The Enemy Within: Genestealer Cults Kill Team Tactics

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Do you enjoy plotting the downfall of civilization from your secret lair beneath the city streets? Do you plot to spread propaganda about the sky god to anyone who will listen? Do you have more than two arms? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, well then the Genestealer Cults may be the Kill Team for you! Recently reintroduced into the 40k universe at the end of 7th edition, Genestealer Cults represent the vanguard forces of the Tyranid Hive Fleets, corrupted cults of humans infected by Genestealers and driven to propagate the cult’s message and spread its influence until they are large enough to cripple the planet’s defenses when the Hive Fleets arrive. As a faction, Genestealer Cults have in a way been the “poster boys” of Kill Team, showing up in multiple releases and featuring alongside Adeptus Mechanicus forces in the Kill Team box set. With tons of customization options and units to choose from, Genestealer Cults are a fun faction to work with.

Strengths

  • Lots of versatility – Between the four units you have to choose from, Genestealer Cults give you a lot of options for customization, with different weapons and wargear. While you don’t have plasma guns, you do have some decent heavy weapons that give you access to multiple damage and decent AP.
  • Cheap bodies make it easy to hold objectives – Genestealer Cults can put out a lot of cheap bodies with 5-point Neophyte Hybrids. Space Marines may struggle with the decision to leave a 17-point model sitting on an objective but you’re not going to lose any sleep over it. Genestealer Cults are a horde faction, and those factions thrive in formats that focus on holding objectives. “Hold more” will be your bread and butter in ITC format games.
  • Solid Melee Aberrants hit like a concrete block being swung around on the end of a piece of rebar and Metamorphs have a number of deadly weapon options that help them take advantage of their WS 3+, S4 statline. When your models make it into combat, they’re going to do some damage.
  • Good at controlling doors – The same thing that makes them good at holding objectives makes them good at holding and operating doors in Arena. And that’s also where they’ll shine, since their ability to get into combat without getting shot to pieces first is significantly better.

Weaknesses

  • Squishy – None of your kill team models has better than a 5+ save and most are Toughness 3, meaning that you’re going to die very quickly when you get shot at. There aren’t a ton of ways to mitigate this, so you’ll need to be very careful about your movement and staying in cover. In ITC formats, you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle to achieve “Kill More” objectives, and in most games you’re going to get shot off the table trying to make it into combat. The faction’s tactics aren’t a huge help here, either. The upside is that Kill Team’s injury rolls system will occasionally bail you out.
  • No elite units – Genestealer Cults got no new Elite units to help in Elites and it shows. Aberrants are the closest thing they have to an elite unit and while those have some staying power, they’re also going to die very quickly when the entire opposing kill team is targeting them. As a result, Genestealer Cults are better off working in large swarms.
  • Low BS – It could be worse, but having BS 4+ on your units means that trying to shoot anything from a distance is going to be a dicey proposition under the best circumstances. This is also going to be what hurts your heavy weapon options like the Mining Laser, which only has one shot and so ends up being very high variance.

 

Competitive Rating

Sadly, Genestealer Cults are one of the game’s lower-tier factions. They don’t have enough tricks to make it into combat quickly to really make use of their melee prowess, and the lack of armor can make things challenging. While they have added push in formats that reward swarms and board control, in any format where kills matter you’ll be facing an uphill battle.

 

Credit: BuffaloChicken

Genestealer Cults Special Rules

There are a few special rules that are specific to the Genestealer Cults and help them do their thing.

Cult Ambush

Every one of your base Kill Team models (except for purestrain genestealers) has this ability, which lets your roll a D6 for the model before the first battle round, and on a 5+ you can immediately move up to 6″. It’s hard to plan around this because of how unpredictable it can be, but given that you’ll likely have a significant portion of your kill team dedicated to melee, you should be able to count on a few of them getting a free extra pre-game move. This won’t be enough to get you into a first-turn charge against any opponent who knows the score, but it’s a start.

Unquestioning Loyalty

Several Genestealer Cult Commanders have this ability, which allows you to get back the CP spent on the Look Out, Sir! Commander Tactic on a D6 roll of 2+. This gives you a pretty good incentive to use the Tactic more and have your cultists dive in front of errant shots meant for your Magus/Kelermorph/Patriarch/whatever.

Cult Creeds

Genestealer Cults kill teams can choose from one of six different Cult Creed subfaction traits that provide a free benefit, so long as every model in the kill team belongs to the same Cult Creed. There’s no benefit for mixing Creeds.

  • Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor: Subterranean Ambushers. Add 1 to Cult Ambush rolls for these models. This ups your chances to a flat 50/50 (4+ roll), which gives you a lot more reliability, but still isn’t something you can straight rely on. And it doesn’t apply to purestrain genestealers, the models it’d be most helpful on.
  • The Twisted Helix: Experimental Subjects. Add 1 to the Strength of models in your kill team and when they advance they move an additional 2″. Now we’re talking. This brings your hybrid metamorphs up to Strength 5, and makes them real dangerous in melee. The only hard part will be surviving to get there.
  • The Rusted Claw: Nomadic Survivalists. When making saves for models with this ability, treat enemy attacks that are AP -1 as being AP 0 instead. This is a helpful way of mitigating your 5+ armor save, particularly if you find yourself up against Necrons or Primaris Marine bolt rifles. That said, AP-1 isn’t nearly common enough for this to be useful in every game.
  • The Hive Cult: Disciplined Militants. When you take a Nerve test, roll a D3 instead of a D6. In addition, models in your kill team can shoot in a battle round after they retreat or Fall Back, but if they do they only hit on unmodified rolls of a 6. This just isn’t something you really need. Most games you’ll want to be getting into combat, not falling back from it, and shooting isn’t the faction’s forte.
  • The Bladed Cog: Cyborgised Hybrids. Models in your kill team have a 6+ invulnerable save and if they already had an invuln, they improve theirs by 1 to a maximum of 3+. Additionally, they don’t suffer the penalty to hit rolls for moving and shooting Heavy weapons. This is a better option than Rusted Claw, where the 6+ invulnerable save helps against plasma guns. The ability to just not take a Heavy specialist is also neat, and helps ensure that you don’t have to use a specialist slot on your Neophyte Hybrid gunners to keep them moving.
  • The Pauper Princes: Devoted Zealots. You can re-roll failed hit rolls in the fight phase for attacks made by models in your kill team if they charged, were charged, or made a pile-in move granted by the Heroic Intervention tactic that turn. This really isn’t something that Genestealer Cults need, since their melee-focused units already get multiple attacks and have WS 3+ with the ability to get bonuses to their hit rolls, but it’s still a nice bonus to have.

 

Genestealer Cults Weapons

Genestealer Cults have some decent weapon variety, though their ranged weapons suffer from the fact that their kill teams max out at BS 4+.

Ranged Weapons

  • Autoguns are the basic ranged weapon for the Genestealer Cultist, a Rapid Fire 1 S3, D1, AP0 gun with 24″ range. They’re functionally identical to lasguns and just as bad. They also come in Autopistol varieties.
  • Blasting Charges are the free grenades that come with hybrids They’re basically frag grenades.
  • Bolt Pistol – A S+1 upgrade on the autopistol.
  • Demolition Charges can be taken by Acolyte Hybrid Fighters and they hit pretty hard – D6 shots, S8, AP-3, D3. You can only throw one per game, though, which sucks. These will do the most work when lobbed at elite units like marines, grey knights, and Custodes, so be sure to make it count when you toss one. You’re better off taking another saw/drill instead, though.
  • Flamers can be taken by Neophyte Hybrid gunners, and they’re a great way to mitigate only having BS 4+. Short-ranged, but a great way to discourage charging.
  • Grenade Launchers are another option for Neophyte Hybrid gunners, with 24″ range and allowing them to choose between frag (anti-horde) and krak (anti-elite) modes.
  • Hand Flamers are smaller, D3-shot pistol variants of the flamer that only have 6″ range and S3. They’re an interesting upgrade option for Hybrid Metamorphs, where having an auto-hitting gun that gives you an extra punch if you weren’t able to kill something in melee the turn prior. But that’s also why they probably aren’t worth it.
  • Heavy Stubbers are an option for Neophyte Gunners. 3 Shots, S4, 18″ range. These aren’t great but they’ll put in surprising amounts of work for you because of the shot volume (and that will frequently be increased by the More Bullets tactic).
  • Mining Lasers are like short-range (24″) lascannons for Neophyte gunners. They’re reliably good thanks to their high strength and good AP, but being only 1-shot on a BS 4+ model means that you really can’t rely on them (and you don’t have access to the Sniper specialism to improve this, either).
  • Seismic Cannons are another Neophyte Gunner option, giving them two firing modes: Long- and Short-wave. The Long-wave mode is 24″ Heavy 4 S3 D1 AP0, while short-wave is 12″ Heavy 2 S6 AP-1 2 damage. With either mode you get AP-4 on a wound roll of 6. The dual modes give the cannon some versatility, and while they’re generally not as good as the mining laser, a Demolitions specialist toting one of these around in a Bladed Cog kill team can be pretty nasty, ignoring the move-and-shoot penalties while using the +1 to wound obscured targets to make the most of the long-wave firing mode.
  • Shotguns are free side-grades to the autoguns that have 12″ range but are Assault 2 and get +1 Strength at half range. We’ll talk more about these, but there’s a legit strategy to consider around just running a horde of shotgun cultists.
  • Web Pistols are a Neophyte leader option. Gives you D3 shots at Strength 3, and you can roll against either your target’s strength or toughness, whichever is lower. That’s neat, but you won’t actually want your Leader getting into fights or costing more points.
  • Webbers are the final Neophyte gunner option. They’re 18″ range, Assault D3, S4, and they can choose to roll wound rolls against either their target’s Strength or Toughness. That won’t matter most of the time.

