Genestealer Cults Review: Troops: Acolyte Hybrids

Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of the premier assault unit for the Genestealer Cults, the Acolyte Hybrids. For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.


The Acolyte Hybrids are the core of most Genestealer Cults armies on the tabletop. They are a solid combat unit, with the options to bring some potent firepower to bear. With the right buffs and specialist detachments, there are little threats that a unit of Acolytes cannot deal with in combat. However, with that high damage output comes a significant degree of fragility, as these low toughness, poorly armoured troops will melt quickly to enemy firepower. A unit of Acolyte Hybrids can come in units from 5 to 20, costing 7 points each.

I would rate the Acolyte Hybrids as Competitive. When properly supported, they are one of the key combat units in the Genestealer Cults army; cheap and with high numbers to do a lot of damage on the turn they they arrive from Cult Ambush.


  • Autopistol
  • Cultist Knife- Each time the bearer fights, it can make one additional attack with this weapon.
  • Rending Claw- S User, AP-1. On a roll of a 6 to wound, the attack is resolved at AP-4.
  • Blasting Charges (Frag Grenades)
  • Any model may replace their Autopistol with a Hand Flamer- 6″, Pistol D6, S3, AP 0, 1 damage, this weapon automatically hits its target.
  • One Acolyte Hybrid may carry a Cult Icon.
  • For every 5 models in the unit, up to two Acolyte Hybrids may replace their Cultist Knife and Rending Claw with a Heavy Rock Drill, Heavy Rock Cutter, Heavy Rock Saw or Demolition Charge.
  • Heavy Rock Cutter (12 pts)- Melee, Sx2, AP-4, D3 damage. When attacking with this weapon, subtract 1 from hit rolls. Roll a D6 each time a model (other than a vehicle) suffers damage from this weapon. If you roll higher than the model’s remaining number of wounds, it is instantly slain.
  • Heavy Rock Drill (17 pts)- Melee, Sx2, AP-3, 1 damage. After the bearer has made all its attacks, roll a D6 for each model that suffered damage from this weapon this phase, but was not destroyed. On a 2+, the model suffers 1 mortal wound. If that model is not destroyed, roll again. On a 3+, the model suffers 1 mortal wound. Roll again, adding 1 each time until the model is destroyed or you failed to cause a mortal wound.
  • Heavy Rock Saw (10 pts)- Melee, Sx2, AP-4, 2 damage.
  • Demolition Charge- 6″, Grenade D6, S8, AP-3, D3 damage, one use per battle.
  • The Acolyte Leader may replace its Cultist Knife with a Bonesword.
  • The Acolyte Leader may replace its Cultist Knife and Autopistol with a Lash Whip and Bonesword.


  • Cult Ambush
  • Unquestioning Loyalty
  • Cult Icon- Re-roll hit rolls of 1 for this unit’s attacks in the Fight Phase, whilst it contains a model with a Cult Icon.
  • Keywords- Tyranids, Genestealer Cults, <Cult>, Infantry, Acolyte Hybrids


The Acolyte Hybrids have the statline of buffed up Guardsmen. They have WS3+, BS4+, S4, T3, 1 wound, 2 attacks, Ld7 and a 5+ save (the Acolyte Leader has +1A and Ld). This gives them a leaning towards melee attacks over shooting ability. With the Rending Claw and Cultist Knife, you get 3 attacks in combat; one at S4 and AP0 and two with S4 AP-1 (with the ability to go up to AP-4 on a 6 to wound). This actually makes the Acolyte Hybrids a reasonable threat in combat, as they can be a worry to most infantry models with reasonable armour saves.

When you add some of the buffs available from supporting characters and Cult Creeds, this unit gets even more impressive in combat.

Without upgrades, the Acolyte Hybrids don’t really have much to offer in the way of firepower. With Autopistols, they can add a little bit of firepower to your force at close range, but won’t really be doing much damage with their S3 pistols. You don’t really want anything to survive against the squad in combat, so if you are able to fire their pistols against the enemy army, something has gone wrong.

With Hand Flamers or Demolition Charges, you can actually build a pretty potent firepower unit to do some damage to the enemy army, more on these uses below.

