Tyranid 6th Edition Codex Review: Army-Wide Special Rules

In order to familiarize myself with the latest edition of the Tyranid codex, I’m hoping to do a detailed review of everything in it.  This will force me to read through things in an attempt to recognize just what has changed.

To start with, I’m going to address the army-wide special rules.  So, here goes:

Instinctive Behavior: (DEX39)

Wh39kHiveFleetProteus (7)While previous incarnations had just Lurk & Feed, the new book adds another classification: Hunt.  Practically speaking, Lurk used to apply to shooty-units, whereas Hunt now takes that place.  Lurk is now more appropriately titled as units with that rule now seek cover, while those with Hunt can stay in the open and still fire.  The new category (Lurk) only applies to a select group of models: Lictors (including Deathleaper), Termagants & Venomthropes.

The bigger change in this is that each group now has a chart to roll on to determine what they do.  Whereas, in previous iterations, Lurkers always did one thing and Feeders did another, each classification has three different options broken into the following categories:

  • Die roll 1-3  (50% chance) – Do something bad (in the case of Feed, something VERY bad, as they wind up doing quite a bit of damage to themselves.
  • Die roll 4-5 (33% chance) – Limit their options.  In general, this results in them doing what they’re designed to do:  Feeders charge (though can’t run for some reason), Hunters fire, and Lurkers seek cover.  Effectively, this is very similar to what happened in previous codicies.
  • Die roll 6 (17% chance) – As above, but with some sort of special rule applied (preferred enemy, rage, or stealth).

As stated above, the previous incarnations of these rules were roughly in sync with 4-5.  So now they get worse 50% of the time—which can be devastating if you go without synapse.  Granted, synapse should be important (it was stupid that the old codex actually made units with Feed better outside of synapse in 6th edition).  Synapse is a great benefit, and I agree that it should come with a downside, but coupled with the fact that the codex has very low leadership scores, isn’t this taking it too far?

It should be noted that fearless units (which comprises a lot of units—including seemingly every monstrous creature) are immune to the first entry of the chart.

I’m not a fan of these changes.  While it’s cute that they can get some benefit (rarely) when going instinctive, the downsides look to be pretty frequent—and severe.

Shadow in the Warp: (DEX69)

Whereas this previously required people to roll three dice for psychic tests when they were within 12”, this has since changed to say that psykers get a -3 penalty on Leadership instead.  This is an interesting change because it’s both a buff and a nerf at the same time.

The nerf is small in that rolling three dice will give you a statistically higher number (on average) than rolling 2 dice and adding three (but only marginally).  It also increases the odds of rolling box cars/snake eyes and thereby increases the likelihood of a perils.  Sadly, that’s not the case anymore.

The buff is that it’s a flat penalty to leadership for all psykers—and makes no specific mention of psychic tests, so it also applies to things like leadership and morale tests too.

All in all, I’d consider this a bit of a buff to the army.  It’s not huge unless you’re facing an army of close-combat oriented psykers, but it’s nice to have.

Synapse: (DEX38)

Wh39kHiveFleetProteus (10)This grants any friendly Tyranids within synapse range the fearless USR (usually 12”, but it can be as far as 24” with certain Warlord Traits/Psychic powers.  Additionally, they get to regroup automatically “before the unit moves” if they’re within synapse range.

Nothing here seems to have changed much, though one curiosity is that it doesn’t specify the regrouping has to happen in the movement phase—so can you think of another time when a falling back unit would be able to move outside of the movement phase?  They don’t get to run or assault, so that’s not it… Maybe something to do with compulsory moves, like tank shocks?

