The Boys are back in town! Tyranid Genestealer Cults are back!
If you know me you may know that I started playing Warhammer 40k with the original Space Hulk boxed game in the mists of history so the re-appearance of Genestealer Cults brings a sense of joy. Anyway, on with the important bit, the Genestealer Cult Tactics!
As always, these notes are written with the expectation that you have access to the Codex: Genestealer Cults book and the main WH40k rules.
What are Genestealer Cults?
Before the Tyranids existed as a WH40k army Games Workshop released a board game based on 40k ( as they do from time to time ) called ‘Space Hulk’. The first variant of Space Hulk had two expansion sets. One called ‘Deathwing’ ( introducing the Dark Angel first company ) and one called ‘ Genestealer ‘ that introduced Genestealer Cults to the 40k universe. Warhammer.Wikia has a detailed page on the history the of Space Hulk game. Over time this army sported off the Tyranid army that has mainly superseded them. Now with a new boxed game ‘Over Kill’ featuring Genestealer Cultists we have a new Genestealer Cults Codex and some new models too!
In Warhammer 40K terms Genestealers Hybrids are part human and part Genestealer. As such they have close combat skills inherited from thier Genestealer parents and ballistic skills inherited from thier human parents.
Genestealer Hybrids go through several generations. With each generation the Hybrids close combat skills become weaker and thier ballistic skill improves.
General Genestealer Cult Tactics
By their nature Genestealer Cult armies are a rag tag army of gutter trash and army deserters. By the time they grow in to a force large enough to conquer planets they get observed in to the Tyranid main force. This means that the Genestealer Cultists are far better at smaller skirmish games than full Apocalypse games.
The Genestealer Cults army has a number of specCult Ambushial rules that help the Cult army in areas with lots of cover. City Fights and Jungle warfare spring to mind. If you have a chance to effect the amount of cover go for as much as possible!
Most of the Genestealer Cult units have the ability to infiltrate and the drop back in to reserves. This means that you have the ability to keep your enemy chasing shadows. The same abilities allow you to ‘steal’ objectives. Popping up to take objectives. then slipping away again. Remember that you do not have to destroy the enemy to win games.
The main weakness in the Genestealer Cult army is lack of air support and anti-aircraft weapons. The best option if you are facing air attacks is to dive for cover and hide! Option 2 is to get some missile wielding Neophytes. These can be upgraded to have sky-fire missiles.
Genestealer Cults Special Rules
Genestealer Cults have a number of sneaky special rules. These will help you in built up City Fight scenarios.
The Genestealer Cult Codex has a new table that you can use instead of Infiltrating or arriving from reserves in the usual fashion if you wish. You do not have to use the new table (p97), you can choose when you return the unit to the table, and you can have some units returning normally and some returning using the new table. Note that if the unit is in a Goliath or Chimera then you have to return using the normal reserves rules.
The benefit of using the standard rules is that they are less open to risk. You know that the unit will be coming in on the left or right table edge and you have a 1 in 3 chance of choosing which edge they come in on too. With the new table there are 6 possibilities. As I have said elsewhere, randomness is the enemy of solid tactics.
So why use the new table? The main reason is that you can arrive much closer to your pray. There is a 2 in 6 chance that you can arrive within 9″ ( easy assault range next turn) and only 1 in 6 chance that you may arrive further away on your table edge. The best of all though is if you roll a 6 then you can return within 3″ of your pray and assault in the same turn. Do this with a large unit of Purestrain Genestealers and you can wipe out whole units before returning to the shadows (see the next special rule)
Return to the Shadows
This sneaky special rule will have your opponents chasing shadows! Not only can the Genestealer Cult units infiltrate in, but they can drop back in to reserves ready to pop up elsewhere on the table later.
To use this rule the unit must have the ‘Return to the Shadows’ special rule, not be in a vehicle and be more than 6″ away from the enemy at the start of the movement phase. This means that you will need to make sure that you are not encircled. When arriving from reserves choose targets that are on the edge of the main force, or better still, stranded from their comrades. Also watch out for traps like enemy units deep-striking behind you!
Notice that you can not return to the shadows and reappear on the same turn. This would be too much like teleporting! As you return to the shadows in the movement phase you will not get to shoot or assault in that turn. Make sure that you use your units effectively.
