5th Ed. Tyranids: Hive Guard

Blogging ideas are coming at me at a frantic pace, and I’m really having trouble keeping up with them.  Before the thought leaves me, I’m going to try to finish up the reviews of the new 5th Edition ‘Nid codex.  Today’s spotlight: Hive Guard.

The Good

These creatures have evolved with a hardened carapace that has completely enveloped their eyes.  Despite this significant disadvantage, their ballistic skill is higher than most units in the codex, and they’re actually so good at shooting, they’re able to hit targets that they can’t even see (and more importantly, that can’t see them)!

Due to the new rules for Impaler Cannons (the default weapon of Hive Guard everywhere), they don’t require LoS to their target in able to hit them.  Cover saves only work if the model is standing in cover, or it’s touching cover between it and the Hive Guard.  Because of this, you can fire over intervening terrain without granting your opponent a save (akin to LRM missles for all of you Battletech players out there).

Given their relatively high strength, this means they can hide completely behind targets and pop tanks from up to two feet away.  Likewise, their high strength weaponry will insta-kill most infantry outright–unless they have Eternal Warrior.

Their stat-line is roughly equivalent to those of Tyrant Guard (as they should be, since they’re very similar models), and aren’t far off from the rest of the codex: Yay for more multi-wound toughness 6 critters!  Their armor leaves something to be desired, but at least their high toughness will ensure that the only things that will dependably be killing these beasts are heavy weapons. 

The Bad

With a mid-range weapon, they’ll need to advance in order to be effective in the shooting phase.  Since they can’t outflank, fly, or drop-pod on, they’ll need to start on the board and scramble forward.  Most players will refuse to advance (at least initially) against a Tyranid swam, so it will take them a couple of turns to advance into a position where they can be completely obscured from, yet be in range of, the juicy targets.  Since their biggest benefit is cracking armor, this can be problematic, as most tanks will move faster than them.

Str8 is also relatively inferior to cracking vehicles.  I know that I’m in the minority on this one, but there’s just a barrier between str8 and str9 that makes a big difference in opening vehicles up.  Granted, str8 does a wonderful job on light vehicles and even has a chance to damage heavily armored ones, it just lacks that pop that I’m looking for.

Lastly, though their statline is respectable for an assault unit, it’s important to note that this is undeniably a shooty-nid.  Assaulting with these guys should be a last ditch effort tactic only.  Their high toughness and respectable strength will ensure they’ll be able to hold their own–but a lack of any sort of armor piercing will ensure they do little more than tie your opponent up for a couple of turns.  Granted, this can be a tactic by itself…

The Ugly

Hive Guard are essentially competing with Zoanthropes for both elite slots and the most viable anti-mech solutions in the codex.  Guard have a groovy ability to shoot without LoS, more shots per turn, slightly longer range, higher toughness (high enough to avoid being insta-killed), and more damage output when it comes to close combat.  Meanwhile, zoanthropes have higher strength, invulnerable saves, enhanced damage (due to both AP1 and “Lance”),  flexibility in weapon types, the ability to drop-pod in, and synapse.

To me, Zoanthropes are the clear winners in this comparison, and I’d gladly spend 10 points more for those abilities.  Guard are not worthless though.  Their ability to hurt enemies while invulnerable (due to LoS restrictions) is not to be laughed away.  In particularly dense tables (such as city fight games), Hive Guard can prove devastating.  Likewise, they can be completely obscured by a wall of Monstrous Creatures and thereby gain the same benefits.

More importantly, they have an ability to bypass the enemy’s defenses.  The real beauty here isn’t that you can shoot through your own troops–but that you can shoot throw your opponents.  One popular tactic with Rhinos & Land Raiders is to park your rhinos entirely behind the larger tank, so that nothing can target them.  Hive Guard disregard that tactic entirely–allowing you to pop the weakened transport.

One note of concern here is in the cover save rules:

Page 62 of the Rulebook:

It may rarely happen that the firing unit cannot see any part of the facing they are in … but they can still see another facing of the target vehicle.  In this case they may take the shot against the facing they can see, but to  represent such an extremely angled shot, the vehicle recieves a 3+ cover save.

Because of this rule, when you’re hiding behind cover you’ll want to make absolutely sure that you can’t see any portion of a vehicle you’re firing at.  If, for example, you were shooting at a tank but the facing side was completely obscured, but you could see the rear part of the rhino, that would grant the vehicle a 3+ cover save.  That’s definitely something to watch out for.

I’m sure that some will take issue with that interpretation of the rules, and I welcome the debate.  I love to be proven wrong… because that’s the best way for me to learn.

All in all, the Hive Guard are a respectable addition to any Tyranid force, and one of the few (dependable) anti-tank weapons in the arsenal.  Though I think they’re inferior to Zoanthropes, many players swear by these bugs.  As such, you can expect to see many of them coming to a swarm near you…

Picture from the Dawn of War 2 community blog site: http://community.dawnofwar2.com/

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4 comments on “5th Ed. Tyranids: Hive Guard

  1. In the weapon comments for the hive guard there is a line: “Vehicles are always hit on the armor value facing the give guard.” logically this means the hive guard isn't aiming for the sliver of a non-facing side that's visible, it's shooting through under or over whatever is in the way.

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