Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel, and today I'm going to be bringing you another article in the Tyranid Tactica series! Hive Guard are a blind Tyranid sub-species created for defending Tyranid feeding "structures" such as capillary towers. Though they aren't the most effective ranged unit, their survivability is rather high for a ranged Tyranid unit. I hope you enjoy this article!
The first quirk one usually notices about Hive Guard is that they are unsurprisingly analogous to their kit-siblings, Tyrant Guard, in terms of stats. Tyrant Guard come with a higher Weapon Skill by one, a higher Initiative by two, and an armour save boost of one. But where Tyrant Guard are an exclusively melee unit, Hive Guard are built for ranged anti-tank suppression. Though they are only Ballistic Skill 3, each Hive Guard model is equipped with a stock gun that puts out two shots. The weapons Hive Guard carry are some of the most dangerous to vehicles that can be found, with a unit of three bringing up to six Strength 8 AP4 shots that ignore all cover saves, and uniquely do not require line of sight to fire. Ironically, this also makes them absolutely devastating against other Tyranids, particularly Warriors, Shrikes and Raveners that will succumb to instant death with no saves possible against Impaler Cannons. They tear light skimmers to pieces by ignoring their Jink saves and punching through their armour with ease. The only real downside here is the 24" range of the guns, but ignoring line of sight does mean the Hive Guard can set up in sight-blocking terrain and fire without penalty or retribution. Ballistic Skill 3, however, relegates them to a mediocre ranged unit as each Hive Guard model only averages a single hit in shooting per volley. They end up being quite expensive compared to other armies' equivalents, namely Devastators, in terms of actual damage output to points cost.
Where Hive Guard make up for this deficiency is through their durability and melee prowess. Each Hive Guard is a whopping Toughness 6 with two wounds and a 4+ armour save. Yes, their thick armour plating should give them a better armour save than something like a Harpy or a Fire Warrior, but they are still quite difficult to put down. This is especially true once you factor in that - when armed with Impaler Cannons, anyway - they can fire without needing line of sight and will as such usually safe from a ranged counter-attack. Yes, heavy weapons fire can and will put them down pretty quickly regardless of their Toughness value, but the fact that they can hide and still shoot means most heavy weapons won't be shooting at them in the first place. The real kicker for Hive Guard will be Crisis Teams with missile pods and Eldar Grav-Tanks that can quickly circle around and shoot them, though the cover saves will come in handy. At least, that is what will generally threaten them at range.
Combat is a different matter entirely, and one that might surprise most if they think of Hive Guard along the same lines as Devastators. With Weapon Skill 4 and two attacks each at Strength 5, Hive Guard can certainly hold their own in combat, even though they probably won't go anywhere in a hurry with the low number of attacks a unit puts out. That they are immune to krak grenades as they are not monstrous creatures and thus force opponents to use their basic weapons against their crazy Toughness 6, Hive Guard can stick around in combat for a long time. Ideally, you don't want them in combat, but with a 24" or lower range on their guns it is almost an inevitability against any kind of assault army. Even a single unit of Assault Marines can be a pain for Hive Guard, forcing a Tyranid player to neuter that unit through Biovores or other shooting. It is nice though that Hive Guard won't collapse in a heap as soon as they charged, unlike most Tau and Imperial Guard units. Another key point in favour of Hive Guard is their above-average - for Tyranids - Leadership of 7, meaning they only fail Instinctive Behaviour tests half of the time. With Hunt and their Strength 8 shooting, failing won't be so bad on the 4,5 and 6 results, but the lower ones will still force them to go to ground. That they need to be within 24" of opponents to actually shoot means they will probably be in Synapse range as most Synapse creatures do tend to operate in the midfield anyway.
How to Equip Them
There are three available upgrades for Hive Guard, with none of them really being that useful unfortunately. There are two more melee-centric upgrades, Adrenal Glands and Toxin Sacs, both of which don't really fit for Hive Guard no matter which gun they choose. They have decent melee stats despite being a dedicated ranged unit, but they really don't need any assistance there. You want them to be shooting almost exclusively, and giving them upgrades like Furious Charge or Poisoned (4+) melee attacks really aren't going to help. They just add unnecessary points to the unit, upgrades which they are unlikely to really use. The only option you should consider is the alternate weapon as a replacement for the Impaler Cannon; Shock Cannons. Sadly, these are not a great weapon choice, especially now that Hive Guard fully ignore both line of sight and cover with their Impaler Cannons. Shockcannons have a 6" reduction to their range, are Strength 5 and AP5 with one shot as opposed to an Impaler Cannons' Strength 8, AP4 and two shots. It is also a small blast weapon, meaning that it cannot be used to snap-fire for Overwatch or to take token shots against zooming flyers and swooping flying monstrous creatures. The only selling point to a Shock Cannon is that it has the Haywire special rule, meaning that it first inflicts a Strength 5 hit on a vehicle, and then a Haywire hit. This really isn't that good, however, with small blasts being even more inaccurate than the Ballistic Skill 3 standard shots offered by an Impaler Cannon. The small blast template is unlikely to hit a decent number of models unless they are clumped up, and is worse for trying to deal with pretty much anything aside from bunched up light infantry. If it wasn't for the Impaler Cannon fully ignoring line of sight and cover - even without available Synapse, unlike the previous codex - then it might be worthwhile. As it is though, it is a paid-for - albeit cheap - downgrade on the Impaler Cannon and should thus be ignored. Just leave Hive Guard stock; they don't get any real value out of any of the upgrades.