Still, it’s a stretch and not likely to happen much, so I’m willing to say that Synapse has no real change.   I would’ve really liked to have seem a change wherein they reverted to the old rules where units fell back towards the nearest synapse—and not just the board edge.  Oh well…

Psychic Powers: (DEX69)

The big issue here is that powers from the BRB are completely absent.  My previous evaluation on which powers from the rulebook are good is still valid, but it now is only valid for other armies.  Gone are the days of Biomancy (which is, practically speaking, the only one I ever really chose), instead we have seven new powers specific to the hive mind:

  1. Catalyst – This is very similar to the old Tyranid power by the same name, except it grants it to the psyker AND (up to) one friendly unit with 12”, both of which gain Feel No Pain.  Clearly, this is a step up from what it used to be.It should also be compared to the Biomancy power Endurance, which is no longer available.  That one extended 24” and granted not only Feel no Pain, but also It Will Not Die and Relentless.  I think the biggest difference was the range.Still the power is good.  The biggest downfall?  Tervigons used to come stock with this power (or have the ability to buy it innately), which is no longer the case.
  2. The Horror – A malediction with a 24” range which forces pinning tests at -2 leadership.  I’ve made no attempts to hide my disdain for pinning tests (see example here), so I’m not thrilled with this power at all.  There are just far too many units that have fearless (including this entire codex—when in synapse range) to make this valuable.
  3. Onslaught – A blessing with a 24” range that allows a unit to both Run and Shoot.  Again, I’m not in love with this, as running will preclude units from charging, and Tyranids have historically been an assault based army.  It’s not horrible, but I would’ve greatly preferred this to be “run and charge.”  I guess time will tell on this particular power, but I’m thinking it’s rather ‘meh’ at this time.
  4. Paroxysm – A malediction with a range of 24” that lowers WS and BS by a d3.   This is similar to the Hive Tyrant power from the previous ‘dex of the same name, except that it doesn’t automatically reduce it to 1, it has double the range, and is now available to other units in the book.  Frankly, I think this one is ok.  I’m not sure that it stacks (I would rule that it doesn’t), but if it does, I suspect this will be relatively powerful.
  5. Psychic Scream – A nova power with a range of 6” that forces units to roll 2d6+2 and subtract leadership, taking automatic wounds without armor or cover saves.  In effect, it should turn them into little Dooms which are slightly less effective.  Considering that anything with this power should also be a psyker (and therefore have shadow of the warp), it could prove nasty against units of psykers, and reasonably good against anything else.  It’s nice to finally have more access to AP2 in the ‘dex.
  6. Warp Blast – Almost verbatim translation from the warp blast from last edition.  The only difference I can see is that on the lance hit, it’s no longer AP1 (instead being AP2), and obviously it’s now available to other units in the codex.  Again, more AP2 is a good thing.
  7. Dominion – This is the primaris power, and I don’t care for it.  A blessing that extends synapse range by 6” range is meh.  One saving grace is that the wording on synapse for regrouping allows you to cast this before you go to move a broken unit to allow them to automatically regroup.  The fact that it’s a blessing means that if you switch out the psychic power on broodlords, you’ve always got a little something to fall back on.

Of the lot, I think psychic scream and Catalyst are clearly the best, Warp blast and Paroxysm are pretty good, and the rest are fair.  Overall, the powers seem relatively well balanced.  Honestly, even if Biomancy was available to me, I can’t say that I wouldn’t roll at least some of my units with Tyranid powers.  So, I think it’s safe to say powers are a wash.

Warlord Traits: (DEX38)

Wh39kHiveFleetProteus (12)It’s hard to be glum about warlord traits, since we’ve never had them before, so the way I see it, any of these are free upgrades that we didn’t have previously.

