As you’d expect from a book set in the Octarius sector it isn’t just the Imperium getting fancy new rules in this book. The swarming bioforms Hive Fleet Leviathan are famously one of the two largest forces in the region, having been diverted into the sector by Inquisitor Kryptman, who hoped to kill two birds with one stone by unleashing them upon the local Orks, ideally neutralising both.
That…may not have gone entirely to plan. Both Orks and Tyranids famously get more dangerous the more they fight, and in book one of the Octarius campaign we get to see just what that means on the Tyranid side of the equation. This book contains two new sets of rules for hive mind fans – Synaptic Links, providing upgrades that can be purchased by any Hive Fleet, and a Codex Supplement for Hive Fleet Leviathan, allowing you to put all their new adaptations into play on the battlefield. It also consolidates and updates the formatting of the Tyranid rules from Blood of Baal, meaning that the number of books you’ll need to lug to events is staying stable rather than increasing.
Is this update going to allow the Tyranids to rise up and consume the juicy morsels that make up the metagame’s best armies? Luckily, Games Workshop has kindly sent us a review copy of the book, so I’m teaming up with known Tyranid sympathiser Chase “Gunum” Garber to find out what this means. Let’s get into it!
Gunum: I’m just happy to be included.
Tyranids – What This Builds On
Wings: Tyranids feel pretty firmly in the middle of the pack for armies that haven’t received a 9th Edition codex yet, which six months ago made them look pretty decent. While their book has a lot of trash, it has a few very good units (e.g. Hive Guard), can flood the board reasonably well and benefits from having both double shoot and double fight stratagems that have far fewer restrictions than most 9th Edition ones do. It also got a strong set of Forge World units in the compendium, and in the early parts of 2021 they were a real contender. Alas, like many older books they’ve fallen badly behind codexes from Drukhari onwards, and now are only an occasional feature in top four rundowns. That’s not a bad place to be in when you’re about to get an infusion of new rules however – there’s plenty of stuff that’s nearly there, and even a moderate amount of well-targeted goodness could potentially go a long way.
Gunum: From a purely selfish standpoint, as I play Leviathan, the very basic level of additions builds onto every list that I’ve been able to conceive. The up-and-coming buffs provided to us via the Synaptic Links will begin to push our buggy-bois into a tier that we should have belonged to this whole time. Not only that, but getting three warlord traits that we can actually use versus just automatically just throwing them away for our unit upgrades, is amazing. We’ll get access to our first real strong source of re-rolls, some great new artifacts, not to mention stratagems. At the end of the day, the boost provided to our book via this campaign supplement is deeply needed and deeply welcome. I have access to all of our Forge World monsters, but I prefer to build more MSU lists, so I think the more common Tyranid player will find a lot of value here.
Hive Mind Synaptic Links
We’re going to break with the order that rules appear in the books and cover these first, since they’re universally applicable. Hive Mind Synaptic Links are a new type of upgrade you can purchase for points, similar to systems like Chapter Command. These provide a command phase buff that can be handed out to one friendly HIVE FLEET unit in Synaptic Link range, which has slots of diagrams explaining it but essentially boils down to “twelve inches, but you can bounce that onward via other Synapse models”. A unit can only be affected by a single Synaptic Link each turn, and units with one can choose themselves for the effect if they want.
For each non-Named Character Synapse datasheet in the codex a specific upgrade is available, and you can purchase a different total number across your army depending on game size, scaling from one in Combat Patrol through four in Onslaught. Edit: A few commentors have pointed out that the limit is actually on how many of these you can use each turn, so in theory you can buy more and only use the ones you want each turn. In practice that seems relatively unlikely to be much of a thing, but it’s worth knowing, and there might just about be some sort of clever list that takes 2-3x Broodlord and 2-3x upgraded Tyranid Warriors for flex. Unusually for such effects, you can buy the same one more than once, so if you have three Broodlords in your army you could choose to purchase all three Master of the Shadows, which was previewed on Warhammer Community.
So how do these stack up? Reasonably well! Tying upgrades to specific units is very unusual, which means that these do have to cross the hurdle of being both an effect you want and on a unit you don’t mind putting in your army, but several definitely achieve that goal, and we’re going to talk about some of our favourites (beyond Mastery of the Shadows, which is definitely one of the good ones).
