Building a Genestealer Cult: Core Formations


Hey everyone, Reecius here from Frontline Gaming to talk about the awesome new Genestealer Cults! Check the Tactics Corner for more great reviews and articles.

There’s a lot to love (and talk about!) in the new Genestealer Cults codex. I think Games Workshop did an excellent job with this book. It’s characterful, fun, has a unique play style and I think it will be good on the tabletop, too! Nicely done, GW.

While going over the book with my friend and teammate iNcontroL (which you can listen to, here, or watch, here) we were debating the pros and cons of the various core formation choices in their Cult Insurrection Detachment (Decurion style detachment). We both agreed the command benefits of it made it more attractive to us than a CAD but I gravitated towards the Neophyte Cavalcade while iNcontroL was drawn to the Brood Cycle. The Brood Cycle features more of the unique Genestealer Cult units while the Neophyte Cavalcade has more of an Astra Militarum feel to it, and is cheaper.

The Neophyte Cavalcade comes with some “tax” units, which are usually what makes or breaks these Decurion style detachments. In this instance, the perceived tax units are pretty much all of the Astra Militarum units, haha. The stock Leman Russ Eradicator it comes with is cheap as chips and actually not bad though, in my experience


Having used one frequently with my Astra Militarum I can say that no, it is not an all star unit, but for 120pts you get a solid tank. AV14, and an Ignores Cover large blast that ISN’T Ordnance (meaning you can fire all other weapons without Snap Firing) makes it a solid “tax” unit. I usually run mine with a Heavy Bolter or Flamer. If I take Sponsons for it, which I typically do not, I run with Heavy Bolter Sponsons. Dozer Blades are a good consideration though, as you will often have to move through terrain to get into range of your main cannon. Keep this bad boy in the rear with the gear to protect backfield objectives or go after enemy light infantry sitting on objectives such as Scouts, Fire Warriors, Guardians, etc. He’s great at taking them out, just be wary of enemy infantry assaulting him as he will go down pretty easily in melee.


The Sentinel, unfortunately, is just terrible. I love the model but man they are so bad. This is the real tax in the formation but thankfully he’s cheap at 35pts stock. He also gains the Cult Ambush special rule which lets him deploy using some fun special rules, potentially getting to shoot twice or assault first turn, which is good fun. Otherwise, just use him to go after objectives and try not to die. In this instance, I’d run with either the stock Multi-laser or a Heavy Flamer and call it a day.

10-27-12 chimeras 002

The formation’s two units of Neophytes must take Chimeras as their dedicated transports which is not bad, but not good either. Chimeras are meh this edition, certainly not bad but the core rules limiting vehicles to a single normal shot when they move really hurts them, unfortunately. It encourages them to sit and shoot which is counter to what a vehicle should be, IMO. But hey, that’s a topic for another day. The Chimera though, is not bad as stated. I run mine now with the Multi-laser and a Heavy Flamer in most instances if they will be mobile as these often will. The Chimeras also gain Outflank which is super useful and fits in with the high mobility of the rest of the army.

Also, all of the above units gain the ability to ignore the effects of Crew Stunned or Shaken on a 4+ (although they still lose a Hull Point) which is a nice bonus. In all, You’re looking at a base cost of only 285 points in “tax” units of which only 1 is truly bad (the Sentinel) but if you get first turn and roll well on the Cult Ambush table can actually do some serious work. Dropping two Heavy Flamer templates on a vulnerable unit or assaulting a shooting unit the first turn and tying it up can be really useful.


As for the Neophytes in the formation? For now on paper I have them with just two Flamers per unit to keep them cheap but play-testing may change that opinion. Some of their special weapons are pretty cool and could be quite good appearing in the backfield via Outflanking Chimeras.


So why this choice over the Brood Cycle which has no tax units and comes with a lot more of the characterful Genestealer Cults units? Because for me, the fun in this army is going to be in playing them using the Cult Ambush and Numbers Beyond Counting special rules! These are where the real fun for me will be I think. The Subterranean Uprising formation gives you MUCH better odds of using the above rules to maximum benefit as that formation’s special rules: Time to Rise Up and Meticulous Planner let you roll 2 or 3d6 on the table and choose the result you want. That way, every point I spend on units that will take advantage of Cult Ambush will be doing so more efficiently.