  1. Nature’s Bane – Allows you to turn areas into Carnivorous Jungle throughout the game (RB102).  It’s flavorful, but I don’t see it really helping much throughout the game.  Passing out a handful of S5, AP- hits to units doesn’t seem like it’d be enough to dissuade them from using cover.
  2. Heightened Senses – The Warlord and friendly models with 12” have “Night Vision” which allows them to ignore the effects of night fighting (RB40).  With so few long range weapons in the Tyranid codex, and so very few shooty units in the codex, this seems like a wasted trait.
  3. Synaptic Lynchpin – Extends Synapse range to 18”.  Not uber, but at least not a waste of a slot.  With the instinctive behavior tables being so slanted now, this might wind up being the best warlord trait you could hope for—assuming you can keep him alive…
  4. Mind Eater – Extra VP for killing characters in challenges.  Boring.  And the fact that durability of warlord capable units has actually gone down makes me less inclined to challenge anything.
  5. Digestive Denial – Reduces the cover save of one non-purchased terrain piece in the enemy deployment zone by one.  This would only really be valuable if using a significant number of Tyranid shooty units (specifically the few that have low AP).
  6. Adaptive Biology – Grants the warlord FNP 5+ the following turn after it suffers it’s first wound.  While FNP is great, I’m not sure how often this will really come up. Historically speaking, the way to be effective against Monstrous Creatures is to focus fire them down systematically.  Will there be all that many games where your Warlord will take damage and not die?  Granted, it’s not a bad power, but how much better would this have been to just give him an innate field save?  Would that have been overpowered?

There is nothing on this list that I wound be expecially interested in getting.  While they’re no worse than the powers in the rulebook.  I wouldn’t exclude the possibility of rolling on here, but I almost think I’d prefer to roll on the generic Strategic Traits table instead.

Allies & Fortifications:

There were rumors that the book would allow Tyranids to ally with themselves, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.  Sadly, they’re stuck to the same FOC as before and still no allies.

For fortifications, they’ve always been allowed to buy any, but the big problem was that they weren’t allowed to manually fire the emplaced weapons.  There was a rule in the previous edition codex which prevented them from firing such weapons seemingly arbitrarily.  At least that doesn’t existing this edition, and I might be able to finally fire my quad gun.


I’ve been flipping through the codex a little for the past 12 hours, and my initial reaction is that the doom and gloomers out there are probably right: the sky is falling.  At this point in this review, there’s not too much to get excited about, and from what I’ve seen elsewhere in the ‘dex there are few bright spots.  Still, it’s worth going through the exercise, so stay tuned.


17 comments on “Tyranid 6th Edition Codex Review: Army-Wide Special Rules

  1. Hmm, I overlooked the Fearlessness mitigating IB effects.
    Shadow in the Warp was never a game-breaker, but now it has some interesting potential against certain armies. When you combine the -3 to Leadership with things like Pinning tests from Barbed Stranglers or The Horror power, you have the makings of a solid tactic. Grey Knights will spend half the game pinned unless they pass a whole lot of Deny tests. Put a synapse creature within 12″ of a unit, then smack it with wither a Strangler or The Horror. Ld9 GKs went to Ld6 versus pinning, or Ld4 versus The Horror. It’s less devastating against a unit with just a single psyker, since the unit can just use its base Ld instead (though the -2 to base Ld is still huge with The Horror). Yes, there are a lot of Fearless units out there, but not as many as you’d think. It’s going to affect the shooting output of a lot of units while your swarms of bugs close for the kill.
    Can you switch out the powers of a fixed-power unit? I think the Broodlord is stuck with The Horror and can’t roll for anything else.
    I think the Nature’s Bane warlord trait is hilarious. Not super useful on a lot of boards, but it will eat sniper units, or force those untis in cover to think about how valuable the save is. It’s a teensy tiny boost for a Nid army, which is historically short on assault grenades.

    I’m kind of excited to run my Genestealer-heavy army, backed up by shooty Warriors and gunbeasts. The book looks to be about combinations of powers and abilities, and less about crapping out 100 Gaunts and winning by default based on statistical inability to kill enough Fearless models to advance.

    • The fact that Shadow of the Warp applies as a flat modifier to all leadership, and not just psychic tests, is definitely cool–but the only army that really seems to have drastic effects on is Grey Knights. Eldar seer councils are also affected, but they’re a small part of an Eldar force).

