Codex: Genestealer Cults – Review

2022 dawns upon us, and it brings with it the uprisings of the insidious and cunning Genestealer Cult codex for 9th edition of Warhammer 40,000. As one of the more nuanced factions to play, we’re keen to dive in and see just what the uprising means for us in this day and age. We have a guest writer covering this faction for us from The Unrelenting Brush, who was excited to get all three of his hands/claws on the book. We’ll let him give you the run-down from here as we unfurl the banners and prep the industrial weapons for seizing the planet.

Genestealer Cult (GSC) are my main and largest army for 40k, so it’s been both a joy and an honour to go through this book kindly sent through by Games Workshop so I can share my own thoughts on what this new dawn brings for my favorite revolutionary Tyranid-worshipping lunatics.

DISCLAIMER: As with all new Codex, opinions are vast, varied and…loud. I am NOT a competitive gamer, nor do I class myself as a matched play enthusiast. I’m a narrative player through and through, so although I’ll do what I can to cover as many aspects of the book as possible, you won’t find the latest and/or greatest top table breaking combo for the next GT anywhere in this article. I leave that up to the competitive players to sort, as they’ll do an infinitely better job than I!

9TH EDITION CHANGES

ELITE CHOICES

One thing that I share with my GSC players (and as of late, many 40k armies in general) is the sheer number of choices we have for units to add to our armies. Codex: Genestealer Cults has HEAPS for such a considerably young army, and this shows nowhere better than in their elites section (with 11 datasheets to choose from, many being characters). This often led to frustrating choices to be made between leaving many choices in the case or bringing multiple detachments to be able to fit them all in, at the cost of additional and EXTREMELY precious CP.

Thanks to the Gene Sect rule, this enables you to, for each HQ choice you take per detachment, be able to take another GSC Character and remove their battlefield role in that detachment. This means you can save those precious Elite slots for Aberrants and Purestrains while ensuring your Saboteur and Nexus can come along for the fight and do the four-armed Lord’s work. A welcome addition, and something I imagine we’ll see similar for future codex’ to come.

BROOD BROTHERS

I have a considerably large Astra Militarum (AM) army devoted to my GSC, Leman Russ Tanks, Sentinels, Chimera, a Stormlord. Not only does it give GSC some much-needed long-range bang, but thematically, it’s amazing to have access to these units for both gaming and modeling desires.

Brood Brothers now work very differently in Codex: Genestealer Cults. No longer do we have direct access to our beloved Russ tanks and Sentinels, not even our treasured Brood Brothers squads are their own datasheets. Now, to include ANY AM units in your GSC army, they must be assigned their own detachment entirely, and you can take one AM detachment per GSC detachment.

This feels like a blow to those with strictly AM-themed GSC armies, as they’ll now have to run at least some GSC elements before they can bring out the lasguns and battle cannons. I foresee many people running their AM squads as neophyte hybrid squads for gaming purposes. All in all, it feels like a bizarre step in Codex: Genestealer Cults. There’s a lot less inclination for players to buy those AM kits if they’re being forced to meet additional requirements to field them compared to previous editions.

CULT BANNERS

Do all of your Neophyte and acolyte squads have wonderful scarlet banners fluttering in the smog-choked air of the battlefields of the 41st Millennium?

Yeah, neither do mine…

UNTIL NOW!

Summon the Cult means Neophyte and Acolyte squads can return D6/D3 (respectively) models to their units! This is an excellent addition to an army that relies heavily on its soft and squishy infantry to hold objectives for critical victory points. My sprue pile has been raided and I should have enough banners to throw into my squads to inspire my cultists to greater acts of revolutionary heroism.

NEW ADDITIONS

COMBAT PATROL BOX

We all love huge boxes of models. We love them even more if they’re catered to new players as well as existing to bulk up their numbers. The current ‘Start Collecting box’, although excellent value, stymies itself with the Acolyte Iconward as it’s HQ, as you can only take ONE OF EACH CHARACTER in your army in the new Codex: Genestealer Cults. To be honest, there are much better options out there for HQ’s when it comes to GSC.

The new Combat Patrol box is incredible. It comes with:

  • 1x Magos
  • 20x Neophyte Hybrids
  • 5x Acolyte Hybrids
  • 5x Aberrants
  • 1x Goliath Rockgrinder/Truck

That’s £157.50(GBP) of models! Not far off double the amount of the cost of the box (which we assume will be £85.00 as with the rest). The real beauty of this box is you could buy 2 of them and have a very strong core of your army done and bought for a great price. Throw in a few more characters and Ridgerunners and you’re off to overthrow whichever corner of the galaxy you call home.

PROFICIENT PLANNING

The Cult relies on its subterfuge, guerilla-style of warfare as well as its use of the environment to gain the advantage against their almost always stronger, better armed and better-trained enemy. Previously, this reflected in a heap of stratagems that enabled the players to have units pop up and gain charge bonuses or free shooting against enemy units. Although this sometimes bore fruit, it was often VERY expensive in precious CP, or often not the safest way to strike an advantage during a game where you needed weak soft units to go above and beyond to do what is required.

