Home Games Gladius: playing as Tyranids

Gladius: playing as Tyranids

by SCG
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A quick administrative note: in the interest of stretching my writing muscles a little more frequently, and publishing a little more frequently to this sadly neglected blog, I’m going to try writing small pieces about stuff I’m doing or am interested in. This might mean some posts seem a bit weird or undercooked… more so than usual, anyway.

I’ve again been playing Slitherine Software’s second most recent 40k offering, the not-quite-a-Civ-game and definitely-a-mouthful Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War. If you don’t know, the potted description is that it’s a hex-based strategy game that looks a little like Civilization or Warlock or Fallen Enchantress or any number of other civ games, but in practice it’s a great representation of the grimdark setting of 40k, because you will never stop fighting. Want to hang back and fix your economy? Good luck, pal.

The game is brutally tough on higher difficulties but, happily, it works well as a multiplayer title. I’ve been playing multiplayer games with some friends and friends-of-friends against AI teams and sometimes things go well, but other times one of us is stomped into dust before anyone else can help them. It’s luck of the draw where you will start out; if you’re close enough to support an ally, that’s good. If there are other players between you, that’s not so good.

Still, you can only blame random deployment so far: knowing what you’re doing with your faction is also very important. Our most recent starting games left me feeling like there was a lot I had to learn about playing as everyone’s favourite voracious bug swarm, the Tyranids. I’ve started a practice game to experiment with some stuff, and figure out possible build orders for the faction. Here’s what I’ve got so far…

Research path:

  • The objectives are: to get Malanthropes fast so you can start making new cities, and to get Carnifexes fast so you can start cranking out tough monsters.
  • Tier 1: Alpha Ovipository (hero building)
  • Tier 1: Synapse Archevores (reduce reclamation cost)
  • Tier 2: Aedanthropum (thrope building)
  • Tier 2: Hibernation Marsupia (pop cap building)
  • Tier 2: Brood Haunt (monster building)
  • Tier 2: Tervigon (hero unit)
  • Tier 3: Coherence Node (loyalty building)
  • Tier 3: Carnifex (monster unit)

Everything after the Aedanthropum can vary a bit, based on need. Can you focus on your economy? Do you need heroes or monsters right now? What’s your city working on? Etc. I’ve also not really decided where to push after the above, yet.

City build order:

  • Brood Nest (infantry building)
  • Genetic Epicure (research building)
  • Genetic Epicure (research building) – this could be skipped, but I had a good research-boosting location and the luxury of a little time, so I leaned hard into this. It will pay dividends later
  • Alpha Ovipository (hero building) – I didn’t rush this as I was saving my starting influence for the Tervigon, rather than spending any on the initially available Tyranid Prime
  • Hibernation Marsupia (pop cap building) – produced just in time before I hit the cap
  • Synapse Node (influence building)
  • Coherence Node (loyalty building)
  • Brood Haunt (monster building)

In my test game the Brood Haunt and Coherence Node came a little later than would be ideal, but it’s not too bad.

In terms of locations for new cities: I’m going with the game’s recommendations a lot of the time. In my test game I have a second city which will be great for research, and where I’ll also aim to generate a lot of biomass. Then I have a third city which will be great for influence generation. The capital city will pump out heroes, monsters and infantry. Any future cities will focus on producing units closer to the front lines.

I’ve also not previously used the ‘reclaim’ option open to Tyranids. With most other factions, it’s important to keep units alive so they gain levels. Tyranids, however, can reclaim their units to get a biomass refund and, more importantly, to gain production in the consuming building. This means I can build Termagants and reclaim wounded units to skip a few turns in my city builds. This is a big deal!

In terms of units I’m using: I’m aiming to use Malanthropes more, both to consume tiles to dissuade enemy city-builders and to generate research from nearby slain enemies. I’ll use Carnifexes and Tyranid Warriors for the bulk of my early army. And I’ll have a Tervigon spawning Termagants to act as meatshields.

Right now in the test game, after 40 minutes of play I’m on turn 40 with three cities, a small amount of territory carved out, and a weak army consisting mostly of Termagants plus a Tervigon. Carnifexes and Tyranid Warriors (once researched) will soon follow. I might add Brood Nests to my secondary cities, just to make Termagants to reclaim to boost building production, if I have the biomass production to support it.

