Hive Tyrants and Swarmlords – the heart of any Tyranid swarm. Let’s take a look at them and see how what they bring to the table...
Hive Tyrant…the base cost of one of these is comparable to a Carnifex. Is toughness 6 with 4 wounds and a 3+ save. Has the ability to upgrade to a 2+ save, but this precludes upgrading to Wings. The only shooting worth anything (read my Long Range Weps post) is an upgrade to 2 twin-linked Devourers…giving it 12 x S6 twin-linked shots at 18”. Quite handy in the age of glancing vehicles to death. The Tyrant also has 3 abilities (non-psychic) that is can buy. I like two of them. Hive Commander adds 1 to reserve rolls. All reserves coming in on a 2+…check. Old Adversary gives any unit within 6” the Preferred Enemy USR. If I can get a few Hive Guard close to him, that has the potential at decent armour killing with S8 shots that ignore cover.
Let’s talk Wings. I know I am clearly in the minority when I say that as new army books are released, I will tend less and less to use this upgrade. Why? Can you say Skyfire?! Against units with this rule, the Winged Tyrant is compost. He only has a 3+ save and toughness 6. He will be hit on 3s and wounded on 2s most of the time. He has no Tyrant Guard to soak up wounds. The best I can do is to send a dozen or so Gargoyles for cover saves, since he is not an Independent Character and can’t attached himself to any meat popsicles. I would rather give him the 2+ save upgrade, twin-linked devourers and a couple of Tyrant Guard. He has a much better chance of survival even though I have to walk him across the board.
Finally for this fella is his psychic powers. Can roll twice on the table and use one power per turn. The codex choices are not bad, but I think rolling on the table has as much chance at something good. Also, Psychic Scream is a primaris power anyway, so if I choose this plus another roll on a psychic powers table, I am in about the same shape as going with the codex powers. Plus is I take my chances on the tables, I have a shot at things like Iron Arm or Endurance, which really crank up his survivability.
Swarmlord…For about the same cost as a Tyrant with Wings or a 2+ save, twin-linked devourers and Hive Commander, I can take the Swarmlord. We’ll start with his psychic powers.
He can roll FOUR TIMES on the psychic tables, and use TWO powers per turn. His chances at Iron Arm or Endurance are 67%! He also has access to powers that require 2 warp charges. Not bad for a start. Add a couple of Tyrant Guard and the fact that he has 5 wounds, he is very resilient.
He also has several special rules that rock. He has a 4++ in close combat. His close combat attacks cause Instant Death, and opponents must reroll successful invulnerable saves. His synapse range is 18”. He can bestow USRs on nearby units. Another great one is that I add 1 to all reserve rolls AND outflanking units can reroll arrival board edge.
The only disadvantage versus the Tyrant is the lack of respectable shooting. But the psychic kick he can give to an army is quite formidable, and I think trumps the lack of firepower. I know, he can’ have Wings and doesn’t get the 2+ save option. Again, his psychic presence is potent and given the previously mentioned vulnerability of a flying Tyrant (Flyrant), I think he is worth a go.
Summary…Either of these dudes serve a key role in any ‘Nid army. There are certainly more cost efficient choices, such as the Tyranid Prime. However, taking into account special rule enhancements and the important role of psychic powers in an effective swarm, I think the cost of either beastie is worth it in any list over 1750. My choice will usually be a Swarmlord IF I take a big boy.
See ya next time!