Then of course, I simply must take the Demolition Claw because mutants chucking TNT with abandon is awesome and the First Curse formation for my love of Genestealers that are actually scary again.

From there, I am batting around some ideas. I definitely think I will ally in another Patirach as they are incredibly for their points, possibly even another First Curse formation, muahaha! Not certain yet, but am enjoying theorizing out a list.

Which Core Formation are you thinking about taking for your Genestealer Cults army? You can pick them up at Frontline Gaming at up to 25% off this week, too!

Also, we have two new F.A.T. Mats now available! Be sure to grab yours, soon!




About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

62 Responses to “Building a Genestealer Cult: Core Formations”

  1. AngryPanda October 5, 2016 12:12 am #

    What do you think of taking a CAD in addition, just for two more HQs (maybe Primus to get even more 3D6 ambush)and then just chug out 300 to 360 points to get six basic cultist units maybe with flamers. All with objektive secured and kept in reserve. Just to throw at maelstrom and score.
    The CAD would also unlock a fortification and I think anAegies or something to hide behind for units that roll a 1for ambush would be good.

    • Reecius October 5, 2016 7:36 am #

      I think that would work really well. ObSec is not to be underestimated and the additional Primarch would add so much punch. The Magus and the Primus are great, too.

  2. Chandler October 5, 2016 5:03 am #

    The more I’m reading on this codex the more I’m liking it. The Patriarch is absolutely amazing and capable of killing any IC in the game I think with the ability to look out sir even in a challenge.

    Cult Ambush just sounds fun but it also gives a lot of board control for objectives for the army when combined with Return to the Shadows. I think this army has the potential to be top-tier right out of the gate.

    • Reecius October 5, 2016 7:34 am #

      Yeah, I think this will be a very fun army to play.

  3. AbusePuppy October 5, 2016 6:28 am #

    Is the Sentinel really such a tax? With Cult Ambush and the ability to get back squad members I feel like they could be decent in a unit of 4-5 with Autocannons or Multilasers .

    • Reecius October 5, 2016 7:15 am #

      As we read it, the Sentinels don’t actually have the ability to leave the table, again. They can only ambush once.

      • Ytook October 5, 2016 7:49 am #

        Yeah, they don’t get Return to the Shadows, so no regening sentinels sadly.

        • AbusePuppy October 5, 2016 9:53 am #

          Ah, okay, fair enough.

    • Adam Vollrath October 5, 2016 11:43 am #

      Ambushing heavy flamers are still no joke. Certain to give up First Blood tho.

    • Loofa4 October 9, 2016 2:39 am #

      I’d pay the extra 5 points for the av 12 in the front. This way if you roll well on the ambush table you can make a goodtarpit unit in assault.

      • Reecius October 9, 2016 10:17 am #

        Armored Sentinels don’t get Cult Ambush.

  4. firewasp October 5, 2016 6:37 am #

    I’m looking at building a cult army as follows:
    Tyranid cad, flyrants x2, zoanthropes x2, mucoloid spore, 10 termagents, gives 8 additional psychic dice for the cult psykers and the flyrants are also pretty good 🙂
    Cult formation: Brood cycle core, first curse hq, Magnus hq, then the subterrean uprising as an auxiliary with primus for the more reliable ambush.

    Looks pretty good on paper, very msu, good chances of getting a 6 on the ambush roll for catching units unaware, while having good psychic support. Still weak against death stars but with the ability to scatter to the four winds quite easily, limits their damage potential.

    • Reecius October 5, 2016 7:35 am #

      Sounds like a solid list! I was leaning towards all GSC or allying in AM, myself. A Vulture would be savage in this army and the +1 to reserves is super fun, too.

      • Rafen IX October 6, 2016 4:19 am #

        Be careful that the ‘Shadow in the Warp’ doesn’t bite your GC psykers as they are technically treated as enemies for that purpose.

        • Reecius October 6, 2016 10:56 am #

          Good point, hadn’t considered that.

