Fury of the Swarm: 40K co-op just got deadlier

Fury of the Swarm is an experimental co-op mode for Warhammer 40,000, in which the players face off against a swarm of Tyranids following instinctive protocols. This week the Hive Mind has adapted in response to player feedback. Emperor preserve us. Plus, you asked for it, and you’ve finally got it: some sample Tyranid army lists!

One of the most consistently requested things from earlier on in this project was some more detailed guidance on writing Tyranid army lists for use as co-op baddies, and so that’s the bulk of today’s post, although I’ll also talk about the rules changes I’m trialing.

If you want to skip my commentary and check out the rules, click the big Tyranid head below.

Fury of the Swarm route map

One post every fortnight

  1. Announcement post
  2. The initial release, with test mission
  3. Campaign mode go! Four missions in total, one for each campaign phase.
  4. Developer diary #1
  5. 2 new missions (Hold the Line & Resupply Run)
  6. 2 new missions (Repel Boarders & The Straggler)
  7. 2 new missions (Burn the Nest & Living Rain)
  8. Developer diary #2 <<<< YOU ARE HERE
  9. Developer diary #3, with a few previews of the laid out pages.
  10. The release of Version 1 as a downloadable PDF.

Writing Tyranid army lists for co-op play

Several people have asked me to provide sample Tyranid army lists, both as guidance on army balance and so they know what to buy.

I’m pretty hesitant about this. I don’t want to risk people thinking “oh I don’t have some of the things Charlie mentioned in this list, so I can’t play Swarm yet.” For this reason, the current Swarm rules currently offer only rough guidance.

I do however appreciate that having some sample lists would offer some insights, but would also take up a silly amount of visual space in the rules, hence this post.

The Hive Mind Overflows. Credit: Rockfish
The Hive Mind Overflows. Credit: Rockfish

General principles

Ensure your Swarm is a match for your Player armies
Most of the missions in Swarm can be played with any mix of units, so long as the Players’ forces and the Tyranids are fairly well matched. If you fight a huge carpet of Tyranid infantry with nothing but anti tank guns, you’ll get swamped. On the flip side if your list is “oops, all tanks” then any Tyranids that can only wound them on 6s will just huddle on the nearest objective and you’ll have a very boring game.

Now, tanks versus big anti tank monsters? That could be fun, since it’s got parity.

Imperial Guardsmen and artillery versus loads of Tyranid infantry? Also fun, since again, it’s got parity.

But the MOST fun, I think, is a varied Player army battling a varied Tyranid army. A mix of unit types and weapons on both sides results in the most interesting interactions and the most balanced gameplay. On that basis, I’m going to spend the rest of this article focussing on this kind of well-rounded Tyranid force. If you’re a seasoned gamer who wants to write a skew list, you don’t need my help.

A balanced swarm – basic ratios
As a rough guide, you want your swarm to have a 1:1:1 ratio of units with the ENDLESS MULTITUDE keyword, MONSTER units, and [OTHER STUFF]. If in doubt, you can always add more ENDLESS MULTITUDES to make up points, because carpets of bugs are cinematic as hell.

Include a balanced mix of weaponry
Very broadly there are three types of weapon in 40K: weapons that kill infantry, weapons that kill heavy infantry and/or light vehicles, and finally weapons that kill monsters and heavy vehicles. You want a mix of all three; even if you’re fighting the Tyranids with heavy infantry like Space Marines, enough termagants and hormagaunts will make a dent through sheer weight of fire.

An aside for beginners: how do you know what target a weapon is designed for?
Anti-infantry units tend to have plentiful shots with low strength and armour penetration (e.g. Termagants’ Fleshborers, or Hormagaunts’ talons). Anti-heavy infantry weapons have fewer shots, but high strength and AP, along with a damage stat of 2 or 3 (an Exocrine is a good example – you have far fewer attacks than you would if you spent those points on hormagaunts, but they’re all strength 8, AP-3 and have damage 3 – enough to terrify even Space Marines in Gravis armour). You can spot anti-tank weapons by their huge strength stat (at least 9, but often 10 or higher), decent AP, and most importantly their giant damage characteristic. The Tyrannofex’ Rupture Cannon has a damage stat of 2D6!

