Monday 3 October 2016

Genestealer Cults Codex Review: Part 1- Special Rules, Warlord Traits, Wargear, Psychic Powers and Relics

Last week saw the release of a codex that a few years ago, I don't think anyone would have expected, Codex: Genestealer Cults. I picked the book up at the weekend to see what all the fuss was about and I have to say that I am pretty impressed with the results. It is sorely tempting me to start a new force to ally with my Imperial Guard. I may hold out for a while or my reviews of the various parts of the codex may tempt me even further. 

This first part of the review will look at the various non-unit and non-formation parts of the book. 

Special Rules
The Genestealer Cult gets access to a number of unusual special rules that really add to the flavour of the army. I think these will lead to a very different playstyle for the army in comparison to other armies available. 

Cult Ambush
All infantry models in the Genestealer Cult have the Cult Ambush special rule. This gives them a number of options for deploying or arriving from reserve. 
Any unit with the Infiltrate rule or that arrives from reserve or ongoing reserve may roll on the Cult Ambush table for their deployment, though the unit may not move any further in the movement phase if they do so. 

The Cult Ambush table consists of 6 different deployment options, one of which is randomly selected for each unit. These include options such as deploying normally from your table edge, outflanking, deploying anywhere on the board at least 6-9" from an enemy model, getting a bonus shooting attack when you deploy or even getting to assault the turn you arrive from reserves (or even a first turn charge after infiltrating or deploying!). 

In a game where movement and unit positioning are key, the Cult Ambush rule is really powerful. On a 3+, you can deploy any unit up to 6" away from the enemy and even get the option of a free shooting attack in the movement phase or getting to assault from reserve. This is a really nice bonus for the army, one which will become very useful when you see some of the units the army can field. 

Return to the Shadows
All infantry in the army also get the Return to the Shadows special rule. This allows you to remove any unit from the board and place them into ongoing reserves. The unit cannot come on from reserve in the same turn, but can deploy using Cult Ambush in the following turn if you wish. This cannot be used if you are in a vehicle or too close to enemy models. 

Again, this is a pretty fantastic almost army-wide special rule. How many times have you had a unit out of position and taking very little part in the game. Now, Genestealer Cult armies can remove these units and put them where they need to go in the game. This will be very useful for maelstrom missions or late game objective grabbing (assuming you roll well on the Cult Ambush table). 

Unquestioning Loyalty
A character with this special rules automatically passes Look Out, Sir rolls and can even use them in a challenge!
This is another awesome special rule. It essentially makes any character with this unit invincible until the unit he joins is wiped out. The fact that it works in challenges is brilliant, as your opponent can no longer challenge out valuable characters and easily kill them in combat. You can use your characters to challenge tougher enemy characters and try to kill them with little risk, as long as you have a sizeable unit backing up your Genestealer Cult character. 

Genestealer Cults treat Tyranids and Astra Militarum as Allies of Convenience. This is great for building up your army with a whole host of other units from these codices, though you will probably want to stick to one or the other as the Tyranids and Astra Militarum will still be Come the Apocalypse allies. 

Overall, the Genestealer Cults have some brilliant special rules for the army, giving them some really interesting options for deployment and re-deployment during the game. In addition, it makes their characters extremely durable, which as you will see in the HQ section review, is a great bonus for the army. 

Warlord Traits
The army has its own warlord traits table, with some very interesting options. 

Shadow Stalker- Warlord gains Stealth. A decent bonus, nothing too game breaking and will provide some additional protection for your warlord. 

Focus of Adoration- Friendly Cult units within 12" of the warlord gain Counter-attack. A nice bonus for your army and a decent range of use. Will greatly benefit some of the units in the army that want to be charging in combat. 

Wall Creeper- Warlord and his unit gain Move Through Cover and essentially get assault grenades. A nice bonus if you want your warlord and his unit to be assaulting. 

Born Survivor- Warlord gains It Will Not Die. Useful for help keeping your warlord alive for longer. Coupled with Unquestioning Loyalty, it will make your warlord quite difficult to kill. 