You are probably going to want to upgrade the Acolyte Hybrids with some of the Heavy Rock Weapons to give them even more punch in combat. The Heavy Rock Saw is the cheapest option and probably one of the most reliable. The great benefit of the Saw is that you don’t suffer the -1 to hit for attacking with it, you will be attacking at S8 and AP-4 (denying a save to almost every unit) and 2 damage per wound. This gives you a reliable way to do damage to tough enemy units or vehicles.

The Heavy Rock Drill is a nice weapon against multi-wound models, but is expensive for only 1 damage. Again, you don’t suffer the -1 to hit for the Rock Drill. The nice bonus of the Drill is the ability to do mortal wounds to a wounded target. This is great for ignoring invulnerable saves of tough enemy units, but does require you to get a wound through in the first place for the chance to chain mortal wounds on the enemy model. It is the most expensive option, but only does a single damage and is AP-3. It is going to be a lot more variable in its damage output than the other two, so might not be the optimal option in most cases. You do have the potential to do a lot of damage to multi-wound models such as Vehicles and Monsters if you can roll well on the mortal wound rolls.

The Heavy Rock Cutter also has the potential to do the most damage of the Heavy Rock Weapons. The Cutter is the only one of the weapons that suffers the -1 to hit, but there are ways to mitigate this with various buffs to the squad. The D3 damage has the potential to do a lot of damage if you roll well, but equally could only do a single wound. The special ability to remove models completely is a nice buff for taking on enemy characters or multi-wound models.

Overall, the Heavy Rock Saw will be the safest option in most situations. It doesn’t have any fancy rules, but at S8, AP-4 and 2 damage, it should be enough to deal with most threats that the unit will face in combat.

You can add a Cult Icon to the unit for the cost of 10 points. This allows you to re-roll 1’s to hit in the Fight phase, great for boosting their combat potential if you have the points to spare.

Cult Creeds

There are a number of useful Cult Creeds that will boost the abilities of the Acolyte Hybrids.

Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor is one of the strongest Creeds for the Acolytes. This gives you +1 to charge and advance rolls on turn 1 or the turn they deploy from underground Cult Ambush. This is a big boost to getting the Acolytes into combat, which can be supplemented by additional buffs from other units in the army.

Twisted Helix is also a top Cult Creed for the Acolyte Hybrids (indeed, the entire army). This makes the unit strength 5, greatly boosting their damage output against most infantry and characters in the game. The ability to wound most standard infantry on a 3+ will really help you out in combat against a wide variety of units. It will also make any Heavy Rock Weapons in the unit S10, allowing you to wound Bikers on a 2+ and even Imperial Knights on a 3+.

Rusted Claw is often an overlooked Cult Creed for the army, given the power of Four-Armed Emperor and Twisted Helix. This gives you a 4+ save against any AP0 or AP-1 weapons, either combat or shooting. This can really help to boost the durability of the Acolyte Hybrids, who are quite a fragile unit.

Bladed Cog can also be a useful trait against a variety of opponents. Not only does this give you a 6+ invulnerable save for your Acolyte Hybrids, you also get access to the Overthrow the Oppressors stratagem. This gives you an additional attack on an unmodified 6 to hit. Given the large number of attacks that the Acolyte Hybrids can muster, this gives you good odds of getting more even more attacks in combat. Against Imperium units, you get it on a 5+, with Adeptus Mechanicus units you get it on a 4+. Against these types of forces, you can potentially get a huge number of bonus attacks, maximising your damage output in combat.

Specialist Detachments

The Vigilus Special Detachments have boosted the capabilities of the Acolyte Hybrids even further. The Deliverance Broodsurge specialist detachment gives some great bonuses for the Acolyte Hybrid squads that are contained within.

For more in-depth details on the Deliverance Broodsurge, check out the review. In summary, the warlord trait gives you re-rolls to charges while within 6″ of the warlord. In addition, there is a stratagem that gives you +1 to wound on the turn that you charge. This is great for boosting the damage output of the Acolyte Hybrids to a very powerful degree.

Unit Synergy

There are a number of units that provide strong synergy with the Acolyte Hybrids.

The Primus is a great addition to support the squad. He provides +1 to hit in combat for nearby units, allowing the squad to hit on a 2+ in combat with most of its weapons. In addition, he can pick an enemy target on arrival and get re-rolls of 1’s to wound against that target. These two benefits together gives you the ability to hit most standard infantry on a 2+ re-rollable and wound on a 2+ re-rollable. It also gives a good benefit for the Heavy Rock weapons the squad can be armed with.

