5 Mar 2014

Tactica Tyranids - Gargoyles

Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel, and today I'm going to be bringing you another article in the Tyranid Tactica series! Descending in the thousands, Gargoyles are another adaptation of the Gaunt genus that bear close similarities to Termagants. Armed with Fleshborers and a unique poisoned attack, Gargoyles are cheap and very effective jump type equivalents to your standard horde infantry units. While they still are as blatant a "stick wings on unit x" example as Shrikes, Gargoyles still have a niche and prove to be among the Swarm's best source of massed bodies. I hope you enjoy this article!



One of the issues I take stock with in Warhammer 40000 is the need to make "flying" versions of readily identifiable units, and Gargoyles are one of the clearer examples of this. They share the same gun, stats and even a couple of the same options as their obvious inspiration, Termagants. However, Gargoyles do have a unique ability that helps to distinguish them further from Termagants aside from just being "Termagants with wings". First though, let us look at the profile and, yes, aside from being Jump Infantry, Gargoyles are literally identical to Termagants in every sense here. You've got the middling Weapon Skill and Ballistic three, the above average Initiative four, the typical Strength and Toughness 3, one Attack per model, a pitiful 6+ armour save and a low Leadership value of 6. You've got the generic light infantry stats with a slight buff to Initiative and a weaker armour save, but this of course is mitigated by being Jump Infantry in the case of Gargoyles. Like Termagants and Hormagaunts, the stats are very much deceiving; these three units are point for point the deadliest melee units in the codex. This might seem hard to grasp at first, but when you factor in that a single Trygon is the equivalent of about thirty two Gargoyles, you will start to see what I mean. Yes, the horde units are more susceptible to templates, blast weapons, Ignores Cover shooting and massed small arms fire, but the 6th Edition meta has swung so heavily towards both Ignores Cover and high Strength shooting. Monstrous Creatures are better than ever, but the price comes with cheaper and stronger firepower than ever before. In that sense, thirty two Toughness 3 wounds can be better than six Toughness 6 wounds, and vice-versa. The number of attacks that the horde units put out are staggering, of course, but with Gargoyles it is a bit of an odd situation as they won't always be using those extra attacks on the charge.

What differentiates Gargoyles from Termagants - aside from, again, having wings - is they have the Blinding Venom special rule. This allows them to make a single attack with the Poisoned (6+) and Blind rules instead of striking normally. Functionally, Poisoned (6+) allows Gargoyles to wound anything in the game, even a Wraithknight, which is always something to keep in mind if you don't take the arguably less valuable Toxin Sacs (for a unit that already has a form of Poison). Gargoyles still wound Toughness 4 opponents on 5s and Toughness 3 or lower opponents on 4s or better and so on as, per the rulebook, you still use the required roll if it is better than the fixed roll. As Gargoyles only have a single attack when not charging, there is literally no reason not to swap out for Blinding Venom when the Gargoyles have received a charge or are in the second round of combat. They get re-rolls to wound against other Toughness 3 opponents effectively for free, and can always fall back on being able to wound incredibly high Toughness models - a surprise for opponents hiding behind Toughness 7 or 8 for sure. Of course, the really interesting part here is the Blind aspect of the attack. Per the main rulebook, Blind works off of successful hits, not wounds caused, meaning that even five Gargoyles that hit with three attacks will cause three separate Blind tests. When you remember that Gargoyles are a horde unit of incredibly cheap models that should be taken in large units of fifteen at minimum, you begin to see just how good this is. The Blind rule is usually let down by forcing only one test on units that are predominantly Initiative 4 or higher, with Necrons, Tau and Orks being the main exceptions. Once you start throwing five to ten tests at a unit, even Initiative 5 and higher opponents who only fail on a 6 will statistically fail one on average.