Alien Majesty- All models in the Warlord's detachment can use his Ld. This is pretty damn good given that all HQ units in the army are either Ld 9 or 10. Will help keep your units around for longer in a fight. 

Ambush Leader- Your warlord and his unit get to choose the result on the Cult Ambush table. This is the best by far. Given how useful the Cult Ambush options are, this will be a very powerful option, allowing you to choose to shoot twice in the turn or get an almost guaranteed first turn charge, even after infiltrating. 

Some very nice warlord traits there. I think Ambush Leader stands out as the best by far, but Focus of Adoration and Alien Majesty are also very useful for boosting your army. 

The Genestealer Cult has access to some unique wargear for the army. I will not go through everything they have, but will highlight a few interesting items that caught my eye. 

Mining Lasers- These are essentially two types of short-ranged Lascannon, one at 24" and one at 36".

Seismic Cannon Weapons- These are a cannon weapon that uses two different profiles, depending on how far away the target is. Close range is S8, AP3 with 2 or 3 shots depending on the cannon. Longer range is S5 AP4 with 4 or 6 shots depending on the cannon. These are an interesting weapon. Six S5 shots are pretty good against most units. Multiple S8 AP3 shots are very useful and you will have no problem getting close to the enemy with the army special rules. In addition, the weapons get AP1 on a 6 to wound (or armour penetration). 

Web Weapons- These are blast weapons that are S3 or S4 with an AP equal to the strength of the target. Not really sure what purpose these weapons serve. Will work well with Enfeeble against Marines where you can make the blasts AP3. Still, Grots had better look out with all those AP2 blasts coming their way.

Heavy Rock Cutter- Essentially a two-handed power fist with the Snip special rule. If a model is wounded, it must pass a Toughness test or is removed from play. A pretty powerful attack that may be useful against some multi-wound models with a lower toughness.

Metamorph Weapons- These are a range of three melee weapons that give different special rules in combat. They either give a +2S bonus, a +1/+2WS bonus or +3I bonus in combat. Some decent combat bonuses that are not too expensive per model.

Sacred Cult Banner- Gives all units within 12" furious charge. A nice bonus if you are going for an assault based army for your Genestealer Cult.

Cache of Demolition Charges- Allows you to throw a demolition charge out of your vehicle (S8 AP2 Large Blast), but with some risk to the vehicle taking additional damage when fired at. Demolition charges are powerful, but have such a short range that the risk of scattering back onto your own unit cannot be discounted.

The Genestealer Cult army features some nice weargear. There are a number of useful melee weapon options that were not covered here that would prove very useful in an assault-based army.

Broodmind Psychic Powers 

The Genestealer Cult comes with its own psychic powers. These powers serve to strengthen your own units or weaken the enemy units, and include some very powerful options.

Mass Hypnosis (WC1)- The Primaris power targets a single enemy unit within two feet. The target unit suffers -1 to their WS, BS, I and A (to a minimum of 1). This is a nice primaris power. Easy to cast and will have some influence on the enemy unit, either reducing their firepower or softening them up for an assault.

Psychic Stimulus (WC1)- A blessing that grants a unit Relentless and Fleet. The unit can charge even if they ran in the shooting phase. Another powerful ability that is relatively easy to cast. Relentless is a great power, allowing you to shoot to full effect and still charge or to move and shoot heavy weapons. Getting to charge after running (as well as having fleet for the re-roll to your run move or charge) should help you get into combat quicker.

Psionic Blast (WC1)- A S5, AP3 assault 1 Blast weapon. A reasonable psychic power. At BS4, you should hit something with the blast and be able to cause a few casualties against marines or equivalent.

Might From Beyond (WV1)- A blessing that gives a unit +1S and Rage. This is great for boosting a unit before you assault. Two bonus attacks at a boosted strength will be very useful for most of your units, especially the Genestealers. 

