We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids 10th 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 brings death to every world it touches, 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 models in the very first edition of the game. They’re the lead antagonist for Warhammer 40k 10th edition, with the fourth Tyrannic war engulfing the heartlands of the Imperium of Man. They’ll even be the main baddies in the upcoming Warhammer 40k game Space Marine 2.

If you want to be the telepathic master of a never-ending horde of ravenous warrior bugs, or you always root for the monsters when you’re watching Starship Troopers, Aliens, or Godzilla, then the Tyranids are 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

10th edition Tyranids rules

The Tyranids army-wide special rules make them very resistant to Battle-Shock, while projecting a wave of psychic force that can potentially break the resolve of multiple enemy units in one moment.

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

The Tyranids are nothing if not adaptable. The Invasion Fleet Detachment allows the ‘nids to adapt their weaponry to suit whatever enemy they are facing in battle.

The additional detachments in their codex allow them to double-down on one type of model: huge monsters in the Crusher Stampede, sneaky and swift Vanguard Onslaught organisms, an Unending Swarm of lesser creatures, the psychic abominations of the Synaptic Nexus, or a resilient Assimilation Swarm.

Overall, this make Tyranids flexible. The Invasion Fleet can take on all comers, as you’re able to swap out the bonuses it provides after you see your opponent’s army list. Then, whichever part of the Tyranids range you want to build your army around, you’ll find a Detachment to support them.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids Synapse rules by Games Workshop


The Tyranids are a massed horde controlled by the gestalt psychic entity known as the hive mind. The malevolent intellect of this superorganism is channelled via Synapse organisms, command and control creatures that direct the lesser beasts that make up the horde.

As long as a Tyranids unit is within 6″ of a Synapse model, it makes Battle-shock tests on 3D6 instead of 2D6, meaning it is far less likely to break and cede control of objectives.

The Tyranids have a few tricks to expand this Psychic aura of command. The mighty Swarmlord has a nine inch Synapse range. The Neurothrope can dispatch its Neuroloid minions to tag along with other units, keeping them within synapse range even when they move beyond that six inch range, proving its not the size of the synapse range that matters, but how you use it.

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 terrifying psychic wail that the Tyranid hive fleets project into the minds of those who oppose them. Once per battle, in either player’s Command phase, if you have a model that projects the Shadow in the Warp on the battlefield, you can force every enemy unit to take a Battle-shock test.

This can potentially strip control of multiple objectives from your opponent, deny them the use of critical Stratagems, and force enemies to remain locked in melee or risk casualties from desperate retreats. The special character Deathleaper projects an aura of dread that penalises enemy Leadership, and the Neurothrope applies a Leadership debuff to enemies testing to resist the Shadow in the Warp

Index Tyranids

When the new edition of Warhammer 40k launched, Games Workshop made the Tyranids 10th edition rules free to download in Index Tyranids from the Warhammer Community website. Those rules are now out of date, with the release of Codex Tyranids, but they’re still accessible online if you’re happy to play with slightly out of date rules:

Click here to download your free Tyranids 10th edition Index datasheets.

Tyranid Detachments

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

Tyranids Invasion Fleet Detachment

The Tyranids Invasion Fleet Detachment came in the free Index Tyranids, and is exactly the same in the Tyranids Codex. It grants your army Hyper-Adaptations, a choice of army wide buff you select after you’ve seen your opponent’s army.

Each buff grants you a weapon ability that will make your Tyranids more deadly against a specific type of unit, whether that’s Infantry and Swarms, Monsters and Vehicles, or Characters.

Adaptation Buff
Swarming Instincts When targeting Infantry or Swarms, attacks have Sustained Hits 1
Hyper-Aggression When targeting Monsters or Vehicles, attacks have Lethal Hits
Hive Predators When targeting a unit containing a Character, Critical Hits gain Precision (they can target the character even while it has living bodyguards)

Tyranid Vanguard Onslaught Detachment

Tyranid Vanguard organisms are the first to make planetfall, sometimes preceding the hive fleet’s assault by months. They include infiltrator organisms like Lictors and Neurolictors, winged beasts like Gargoyles and Winged Hive Tyrants, and the rapid Genestealers.

