Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Warhammer 40,000: Genestealer Cult Index Review - HQ

I've been playing my Genestealer Cult quite a bit since 8th Edition came around and I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on it now. While I think the list itself is fairly weak, I love the models and I've been trying to make it work. I don't really need to win every game or whatever to have fun - I mostly just want close games, so I don't mind throwing stuff on the board that is less competitive.

I want to review each selection for GSC (not Astra Militarum or Tyranids) not only for you, the dear reader, but also for myself - sort of a self review. I'm also eager to hear thoughts from others and things I might have missed. I am not really up to date on all the competitive stuff for every other list in Warhammer, so I may miss opportunities here or there - let me know what you think!

HQ Selections

There are two special rules available to all three HQ characters - Cult Ambush and Unquestioning Loyalty. 

Cult Ambush is available to most everything in the GSC and allows you to basically 'deep strike' and then sometimes assault with better results. You roll a D6 on the table and follow the results. A six is amazing - it allows you to place 9" away from enemies then do a normal move. Five allows you to move D6" or shoot after placing 9" away. Four allows you to place 9" away. Three through one are just bad, for the most part. 

One character can attach to each unit doing this. When they deploy on the table they have to be within 6". This is really useful for getting your Primus or Patriarch out there with your guys to fight. 

I'd really appreciate it more if you just rolled a D3 - on a one you place 9" away, two you place 9" away and can move D6" etc, on a 3 you get to move as well. Overall its not a bad table but really you're just fishing for fives or sixes; anything else is basically a failure and your unit is left out in the open ready to be shot to death (with 5+ armor saves).

Unquestioning Loyalty allows you to pawn off a wound on a character to GSC infantry units within 3" on a dice roll of a 4+. Versus ranged attacks its somewhat situational, as it may not be possible for your characters to be targeted anyway. For melee attacks it's pretty great - save your character by having some neophytes pulled off instead. It also doesn't seem to be optional; it doesn't say 'you may' in the rules at all, so you have to do it. Kinda sucks when your guy is obviously going to die and you have to pull off genestealers instead, but it is definitely theme-y.

If you have a GSC warlord you can use FOCUS OF ADORATION as your warlord trait instead of the BRB ones. This allows you to do a heroic intervention with GSC infantry when they are within 6" of your warlord. I am not sure exactly how often this will come into play, but when it does it'll be pretty cool and hopefully a masterstroke for the GSC player. It's pretty theme-y.

GSC have two strategems - Return to the Shadows allows you to choose a GSC infantry unit more than 6" from any enemy models (not one that has arrived as reinforcements). That unit then goes into Cult Ambush and can come back the next turn. This is a throw back to the GSC codex when you could basically do it all the time. This one costs 1CP which is pretty good. I see this basically as allowing you to fix a poor Cult Ambush roll the next turn; it also allows you to bring a unit off the table if they've killed their target and are just being battered by small arms fire. 

Meticulous Uprising is really where you're going to spend your CP. It allows you to roll two dice on the Cult Ambush table instead of just one, hoping for better results. If you're including a Primus you can include a third die, which is a great way to almost guarantee you're going to get a good result. For 1CP this stratagem is solid. 

The cult have two characters that can cast psyhic powers. We have access to three powers overall. Mass Hypnosis manfiests on a seven and has an 18" range. Units affected by it can't fire Overwatch, fight last, and subtract one from hit rolls. It's pretty nice in that our dudes melt to Overwatch, especially flamers. Subtracting one from hit rolls is amazing as well.

Mind Control manifests on a six and has a 12" range, which makes it less useful. You roll three dice and if it meets or beats the the models leadership you can use the model to make a shooting or melee attack. It's nice when you can get it off against vehicles with a ton of shots, but the 12" range means you have to get your Magus really close, or maybe a patriarch. I don't generally take this.

Might From Beyond manifests on a seven and has an 18" range. It gives GSC infantry +1 attack and strength. It is generally overkill on genestealers, nice on Acolytes to get the plus one strength with heavy melee weapons, and super nice with Aberrants because they get an additional attack. 


The Primus is the leader of the cult - the dude who organizes all the acolytes and neophytes to rise up at the right time all over a planet or city. The Primus is, for me, mainly a force multiplier. He allows you to re-roll the Cult Ambush table result and if you use 1CP you can roll three dice on the table and re-roll one (I think, only one). He also adds 1 to all fight phase rolls for GSC units within 6" - amazing! 

His combat stats are somewhat pedestrian - he's toughness three with five wounds and a 5+ armor save with no invulnerable save. He does hit on a 2+, and he does wound non-vehicles on a 2+ with 'rending' on a roll of a 6. 