If you are also a player of Gladius and have any strategies or tips you’d like to share, please do!

UPDATE: I got a bit ahead of myself, and played through the rest of my test game without updating the above post. Oops! Game is fun!

Battle report: Shortly after turn 40, I ran into my first AI players. The Eldar were near me, and thanks to the army I already described, I was quickly able to overrun their only city. They had clearly been under attack from a much stronger Space Marine player, whose attack force I quickly dealt heavy damage to. They retreated, allowing me to pursue them steadily, taking out their defensive positions and securing their outposts.

Around this time I developed Trygons, a powerful monstrous creature. More significantly, they can also build Broodhives, which allow Tyranids to move between them within a turn. This is incredibly powerful and provides fantastic mobility. I could reinforce my front line with ease, allowing me to overwhelm the Space Marines’ city without much trouble. Because the Eldar and Space Marines had occupied a half of the map with almost no connection to the other half other than my own territory, I could also use the Broodhives to recall my armies instantly. This was fortunate, as I had spotted Necrons and, soon after, Orks appearing out of the fog of war. The Necrons defeated a sixth faction, some unseen Chaos Space Marines, around the time I was fighting their non-heretical brethren.

The Orks put up a stiffer fight than the Marines, and the Necrons gave me the most serious fights of all – but ultimately, I prevailed, winning the game at around turn 137. This also included defeating the Lord of Skulls, and waiting a few turns to research the last few items in the Tyranid tech tree. So, this was an extremely successful game. Whilst I don’t remember the exact details, I’ll try and summarise my general strategy.

Cities: I never built more than my original three. I just kept growing them. I could have built more. Thanks to the Broodhives, however, I didn’t need to shift any production closer to my frontline. And while my cities were never threatened, by being in such close proximity they felt highly defensible.

My main city continued to be my main producer of units, and my secondary cities focused on resource generation. With additional production buildings, I was cranking out monsters and warriors at a prodigious rate.


  • Tier 4: Metamorphic Malanthropes (reduces city founding cost), Ripper Dispersion (expand city tile radius)
  • Tier 5: Aggressive Expansion (faster city growth), Bone Mace (improve carnifexes in melee)
  • Tier 6: Grey Matter Dispersion (reduce loyalty penalty for cities), Bio-Plasma (improve carnifexes at range)
  • Tier 7: Trygon (mostly for Broodhives), Extra Monstrous Creature Armour (improve Carnifex, Trygon etc survivability)
  • Tier 8: there’s some useful stuff at this tier, but nothing essential. I probably led with the Acid Blood upgrade
  • Tier 9: Regeneration (increase healing of monstrous creatures), Megaunt Instincts (reduce upkeep of same)
  • Tier 10: Biogenesis Organelles (increase city pop cap), Adrenal Glands (increased movement and melee damage)

As you can see, the tech strategy was mostly focused on improving my cities and thus my economy, and improving the effectiveness and number I could field of monstrous creatures, particularly Carnifexes. I rushed to Tier 6 to get Grey Matter Dispersion, then was more casual about rushing up to higher tiers, as I could instead focus on the aforementioned two objectives.

Biomass generation was a constant challenge, even with reclamation. To some extent I was a victim of my own success; I rarely lost units, so upkeep costs continually climbed. My support cities pivoted hard into biomass generation as the game progressed.

Tactics: these were fairly simple. I moved in blobs, rarely breaking my army into more than two groups. I used Termagants where possible to soak up overwatch fire, and Carnifexes and Warriors to dish out heavy damage. Carnifexes in particular can shred cities fast!

Wounded low-grade infantry units got reclaimed to boost production of better units; other wounded stuff was allowed to heal at outposts behind the front line. I did eventually pick up a bunch of ranged Tyrannofexes, which were helpful for battering powerful Necron units in support of my Carnifexes. As always in Gladius, focusing on targets to eliminate them before they can retreat is usually the best approach. There were setbacks, but few major losses.

I now feel like I have a good handle on how to play the ‘nids in Gladius. Next up, I might try a faction I have no experience with at all… the Tau!

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