In this section we will have a look at the Genestealer Cult army in the Warhammer 40000 game and how to win more games with the Genestealer Cults.
These pages are written with the expectation that you have a copy of the Warhammer 40000 rules and a copy of the Index: Xenos 2 book that has all the rules and points values for playing a Genestealer Cult army.
What are the Genestealer Cults?
Genestealer Cults are the vanguard army for the Tyranids. Purestrain Genestealers hide on abandoned space hulks, star-ship wreckage floating through the space lanes that lie between the star systems. With luck these hulks will be boarded by salvage merchants and raiders looking for valuable ancient tech that these hulks often hide. Once boarded the Genestealers will infect the raiders with their DNA. The side effect of this is that the hosts become blindly devoted to their Genestealer parasites. The Raiders then take the Genestealers to a suitable planet, smuggling them past customs and hiding in the depths of society.
As soon as a Genestealer brood find a new home they begin to infect more and more of the poor and unwashed with their parasitic DNA. However that is not the most insidious part of it. As the infected humans breed and reproduce they create 2nd generation hybrid human/Genestealers (Acolyte Hybrids). These Acolytes often have latent psychic powers. The hybrids use their psychic powers to beguile the humans around them to accept these hybrids as their leaders. The most senior Acolyte becomes the Iconward.
2nd generation Genestealer Hybrids breed 3rd generation hybrids (Neophyte Hybrids). These in turn create 4 generation hybrids. Each generation looks more and more human, and becomes more and more likely to master psychic powers. 4th generation psykers are called Magus. Non-psychic 4th gen hybrids become Primus.
All this infecting and breeding has one purpose. When there are enough infected mind controlled humans, the Genestealer Cults rise up and cause chaos and mayhem around the planet. At the same time the Genestealers subconsciously send a beacon to the Tyranid Hive Mind that this planet is ripe for harvesting.
General Genestealer Cult Tactics
The Genestealer Cult army is deceptively flexible. This is because not only can you use units from the ample Genestealer army list, but you can add Imperial Guard Astra Militarum detachments (with some restrictions) and Tyranid detachments (with no restrictions) to your Genestealer Cult army.
The Genestealer Cults thrive in the sewers and dark underworld of society. Using their knowledge of the tunnels and passages that exist below they can pop up in the middle of the battlefield part way through the game. Be aware that even the Cultists can get lost in the labyrinth of passages, so this somewhat random in it’s effectiveness. However this ability is useful enough to warrant becoming very familiar with how it works!
This is a way of giving your Genestealer Cult Characters extra wounds, at the expense of their near by underlings. If your Character has a bodyguard of Infantry close by, and the Character takes a wound, then on a roll of 4+ one model is slain. Note that you do not get a save for this model, and it looses all it’s wounds, if it had more than one. Also note that this works in the shooting, combat, psychic phase, or any other time that the Character may loose a wound.
The best way to use the Unquestioning Loyalty ability is to assign a unit of cheep Neophytes to your characters. These can be used to absorb some wounds and allow your characters to keep doing what they are good at.
There are three psychic powers listed in the Broodmind Psychic power list. All three of them are very usable. If successfully manifested, Mass Hypnosis stops a unit over watching which is very useful for an assault focused army, Mind Control allows you to get your opponents biggest and baddest units against him (great anti-cheese device), and Might From Beyond just beefs up a unit in the fight phase. This could be the psyker themselves, specially in the case of the Patriarch.
Genestealer Cult Ambush Tactics
One of the main features of the Genestealer Cult arm is that many units can pop up from the subterranean sewers and passages. It is highly recommended that you get familiar with this ability and how to use it.
In matched play games half of your army needs to be set up at the start of the game. This means that in most cases you will not be able to place all your units in reserve as ambush units. As you build your army list think about which units will be in ambush and which will start in your deployment zone. You will want to arm you units differently depending on the role you want them to play. Ambush units will need to be better equipped for close combat and the other units will need to have more fire power.
When units arrive using the Cult Ambush rule they arrive at the end of the movement phase either in turn one,two,three, or four. Any units that have not arrived on turn four are lost as casualties. Most players bring their units in on turn one, but you may have a sneaky reason for bringing then in later.
