The Goonhammer Review: The 10th Edition Genestealer Cults Index

Welcome to our review of the 10th Edition Genestealer Cults Index. A faction for the underdog lovers, the GSC are an army built around guerilla tactics, utilizing ambushes, teamwork and stolen mining equipment to get one over the finest armies the 40k universe has to offer with sheer pluck and a LOT of planning. With fragile units, complex synergies and an unforgiving playstyle, this has never been an army for the faint-hearted, but the GSC index brings a whole range of exciting tools and tricks to explore the new edition with, and overthrow your oppressors to make ready for the arrival of the benevolent star children.*

*being consumed by the Tyranids

Before we begin we’d like to thank Games Workshop for providing us with a review copy of the Index.

Army Rule – Cult Ambush

Credit: Soggy

The GSC army rule is Cult Ambush, allowing you to recycle destroyed units with the ability on a 4+ when they are destroyed (except for BATTLELINE units, which always recycle). A recycled unit goes back into Ambush (Reserves) and you can place a Cult Ambush marker anywhere on the board that is more than 9 inches horizontally from enemy units. Should an enemy model ever end any kind of move within 9 inches of a marker it is removed from the battlefield. At the end of your next movement phase, for each Ambush Marker that’s still on the board you can set up one of your units that is currently in Ambush using their Deep Strike ability, with at least one model touching the marker (Characters don’t regenerate with their destroyed units). The marker is then removed.

The units able to exploit this rule best are BATTLELINE, but all the infantry and biker units in here are able to regenerate in this fashion on a 4+. Your vehicles and characters may fall permanently, but an endless swarm of minions is now at your disposal. Units also don’t leave ambush just because your opponent manages to tidy up all your markers on a given turn, so if you lose a high-value unit early and manages to get rid of the marker that was placed the first time, you can spring it on them later on during a turn where enough markers get placed that they can’t clear them all.

As faction rules go, this is a bit nuts. The potential board control applications are massive, as your opponent attempts to push and screen out possible areas in which you might drop tokens and spring fresh counter-assaults, and being assured of a significant number of reinforcements across a game (on a scale unlike any we have seen in recent editions of this game) is a unique and terrifying prospect. Taking my positivity hat off for a brief moment it does also make you wonder a little about the output and power on display in some of these other indexes- what the hell is happening to GSC in development games that somebody decides ‘maybe just let them bring half the army back over and over’ is the solution to keeping up with other armies?!

Brood Brothers

Genestealer Cults also get a second Army Rule, Brood Brothers. This allows them to bring up to 500pts of Astra Militarum units along in their army (with some exclusions for Epic Heroes and Militarum Tempestus stuff, and no Enhancements). While they’ll be operating without any real faction synergy, Guard indirect shooting is looking very strong in their Index, so there’s a decent chance this ends up being quite potent!

Detachment Rules – Ascension Day

Cult Heroes are Defended
Cult Heroes are Defended. Credit: ThatGobbo

Detachment Ability

The GSC have gained an ‘Ascension Day’ detachment, and the detachment rule is a new spin on an old favourite, They Came from Below, a boost to their shooting on arrival from reserves to demonstrate their deadly ambush being put into action. Every time a Genestealer Cults unit is set up as reinforcements, until the end of the next Fight phase, weapons equipped by models in that unit have SUSTAINED HITS 1 and IGNORES COVER. It is worth noting that this does also apply to melee weapons, but there is a lack of reliable charge delivery tools in this index so the boost will be felt to a far greater extent on GSC shooting.

Ignoring cover and showering on additional hits is extremely potent into a wide range of armies, and combos extremely well with the other tools on display in this index to make your reinforcements hit extremely hard. Hitting the foe with a crippling blow from deep strike is a classic GSC strategy, and you are well placed to do so once again with this rule.

Enhancements

Genestealer Cults Kelermorph
Genestealer Cults Kelermorph. Credits: That Gobbo

No good plan is complete without a few sneaky tech choices to help it function, and the GSC come rocking a series of excellent enhancements to put to use in your games. Every single one of these has play, which is a really exciting start point, and you’ll need to assess which to adopt to compliment your approach.

Prowling Agitant allows the bearer’s unit to make a normal move of up to D6″ when an enemy unit ends a normal, advance, or fall back move within 9” of them. This is a generally useful buff to keep a squishy unit out of harm’s way, or to push a deathball closer to the foe, but there are some very sneaky mortal wound combos you can pull off here by combining this with some crazy stuff going on over in Atalan Jackal / Jackal Alphus land, which we will explore a bit later on….