So what does Blind do again, exactly, other than force tests? Well, failing those tests has some pretty serious repercussions; the afflicted unit becomes Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill one until the end of their next turn. There are a lot of uses of this once you factor that at least six hits from a Gargoyle unit using their Blinding Venom will statistically see a failed test. The most obvious is for combo-charging. Gargoyles are Initiative 4, meaning they strike before a surprising number of units - including a bunch of Tyranid units. A unit that gets struck by Weapon Skill one will become not only incredibly easy targets for the other Tyranid unit in the combat, but their own damage output will be significantly lessened. Take trying to tarpit Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield Terminators with Gargoyles. Yes, the idea of trying to tarpit an elite melee unit like Terminators with a horde unit seems rather silly or intelligent depending on how many attacks the Terminators are getting through various potential buffs or their squad size. In any case, you generally wouldn't charge Gargoyles alone into such a unit. However, ten Gargoyles alone will statistically see one failed Blind test. From there, even five such Terminators are going to be hitting on 5s with their ten attacks, leading to three hits and three kills on average. Yikes, not such a great tarpit clearer eh? Once you factor in that the Terminators would usually be killing about five or six Gargoyles, it is a pretty big defensive buff. It really shines when applied in conjunction with something like a Trygon; having that Trygon hit on 5s and able to hide behind Toughness 6 is such a huge and oft much needed survivability boost. For these reasons alone I think Gargoyles are worthwhile, and while the offensive benefits of Blinding Venom have definitely been toned down dramatically, it is still one heck of a useful ability. Assuming you don't send them into combat unsupported - which usually doesn't end well for Tyranid units due to the army universally lacking assault grenades and high survivability - then pretty much unit you pair them up with will find Gargoyles to be an invaluable ally. Heck, the Haruspex probably derives the most benefits from Gargoyles in this sense with Weapon Skill 1 opponents completely mitigating its damage output to survivability quirk.

The other less obvious use of Blinding Venom is to shut down a units' shooting capabilities almost completely. A Dire Avenger squad of any size is going to be nasty, particularly with some lucky rolling, for your monstrous creatures in particular. Charging them with a decent sized unit of Gargoyles probably won't get you anywhere other than tying them up for a turn or two. That's fine for the most part, but becomes a lot more intriguing once you realize that when they break from combat, those Dire Avengers are going to be Ballistic Skill 1 assuming you hit them with Blinding Venom. Ballistic Skill 1 shooting units of almost any capacity - Lootas excepted - are close to being a non-threat in that they are so dependent either on incredibly high rate of fire or support buffs, and most opponents won't plan ahead on addressing these issues when they are basically out of sequence. That you can throw the remnants of a Gargoyle brood at a ranged unit and, with some luck, see their shooting rendered mostly null is really valuable. Silencing the guns of Devastators even if you can't kill them outright is invaluable for Tyranids, even if it is just for that one turn - or two if you factor in the turn they were tied up in combat. While there are Blind-immune units - most notably Tau Battlesuit units - it is still a special rule with a far reach and lots of potential. While my initial reaction to the change with Blinding Venom was similarly jaded, just realizing how good it can be on a Jump Infantry unit that can help your army to advance not only as a tarpit but with that Blind is just so useful.

In general, Gargoyles are just a fantastic unit, even if their offensive output - especially with available upgrades doubling in points per model - has dropped significantly. That is perfectly fine though as the added functionality of Blind, plus retaining the capability to wound absolutely anything with a Toughness value, still makes Gargoyles a versatile unit. They aren't just Termagants with wings, they are Gargoyles with a clear purpose in the army, a low cost, great mobility and a pretty great support ability once you put it into practice. Yes, Tyranids aren't based around melee nearly as much as they used to be, but it is still where many of the Swarms' broods excel, and Gargoyles are one of the keys to making such a list work. Blinding Venom is a staggeringly under-rated ability even if it could be interpreted as inferior to its previous incarnation. Heck, I've gotten this far into my Overview without even mentioning Instinctive Behaviour! Yes, Gargoyles do kind of rely on being paired up with Shrikes or near flying Hive Tyrants, but I think Hunt in particular is less of an issue for Gargoyles than Feed is for Hormagaunts or Lurk is for Termagants. At least if you are using Gargoyles for denial purposes, the worst result is that they just Go to Ground and sit on that objective. They can use their decent little guns in Overwatch and their Blinding Venom in combat to hold up enemy units while awaiting support from a Synapse creature. They don't just Fall Back or start eating other, becoming completely useless. This way, they don't hurt each other, they get a boosted cover save and, heck, once they get into Synapse range they immediately get back up. There are a lot of shenanigans that can be abused with this; you use Gargoyles as meat shields for your flying monsters or ground Synapse units such as Warriors and forage ahead then Go to Ground once shot. This way, they won't have to worry about Instinctive Behaviour as they will already have gone to ground. Do this in cover and they will be getting anything from 4+ to 2+ cover saves, becoming surprisingly hard to shift and a real annoyance for your opponent. Move a Synapse unit into range and watch the Gargoyles get back up and proceed to act normally - even shooting and charging! So yes, Instinctive Behaviour isn't much of an issue here, at least certainly not as much as it is for other units. You still want to keep them in Synapse range, obviously, but it isn't the be-all end-all to making the unit work. Gargoyles are good enough as it is even when that painful negative is considered.