Which Tyranids are good against tanks and monsters?
In case you’re wondering which units have decent anti-tank punch in the Tyranid roster (since you’re going to want at least two units from this list in your Swarm) here’s a list:

  • Carnifex with crushing claws & scything talons
  • Norn Assimilator
  • Screamer-Killer
  • Tervigon with massive crushing claws
  • Tyrannofex with Rupture Cannon
  • Zoanthropes
  • Honourable mention: the Trygon will drop about 6 wounds on your average vehicle, but it’s happiest taking on heavy infantry.

Screamer Killer. Credit: Rockfish
Screamer Killer. Credit: Rockfish

A reminder: we’re building for cinematics rather than efficiency
I’m not a competitive player, and don’t participate in tournaments. The recommendations I’m making here are completely inapplicable to matched play. If you approach a game of Swarm the same way you approach a matched play game, it’s almost certainly not going to work. So if you’re thinking “why is Charlie recommending X unit?” the answer is generally because it helps the Tyranids project a threat when there’s no player making the best decisions for them. And also, perhaps more importantly, to ensure the swarm feels like a Tyranid invasion, with a bunch of elites and monsters surrounded by a carpet of little guys.

Tyranid Swarm points calculator

One of the utilities I created for this game mode is a points calculator I can use to quickly tot up a Tyranid army list with some tick boxes. You can find it here. Bear in mind you’ll need to save a copy to your own Google Drive before you can use it – see the ReadMe tab for instructions.

Sample Tyranid Army Lists

Building off the Tyranid Combat Patrol

Combat Patrol boxes are designed as a springboard into a new army, and offer a solid discount over buying the kits separately. The Tyranids patrol includes:

  • Barbgaunts x5
  • Psychophage
  • Termagants x10
  • Termagants x10
  • Von Ryan’s Leapers x3
  • Winged prime

This gets your swarm to 445 points (as of Munitorum Manual v1.3), and offers a reasonable spread of weapons to handle infantry and heavy infantry, but no answer to tough targets like vehicles and monsters.

If you picked up a copy of Leviathan, you’ve got some extra bits, including the Screamer-Killer (which offers some decent anti tank power in melee). The units in Leviathan are great, and if you’ve got them, go ahead and use them. For the army lists in this post, however, I’m going to build off of kits you can purchase at the time of writing.

Winged Tyranid Prime. Credit: Rockfish
Winged Tyranid Prime. Credit: Rockfish

Expanding the combat patrol up to 1,250 points
Swarm starts to play well once you’ve got 1,250 points of bugs, since generally the Tyranids get a 25% points bonus over the Players, so let’s see what we should add to the Combat Patrol box. We need some anti-tank heft, and we want at least some of it to be ranged to put pressure on the Player army right out of the gate. The Tyrannofex is horrendously over-pointed right now, but there’s not too many other long range options, so that’s what’s up, along with some friends:

  • Carnifexes with crushing claws and scything talons x2
  • Hormagaunts x10
  • Hormagaunts x10
  • Tyranid warriors x3 (2 deathspitters and 1 venom cannon)
  • Tyrannofex with rupture cannon
  • Zoanthropes x3

This lot plus the Combat Patrol broadly adheres to the ratios needed for a balanced swarm; there’s 4 ENDLESS MULTITUDE units, 4 MONSTER units, and 5 [OTHER] units. It might perhaps struggle with heavy infantry, but there’s a lot of weapons with Strength 5 and AP-1, so it’ll at least make a dent.