Melee Weapons

  • Bonesword – an option for the metamorph leader, and are S:User, AP-2.
  • Chainsword – a Neophyte leader option. They let you make an extra attack.
  • Cultist Knife – same as a chainsword. These come stock on Acolyte Hybrids, so they get an extra attack unless they swap it out for something else.
  • Heavy Rock Cutter – One of the three Acolyte Hybrid Heavy Melee weapon options. Sx2, AP-4, 2 damage, gives you -1 to hit and every time you damage a model, roll a D6, and if you roll above the target’s remaining wounds, it instantly dies. This is great against things like Necrons that could otherwise regenerate all their wounds. It’s also just an incredibly nasty weapon without that rider, but the -1 to hit makes it worse overall than the heavy rock saw for the same cost, since the out-of-action ability will usually be overkill.
  • Heavy Rock drill – The second Acolyte Hybrid Heavy Melee weapon option. Sx2, AP-3, 1 damage. Roll a D6 each time a model takes damage form this weapon and on a 2+, they take a mortal wound and you roll again. Then the same thing on a 3+, 4+, and so on, until you fail or the model is taken out of action. This is also pretty nasty, and the extra mortal wounds create some interesting interactions. Costs more than the Rock saw though and overall isn’t as reliable.
  • Heavy Rock saw – This is the one, baby. The third Acolyte Hybrid heavy melee weapon option, the heavy rock saw is Sx2, AP-4, 2 damage. No frills and special rules, just heavy damage output and almost no saves allowed with no drop in accuracy. Run multiples.
  • Lash whip and Bonesword – Combines the bonesword with a lash whip, allowing the bearer to still fight if it’s killed in the fight phase before it could attack. A fun way of punishing your opponent, but not something you want to rely on. This is an option for Acolyte Hybrid leaders.
  • Metamorph Claw – S+2 melee weapon.
  • Metamorph Talon – S:User melee weapon that gives you +1 to hit rolls.
  • Metamorph whip – S: User melee weapon that lets you fight if you’re killed before you can fight in the Fight phase.
  • Power Hammer – Aberrants can take these to replace Power Picks. They give you -1 to hit, but at Sx2, AP-3, 3 damage, they will absolutely crush anything they connect with. Overall the math between these and picks is pretty close, but the 3 damage sends the hammer over the top.
  • Power maul – S+2, AP-1 1 damage melee weapon. An option for Neophyte Leaders.
  • Power Pick – An option for Neophyte Leaders and the default weapon on Aberrants. S:User, AP-2, D3 damage. A nasty little melee weapon.
  • Rending Claw – S:User, AP-1 1 damage weapon where wound rolls of 6+ become AP-4. Purestrain Genestealers come with these.

 

Genestealer Cults Units

Genestealer Cults have access to models form four different units, which gives them a decent mix of shooting- and melee-focused options. They can also add Purestrain Genestealers from the Tyranids faction.

Acolyte Hybrid

Credit: BuffaloChicken

More expensive than Neophytes by 2 points per model, Acolyte Hybrids come with an extra attack and WS 3+, making them ostensibly the cheap combat core of your kill team. The catch is that the real fighters of the group are capped at a maximum of 4 models, or else we might really have something going on.The other big difference between these guys and the Neophytes is equipment – Acolytes are able to take some of the heavy melee options like the heavy rock saw – but don’t have much of anything in the way of shooting attacks. They can take a Cult Icon to re-roll hit rolls of 1 in the Fight phase, and it’s a worthwhile investment for making sure your rock saws/drills/cutters completely eviscerate anything they come in contact with.

One of your Acolyte Hybrids can be a Comms specialist, which doesn’t really do much for them but can make them part of an effective tandem with a Neophyte gunner carrying a Seismic Cannon.

Role-wise, Acolyte Hybrids are weird in-betweeners: They’re worse at shooting than Neophytes due to their equipment limitations and they’re more expensive, and they’re slightly cheaper and arguably worse at melee combat than Hybrid Metamorphs unless you’re paying for the saw/drill weapon upgrades. The heavy rock saw and drill are still notable here because of the sheer damage they can put out and their ability to cut through armor, but like everything else in the faction, you’ll need a good mix of luck and skill to get them into combat with anything they’d take out of commission.

Aberrant

Credit: Soggy

Aberrants are your heavy hitters, even compared to purestrain Genestealers, and these guys can bring it. They’re Strength 5 base with WS 3+ and 2 wounds each, plus they reduce incoming damage by 1 to a minimum of 1, meaning they’ll shrug off Overcharged plasma shots. They can replace their power picks with power hammers, which makes them particularly dangerous as glass cannons – Even with the damage reduction and 4 Toughness, they only have a 5+ save, but the hammers give them a Strength 10, 3-damage swing that will wreck anyone’s day. Your biggest challenge with Aberrants will be making sure they make it into combat. The power picks are OK but for 1 point more you’re better off going with the hammer so you can truly ruin someone’s day. If you want these guys on your team, it’s worth keeping a Combat and Zealot flavor on your team so you can double up on threats and hopefully live the dream of one-shotting marines to death.

Neophyte Hybrid

Neophyte Hybrids

Genestealer Cults Neophyte Hybrids. Credit: Corrode

Your basic, cheap infantry. 5 points per model for an autogun, BS 4+, Toughness 3, and a 5+ save. Like Imperial Guardsmen, they’re unlikely to kill much and they’re also unlikely to survive other things trying to hurt them. This means their primary use is taking advantage of missions and scenarios that reward you for either having cheap extra models who can sit back and occupy objectives, or games where controlling doors is a big deal. What Neophytes have that Guardsmen don’t however is a much more varied selection of weapon options. The big one here is that any model may replace their autogun with a shotgun, trading out their 24″ Rapid Fire 1 S3 D1 gun for a 12″ Assault 2 gun that gets +1 strength at half range at no additional cost. This opens you up to some novel horde strategies where you are running a mass of shotgun-wielding neophytes who throw out silly amounts of S4 firepower once they get within 6″ of their targets.