All Models in a Vanguard Onslaught Detachment can charge in the same turn that they fall back from combat; units with the Vanguard Invader keyword can also charge after advancing. The special character Deathleaper can also be the force’s Warlord, though Winged Hive Tyrants and Genestealer Broodlords are also options.

This is a fast and fluid force. The ‘Neuronode’ enhancement allows three Vanguard Invader units to redeploy after your opponent finishes their deployment, while the ‘Seeded Broods’ Stratagem will let you deploy two Vanguard Invader units from reserve on turn one.

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

Tyranid Crusher Stampede Detachment

A Tyranid Crusher Stampede is a heaving mass of muscle and chitin, the largest Tyranid warbeasts directed against an enemy strongpoint. It’s filled with monsters: Carnifexes and their Screamer Killer cousins, Tyrannofexes, Exocrines, Hive Tyrants, the dreaded Norn Emissary, and more…

All Monsters in the Crusher Stampede Detachment get +1 to hit once their unit is below Starting Strength: if they start as a unit with one model, that means as soon as they’ve taken a wound. Once below half strength (ie, they’ve lost half their wounds), they get +1 to wound as well.

These beasts dominate the battlefield with sheer mass. The Ominous Presence enhancement grants +3 Objective Control characteristic. That stacks with the Norn Emissary and Norn Assimilator’s ‘Singular Purpose’ ability to have Objective Control 15 on a particular objective, for a truly unmovable mountain of muscle.

Stratagems like Untramelled Ferocity, which allows a monster to simply move through enemy models, or Swarm-Guided Salvoes, which grants the Indirect Fire weapon ability, mean there’s no escape from your alpha warbeast’s beligerence.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids Psychophage, part of an Endless Swarm

Tyranid Assimilation Swarm Detachment

The purpose of a Tyranid assault on a planet is to render it down into usable biomass to feed to the hive ships. Assimilation organisms facilitate that process, including squirming Rippers, psychic Psychophage, and ravenous Haruspex, before they too are rendered down into bio-slurry.

While Harvester units are in range of an objective that the Tyranid player controls, they will regenerate Tyranid units, healing lost wounds or returning infantry models to play.

The enhancements available to this Detachment all relate to Harvesters: the Instinctive Defence Enhancement turns a unit into a guard dog for Harvesters, letting it use the Heroic Intervention Stratagem for free to defend them, or letting it be healed by two Harvester units each turn.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids Neurotyrant, part of a Synaptic Nexus

Tyranid Synaptic Nexus Detachment

A Tyranid Synaptic Nexus is a focal point for the hive mind, led by powerfully psychic Neurotyrants, Zoanthropes, Hive Tyrants, and Malanthropes.

Each round the Tyranid player can select a Synaptic Imperative bonus that will apply to all their units in Synapse range. The hive mind channels its concentrated will, making the xenos harder to kill, faster, or even more voracious. Though the buffs are different, this is an even more flexible detachment than the Invasion Fleet, but relies more on Synapse organisms.

The Stratagems for this detachment allow you to tinker with your Synaptic web: extending its range with Synaptic Channelling, altering which  Synaptic Imperative a unit is affected by using Imperative Dominance, or focusing its Irresistible Will on a single enemy unit to grant all units bonuses to hit and wound it.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids Termagants, part of an Endless Swarm

Tyranid Endless Swarm Detachment

The quintessential Tyranid force is an Endless Swarm of warrior beasts hurling themselves into the guns of their foe, utterly heedless of their own mortality. This force is a rapid-moving tide of Hormagaunts, Termagants and Neurogaunts, accompanied by swarms of chittering Gargoyles.