How to Equip Them

Gargoyles have an incredibly long list of options, with a grand total of two to further customize your fodder infantry. Poor joke aside, Gargoyles only access to Adrenal Glands and Toxin Sacs; unlike their ground variant in Termagants, they don't get any replacements for Fleshborers which is a bit of a shame. Flying Devourers would definitely be awesome to go along with flying Brain-Leech Devourers and mitigate any potential range issues the weapon has on Termagants. Of the two upgrades they can take, I'm more in the school of taking Adrenal Glands than Toxin Sacs because Gargoyles do come stock with Blinding Venom - even if it is significantly changed over its previous incarnation. I've already discussed Blinding Venom so I won't go into it too much again, but it effectively allows you to wound Toughness 5 and higher opponents on 6s while also gaining Blind, as well as actually being able to harm Toughness 7 and higher opponents in combat.

The Blinding part of the attack is the really valuable part, of course, with Initiative 4 Gargoyles potentially able to reduce enemies to Weapon Skill 1 for your monstrous creatures to really tear them apart. Even just generally, having the enemy at Weapon Skill 1 for what amounts to a game turn is awesome for a protracted combat. Neither upgrade works with Blinding Venom though, so if you do plan on making use of it - and you really should as Gargoyles are intended for a combo-charge role - then Adrenal Glands are the better fit as they at least give an out of combat upgrade through Fleet. Jump Infantry with Fleet are pretty darn quick, of course, and should be able to do a reasonable job of keeping up with flying monstrous creatures and getting into assault a turn early to both tie up and soften up an enemy unit for a melee monster to crush. Honestly though, both upgrades aren't really that valuable for Gargoyles once you do factor in the surprising usefulness of Blinding Venom when combined with all other Tyranid assault units.  Gargoyles don't need the extras - even Fleet, as they are quick enough anyway for your predominantly 6" moving combat units - and do just fine as a very cheap horde unit without upgrades, especially now that both upgrades have doubled in cost since their previous incarnations.

Where to Put Them

As models on flying stands, the most obvious place to put Gargoyles is spread around a flying monstrous creature or even a walking monster. Heck, anything from Shrikes to Trygons make great choices to "bubble-wrap" with Gargoyles due to their speed and low cost per model. Their Blinding Venom also gives them some incredible combo-charge potential and allows them to hurt some units they would otherwise have to pay for Toxin Sacs to harm. I prefer to keep them around a Synapse creature for obvious reasons, but also because our usual mobile Synapse units can benefit so much from intervening cover provided by the Gargoyles. Shrikes need cover saves to make up for their abysmal armour save. Hive Tyrants with wings - assuming they are separate from Tyrant Guard - are still 3+ armoured monstrous creatures with only four wounds that lack an invulnerable save, and thus also require cover saves to survive. While you will slow down flying monstrous creatures by surrounding them with Gargoyles, the more considered play style the new Tyranid Codex intimates actually fits into this just fine. Of course, Gargoyles might be a great tarpit in melee but they are still incredibly fragile against ranged attacks. You need cover for them to work, so deploying them - again, near or around the unit you want to protect - in area terrain or even behind a ruin is wise. Make use of the 2" unit coherency rules as much as possible as Gargoyle wings mean they are incredibly susceptible to weapons that use blast markers and templates. If you want to just tie a unit up, keep them in Synapse range and go for Tactical Squads or inferior units in terms of melee capabilities, such as Necron Warriors or Tau units. If you actually want to kill things, pair them up with a monster or another unit and make use of their Blinding Venom to reduce enemies to Weapon Skill 1 for the next combat phase.