Genestealer Cult HQ Tactics
The Codex: Genestealer Cults gives us four HQ options. The first is the Genestealer Patriarch, then there is the Magus. Both of these are familiar from earlier Codexes. In addition there are two new HQ tactics to this codex.
Genestealer Patriarch Tactics
A Tyranid Genestealer Patriarch ( Brood Lord ) and Genestealers
The Genestealer Patriarch is the head of the Genestealer insurgence on a planet. As such there should only be one Patriarch in a game. However if you want to fly in the face of the background story, or if you want to create a new storyline, the rules do let you field a number of Patriarchs in a game. Be warned, there may be an amount of shouts of ‘Cheese!’ from opponents and onlookers!
Genestealer Magus Tactics
With each generation the Genestealers pick the most psychic offspring to mate and create the next generation. By the forth generation a leader with full psychic powers is developed. These are the Genestealer Magus’s. They are the psychics of the Genestealer army. You may note that the Patriarch has limited psychic powers, but the Neophyte and Acolyte psykers are missing from this codex.
Genestealer Primus Tactics
The Genestealer Primus is a new addition to the Genestealer Colt army. As an army General he is cheaper than a Patriarch and a better fighter than the Magus. If you are fighting small games or you need the points elsewhere then the Primus is worth considering.
Genestealer Acolyte Iconward Tactics
The Genestealer Acolyte Iconward is an Acolyte that has proved himself worthy of the honour of carrying the cults Icon. The Iconward has stats comparable with a Space Marine Captain and has access to the Genestealer Sacred Relics if you want to spice your Iconward a bit.
Genestealer Cult Elite Tactics
Elite troops are usually more expensive in points costs than troop units. In a standard formation you are limited to 3 elite units in an army. This is so you have enough space for plenty of troop choices. In a unformed army you can have as many of whichever units you want. However having too many elite units will mean that you will be out numbered during the game. Add elite units to your army list, but I highly recommend not over doing it!
Purestrain Genestealer Tactics
Purestrain Genestealers are the original Genestealers from the Space Hulk Games. The stats in the Codex Genestealer Cults are different from the Codex Tyranids. If you are playing both army lists in the same game you will have to make sure that the different units can be visually told apart.
Purestrain Genestealers only have a 5+ save. This means that the will be ripped apart by most weapons, and the ones that do give you a save will mean that yo are saving 1 in 3 times. This means that you need to keep out of line of fire as much as possible. Hug all the cover you can. The Cult Genestealers get the Stealth special rule. This will help against most weapons.
One way to keep out of line of fire is to get to your pray quickly. Genestealers get Infiltrate and the special Genestealer Cult special rule ‘Cult Ambush’ to start closer to the enemy, the Fleet and Move Through Cover rules should help them cover intervening ground.
A Tyranid Genestealer Patriarch ( Brood Lord ) and Genestealers
You can have up to 20 Purestrain Genestealers in a unit. This would be expensive, but add survivability to the unit. Note that a squad of 20 stealers is difficult to hide. Have a play with squad sizes and see what works best for you.
Genestealers do not get a dedicated transport option. This does not mean tat they can not hop in to a passing empty Chimera or Truck. Hitching a ride can be a way of moving around the table faster and giving the Genestealers some much needed protection.
Genestealer Hybrid Metamorphs Tactics
Genestealer Cult Hybrid Metamorphs are a new addition to the Codex Genestealer Cults. The Metamorphs are Genestealer Acolytes with extra biomorph mutations. This does push up the points cost per model by one point. As the biomorphs are close combat based you will need to see how often you get in to assault to see if the upgrades are worth it.
Genestealer Aberrants Tactics
Genestealer Aberrant are new to the 2016 Codex Genestealer Cults too.
Genestealer are beefed up infantry units. Armed with Power Axes and Power Hammers, Aberrants they have the clout to make a dint in the toughest tank or walker. Remember that you have to get close to get the hits in.
Genestealer Cult Troop Tactics
The Genestealer Cult Codex provides a couple of troop choices. One option is a close assault focused option and one is more like a Imperial Guard squad. Both options are cheap which means that you can crate a horde army allowing you to out number the opposition.