Meticulous Planner gives your GSC bearer the ability to ‘Vect’ an opponent’s stratagem whilst they are on the board, increasing the cost of the stratagem in question by 1 CP for the duration of the battle. In 10th abilities like this are going to be like gold dust, and you want it in the list somewhere to deal with nasty chain-stratagem builds.

Inscrutable Cunning allows the bearer’s unit to infiltrate, and gives them 4+ CP regen. Look, this rocks, and some of the potential applications here are just very funny. Want to shove 10 Aberrants into places the opponent doesn’t typically want them turn one? Give it a go. Metamorphs on the line ready to cuddle literally everybody? Why not. Ultimately I expect this will be better on a ranged unit to hold ground on a flank or apply more subtle forward pressure, but its a remarkably tidy little enhancement. You’ve got redeploy options elsewhere, so have fun putting the fear into the unwary!

Focus of Adoration allows the bearer’s unit to intervene for free, even if another unit has already done so. Another great control enhancement that lets you dominate space and threaten those that come to take it from you.

Stratagems

Reductus Saboteur. Credit: Soggy
Reductus Saboteur. Credit: Soggy

GSC had a glorious toolkit of stratagems in 9th, and the good news here is that whilst you have a lot less, many crucial tools have survived and everything here will be valuable at some point in almost every game you play.

Unquestioning Loyalty allows you to pass wounds suffered by a unit with a GSC character in it to a friendly unit within 3”, excluding vehicles. The unit receiving the lost wounds takes these as mortal wounds instead. At crucial moments this can keep your heavy-hitting units alive at the expense of disposable (perhaps recycling) chaff, and helps you to weather enemy shooting and combat. Not bad for 1 CP!

Coordinated Trap is a 2 CP stratagem that was already previewed, giving two GSC units targeting the same enemy unit +1 to wound in shooting or combat. Very powerful, very useful, and with wide ranging application, this gives us a bit of that crossfire energy and can help swing a vital drop turn or melee brawl.

Tunnel Crawlers allows a unit to deep strike up to 3” away from enemy models for 1 CP, but means they cannot charge that turn. Previously a single unit upgrade, this is a remarkable option to have, though it must be utilized carefully in a world of overwatch and indirect…

One with the Darkness is an invaluable 1 CP option that enables you to make a GSC infantry unit untargetable outside of 12”, and also gives it STEALTH. This helps you hold ground, protect hammer units, and forces the enemy closer, all playing further into the GSC control game. I can see myself using this every turn for the rest of my life…

A Perfect Ambush helps juice up your shooting, giving you improved Ballistic Skill and Armour Penetration on a  shooting unit that has arrived from reserves for 1 CP. Simple, powerful, and a good counter to the wide range of -1 AP stratagems that have proliferated in marine armies in particular.

Finally, Return to Shadows returns from the, ahem, shadows, allowing you to play up to two GSC BATTLELINE units, or a single GSC Infantry unit into reserves at the end of your opponent’s turn, to return in your subsequent turn. It only works on Deep Strikers, but that is pretty much everybody, and you can’t use it to escape combat. Flexible, powerful, and a great option to have to keep your opponent honest, if playing GSC wasn’t doing that enough already.

SUM 41 called, they want ‘All Killer, No Filler’ back.

Datasheets

Five Coolest Units

  • Aberrants – everybody’s favourite hammer lads are back off the naughty step, with a deadlier melee profile and some serious durability boosts
  • Atalan Jackals – the mad max bikers are back with serious mortal wound dealing potential and phenomenal threat range
  • Goliath Rockgrinders – The workhorse vehicle of the GSC gets a glow up with tonnes of ways to deal mortal wounds and enhanced shooting
  • The Reductus Saboteur – Bomb lady is back, and tooled up to deal significant damage whilst supporting your troops as a lone operative
  • The Biophagus – the mad scientist can seriously amp up the damage output of an attached unit, and packs a serious once-per game punch of his own

Five Biggest changes from 9th

  • Endless Hordes – GSC already played a grindy, horde based game in 9th, but the regeneration of units takes this up to 11. Outlasting your opponent via attrition and catching them out late game via careful deployment of ambush tokens will be huge this edition.
  • Mortal Wounds Galore – GSC have a bunch of ways to do mortal wounds now, and pack serious punch into anything that stumbles into range of their many tricks and traps.
  • Excellent Character Support – the GSC character range is stunning, and every single one of these little guys now brings something extremely valuable to an attached unit. Tool up your hordes carefully to enact your schemes to the maximum.
  • Early Game Fragility – There are less ways to hide and mitigate enemy alpha strikes now that blip deployment is gone, and GSC units and vehicles will die fast if exposed. Keep to the shadows and choose your moment.
  • Enhanced Melee – The 9th book was a shooting book, and whilst GSC still look extremely well placed to slug it out at range, the fact that their premier combat units (Aberrants, Purestrains, Metamorphs) all look extremely dangerous into the right targets gives them greater flexibility now.