Neophytes also have access to all of the Genestealer Cults’ best shooting weapons, including the mining laser and seismic cannon, but most of the time you’ll find these disappointing due to the limitations of BS 4+. You can upgrade these guys with an icon, but generally your focus should be spending points elsewhere.

The Neophyte Hybrid Leader is your cheapest Leader option, and the pick of choice for a model you’re going to hide in your backfield while they generate CP.

Hybrid Metamorph

Credit: BuffaloChicken

Hybrid Metamorphs are nasty pieces of work: They sport 3 attacks, S4, and WS 3+. They’re still significantly cheaper than Aberrants, but still pack a hell of a punch thanks to the ability to take Metamorph claws that give them a S6 punch. They’re arguably a better deal than Purestrain Genestealers for the point cost. You can give one a Cult Icon, which is a strong play, and that will likely be the one you want as one of your Combat/Zealot specialists. The Metamorph whip is also a notable weapon option here because it allows you to fight on death in the Fight phase if you haven’t gotten a chance to make your attacks yet, which makes them a fun unit for screening and counter-charging opponents.

Purestrain Genestealers

In addition to the four units they can draw from their own choices, Genestealer Cults kill teams can also add Purestrain Genestealers to their teams. These gain the GENESTEALER CULTS Faction Keyword and lose TYRANIDS, and can’t recieve a Cult Creed benefit, but they also don’t prevent the rest of your kill team from benefitting from a Cult Creed either. Genestealers are faster than anything else in your kill team with an 8″ move, and can re-roll failed charge rolls. Though you can opt to swap out this ability for a 4+ save instead. Genestealers also have a 5+ invulnerable save natively and 4 toughness so if you take them they immediately become some of the most durable models on your team, but they still only have 1 wound each. At 11 points per model, they’re also among the more expensive models you can field, but their ability to get into combat is significantly higher.

Genestealer Cults Commanders

For a faction with only five unit choices, Genestealer Cults have access to an insane number of Commanders – 10 in total. It’s actually kind of baffling, given that Elites had nothing but new Commander choices for them. The biggest challenge for Genestealer Cults Commanders is that most of them are pretty fragile, sporting 3 Toughness and a 5+ save. In a format where you often lose when your Commander dies, that’s not a great trait to have, and so it means that for most of these options, you’ll want to prioritize Commanders who can sit back out of harm’s reach and act as force multipliers over those who want to be rushing into the thick of things.

Magus

Credit: BuffaloChicken

One of the two Psyker options for Genestealer Cults commanders, the Magus is the one that comes with all of the options. At 30 points in his level 1 form, the Magus isn’t too expensive, but he’s also not particularly durable, so you’ll want to make sure you’re keeping Neophytes around to protect him. The Magus’ big selling point is access to one power from the Broodmind Discipline, where the real prize is the Mind Control psychic power (though Paralysing Hypnosis is also pretty good). Otherwise the Magus is an OK melee fighter and can be a Psyker specialist, which will usually be the correct play since it gives you more certainty in your tests and the option to double-cast Psybolt.

Primus

Genestealer Cults Primus

Genestealer Cults Primus. Credit: That Gobbo

The Primus doesn’t have the Magus’ psychic powers, which is a real knock against him. And with T3 and a 5+ save, you’re going to want to keep Neophytes around him to use that Look Out, Sir! tactic. What he does have however, is a pretty good statline for fighting, with the the Needle Pistol and Toxin Injector claw always wounding on a 2+, and at 28 points in his level 1 form, he’s not a massive drain on your roster. The Primus’ most notable ability is that he brings access to the Meticulous Planning Tactic, which allows you to get a second chance to use the Cult Ambush move on all of your kill team before the battle starts. This can be a huge boost to your melee strategy, and in a Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor kill team, makes it much more dependable rule to plan around. He’s also a candidate for the Strategist specialism, which is the ideal choice if you’re taking him, since you’re going to usually start the battle spending 2 CP. You won’t have the CP to combine this with the Decoys tactic, but depending on how your first set of rolls goes, choosing between a second attempt or redeploying a few models shouldn’t be too difficult.

Patriarch

Patriarch

Genestealer Cults Patriarch. Credit: Corrode

The biggest, baddest Commander option that Genestealer Cults have access to, the Patriarch is a big departure from the rest of the cult options. At 131 points in level 1 form, The Patriarch is essentially a super genestealer, sporting a 2+ WS, 4+ save (with a 5+ invulnerable), and a beefed-up statline. There’s very little that the Genestealer Patriarch won’t shred in melee combat, and with the Unquestioning Loyalty ability, you can use Neophytes to protect him on the move (just be careful not to outrun your coverage using his 8″ Movement stat). You have a few different combat-focused specialism options for the Patriarch, but the Fortitude specialism is probably your best play here, both for the level 1 6+ ignore wounds roll, and the ability to help keep models on the table with the Pain is for the Weak! Tactic. If you wanted to go to level 2 for Hard to Kill, that’s also not a bad strategy, given how much plasma this guy will eat otherwise (though at 151 points, you are now firmly in 200-point game territory and making the Primarch your whole team).