Within Codex: Genestealer Cults, Proficient Planning involves a list of abilities (I dare say faux stratagems) that you purchase for Points (Between 5 and 20) or Power level. You can pick ONE for your game from a list of 10. These play similarly to previous stratagems including enabling a unit to spring from an ambush and roll 3 dice to charge (discarding the lowest), enabling one unit of your choices to gain an additional attack for their first attack (here’s to you, Purestrains and Aberrants), and some specific to characters including the Primus and the Biophagus.

At first I was worried about continued rule bloats, this is another thing to be aware of during a game including objectives, actions, starts, etc. However, as you only need to pick ONE, it means that you can spend those left over 5-20 points (which most of my lists do have spare) to put some insurance on a unit you want to do something very specific in-game. Overall, I’m excited to see how this plays, and what combos I can create for my Pauper Princes.

CRUSADE

My love of crusade is well known. It is, by far, my favorite way to play 40k, which I’ve been involved with in many capacities for 20 years. My narrative desires have been fully satiated by what’s in the new Codex: Genestealers. It contains all the conventional bits. Agendas, Battle Traits, Scars, etc. However, what the rules writers have done here in spades is to really emphasise what a cult uprising sector-wide will look like, and encourages players to commit to an uprising in a sector of their own design.

Will yours start in a smog-choked hiveworld with a heaving populace? Or on a Forge World riddled with manufactorum ripe for the plundering? All while ensuring your day of ascension isn’t brought about early and capsized by overstretching your talons and forces. Warhammer Community already did an excellent article on this. Having played some in order to get a taste for the rules, I was instantly scribbling on bits of paper for ideas and executions of my own ongoing uprising.

I’ll be committing to a crusade series with my GSC in the very near future as part of a series of games and articles that will detail the rise of my Pauper Princes (or perhaps, their short-lived coup…).

THE HEAVY HITS

STRATAGEMS

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with stratagems throughout 9th edition Warhammer 40,000. They’re very much pivotal to the game and to the success of its players. Unfortunately, they’re also a LOT to remember, including correct wording, triggers and CP management (again, I’m not a very efficient player). The Ork codex released recently had what I found to be the opposite problem. There were 3 or maybe 4 stratagems that apply to my Goff army, and they’re more or less beyond circumstantial. I rarely use any of them from the book, bar Careen or More Dakka!

The previous Codex: Genestealer Cults had heaps of Stratagems, and most of them were ok, at best. The better ones were FAR too expensive. 3CP to commit to the main element of the armies theme (A Perfect Ambush) once per game was very painful, especially when it backfired, or when up against Marines, they spent less CP to make their units twice as difficult to shift against your strongest play.



However, this all changes in the new codex. I dare say, practically ALL the stratagems in this book are decent to excellent, especially in relation to their CP cost.

These include Roaming Engagement, allowing your Atalan to move 7” after shooting which, when they’re loaded with demo charges to be thrown at close range, is excellent. There’s also Overloaded Fuel Cells, which increases the strength and damage of industrial weapons (mining Lasers, demolitions charges, and a huge list of other weapons throughout our army) at the cost of MW on 1’s to hit. Gestalt Consciousness enables your psyker to apply a psychic power on ANY friendly unit on the battlefield regardless of range. No more fear of your Magos sitting with the Aberrants or Purestrains to be easily picked off by enemies. Genetic Lineage enables your Acolytes/Metamorphs to advance and charge in the same turn. Massed Firearms enables a CROSSFIRE unit (looking at you, Neophytes) to fire at a unit and 6’s to automatically wound – bring on the autoguns!

These stratagems are 1CP (Bar Roaming Engagement which is 2), and these are just some of the absolute gold we have access to. These on top of the Crossfire and Exposed rules, making your ambushes and planning pivotal, WITH proficient planning AND some nice stat increases to our hybrids. I truly don’t think there’s been a better time to take up arms against our oppressors! It’s gonna make for some fun, fast and frantic games of 40k!

With these numerous elements of cohesion and planning needed to get the most of the army, one thing remains true. Genestealer Cults are not what I would describe as a “beginner-friendly” army. Alike Drukhari, they require quite a bit of thought and intricacy in order to get the most out of them. Unless you are particularly fond of playing an underhanded underdog, new players may wish to begin with a simpler army for their first charge into Warhammer 40,000.

Overall, I’m very happy with this book. I’ll be taking my cult out for games swiftly and starting my crusade once I’ve decided what I want it to look like. I’m curious to see what the community makes of it, and how much the meta will shift with some BIG changes to how the army plays. Either way, take up arms, grease that autogun and maintain radio silence until our Four-Armed Father grants his blessing.

Should you wish to side with the Genesteauler Cults for the Day of Ascension, you can grab your pre-orders from Boards and Swords Hobbies.

Note – We received a sample of Codex: Genestealer Cults from Games Workshop for review purposes.

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