Wings: I’m going to go for raw and obvious power first with the upgrade for Tyranid Warriors, which is Bioweapon Bond. This runs you 15pts, and allows you to hand out the extremely potent buff of flat +1 to hit. That rules. 15pts on top of a minimum squad of Tyranid Warriors is dirt cheap to squeeze into your army, and you’re perfectly happy lurking them on a home objective either buffing up a shooting threat or zapping this outward via the Synaptic Link daisy chain. As an army Tyranids are pretty short on re-rolls, so pretty much all their damage dealing units want access to this,
but it’s especially strong dropped on a unit of Hive Guard planning to use Symbiostorm, as that’s a rare effect that triggers on modified 6+ to hit, allowing an already lethal unit to do some truly monstrous stuff Edit: Turns out no, that doesn’t work – there actually is one functional change in the reprint of the Blood of Baal rules, and that’s that Symbiostorm is now “Unmodified 6s”, so bear that in mind! Outside that, if you’ve brought a big nasty like a Barbed Hierodule this can be spicy, though you might find yourself wanting to give it Cover instead.
Gunum: I can echo Bioweapon Bond from Wings here, as I also would love to make my Hive Guard fire base hit on 2s. Though on my first read through, the one I enjoyed the most was Focal Essence. A fantastic buff provided by one of my favorite units, the Maleceptor. Though it has one sub-par buff (boosting AP on 6s to wound), it’s other half is allowing a unit to re-roll all damage rolls for that unit. Another great buff for Hive Guard (though they can not benefit from both), as well as something like the Acid Spray of the Tyranofax. The fact that these abilities are buffs for all armies, I think will cause some real use with Kraken as well, though I’ll leave that up to Wings to explore.
Wings: Yeah so the other one here that’s definitely worth a look is Malicious Direction, the upgrade for Hive Tyrants. This allows the chosen unit to pile in 6” rather than 3”, and since leveraging absurd amounts of combat movement is one of Tyranids favourite moves (and Hive Tyrants are something you’re often going to want in your list anyway) this should see some use. You’d almost certainly prefer it on consolidations, but it still lets charging double-fighting Genestealers cover some extra ground.
While those are the big standouts, these are cheap enough that we’re sure other things will at least be tried, and some of the remaining ones have a bit of dark horse potential about them – Tervigons are hard to justify, but being able to hand out re-roll 1s and 2s to wound in shooting is a hell of a thing, for example. Overall, this set of rules feels like it’s got some potential, and nicely puts the Nids on a similar footing to armies who have received their codex update sheet.
Codex Supplement – Hive Fleet Leviathan
So, that’s the appetiser out the way, but any true Tyranid player will already be looking hungrily towards the main course and on that front we’ve got some good news – the Leviathan supplement is very good. The impact of Supplements so far this edition has been deeply mixed, and that’s partially because they’ve mostly (House Raven being the big exception) been for books that have already been out or been imminent. That’s often led to them either seriously over-pushing one strategy (Cult of Strife) or ending up as a bit more of a curiosity compared to more powerful strategies from the main book.
The Leviathan supplement is different, as it’s coming in hot for an 8th Edition book with no upgrade yet announced, and it reads pretty clearly like it’s intended as a stop gap to boost Tyranids up until their turn for a full book comes around. Hive Fleet Leviathan’s theming as the newest and most adapted Hive Fleet with synaptic links to the others is used to justify giving them 9th-tuned tools that make them better at everything, and also allow them to draw on some of the greatest hits of the rest of the Tyranid book. There are likely still going to be use cases for Kronos and Kraken contingents after this, but expect Leviathan to become the competitive mainstay.
This might sound like a criticism, but it absolutely isn’t – I think this is exactly what Codex Supplements should be being used for in the early-mid Edition. Some armies are always going to have to wait a bit longer for a full book, and if giving them four pages of well-targeted new rules is enough to keep them functional and competitive while they wait, then that’s a great use of resources. We saw with the Harlequin Psychic Awakening at the end of 8th how drastically a relatively small infusion of new tricks could level an army up, and we might be looking at something similar here.
Hopefully that’s got Tyranid fans in the audience pretty hyped up, so we won’t make you wait any longer – let’s get into it, starting with the Warlord Traits.
Warhammer Community rather let the cat out of the bag on some of the big news here with Swarm Leader, allowing Hive Fleet Leviathan to have a little Chapter Master, as a treat. It’s obviously great with Hive Guard, Genestealers and devourer Gaunts, and if there are any builds that want to try something clever with Tyranid Warriors it will rule in that too.
Gunum: Tyranids don’t get rerolls, basically anywhere. Having this as a Warlord trait makes it a near auto take, to keep our Hive Guard double shooting, and rerolling everything, while hiding out of line of Sight. A+ from me.
That’s not the only cool thing on offer here, however, with both the others being worth serious consideration. Strategic Adaptation hands out the increasingly standard ability to redeploy a number of units after the roll-off (here two units, which cannot include the warlord), including pulling them to Strategic Reserves. If you’re running big, unhideable bugs like Hierodules this has got to be worth your time, and if you’re planning to go for an early big push with Genestealers this also lets you adapt on the fly.