Best Uses

I'm honestly in the school of thought that you should leave Gargoyles bare, run them in pretty large squads to make full use of just how cost effective they are and just flood the board with even more horde units from the Fast Attack slot. Each upgrade they can take is a third of their total points cost and as Gargoyles are pretty much your best or second best tarpit unit overall due to their high mobility and cost, I think leaving them bare is the right idea. Toxin Sacs give them a great melee boost, but waste their Blinding Venom. Adrenal Glands are nice for both Fleet and Strength 4 attacks, but the inability to combine Furious Charge with Hammer of Wrath and Blinding Venom is a downer. Besides, Fleet isn't as necessary for a unit that is mostly about protecting another unit rather than necessarily getting into combat. Make the most of the fact that they are effectively Termagants with wings and a surprisingly nasty combo-charge ability in Blind Venom for a mere few points more per model by running them in large units in conjunction with flying monstrous creatures or Shrikes. Aim them at nasty units or weak units; either way, once you hit Blinding Venom off, that unit will be incredibly easy prey for any of your proper dedicated assault units. They just naturally fit as the protectors of Shrikes or flying Hive Tyrants in particular, providing much needed cover to those units, acting as a tarpit and move-blocker against nasty opposing flying monsters, and they are just a generally cheap and cost effective unit. They do decent damage at short range in either the shooting phase or the assault phase, and when they reduce a unit to Weapon Skill 1 through massed Blind attacks they will probably make their points back from how easy it makes combat for something like a Haruspex. The reality is that as long as they are kept in Synapse range, Gargoyles rank up with Termagants as one of the most cost-effective units in the codex and should be one of your main priorities to employ as a Tyranid player. They can fight many units very well, they are a great tarpit, they are fast, cover gives them good survivability and their Blinding Venom gives them additional support capabilities.

Recommended Builds

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.

Gargoyles (20) - If the idea of putting out 20 Blind attacks after any applicable Strength 3 Hammer of Wrath attacks appeals to you, this is the unit for you. Cheap for what it does, able to cover a lot of space - and thus provide cover to many units - and nasty on a combo-charge, even on the first round with an Initiative 3 or lower unit. If you don't have much faith in the Blind effects or they won't be useful in a given situation, there are always massed standard Strength 3 attacks on the charge!

Gargoyles (15) - Adrenal Glands - This unit is the same exact cost as the above unit, but gains Fleet and two Strength 4 attacks each on the charge provided they don't use their Blinding Venom. This is your more generalist Gargoyle unit that doesn't necessarily operate around combo-charging with lower Initiative Tyranid units. They are fast, put out a lot of Strength 4 attacks plus Strength 3 Hammer of Wrath and are generally a deceptively annoying unit for opponents. Don't forget that even one failed Blind test in the second round of combat if the Gargoyles are performing badly will see the enemy unit at Ballistic Skill 1 for the next turn, making them incredibly ineffective at range.

Deathly Pulse

Throughout legend and myth, the portents of doom come from storms, locusts feasting ravenously or livestock stricken by an unknown assailant. But for countless garrisons throughout the galaxy in the universe of Warhammer 40000, it is perhaps the faint pulse every second that is the most terrible sign of imminent death. Standing idle, those on watch and unable to sleep can hear a faint, regular beat, a sound that is as maddening as it is enchanting. It is only when the time for escape has long passed that the unwary defenders realize the true horror of what faces them; a thousand creatures borne on leathery wings, screeching in a kind of alien, predatory glee as they find their quarry unaware and unprepared for what will come next. Perhaps the knowledge that there a million of these creatures for every human is so chilling, or that they are not alone alongside other greater beasts. 

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. 


  1. I run a squad of 30 to make a giant wall in front of my army, combined to venomthropes, my entire army has a 3+ cover save and the gargoyles have at least a 5+.
    That works insanely well. Moreover I can easily multi-assault 3 units with them, stucking them so that the other units can come to finish the work.
    I won my 4 games thanks to that 180 points unit, to me they should be auto-include in all armies

    1. Yeah, I really can't rate these guys highly enough. Such an amazing unit, even with the Blinding Venom change and increase in points for upgrades.