The Acolyte Iconward is also a strong support unit for the Acolyte Hybrids. Not only is he necessary for the benefits of the Deliverance Broodsurge detachment, as well as a 6+ save against any wounds, and a re-roll to failed morale tests. You can also give him the Relic banner for +1 strength, further boosting the combat abilities of the squad.

A Magus can also provide some strong buffs for the unit. His psychic abilities allow you to block enemy overwatch or give them +1 strength and attacks, making the unit a combat powerhouse. He can also provide some strong psychic defence with the Spiritual Leader ability, allowing the unit itself to deny psychic powers, as well as the Magus allowing you to block as well.

The Clamavus is another great support unit, giving you +1 Ld and +1 to your charge and advance rolls. With Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor and the Deliverance Broodsurge, this gives you a 75% chance of making a successful charge from Underground Cult Ambush.


Battlefield Roles

One of the main roles of the Acolyte Hybrids is in their combat ability. In this role, the best deployment for the unit is in Underground Cult Ambush. This allows them to deploy to the optimal position for assaulting the enemy army, as well as activating a number of their abilities and the abilities of the support characters that may be accompanying them.

You can take up to 2 Heavy Rock weapons for every 5 members of the squad. This means a unit of 10 Acolyte Hybrids can take 4 Heavy Rock Saws for only 110 points. Quite a cheap unit for the combat ability that they can put out. You will be wanting to take the Deliverance Broodsurge upgrade for this detachment, giving you a boost to getting into combat on the turn that they arrive from ambush.

A unit of 20 Acolyte Hybrids is a potent combat threat for many enemy units that you might face. They will be subject to a strong number of reprisals, to which they will fall quite easily in most situations. Keep in mind the Lurk in the Shadows stratagem for keeping a big unit of Acolytes safe from harm if they are not the closest unit to the enemy forces targeting them. A nearby Patriarch is also a big boost, allowing you to ignore the morale penalties from taking many casualties on a large Acolyte unit. The Iconward and Clamavus can also help out with this role, giving you +1 Leadership and a re-roll to the morale test in combination.

Another useful role for the Acolyte Hybrids is as a screen clearing unit. The Genestealer Cults rely on getting into combat with the right targets, so you need to be able to get to those targets. An opponent using sufficient screening units can put a real damper on your plans. Here, a unit of Acolyte Hybrids with Hand Flamers can make a mess of most cheap screening units. This wasn’t too viable an option before, but the drop in cost to 1 pt for a Hand Flamer for D6 shots has been a big boost.

You can use the Lying in Wait stratagem to deploy at least 3″ from an enemy unit and get in Hand Flamer range in the shooting phase. A unit of 10 Acolyte Hybrids with Hand Flamers is only 80 pts and will do around 12 unsaved wounds to a Guardsman-equivalent unit with average rolling. You could even use the A Perfect Ambush stratagem as well, to allow you to fire in both the movement phase and shooting phase, putting out a lot of Hand Flamer shots in a single turn. This, however, will cost you 5 CP in total, putting a big investment in your unit for its firepower. The Acolyte Hybrids will most likely die in return, but it can be worth it to clear the screen for a more valuable unit to make a charge in the same turn or in a subsequent turn. It is also worth noting that you fire the unit immediately after they are deployed. If you can use this ability to clear a screening unit with their Hand Flamers, you can then deploy other ambushing units closer to the enemy army in the same turn, now that the screen has been reduced or eliminated.

The Acolyte Hybrids can also go after bigger targets when armed with Demolition charges. You can use the Lying in Wait stratagem with the Extra Explosives stratagem for a total of 3CP. This allows you to deploy outwith 3″ of a unit and fire up to 10 grenades at a unit (up to 5 of which can be Demolition Charges). A unit of 10 Acolyte Hybrids with 4 Demolition charges comes in at only 90 pts. This unit will get 4D6 shots that hit on a 4+ at S8, AP-3 and D3 damage. This has the potential to do a lot of damage in a single turn, and the Lying in Wait stratagem can allow you to get at choice targets that your opponent thought were sufficiently screened in their backfield.