Acolyte Iconward

Acolyte Iconward

Genetealer Cults Acolyte Iconward. Credit: Corrode

The Iconward gives the team re-rolls on Nerve tests within 6″ and has the ability to power up an aura that lets models within 6″ ignore wounds, which can be a helpful bonus when stacked on top of the Bladed Cog’s cult creed ability. At 18 points base, he’s one of the cheaper Genestealer Cults Commanders, but he’s not bringing much to the table otherwise. If you’re taking him, consider giving him the Fortitude specialism, so he can further stack durability buffs on nearby models.

Sanctus

Genestealer Cults Sanctus

Genestealer Cults Sanctus. Credit: That Gobbo

The cult’s assassin, the Sanctus comes with a Silencer Sniper Rifle or bio-dagger, depending on whether you want to go ranged (yes) or melee (no) with him. The Sanctus has a little extra durability thanks to his camo cloak, which gives ranged attackers -1 to hit him, and while the bio-dagger is a nasty piece of work – A 2-damage, AP-2 weapon that wounds on a 2+ and gives an extra attack – you really don’t need an extra big combat specialist in a Genestealer Cults team so the sniper rifle is the more interesting option. And on that note, it’s… well, only OK. A S4 AP-1 gun that does D3 damage and ignores long-range penalties and causes mortal wounds on hit rolls of 6+, with the added bonus of causing a Perils if it wounds a Psyker.

There are some funny builds you can make with the Sanctus that either focus on damage output (Shooting specialism) or defense (Stealth). The Shooting specialism is probably the better pick at level 1 and at level 2 the Lucky Hit tactic is worth consideration. At level 3 the Stealth specialism lets you pile on another -1 to be hit with ranged weapons, which is a good way to mitigate the Sanctus not having the Unquestioning Loyalty ability. Overall, the Sanctus isn’t a particular good Commander option, but can be interesting in games where you have Commanders on each side of the table, and you can spend your turns shearing wounds off your opponent’s Commander.

Kelermorph

Credit: BuffaloChicken

The Kelermorph isn’t the best Genestealer Cults Commander option, but it is the coolest by a country mile. Armed with three liberator Autostub pistols, it can dish out some serious pain at 12″ and the ability to give nearby units re-rolls of 1 to hit every time it takes out a model in the Shooting phase is a great free boost to have. Plus his 5+ invulnerable save is nothing to sneeze at. When it comes to Specialisms, you can make a case for either Fortitude, Shooting, or Stealth, though Shooting is probably your best bet since for the Kelermorph, the best defense will be a good offense. It’s worth looking at higher level Shooting specialist variants as well, where adding a 4th pistol shot with the Pistoleer ability and access to Lucky Hit make a level 2 specialist well worth 30 points.

It is worth noting that the Kelermorph lacks Unquestioning Loyalty, so it’ll cost you to protect the Kelermorph.

Nexos

Nexos

Nexos. Credit: Soggy

The Nexos is a weak backline Commander option who is most notable for being a Strategist specialist choice and the Cult Nexos Tactic, which lets you deploy up to three models held reserves onto the table within 1″ of a table edge and more than 5″ away from enemy models. Additionally, he gives re-rolls of 1 on Cult Ambush rolls and the ability to regenerate CP on a D6 roll of 6+ every time a player spends Command Points. These combine to make the Nexos a very serviceable Commander choice that you’ll want to hide (good news is he has the Unquestioning Loyalty ability), but who can act as a potent force multiplier. The re-roll 1s on Cult Ambush will do you the most good in a Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor kill team.

Biophagus

The Biophagus is a weird Commander choice. He’s among the more fragile picks for your team, but he can take the Strategist specialism and his wargear and Tactic push him to want to fight other Commanders and be moving forward with a group of Aberrants. This makes him a risky choice to use well in the best of circumstances, but if you’re running a kill team of Aberrants and a Biophagus, then I’m not gonna tell you how to live your life.

Locus

The Locus is a melee-focused Commander with a hefty price tag (66 points in level 1 configuration) who can do some damage, but isn’t really worth the cost investment compared to your other Commander options.

Clamavus

Genestealer Cults Clamavus

Genestealer Cults Clamavus. Credit: That Gobbo

The Clamavus is another fragile force multiplier Commander. It can take the Strategist specialism and its two key abilities are the Scrambler Array, which prevents reserves from setting up within 7″ of the model (useful for hiding), and the Proclamator Hailer tactic, which gives +1 to charge and Advance rolls and -1 to Nerve tests within 6″. The Clamavus is OK but there are better options, like the Nexos or Primus.

 

Genestealer Cults Tactics

While their unit selection is a bit wonky, Genestealer Cults have been well-loved and well-supported by Kill Team with Tactics, and so didn’t receive any new tactics in the 2019 Kill Team Annual.