Mental Onslaught (WC2)- A focused witchfire with 2 foot range. The target model and psyker roll a D6 and add their Ld value. A draw means the target is -3I, for each point you beat your opponent, they take a wound with no armour or cover saves. A decent power, but you first need to cast it with warp charge 2, then beat your opponent's roll by at least 1 to cause any wounds. Given the psyker will likely be Ld 9 or 10, you have a better chance at causing a wound. It is a focused witchfire power, but you will need to harness three warp charge to select your target and even then, you may not harm it.

Mind Control (WC2)- Allows your psyker to take control of a non-vehicle enemy unit and shoot with them as if they were your own. This is incredibly powerful and can cause havoc with the right enemy unit. Imagine a unit of grav centurions coming under your control and shooting at their own army. This will be one of the powers you hope to get when you roll on the table in most cases.

Telepathic Summons (WC2 or WC3)- This is a summoning spell that can be cast at 2 levels. The lower level gives you a unit of 5 or 10 of the various Genestealer Hybrids. The higher level gives you 10 or 20 Hybrids or a unit of Abberants or Purestrain Genestealers. The units arrive using the Cult Ambush rule and can take any upgrades available to it (except extra models or a transport). Any sort of summoning-type spell is obviously very useful in an army. The unit does not deep strike, so how useful it will be on the turn it arrives depends on how well you roll on the Cult Ambush table, but it will be great for holding or contesting objectives. It also gives you free wargear depending on the unit, so the chance to take additional heavy weapons or melee weapons.

The Broodmind Discipline features some really good psychic powers. Mind Control obviously has the potential to be game winning, depending on your opponent's army. I would say they all have their use, but think that Mental Onslaught is the weakest. If it was warp charge 1, it would probably give it a pass, but warp charge 2 is a bit much for it. May be useful against Riptides or other monstrous creatures with a low Ld value.

As usual, the Genestealer Cult gets access to its own special Relics.

Icon of the Cult Ascendant
Friendly Genestealer Cult units within 12" get furious charge and can re-roll failed Morale, Pinning and Fear tests. Models in the same unit as the Icon get +1 attack. This is a decent buff for the army and not too expensive to include (Thunder Hammer cost). Morale re-rolls are useful in an army with generally marine level Leadership. Would definitely favour a more assault orientated army.

Dagger of Swift Sacrifice
Allows you to make a single combat attack that is poisoned (2+) with Instant Death. A very powerful attack, but with no AP value on the weapon, you will need to make sure your opponent has a poor save or hope you get lucky and they fail their save. I probably wouldn't bother with it.

Scourge of Distant Stars
In a challenge, your opponent must pass a Toughness test or they suffer a wound with no save allowed and -1I and -1A until the end of the phase. For the price of a power weapon, this is actually a pretty good Relic. Challenges are a bit less riskier for Genestealer Cult characters thanks to Unquestioning Loyalty, so you may get lucky with the toughness test and hinder your opponent in the challenge.

Staff of the Subterran Master
Gives the bearer a shooting attack that is assault 10, S2, ignores cover and rending. Ten shots is very good, but at strength 2, you are counting on rolling 6's to kill most of your target with ignores cover and rending. This would probably be useful against other Genestealer Cults or Astra Militarum armies.

Sword of the Void's Eye
A melee weapon that is +1S and AP3. That on its own is pretty good, but in addition, it gives the bearer re-rolls To Hit and To Wound on rolls of 1 and any To Wound roll of a 6 is Instant Death. For the same cost as a regular power weapon, I see no reason not to take this over any other power weapon in the army.

The Crouchling
A Genestealer Familiar that gives you a couple of extra attacks in combat and allow you to generate an additional psychic power at the start of the game. For 5 points less than upgrading a psyker to mastery level 2, this is a good option for your character. Alternatively, you could take up to 4 psychic powers with a level 2 psyker, giving you a better chance of getting the powers you are after. I would probably go with this Relic on the Magus.

The Genestealer Cult has access to some very handy Relics. Initially, I wouldn't say that any of these are must haves in the army, but I can see a use for many of them in a Genestealer Cult army.