Where to Put Them
Hive Guard are some of the tougher models in the codex with Toughness 6 and two wounds each, though their 4+ armour save does make them very vulnerable to massed Strength 7 AP4 shooting typical of Chaos Space Marine and Tau lists. While you might be thinking running them out in the open - save against such armies, obviously - isn't too bad an option, you really need to consider just how great a tool the Impaler Cannon is. Ignoring both line of sight and cover without any drawbacks is fantastic, and something you should always use. The issue is that 24" range meaning that unless you are playing against an aggressive army list, your Hive Guard are going to need to advance into forward terrain pieces. They lack Move Through Cover or any kind of speed boost over standard infantry - you can take Adrenal Glands, but they are just extra points that I don't think are really worth it - and they are pretty darn massive models. Hormagaunts can obscure them, but I'm pretty sure Termagants are incapable of this. Using screening models, even actual monstrous creatures, to advance behind safely into a suitable piece of terrain is ideal. If you are playing against, for example, Chaos Daemons, another Tyranid player or a Biker army, then deploying in terrain and remaining static will actually work. It can work against other armies, but a static gunline can easily sit outside the Hive Guards' 24" range.
My ideal use of Hive Guard is simple; hide them in a ruin or behind some form of line of sight blocking terrain, and proceed to unleash volley after volley of Impaler Cannon fire into vehicles, Toughness 4 multiple-wound models and monstrous creatures, in that order. They don't need or want any of the upgrades available to them, and there is almost no reason to ever have them in the open at any point in the game unless they are going to be out of Synapse range otherwise. Moving out to charge a nearby vehicle just in case it survives their shooting isn't out of the question, but I generally recommend against it as it tends to make the Hive Guard an easy target. Toughness 6 is nice, but a 4+ armour save means any typical Tau list will just shred them to pieces with massed missile pods or high yields. With Leadership 7 and the Hunt result, Hive Guard can somewhat safely operate independently, though I still recommend against it. The "decent" results for Hunt will have them moving freely and shooting their Strength 8 guns at whatever is closest. There are very few things that are immune to Strength 8 shooting, and though it might lead to them shooting at 2+ armoured foes that can laugh it off for the most part, it is still a much better deal than most other Tyranid units get. The only thing you really have to worry about is that half of the time, the Hive Guard unit will simply end up being Pinned. It is definitely not something to marginalize though, and as such I do recommend keeping them in Synapse range. Their 24" guns mean they will usually be in Synapse range of something, whether it be a Tervigon, a Zoanthrope or a Flying Hive Tyrant, so this isn't too much of a concern as it would be for the longer-ranged Biovores.
That Hive Guard are so tough with two wounds each and a couple of Strength 5 attacks per model means they aren't exactly easy to dispose of in combat either, able to scare off your typical fast tie-up units. As far as unit size is concerned, with Ballistic Skill 3 each Hive Guard added to a unit will statistically add a single extra hit on average; three Hive Guard, as such, would hit three times on average without any modifiers. Tyranids do not have access to re-rolls to hit or Ballistic Skill bonuses which is a right pain; many have sworn off Hive Guard simply because of that unnecessary Ballistic Skill drop. I think units of two are preferable, giving you a solid and moderately expensive unit that will hit twice with their Impaler Cannons on average. It's not great, but combine them with a Crone firing Tentaclid Missiles or a Heavy Venom Cannon on a Carnifex and they should pretty reliably dispose of an AV11 or lower vehicle each turn. And unlike most anti-tank units, Hive Guard can fire and remain perfectly safe by not exposing themselves. That they fully Ignore Cover means they are devastating to Warriors and Raveners, ironically, though one does need to realize that they aren't the be all-end all counter to Wave Serpents. 24" range with no line of sight required is good, but Wave Serpents tend to sit up the back of the board anyway. Once they do close to start trying to unload scoring units onto objectives, though, your Hive Guard should prove pretty valuable.
These are a few example
builds for the unit that I feel can fit into a number of competitive
Tyranid lists. I'll list some thoughts on each build and what kind of
lists they fit better in.
Hive Guard (2) - A pair of Hive Guard is a tough unit that, while not the most cost-effective ranged unit, one that can hide and is pretty nasty against skimmers in particular. Two are a nice and cheap unit that are easy to hide.
Hive Guard (3) - As above, but with the intent to actually kill vehicles in one go. An average three hits with Strength 8 shots will wreck AV10 vehicles on average, as well as AV11 two hull point vehicles. They still aren't great in terms of damage output, but the extra shots give them more chances of getting hits.
The Tyranids are an incredibly advanced race, able to freely create and adapt new organisms and bind them to the will of the Hive Mind. They are the only known species that does not care for owning land, instead assimilating and devouring it to strengthen and survive. The horrific toll a Tyranid Hive Fleet takes on a planet is only fully realized as the great capillary towers and gestation pools emerge, feeding the Hive Fleets lurking in orbit and spawning more and more Tyranids to fight and consume. The Tyranids are not foolish enough to leave such critical positions undefended, however, despite otherwise caring nothing of such concepts. It is for this reason that the Hive Mind fashioned a sub-species of defender organisms, able to collect sensory data telepathically from other Tyranids and fire devastating volleys into any foolish or daring enough to attack such pivotal areas. These creatures are the Hive Guard, blind protectors of the Tyranids' foot-hold on a planet. They are massive and brutish, sacrificing even their eyes for increased protection. They are the perfect guardians for these edifices, and countless warriors have met their end from afar without even sighting these killers.
Thank you for reading this article! Please, share your
thoughts on the article and the changes I am experimenting with for this
series. I am open to any and all feedback! And remember, for any and
all discussion on Tyranids and Games Workshop stuff, head on over to +Bell of Lost Souls. Thanks again! Eel out.