Whenever an Endless Multitudes unit in this army suffers casualties to enemy shooting attacks, it can move D6″ towards the nearest enemy unit, even entering engagement range. The Stratagem ‘Synaptic Goading’ allows you to direct the unit towards an objective, rather than the nearest enemy unit, for some tactical control.

The Unending Waves stratagem costs 2CP, but allows you to place a destroyed Endless Multitudes unit into reserves, and Bounding Advance should get them back into the action swiftly.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids Screamer Killer, part of a Crusher Stampede

Tyranid Units

There has been a whole invasion fleet of new Tyranid units in 10th edition 40k. The Warhammer 40k 10th edition Leviathan box set came with a whopping 47 new Tyranid minis:

  • 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

If you didn’t get a chance to pick that box set up, don’t worry: many of those models appear in the Warhammer 40k starter sets for 10th edition, as well as in the Tyranids Combat patrol.


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.

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.

YouTube Thumbnail


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 Swarm

Ripper Swarms have negligible offensive power, very little survivability, and no objective control, but they have two useful abilities. Their ability to 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.

Norn Emissary

The Norn Emissary is a towering giant of a Tyranid beast, standing taller than an Eldar Wraithlord. It’s totally new for Warhammer 40k 10th edition.

YouTube Thumbnail

Norn Emissaries have self control and individuality unlike anything else in the hive fleet. Their role is to eliminate or abduct enemy commanders with their physical might and psychic prowess.

Warhammer 40k 10th Edition Tyranids new models from Oghram reveal stream - Games Workshop image showing the new Norn Assimilator model in hive fleet leviathan colors

Norn Assimilator

Built from the same kit as the Norn Emissary, the Norn Assimilator trades out psychic power for massive, toxin-injecting harpoon fists and even greater melee might. While the Norn Assimilator is slightly smaller than an Imperial Knight, it has a good chance of going toe-to-toe with one and winning.

Warhammer 40k 10th Edition Tyranids new models from Oghram reveal stream - Games Workshop image showing the new tyranids norn assimilator model in close up detail

The Assimilator will be assigned to one purpose by the hive mind, which is reflected on the battlefield as a buff for a single purpose – such as rerolls when attacking a particular enemy unit, or Feel No Pain 4+ while holding a key objective.


Genestealers are a classic Tyranid unit, dating all the way back to the first edition of Warhammer 40k. They’re among the vanguard organisms of the hive fleet, infiltrating onto planets via space craft and using their sinister “Genestealer’s kiss” to infect the native population and create hybrid Genestealer cultists.

YouTube Thumbnail

The new Genestealer kit follows the classic design, but reimagines them with modern sculpting techniques. There are components to enhance the entire unit with Ymgarl feeder tendrils, or with a protruding ovipositor.


Hormagaunts are bounding, claw-armed melee beasts that swarm the battlefield. They fight in enormous hordes that career forward, heedless of their own losses as they charge into melee with the enemy.

YouTube Thumbnail

They’ve received a new model for Warhammer 40k 10th edition, bringing them up to the same standard as the minis released with Leviathan.

Multipart Termagants

New multipart Termagants join the single-part termagants in the current Warhammer 40k starter sets. While the monopose starter-set Termagants are equipped with beetle-firing fleshborers, these have options for all kinds of obscene bioweaponry: spinefists, devourers, strangleweb launcher, barb launchers, and the spike rifle. That last weapon is a deep cut throwback to a metal Tyranid model from second edition Warhammer 40k.


The Lictor is a Tyranid stealth organism that fights in the vanguard of the hive fleets, infiltrating enemy positions with its chameleonic skin and draining the brains of enemy commanders with its feeder tendrils.

YouTube Thumbnail

It’s another classic monster that’s been part of the range since Warhammer 40k second edition. The latest plastic kit provides options to build the monster crouching for stealth or poised to strike.


