Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Evolution of the Tyranid Warrior

In space, no one can hear you scream.
The recent tyranid release was met with a lot of skepticism and pessimism, with many claiming that its power level was not high enough for it to contend with most competitive lists (aka Tau and Eldar). And while the point costs of units went down almost across the board, very few major adjustments were made. One unit which many people were anxiously awaiting an update was the tyranid warriors. They saw a lot of use in 3rd edition when they were immune to instant death, but when they lost this in 4th, it was difficult to justify their point cost considering that a single krak rocket could kill one of the 3 wound horrors. Now that the dust has settled from the new tyranid release, it is clear that the warriors are still in the same predicament they have been in for years. You pay a premium to get a synapse spreading 3 wound body, but due to a low toughness and save they just are not durable.

Not all is lost however, even though the warriors did not receive a rules update, they did get a great redesign of their plastic kit! In fact, this was probably the most exciting aspect of the new tyranid release for me; finally Jes Goodwin’s excellent models have been updated with arms properly scaled for them (rather than resorting to the comically oversized carnifex arms).  Despite their limited use in competitive 40k play, I made sure to buy a box of them, remembering fondly working with the plastic models back in 2001 when they were originally released in the 3rd edition of 40K.

Not owning a huge number of tyranids, I thought it would be fun to start building a small tyranid force for use in Kill Teams, focusing mainly on tyranid warriors. The tyranid warriors have always been an iconic element of Warhammer 40,000, represented in several classic illustrations (I particularly remember those from the 2nd edition of Warhammer 40K; quite a few good ones are in the Codex Imperialis). Nothing in the tyranid range has achieved the wholly alien and bizarre look captured by the original plastic tyranid warriors . Their bipedal ant-like frames tower over their modern counterparts and their faces have a subtle, yet horrible, resemblance to a rat.

This got me thinking that it would be interesting to include tyranid warriors from all of the different tyranid eras in the kill team. Fortunately, I already had three of the plastic warriors from 1992’s Tyranid Attack boxed game, and after a brief jaunt on ebay I had a few of the metal 2nd edition versions. While I am still working on finishing all of the warriors in my collection, I thought people might like to see pictures of some of the different tyranid warrior variants released over the years (and see how they look side by side).

Plastic sprue of a tyranid warrior from Tyranid Attack. 
Of all of the warriors that I have worked on, I think I had the most fun working on the original plastic tyranid warriors from Tyranid Attack. For being released in the early 90s, the quality of the models is really impressive. Each one comes on a separate sprue with options to arm them with rending claws, bones swords or a Deathspitter. Also, the plastic used to cast the models is superb and cleans up remarkably similarly to the current Games Workshop plastics.

Plastic tyranid warrior from 1992’s Tyranid Attack boxed game. Oh the horror!
The metal 2nd edition tyranid warriors have a unique character of their own, but retain some of the interesting aspects of the earlier plastic ones, including the stinger-like abdomen. They take on a slightly more humorous tone, with comically large rending claws and a tendency to have their tongues sticking out playfully/mockingly. Additionally, they are posed a little awkwardly, with their guns held fully at arm's length. But I can’t help but love the look of their venom cannons (complete with the bayonet that would later find its way on the more modern plastic venom cannons, ha ha).

Metal tyranid warrior from the 2nd edition tyranids. Look at those massive bear-claw hands!
The newer tyranid warrior plastics are grounded a little more in reality than their predecessors, taking on a squatter build with a tail to aid in balancing. My favorite aspect of them are the carapace crests on their heads, as they remind me of the Xenomorph queen from Aliens (an obvious influence!).

Modern tyranid warrior. Their resemblance of xenomorphs has never been stronger!
The halls of lonely space stations are safe no longer!
With three warriors assembled, I need to assemble two or three more to be ready to play Kill Teams with them. While I was little concerned at first when building them, I think the three warriors look nice together, unified in their strangeness! Hopefully you all enjoyed the pictures of these monstrosities as much as I did building them!