Hormagaunts. Credit: Rockfish
Hormagaunts. Credit: Rockfish

Expanding the combat patrol up to 2,500 points
This is the big leap from 1,000 point games to 2,000 point games. For a 2,000 point Player army you’ll want an extra 500 points to preserve that 25% points advantage. Obviously one can grab these things slowly over time, rather than in one financially fruity hit. Our 1,250 point swarm has a decent spread of weapon and unit types, but it doesn’t have a natural figurehead, and is fairly short on Synapse creatures in general. It would also be nice to get more of the new Tyranid minis in the mix, while also ensuring we’re adding ranged threats. To that end:

  • Biovore
  • Exocrine
  • Hive Tyrant (bonesword, lash whip, stranglethorn cannon)
  • Hormagaunts x10
  • Lictor
  • Norn Assimilator
  • Tervigon
  • Termagants x20
  • Tyranid Warriors x3 (2 deathspitters and 1 venom cannon)

This is now a massive Tyranid swarm of 2,510 points, boasting 8 MONSTER units, 7 ENDLESS MULTITUDE units, and 8 other units, so again, the ratio of 1:1:1 is broadly intact. In an ideal world we’d add some gargoyles to accompany the Winged Tyranid Prime, but on its own it’s still a fun distraction unit.

Some Genestealers would also be a solid addition, so if you’re not that taken with the Norn Assimilator (which this author loves) that’s a good place to free up a load of points.

One could keep adding, and indeed by the time you’re using a combined Player force of 3,000 points, that means a whopping 4,000 points of Tyranids, but at this point I’m sure you get the gist.

Tervigon. Credit: Rockfish
Tervigon. Credit: Rockfish

Alternate Build

Obviously there is an infinite variety of swarms to build, but let’s run through another one following the principles of unit and weapon ratios used above.

The First 625 points
This will at least allow you to get some 500 point games in, since some missions have additional guidance to modify them for tiny armies.

  • Carnifex x2 (crushing claws & scything talons)
  • Hormagaunts x10
  • Termagants x10 (fleshborers and whatever else you fancy)
  • Termagants x10 (fleshborers and whatever else you fancy)
  • Tyranid Warriors x3 (2 deathspitters and 1 venom cannon)
  • Zoanthropes x3

Up to 1,250
Reaching this benchmark means your swarm is now usable for almost all missions without modification.

  • Exocrine
  • Hive Tyrant (bonesword, lash whip, venom cannon)
  • Hormagaunts x10
  • Lictor
  • Termagants x10 (fleshborers and whatever else you fancy)
  • Tyranid Warriors x3 (2 deathspitters and 1 venom cannon)

Up to 1,875
…For 1,500 point games. Some sneaky gits and some long-range anti-tank punch get added here.

  • Broodlord
  • Gargoyles x10
  • Genestealers x10
  • Termagants x10 (fleshborers and whatever else you fancy)
  • Tyrannofex with rupture cannon

Up to 2,500
This last stretch adds some backfield artillery-based irritation, deep strike shenanigans, and six Ripper bases that sure are there (as a byproduct of all those gaunts you bought).

  • Biovores x3
  • Hormagaunts x10
  • Gargoyles x10
  • Maleceptor
  • Raveners x3
  • Ripper Swarms x3
  • Ripper Swarms x3
  • Trygon

The main weakness of this swarm is a relative lack of anti-tank, so you could swap in more of the AT units I mentioned in the general principles, but I was going for variety here rather than just repeating myself and chucking in extra Carnifexes, Tyrannofexes, et cetera.

Brother Priahad of the Cobalt Scions’ Bladeguard holds the door against a brood of hormagaunts. Credit: Charlie Brassley

The original FotS test army

In the interests of transparency, here’s the pool of units Tom built for the swarm we used for our in-house testing. He was aiming for “Tyranids: Classic Edition” as the army was built as a gaming resource. As of MFM 1.3 it weighs in at 2,510 points.

