tyranid models are as adaptable as can be, are and can look stunning even when painted by a novice.

Nooks and crannies in their alien flesh lead naturally to using shade paints, letting the liquid pool in darker areas to help give depth to the model. Similarly, their bone carapaces work well with dry brushing techniques, helping you make the model’s edges pop while maintaining their unique organic feel.

We recommend choosing colours that contrast yet complement each other to define your own Tyranids paint scheme. Common paint schemes often use rich reds on the flesh with dark blues on the carapaces, black and grey flesh with vivid orange armor, or even radioactive greens on the bones to contrast with darker flesh colours. A place you can always look for inspiration is nature; insects, in particular, provide particularly fertile ground for colour combinations.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids miniatures from Games Workshop

Tyranids Codex

The Tyranids codex hit shelves in April 2022, bringing the alien armies to the forefront of ninth edition. In addition to updated Tyranid datasheets and Tyranid lore, the codex includes plenty of customisation options in the form of Hive Fleet Adaptations and Synaptic Imperatives.

Plenty of Tyranid goodies (or nasties, depending on what side you’re on) return from eight edition with a few tweaks here and there. Expect to see updated Death Throes and Living Artillery.

There were already some Tyranid-specific rules in ninth edition thanks to War Zone Octarius – Book 1: Rising Tide. This narrative book contains many rules specific to Tyranids, bringing new features to the faction and providing valuable tactics that have been sorely missed during the 9th edition of the game. Before the codex’s release, it was a Tyranid must-have – now some of its rules, like the Synaptic Link abilities, can be found in the fresh codex. 

Warhammer 40k Tyranids - Games Workshop photo a swarm of Tyranid Warriors

Tyranid Tactics

On the face of it, Tyranid tactics may seem simple. You field a tonne of models, you charge them at the opponent, and you kill until you can kill no more. However, with the advent of recent rules changes and the 9th Edition focus on scoring points rather than outright murder, there are many Tyranids tactics to take notice of that can make the difference on the battlefield.

The first rule to pay attention to, which will help define the entire strategy for your army, is your choice of Hive Fleet. This will not only help determine how you’ll approach the battle but also the Tyranid models and units to take with you. If you favor a fast-moving army that swiftly advances up the board then Hive Fleet Kraken may be the fleet for you. Similarly, if a strong gunline makes all the difference then we’d recommend looking at Hive Fleet Kronos.

With Hive Fleets being so specialised, unlike many factions, it may be an idea to field two different Hive Fleets at once, though this will cost CP to do so. This will allow you to take advantage of the adaptations of both, such as allowing you to have a hard-hitting Hive Fleet Hydra force for close-combat encounters, alongside Hive Fleet Jormungandr units to take objectives and stay alive through their cover bonuses.

When it comes to fielding your army, you’ll want to always remember your Synaptic Links. These are unique to Tyranids armies and allow larger models to project an aura that gives bonuses to nearby units. The downside, however, is that if those units move outside of the Synapse area they will lose these benefits, making them easier to kill, less useful, or even detracting from your battle plan. While your units are in Synapse, they also ignore Morale rolls, making this essential if they’re under attack.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids - a close-up shot of a painted Tyranid from Games Workshop

Warhammer 40k Tyranid Stratagems can often give you the edge in a battle, with many being an absolute pleasure to deploy due to their uniquely-Tyranid flavour. Some of the best Tyranid Stratagems include Digestive Denial, which lets you remove a of terrain’s effects at the start of the battle, Voracious Appetite, which allows you to re-roll a unit’s Wound rolls, and Scorch Bugs, which sees your Fleshborers gain +1 to Wound.

You might not think that the Tyranids are a natural fit for psychic abilities, but their telepathic connections make them one of the strongest factions when it comes to psychic battles. For example, their ability to use Zoanthropes to cast Smite multiple times per round makes them able to throw out overwhelming mortal wounds, something only the Grey Knights can compete with. Tyranid armies are also brilliant at avoiding Perils of the Warp, as Neurothropes have an aura whereby 1s rolled in the psychic phase can be re-rolled.

In addition to this, almost all Tyranid psychic powers are useful, and often cheaper to cast than their counterparts in other factions. If you like to see your opponent’s face fall, then the psychic phase may be one of exceptional glee for you.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids start collecting box from Games Workshop

How to start collecting Tyranids

If your interest is piqued by the ravening horde of Tyranids and you want to start your own collection, here’s the best way to get competitive – fast.

Firstly we would definitely recommend picking up the Start Collecting! Tyranids box set. This includes eight Genestealers with rending claws, a Broodlord, and a Tyranid Trygon that can also be assembled as a Mawloc.

From there we would recommend filling out your army with Tyranid Warriors, who will act as your main troops for most battles, a Neurothrope for enhanced psychic powers, and a swarm of Zoanthropes. This will give you a colossal amount of damage during the psychic phase, with Smite being almost casually thrown out.

For ranged support, we would recommend Termagants armed with Fleshborers, Hive Guards, and an Exocrine. The Termagants will soak up damage and allow your more valuable units to get into place, while your Exocrine excels at taking out enemy elites.

Also, the Exocrine is a stunning Tyranid model, which is always a plus when building an army. Hive Guards, meanwhile, are one of the most brutal units when it comes to pumping out threatening amounts of damage, so if you can only invest in one of these three, they’d be our pick.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids - Games Workshop photo of an Exocrine miniature

If you want to make your melee line a little beefier, you can’t go wrong with Hive Tyrants. If your focus is going to be close combat then we would also recommend building out your Genestealers to be a larger force, as they work together excellently and can help keep your tougher models alive by distracting your opponent. You also can’t go wrong with some Tyranid Raveners, a variation of the Tyranid Warriors which will do heavy damage when rushing into your opponent’s line.

Now you should be ready to face down your enemies with hands full of bio-forged weapons and a mind full of telepathic buzz. As always, we recommend experimentation, from both army setup to paint schemes, as you’ll soon find what works for you. But you should now have a solid grounding on which to build a colossal Tyranid juggernaut.