  5. AngryPanda October 5, 2016 8:01 am #

    I’m kind of amazed. This has to be the worst money/vs points army released in a long time, its hideously expensive and yet there is nothing but positive buzz (including me, I love it). This just realy reminds me that GW is sitting on a treasure trove of background and they can realy do have happy fans, it just takes a book that works and minis from the background we already love. And not releasing another color of space Marine for that month I guess. I imagine that’s the hardest part for them.
    Awesome stuff.

    • Chandler October 5, 2016 8:06 am #

      I think from a business point of view, releasing an entirely new faction is a gamble. They have invested a lot of time and resources into developing the models and the rules, laying the book out, getting art, etc. I think they had to sort of nail a home run with this army, plus it has been in demand for a long time. I think they know that in order to really sell the army they need the good rules to offset the price point. This is going to be an expensive army to build from the ground up. The good news is that for many AM and/or Nids players, the price to build it up won’t be as steep.

      • AbusePuppy October 5, 2016 9:56 am #

        It’s too bad that there’s no existing faction *coughcoughsistersofbattlecough* that is still waiting on plastic troop kits that they could work on.

        • AngryPanda October 5, 2016 12:46 pm #

          I just got a thousnad bucks worth of Raging Heroes Sisters. If they dare to release them now with some crap Codex I’m going to personal invade Britian and punch them all for ruining my plan to just play them with whatever Marine Codex I feel like.

    • Reecius October 5, 2016 9:57 am #

      You can always kit bash some of the guys to reduce the cost.

      • WestRider October 5, 2016 12:27 pm #

        I actually have a ton of Hybrids that I kitbashed together back in 3rd or 4th Ed to use with The Lost and the Damned. Still just as easy to do today.

        • Reecius October 6, 2016 10:56 am #

          Yup, that totally works. You could mix them in with the real kits, too, would look cool.

  6. CaptainA October 5, 2016 8:05 am #

    I think it is very cool that Incontrol is gravitating towards the more “Tyranids” formation as a more core Tyranids player and you Reece are gravitating towards the more “IG” formation as a more core IG player. This shows the strength in the codex giving people may ways to play, which is very cool.

    • Reecius October 5, 2016 9:58 am #

      Haha, true!

    • Nalathani October 7, 2016 11:49 am #

      I was thinking the same thing. It’s great that Nid or AM players both would want to play this for different reasons.

  7. fluger October 5, 2016 8:45 am #

    I prefer Eradicators with Multimelta sponsons personally as they provide dual threat that way.

    • Reecius October 5, 2016 9:58 am #

      Yeah, good point. That is a solid option, too.

  8. Adam (RUMBL & TheDiceAbide) October 5, 2016 10:14 am #

    Great write up! One small note on the Sentinel, as it does not have Infiltrate, you cannot deploy using Cult Ambush, so you would have to hold it in reserve. Sorry, that doesn’t help the case for them at all, haha.

    • Adam (RUMBL & TheDiceAbide) October 5, 2016 10:18 am #

      Oh and speaking of your Demolition Claw, don’t forget to take the Truck dedicated transports for the Acolytes to get some tank hunting, twin-linked autocannons in there.

      If you want to make the Leman Russ a bit less of a tax, try taking Exterminators with multi-melta sponsons, it ups your anti-tank game, helping you blow open enemy transports so your Genestealers can charge the squishy insides. I like the Eradicators, but I feel like the list doesn’t struggle taking out cheap infantry, it’s getting the infantry out of the box that’s the hard part.

      • Reecius October 5, 2016 11:13 am #

        Great suggestions, buddy!

    • WestRider October 5, 2016 12:29 pm #

      Doesn’t it gain Infiltrate from the Decurion benefits?

  9. MRC October 5, 2016 12:57 pm #

    I mentioned this on my blog (Twin-Linked Warlord), but what about using Genestealer Cult as a “Counts As” army for Catachans Jungle Fighters? I think Cult Ambush and Return to the Shadows perfectly represent Catachan tactics and you could easily convert Genestealer Cult units to represent Catachan units: Neophytes — Catachan Guardsman; Acolytes — Catachan Sappers; Metamorphs — Catachan Devils; Iconward — Catachan Regimental Standard Bearer; Primus — Catachan Company Commander; Magus — Catachan Primaris Psyker; Patriarch — Colonel Ironhand Straken; Goliath APC/Rockcrusher — Catachan Brawler Jungle Assault Vehicle; Leman Russ, Chimera, Sentiels — No change.

