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Ripper Swarms

Submitted By: Date: September 4, 2006, 01:07:49 PM Views: 3031
Summary: Rippers have changed considerably under the new rules. In 3rd Edition, they were used most commonly as leaping/rending monsters, a (suitable) substitute for Genestealers. Now, however – they have a new role.

Rippers have, contrary to popular belief, a unique battlefield role in the tyranid army. Many use them as cheap wounds to soak up damage – but at twice the cost of a spinegaunt for 3 times the wounds and attacks – it’s not as effective as it may seem. Their vulnerability to being insta-killed and their vulnerability to blasts as well as it’s comparatively slower speeds mean that gaunts are still the de facto ‘cannon fodder’ of your typical army. This isn’t to say that rippers are poor meat-shields, though; they still make for marvellous cannon-fodder under slightly more controlled circumstances.

The sheer amount of wounds a ripper has to add to a combat nearly ensures you will outnumber your opponent severely, and if you add a monstrous creature (the one they are ‘screening – more on that later) to the mix – you’re outnumbering the enemy by droves. Teach those fearless things how much it can hurt not to run away!

When using rippers as meat-shields recall that they are not a scoring unit and, with a slow speed, are unlikely to pose a real threat and draw significant small-arms fire (that which they are best at soaking up). Many opponents will forget this – but do not count on it. It is necessary to make them a threat, either by grouping them with similarly slow and more fearsome fellows or by upgrading their speed. The three cases (regular/leaping/wings) will be discussed separately.



One of their two roles is very specific– to preceed larger/slower creatures, offering separate firing targets for the larger weapons (Instakill the Ripper or wound the Warrior?) as well screening said creatures from assaults and/or allowing them to catch up to their ideal assault targets. This allows your carnifexes and similar close combat monsters to be considerably more effective. In addition – a combat between size 2 (or 1 – the rippers) creatures will NOT block line of sight for the monstrous creature they are screening!

Their secondary role is in joining an assault which has been initiated by faster creatures (usually hormaguants) and support them. Against most armies, the only way to guarantee the rippers see assault is by locking the target in place. Another frequent twist is to charge into assault with a squad pinned by the barbed strangler on the monstrous creature they are screening.


These are the most common type of rippers, because they do what the ‘vanilla’ rippers do, but much better. By adding a 12’’ charge the ripper becomes a threat – thus drawing more fire. In addition, they are able to leap ahead of a monstrous creature they are escorting and lock it in close combat themselves – priming the target for certain destruction. They can also be more selective in their targets- joining a combat that needs the extra wounds to ensure outnumbering the opposition. Finally, the 3'' range for attacks in cc is a great help for larger swarms - as those big bases can get in the way of combat!


Flyers are a very particular case – an upgrade that changes the ripper swarms’ roles drastically. Too expensive (and too fast) to screen monstrous creatures, they do, however, gain a lot from flying. They are now able to move fast enough to place themselves in ideal situations to draw the right kind of fire, choose their assault targets and pose a real threat. A different role – and one that has many uses – strongly discouraging infiltrators and a real threat to many specific cc units whose talents are wasted on rippers (banshees, for example – rippers are their worst nightmare). Also able to charge into a heavy weapons squad and keep it busy for a few turns – if it can get that far without being shot down. They can also be more selective in their targets- joining a combat that needs the extra wounds to ensure outnumbering the opposition. Take into account that you are paying a large price for the mobility – and rippers are not around to play ‘hide and seek’ – don’t dilly dally. A ripper cannot capture table quarters (a ripper alive at the end of the game is worth nothing but a few vps), so bury it into close combat as it mindlessly tears things apart: they won’t hate you for it. Enhanced mobility isn’t there for you to avoid the enemy and draw them out – it’s so you can pick and choose your ideal target.

To use:

As cannon fodder when your army is slow and has many larger models (where the potential of insta-killing a ripper may divert some large weapon fire from your monsters). A superb screen for carnifexes/tyrants (especially, but not exclusively, shooty ones). **Wings** A viable fast ‘charge’ unit to keep specific enemy units busy and deter infiltrators.

Ripper Swarm Biomorphs:

Adrenal Glands (WS):

Rarely of any interest – as against WS4 it merely increases ripper survivability (not a priority) and against typical WS3 troops the need to hit is not as big.

Adrenal Glands (I):

 Although it also falls under the category of increasing ripper survivability – it does have add the advantage of increasing your chance of catching up to a breaking foe. However, few combats with WS3/S3 will be decisive enough to let this come into play.

Enhanced Senses/Spinefists:

There are almost no circumstances under which these are worth the points paid (ie – would out-perform ~3 spinegaunts).

Extended Carapace:

Wasted on ‘nilla’ rippers, but on leaping rippers can (occasionally) be worth it’s points – the leapers are more likely to get into close combat, where the extended carapace doubles their durability against most foes and allows the rippers to hold a foe in cc for longer. Remember, however, that rippers, by virtue of being ‘mindless’, are the most expendable of your troops. Will you be needing that extra save to survive the first turn of combat? It is also useful to note that extended carapace, of all the ‘defensive’ augments, is the only that will continue to protect you if you take wounds for being outnumbered (later in the game – obviously) – keeping your squads in the mix for longer.

Flesh Hooks:

In the case of flying rippers – likely to hunt down heavy weapons squads in cover and infiltrators – can indeed be effective. Especially since you will be fighting simultaneously to your opponent, rather than after him (as I order would dictate).


(Discussed above)

Toxin Sacs:

Too expensive and does not add to the rippers’ roles (any of them) enough to make them worthwhile.


(Discussed above)

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