Faction Focus: Genestealer Cults

GW brings us a faction focus article on the Genestealer Cults and how the function in 9th ed 40k!

It’s time to look in those dark corners where sane people fear to tread as we examine how the Genestealer Cults will be praising the Star Children in the new edition of Warhammer 40,000. Joining us is our very own Mike Brandt, rumoured to be a fourth-generation Hybrid himself.

Who Are They?

The Genestealer Cults represent a parasitic infection of mind, body and soul that eats away at the heart of the Imperium. On an untold number of worlds, they wait for the glorious day when they begin their uprising. Then, fast-moving saboteurs shatter the supply lines of those who would oppose them, hidden agents assassinate key commanders, and routes of escape are cut off by demolition crews and industrial mining teams. As the cult unleashes the abhorrent alien monstrosities that act as its shock troops, the enemy is already surrounded, stranded and ripe for a slaughter that has been generations in the making.

How They Play in the New Edition

To guide you through the stages of planning your uprising, we have Mike Brandt – newly minted champion of Warhammer events, one of the playtesters for the new edition and Patriarch of many Genestealer Cults rebellions.

Mike: First off, army building is a bit easier for the Genestealer Cults. The ability to flexibly add Astra Militarum and a large number of units (both big and small) within a single Detachment is a huge advantage since it guarantees you the full 12 starting Command points. 

This, combined with the extra Command point per turn, means that over the standard* new edition game length of 5 battle rounds, you’ll have at least 17 in a game. Various unique Genestealer Cults abilities, such as the Nexos’ Strategic Coordinator rule, can also add Command points during play, so feel free to add a second Detachment. A pair of Patrol Detachments works really well, netting a starting total of 10 Command points, and allow you to add in some extra Cult Stratagems or benefits. Even better for Genestealer Cults is that, unlike the Strategic Reserves rules, their Cult Ambush ability doesn’t cost any Command points. Sneaky!

Wrapping units in combat** will be a little harder than it currently is. Hence, you’ll need to be clever, making sure to snag more than one enemy unit by taking advantage of our many ways to get up close and personal. Careful positioning of your forces when they arrive from reinforcements and clever use of Stratagems, such as A Perfect Ambush, before declaring charges will be crucial. 

Furthermore, the changes to Morale make it actually a little safer to keep some scoring units further away from the protection of Sacred Cult Banners or a Patriarch’s Living Idol ability. Instead of an entire unit dying on a bad failed Morale test, the new Combat Attrition rules create a more graduated leadership mechanic – as units take damage, they tend to crumble slowly rather than either auto-passing via special rules or completely disappearing once you’ve suffered a certain number of casualties. This is a good thing, as spare cult units hiding on objectives can survive taking 5 or 6 casualties from indirect fire weapons with a couple of them still standing. This also means you can keep your Characters a little more closely connected to friendly units, taking advantage of the new Look Out, Sir! rule, since they don’t need to stretch their auras as liberally.

Genestealer Cults can make the game into a claustrophobic affair, with sneak attacks and ambushes a core part of their playstyle. They also have access to a large number of distinct units in any given army build. That makes them very capable when it comes to executing Shadow Operations, the new action-mechanic-based secondary mission criteria. Missions like Raise the Banners High cater expertly to the board control-centric, unit-heavy Genestealer Cults. It’s possible to pressure enemy units away from objectives AND dedicate small, expendable units to actions without wasting the turns of your heavier hitters on it. I’ve always imagined the Genestealer Cults had deeper and more sinister plans in mind than mere open combat. I love the idea of their real plan being sneaky actions, psychic rituals, or similar events happening out of sight while you’re struggling to kill their fanatical cultists!

Actions are a new type of ability in Warhammer 40,000 that represent something that your warriors must accomplish in order to achieve victory. They can vary from searching for missing archeotech or activating a series of power generators, to completing a blasphemous ritual to the Dark Gods.

Key Units

Let’s hand you back over to Mike to learn more about which units are going to be crucial to your uprisings in the new edition.

The Kellermorph

Mike: While many GSC units will still be exceptional in the new edition, I can’t wait to put more work into the Kelermorph. Already a strong unit, a critical new change to the game’s Coherency rules will make them amazing once again in combination with the Lying in Wait Stratagem.

No more will long convoluted chains of Imperial Guard squads or Gretchin mobs cover the entirety of a player’s backfield. These rules mean that squads operate more like coherent formations in the game. As a result, it’s a lot harder to perfectly screen out every last inch of your board from the 3” arrival zone enabled by Lying in Wait, and the Kelermorph can once again get super sneaky and hunt backfield units or Characters with prototypical impunity.