Mostly I just use this guy with ambushing units, especially acolytes. He gives them +1 to hit so the rock saws are hitting on 3+ instead of 4+ and rerolling 1s due to the Cult Icon. He also helps guarantee their ambush to be one of consequence.

At 76 points, he's a bargain, especially for helping you get down an ambush or maybe even two during the game. I really wish - and this goes for the whole index - that somehow he was less squishy. I get that he's a human-ish dude and guard guys aren't really tough but perhaps he could have some sort of 'shadows' thing. I think -1 to hit modifiers are cancerous so I'm not really sure what to do. If your opponent chooses to attack him and you don't have guys around to pawn off hits or you fail your 4+ roll, he's just gonna die.


The patriarch is your big daddy combat machine. He's toughness five with six wounds and a 5+ invulnerable save so he's much more survivable than any other GSC character, plus he's hitting on 2+ with a strength of six with six attacks.. You can re-roll failed wound rolls and if you roll a six, instead of AP -3 and D3 damage his hits are AP -6 and 3 damage! He's a machine who will take down most infantry and lots of vehicles, especially if you can get a strength buff on him like Might From Beyond or a banner.

He adds +1 to hit for Purestrain Genestealer units with 6", so its not as good as the Primus, but still very good, making them hit on 2+. He also allows GSC units to auto pass morale checks within 6". Just like purestrains, he can advance and charge, so he's very very fast. This is great for after you finish off an opponent after an ambush - you can move, advance, then charge, hopefully netting you maybe one turn of taking shooting attacks. 

You can also add up to two familiars - basically letting you cast an extra psychic power once per game and adding another wound. Adding wounds is pretty cool and maybe worthwhile, mostly because he also has Unquestioning Loyalty, so he can be very tanky.

When it comes to psychic powers, I really like Mass Hypnosis on this guy because it allows you to blind a unit before you charge. They can't overwatch you and they hit on -1. 

At around 150 points he's not overpriced. Overall I really like this guy, but I haven't been using purestrains lately so I haven't been taking him so much. If you want maybe the best way to not give up a Warlord kill in matched play, you probably want this guy.


The Magus is definitely my favorite character. He's cheap at 73 points and comes with a psychic power. He's again very squishy, at toughness three with four wounds and a 5+ save. He has an autopistol force stave, so he's not doing much in the shooting phase, however in melee he can do some damage with three attacks, hitting on 3+ and with strength five, AP -1, D3 damage. He's actually killed a few characters he had no business fighting. He can have two familiars, which again helps as ablative wounds.

He does have a special rule that gives units within 6" an attempt to deny one psychic power if it targets them. It's not especially useful - I don't know if I've ever used it - but it could come into play at some point.

Mostly I just use this dude for casting cool spells. I like Mass Hypnosis as a method to support your dudes advancing up the board. Might From Beyond can make neophytes into combat monsters as well as being a great multiplier for Aberrants. And when you really need it, of course Smite helps you take down hard targets. 

I think the only thing I might want changed for these guys would be an additional wound and maybe an additional psychic power. Maybe a psychic power only they can use. A FNP type power that symbolizes the cult's intense fanaticism would be really welcome.

Acolyte Iconward

The Iconward is the standard bearer for the cult. He's a minor character but he's mentioned multiple times in the books I've read (Genestealer Cults and Cult of the Warmason) because they're important in the theme. In terms of in-game stuff, these guys are kinda terrible =/ 

They have the same basic stats as an acolyte, with the same equipment, with four wounds instead of one. GSC infantry can re-roll morale tests within 6" of him, which is nice, but I find when I fail a morale test, it is because I already lost a ton of dudes - it is usually all or nothing. 

The other special rule they have is decent, but still not enough to take them. GSC models within 6" ignore wounds on a D6 roll of a 6. This is okay, but its only models, not units, so you have to keep the Iconward very very close to whatever models need it. 

He does have access to a relic - which is nice that GW saw that Iconwards were not being used and added it in Chapter Approved - GSC infantry units get +1 strength when they are within 6" of the Iconward. That is really nice, especially for acolytes who are pouring on a ton of attacks. 

I wish this guy did something better. I don't see him used much in lists online or in person, and I actually haven't used him yet. Perhaps change Nexus of Devotion to 'Units' and make it 5+? Or make units harder to hit at -1 within 6"? That mechanic is really aggravating, but it would represent how hard the dudes are fighting on through everything. Perhaps you could use the Return to the Shadows stratagem within 6" of enemies if he's near. He needs something to make him more useful.

Check back later for the next section where I'll talk about troops and dedicated transports!


  1. Thanks so much for your review and unit round-up. I look forward to your other future posts on the topic. I too find the whole army incredibly squishy really hope we get some interested work around in the Codex.


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