Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel, and today I'm going to be bringing you another article in the Tyranid Tactica series! There are many dark portents of an impending Tyranid invasion, but none are more sinister than in infestation by the nefarious Genestealers. Weaving their way undetected through planetary defences and civilian populations, these humanoid creatures intermingle with the local populace, using telepathy and various disgusting measures to gain control of millions of citizens. These innocents are purged of their humanity and give birth to revolting hybrids, eventually leading to many planetary uprisings to destabilize and demoralize the planet, making it easy prey for the Hive Fleets. I hope you enjoy this article!
Billed as a frighteningly strong melee unit, Genestealers are the clearest example of a glass cannon in the Tyranid codex. They do quite a bit of damage against most enemy types once they reach combat, but actually making it there with Genestealers is quite a challenge. But first, let us look at what makes these terrors tick. Each Genestealer has a crazy good Weapon Skill and Initiative of 6, rivaling that of most commander-type models such as Autarchs or Captains. They have two attacks each for three per model on the charge, and each Genestealer is equipped with Rending Claws. This allows them to cut through lightly armoured tarpit units quickly, generally striking first, hitting on 3s and having AP5 attacks. The extra effects of proper Rending make Genestealers a nasty surprise for elite units such as Terminators, Broadside Battlesuits or monstrous creatures like the Nemesis Dreadknight. Their Strength and Toughness of 4 is befitting their supposed equivalency with Space Marines, giving them a solid looking profile at first glance. To add to their good melee capabilities, Genestealers have more deployment options and speed boosts than most other Tyranid units. Move Through Cover and their low armour save means there is little reason not to be advancing through cover - at least until they get close enough to charge - while Fleet makes any charge they attempt much more reliable, as well as giving them a re-roll for Run moves. As befits their background, Genestealers have the Infiltrate special rule, allowing them to deploy closer to an opponent than usual or opt to Outflank. Overall, they look like a nice melee unit in practice that is quite similar to Striking Scorpions.
Unfortunately, that is where the issues start to pop up. Genestealers are as fragile as they come even with that Toughness 4, with only a 5+ armour save - increased to 4+ on the Broodlord - for protection. This means that template weapons, even the cheap as chips flamers accessed by any Space Marine unit you can find, will murder large swathes of Genestealers in one go. That's before even mentioning what Overwatch with the Wall of Flame will do. Heck, twenty bolter shots from ten rapid firing Tactical Marines will statistically slay seven Genestealers assuming no cover. Now, this wouldn't be such an issue if Genestealers were cheap, but no, Genestealers are identical in base cost to Tactical Marines in the new Space Marine codex. Now, comparing any model to a Space Marine with all their special rules and wargear is ludicrously unfair, but the point remains that Genestealers are just so expensive for what they bring. They really aren't that deadly in combat once you factor in how many Genestealers are likely to survive to even make combat, and besides, they lack assault grenades. Like any other high Initiative unit lacking assault grenades, it is almost painful to see Genestealers striking after a blob squad of Imperial Guardsmen that, sadly, will kill entire Genestealer broods through their Overwatch and close combat attacks. The final insult is that Genestealers lack any kind of ranged attack, meaning that unless they get into combat they may as well be sitting ducks. When you factor this in, they really aren't that good of a melee unit to make up for it. The saving grace for Genestealers is that you can take small broods of them and make the most of their nasty squad leader, the Broodlord.
How to Equip Them
Genestealers are much more limited in the options they can take compared to Warriors, but honestly, that's a good thing in its own way. To be incredibly blunt, you aren't as tempted to add even more points to over-costed models. Genestealers can add Scything Talons to compliment their Rending Claws, a choice that I would actively recommend against taking. The reason for this is that it is a heavy cost for a melee weapon that is a downgrade on their stock Rending Claws, with the only benefit provided being the extra attack for having two melee weapons. Now, it might be worth it from that perspective, but look at how much other codices pay for those extra attacks on basic infantry. Genestealers pay double that amount, and extra attacks are not what Genestealers really need. Unless you like the look of the models with them, avoid the scything talons.
