The Synaptic Web

A Designer Diary on Synapse Units in The Great Devourer


“As I looked into its dead black eyes, I saw the terrible sentience it had in place of a soul. Behind that was the steel will of its leader. Further still I could feel its primogenitor coldly assessing me from the void. And looking back from the deepest recesses of the alien’s mind I perceived what I can describe only as an immortal hunger.”
–Ultramarines Chief Librarian Tigurius

The Tyranid Hive Fleets flow out of the endless void into the galaxy, driven by ravenous hunger and their own relentless nature. Wherever the Tyranids make planetfall, they ravage the land, destroying all resistance and adapting to overcome any threat. Now, this unstoppable, malevolent fleet has come to the Traxis sector. 

The Great Devourer is the first deluxe expansion for Warhammer 40,000: Conquest, introducing the Tyranids as a brand-new eighth faction to the battles of the Traxis sector. In our past previews, we looked at the two Tyranids warlords included in this expansion – “Old One Eye” and “The Swarmlord.” Today, lead developer Brad Andres explores the new synapse units introduced in The Great Devourer and how they form a crucial part of the Tyranids’ battle strategy.

Brad Andres on Synapse Units in The Great Devourer

When we began designing The Great Devourer, one of our main objectives was to make novel mechanics for the Tyranids that represented how their synaptic web functions in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The synaptic web is such an important part of the Tyranids flavor; we really wanted the feeling to come across when you’re playing as the Tyranids. This ultimately led to the creation of the synapse unit, a sub-commander who functions as a secondary warlord and can command your forces at other planets throughout the Traxis sector.

One of the most dramatic and strategic moments in a game of Conquest is when both players take up their command dials to choose where they will commit their warlords to battle. You have to consider the entire tactical state of the game, as well as try to guess where your opponent will commit his own warlord and how that affects your choices. For the Tyranids, this process is revolutionised. When playing the Tyranids, you’ll use a unique double command dial to commit your warlord and your synapse unit to the same or separate planets. You’ll have to carefully consider where to send not just one powerful unit, but two. 

The left half of the double dial is used to commit your warlord and the right half is used to commit your synapse unit.

With a synapse unit, you have more options for gathering cards and resources across the board, starting battles, or reinforcing weak points in your defense. Across the board, the flexibility provided by your synapse unit makes it much harder for your opponent to anticipate where you might send your warlord. After all, if you want to start a battle or win a command struggle, you may be able to send your synapse to accomplish the same goal. All of the benefits of having a synapse unit come at a price, however. Tyranids warlords start the game with one fewer resource and one fewer card than the standard warlord.

There are five different synapse units included in The Great Devourer, and each of them brings a powerful tool to the Tyranids’ arsenal. Of these synapse units, one of the most deadly is the Blazing Zoanthrope (The Great Devourer, 12). The Blazing Zoanthrope’s Reaction invites you to fry your opponent’s units with the psychic power of the Hive Mind before combat even begins. This lets you send your Blazing Zoanthrope to eliminate your opponent’s weaker command units, leaving your warlord free to dominate the battle elsewhere. The destructive power of the Blazing Zoanthrope grows even greater when it travels to an infested planet, helping you grind down opposing forces before your opponent can use them in a battle. You could even pair the Blazing Zoanthrope with a Parasitic Infection (The Great Devourer, 43) or Virulent Spore Sacs (The Great Devourer, 20) to deal more damage to your opponent before he can respond.

I think the synapse unit that I personally find most interesting is the Stalking Lictor (The Great Devourer, 14), a synapse unit that has no special rules text, but comes with two command icons! Of course, plenty of other units also have two command icons, but you can commit the Stalking Lictor to a different planet every round, giving unparalleled adaptability to your command struggle strategy. During playtesting, the Stalking Lictor was one of the synapse units that changed the most, but in the end, the simplest version proved to be the most effective. When you field the Stalking Lictor alongside your warlord, you can snatch away command struggles that your opponent would have certainly won, giving you a head start recovering from the Tyranids’ slower start. Team the Stalking Lictor up with Synaptic Link (The Great Devourer, 49) and you’ll be swimming in cards and resources before you know it. 

Devour the Galaxy

Thanks, Brad!

The Tyranids sweep across the galaxy, driven by limitless hunger, destroying those who oppose them, and growing the Hive Fleet with more and more biomass. Soon, the Tyranids will arrive in the Traxis sector. The factions already battling for the sector will need powerful new armies to withstand the onslaught. In our next preview, we’ll explore the new cards that other factions receive within The Great Devourer.

Pre-order The Great Devourer at your local retailer today!


Warhammer 40,000: Conquest: The Great Devourer © Copyright Games Workshop Limited 2015. Conquest, the Conquest logo, GW, Games Workshop, Space Marine, 40K, Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, 40,000, the ‘Aquila’ Double- Headed Eagle logo, and all associated logos, illustrations, images, names, creatures, races, vehicles, locations, weapons, characters, and distinctive likenesses thereof, are either ® or TM, and/or © Games Workshop Limited, variably registered around the world, and used under license.  

Back to all news