As I have been lucky enough to write some of these articles revolving around the Genestealer Cults army some of my 40k teammates and friends have questioned me on my choice to “keep hitting my head against the wall” by playing GSC in the few games I have been able to get in during the wonderful time of COVID. Some of the more open and honest members of my gaming group have even relayed their feelings to me about GSC in a more direct manner not appropriate for this website (you play Space Wolves and you know who you are). These helpful tips from my buddies got me thinking on why I choose to play an under powered faction when I am playing the least amount of games I have in quite some time. Shouldn’t I want to make the most out of the few games I play by doing well? I have other, more competitive, armies in the form of Necrons or Admech, but I find myself drawn to my GSC over these more sensible choices.
Many people, myself included, thought that the lack of friendly local gaming stores hosting game nights, people being generally quarantined and 40k tournament players having the least amount of event options in recent history would force the hobby to take a giant step backward. From what I have seen locally, and online, it seems like this pandemic has made people even more zealous about their toy soldiers while somehow still bringing in new players to the hobby. During my extremely productive time spent scrolling through various 40k Facebook groups I still see posts that all generally equate to, “I am looking to get into the hobby what army should I play?”.
40K has come a long way since 6th and 7th Edition where there were two maybe three armies that could be considered competitive. During 8th Edition, and now even more in 9th Edition, the field of armies is as wide open as it has ever been, but you still need to be honest with yourself when picking an army. If you are the kind of person who hates losing a game of Checkers to a small child you sure aren’t going to like losing a bunch of 40k games to adults.
However, if you happened to scroll through the FLG store page and find an army that is 100% your “jam” (or whatever people say these days I don’t know I don’t go outside) by all means play that army! This is an expensive and labor intensive hobby. If you are like many other people just getting into the hobby, or just looking to find that new army to start while you are stuck at home, there are so many different aspects to consider.
If you put up a comment on social media asking what army you should play the first response you are going to receive is, “play whatever army you think looks coolest!”. This is an excellent starting point since so much of this hobby is visual. A completely painted army doesn’t just look awesome when it is sitting on the shelf, it looks amazing every time you put it on the table for a game! The GSC models drew me directly into picking up the army when they were released. The mining worker turned insurgent vibe Games Workshop was going for when creating this range of models is such a cool concept to me. The rules may change for the better or worse for the GSC, but I will always be interested in them for this fact alone.
If you are someone who really likes to do their research before jumping into a new army then considering a factions play style is important before making the big investment (both in time and money) that a new 40k army represents. If moving 200 models every game, killing nothing of your opponent’s army, and standing on objectives sounds like a horrible time then avoid the armies that function that way. This may seem like obvious advice, but few people take the time to consider their play style before jumping into a 40k army.
When GSC got their 8th Edition codex they brought something new and unique to the game in the way they manipulated reserves and placing units on the table. I had a blast going to tournaments trying to figure out what was the best combination to place in ambush and leave on the table. While this did include my worst tournament game of 40k ever (I believe I lost 40-1 or 2), I still had a great time learning if you don’t put enough stuff on the board during turn 1 as GSC you lose really fast.
Finally, it is important to ask yourself what is the goal of starting this new army. Are you trying to get to the top of the ITC rankings or do you not care about ranking, but want to win a best painted award badly? I have never been that great of a 40k player (yes, I’m sorry it is true), so I haven’t set any real goals for my GSC in placing high with them or being ranked the best GSC player. If you are someone who wants this experience your 40k life will go much smoother choosing an army that is relatively competitive.
While it is true which armies are competitive is a cycle that depends on their current codex release, and it is hard to predict what army will be top of the pile while starting out, some armies are more beginner friendly then others. GSC is a terrible army to start in 40k not only due to their low winning percentage currently, but also due to their cost per model and the steep learning curve of the faction. On the other side of the army coin is factions like Space Marines or Death Guard. Extremely accessible models, up to date 9th Edition Codexes, and relatively easy to pick up and play at a decent level. Understanding these things about a potential new army will save much heartache and lost money down the road.
Hopefully some of you will find this article useful while picking that first (or next) army, but if my past experience is any predictor of the future you will just run to the hobby store when COVID is done and buy the first army your freshly washed hands grab hold of.