    • Reecius October 5, 2016 1:09 pm #

      Not a bad suggestion at all, and as someone that loves him some Catachans, pretty tempting! You’d just have to be very clear about showing what was what or it could easily confuse the hell out of your opponent.

      • AngryPanda October 5, 2016 8:31 pm #

        I’m still waiting for the first Dark Eldar players to realise they might have rules to play all their cool infantry models with here 😉

  10. Jural October 5, 2016 1:13 pm #

    Even without playing, I can see the following:

    1- It’s a great addition to the Hive Tyrant spam lists. Your warlord is much harder to kill, and a lot of the psychic/special rules gel well together. Target priority for opponents will be very tough.

    2- Monstrous Creature Spam lists suck in this edition, but I bet I can get a few Carnifexes across the table now with people worried about the GC! Not the best way to use GC, but a solid way to get the Carnifexes (especially Dakkafexes) doing some work

    3- Tyranid ambush units (Lictors, especially the Leviathan formation; Mawlocs, podding zoanthropes) all have new life as they are more likely to come in, and fit with the GC mobile theme.

    4- GC on it’s own is probably better than the above lists- for competitive play two HT and some ripper swarms or mines is probably ideal

    5- AM CAD or allies can start making insane reserve denial lists

    6- (most important) you can get a Knight with your ‘Nids (kinda) if you grab a CAD of AM. And actually, I can really see a Baneblade doing some work here. having a durable piece that your opponent (over) focuses on will probably really help GC, if you have enough points left, that is.

    • punchymango October 5, 2016 8:12 pm #

      I’d just like to take a moment to savor the irony of Genestealer Cults being a much higher-tier codex than the Tyranids they’re supposedly just the vanguard for.

      It’s really cool that they did this, and the new minis look great. Just funny to me.

      • N.I.B. October 6, 2016 1:46 am #

        Yeah, and the irony of a Cult and the ‘gods’ they worship not being battlebrothers with eachother, in spite of the codex stating that they will fight side by side (initially) during an invasion, and the Cult basically being controlled, taken over and becoming a part of the Tyranid army as the Hive fleet descends.
        If there ever was a reason in 40K for two factions to be battle brothers, these are the two factions. At this point, battlebrothers are completely random, kills the background and is only there so Imperium players can make broken combos. Battlebrothers as a mechanic needs to be removed from the game.

        • AngryPanda October 6, 2016 4:53 am #

          I kind of suspect it will be and that GC is only ally of convinience because they plan to phase that mechanic out anyway. Or maybe Im giving them too much credit and it’s just their usually hardon for the Imperium.

        • Adam ( October 6, 2016 6:12 am #

          Read that fluff again! They don’t team up and fight alongside each other (with the possible exception of the Purestrains and Patriatch, which just become any other old Tyranid, there is a great short story about this). The Tyranids basically ignore the existence of the cults, before turning on them and eating them. The cults just tag alongside the Tyranids like an enthusiastic puppy.

          • Adam ( October 6, 2016 6:16 am

            Kinda reminds me of Abaddons fluff all over again. There is the fluff people think is true, like he failed in all 12 of his previous Black Crusades. Then there is the actual fluff where 11 of 12 were actually tremendous successes, and the only one that failed was the first when he tried to set out to conquer Terra immediately after the Heresy. 🙂

            At no point does a Tyranid have a conversation about coordinating forces and supporting each other, with a Genestealer cultist. They’re there because it makes taking over the planet more… Convenient. 😉

          • Jural October 6, 2016 10:21 am

            I think it’s an accurate representation of the fluff. But as a Tyranid player, I’m thinking “Why start now?”

            My genestealers, Carnifexes, Trygons, etc have the fluff of being competent, scary, useful monsters that you don’t want to run into on the battlefield. The rules don’t represent that.