      Personally, I love the idea behind pinning, but it’s not very effective. Back when 6th edition was coming out I wrote:

      Another problem I seem to see in 40k is the effectiveness of leadership. Between Stubborn, Fearless, Synapse, Ork mob rules, and the prevalence of vehicles, it seems that almost no units have to take leadership tests. This leaves weapons that pin almost ineffective. Pinning is an aspect of the game that I really like, but it rarely has any effect on a unit. In short, I think too many units have blanket auto-pass leadership test rules, thereby reducing the effect leadership plays on the game. I’d like to see use of these rules reduced across the board


      Since I blog every game I play, it’s interesting to go back and search for “pinning” and “batrep” to see how much of an effect they seem to have on games. That comes up with two results, both of which mention pinning, but only to say that the unit passed it’s pinning test. There are three entries for “pinned” and “batrep,” (ironically including three of my units being pinned and none of theirs). Granted, I don’t write everything that happens in a game, but pretty much anything significant. In short, pinning really doesn’t happen much–at least in my games. And I love to play units like snipers and barrage weapons, so I force ALOT of pinning checks that don’t amount to anything.

      Switching out powers, I’m guessing they’ll rule that you can’t switch it out. I like the odds if a Broodlord can switch out powers, but it says he “always has XYZ.” The Grey Knights have a similar rule with Hammerhand and state in the FAQ “Hammerhand can not be exchanged…” I’m guessing Broodlords get the shaft as well.

      Nature’s bane is cute, but horrible. A friend tried to argue for it this weekend, and it just seemed absurd. For it to work, there has to be forests, which have to have units in them (likely small/weak ones that would care about d3 s5 ap- hits), and my warlord (who is most likely a MC) has to be within 12″ of the forest. If I really cared about it, and my warlord was that close–wouldn’t he just walk up and eat the unit anyway? And that’s an ideal scenario for it. Think about it. If a unit of 5 space marine scouts is in that terrain, we’re talking about an average of killing less than one per turn (2 hits, 1.3 wounds, .7 kills). Hardly worth a warlord trait. Sure, it may deter people from entering the woods, but only foolish people.

      I’m not terribly excited about running any Tyranid army really, but I’m trying to remain optimistic. I assembled my exocrines last night, just awaiting magnetization before I prime them.

      • I’m trying to find a real use for Nature’s Bane, but as said before, it’s just “cute.” The only nice thing is that the forest stays carnivorous for the whole game. Maybe if you had some blazing-fast warlord who could stop by each forest and turn them all it would be funny, but not an actual weapon.
        I chalk it up to being about as effective as the BRB warlord trait that gives your Warlord Move Through Cover (Ruins) on a board with no ruins.

      • I was going to try to do the math about how devastating Nature’s Bane could get, but then I realized how hard that would be to figure out. Suffice it to say that if you were to infect one extra forest per turn, and each one killed off the average amount of scouts every turn, you’d kill a whopping 14 scouts in a six turn game. Definitely flavorful, but a let down. You’re right that most of the Warlord tables are full of them though.

        The Move through Cover trait, however, is the reason I like to roll on the strategic table. You know what kind of board you play on before you choose your trait, so that should help mitigate things. It’s honestly not the move through cover option that I want, but the Stealth: Ruins option. That’s absolutely fantastic. That’s an automatic 3+ cover save to stand in ruins.. how can you beat that? Plus, it doesn’t slow you down significantly when you’re moving through them.

        I do play with a lot of ruins in my average game though.

      • To be fair on Nature’s Bane I can see exactly where it will be useful – vs support units like Tau/Eldar Pathfinders in area terrain. S5 wounds T3 on a 2+, Tau Pathfinders have fairly creppe saves especially and won’t sit there and take the risk. You want a whole units of markerlights out of cover and firing snap shots for a turn? Yup, they just bailed out of that OM NOM NOM forest…

      • Seems like a bit of a stretch to me. Guardians are about the weakest possible unit you could hope for, and you do have the possibility of killing a minimum size squad in just two turns, that’s awful close to a 1% chance of that happening. Basic mathhammer says you’ll kill about 1.11 rangers per turn, so it would take almost a full game to kill even a minimum size ranger squad.

        That isn’t very effective to me–not worth even mentioning really. Against few armies there’s an off chance that it will have minimum effect? No thanks.

