Tactical Toolbox: Genestealer Cults

So, after the Genestealer Cults codex hit the shelves, it was pretty clear that the Four-Armed Emperor had a lot of hidden followers all around the world. John Bracken, from the Warhammer World events team, expects to be seeing loads more of these fellas gracing the tables of future Warhammer 40,000 events very soon. In this article, he talks tactics for a few of his favourite Genestealer Cults units, giving you some practical advice on how to use them and roughly what to expect from them when you are playing your games.



The Patriarch

Starting with the creatures in charge, the obvious and choppiest choice is, of course, the Patriarch. Lean, mean and utterly deadly to anything it comes into contact with, you should get your Patriarch stuck into combat as early as possible.

Additionally, as your troops have an average Leadership at best (7, a Space Marine from a Tactical Squad has 8), so where possible, keep the Patriarch near the troops when possible to make use of his Living Idol rule, which makes up for their lower Leadership by making them Fearless. This should make sure no-one runs off when the bullets start to fly.

When deploying, be sure to make use of the Cult Ambush rule with as many Purestrain Genestealers as possible. You want him in combat with light to medium infantry for the most part; he will not fare as well against vehicles or anything with a 2+ save. He’s especially good against Space Marines, as he has AP3 Claws.


Acolyte Hybrids

Acolyte Hybrids are a great choice, mostly because they don’t need much in the way of upgrades to be effective, and this makes it easy to keep their points cost low. They come standard with Rending Claws but, if you have the points to spare, you can take all manner of horrendous close combat weapons, from heavy rock drills to boneswords. Without upgrades, they are relatively cheap units, at only 40 points for 5 models (compared to 70 points for a Tactical Squad of 5 Space Marines) – it’s a good deal.

When deploying them, using the Cult Uprising rule is a good choice, as it usually ends up with them closer to the enemy than deploying normally or using Infiltrate. The closer you start to the enemy, the more damage is mitigated as you are exposed to fewer enemy shooting phases before getting into the safety* of close combat.

* Close combat is anything but safe, but at least they wont be getting shot at.


Neophyte Hybrids

These are my favourite troops, largely because they can shoot back at the enemy! It’s 50 points for ten of these fanatical warriors, meaning they’re even cheaper per model than the Acolytes, they come with an autogun as standard, and you can even mount them in a Chimera or Goliath truck to move them around the battlefield more quickly.

I have a slight preference for the Chimera, and I try my best to always have one for each of my units (the Goliath is starting to make a case for its inclusion however, as I’ll explain in a bit). The mobility, protection and extra firepower provided by a transport is one of the best ways to keep your cultists alive, so don’t leave them running around alone for the enemy to use as target practice.

Try to keep them on the move and use them for grabbing objective markers, and you won’t go far wrong. Also, if their transport happens to get blown up, leaving them stranded and in the open, be sure to use your Return to the Shadows rule to leave the battlefield and take a more circuitous route to the fight using Cult Ambush next turn. Most of the results on the Cult Ambush chart allow your unit to get into Rapid Fire range so make use of it to get those extra shots!


Purestrain Genestealers

These are Genestealers who, unlike most of those that would deploy with a Tyranid Hive Fleet, have lived for hundreds of years, perfecting the art of sneaking and killing (and apparently, dodging bullets). This makes for a very handy skill set when your job is to sneak up on enemy units and turn them inside out. For the most direct approach, pack twenty of them into a squad with a Patriarch, use the Cult Ambush rule to deploy as close to the foe as possible and go hunting.

If you get really lucky on the Cult Ambush chart, you can assault a unit of your choice on the first turn and tear it to bits. Another option is to instead take multiple small units and zip around the board from cover to cover, capturing objective markers and finishing off wounded units. Either works fine, but if you take too many, you’ll find your points running out very quickly, as they are a lot more expensive compared to the impure hybrids (14 points per model compared to 9, or even 5!).

Finally, bear in mind that no matter how good you are at dodging bolt shells, flame throwers are still very effective against these guys. Your Genestealers have a 5+  invulnerable save, and that will be all you have between them and a crispy death, since your Stealth will be rendered useless by the template weapon’s Ignores Cover rule.


The best unit in the codex? Maybe, maybe not – but I lean towards a yes. When used with the Cult Ambush rule, these giants will make a mess of almost anything they get into combat with. I’d even rate their chances against the towering mechanical armour of an Imperial Knight, and that’s saying something. Equip all your Aberrants with power hammers and you’ll have a unit that is much tougher to kill than your other units (thanks to a Toughness of 4 and Feel No Pain) that can batter any opponent into a bloody pulp.

They are 30 points each and compare favourably to other units of that cost, like a Tyranid Warrior, for example. The Aberrants have one less Wound and Attack than the Warriors, but they do have the option to sneak onto and off of the battlefield (with Return to Shadows and Cult Ambush) and can carry around power hammers, which are the sort of weapon usually reserved for Space Marine Terminators! Good value for sure, but they are a gambler’s unit, as they really rely on the Cult Ambush rule to provide the opportunities for their powerful assaults.


The Vehicles

Having already touched on the Chimera a little earlier, it’s worth pointing out the various other vehicles a cult has access to. The regular Imperial tanks and walkers need no introduction, their pedigrees are long established, but the new kits could do with a going over.

The Goliath

Rugged (literally – it has a rule that says so!) and dependable, the Goliath can take the hits and keep on chugging, keeping its crew safe and sound. It’s fantastic value – you get an autocannon and heavy stubber (5 anti-Infantry shots that will keep even Space Marines’ heads down) on wheels that can do a fine job of keeping your more vulnerable units alive while you drive them where they need to be (usually an Objective Marker).

Don’t underestimate this truck and be tempted to stack up on Chimeras, despite the Chimera’s armour value of 12 (the Goliath only boasts 11). The extra point of armour on the Chimera is a massive advantage, but the difference in firepower and points means the Goliath should absolutely be considered as a viable transport for your cultists. I’d mostly use it to transport Neophytes, as they synergise with the long-ranged aspect of this tank a little more, especially if they carry Heavy weapons and take advantage of the Goliath being Open-topped to fire at enemies while embarked.

The Rockgrinder

The only thing better than this vehicle is the image of what happens to the enemies it smashes into. The Rockgrinder has all the advantages of a Goliath, but trades off some of its transport capacity to have slightly better armour. Oh yes, it also has a short-ranged heavy mining laser, just in case you want to shoot your enemies before crushing them in the drilldozer blades.

This truck rewards reckless, bordering on insane, tactics as it does the most damage by running into things (adding an extra D6 for strength when Ramming) and driving over troops (Tank Shocking for D3 Strength 10 Ap2 hits). I usually choose to load it up with combat troops where I can, like Hybrid Acolytes or Aberrants; if I’m going to be driving it headlong into the enemy at full speed, there’s not much point having ranged units inside it…


Well that’s all I have space for at the minute, be sure to tune next time for more and, for now, happy hunting!

– John Bracken

Pick up your own copy of Codex: Genestealer Cults to read all about these insidious infiltrators.



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