Goliath Truck

Mike: Genestealer Cults Transports, such as the GoliathTruck, are able to get up close, deal serious damage in melee, and shoot some solid weaponry into any enemy unit trying to tie them down. Currently, if an enemy is wrapping your vehicle, you lose your deadly combat unit when the vehicle is destroyed. However, with the new Emergency Disembarkation Core Stratagem, you can safely wait for just the right time to pile a load of Aberrants or other hard-hitters out of their Transport.***

Thanks, Mike! We’re sure that the new edition of Warhammer 40,000 will see Genestealer Cults springing up all across the galaxy. Join us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram to let us know how you’re preparing your rebellions using #New40K.

* In as much as an epic battle in the 41st Millennium could ever be considered to be “standard”.
** This is where you surround an enemy unit with your own models so that there aren’t any gaps for them to slip through and escape.
*** Emergency exits are located at the front and rear of the vehicle. Please exit in an orderly fashion.

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About Reecius

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

46 Responses to “Faction Focus: Genestealer Cults”

  1. rvd1ofakind June 29, 2020 8:51 am #


    got it. What’s GW’s obsession with arrows?
    This way everyone is near 2 models, Reece. Unless we’re misunderstanding something.

    • rvd1ofakind June 29, 2020 8:52 am #

      Boo website formatting.
      Basically we just need 1 extra model at both ends now.

      • ChosenOfKhorne June 29, 2020 9:24 am #

        That’s how it initially seems…

        BUT, someone pointed out on facebook, that once that unit removes even 1 casualty, either one end of the arrow or somewhere in the middle will now be out of coherency with 2 other models. Since thie unit coherency check appears to happen in the morale phase after morale checks are made (based on the reference to not requiring another morale check), there is no chance to move back into coherency during your movement phase prior to having to start plucking models off one at a time until the unit returns to coherency. So in essence a 10 man squad with the double triangle ends takes 1 wound from anywhere, it will then lose another 4 models during the unit coherency check to be reduced to a 5 man squad where the 2 model coherency rule no longer applies. This is even worse for large squads where a 30 man string could be reduced to 5 models. So it is possible to string out your unit, but as soon as you take any damage, it will wilt away. 2 ranks or putting the models base to base in a Congo line would seem 2 ways to protect against this and still stretch out the unit (and not just ball it up).

        • Reecius June 29, 2020 9:51 am #

          Yeah, the line of models with 2 little clumps at the end doesn’t work as when you take any casualties you end up pulling the entire unit until you’re down to 5 models. You can do it, but it doesn’t really work in practice.

        • rvd1ofakind June 29, 2020 10:08 am #

          Yeah sure, but with Reece’s tweets, it seemed as if we misunderstood the “2 models needed” part of the rule.

          • Reecius June 29, 2020 10:13 am

            Twitter sucks for actual dialog, it’s hard to follow the conversation. I will just keep my responses here from now on.

            And yeah, you CAN set up a unit in bowtie formation but it’s hyper fragile and leads to massive casualties. In reality you don’t do it unless it’s like a last turn move to grab objectives or whatever.

  2. Michael Corr June 29, 2020 8:51 am #

    I normally try not to be negative, but this preview does not fill me with confidence on the position of Genestealer Cults in the new edition.

    It’s now going to cost you if you want to mix different Cults in the army (which was pretty much necessary with the army), as well as costing you CP if you want to take more than one of each type of character in the army.

    Wrapping units in combat is going to be much harder, leaving the fragile cult units vulnerable to enemy firepower.

    Also, they chose to highlight the Goliath Truck as a key unit?!? Is there nothing else in the army to get excited about. Oh great, you get to fire your Twin Autocannon on a 4+ now on the move instead of a 5+!

    • Reecius June 29, 2020 9:53 am #

      Wrapping units is still doable but MUCH harder to do. Plus with the strat to jump out of combat it is even harder to do. I find MSU units of hard hitting but durable and/or expendable units works.

      And remember, screening is MUCH harder to do now, and with minimal overwatch getting into melee is a lot easier to do so there is give and take.

  3. Alec C June 29, 2020 9:10 am #

    Intruducing the 9th ed coherency fashion: bow-ties
    The issue with this coherency rule is that it doesn’t really change much. Units can still conga line, the ends just need a little triangle or bow-tie so that everyone is still within 2″ of 2 other models
    It also harshly punishes 6-8 man units. 5 Mans can do whatever they want, 10+ have enough models for the bow-ties, 6 or so models get stuck in an awkward coherency spot.
    Worst of all, it just adds extra police-work when charging/piling-in/consolidating, you have to more closely watch your opponents moves just in case.

    With the new morale rule where out of coherency models flee, we didn’t really need this new coherency rule at all to prevent conga-lining.
    Now I do like the new morale coherency rule. It’s pretty brutal, but does stop excessive conga lining from 20-30 man units.