  • Industrial Brutality (1 CP) – Use after making attacks with a heavy rock drill, heavy rock saw, or heavy rock cutter in the Fight phase. Roll a D6, on a 4+ that model can immediately fight again. This is interesting – while the 50/50 nature of it makes it difficult to rely on, it only costs 1 CP and you get to fight again right away – compare to Heretic Astartes’ Fury of Khorne Tactic, which can only be used at the end of the Fight phase. If you’re in a situation where you’ve got your saw/drill model in combat and he either hasn’t killed his target or has more models to fight, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be looking to use this – the upside is just too high not to take the chance. B+
  • Unnatural Senses (1 CP) – Use when a model in your team is declared as the target of a charge. They can fire Overwatch at the charging model, even if that target isn’t visible (the target is treated as obscured). This kind of gives you access the Close-Quarters Killzone Overwatch all the time, and in games of Arena, you’ll be able to do both in the same turn if you need. Though note that the tactics are a little different – the Close Quarters Overwatch tactic only lets you shoot if the charge succeeds, and doesn’t incur the obscured penalty. Overall this is situational but useful to have, and helps ensure that your models holding flamers are near-impossible to charge without a stiff penalty. B
  • Density Analysis Lenses (2 CP) – Use when shooting with a model in the Shooting phase. That model gets +1 to hit against obscured targets. This is pricey, but solid. It’s great for helping mitigate your team’s BS 4+, and it stacks well on a Demolitions specialist, where you can get +1 to hit and wound against an obscured target. The biggest downside is that you don’t have any guns that it would be really amazing to use this with. B+
  • Inhuman Reflexes (1 CP) – Use when a model from your team takes a Falling test.  They don’t take fall damage and don’t fall on other models and if they would, you put them as close as possible to where they would have landed, and this can put you within 1″ of an enemy. This is about as situational as tactics get. It won’t be relevant or worth using in the vast majority of games you play, and when it is, there’s a good chance you’ll either forget it exists, or have better things to spend your CP on. D
  • Frenzied Hammering (2 CP) – Use when an Aberrant from your Kill Team with a power hammer attacks in the Fight phase to give him +D3 Attacks but -1 to hit until the end of the phase. For something that already costs 2 CP, that’s a pretty brutal trade-off. The good news is that the math still works out in your favor, even if you only roll a 1 for the number of extra attacks. This will be put to best use when you’re able to pull off charging multiple models, and the extra attacks can be split over both models. Otherwise you’re not going to need it most of the time because your Aberrant will already have enough attacks from being a Combat specialist and power hammers hit like a freight train. Still, very helpful when you need it, or when you’re taking on Commanders. B
  • Strength of Faith (1 CP) – Use when a model in your kill team takes a mortal wound in the psychic phase. Roll a D6 for that wound and each other mortal wound suffered by that model until the end of the phase. On a 5+, ignore that wound. C
  • Seismic Blast (2 CP) – Use when firing the short-wave profile of a seismic cannon. If an attack for the weapon hits, roll a die for each other model within 2″ of the target. On a 5+ that model is shaken. The actual effect of this can be pretty nasty, but the circumstances required to make it all work, which includes getting a Neophyte Hybrid within 12″ of a group of models all spaced within 2″ of each other, and then you still need to worry about Heavy weapon and range penalties (so you’ll want him to be your Heavy specialist), means that this is just a little too situational to see much use. C
  • Mesmerizing Gaze (1 CP) – Use at the start of the Fight phase and pick an enemy model within 1″ of one of your models. Roll a die – on a 4+, that model gets -1 Attack (to a minimum of 1) until the end of the phase. This can be helpful for protecting your team from Combat specialists and anything coming in with 2+ attacks, but the 50/50 nature of it and the low upside means that most of the time this will be something you don’t want to use. C-
  • Toxin Gland (1 CP) – Use when a Hybrid Metamorph from your kill team fights in the Fight phase. They get +1 to wound rolls for their rending claws/metamorph talons until the end of the phase. This is pretty great, since both weapons are Strength User, and eking out an extra +1 to wound will be useful against pretty much any target in the game. Best paired with a Combat or Zealot specialist, where you’ll want to get the bonus on as many attacks as possible. A
  • Acidic Spit (1 CP) – Use at the start of the Shooting phase. Pick an enemy model within 1″ of one of your models and roll a D6. On a 5+, that enemy suffers a mortal wound. The odds on this (1 in 3) aren’t amazing but for models that aren’t Hybrid Metamorphs or Aberrants, they’re as good as your odds of pushing a wound through on most things. Still not something you want to rely on, but a better option than Mesmerizing Gaze, since the upside of putting a wound on something or taking a model out of action is much, much better than reducing its attacks. C+
  • Corrosive Fuel (2 CP) – Use when you shoot with a hand flamer. Improve the AP of that weapon to -1 and its Damage to 2 until the end of the phase. C
  • Blinding Acid Spit (1 CP) – Use when a model from your kill team is picked as the target of an attack in the Fight phase. Roll a D6. On a 4+ subtract 1 from hit rolls being made by that model until the end of the phase. C
  • Raise the Icon (1 CP) – Use at the start of the Fight phase and pick a model equipped with a Cult Icon. Increase the range of the Icon’s ability to 12″ until the end of the phase. C
  • I Like to Keep This Handy… (1 CP) – Use in the Shooting phase. Pick a model armed with a shotgun. That weapon’s type becomes Pistol 2 until the end of the phase. C
  • Plant the Flag (1 CP) – Use when a friendly Cult Icon model takes out an enemy unit in the Fight phase. Friendly models within 6″ do not need to take Nerve tests until the end of the Battle Round. C
  • The Cult Innumerable (3 CP) – Use when a model in your kill team is taken out of action. You can set that model back up again in your deployment zone, more than 9″ away from any enemy models. The model is still counted as a casualty at the end of the game. C
  • Messy Demise (2 CP) – Use when a model on your kill team takes out an enemy with a heavy rock saw. Roll a D6 for each enemy model within 3″ of the model with the heavy rock saw. On a 5+, that model is shaken. C
  • Ensnaring Strike (1 CP) – Use when a model on your kill team armed with a Lash whip and Bonesword fights in the Fight phase. If that model scores any hits, then pick one melee weapon their target is armed with. That target model may not use that weapon in this phase. C