Carnifex with venom cannon & scything talons
Carnifex with crushing claws & scything talons
Gargoyles x10
Gargoyles x10
Harpy with twin stranglethorn cannon
Hive Guard x3
Hive Tyrant with monstrous bonesword, lash whip and stranglethorn cannon
Hormagaunts x10
Hormagaunts x10
Ripper Swarms x3
Ripper Swarms x3
Termagants x10 (fleshborers)
Termagants x10 (fleshborers)
Termagants x10 (fleshborers)
Termagants x10 (fleshborers)
Termagants x10 (deathspitters)
Termagants x10 (deathspitters)
Tyranid Warriors x3 (2 deathspitters, 1 venom cannon)
Tyranid Warriors x3 (2 deathspitters, 1 barbed strangler)
Tyrannofex with rupture cannon
Winged Tyranid Prime
Zoanthropes x3

You’ll note that his list leans somewhat into the ENDLESS MULTITUDE keyword, and if you can bring yourself to paint that many bugs it’s a solid move, since the ensuing games will look pretty boss sausage.

Creating your swarm as a group effort

This can raise some sticky questions about ownership, but: 40K armies are not cheap, and neither is your time. If you and your friends want to play Fury of the Swarm, it’s a lot of effort to collect, build and paint so many bugs. Not everyone has a friendly neighbourhood Spidertom.

One solution is to pool your financial and temporal resources. If everyone involved collects 700 points of Tyranids, it’s a much lower barrier to entry. You could get together for collective painting sessions, hash out a colour scheme you all like, and make the production of the army as much as enjoyable group activity as the games themselves. That’s certainly what my friend Harvey and I intend to do, once I’m less busy making rules and have more time for regular hobbying.

When I’ve taken this group approach to get terrain painted it’s been a joy, and the whole thing comes together a LOT quicker.

Genestealers. Credit: Pendulin

What’s new in Swarm Version 0.6?

Happily, feedback continues to come in (indeed now is the best time to be submitting it, since I won’t be updating things as much once Version 1 is complete). This in turn has prompted some refinements to the rules. We’ve got the full roster of missions, so the focus is on refining the rules as we head towards the release of Version 1.

In response to feedback from various testers, I’ve made some fairly significant updates (upgrades?) to the Swarm’s behaviour this time, and I’ll be curious to hear how people find it in-game.

Infiltrators can now ambush you mid-game
Previously if you wiped Tyranid infiltrators, they’d return just like the other bugs from respawn points. They’re now a lot nastier, since respawning Infiltrators gain the Deep Strike ability.

20-strong ENDLESS MULTITUDES now more endless
Previously, 10-strong units of wee bugs respawned more efficiently, since each unit got a flat D3+3 models back if they passed their roll. Now that gets doubled for 20-strong units, so whether you like fighting big swarms or small shoals, it’ll work fine either way.

Preferred Prey has become a tad more sophisticated
Previously the main question for Preferred Prey was “are you Strength 9 or higher? Yeah? Go shoot a VEHICLE/MONSTER unit.” Now it’s split into three bands, as Strength 8 and 9 weapons will go for any unit with multiple wounds on their profile and a save of at least 4+, meaning they’ll nibble your heavy infantry just as happily as they’ll soften up your tanks.

Furthermore, weapons with the PRECISION keyword, like the Lictor’s spiky bits, now treat CHARACTER units as their Preferred Prey, ensuring they’ll be the nightmare assassins they should be.

Synapse is a lot scarier
Something that bothered me about the official Synapse rule is that, particularly in this co-op mode, the Battle-shock bonus is fine but not critical. In Fury of the Swarm, I’ve now modified the rule so that Tyranids in Synapse Range become immune to Battle-shock, and if they don’t themselves have the SYNAPSE keyword, they gain +1 to hit. This means the swarm as a whole just got a lot more deadly, and will hopefully bring back an adage familiar to veterans of previous editions: kill the big ones!

Lictor. Credit: Pendulin


If you’d like to send me feedback or questions, the most helpful way is probably the battle feedback form. You’re also very welcome to get in touch by emailing contact@goonhammer.com or by reaching out to me (Charlie) on Instagram. If you’re a Goonhammer patron, you can also @Charlie B on the Discord server.