Genestealers can also take one or both of Adrenal Glands and Toxin Sacs. The former isn't so useful as Genestealers already have Fleet, hence its lower cost than usual, but massed Strength 5 Rending attacks on the charge do allow them to have a better chance against AV12 walkers and AV11 rear tanks like Leman Russ Demolishers. Toxin Sacs are the better overall upgrade if you are wanting the Genestealers to take on monstrous creatures and other infantry, though, with a permanent benefit in combat letting them pile regular wounds on with Rending wounds for extra spice. Ultimately, I don't think Genestealers really need any upgrades to do their job, as they are a decent enough unit in terms of damage output once they actually reach their target. The high cost per model makes me avoid upgrades because of their fragility, so I recommend just keeping them stock. The Broodlord has access to the full Biomorphs list, meaning it pays over seven times as much as Genestealers for Adrenal Glands, and over three times as much for Toxin Sacs. For this reason, and with the Broodlord already having a base Strength 5, I would avoid these upgrades. It can take Acid Blood and Regeneration, but the former isn't likely to do too much, and the latter is more appropriately priced for something like a Tyrannofex. Again, a Broodlord is better left with no upgrades simply because those extras are costly and won't really help the Genestealers out. Their main issue is actually surviving to reach combat, and even Regeneration won't really help out on that front.
Where to Put Them
Due to the high cost of Genestealers, especially once their low survivability and above average melee damage output are taken into account, I prefer to use them as small, stock standard units of five Genestealers with an added Broodlord. The Broodlord may as well be worth the other five Genestealers with that it brings to the unit, giving the brood some tough wounds and a pretty darn nasty character in combat. The Horror is what you really want though, especially since it is guaranteed for the Broodlord who can Infiltrate to within 18" or 12" of the enemy battle-line. Pinning down a unit of Fire Warriors or - the holy grail - a Riptide could very well save not only the Genestealers, but several other models in your advancing Tyranid army. Using one or two such units of Genestealers increases the chances of this occurring, and even Pinning a single unit in place could prove pivotal. A Bike squad with an attached Chapter Master, for example, can still be Pinned, albeit with a lower chance due to base Leadership 10. If you manage that, you deserve a pat on the back. Once the Broodlords' stats are factored in, I think this gives you the best, most flexible Genestealer unit possible, and one that isn't too heavy on the points. If it pins something like a Riptide or an R'Varna in place on the first turn, it will be points well spent. If it doesn't, it is a nasty little melee unit that can try the same trick again next turn, making them a decent distraction unit. For Tyranids, anything that can reduce the firepower at your main monsters and swarm units is priceless, and this is something that multiple small Genestealer broods can do well. I never recommend large squads of Genestealers, as the Broodlord is arguably more valuable than the five Genestealers required to take one. Genestealers are just too expensive and fragile to be justified as a melee horde; if you want such a unit, look instead to your significantly cheaper and more effective per-point Hormagaunts.
These are a few example
builds for the unit that I feel can fit into a number of competitive
Tyranid lists. I'll list some thoughts on each build and what kind of
lists they fit better in.
Genestealers (5) - Broodlord - This is your cheap "Horror" unit, using the Broodlord's awesome innate psychic power to pin nasty ranged units early in the game. This unit isn't too expensive, is very nasty in an assault and doesn't care about Synapse. Force your opponent to focus them down by trying to move towards valuable but fragile shooting units.
Terror from Within
There are many terrifying sub-species in the Tyranid race, but none are more feared or reviled than the Genestealers. Inhabiting space hulks, merchant ships and other independent vessels, the Genestealers forage ahead of a Hive Fleet in an effort to scout and sow dissent at the lowest levels of society. They spread among the civilian populace, hiding from militant action and using countless inhumane methods to spread their influence. Sprouting like a flame, they use telepathy to assert control over key individuals while they mingle with civilians on a most primitive level, giving birth to the Genestealer Cults. Mixing aberrations known as hybrids with those slaved to the will of a Patriarch, the Genestealers mutate the populace into many rebellious sub-factions, spreading chaos and destruction. As the Hive Fleet nears, the Genestealers themselves emerge, slaughtering any who do not submit to their will. As the rebellion swells, so too do Lictors and other vanguard organisms begin to emerge, preying on the fear and weakness spread by the Genestealers. Countless planets have fallen well before the lumbering Hive Fleets arrived due to the acts of these alien, merciless creatures. No threat in the Tyranid race is more fearsome than these masters of infiltration, capable of turning even the most resolute of worlds into a hell of infighting and anarchy.
Thank you for reading this article! Please, share your
thoughts on the article and the changes I am experimenting with for this
series. I am open to any and all feedback! And remember, for any and
all discussion on Tyranids and Games Workshop stuff, head on over to +Bell of Lost Souls. Thanks again! Eel out.