Finally kicking off the theme of getting to dip into the toys of other Hive Fleets, Gestalt Commander is incredibly cool and potentially pretty strong. When you have this trait, at the start of each battle round you pick one of six Warlord Traits of the other Hive Fleets, and the Warlord has that trait for that battle round. Given there’s no limitation on picking the same one for more than one round, this is just straight up better than picking any of those individually would be, and gives you some considerable flexibility turn to turn. Notable standouts include the Kraken Fight First ability, but others are situationally good too (Jormungandr switching off cover is nifty with devourer Gaunts, for example). Being able to flex turn to turn makes this way more than the sum of its parts, and it’s really worth a look.
Gunum: The last Warlord trait is just fun, as we are approached by GW with some Hear Me Out salesmanship. As we kind of talk about, being able to switch to whatever you need, at any time is pretty cool. Is this a great Warlord trait? Uh. I’d say not so much. Especially as most of our Nid lists will only have a single one, I don’t know if this is the one you’d take.
This time around WarCom rather buried the lede – Synaptic Hive Blades sound cool, but in practice ignoring invulns on a weapon with only AP-2 is extremely niche and not really worth a slot.
The rest of these though? Far more promising. Two aren’t super complicated, but are still pretty great – the Biomorphic Carapace gives opponents -1 to wound the bearer, while the Adaptive Neural Lobe lets you gain a CP on a 5+ each time the opponent spends one. Leviathan lists are going to want a lot of CP, so expect the latter to be a frequent feature in builds, while the former makes a Hive Tyrant a real chore to carve through, and if you’ve got a Tervigon you want to put on the table is pretty much a must take, as T8 with -1 to wound is a heck of a defensive profile. Probably not top tier in a world full of darklight and cognis lascannons, but definitely a leg up for people who like the unit and want it to perform on a more reasonable level in the average game.
The final option has a bit more competition, but is distinct enough to be worthwhile. The Void Crown is a big amplifier to your model’s psychic abilities, letting it know an additional power, cast a power after performing a Psychic Action, and have powers be undeniable on an unmodified 9+ to cast. This obviously contends with the (very strong) Resonance Barb, but it should have a niche on Neurothropes. These guys are unusual in that they’re two cast psykers that only know one power, so normally have to smite with one of them (unless you invest in Synaptic Channeling to spread the love), which is handy if the opponent is close, but doesn’t always gel with their role as backfield buff units. Because of that, knowing an extra power is far more useful to them, and also unlocking them as a strong potential Warp Ritual caster in hordier lists is just gravy.
Three big hits here, overall!
Gunum: My common take is a Trygon Prime with a 5++ and an artifact. Taking the -1 to be wounded artifact is pretty amazing. T7 and T8 are both great break points for -1 to be wounded and next to the Norn Crown I can’t think of a different artifact I would take. Though, there is a lawls to being able to take two fancy hats and a flexed out body for your army. Big Hats win games, it is known.
Relics and Warlord Traits are nice, but it’s often the Stratagems that really make Supplement shine, and these do not disappoint. First up, if you’ve been looking at the Warlord traits and wondering how you’re going to choose then good news – you can buy one extra trait (specifically from the three in the book) for a CP with Alpha Leader Beast, which many lists probably will. To represent the synaptic command chain Leviathan uses, you also get access to a stratagem that lets you promote a Synapse character to Warlord, gaining a trait, when yours dies. This is certainly cool, and dropping Perfectly Adapted on a nasty killer mid-game is a nice option to have up your sleeve, though it’s fair to say an unusually high number of Tyranid traits have quite specific timing which might hold this back.
Beyond those, you’ve got an abundance of riches for things to do during the game. For dealing big damage, you start strong with Relentless Flurry, giving a unit extra hits on unmodified 6s until the end of the phase when they shoot or fight, or two extra hits if the unit has 11+ models. Great with Genestealers (who pay 2CP for it, while everyone else pays 1) but Devourer gaunts are once again probably the swingiest, as this represents a cool extra thirty hits from a full squad (or, uh, sixty if they also blow Single Minded Annihilation). Don’t get too focused on the eye-popping combos though – as soon as you’re at 6+ attacks this represents an extra hit on average dice, and it can be totally worth using just when swinging with, say, the Swarmlord if you’re worried you’re going to narrowly miss a kill (or if you’re planning to Adrenaline Surge). For players who favour fleshborer Gaunts, those also get access to your standard “mortals on 6s” strat, which is certainly nice for any sort of horde build.