Commander Tactics

  • Cult Demagogue (1 CP) – Primus Only. As long as this model isn’t shaken, you get +1 to hit rolls in the Fight phase for friendly models within 6″ of this model. A helpful aura Tactic that significantly improves the combat prowess of nearby cultists. Particularly Aberrants holding Power Hammers that give them -1 to hit. B
  • Meticulous Planning (2 CP) – Primus tactic. Use at the start of the first battle round if you’ve got a Primus in your kill team. Roll a D6 for each model that didn’t move via the Cult Ambush ability. On a 5+ you can move the model using Cult Ambush. The wording on this re-roll is wonky, but the key thing to note is that it prevents you from getting a second 4+ roll if you’re using the Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor Cult Creed. Some quick math here: Your standard chances of moving a unit with Cult Ambush are 33%. Using this tactic improves those odds to 56% for standard GSC kill teams and 67% for Four-Armed Emperor kill teams, which is enough to really take note of this is a viable Commander strategy. This is one of the most useful things the Primus brings to the table, and why you’d consider him over a Magus.  A
  • Nexus of Devotion (1 CP) – Iconward only. Use at the start of the Movement phase if your team has an Acolyte Iconward. It gains an aura until the end of the turn that gives friendly models within 6″ the ability to ignore wounds on a D6 roll of a 6+ as long as the iconward isn’t shaken (and if you already had the ability, you re-roll 1s). This is nifty, and helpful for ensuring your lads in 5+ armor actually make it to their engagements. With the combination of this and Bladed Cog, you end up with a nice little boost that can really make a difference. B
  • Cult Assassin (2 CP) – Use at the start of the first turn if a Sanctus from your kill team is on the battlefield and not shaken. That model can immediately make a ranged attack as if it were the Shooting phase. This can be a really nasty way of punishing an aggressive deployment from your opponent and there’s no reason not to use it every game you are running a Sanctus. A
  • Blaze of Glory (1 CP) – Use when a Kelermorph from your kill team shoots in the Shooting phase. Instead of shooting normally, you can make a single attack with one of the model’s guns against each enemy model within 8″ that’s an eligible target. Admittedly, this rewards you for putting your Commander in the middle of a bunch of enemy units, but the reality is that you will much more likely have several models within 8″ that aren’t spaced within 2″ of each other to shoot at, and when you can tag 3-4 models with this, it’s going to be well worth it. Also it’s conceptually cool as hell. B+
  • Cult Nexos (1 CP) – Use at the end of the Movement phase if a Nexos is on the battlefield and not shaken and you have any models in Reserve. Pick up to 3 models from your kill team that were set up in reserve and put them within 1″ of the battlefield edge and more than 5″ away from enemy models. For Genestealer Cults, which can’t teleport and otherwise lack the ability to deep strike, this is pretty big. It’s more limited, but the ability to drop in with surety behind your opponent and close the gap with metamorphs or aberrants can be a game-changer. This is the reason you’d take a Nexos. A
  • Genomic Enhancement (1 CP) – Use at the end of the movement phase if you have an unshaken Biophagus on the battlefield. Pick a friendly Aberrant model within 2″ and it gets +1 to its Strength, Toughness, or Attacks for the rest of the game. You can’t buff the same Aberrant twice. This is an interesting ability but I’m not sure it does all that much for you. The Toughness boost is the best option here, just because it gives you the most bang for your buck, but running your (relatively fragile) Biophagus commander alongside a blob of Aberrants may not be a great strategy. B
  • Sudden Strike (1 CP) – Use at the end of the Movement phase if you have an unshaken Locus on the battlefield and it’s within 6″ of an enemy model and did not Advance, Fall Back, Retreat, make a charge attempt or arrive from reserves this turn and also if it isn’t within 1″ of an enemy model. It can immediately make a pile-in move and move up to 6″ when doing so. This helps make the Locus a counter-charge specialist, but most of the time he’s going to be the target of your opponent’s charges if they’re in range. C
  • Proclamator Hailer (1 CP) – Use at the start of the battle round if you have a Clamavus. It gains an aura ability that gives +1 to Advance and charge rolls and -1 to Nerve tests made for models in your kill team within 6″ as long as the Clamavus isn’t shaken. This is OK, and helpful for closing the distance in combat, but you will usually not want your Clamavus up front next to your chargers. C
  • Rabble Rouser (1 CP) – Acolyte Iconward. Use at the start of the Movement phase to gain an aura. While the Iconward is not shaken, friendly models within 6″ use the Iconward’s leadership instead of their own. The Iconward only has Ld 8, so this is a boost, but not a huge one. C

 

Genestealer Cults Psychic Powers

Genestealer Psykers have access to the Broodmind Discipline, which has 3 powers. The Magus gets to pick one power from the Discipline, while the Genestealer Patriarch doesn’t get any of them, and instead knows The Horror psychic power from the Tyranids’ Hive Mind discipline.