You can further boost the damage output of the unit by pairing them with a Kelermorph or Jackal Alphus. The Jackal Alphus allows you to pick a unit and give squads +1 to hit in the shooting phase while within 6″ of the unit firing. This allows you to hit on a 3+ with the demo charges. Equally, a Kelermorph allows you to re-roll 1’s to hit if they can kill an enemy unit while within 1″ of the Infantry squad. These are great support characters for the Demolition Charges, but can be difficult to deploy in range to get the buffs if you are using the Lying in Wait stratagem.

Just as a warning, I’ve used this tactic a few times and it can be a bit hit and miss. Without any support, you are reliant on hitting on a 4+ and hoping to roll well against the number of shots with the demolition charges. Sometimes it will do a lot of damage, other times, it does not do so well and barely stratches the surface of a vehicle. The unit is pretty much toast after it has done this, but at only 90 pts, it is not a big loss if they are destroyed.

Don’t forget, you can also fire up to 6 Blasting Charges with the remainder of this unit, allowing you to possible target another enemy unit and do some damage in the same phase. The Atalan Jackals may be better suited for this role though, as they can use a stratagem giving them +1 to hit and to wound with Grenade weapons, so can potentially get +2 to hit when paired with the Jackal Alphus


There are a number of counters that are quite effective against the Acolyte Hybrids.

First off, they are as tough as Guardsmen, meaning not very. Most standard infantry weapons will cause them problems and slay a unit with ease. Big units will be susceptible to morale in most cases, so cause enough casualties and the survivors will melt away. However, many of the buffing characters can either allow them to automatically pass morale tests or give them boosts to passing, so it is not always guaranteed.

Any time of Intercept-like stratagem, such as Auspex Scan, is going to be useful against them. As they are quite fragile, any casualties you can cause before they can get into combat is going to help you out. Plus, you might cause some more casualties with overwatch if you can. However, just be aware that the Genestealer Cults have their own “Agents of Vect”-type stratagem called A Plan Generations in the Making, so can potentially shut down your own stratagems. However, this is a once per game stratagem, so you can make use of your own stratagems on subsequent turns.

As mentioned above, effective screening is going to be key for blocking the efforts of the Genestealer Cults. If you have cheap screening units, you can shut down a lot of the power of the Cult by forcing them to assault your cheap screens. The Cult don’t have access to a lot of strong firepower, so your opponent may struggle to clear your screens from firepower alone. If you can stall the assault for even a single turn, your reprisal firepower should be enough to wipe out most powerful units, as they are generally T3 with a 5+ save.

Remember to keep your important backfield units safely screened as well. The Lying in Wait stratagem allows them to deploy just over 3″ away, but does prevent them from charging. Having a screening unit around 6″ away should prevent the Cult from using this ability to deploy and threaten your backfield units, as well as reducing the possibility of a consolidation move from your screening units into your backfield units.


For me, the Acolyte Hybrids are one of the key units in the Genestealer Cults army and make up the bulk of my force. They provide a solid combat unit that makes the most of the abilities and special rules in the Cult to devastate enemy units on the charge. I tend to run at least four units and are rarely disappointed in how they perform in the game. Just be aware that they are extremely fragile to enemy reprisals and will melt quickly to concentrated firepower. They tend to hit extremely hard on the turn they arrive, but will have trouble hanging around for long if they are in sight of the enemy guns, as even Lasguns will give them pause in a firefight.


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About Michael Corr

An avid 40k player and blogger from Scotland. I started in 3rd edition and have been playing ever since. I detail my adventures in my own blog "St Andrews Wargaming", highlighting my mediocre painting skills, regular battle reports and my occasional random ramblings.

2 Responses to “Genestealer Cults Review: Troops: Acolyte Hybrids”

  1. Gojky August 27, 2019 9:22 pm #

    “A unit of 10 Acolyte Hybrids with Hand Flamers is only 80 pts and will do around 23 unsaved wounds to a Guardsman-equivalent unit with average rolling. ”

    Not sure how you get that mate. Using the Fields of blood mathhamer tool it only does 11.66 wounds. If you double shoot you get 23 as stated but your next sentence indicated that is not what you meant.

    10D6, str 3 against T3 w 5+ save = 11.66 w

    If they are in cover it goes to 8.76

    If they “take cover” stratagem it is 5.84.

    Acolytes are great (not denying that) but there is no reason to inflate their numbers when it is not needed.

    • Michael Corr August 27, 2019 11:11 pm #

      I think I did the calculation for a unit of 20, rather than 10. It was an honest mistake, and certainly not an attempt to “inflate their numbers”.

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