General Unit Thoughts

There are a fair few options in here, especially in the character section, and I will try to give you as comprehensive a run down as I can whilst highlighting some possible combinations.

Characters

Patriarch. Credit: Rockfish
Patriarch. Credit: Rockfish

  • The Patriarch is now a leader for Purestrain Genestealers, able to infiltrate, and giving his unit DEVASTATING WOUNDS. He can force an aura of Battleshock in the fight phase via Cosmic Horror, packs punchy TWIN-LINKED damage two claws, and remains fairly durable with a 4++. He may well be leading the vanguard for some early damage.
  • The Primus can attach to Acolytes, Neophytes and Hybrid Metamorphs. He offers his unit full rerolls to hit (tasty), and your army a three unit redeploy after both players have deployed, including allowing you to place units into strategic reserves.
  • The Magus gives her unit a 5+ FNP against Psychic Attacks, and can disrupt enemy shooting via Mind Control.
  • The Acolyte Iconward offers a more generalist 5+ FNP (which does render the Magus a bit redundant), and allows you to reposition a Cult Ambush marker once per battle when an opponent forces its removal. This is extremely helpful and makes pinning you down even harder.

Credit: BuffaloChicken

  • The Abominant packs a 4+ FNP, gives his unit SUSTAINED HITS 1 (Yes, he can lead Aberrants!), and gets back up on a 2+ the first time he dies. His sledgehammer also looks genuinely scary at D6+1 damage and strength 12.
  • The Biophagus seriously amps up a combat unit, allowing them to access LETHAL HITS, and once per battle ANTI-INFANTRY 2+. He can also seriously enhance his own weapons once per game to make him a very scary anti-infantry character.
  • The Clamavus retains his no-deep strike aura of 12”, and impacts enemy battleshock via Voice of New Truths. It’s a case of standing still making him look a bit less exciting than some options, but he is still a great tech piece.
  • The Nexos continues to force multiply from the safety of his computer desk, letting you use a stratagem on his unit for free even if it has already been used that phase, and helping you by letting you move a Cult Ambush marker 6” at the start of each player’s command phase. This is where getting recycled units back into the fight  suddenly becomes a lot more plausible, and he feels like a solid pick.
  • The Locus gives his unit Fights First, and buffs other characters in his unit to have a 4+ FNP. I’m not sure how much this will help some of them as they are very squishy already, but the fight phase control is certainly nice.
  • The Jackal Alphus is a sneaky break out star in this index, with an improve damage three sniper rifle, the ability to trigger army wide rerolls of 1 to hit if it hits a key target via Priority Target, a scout move, and, crucially, Master Outrider. This lets an attached Jackal Squad move again after the unit has shot. As we will see below, Jackals trigger mortal wounds to nearby units when they finish a normal move. Couple this guy with Prowling Agitant, and it’s mortal wound season on the front lines…
  • The Kelemorph is a lone operative, can deep strike 3 away if doing so alongside another GSC Battleline unit, and can shoot back at enemies that target said friendly unit using Gunslinger. He doesn’t have access to multi-damage shots anymore but has SUSTAINED HITS D3 and Devastating Wounds, so can be deadly in the right context.
  • The Reductus Saboteur can dish out D3+3 mortals to an approaching enemy once per battle via Planted Explosives, can use the Grenade strat for free in addition to another unit, and boasts a range of weapons including some INDIRECT FIRE Remote Explosives. Lone Operative allows her to sneak about.
  • The Sanctus can shoot and charge whenever advancing or falling back. It has STEALTH and is a lone operative, with a vicious damage three sniper rifle that has ANTI-PSYKER 2+ and PRECISION for scaring enemy sorcerors. With Psychic Spoor you can pick one target to be its ‘prey’, gaining DEVASTATING WOUNDS against it. Casters beware!