    • Reecius June 29, 2020 10:00 am #

      You can’t really “bowtie”, though. As soon as you take any casualties the unit evaporates down to 5 models. You end up with units in 2 ranks or in a clump in reality.

      And yes, IMO 9th is the MSU edition big time.

    • Alec June 29, 2020 10:02 am #

      Ok after re-reading the coherency rules, there a subtle difference with a bigger impact.
      The coherency rule with regards to movement doesn’t do much.
      However, the coherency rule in the morale phase, after you have taken a few casualties, has a much bigger impact, and really does stop a lot of the conga-line options.

      I guess it’s just presented in a way we are not familiar with, coherency has always been a “movement phase” or “charge/fight phase” thing, worrying about it in the morale phase is something new.

      • Reecius June 29, 2020 10:15 am #

        Yeah, this is IMO the biggest change to the game along with how you build an army. What we will see now is lots of single book battalions and no more conga lines which was a core strategy in 8th. The game is much more fluid now with lots of small units flying around, getting into the backfield, etc.

  4. Zweischneid June 29, 2020 10:07 am #

    Wait? So can I thrown a Wyvern into a GSC Detachment or just into the army (in a separate detachment)?

    The quote from “Mike” and the Brood Brother text don’t really line up for me.

  5. rvd1ofakind June 29, 2020 10:10 am #

    The real question is: is this the big change Mr. Reccius was talking about?

    • Reecius June 29, 2020 10:14 am #

      It is, yes. IMO this along with the change to how you build your army is the biggest change from 8th to 9th. It really changes the way the game plays, screening is WAY harder to do now, wrapping things in combat is massively harder, etc.

      • rvd1ofakind June 29, 2020 10:42 am #

        Well at least we can sleep at ease now. I’ve thought of stuff like ‘coherency now also requires every model to be within 6″ of each other’ to ultrafuck big units.

        • Reecius June 29, 2020 10:44 am #

          Lol, no, not that crazy but it does make a big difference in the way the game plays. It’s one of those things that doesn’t seem like such a huge deal until you play the game and you realize how big it is. Many core strategies of 8th either simply do not work now or are much harder to do.

  6. ghostvalley June 29, 2020 11:49 am #

    Please forgive this if my lack of reading comprehension skills reveal me to me a dullard, but if you had a unit of say, 10 primaris, and they were all base to base or some other closer packed formation, you would not be in any danger of losing more models, as you would remove them in such a way that they adhere to the within 2″ of 2 other models rule.

    So while conga lines and such are in trouble there is no penalty to having a closely packed unit of 10 or more?

    • Reecius June 29, 2020 12:41 pm #

      No, what you end up doing is moving units in like a clump, all close to one another, or in ranks. You can have them in a line if they are on bases less than 1″ in diameter but that is about it.

      • ghostvalley June 29, 2020 2:14 pm #

        I see more and more why you were referring to it as a whole new game.

        • Reecius June 29, 2020 2:35 pm #

          Yeah, it’s a lot of smaller changes that add up to a new game.

      • ghostvalley June 29, 2020 2:18 pm #

        Clumps – so like in the general formation of the GW movement trays they sell? 😉

  7. Nick Wenker June 29, 2020 12:18 pm #

    The change to 5 turns is also a big deal. So is the fact that a lot of secondary objectives seem to only trigger with infantry, which sounds like it will really screw troop swarms like Nurglings and Rippers?

    I really liked 6 turns but it seems like this will up the pressure to move over the map and fight for objectives right from the first turn? If so, I imagine that short-ranged shooting and melee units will become a lot more important. With scoring up to 100 points in a game, at a large event, it will be crucial to score those progressive points every round. You can’t just kill your opponent off the table or grab some objectives on a late turn 6 and expect to come out ahead.

    • Rob Butcher June 29, 2020 11:26 pm #

      six turns was unofficial/independent rules NOT GW official

      there will be much more strategy required to win in “Indomitus” and we still haven’t seen the way that terrain impacts on “shooty” armies

  8. assistantref June 29, 2020 12:32 pm #

    The bowtie loophole seems like the sort of gimmicky interaction they were trying to move away from in 9th, not towards. Yes, there’s a large risk to the bowtie – but that’s the whole point, the risk is not real but just an artificial creation of the weird way the rule is set up. Does it make any actual sense that you are allowed to conga-line with a bowtie, but that if one model dies suddenly the other 15 magically poof out of existence because they’re now too far from their friends? Obviously not.

    • Reecius June 29, 2020 12:41 pm #

      You can do it but won’t outside of very specific circumstances where the risk outweighs the reward or where there is no chance of retaliation like bottom of the last turn or out of LoS, etc. It just doesn’t work in most circumstances.