Genestealer Acolyte Hybrids Tactics
Genestealer Cult Acolyte Hybrids are second and third generation Genestealers. Second Generation Genestealers are half purestrain and half human. These creatures almost look like purestrain Genestealers but can carry weapons. Third generation hybrids look more human but may have 2 to 4 arms and a purplish tone to their skin.
With their Genestealer heritage Genestealer Acolytes are good close combat units for the points cost. their ballistic skill is 3 ( better that the BS2 that they use to be) so you do have half a chance of hitting with your autopistols, however you may want to upgrade as many Acolytes as possible with hand flamers as these hit automatically and ignore cover!
Acolytes with hand weapons get an extra attack on top of the 2 ( or 3 with Acolyte Leader). If you get the charge bonus you can get 4 ( or 5 ) rendering attacks. This means that you have a good chance of winning an assault even against more armoured foe.
So what are the best tactics for Acolyte Genestealers? As with most of the cult army, choose small units as your targets, sneak up close, wipe out the target if you can, and then run away to fight elsewhere on the battlefield later in the game.
Genestealer Neophyte Hybrids Tactics
Neophyte Hybrids are more human than Genestealer. They have access to a wider range of weapons. The downside is that they have far more human stats. In fact the stat line is so close to an Imperial Guardsman that many use Guard models as Neophytes.
The Genestealer Cult Codex allows very flexible formation for Neophyte units. For example you can have two miner heavy weapons or one Imperial Guard Heavy Weapon. Also you can have two special weapons.
Genestealer Cult Fast Attack Tactics
Most Genestealer Cults are fast because they can disappear one turn and reappear somewhere completely different in the next turn. However this disappearing and reappearing act means that you miss some phases and opportunities to cause havoc. With fast units you can usually get around the table quickly and stay on the table the whole turn.
Think about your tactics before you draw up an army list. The less cover on the table, the more fast and heavy units you will need.
The Genestealer Cult army is often joined by renegade Imperial Guard Units. Some of these units bring basic Guard equipment with them. For this reason it is no surprise that the Genestealer Cult army has access to a number of basic Chimera.
Chimera can move units around the table quicker than running and give some protection and offer some fire support too.
As the Genestealer Cult Chimera is like the Imperial Guard one you can deploy all the same tricks. A favourite is the ‘Mobile Pillbox’ where special weapon or heavy weapon squad members can pop the top hatch and fire their weapons on the move.
Armoured Sentinel Squad Tactics
Armoured Sentinels give the Genestealer Cult some much needed heavy weapon support. It does not have the return to the shadows special rule, so you have to be careful that you are not backed in to a corner.
As infantry units in the Genestealer Cult army are very capable at taking on softer infantry targets, I recommend tooling up your Sentinels with Lascannons, Plasma Cannons and Missile Launchers to take out larger, more armoured targets.
Scout Sentinel Squad Tactics
Scout Sentinels are like the Armoured Sentinel Squads but with less armour (Douh!). The upside, apart from being 5 points cheaper, is that they gain ‘Scout’ and ‘Move Through Cover’ special rules. I feel that the sneaky nature of these walkers make for a better fit with the nature of the Genestealer Cult army, so they are my preferred choice.
Like the Armoured Sentinels I recommend upgrading the weapons to take on more armoured targets.
Genestealer Cults Goliath Trucks
Out goes the limousine (do you remember them?) and in comes the Goliath Truck as transport for your Genestealers and hybrids.
Genestealer Cult Heavy Support Tactics
Some times you just need big guns! The Genestealer Cults has two heavy support options. The first is the Goliath Rock grinder, the second is the Leman Russ battle tank with a variety of weapons.
Leman Russ Battle Tank Tactics
The Leman Russ Battle tank is a core element of the Imperial Guard army. As such it is no wonder that they are available to renegade units that defect to the Genestealer Cult. The challenge though will be to work big slow noisy behemoth in to the sneaky hit and run tactics.
Goliath Rockgrinder Tactics
In addition to the Goliath Truck the Genestealers get a Heavy Support version with extra heavy weapons and extra grinding dozer blade called the Goliath Rockgrinder.
Genestealer Cult Formations
One thing that we do have with the Genestealer Cult Codex is a good number of formations. Many of these match the boxed sets that Games Workshop sell like the formation found in the Overwatch boxed game.