The Genestealers Cults have access to a number of very interesting special rules, wargear and psychic powers. These should provide a different way to play the army to suit your own playstyles and I think they will be a lot of fun on the table.

The next part of the review will look at the HQ units in the army.

Genestealer Cults Codex Review:


  1. Its good to see GW doing some nice fluffy and balanced codices these days. Although I still don't like summoning that much, I still think they should not be able to claim objectives and should disappear at the end of the game before the final score count (line breaker and the likes). I think they shouldn't get any upgrades either, but maybe I'm being a little harsh.

  2. This army sounds amazing. I have been considering dabbling in a new army but I've been torn between genestealer cults and deathwatch. This codex sounds really awesome

    1. I kind of wish I hadn't picked up a bunch of Deathwatch stuff now. Would much rather start with a Genestealer Cult as I've already got two marine armies.

    2. That has been my debate as well but Deathwatch is just so cool. I think it would be better to run genestealer cults as allies with nids or AM than as a stand alone force at least for now until they get some more units.

  3. I'm probably taking the plunge as I have some IG models I never use as I am not painting an entire IG army! This way I can use them here... And I have old Hybrids from Genestealer Space Hulk Expansion, and lots of Purestrains... Again from Space Hulk.

    1. I'm really tempted, but don't know if I can justify the cost. They troops choices are really expensive to buy.

  4. Cult Ambush: You really need to be cycling a bunch of Units through this regularly to get max effectiveness. Gets way better with the Formations that let you get extra rolls and pick which you want. Promotes a very MSU approach with the Army.

    Warlord Traits: There are a couple of other factors that encourage you to use a Patriarch as your Warlord, and Wall Creeper is a fantastic Trait for him, possibly even better than Ambush Leader in some circumstances.

    Web Weapons: Think Eldar. Jetbikes and Warp Spiders primarily.

    Metamorph Weapons: One of the Init boosters can be really handy to have in each Unit. They function for the entire Fight Sub-phase, which includes when Sweeping Advances happen.

    Mental Onslaught: This can just wreck Tau, since they tend to have a lot of single-Model Units with mediocre Ld. Also potentially quite good against Daemons. Their MCs are generally only Ld9. Brutal against things like Mawlocs or DakkaFexen.

    Mind Control: Unfortunately, this one is also a Focused Witchfire. You only get to shoot with the one Model, not the whole Unit. Still great on Tau, a lot of Eldar, CentDevs, Flyrants, Artillery, etc.

    Staff of the Subterran Master: I say don't bother going for the regular Wounds on 5s with it by hunting T3 dudes. Go for the tough guys and just see how many 6s you can roll. It requires ridiculous luck, but this thing can potentially one-shot a WraithKnight.

    Sword of the Void's Eye: Unfortunately, it's effectively rather more expensive than it looks, because it's only available to a Primus, as an upgrade to his Bonesword, rather than something you can just give to some more generic Character to replace an Autopistol or something.

    1. Some nice points there.

      Mind Control is a bit ambiguous to me. It is a focused withcfire, but states that it targets a unit. Even then, it says the target fires as if it were one of your models (not units).

    2. Focused Witchfires all target a Unit, but are then resolved against a specific Model within that Unit. Depending on whether or not you get the extra success, which specific Model is either your selection or random, but it still just affects that one Model for the initial effect.

    3. Web Weapons aren't actually all that effective against Eldar, spiders are generally going to jump away and spread out making blasts a lot less effective, and jet bikes are T4 3+ so they're saving as normal

    4. Web weapons have an AP equal to the strength of the target unit, so would they not be AP3 against Jetbikes?

    5. Is it strength? I've actually not looked at the book yet since the leaks which said it was toughness. Strength is a lot more useful!

  5. Wow, thanks for the review! I must say you make a very good case for starting such an army, although personally I probably wouldn't be happy with such an infantry heavy army with tons of models. But yeah, if I had to choose between Deathwatch and Genestealer Cults, I'd still go for the latter. They seem way more interesting.