Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Tyranid Prime Conversion

One of my favourite commissions over the last few years was this Tyranid Prime conversion that I created for a new client. Though I started with the goal of making something slightly larger than a warrior, to fit the standard size of a Tyranid Prime, we got a bit of scale creep going on, which meant, as you can see from the photo above, it wound up being something closer to a Hive Tyrant in stature!

What can I say? I like big bugs!

In this article, I'll go over some of my favourite parts of the construction and highlight some of the bits I used in the conversion.

A long time coming

Though it took me a few months--off and on, over about a year--to put this Tyranid beast together, it was actually the confluence of a bunch of disparate Tyranid conversions I'd done over years: from a marine-masher biofist I once came up with for a broodlord that never saw the light of day... some nice dancing shoes that repurposed plastic gargoyle torsos, conceived for a plastic Tyrant Guard concept back when they were still pewter:

Building the body

In terms of the main body, I used a heavily expanded and modified torso that I think originated from a Ravener, with a Gargoyle back carapace as the chest armour (If you're making Tyranids, and you DON'T have a large supply of spare Gargoyle torsos kicking around, get thee to a bits order site! They're amazing!). I added a modified Carnifex back carapace plate to the top (again, showing you how big this beastie is).

For the back carapace, I tried to preserve the original back and fill in some spacers with greenstuff.
However, when you're trying to blend greenstuff into an existing armour plate, the process is so very finicky that you're pretty much better off just resculpting the plate:

As for those sexy, hooked shoulder pads, the Undead Bloodbowl team came out just in time for this project. I bought the kit solely for those pieces of armour (and maybe some future plans for Genestealer cult mutant zombies), not intending to use them for this specific commission. However, when I sized them up with the Tyranid Prime, they reminded me of one of the pieces of concept art that the client had sent through when trying to capture the look he'd wanted for his Tyranid Prime:

Those hooked shoulder plates wound up being one of the elements I loved most about the finished model as I think they do an amazing job of breaking up the silhouette of a traditional Tyranid Warrior, without straying into the conceptual territory of Hive Tyrants.

If you're an eagle-eye with Tyranid bits, you'll notice that the Tyranid Prime's tail looks a little...umm...engorged. That's because I felt the size and pointiness of the standard Tyranid Warrior tail didn't quite fit the stature of a Tyranid Prime, so I repurposed a Tyranid Ravener tail for the Tyranid Prime's lower half.

It was a pretty easy fix that required only the filling of the gap in the tail that is typically in contact with the model's base, as well as a little repositioning to capture the right pose.

The legs

The legs had to carry a lot of weight because the legs on a normal warrior are pretty stunty for something the size of a Tyranid Prime! If I was going to give him an imposing stature, I needed to get some proper stompy legs on him!

Luckily, I'd tried to solve a similar problem when trying to convert a plastic Tyrant Guard from a Tyranid Warrior (way back before plastic Tyrant Guards were actually a thing in the Tyranid line!), and I'd come up with this design:

It's pretty straightforward. I cut the thighs of the Tyranid Warrior legs down their middle on two axes to add plasticard spacers, then sculpted in the plates on top with greenstuff. The mid leg is standard. And then the lower leg is the bit I really love. This is an original design of mine using Tyranid Gargoyle torsoes, and I really love the big, beefy effect!

In that photo, you can see that I've gone with a double hoof, and the hindmost of the two is the original Tyranid Warrior foot/hoof. The front hoof is another little bit of brilliance I figured out: it's the topmost armour plate from a Tyranid Trygon scything talon arm! Weird, I know, but they've got this pointed shape that makes for perfect hooves.

Then I just added some random talons to the sides of the feet for stabilization, and I think these also came from the Trygon kit.

Topping it off: the head

As the Tyranid Prime is meant to stand in for a Tyranid Hive Tyrant as the leader of the brood, he really needs a suitable crown to show off his strong connection to the Hive Mind. No standard Tyranid Warrior head will do! 

I based mine on a Tyranid Ravener head as it was larger and a little finer detailed to begin with. I cut a bunch of lateral gaps into it and inserted plasticard spacers to make it longer, and then I sculpted the plates over top to cover all the messy work.

For the carapace barbs at the end, I used spikes from the Tyranid Carnifex kit.

The Weapons

In this section, I'll discuss the Tyranid Prime's three custom weapons that I created.


Next up, in my random, rambling order, I'd like to highlight the unique bonesword this Tyranid Prime sports.

The client had initially asked for two of these, identical on either side, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Call me an old school 2nd-Edition Lover, but I think a bonesword looks best when it's paired with a lashwhip, or something similar that breaks up the symmetry of the model. Put one bonesword on a Hive Tyrant or Tyranid Prime, and he looks like a badass commander. Put two boneswords on either side of the same model, and it looks like he's getting ready to go skiing!

If you're an eagle-eyed, real Tyranid fan, this custom bonesword should look a little familiar:

That's because it was very much meant as a love letter to concept artist Roberto Cirillo, who created some of the best Tyranid concept art around back in fourth edition. Hit that link to catch up on some of it in one of my other love letter posts to him. It was his concept at that also inspired my original Tyranid Exocrine from a Carnifex conversion...