The Neurolictor is a variant of the Lictor that specialises in sowing terror and confusion with its psychic might as well as its lethal physical presence. It’s able to force enemy units to take battle-shock tests, facing nasty consequences if they fail.

Warhammer 40k 10th Edition Tyranids new models from Oghram reveal stream - Games Workshop image showing the new Tyranid Biovore model and spore mines


The Biovore is a biological artillery piece, a huge, armored, tick-like creature, with a symbiotic weapon growing from its back. It’s capable of launching explosive spore mines across the battlefield.

YouTube Thumbnail

That bio-artillery has the Indirect Fire weapon ability, letting you target models hiding out of line of sight, and can also deposit drifting clouds of spore mines around the battlefield.

Warhammer 40k 10th Edition Tyranids new models from Oghram reveal stream - Games Workshop image showing the new Tyranid Pyrovore model


The Pyrovore has a similar bodyform to the Biovore, but mounts a flaming acid sprayer on its back instead of a long-range artillery piece. It’s able to burn away the benefit of cover from enemy models – just be wary, it’s prone to explode when it finally dies.

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, the Imperium of Man knows precious little about them. 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. But there’s plenty of Tyranids Lore.

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.

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

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

Tyranids army 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). Tyranids are made of flesh and bone, amd Tyranid paint schemes highlight this alien biology.

Official Games Workshop Tyranids paint schemes are an excellent place to start. Hive Fleet Behemoth uses rich dark purple tones on the bone armor with pale flesh underneath. You can then highlight eyes, tongues, teeth, and weapons with accent colors, drawing attention to their wickedly sharp blades or bio-engineered guns.

Warhammer 40k Leviathan Tyranids with Citadel Contrast Paints - Author photo showing the Leviathan Tyranids models fully painted in purple

Nooks and crannies in alien flesh work great with Contrast paints. Similarly, their bone carapaces work well with dry brushing techniques, helping you make the model’s edges pop while maintaining their unique organic feel.

If you’re designing your own color scheme, look to nature for inspiration; insects, crustaceans, reptiles, and amphibians have some amazing color combinations.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids miniatures from Games Workshop

Tyranids Codex release date

The Warhammer 40k 10th edition Tyranids Codex released on Saturday, September 9. 

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Combat Patrol Tyranids can be made from the contents of the Ultimate Starter Set - product photograph by Games Workshop, an army of alien tyranids and power-armored Space Marines, plus miniature terain

Combat Patrol Tyranids

Combat Patrol is the new starter game mode for Warhammer 40k beginners. It’s not simple by any means, but it does make the game more approachable in a lot of ways: the forces have slightly fewer rules, and the various Combat Patrol forces for each faction have been balanced against one another.

You can download the rules for Combat Patrol Tyranids for free via this link.

These are the 32 models in Combat Patrol Tyranids:

  • Winged Tyranid Prime x 1
  • Hormagaunts x 20
  • Von Ryan’s Leapers x 3
  • Psychophage x 1
  • Barbgaunts x 5
  • Ripper Swarms x 2

Because the Tyranids are the main antagonist of 10th edition 40k, models from their Combat Patrol are included in the Warhammer 40k starter sets. The Ultimate starter set contains the Complete Combat patrol, while the regular Starter set has almost all of it: you need to pick up a unit of five Barbgaunts separately to complete the patrol.

Warhammer 40k Tyranids Battleforce 2023, released for Christmas holidays 2023

Tyranids Battleforce

The Tyranids Battleforce, called the Tyranids Onslaught Swarm was announced on Wednesday 23 October, and released for the winter holidays 2023. It contains 34 models, consisting of:

  • Norn Emissary x 1
  • Winged Hive Tyrant x 1
  • Hormagaunts x 20
  • Genestealers x 10
  • Ripper Swarms x 2

This was a limited run product, so you’ll only be able to find a copy in a local games store that hasn’t sold through all of its stock.

Can’t get enough hideous monsters in your life? Check out our guide to the best horror miniatures.