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Themed Army Ideas
Other Tyranid Themed Army Ideas

Hive Fleet Ravana
I despise Tyranids. They're icky. They're hard to beat. And worst of all, they have no personality. They're bugs, and like bugs, they're all the same: once you've played against one Tyranid army you've played against them all.

They are also a purely science-fiction element in a fantasy/sci-fi game. Eldar, Orks, daemons, even Space Marines all have inspirations in myth and legend, but Tyranids draw theirs from movies like Alien and books like Starship Troopers. I thought it would be a challenge to come up with a Tyranid army with fantasy elements, using Warhammer bits to create chimerical creatures resembling mythological monsters.

Like most other Themed Army Ideas, this one is for experts. Hive Fleet Ravana uses all the regular Tyranid rules; where it differs from other 'nid armies is that every figure is converted. This will take a lot of time and necessitate buying a lot of bits, but the reward will be a unique Tyranid army that definitely has personality and isn't just a bunch of "bugs!"

Hive Fleet Ravana is named for the 10-headed, 10-armed, all-powerful demon king of Vedic legend. The fleet was first identified millennia ago, shortly after the Warband Bloodcomet nearly destroyed the Fighting Tigers, and it is on a slow, inexorable course around the outer rim of the Maelstrom, moving toward the Regulus system. The fleet destroyed Craftworld Tezcatlipoca, home of the Screaming Jaguars and a Shrine of the Black Scorpion. Hive Fleet Ravana has also attacked a large number of death worlds; each world attacked delays the fleet by decades or centuries as even Tyranids are hard-pressed to subdue the native lifeforms. 

Fighting Tiger probes have captured images of grotesque Tyranid mutants, each more repulsive than the last. Knowing that Tyranids evolve quickly, some Imperial xenobiologists have speculated that Tyranids may assimilate the best attributes of organisms that offer fierce resistance and pass these attributes on to subsequent Tyranid generations. In that way, much like Orks, the Hive becomes stronger with every victory. 

Alternatively, Hive Fleet Ravana's path around the edges of the Maelstrom (an area of space similar to but smaller than the infamous Eye of Terror) may have exposed the Tyranids to the hideous warping powers of Chaos. In the end, it matters little, for eventually these mutated aliens--monstrous even by Tyranid standards--will reach Regulus and threaten the Fighting Tigers.

Dominate. Consume. Expand.

HQ/Elites/Troops/Fast Attack/Heavy Support
Hive Fleet Ravana uses all the units and rules for Tyranids.

Modeling and Painting
Here's the hard part. Ideally, every figure in the army should be converted using bits (most of them from Warhammer miniatures) to give them aspects of fantasy monsters. Thus, the completed army will be a chimerical blend of ancient and contemporary nightmares. Again, I stress that this army will take a LOT of patience, time, money, and talent but--if done well--will be a gruesome work of art.

Here's some conversion suggestions:

1. Adding extra Tyranid limbs, heads, etc. to Tyranids has already been done and defeats the idea of introducing a fantasy element to these critters. Use sparingly or don't bother with this at all!

2. Stay away from using Chaos bits, unless it's something irresistibly cool (I'll let you decide what that might be) or sufficiently generic (bat wings, say). Chaos is already strongly represented in 40K, and if you use too many Chaos bits someone will think you're trying to create a Possessed Tyranid army (now there's a REALLY icky idea).

Here's a short list of ideas:

Hive Tyrants with parts from Stegadons or Dragons 
Tyranid Warriors with Dragon Ogre bodies
Lictors with parts from Dryads and/or Treemen
Termagants with Lizardman heads/arms
Genestealers with Chaos Beastman heads
Gargoyles using parts from Harpies
Hormagaunts using parts from Cold Ones
Of course, this is just a beginning. You might also want to try using parts from:
Giant Spiders, Scorpions, and Vampire Bats
Rat Ogres
I've come up with two color schemes for painting Tyranids, either of which you can use with or without converting them as I've suggested above.

The wasp color scheme. Prime the figure in white, paint each figure in Sunburst Yellow, and mark with bands of Chaos Black similar to the pattern that wasps and bees have.

I've included this idea for brave souls out there, but I don't recommend this scheme for a variety of reasons. First, it reinforces the standard perception of Tyranids as "bugs." Second, it will take a lot of time and effort: any yellow color requires quite a few coats to cover well and painting "wasp" markings on each figure will become very tiresome (remember that Tyranid armies tend to have LOTS of figures). Third, wasps and bees in the real world use these markings to warn away predators: the combination of yellow and black says "Don't eat me, I'm dangerous." Why would Tyranids, being apex predators, need this coloration?

Deep sea and cave dweller termagants
Termagants painted in the deep sea (left) and cave dweller (right) schemes
Photo © copyright 2000 by Michael Lietzke. Used with permission

The cave dweller/deep sea scheme. This is another paint scheme inspired by biology. It occurred to me that Tyranids likely spend most of their lives drifting through the cosmos inside the bellies of their living craft or (especially in the case of Genestealers) in space hulks: presumably, these places would be very dark, if not completely lightless. In real life, organisms that live in total darkness have little use for coloration and are either albinos (the cave dweller option) or are all black with bioluminescent patches (the deep sea option).

For the cave dweller option, prime the figures white and then paint over with Skull White. Eyes would be Chaos Red. Simple!

For the deep sea option, prime the figures black and then paint over with Chaos Black. Put a few dots of Bilious (or Scorpion) Green here and there, perhaps in patterns that the Tyranids (and you!) use to identify members of specific broods. Make sure to use glossy varnish to make these luminescent patches "glow."

Both of these approaches will give you a simple, unified yet distinctive look to your army. For variety, you may want to simulate the chameleon-like ability of Lictors by painting them in a camouflage pattern--perhaps going so far as to have different models for different terrain ("...this is my 'desert' Lictor, and this is my 'polar' Lictor, and this is my 'jungle' Lictor...").

Of course if you wanted to really run with that idea you could paint ALL your Tyranids in camouflage, but I think if you weren't completely bonkers before you began painting your army you soon would be.

General Tactics

Related Pages
Screaming Jaguars of Tezcatlipoca
Shrine of the Black Scorpion  
Other Tyranid Themed Army Ideas

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© Copyright Kenton Kilgore, January 2000


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle