19 Oct 2016

Genestealer Cult - General Review

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Genestealer Cult General Review

Army Special Rules

Cult Ambush - The wording of this special rule can be somewhat confusing so I want to use this review mostly to properly enunciate the intent of Cult Ambush and how it should function in your games. Firstly, all non-vehicle Genestealer Cult units possess the Cult Ambush special rule and thus are capable of benefiting from it, wherein you roll on the associated table and see what result you get. However, Cult Ambush does feature two separate conditional requirements, one (but not both) of which you must fulfil to actually proceed to the step in which you roll on the Cult Ambush table. If the applicable unit has the Infiltrate special rule and it elects to Infiltrate, you can - instead of Infiltrating - roll on the Cult Ambush table, allowing you to deploy the unit by Cult Ambush at the same time that Infiltrators would normally be placed. On the flip side, if the unit in question is arriving from Reserves or Ongoing Reserves (keep this in mind for later) this turn, it can, instead of arriving normally, choose to roll on the Cult Ambush table. Whatever result you roll on the Cult Ambush chart tells you how to place the unit either when it deploys or when it arrives from Reserves/Ongoing Reserves; you cease to follow the normal rules in both cases and use the outlined Cult Ambush rules tied to the result you rolled instead. However, there are some universal rules that are still present in this case, namely that you cannot charge in the same turn that you Infiltrated or arrived from Reserves or Ongoing Reserves unless otherwise specified. Additionally, the unit cannot move at all in the turn that they deploy (by 'Infiltrating') or arrive from Reserves/Ongoing Reserves, meaning that you must be mindful of your positioning when you place them given that you will not have an opportunity to re-position them until your next Movement phase. Finally, units that are embarked on a vehicle - such as a Goliath or Chimera - cannot make use of the Cult Ambush special rule regardless of whether you would normally fulfil either of the two conditional requirements.

With that in mind, you might be wondering - or perhaps already know - just how powerful the Cult Ambush special rule really is, and this is where context is crucial as the fragile albeit deadly close-ranged nature of the Genestealer Cult faction both relies upon and takes full advantage of the trait. Functionally, the rule allows you to bypass many normal restrictions associated with Infiltration or Reserves, namely that four of the six results allow you to be placed virtually anywhere on the board and even in close proximity to enemy units. It lets you reliably capture objective markers without having to invest numerous turns moving towards them, and it can give you the means to isolate and surround vulnerable back-line units that would otherwise be safe from the Cults' relative dearth of long ranged firepower. Heck. it even allows you to strike where your opponent least expects it by popping up in between an advancing mechanised element and an infantry wall - the rear armour of vehicles have never felt more exposed. Of course, the random nature of the rule does have its downsides; rolling a one for an assault unit can be soul-crushing save for specific circumstances where maybe it allows you to grab an objective or your opponent is advancing on your own deployment zone, and while result two might just be Outflank in all but name the continuing use of that rule even in competitive armies should give you some idea of its value. Of course, where Cult Ambush will really transfix and demoralise is in its last two results; one allows a unit to shoot twice in the same turn - while useless with some units, it is deadly when hand flamers, rapid-firing autoguns and special or heavy weapons are present - or run twice in the same turn should it lack ranged weapons. However, the most terrifying of all is its counterpart that allows your ambushing units to set up anywhere that is more than 3" away from enemy units and declare charges on the turn they arrive; with units both as deadly and numerous as Acolytes, Metamorphs and Purestrains available to you, opponents will beg for mercy when you eliminate entire swathes of their battle-line before they have a chance to react.

That result is at its most dangerous - as is the rest of the Cult Ambush rule - when you combine it with the Cult Insurrection detachment and/or Subterranean Uprising formation that grant Infiltrate to your units, giving you the incredible capability to mass deploy via Cult Ambush. As a quick example of what such a force is capable of, my play-test games have led to some particularly gruesome results; getting first turn with a full Cult Insurrection list allowed me to destroy roughly 1000 points worth of Tyranids before they had a turn in a 1750 point match-up, while a lesser but still impressive feat saw me use my sole ambushing unit in the form of numerous Patriarchs attached to a Purestrain unit to instantly eradicate my foes psychic support before he had a chance to wave his hand in prayer. This instantly makes a properly designed Genestealer Cult army capable of delivering one of the most horrendously excruciating alpha strikes to an unwary opponent, and the nature of the rule combined with the destructive potential of all cult units whom have been designed for close quarters engagements means that few armies (save those that can manage to null deploy specifically) are truly safe from your attacks. This has a side effect of rendering Genestealer Cults into an army that simply demands the first turn given what you can accomplish if you strike first, though it needs to be said that the Cult, while universally fragile, is likely better off at surviving an initial onslaught than many other armies given the conjuration and squad replenishment abilities they have access to; that and absorbing wounds becomes much easier if Shrouded and Night Fighting are in effect for your nastier units. After all, spreading the love of Genestealer Cults and taking painful counter-attacks in stride is easier for a horde army designed around masses of medium sized units than it would be for the usual model-starved force you see adopting similar tactics. One last thing of note is the raging debate about whether Servo Skull and other rules that affect Infiltration function against Cult Ambush; I don't have a strong leaning either way so be sure to discuss this matter with your gaming group.

Return to the Shadows - I mentioned earlier that you should keep in mind that units arriving from Ongoing Reserves can use the Cult Ambush rules instead of moving on from the table edge normally, and Return to the Shadows is the reason for that hint. As with Cult Ambush, all non-vehicle Genestealer Cult units possess this aptly named special rule which is so titled as it allows them to be removed from the table and placed into Ongoing Reserves; they can do this in any of your Movement phases unless they have arrived from Reserves/Ongoing Reserves in that particular turn, while they also must be at least 6" away from enemy units and cannot be embarked upon a transport. Restrictions aside, this rule is simply incredible in terms of how many clever tricks you can develop with it when bearing in mind that a unit in Ongoing Reserves will automatically arrive on the battlefield on your next turn with no roll required. An obvious one is, should your units deploy normally, sending your assault forces into reserves so that they are entirely safe from enemy attacks before they promptly return to the table and, short of Interceptor fire and possible Overwatch, proceed to devastate your opponents forces with little to stop them. Another is a sure-fire way to earn the ire of opponents; against an assault army, leave your vulnerable Neophytes guarding objectives or your deployment zone then, when your foes' forces have finally crossed the table and are poised to strike, simply fade into the darkness - the amount of turns you can force deadly assault units like Dimachaerons to waste simply trying to get into combat (you can easily stop it from ever assaulting you and thus ignore it and kill everything else) will lead to some hilarity in your games should such a situation ever rear its head. This is at its most useful in the Cult Insurrection detachment where employing the Return to the Shadows special rule actually replenishes lost combatants from any beneficiary units. However, the undeniable best use of this rule when you consider that it works in conjunction with Cult Ambush is the ability to dictate the Movement phase to your opponent simply by using the army special rules you freely benefit from. You can easily pop units onto objectives as required whether by tactical objectives or for Eternal War missions, you can surround a swift and nasty enemy with a sacrificial unit to slow them down, you can stop enemy forces that lack skimmers/jetbikes/flyers/jump infantry from moving beyond their deployment zone with careful positioning and just generally surprise your opponent with where your units can be placed and strike from an unexpected angle. It functions as a superlative form of Hit and Run that gives the Cult the means to redeploy to a degree that no other army can match, while it allows you to dominate objective games and restrict enemy mobility so harshly that opponents will actively attest to feelings of repression and futility.

Unquestioning Loyalty - Perhaps the more under-appreciated of the triumvirate that forms the Genestealer Cults' unique army special rules, Unquestioning Loyalty is a two part rule that relates specifically to your Independent Characters; this includes and is limited to Patriarchs, Primus', Magus' and Iconwards. Firstly, it allows them to make use of the Look Out Sir rule even when locked in a challenge, something that no other characters in the game are capable of to my knowledge; obviously, this lets you send your powerful melee combatants into a one-on-one engagement without fear of them suffering a killing blow in return. Secondly, all Look Out Sir attempts made by those same independent characters are automatically passed, ensuring that as long as you have nearby models in the same unit eligible to take a bullet for them, they will never be under any threat from an opponent. This is extremely useful as it nullifies enemies that normally reduce the Look Out Sir roll - such as Assassins - because the roll never actually occurs, and just the mere fact that you are guaranteed to pass crucial Look Out Sir rolls means that keeping your characters alive is much easier than it otherwise would be (though keep in mind that barring Purestrains most Genestealer Cult units are still incredibly fragile). As it also applies to your independent characters participating in a challenge, it makes the Patriarchs and Primus' particularly deadly commander killers in their own right; simply Look Out Sir any wounds they suffer on to their subordinates, then strike back with a mess of Rending and potentially Instant Death causing attacks! This rule embodies the reliance on dirty tricks for the Genestealer Cults and the fact that they win victory by purposefully not fighting fair; just remember that Look Out Sir still has a range to which you can allocate wounds, keep your squad or brood sizes topped up and profit from the security of Unquestioning Loyalty.


Allies Matrix

This deserves at least a token mention given that there seems to still be some lingering confusion on the matter from those who may not possess the codex or aren't appreciative of the seeming change in narrative. Genestealer Cults do not play well with others as befits their role as revolt-causing slaves to the darkness that is an encroaching Tyranid hive fleet; their purpose is destruction even though they accomplish it using altogether different means to their progenitors. This means that aligning them with any faction save for just two is, while legal, oft a bad idea given all the penalties that Come the Apocalypse allies have with each other. On the flip side, Genestealer Cults are capable of allying with Astra Militarum and Tyranids as Allies of Convenience which, while not ideal, is still a better situation than would be the case if they were Desperate Allies. Allies of Convenience can't benefit from your own Warlord Traits, psychic powers and so on, but there honestly aren't too many scenarios where I think this would make a massive difference. Hijacking allied transports is no longer a thing per the Draft FAQs so the value of Goliaths and Chimeras to Tyranid players is non-existent anyway, while on the flip side you would rather cast the Cults' blessings on their own assault-oriented units than those found in the other two codices. There are some things it does deny them - namely Catalyst and cheap sources of Zealot in the form of Ministorum Priests - but overall, having them as Allies of Convenience isn't a bad trade-off for actually having the means to ally with both armies. Keep in mind though that should you try to ally with both factions simultaneously, they will treat each other as Come the Apocalypse allies (but not the Genestealer Cults themselves) which can obviously factor into your deployment and positioning throughout a game.

Now, as far as the narrative reasoning for this is concerned, the new codex has a more interesting take on the Genestealer Cults and how they interact with the parent Tyranid species. Once a Tyranid invasion begins in earnest, the cultists will grow wary of the aptly named Great Devourer and even the most stalwart of leaders will soon find the foundations of their faith shattered. When local enemy resistance has been purged and the humanoids have outlived their usefulness, the hive fleets will redirect their aggression towards the cultists with even the loving Patriarch mercilessly betraying his hybrid offspring. In that context it is perfectly logical that the two factions would not be Battle Brothers with each other given that the former sees the other merely as a tool while the latter will quickly lose any and all trust in the other the moment fresh bio-organisms make planet-fall. As for the Astra Militarum, the units shared between codices represent those who are actually of hybrid origin and thus are fully subservient to the will of the Broodmind, whereas any allied Astra Militarum forces are instead the psychically enslaved meat shields of the army. Functionally, you can pull some interesting shenanigans with the army; bearing in mind that Shadows in the Warp does affect both Genestealer Cult and enemy psykers which you can then combo up with Terrify and other Telepathy powers, using Leadership-bombing tactics becomes entirely possible, particularly against psyker-heavy forces such as the Grey Knights. Elsewhere, no Tyranid model can match the raw firepower of a Titan or Baneblade variant, though obviously using such models of extreme ranged persuasion to support your mostly assault-oriented Genestealer Cults won't necessarily be the best idea in many situations - that is, of course, until you remember that the Cults can actively replenish their own casualties! For those players that are intrigued by the hybrids but don't want to form a force consisting solely of them, using them as the advance wave to Astra Militarum and Tyranid elements is an ingenious use of an army designed to pressure opponents and restrict their ability to move around the battlefield safely.


Warlord Traits

While they generally aren't anything special when compared to Warlord Traits from any other particular codex or the core rulebook itself, there are a few gems available to the Genestealer Cult. While all of them have their practical applications, the sixth result on the table is undeniably the most potent and thus the one you will usually want to burn any applicable Warlord Trait re-roll on.

1) Shadow Stalker - The application of Stealth will generally always be useful to you except in one specific scenario; if your Warlord is a Patriarch, chances are that he will be attached to a Purestrain Genestealer unit that innately possesses Stealth. However, if you are using the Cult Insurrection detachment and your Warlord is either a Patriarch or a Primus - or even attached to a unit from the Subterranean Uprising formation - they will gain Shrouded for the first game turn as well, granting a +3 bonus to any applicable cover saves (or a 4+ cover save in the open) for an incredible defence against ranged attacks that lack the Ignores Cover special rule. In any case, aside from the aforementioned Patriarch escorted by Purestrains scenario, every possible Warlord in your army can use this trait to great effect - of course, it also should be pointed out that template weapons bypass cover and are one of the best overall counters to Genestealer Cult units so remain wary of those.

2) Focus of Adoration - This is the only Warlord Trait I'm rather iffy on given that your army will almost always want to be charging and has the means to do so early and often, but given that enemies will often see the fragile stats of your cultists and - in some cases - use assault to clean them up, it's not in any way useless. In fact, Genestealer Cult squads are prone to obliterating enemy units in a single round of combat given the incredible damage at medium to high Initiative values that they output, so there will probably be more than a few cases where this Warlord Trait proves its worth. Still, you must remember that this particular faction is one of the nastiest when it comes to assault and most opponents will quickly realise that raining death from afar will be their salvation, so this is generally the prime candidate to utilise your (probable) re-roll on.

3) Wall Creeper - Let me start out by saying that granting Move Through Cover to Patriarchs and Purestrains whom already possess it might seem like a waste of a Warlord Trait, but it is the second part of the rule that you should concern yourself with; it provides the Warlord and his unit with assault grenades, allowing them to strike at their normal Initiative value even when charging through terrain. Functionally this part of the trait is only useful for Patriarchs and Purestrains given that they are the only assault forces in the Genestealer Cult codex to lack assault grenades while not using Unwieldy weapons; both become that much nastier if they get to swing at Initiative 6 or 7 and render cover a useless defence against their onslaught. On the flip side, your other forces will receive more benefits from Move Through Cover; not suffering the penalty to their random charge distance rolls and bypassing any applicable Dangerous Terrain tests will always be useful for fighters such as Acolytes or Metamorphs.

4) Born Survivor - This is actually a fairly amusing Warlord Trait despite none of the available choices being durable enough to benefit from it on their own merits; it is because of the incredible Unquestioning Loyalty special rule that the Born Survivor trait actually merits a niche. Automatically passing Look Out Sir rolls on to masses of light infantry will leave you smiling, but taking the odd wound on your character just so that you can potentially regenerate them later can help the plight of the lesser cultists. Just be aware that a smart opponent will find ways to single out your characters and try not to treat It Will Not Die as a guaranteed benefit.

5) Alien Majesty - While this will vary slightly in effectiveness based on your choice of Warlord - the Primus and Patriarch are Leadership 10 whereas the Iconward and Magus are Leadership 9 - it is still fairly useful for an army that will oft find itself lacking for effective morale controlling abilities. The Patriarch may project the Fearless special rule to nearby Genestealer Cultists but his mind can only reach so far, and so this Warlord Trait exists to keep your oft spread out lesser forces in fighting shape. Given that Genestealer Cults all have a minimum Leadership value of eight, the value of this Warlord Trait - especially on a Leadership 9 Warlord - might not be too great, especially if you make use of unit leaders, but when taken on a Patriarch or Primus it will give you a big boost to the Leadership aspect of the game as any budding Necron player will no doubt tell you. Thankfully, with or without Alien Majesty, Genestealer Cult units tend not to be on the expensive side so it is unlikely that even a fleeing unit will hurt your overall military strength to a sizeable degree.

6) Ambush Leader - As is usually the case with a Warlord Traits table, there is a single trait that stands tall above the rest for Genestealer Cults and that takes the form of Ambush Leader; while Cult Ambush on its own is a random albeit powerful rule that really shines in the Cult Insurrection detachment where an entire force can benefit from it. Anything that can manipulate rolls on its constituent chart is highly valuable as is proven by the immense popularity of the Subterranean Uprising formation, but this Warlord Trait goes a step further by allowing you to select the result you want. Obviously, you want this for your Patriarch or Primus leaders who should be backed by Purestrains or Metamorphs respectively, allowing you to guarantee a first turn charge with some of the most points-efficient and deadly assault units in the game. Alternatively, you could use it to give a large squad of Acolytes all armed with hand flamers the chance to use their miniature template weapons twice in the same turn, potentially before your opponent even has a chance to react (horde armies will hate you). Heck, don't be surprised if, as a rival to the cults, you see maxed out Neophyte squads with this trait popping around firing ridiculous amount of autogun/lasgun fire into your army to form a surprisingly dangerous alpha strike. Keep in mind also that this Warlord Trait continues to function each time you employ the Cult Ambush rule, rewarding you for cycling your units back into reserve (and nowhere is this more rage-inducing for your enemies than in the Cult Insurrection detachment). Having this and a number of other units getting either of the top two results will put the fear of the Tyranids into other players and contributes to one of the most brutal alpha strike tactics in the game.



Psychic Powers

The Genestealer Cults not only have access to Biomancy and Telepathy in direct opposition to their Tyranid forebears, they actually utilise their own unique psychic discipline known collectively as the Broodmind to represent their more focused and localised form of mental subordination. It has a wide mix of different powers; it is one of the few disciplines in the game to feature a conjuration power while also packing assault-improving blessings, a trio of witchfires geared respectively for shredding infantry, assassinating characters and enslaving mighty warriors alike, with a suitably potent malediction book-ending the selection. It is versatile and each spell can be incredibly powerful either in select or general circumstances, making it a worthy alternative to the two psychic disciplines originating from the core rulebook that Genestealer Cult psykers also have access to. The format of each power is listed as (placing, name, type, warp charge cost, range, review).

Primaris) Mass Hypnosis: Malediction, Warp Charge 1, 24" - As far as Primaris powers are concerned, this surely ranks as one of the best given how useful it is in nearly any situation. Reducing four different characteristics by one collectively - three of which are mostly related to assault, while the fourth directly affects constituent model accuracy - from a great distance considering the minimal warp charge cost is simply incredible. You can neuter the ranged damage output of any unit with a Ballistic Skill malus, while assault units of all types will quickly lose their punch when the Weapon Skill, Initiative and Attacks values all suffer such a penalty. It can mean the difference between units striking first or simultaneously (a godsend for fragile Genestealer Cult infantry), your units hitting on a 3+ as opposed to a 4+ or a 4+ instead of a 5+ (greatly increasing the already ridiculous effective damage output of your dedicated assault units) and whether your units actually survive any counter blows. Halving the number of attacks a standing Terminator squad can dish out is both hilarious and unfair; a casting of Mass Hypnosis on (as an example) a Wulfen pack will allow your basic Acolyte Hybrids to hit them on a 3+ and deny the opposition their Initiative advantage, swinging the combat in your favour. While the power is at its best when assisting your mostly assault-oriented army in gaining the upper hand through that method of warfare, the Ballistic Skill reduction still helps in other situations; forcing Tau to expend an extra Markerlight is fine, but changing the odds from a third of all shots missing to half of all shots missing and so on ensures the power remains noteworthy even if there are no viable targets for the other particular stat debuffs. Obviously, its universal nature means it is best suited to targeting whatever enemy units you perceive as likely inflicting the most damage on your army in subsequent phases of the game, whether it be a points-devouring Thunderwolf-led ensemble of death or a simple Tactical Squad claiming an objective you seek to capture in that turn.

1) Psychic Stimulus: Blessing, Warp Charge 1, 24" - Of the two blessings present in the Broodmind discipline, this one is focused less on improving your units' destructive outlook and more on actually giving them the means to swiftly charge head-fist into close quarters engagements, though it has some other noteworthy uses. Letting the potent Genestealer Cult assault units run and charge when backed by the provision of Fleet is fantastic as it gives you insurance against bad random charge distance rolls while also potentially saving the affected unit a turn or two of waiting before fighting breaks out. However, you'll notice the unusual inclusion of Relentless to the psychic power and realise that it isn't just geared towards your Acolytes, Metamorphs and so on. The only non-vehicle units that actually carry charge-impeding weapons of any description are Neophyte Hybrids who are purposefully designed to be light ranged fighters that don't come close to matching their more abhorrent early generation brethren in a melee. Still, opponents are sure to be surprised when the Initiative 4 Guardsmen equivalents unleash a salvo of autogun or lasgun fire into their ranks and then charge in - they can be deceptively strong with the area-of-effect abilities that Cult characters possess such as Hatred and Furious Charge - but it is likely that most players will use the special rule more to re-position their heavy weapons without penalty than for any other particular purpose. It's nice to use if you have just redeployed a Neophyte unit via Cult Ambush, want them to get in rapid fire range, close in on an objective marker or otherwise need their ranks to advance or retreat.

2) Psionic Blast: Witchfire, Warp Charge 1, 24" - This is fairly standard as witchfires are concerned but nonetheless gives the Genestealer Cults a means of psychically obliterating enemies that lack 2+ armor saves, high toughness or vehicular origins, something that can otherwise be rather difficult to accomplish (empyrean or not) with the codex outside of close combat. It's by no means a fantastic power but it is unlikely to let you down when Space Marines remain the stalwart faction for a vast majority of war-gamers on a global scale, while it also has a minimal presence against light vehicles. I've found that I rarely needed it but if you lack better powers to cast at any given point, this is definitely not a dud power and can actually be something you want to actively employ.

3) Might from Beyond: Blessing, Warp Charge 1, 24" - Whether you use this in conjunction with Psychic Stimulus or are otherwise unlikely to fail a charge, this power is utterly ridiculous if you can expect to successfully enter combat with its target in the assault phase of the same turn. Stacking a straight +1 Strength bonus on top of Furious Charge given by an Iconward (or a Patriarch in the case of Purestrains) leads to monstrosities such as Strength 8 Metamorphs when armed with their unique claw weapons, or those bearing Metamorph whips striking at Strength 6 and Initiative 7. Additionally, Rage is incredible to have for the assault-oriented Genestealer Cult units given that Rending is deadlier with a greater volume of attacks to work with, but the combination of that and the +1 Strength bonus leads to cases of sheer brutalisation that would make even Khorne blush should such a feat be possible. This is one of the more important aspects of the stacking-buff play-style available to Genestealer Cults, as it can re-imagine even basic light infantry into an orgy of slaughter and bloodshed; imagine the aforementioned Metamorphs with their whips for that jaw-dropping Initiative 7 backed by Furious Charge from an Iconward, Hatred from a Primus, +1 Weapon Skill from a Cult Icon as well as both Rage and +1 Strength from this psychic power. Remembering that such a unit could conceivably charge on the first turn before your opponent has a chance to react, any unit that outputs five Strength 6 AP5 Rending attacks with Weapon Skill 5 and Initiative 7 backed by re-rolls to-hit is utterly ludicrous given the points expenditure involved, especially if you remember that a Cult army can easily present numerous such targets to your opponent early in the game and thus ensure you aren't actually putting all your eggs into one basket. If you are looking to assault something and want to destroy it quickly, this is the power for you; overkill is a side effect of being blessed with eldritch energies.

4) Mental Onslaught: Focussed Witchfire, Warp Charge 2, 24" - It might come as no surprise that a faction built around psychic manipulation in narrative-terms is equally capable of stripping the life from individuals of military significance, with Mental Onslaught being an obvious homage to the Mind Wars that Eldar Farseers are known to propagate. The high Leadership 9 or 10 of Cult psykers depending on their generational affiliation means this type of power is in as good a set of hands - or brains - as any, with its most obvious uses being to liquidate the minds of lonely monstrous creatures, special weapon carriers and the occasional unlucky independent character that manages to fail their Look Out Sir rolls. The unfortunate nature of Focussed Witchfires means that actually getting to select the target model of choice requires significant warp charge expenditure - which is why it is generally best used to greatly harm monstrous or gargantuan creatures - and the recent Draft FAQs exacerbated this weakness by unmercifully allowing Look Out Sir rolls to be used against them. Still, it's hard to complain about the power itself; combining it with Terrify from the appreciably available Telepathy discipline is a cute tactic, while it can still be highly useful against characters of great import sporting high Leadership values - should the scores of the respective affected models be drawn, the opponent actually suffers a whopping reduction to their Initiative characteristic which can be highly useful for up to two subsequent close combat rounds. Don't under-estimate this even against opponents you may not be likely to harm; on the off-chance that the tie happens, that Initiative malus can make all the difference in the world as it would surely lead to foes like Toxicrenes and Nemesis Dreadknights suffering greatly against your Purestrains, Acolytes and so on.

5) Mind Control: Focussed Witchfire, Warp Charge 2, 24" - Ranking as the second most interesting psychic power in the Broodmind discipline, this particular spell is a witchfire in name only as it functionally does no damage to its actual target, though what stops it from having been classed as a malediction is the fact that it does specify a single model as its prey rather than an entire unit. While this does mean you may not necessarily get the model you want when targeting a squad, this is nonetheless a power purpose built for an opportunistic player. Being restricted to non-vehicle models does mean that the common Imperial Knight has no fear of Mind Controls' effects, but mighty creatures such as the Stormsurge or Wraithknight have no such luck. Against armies featuring gargantuan creatures packing ranged weapons of some description, or even just monstrous creatures generating a sizeable threat aura - the humble Riptide, for example - you will likely have no difficulty choosing a model to dominate; even though these individuals are incapable of subsequently shooting themselves or their own unit, that they can fire all available weapons to them if legally allowed to do so by their own core rules will be truly painful for your opponent. Enslaving a Stormsurge to your cause even for just a single psychic phase ensures you will visit horrific destruction upon your opponent - you can further irritate your already likely flustered enemy by using their own one-use-only weapons against them - but when such targets aren't present, the identity of the power really presents itself. Providing you do get to pick your target model, you can pull off circumstantial actions catering both to amusement and competition; watching a lascannon-wielding Space Marine promptly turn and strike the vulnerable rear armor of an allied Predator tank, or seeing a Death Jester rout a nearby Harlequin troupe, or even appreciating the irony of a Tyrannofex incinerating its own smaller Tyranid kin, are but a few of the random and fully match-dependent tricks you can pull with this power. It may not always be the most useful spell in the discipline, but when you can truly take advantage of it - you can trust me when I say that Tau players in particular will grow to despise your antics - you will learn to cherish Mind Control and its many insidious applications.

6) Telepathic Summons: Conjuration, Warp Charge 2/3, ~" - A summoning power that lacks any inherent risks - no Perils of the Warp on any double, no sacrificing models to complete the spell - and has no range associated with it, Telepathic Summons has practically burst onto the scene of top psychic powers in the game. It is inherently versatile given that five distinct units of varying sizes are available to summon, with the morphing warp charge cost designed to give you the means of reliably casting it regardless of how much fuel your psykers can burn through. It gives you a range of cheap but potent units to choose from, each of which is tailored to your needs given that they gain any and all equipment options for free at your discretion while working within any associated restrictions. Acolytes can be called forth to lob demolition charges around or tear into vehicles with mining weapons, while Metamorphs could instead be used as a terrifying surge of flame with massed hand flamers supported by their own incredible combat prowess. Aberrants and Purestrains grant you the less numerous but hardier elite alternatives, though Neophytes stand out as unique because of their massed autoguns, special weapons and heavy weapons to blast opponents from afar (or up close should you desire it). Unlike other conjuration powers, Telepathic Summons does not operate with a range in mind; instead, the summoned unit deploys via Cult Ambush, meaning that while the placement of the unit is a bit more random than would normally be the case, it can lead to some very interesting situations. Not being tied to the proximity of the summoner means you can feasibly - with the right rolls - station a unit on a far-away objective and instantly claim it for your war effort, or even get lucky and send a fresh wave of assault forces to attack your opponents in close combat. Having spare models with your Genestealer Cult army might be a necessity with this power, as is funnelling most or all of your dice into it just to be able to essentially replace your losses or add free units to your army, especially if those squads or broods in question are as nasty as those found in the Genestealer Cult codex. Being a conjuration and thus not allowing your opponent to benefit from any psychic defences against it makes it the most difficult to stop relative to its warp charge investment while also having the most far-reaching effects; you can summon a unit worth up to or perhaps even exceeding 200 points with all those free upgrades accounted for! This is the power you want and while I could drone on about it for another paragraph or two, I'll spare you the trouble and leave you with this; four of the six results on the Cult Ambush chart allow you to set-up nearly anywhere on the board and in close proximity to your opponents, and three of the units you can summon can all be outfitted with hand flamers or autoguns with special and heavy weapons. It's nasty; use it.

As you can see, the Broodmind discipline is one of the most vicious and relatively risk-free to be found in the game given the immense strength its users can call upon. I've found great use for all of the powers in different situations given how wildly different they all are, but the undeniable stand-out does seem to be the Conjuration spell from my still rather limited experience with the army. It stands out as a fun and compelling alternative to Biomancy and Telepathy which each feature some impressive powers of their own, but I've found that an army like the Genestealer Cult simply can't go wrong with generating their manifestations on the Broodmind discipline. Summoning additional units into a force designed to overwhelm opponents is akin to a particularly virulent plague spreading its hungry cells through an unsuspecting city, while taking full control of all manner of foes can lead to results both amusing and surprising to yourself and foes alike.


Tactical Objectives

Something I've noticed when retroactively analysing my own reviews is that I've almost completely failed to acknowledge the unique tactical objectives each 7th Edition codex offers. Seeing as these are tailor-made to suit their associated factions and often give you easier victory points than the tactical objectives they replace, I've made sure to cover them here (be aware that some of these are identical to those found in the generic tactical objective decks).

1) Assassinate the Oppressors - Though this is reliant on a number of factors; namely that your opponent has characters to challenge, that your opponents' characters can feasibly be beaten by yours in a challenge and that you get lucky and all of that happens while you possess this tactical objective, this isn't that bad to have. Genestealer Cult independent characters in particular have a huge inherent advantage in challenges because they can uniquely look out sir wounds onto their unit while also automatically passing the attempts, allowing you to cycle through wound-sponges while your nasty leaders safely slay their opponents. This will typically allow a Patriarch or Primus to effortlessly win a challenge and cut down the unworthy foe, but there are of course limitations to what you can accomplish; numerous or not, the bodyguards of such units are liable to dying and doing so with wanton abandon. Basically, don't get cocky and attempt this against the nastier units in the game unless you use two or more units to gang up on the target and support them with beneficial psychic powers (don't forget Mass Hypnosis against your enemies).

2) Spread Panic and Confusion - This tends to be easier to claim than the above tactical objective given that challenges are specific to a single phase of the game while the three relevant Leadership-based tests can instead occur in any phase. Some armies will of course be largely immune to this - Tyranids with a wide Synapse web as well as Chaos Daemons are the chief perpetrators - but it should be easily coaxed out of your average enemy, especially given that your units specialise in winning combats via unadulterated carnage. It's hard to go wrong with this tactical objective.

3) Spring the Trap - Both this and the next Tactical Objective to be discussed are incredibly easy to score and may as well count as free points for your army; units arriving by Cult Ambush should be a common occurrence, especially if you have the Telepathic Summons psychic power or actively cycle your units back into ongoing reserves. If you want points and have a unit currently un-engaged and unlikely to accomplish anything in the next turn, there's usually no reason not to Return to the Shadows with them and try to get a favourable Cult Ambush result while also scoring this tactical objective. Should you roll well on the Cult Ambush chart with whatever unit it is - say you get the "shoot twice" ability with a large group of Neophytes or the "charge immediately" result with Acolytes/Metamorphs/Purestrains/etc - then you earn a chance to score D3 victory points as opposed to just one, though I've found it can be difficult to work this perfectly.

4) Prepare for the next Ambush - This is perhaps even better than the previous tactical objective because you should be able to score it immediately provided at least one of your units is un-engaged whereas the prior one may have to wait a turn to be satisfied. I'm not exactly certain of how it ranks in terms of near-guaranteed victory points for your army but it definitely should be in the discussion.

5) Claim the rightful Dominion - Having to claim an objective that your opponent held at the start of your turn is easier for the Genestealer Cults than it would be for some other armies given their incredible close ranged focus and deceptive ability to control the battlefield, with the D3 victory points reward made all the sweeter as a result. Still, like Assassinate the Oppressors, this is still a bit more circumstantial than some of the other unique tactical objectives you have access to; opponents will generally be holding some objectives in each turn, but whether you have the means to dislodge those units while also claiming the marker is obviously something you can't really plan for.

6) Cast down the Unbelievers! - My initial shocked reaction to this card was born of its undoubted superiority to all of the generic "destroy 'x' number of units" cards in the core tactical objectives deck; while others let you roll a D3 if you destroy three units, this one guarantees three points for the same effort expenditure, and it even gives you two points as opposed to just one should you destroy a pair of units. Also, whereas those objectives cap themselves at D3 for three units in most cases or D3+3 for No Prisoners specifically, Cast down the Unbelievers goes a step further by giving you a point for each unit you wholly destroy up to a maximum of six; woah! Unlikely as it may be for that type of situation to ever come into play, don't put it past this potent close-ranged army to accomplish the feat of destroying four or more units in a single turn. It can be game-winning if you get some luck going your way and plan it in advance to strike numerous targets simultaneously with the intent to annihilate rather than bog down.


And that's that; cheers! I can't explain my absence any better than by saying that I simply can't bring myself to write anything unless inspired by a project or other source; I have recently started up a Genestealer Cult army to fuel this series. Whether I go back and do those other reviews I had lined up is not something I can really answer - my Night Lords review was partially completed but I simply lost my motivation for the Legion a few months back, something that the oncoming Burning of Prospero may yet resolve - so I won't make any promises. As for this particular set of reviews, expect a wargear-focused article down the line to be followed with a return to what I'm hoping is a more focused and short-form style of unit reviews. Thanks a bunch for your support!

Praise be! The Star Children deliver us!
- Sebathren, Cultist of Locum

12 comments:

  1. Welcome back! I look forward to your future reviews for the Cult.

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    1. Thank you! I've got time to work on the series now so I'll get cracking today! I might even have a slight surprise for our Age of Sigmar fans :)

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  2. Good to have you back. Sending positive thoughts your way.

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    1. Thank you, that must be why I've been on a high for the past week :) Sending them your way too!

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  3. Welcome back!
    Always love reading your tactics and analysis!

    I feel like Genestealer cults will be downright annoying to fight.

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    1. Thank you!
      Oh, they definitely are as a lot of people both locally and globally can attest. At the very least, they are shaking up the competitive meta as almost every army around has to rethink their tactics when presented with a fully fledged Genestealer Cult force playing to its strengths. Template weapons are going to be a lot more important now, that's for sure!

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  4. It does seem like we are getting more units, armies, and rules that end up minimizing or eliminating entirely die rolls. Which, thirty years in, is a welcome evolution for GW games...while incredibly late, they may finally be admitting that people focus on the "games" more than the "hobbyist" aspects and so the games ought to be worth something.

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    1. I definitely agree, a lot of recent armies in both Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 have not only presented interesting tactical considerations for their style of play but appear to focus on fun, engaging rules above all else. It's a welcome change to be sure!

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  5. Welcome back, please continue these reviews I am following you since the very beginning!

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    1. Thank you for your support! I'll do my best to keep going, there is a lot of stuff coming out lately that I'm really keen to talk about so I'm looking forward to that.

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  6. Doesn't the Cult Ambush shoot twice make heavy weapons useless, since they are forced to Snap Fire?

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    1. It depends on how you interpret the rules for Cult Ambush as the wording of different sentences conflict with each other. Some of the results specify that you set-up the unit which is not a form of movement as per Infiltrate and other forms of deployment done before the game begins, whereas other results state that the units move on rather than set-up.

      There's one sentence in the core rule itself that says something along the lines of "unless otherwise specified, units count as moving" but the issue lies with different results on the chart discerning between moving and setting up. The consensus I've mostly found online and locally is that they don't count as moving depending on which result you get and how much you read into units deploying by Cult Ambush (i.e. before the game starts) with regards to Infiltrate (units that Infiltrate do not count as having moved when set-up).

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