  • Paralysing Hypnosis (WC 6) – Pick a visible enemy unit within 18″. Until the start of the next Psychic phase, that unit can’t fire Overwatch, gets -1 to hit, and fights last in the Fight phase. This is a pretty nasty trick, and the range on it means you can use it to sideline enemy Commanders who get too close or completely clown enemy melee fighters that charge your kill team. It’s a very solid ability to have, and can save your skin if you get outflanked. A
  • Mind Control (WC 6) – Pick an enemy model within 12″ and roll 3D6. If you score equal to or greater than that model’s Ld, that model immediately shoots another enemy model of your choice as if it were the Shooting phase, or makes a single close combat attack against another enemy model within 1″ as if it were the Fight phase, as if it were part of your kill team. This power is much less reliable than Paralysing Hypnosis, but the upside is so, so good. Note that your average result on 3D6 is 10.5, so most of the times you cast this you can expect a success. Obviously it’s not nearly as amazing against something like Orks but against elite armies, this can be just a brutal blow to land. Also it’s hilarious to kill an opponent with their own models. The only big downside is the range – getting a Magus within 12″ can be a risky proposition. A
  • Might From Beyond (WC 6) – Pick a friendly model within 18″. It gets +1 Strength and +1 Attacks. This is a fine boost and a nifty ability, but it’s not really helping shore up a weakness and so there’s little reason to pick it over Paralysing Hypnosis or Mind Control. B-
  • The Horror (WC 5) – Pick a visible enemy model within 18″. Until the start of the next Psychic phase, that model gets -1 Ld. and -1 to their hit rolls. This can be a decent way to help protect yourself against a key model like a gunner; the Ld modifier is just icing on the cake. B

 

Acolyte Hybrids

Acolyte Hybrids
Credit: Pendulin

Sample Genestealer Cults Team

Cult Creed: The Bladed Cog

Specialists

  • Neophyte Leader (6 points) w/Bolt Pistol, Chainsword, Leader
  • Aberrant (19 points) w/Power Hammer, Combat
  • Aberrant (19 points) w/Power Hammer, Zealot
  • Hybrid Metamorph (11 points) w/Hand Flamer, Metamorph Whip, Rending Claw, Comms
  • Neophyte Gunner (6 points) w/Heavy Stubber, Heavy
  • Neophyte Gunner (9 points), w/Mining Laser, Demolitions

Non-Specialists

  • Acolyte Hybrid (9 points) w/ Hand Flamer
  • Hybrid Metamorph (11 points) w/ Hand Flamer, Metamorph Claw
  • Neophyte Gunner (9 points) w/ Flamer
  • Neophyte Gunner (9 points) w/ Mining Laser
  • Neophyte Hybrid (5 points) w/ Shotgun
  • Neophyte Hybrid (5 points) w/ Shotgun
  • Neophyte Hybrid (5 points) w/ Shotgun
  • Neophyte Hybrid (5 points) w/ Shotgun
  • Neophyte Hybrid (5 points) w/ Shotgun
  • Neophyte Hybrid (5 points) w/ Autogun
  • Neophyte Hybrid (5 points) w/ Autogun
  • Neophyte Hybrid (5 points) w/ Autogun
  • Neophyte Hybrid (5 points) w/ Autogun
  • Neophyte Hybrid (5 points) w/ Autogun

Most of the time you’ll only be taking one Aberrant, but having the option to run the pair is nice.

 

Playing Genestealer Cults

Your biggest concern is going to be how you pressure pressure the opponent early and often with melee. As a melee-focused swarm, you’ll always have models to leave behind on objectives (your neophyte hybrids are ideal for this), but you’ll want to have a strategy for pushing your melee fighters forward while keeping them protected. Heavy saws are absolute blenders, but their operators aren’t any more durable than the other cultists around them. You’ll want to support them with some Neophyte gunners who can add some long-ranged (if not particularly reliable) support, and whose primary role will be either drawing fire from your melee combatants or punishing an opponent for choosing to shoot your melee combatants.

 

Playing against Genestealer Cults

Genestealer Cults can absolutely murder you in melee so don’t let them get close. Their weak armor and low toughness makes them relatively easy to pick off for most teams, but some teams that lack for high quantities of shooting like Death Guard kill teams might struggle to handle this. Otherwise they operate like a melee-focused horde, and may control the board early but will struggle to do so late as their numbers drop. Keep picking off models and focusing on the melee threats first and you can pull ahead late-game.

 

Neophyte Hybrids

Genestealer Cults Neophyte Hybrids. Credit: Corrode

Painting and Modeling Genestealer Cults

We’ve covered painting Genestealer Cults pretty extensively, including multiple unit types and vehicles. Check out How to Paint Everything: Genestealer Cults for more info there. Otherwise, the Kill Team boxed set comes with a squad of Neophytes, and the basic kits you can buy for Genestealer Cults give you a ton of options to work with.

 

Final Thoughts

Hopefully that gives you everything you need to get started building and fielding Genestealer Cults kill teams. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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