- Adam Wier


  1. I built two Tyranid Primes out of the original models, using elements from the previous Warrior pack to tie them in but thanks to their bigger size they really pull off the 'Prime' aspect. Shame they increased their point cost by more than 50% They made the Warrior Brood slightly more viable but at the new price I'm not so sure I'd bother.

    1. Yeah, the 50% price increase is pretty steep for the Tyranid Prime.

      I had considered trying to use one of the original plastic warriors to convert a Tyranid Prime too. Thanks for the links! Your two Tyranid Primes look great, the original plastics giving them an ancient and venerable look to them.

  2. Always love looking at older stuff - but that Tyranid Attack Warrior is on the far outside of 'cool' - you cant fault some of the new design philosophy.

    Good to see older stuff finding a purpose though and it will give you a nice unique Kill Team to play with - you wouldn't see too many of those critters running on boards around the place.

    1. Ha ha, yeah the old Rogue Trader tyranid warriors really are strange. When I envision a 'cool' alien model, they are certainly not the first thing that comes to mind. The more I look at them though the more I have grown to like them for how truly awkward they are.

  3. Ha, this has to be the first instance of actual fondness for those old, RT-Tyranids I have ever witnessed -- how refreshing ;)

    Seriously, though, while the design itself (more turkey than rat, although I see your point) is a matter of taste, I wholeheartedly agree that the quality of the sculpt and production are almost unbelievable, especially given the technically much inferior stuff released at the same time. Maybe the world just wasn't ready for that amount of quality yet... ;-)

    Anyway, a very entertaining look back! Thanks for that!



    1. Thanks for the comment! I see what you mean with the turkey aesthetic. The world may never be truly ready for such a horror...

      The sculpt and production quality for the Rogue Trader warriors is quite remarkable, particularly when considering the single piece plastic terminators designed at the same time.

    2. ...or the 2nd edition plastic marines from the starter box: Those regular, Bolter wielding marines may be some of the laziest plastic models ever. Sure, they were only starter minis, but even the Orks and Gretchins from the same boxed set have aged better than that.

      Man, now that I've talked about it so much, I almost feel tempted to paint one of those old Turkey Nids myself...

    3. Yeah, those 2nd edition marines from the boxed game were something else. They work well for terrain as statues!

      If you have a few of those old Rogue Trader tyranid warriors sitting around, you could probably use them for all manner of interesting conversions for tyranids or otherwise. I will have to think on the matter, ha ha.

  4. I always liked the old Tyranid Attack model - a nice little blast from the past!

    1. Yeah, those warriors certainly have their own special charm! It is always fun to look back to the earlier days of GW!

    2. I got mine with Advanced Space Crusade! I do like how the torso is layered with the ribcage and the innards.

  5. Great run down of the Tyranid Warrior over the years.
    I stopped playing around about the time they released Tyranid Attack and I often thought this was a weird cousin to the Genestealer, which I always had a soft spot for since first getting into 40k through Space Hulk.

    Since coming back to the hobby I'm seeing whole new armies that I know nothing about (Necron & Tau) and some new armies spawned from things familiar (Dark Eldar & Tyranid) and it's the Tyranids that I struggle with the most due to a combination of unfamiliarity and the fact that they all got weird "throat clearing" names :D

    So it's nice to get a run down on at least one of those models, and see how they've changed over the years, what they can do and can no longer do. Thanks for that :)

    1. I am glad you enjoyed the post! It is really interesting looking back and considering the evolution of many of the ranges of miniatures in Warhammer 40k. I have sort of have a habit of going around on ebay and trying to find old Games Workshop models. Many have a wonderful charm to them! I would love to get my hands on some of the original plastic marines from Rogue Trader (particularly ones still on their sprues)!

      Thinking about it now, another similar evolution post about some of the other tyranid creatures could be neat. The hive tyrant and the carnifex (screamer-killer anyone?) really changed over the years.

  6. Don't forget the original metal tyranid warrior that was similar to the plastics, it had ultra detail and only came with the boneswords and claws. It had a seperate upper half head with wolf like teeth compared to the bucktooth plastics.