...and I was thrilled to use this Tyranid Prime commission to explore the following concept sketch for a Tyranid bonesword, which has been rattling around in my brain for years.

Though my version certainly wasn't as perfect as I would have liked, I feel like it was a pretty good take on the original:

And because people, for some reason, seem intent on NEVER PINNING ANYTHING, here is proof that I reinforced those oh-so-snappable plasticard blades with some wire:

Marine masher biofist

As I mentioned briefly before, this weapon also started its life on a different Tyranid organism entirely: a broodlord that--shockingly I'm sure--was also inspired by a Roberto Cirillo sketch:

Would you just look at that beauty. Now, space marines are already pretty scared of a genestealer's rending claws, but that big, meaty version of a rending claw really seemed to me like something that would have even the toughest terminators quaking in their boots!

I set out to create that Broodlord on the right, but I never got finished with the model. I was sad to see this biofist languishing on my unfinished projects pile, so I dusted it off and repurposed it for the Tyranid Prime build.

My client had originally wanted the Tyranid Prime to have two of the same boneswords shown above. However, I feel like boneswords really stand out when they are paired asymmetrically (so, like a bonesword with a lashwhip). Scything talons and rending claws already do such a beautiful job of being great, symmetrical close combat weapons, and I wanted the Tyranid Prime's bonesword to really stand out and look special, like a centrepiece weapon. I didn't think that would work as well if I produced a photocopy of the same bonesword for his right hand, and I worried that it might wind up looking more like a sword and more like a set of pincers. 

So, why not give him a different weapon in his right hand, and it turns out I had just the thing!

In terms of build components, the forearm uses one of the fused forearms from one of the ranged Tyranid bioweapons (I think from the new Venom Cannon). The hand is two separate Genestealer rending claws that have been fused together, with a larger spiked claw (from the Trygon kit, I believe) making up the middle finger. I wasn't really sure what to do with the bracing piece from the original venom cannon that sticks out to the one side, so I cut and sanded down a wicked blade from the stormfiend kit to serve as what I like to call "the canopener." This is for cracking particularly stubborn armour that may resist the first hit from this massive rending claw. 

I believe the upper arm is from the same venom cannon, but it has been expanded. Originally, I wanted this arm to plug into two separate arm sockets along the side of a genestealer, but with the move over to the Tyranid Prime, I cut the upper arm down to be able to plug into one socket.

Thankfully, the client was happy with my solution, and when the two weapons are paired on the final model I feel like they give the impression that this particular Tyranid Prime could quite easily slag a Land Raider without breaking a sweat!


Next up: the Tyranind Prime's oversized devourer.

This one was inspired by my fantastically creative brother, who a long time ago was using some Tyranid devourers for heads on Tzeentch demons, and decided to try sticking a demon head on a Tyranid Deathspitter to made a devourer. I'm pretty sure this is that same devourer, cleaned up and expanded to fit a proper Hive-Tyrant-sized Tyranid Prime.

I've always loved the conical-nest-of-horrible-worms design of the Tyranid devourer, but I think the existing ones work a little better on gaunt- and Tryanid-warrior-sized critters than they do on Tyranid Monstrous Creatures. They just don't seem aggressive enough, particularly on these bigguns. So I'm really in love with this solution because it creates a weapon that looks like it could do some real damage, while churning out far more horrible grubs than the gaunt version!


In the end, I was really happy with the finished model I created, particularly since it wound up being a big bigger than planned, and I'm a big fan of beefy Tyranids! I wound up putting a lot more work into it than budgeted when I quoted the commission, so my client made out like a bandit with the rate I'd quoted him.

Here are some final shots of the beastie.

Please let me know what you think of him, and feel free to ask any questions about points I may not have covered to your satisfaction in the article.


- Pinky


  1. Hey there,
    Now that is an marvellous creation! I really love this big beast and your sculpting is flawless, as always. All these organic shapes are so perfect. Don't know what to say else ;-P Nice written article and a masterpiece in model. Mr. Pink, I salute you!
    Best regards!

    1. Dude. Your praise is always highly valued as your stuff is so sweet! Thank you! Also, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on the blog. It takes time to write this stuff, and comments like this make it worthwhile!

  2. Hive Fleet Anguis14 November 2019 at 13:02

    Everything about this is superb. The biofist and devourer in particular will inspire a lot of future kitbashes I think...

    1. Thank you, Anguis! I hope you're right. I'm always looking to help inspire other new innovative ideas! Particularly for Nids.

  3. I love this thing so much. The Marine Mangler biofist might be my favourite part; it manages to get that "big hand of death" vibe (one of my favourite visual tropes) without coming off oversized.

    Also, hats off to you for getting non-Tyranid parts to blend in perfectly with the rest of the conversion! Often, parts from outside of the 'nid range tend to stick out like a sore thumb on Tyranid models, but you've integrated them flawlessly.

    1. Thanks Peter! I'm glad you share my love for the Marine Masher. That, the lower legs, and the shoulder spikes are probably my fave elements on the model.

      And integrating other parts with Nids mostly involves rounding them out a bit and making them look less rectilinear. Nids have got SOME sharp edges, but not that many.

  4. How much i would love to have one