        I do appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment though. Please don’t let my negativity discourage you from doing it again sometime. 🙂

      • No probs and thanks for taking the time to post! I hope that you don’t consider my comments to be a critique, I’m more of a fan of seeing the possibilities for killing rather than negatives :]

        Well vs a T3 Sv5+ unit 1 kill per turn on average *for free* is still fairly useful, can be the difference between breaking a unit or not if they’re a min-size mob to start with. It’s not like Warlord tables are game-changers though anyway lol

      • Oh, I didn’t take it negatively at all.

        And yeah, many items on most warlord tables are pretty crappy, so this isn’t any worse than a lot of them. It’s a far cry from good though, and will likely have very little effect on the game.

        On Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 11:45 AM, Warhammer 39,9999 wrote:


  2. Glad to see you’re going to be looking at this. My codex (and new models) are still in the post, but nearly everything I’ve seen so far leaves me very disappointed.

    Before the previous codex came out I was hoping for something that would make the tyranids horrific and scary to play against. I don’t mean ‘win all the time’; just make you feel like you’re surrounded, with hordes of gribblies are closing in, your troops going insane with fear, running out of ammunition, your equipment is failing, etc. Like the 2nd Ed. codex basically. But none of that happened, and it looks like this new codex doesn’t really change very much.)

    It looks very uninspiring.

    I suspect that Shadow in the Warp will be faq’d to say that it only applies to psychic tests too.

    • I’m doing it largely at your insistence. That’s probably the biggest reason. I figure I can learn something while I’m at it, but I’m not too excited about it.

      For the record, it might go slowly, as I have a bunch of posts already lined up, and I have a vacation coming up before too long.

  3. That’s all right. I’m hoping your posts will inspire me to read the codex too – I’ll aim to sort of follow along and use your posts to analyse the codex. The tyranids do have some awesome models and I’d love to actually turn all my bits into a playable army. And even get it painted!

    I’m not a fan of the new flying creatures (oh dear, that most of the new ‘crutch’ units in the codex out for me!), but the exocrine looks really cool. And I’m looking forwards to making some more interesting looking tyranid broods.

      • It’s a really well made and well painted conversion, but I don’t much like the design. I like the gorilla style arms of the new exocrine and haruspex, and the overall look of the model.

        I’ve never used or faced fliers but don’t think they’re the right scale for use in a game of 40K, whatever the models and/or rules are like. I don’t much like the new models though – although I do like some of the individual elements and might get one for conversion pieces. Not liking the models combines with not liking fliers in principle = I’m not using them even if it’s the only way to get skyfire! Mind you, I don’t think anyone I play against is likely to use fliers either, so it’s not a huge problem.

      • I’m sort of a completest, so I had to buy a couple of flyers for that reason. I don’t mind the look of them either, but I don’t think they’re very good. Comment sentiment is that they’re pretty great, but I think that’s oversight. When the 5th edition codex came out, people were raving about how great they were, but frankly, flying MC’s get grounded too easily, and with T5 and a 4+ (or worse) save, they’re far too fragile. Quad guns (with re-rollable misses) hit them almost every time, and then wound on a 2+ with no armor saves. That’s essentially good for four wounds per turn….

  4. sounds nifty overall, love the new catalyst power.

    Your dreaded Grey Knights don’t seem like they would enjoy this new codex all that much, though i don’t think it’s auto lose. Brotherhood of psykers does a good job of keeping the Grey Knights from being auto gibbed by “all enemy psyker” rules.

    • GK’s are far from auto-lose against Tyranids. In the previous iteration, GK’s were just the opposite: auto-win. Now, I figure that there is some risk to a GK squad when they charge into a unit with synapse. It’s possible (even likely, in lower LD squads) that they don’t get off their psychic powers, and if–on the off chance–they actually lose combat, there’s reasonable odds to run away (Though ATSKNF will really take care of that).

      For the record, shadow of the warp does say it specifically affects units with “brotherhood of psykers.”

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