Units

Cult of Sirens Boarding Patrol. Credit: Lupe

  • Neophytes return as the rank and file go to of the army. They can put out a lot of shots with a standardised ‘hybrid firearm’ profile, Seismic Cannons take a mild nerf to D3 damage but remain very versatile, and Mining Lasers hit the anti-tank strength 12 break point. CP regen for holding objectives and very generous regeneration via an icon keeps Neophytes relevant as ever (this procs in the Reinforcements step, but doesn’t have a fixed timing, so as it stands I think a Neo squad can come in, take an overwatch hit, and then regenerate casualties… neat).
  • Acolyte Hybrids can take hand flamers as a given (and these now IGNORE COVER), get hit rerolls of 1 when attacking enemies and wound rerolls of the same when fighting an enemy on an objective. Mining tools have been streamlined but at strength 10 damage 3 these look very potent.
  • Hybrid Metamorphs fight on death on a 3+, and their mutations have gone to strength 5 ap 1 damage 2. They also gain a scout move. Flexible and well suited to causing headaches for the opponent as they scrap for objectives. They too can load up on hand flamers for free.
  • Aberrants are back with a vengeance, clocking in at three attacks each at strength 8, ap 2 and damage 3. They have a delicious 4+ FNP, and when led by a character are -1 to wound for weapons greater than their toughness (which is now 6). A brick of these is going to require quite ungodly levels of output to remove, and will hit hard when coupled up with an Abominant or Biophagus. It’s hammer time.
  • Purestrain Genestealers can infiltrate, advance and charge, and boast a truckload of strength 4 ap 1 damage 1 attacks with a 2+ weapon skill. A squad of these with the Patriarch will slap, and they apply useful forward pressure as you get into position.
  • Atalan Jackals are still all round harassment wizards, with decent melee, solid guns, and a pre-game move of 9. They dropped 2 inches of movement but with Outrider Gangs can recycle on board edges when they are destroyed. The secret source is getting the most out of Demolition Run, allowing you to select a unit within 6 after they have moved and do a mortal wound to it for each 4+ you roll (one for each model in the unit). With the Jackal Alphus mentioned above this gets pretty silly pretty quickly.
  • The Achilles Ridgerunner returns, and can now be taken in units of 2 at most. The Missile Launcher is solid anti-elite shooting, the Mining Laser looks the premium anti-heavy gun (and keeps D3 blast here). Upgrades here allow you to get the Ridgerunners hitting on 3s, ignoring cover, popping smoke, and making trouble. With Crossfire GSC units targeting a unit hit by a Ridgerunner unit gain an additional pop of AP. It doesn’t stack, but it still feels extremely relevant as a way of force GSC firepower through a hard target.
  • The Goliath Rockgrinder gets a glow up, gaining movement 12, Toughness 10, and the ability to fire Demo charges irrespective of passengers (and these a a delicious strength 12 now), SUSTAINED HITS on its Drilldozer Blade, and a mortal wound on charge effect via Grinding Clearance. Couple this with Tank Shock and a single truck is going to put out a lot of pain. Embarked units can now fire out of it too using Firing Deck 6- Hand Flamer season baby.
  • The Goliath Truck gets the improved autocannon profile, and with Fire Support a dismounting unit can gain rerolls to wound against a target the truck already hit. This feels a little unwieldy to me but probably combines best with combat units toting hand flamers that are making a push for a key objective. Potentially very nice with Metamorphs, and even the Kelemorph, who would be able to up his mortal wound potential with it. It can now transport 12 bodies which helps fit extended units in.

What Makes the Faction Look Cool?

Neophyte Cult Icons. Credit – Soggy

Honestly, the overall power of this ruleset is so hard to gauge without getting some games in and seeing how it all fits together, but the Genestealer Cults look to be very, very well placed to dominate the board and put the opponent under pressure from the get go in every game that they play. Massive potential for deep striking, forward deploying, and counter attacking means that anyone looking to come and contest the board is going to have to face up to a withering hail of fire and extremely dangerous combat units. Regeneration keeps you in the game even as you wrack up casualties, and the flexibility and positioning available to you should mean you can play the mission extremely well. There are so many options to tinker and adjust as the meta develops, and the Index looks and feels exactly like the insurgent army you’d hope for, which is a real triumph of design.

Wrap Up

So there you have it, the plan generations in the making comes to fruition. Some crazy combos, a deep toolkit of options, and a slam dunk set of enhancements and stratagems. GSC look like they will have an extremely high ceiling and will continue to thrive in the early index era. A few of the more egregious one-twos in here may be FAQ’d down the line, but opponents are going to need a very convincing game plan to stop you from drowning them in willing collateral and grinding out the win in your games. The star children will be pleased!