|This article relies on references to primary sources. (September 2010)|
The Tyranids are a fictional race from the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game and its spin-off media. They are known to the Imperium generally as Tyranids, because Tyran is the first known planet they devoured and where they were first encountered. Luckily for the Imperium, Inquisitor Kryptman found oral data concealed on one of the databases on Tyran and dedicated the rest of his life to exterminating the new foe.
They are a nomadic alien race comprising many genetically engineered forms created from harvested bio-mass. They are known as the "Great Devourer" and also the "Shadow In The Warp" (after the effect of their hive mind on FTL travel and communications) and pose a severe threat to the Imperium. They seek to consume all in their path, draining all planets of every resource and converting all living and some non-living material into Tyranid biomass.
Tyranids were first described in Rick Priestley's Rogue Trader, the first edition of the Warhammer 40,000. At that time they were not an emphasized race in the game, instead representing a limited number of occasionally encountered alien antagonists. Their physical appearance was not imposing or especially horrific: they were depicted as six limbed, relatively diminutive creatures (an appearance which would later be assigned to Tyranid termagants). In later iterations of Warhammer 40,000-related products (starting with the release of Advanced Space Crusade) the Tyranids were given a complete makeover and became a major race, popularized by a number of successful expansions. Unlike most Warhammer 40,000 races, the Tyranids do not have a direct Warhammer Fantasy Battle counterpart, but share a horde mentality with the Skaven army and are widely considered Warhammer 40,000's equivalent.
Tyranids typically form a fast-moving close-combat army that relies on overwhelming its enemies through waves and waves of mostly small but deadly creatures. They may also be bio-morphed to rely heavily on ranged combat, or field an impressive but small array of monstrous titans rather than a typical swarm. Tyranid armies are therefore able to bring a varied threat to bear on their opponents.
Games Workshop has introduced three main hive fleets, called Behemoth, Kraken, and Leviathan. The most recent Codex has also introduced a number of smaller hive fleets and splinter fleets, such as Hydra and Ghorgon, among a number of others, although the book primarily focuses on the three main fleets. It is noted that these names are given by the scholars of the Imperium, rather than the Tyranids themselves. In fact, there is no evidence in the fiction that Tyranids have language or civilization, at least not as understood by other species native to the Milky Way. In many stories, they communicate with a complex array of insectile clicking and buzzing noises, as well as reptilian war cries, growls, and hissing sounds. Tyranids are thought to communicate primarily via a strong synaptic link to the so-called Hive Mind.
There have been three major Tyranid hive fleets to date; Hive Fleet Behemoth and Hive Fleet Kraken of whom both were defeated, and Hive Fleet Leviathan which is one of the current threats to the known galaxy. There are many other Tyranid hive fleets that have been destroyed or are still emerging, such as Hive Fleets Jormungand, Colossus, Tiamet, Scarabus, Ouroboris, Nemesis, Reatherus, Gorgon and Hydra among many others.
Games Workshop introduced Genestealers in 1991 in the game Space Hulk, and later included them in Space Crusade, along with the short-lived Genestealer Magus. The first recognizable incarnation of Tyranid warriors appeared in Advanced Space Crusade in 1990, featuring biological weaponry such as boneswords and deathspitters.
The first Tyranids used conventional, non-biological equipment such as lasguns and flak armor (although the rulebook stated that these represented organic equipment with similar capabilities). The principal unit available to the Tyranids was the Zoat, a centaur-like creature enslaved to fight on the behalf of their Tyranid masters.
Second Edition Warhammer 40,000, released in 1993, featured the Tyranids in the supplemental books Wargear and Codex Imperialis, and then later in their own devoted army Codex. An extensive model range was released, representing most of the units described in these publications. The army was, however, very different from the factions previously seen in the game.
The Tyranid player now had access to a range of unit types roughly equivalent to that of the other factions, including the Hive Tyrant, Termagants, Hormagaunts, the main adversary in Space Hulk Genestealers, Gargoyles previously seen in Epic 40,000, Tyranid Warriors, the Carnifex, Zoanthropes (a Tyranid psyker in addition to the Hive Tyrant), Lictors, and the Biovore.
In the Tyranid supplement to Third Edition Warhammer 40,000 there was an emphasis on revamping the rules for the various units while maintaining the overall structure of the army, so that veteran players would not find their older collections unusable or less useful in the new edition. The supplement did however add some new units and adjust the behavior of others. A brand-new model range, somewhat different from the older one, was released to coincide with the new publication. New units included: the Tyrant Guard and Raveners.
The Third Edition Codex, as with a number of subsequent publications, included an army list which permitted far greater flexibility to the player than previous army lists, allowing extensive customization of units. Unit types noted as a 'Mutable Genus' in the main army list were permitted to be extensively modified by choosing from numerous options in the 'Custom Hive Fleet' section of the book. The options available bore a resemblance to the random equipment tables featured in Rogue Trader, but were no longer randomized.
The nature of the army list in Third Edition further cemented the Tyranid army's reputation for fielding vast numbers of models, allowing the player to overwhelm an opponent with weight of numbers. This was even more pronounced in the variant Seeding Swarm army list published in White Dwarf and later in Chapter Approved, which represented the initial stages of a massive Tyranid assault and even further emphasized the use of many expendable, 'cannon-fodder' type units.
The release of the fourth edition codex added a new model range, new rules, and new units, most notably the Broodlord, a larger alpha genestealer, and revamped units such as the Carnifex. This new codex also enables Tyranid players to field a grand total of eight large Tyranids to be fielded in a medium-sized battle, although the player would still have to field compulsory troop choices. With this concept Tyranid armies can now boast either the many troops and/or a just few powerful units. One of the more overlooked abilities was the new "without number" rule, which allowed for literally an unlimited number of gaunts in a single game, emphasizing the "cannon-fodder" trait of the Tyranids.