    • Rob Butcher June 29, 2020 11:28 pm #

      bowties ?? sound like a slowly walking BLAST target .. kill a few and you kill most of it !

    • abusepuppy June 30, 2020 4:33 am #

      Yeah one thing that a lot of people don’t seem to have grasped yet is that “bowties” are incredibly vulnerable to casualties. If one model dies, suddenly the entire unit is threatened by successive casualty pulls. Some sort of “double line” formation is a lot more likely.

  9. Dakkath June 29, 2020 1:52 pm #

    While the old conga line might be dead except in speedbump scenarios, if I’m reading the rules right you don’t remove the out-of-coherency models until the morale phase. So, that screen can be shot at, lose 1 model, but still be a roadblock during the charge and combat phases.

    A staggered double line can still work, and creates more space perpendicular to the formation than a conga line for screening.

    • Reecius June 29, 2020 2:35 pm #

      It does work for one turn, yes. If you are willing to make that sacrifice then you can still get it done. It makes sense for certain scenarios, maybe when blocking deep strikers or something.

    • Brakhal June 29, 2020 3:33 pm #

      You can place your models more creatively than the double line, to get some extra space, while risking only 1 or 2 models (unless there’s still some piece missing).

      For example:


      Imagine every “o” is a model, every “8” is a pack of 2 base to base models, and every “-” is a 2 space beetween them.

      If you take 1 casualty, your whole unit will still be at coherency. If you take 2 casualties, your unit will now look like this:


      The leftiest model will be removed, and then the rest will be at coherency again.

      Essentially, every pack of 2 models acts as a firewall, to stop the domino effect.

      I think its weird, and I think it looks even worst than conga-lines. But it is what it is.

      • Reecius June 29, 2020 4:03 pm #

        Yeah, I am sure people will get creative with it but in general I bet we just see units moving in clumps of models, honestly.

        • Brakhal June 29, 2020 5:03 pm #

          The old wh fantasy was changed to be like wh40k a couple years ago, and now wh40k will be more like the old wh fantasy. A cycle ends.

          • Reecius June 30, 2020 7:48 am

            It does feel that way, doesn’t it?

      • Dakkath June 30, 2020 5:11 am #

        I think a kind of “diamond chain’ might be slightly better. Replace each 8 with a pair 2″ from each other and also 2 inches away from them, then the long points of the links can be 2” from the next.


  10. Brakhal June 29, 2020 3:15 pm #

    So, placing horde units optimally is like drawing hydrocarbures now. Weird, but I think I can make it work.

    I liked my gants to behave like a swarm of ants, but I guess emulating lipid molecules is not that bad.

    • Reecius June 29, 2020 3:23 pm #

      We’ll see how high model count armies and especially units perform in 9th. The changes to coherency and blast weapons really limits them, IMO. But, we shall see soon!

      • Brakhal June 29, 2020 3:42 pm #

        You’re probably right, but I refuse to give up on swarms. Their only virtue is to fill board space, and I will try to do my best with that gamestile, even if it means to learn biochemistry tactics.

        • Reecius June 29, 2020 4:03 pm #

          lol, I admire your tenacity =)

  11. red3_standingby June 29, 2020 3:45 pm #

    I’m pretty down on the coherency rule, but if it make the game play well then I think I can live with it. I’m afraid, however, that it is going to create awkward situations where you have to be very, very meticulous about model spacing within the unit because if just one of your models is just outside of proper coherency with two other models it can cause a chain reaction of loses. It’s a high stakes argument waiting to happen at competitive tables. Do you mention that a model is outside of coherency or do you wait until the morale phase and tell your opponent to remove half of their unit?

    On the plus side, the banner objective is a great excuse for me to make cool banner bearer models as markers

    • Reecius June 29, 2020 4:04 pm #

      It’s very similar to AoS, fwiw. And you don’t really argue about it in that game.

  12. BluejayJunior June 30, 2020 7:55 am #

    People don’t seem to realize how big 2″ really is. You can make a single file line of space marines with their bases touching and have all of them, even the end guys, within 2″ of 2 models. If you don’t believe me, go measure it out for yourself. You don’t need any fancy new formations unless you are trying to spread them out as much as you can.

    • abusepuppy June 30, 2020 6:05 pm #

      Yes but the point is you can’t stretch them out as long as you could before. It’s not the line formation that was a problem, it was the distance you could spread a large unit.

  13. AngryPanda July 1, 2020 1:12 pm #

    With just how much GW loves sergeant style models I wish they had gone with “X radius around leader model” instead but this is definitely a step into better looking games. Even if you spread now, a two rank line spread out looks pretty cool.

    • Reecius July 1, 2020 1:58 pm #

      Yeah I like the X” away from sarge mechanic, too.

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