            My Hive Tyrant (and especially the Swarmlord) are uber leaders who are feared solo melee combatants- except they aren’t really, instead they fly around the battlefield shooting people in the back and shrieking!


  11. umbo October 6, 2016 9:21 am #

    Questions – If you go 2nd and use the Cult Ambush rule during DEPLOYMENT phase it says you cannot move any further during the movement phase of the turn they deploy or arrive on the battlefield.

    Do this mean you are sitting ducks for two turns as you can’t move first turn? (bottom of one)

    Also if you cant move does this mean you cant return to the shadows either?

    • Ytook October 6, 2016 9:43 am #

      Deployment isn’t a turn phase, It happens before turn one, so if you Cult Ambush during deployment you can’t move any more during the deployment phase (so scout for example).

      • umbo October 6, 2016 11:59 am #

        So you can move in the movement phase turn 1 after you infiltrate? – So you set up 6 inches away, move within 1 inch and flame everything? I liked the limitations on the 6 inch so you couldnt do this.

        Also what happens if you roll a 1 or a 2, do you deploy in infiltration phase? Roll 2d6 if going through terrain? Then move again in movement phase?

        • Ytook October 6, 2016 1:36 pm #

          Yes you deploy in the infiltration phase just as if you were arriving on any turn and can act normally the next turn. The risk being that if you don’t get first turn that unit will be completely destroyed.

  12. Ytook October 6, 2016 9:42 am #

    Deployment isn’t a turn phase, It happens before turn one, so if you Cult Ambush during deployment you can’t move any more during the deployment phase (so scout for example).

    • Ytook October 6, 2016 9:46 am #

      Oops, sorry for the double post, I seem to be having problems with the site in general, no matter the browser it can refuse to load and complains of too many redirects a lot, or tells me to slow down commenting when I haven’t commented yet :/

      • Reecius October 6, 2016 10:58 am #

        That’s weird, I wonder if others are having that issue.

        • Ytook October 6, 2016 11:14 am #

          I thought it was just an issue with my PC, but had it on my iPad and phone to.

        • Jural October 6, 2016 12:53 pm #

          Yep- hit or miss from all devices

          • Reecius October 6, 2016 1:29 pm

            No issues for anyone, here. What error are you getting?

          • Ytook October 6, 2016 1:32 pm

            It says that too many redirects occurred. That’s usually all.

          • Hiveminded October 6, 2016 4:49 pm

            I’ve had the same problem….resulted in multiple posts.

            I get an error saying “too many redirects”. Then I think it didn’t post, so I go back and resubmit the post. Results in a double post.

        • WestRider October 6, 2016 2:09 pm #

          I’ve been having trouble with it on multiple devices as well. Redirects not resolving, issues with https status, not storing cookies properly so I have to type in my info before every comment.

  13. Joshua Death October 6, 2016 11:55 am #

    So I am surprised this one hasn’t come up yet. The Brood Coven becomes forms a unit that can join other units. If taken in the Cult Detachment, then when the unit uses Return to the Shadows and then comes back on, it can then come back on and return up to 2 other characters that died previously. So as long as you keep 1 character alive, you can get them all back whenever you bring them back.

    I am also planning on putting Patriarch Gosar in a CAD with my Brood Coven so that they get Hit’n’run as well.

    • Reecius October 6, 2016 12:47 pm #

      I highly doubt Return from the Shadows was intended to return ICs to life, haha.

  14. umbo October 6, 2016 12:01 pm #

    Patriarch Gosar doesnt have cult ambush or return to the shadows special rules currently as is. I emailed GW about this and no answer

    • Hiveminded October 6, 2016 4:52 pm #

      I don’t think the Ghosar Broodkin is supposed to have the cult ambush or return to the shadows rules. It’s a separate formation with unique rules. For example, the purestrains in that formation have hit & run. The magus/patriarch only know telepathy, etc.

      • WestRider October 6, 2016 9:01 pm #

        The same is true of Kill Team Cassius. None of them have the Mission Tactics Special Rule or any of the usual DW Kill Team Rules, but they’ve got a whole passel of other special Rules.

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