A new Tyranid codex was released on January 16, 2010, written by Robin Cruddance. It included 15 new species of Tyranid, and legendary heroes like the Swarmlord, Old One Eye and the Doom of Malan'tai. In addition, some models saw a point cost reduction, which allowed certain Tyranid armies to field more units, although this was not the case for all Tyranid units. The Carnifex, a mainstay of previous editions, saw its point cost almost double with many of its options removed with no corresponding increase in effectiveness.
The Battle for Macragge
The Tyranids were a major race in the fourth edition of Warhammer 40k, especially due to their presence in the Battle for Macragge boxed game, released in 2004. The set included eight Genestealers, ten Termagants, and eight Spore Mines. The box set represented the Battle for Macragge, one of the most detailed background stories for both the Tyranids and the Ultramarines Chapter of Space Marines.
Famed for their close combat attacks, Tyranids were chosen to be the aliens who were set about destroying the Ultramarines homeworld of Macragge. In the preceding months Hive Fleet Behemoth [The Hive Fleet responsible] had been ravaging the Ultramar sector leaving torn and bleeding planets in their wake, so when they arrived at Macragge they found a planet ready for battle. As well as Macragge's Starnova defence stations, the planet's defences were bolstered by fleets seeking revenge, wanting to protect their homeworlds and some because they could nought else with their helms manned by those loyal to Marneus Calgar, Chapter Master of the Ultramarines. When Behemoth arrived at Macragge it fought with all its might in space and on land to subdue and consume the Ultramarines. This led to a fateful stand on Cold Steel Ridge. The Hive Mind dispatched its deadliest servant to front lines, the Swarmlord, an ancient Hive Tyrant whose consciousness had been reincarnated through countless battles. This beast had struck the final blow on many worlds against many foes, as soon as it stepped onto the battlefield the swarms ferocity was paired with keen strategy. It rent and tore the chapter master and left him lying on the ground. In the end, only the space hulk Dominus Astra detonating its warp drives in the heart of the Tyranid fleet succeeded in destroying the central Tyranid hive ship, lynchpin of the aliens' psychic control, throwing the swarms into disarray and putting an end to the invasion. Even though they failed in their attempt, among the innumerable lives taken and damage caused both in space and on the ground, they managed to wipe out all one hundred members of the Ultramarines' elite 1st Company during a desperate last stand to defend one of the planet's two polar orbital defense facilities, a feat never before accomplished, and never repeated since, by any other enemy of Man.
In alternative games
In Battlefleet: Gothic, a game focusing on spaceship to spaceship fleet combat, they are represented by four models that represent the massive biologically constructed ships of the Tyranid Hivefleet. In Epic, the game of large scale combat using smaller miniatures, they are represented by a combination of Titans and standard Tyranid troops. In Inquisitor, the narrative skirmish game using Warhammer 40,000 type characters, the Tyranids are represented by the Genestealer and Hybrid models under the generic roleplaying category of "aliens." They are individual members of the Genestealer Cults who work towards espionage and propagating their species in secret to weaken a planet's defenses before an invasion, as opposed to being part of the Hivefleet army that seeks to swarm over all in their path and consume them.
In video games
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II currently includes Tyranids as a playable race along with the Imperial Guard, Chaos Space Marines, Eldar, Orks, and Space Marines. The playable "heroes" (commander units) include the Hive Tyrant, Ravener Alpha and Lictor Alpha, and the forces of a Tyranid splinter fleet act as the primary antagonists in the single player campaign; the campaign is only playable from the point of view of the Blood Raven chapter of Space Marines. However, in the expansion Retribution, they are a playable race in the single-player Campaign. Notably, the Tyranids are one of the few Warhammer 40,000 factions that were not in the first game, Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War. The fact that Tyranids were not present is likely due to their nature; as Tyranids do not create structures or technology in the same way as the other races (not to mention the lack of usable wargear because of this), it would be difficult to have them perform as the other races do in the game. Relic has also repeatedly stated that they wanted to include the Tyranids in Dawn Of War, but the game's graphic engine "wouldn't do them justice". Other issues cited included significant differences in economy. The altered overall game mechanics of the aforementioned sequel, together with improved graphical capabilities of later computers apparently allowed them to depict Tyranids in a manner the developers found acceptable.
References & Notes
- Priestley, Rick (2004). Warhammer 40,000 (4th Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-650-X.
- Priestley, Rick (1992). Rogue Trader. Eastwood: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-872372-27-9.
- Bass, Dean; and Colston, Chris (1993). Space Hulk. Eastwood: Games Workshop. ASIN: B000KOPQVO.
- "Genesis of the Tyranids". Games Workshop. Retrieved 2007-04-28.
- Chambers, Andy. Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Tyranids (2nd Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-872372-90-2.
- Kelly, Phil; and Chambers, Andy (2002). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Tyranids (3rd Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-468-X.
- Chambers, Andy. Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Tyranids (1st Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-317-9.
- Kelly, Phil; and Chambers, Andy (2004). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Tyranids (4th Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-650-X.
- "Specialist Games". Games Workshop. Retrieved 2007-05-29.
- "Trial Tyranid Epic Rules". Games Workshop. Retrieved 2007-05-16.
- "Games-Workshop Online Store". Games Workshop. Retrieved 2007-05-29.
- "Games-Workshop Online Store". Games Workshop. Retrieved 2007-05-29.
- "Game Info/ Multiplayer". Retrieved 2009-02-21.