When you elect to bring a unit in you need to roll a D6 and compare the result to the Cult Ambush table. Basically the hire the roll the closer you can set your units to enemy units. On a 5 or 6 you can usually assault on the turn you arrive. On a roll of 4 there is a 50/50 change of assaulting. You do not have to decide where you place your units until the result has been decided. It may be worth using command points to re-roll bad results.
As there is a fair chance of assaulting on arrival you will want to target enemy capital units ( high value units that you can take down in one assault).
Chapter Approved 2017 Update
Games Workshop has released a Chapter Approved rule book at the end of 2017. On pages 88 and 92 the Genestealer Cult rules have been updated to keep them somewhat in line with the armies that have had a full codex released. Personally I am glad to see Games Workshop put some time in to keeping the less popular armies relevant.
Special Rules: Objective Secured
The biggest rule change is that a Genestealer Cult Battle Forged detachment gets ‘Objective Secured’. This rule has appeared in all the Codex released so far under different names. How it works is that TROOPS units can secure an objective even if they are out numbered by the enemy. HQ, ELITE, FAST ATTACK, HEAVY SUPPORT, and etc units do not get this special rule. If the enemy units have this special rule too then you are back to counting relevant models with this rule and see who has the most.
The effect of this rule is massive. Securing objectives is a key part of winning games in WH40k 8th edition. The rule change means that TROOPS units are now far more valuable then the points costs for those units. It also completely changes now to create the ‘perfect mix’ of units. To win games you now will need to make sure that you have enough TROOPS units to capture objectives. With Genestealer Cult armies remember that you have the Cult Ambush rule too. this will allow you to sneak in and steal objectives from under the enemies noses. Just make sure that you can sneak out too!
Genestealer Cult HQ Tactics
With the Genestealer Cult army list you get a choice of four HQ unit choices. There are no names special characters, but this is fine. The four available options are a good fit for the army and very usable.
Genestealer Patriarch Tactics
Known as a Brood Lord in the Tyranid Army, the Patriarch is an over grown Genestealer. The Patriarch is a close combat specialist. This does come at the expense of shooting abilities. He (she?) has no ranged weapons other than it’s psychic ability. This makes tactics for the Patriarch easy. Get in to assault as soon as possible and as often as possible!
Patriarch Psychic abilities
The Patriarch know Smite and one Genestealer Cult Broodmind psychic power, and he can cast one power each friendly psychic phase. If you are playing point matched games then you will want to have a different Broodmind psychic power to any other psykers in your army. This will give you the greatest range of options during the battle.
Genestealer Patriarchs can be accompanied by little creatures called Familiars for a few extra points or one Power Point. These are well worth having. First off, one per battle, they allow the Patriarch to manifest two psychic powers in the psychic phase, and secondly they effectively give the Patriarch two extra Toughness 5 ( T3 if the Patriarch dies) wounds. All very useful! Note that the Familiars only have a 6+ save and no invulnerable saves. This means that you will want to assign wounds that could not be saved to the Familiars, for example Mortal Wounds. Knowing which other wounds to assign to the Familiars, and which to have the Patriarch attempt to save is a skill that you will need to learn.
Genestealer Cult Magus Tactics
Where the Patriarch was the first Genestealer that made planet fall, the Magus is the product of several generations of breeding with the local population. With each generation the most psychically gifted offspring where mated to create an ever more powerful psyker. In previous codex releases the Magus has had formidable psychic powers. In the Index: Xenos 2 this has been toned down for better game balance.
Genestealer Magus’s can take Familiars in the same way Patriarchs can. Note that Magus Familiars are Toughness 3. However all the other benefits are there for the Magus too. This means that they are well worth taking if you have the points / power point spare.
Genestealer Cult Primus Tactics
Where as the Cult Magus is the result of generations of breeding to create a psyker, the Primus is the result of selecting the best fighters in a colony.
The Cult Primus is a decent close combat fighter. Armed with poison weapons the Primus is defiantly better at taking on none vehicles. He will need a bodyguard though. Team your Primus up with a unit or two of Acolytes or cheaper Neophytes to absorb some wounds as your Primus closes in.
Genestealer Cult Acolyte Iconward Tactics
The forth HQ unit choice is the Acolyte Iconward. Acolytes are 2nd generation Genestealer hybrids. The icon ward does have some nice Abilities but on the whole the Iconward in not a choice HQ unit. Think about taking a Primus or Magus instead.
One reason for choosing the Acolyte Iconward as your HQ is if you are creating a themed army list based on a fledgling Genestealer Cult.