One of the things older books are missing compared to 9th Edition ones is tools to manipulate ObSec and Actions, and to fix that next up (and likely one of the most impactful tools here) is Hive Mind Imperative, letting you grant a unit within 12” of a Synapse unit all of ObSec, double counting for units that already had ObSec, and the ability to shoot while Actioning. Do you want an ObSec Hive Tyrant? Yeah, obviously you do want that, and being able to hand it off to a nearby Lictor, big hitter or even maybe Zoanthropes also rules, so use this a lot! Also on the 9th Edition theme, there’s an exciting and new way to mess with Strategic Reserves – Questing Tendrils lets you arrive on turn 2 as if it was turn 3, so your opponent’s deployment zone (and the juicy biomass within) is on the menu earlier than normal (and this obviously synergises with Strategic Adaptation).
Our final theme here is “nicking the other Hive Fleets stuff”, starting out with The Void in the Warp, which is the standard 4+ deny strat (here measured 24” from Synapse units). Obviously not quite as good as Kronos’ The Deepest Shadow, but still an excellent addition to any toolbox, particularly in the current metagame. Even more exciting, however, is Hyper Adaptation, which makes Leviathan the Deathwatch of Tyranids. In your Command Phase, you can pick a unit and have it gain a different Hive Fleet’s adaptation until the end of the turn, and this can include picking a single option from the “custom” trait list. This rules – temporarily becoming Kraken for a speed boost or Fall Back/Charge is the most obvious choice, but any of the re-roll options have their place, and it could also be spicy for dipping into either Bio-metallic Cysts or Pack Hunters to rack up some AP on units with Scything Talons (there’s certainly some stuff here that makes exploring big units of Hormagaunts interesting). When used with these various proactive tools it’s also cool that this snaps back at the end of turn rather than your next command phase, as the Leviathan trait (6+ ignore wounds) does the most in your opponent’s turn. That does mean that you can’t really combo this with any of the defensive options, and it’s a bit pricier than some things here at 2CP, but having Kraken on demand would plausibly be a worthwhile strat by itself, and this has some more uses than that.
There’s a few other toys here but those are the big ones – and what a set they are. More punch when hitting with your alpha units, broad access to ObSec and a few powerful toolbox effects – it’s a good time to join the swarm.
Bounty of the Hive Fleet for 3x Relics
1x Hive Fleet Adaptation so can give only 1x Hive Adaptation
1x Broodlord w/ SL: Mastery of the Shadows + The Void Crown – Paroxysm
1x Neurothrope, Warlord Swarm Leader: + Adaptive Neural Lobe – Catalyst
3x Tyranid Warrior w/ SL: Bioweapon Bond
6x Hive Guard w/ Impalers
1x Malceptor w/ SL: Focal Essence – The Horror
4x Zoanthropes w/ Psychic Scream
4x Zoanthropes w/ Psychic Scream
1x Trygon Prime w/ Biomorphic Carapace (-1 to be wounded) + Adaptive Physiologies Dermic Symbiosis
2000 points, 9CP.
Allright, check it out. With the new Synaptic Links we are able to really dive into making some of our units more awesome. The three that I picked here, Bioweapon Bond, Focal Essence, and Master of Shadows each provide a different kind of needed buff for our Hive Guard and Biovores. Right now, I’m visualising my Warriors and the Biovores hiding behind a wall some where, so I can have some BS 3+ mortal wounds getting rained down onto my enemies. Followed by the Malceptor hanging with the core of my units so I can provide my army with the -1S from shooting attacks, as well as giving the Hive Guard reroll all hits via my Swarm Leader warlord trait. On top of that, they will also be able to be benefited by the SL from the Malceptor to give them reroll damage! I chose the Broodlord to move up with the Termagants and either provide himself with ALL the cover saves, or one of his pet packs. Being able to provide Heavy Cover on the go is actually very useful for Tyranids as our save is already kinda low. Mixing the buff of Heavy Cover with the 6+ ignore wounds that Leviathan provides, will be essential to keeping our front line alive.
Finally, I never leave home without two groups of four Zoanthropes and their Neurothrope boss. Zoans are incredibly hard to move, as they are one of the last 3++ saves in the game. Since they are synapse as well, they act as a Synaptic Link Extender to allow the Bioweapon Bond to be handed off between my Biovores and my Hive Guard. Do I need to hit on 2s against some low wound guys? Well I’ll just make sure my SL reaches the Zoans, so they can hand off the news to the Neuro who can then hand the command off to the Hive Guard! Really cool system that brings a feeling of adaptation to the Tyranids that has been missing.
The Tyranids have a lot of ways to utilize these buffs provided by Synaptic Link, but you’ll see it used mostly to make Hive Guard hit on 2’s from their friends the Tyranid Warriors.
Overall, we like the Tyranid rules here a whole bunch – they’re a definite infusion of power, and while it probably won’t fire them to the top of the metagame right now, it should give them quite a few more angles to evolve and adapt in a harsh world. Good stuff. Comments, questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org as always.