Genestealer Cult Unit Review
Patriarch - The abomination that sires a Genestealer Cult, a Patriarch is intended to be the perfect mix of the other character archetypes in the codex. It is a deadly combatant in close combat with incredibly high base stats and a whopping Strength 6 combined with AP3 claws that both Rend and Shred those unlucky enough to face it. This model will tear through almost anything with a 3+ or worse armour save and can even keep 2+ armoured foes honest with the chances at Rending. Though it isn't the most dangerous fighter you could find in various factions, it is still incredibly difficult to beat in a challenge thanks to it being able to safely pass wounds on to its doting descendants. Amusingly it has the best armour save of any model in the codex with a 4+, while Toughness 5 and 3 Wounds ensures it can shrug off most low to medium Strength attacks. It does lack an invulnerable save but I've found that Purestrains with their 5+ saving throw are the perfect bodyguards to a Patriarch for this reason. This also ties into the Patriarchs' role as a buffer for the rest of your forces, providing Fearless to all nearby Hybrids - considering the army has good but not great Leadership values, this is very important - but also specifically giving its Purestrain retainers a devastating damage improvement with Furious Charge. A plethora of special rules give the Patriarch lots of inherent value but it is arguably at its best when you devote some extra points to improving its psychic potential; for its cost, a Mastery Level 2 Patriarch is an awesome generalist character that makes an excellent leader for any Genestealer Cult army. I've found placing it with Purestrains to be ideal thanks to their invulnerable saves but really any melee-oriented hybrid unit can do some serious work with an attached Patriarch. Provided you have enough bodies, it can easily tie up and eventually beat down many big-time special characters in the game, but otherwise it gives you a strong psychic presence that can absorb more than a pittance's worth of punishment unlike the humble Magus.
Magus - The more diplomatic leader of the hybrids and a powerful psyker in his own right, a Magus uses his empyrean abilities to both empower and protect his underlings. He is frail and weak with two Toughness 3 wounds and a meagre 5+ armour save as his only protection, though of course the Cults' incredible ability to protect its independent characters can be defence enough in many cases. You do need to pay extra attention to the Magus' position in a unit so that flanking enemies don't get the drop on him and remove any Look Out Sir potential, namely by forcing through enough wounds so that no eligible models are left to assign wounds to. While the Magus does wield a force staff in one hand and an autopistol in the other, meaning he has four Strength 5 AP4 attacks on the charge with the possibility of Force, he is not designed to be a proper damage dealer. What he is good at instead is controlling the psychic aspect of the game, both by shielding nearby hybrids and himself with the Adamantium Will special rule, but also by being an amazingly cheap source of warp charge points. Access to the Biomancy, Broodmind and Telepathy disciplines gives the Magus a good degree of flexibility; Broodmind has been my favourite so far when combined with a combat oriented army that massively benefits from the summoned reinforcements and blessings, though either of the other two can give you plenty of success. Regardless of what discipline you choose, a Magus is a great complement to a Cult force because of how inexpensively he gives you a good hold on the psychic phase; just don't position him as a front-line fighter unless you get some key blessings and other buffs handy. Iron Arm and a nearby Primus render even this debased demagogue a burgeoning warrior!
Primus - Speaking of the Primus, the (to my knowledge) newly introduced military director of the Genestealer Cults' war efforts has proven to be my favourite of the four characters so far thanks to both his potent death-dealing attributes and his awesome unique special rule. Common in most lists thanks to his incredible formation benefit in the Subterranean Uprising group, a Primus has a much improved profile compared to a standard Acolyte and even his brother Magus. Three Toughness 3 wounds still isn't great but it will often not matter too much thanks to the Unquestioning Loyalty of attendant lesser hybrids. This brings us to one of the Primus' key attributes; Weapon Skill 5 is great when combined with Cult Icons to make him every bit as skilled as a Space Marine Captain, though Initiative 4 does him no favours in engagements against truly worthy challengers. A Needle Pistol offers little ranged presence, but the combination of a Bonesword and Rending Claws makes him a devilishly potent threat to characters and monsters alike; AP3 attacks with potential Instant Death or Rending strikes that benefit from the Poisoned special rule give him some decent versatility. Five attacks on the charge with Hatred and those nasty weapons will be enough to cut through most units and lesser sergeant-equivalent models, but it is when you pair up the Primus with a particular relic - the Sword of the Void's Eye - and the offensively oriented blessings in the Broodmind discipline that he becomes a truly frightening presence in combat. Of course, he also has the best damage-boosting ability of the four Cult leaders with his aura inspiring abject Hatred in his loyal followers, allowing Acolytes and Metamorphs alike to absolutely flatten even the venerable elites of other factions. Paired with an Iconward, there's little an appropriately sized Metamorph unit in particular can't eviscerate, and that's before throwing in any potential blessings from a Patriarch or Magus. Overall, the Primus gives you a nasty challenge participant thanks to his Bonesword and the automatic passing of Look Out Sir attempts, while his own buff serves principally to make all Chaplains blush with envy in their eyes.
Iconward - Though he can be easily mistaken for an Acolyte and truthfully is stats-wise only distinct from one due to having an extra wound compared to one of their unit leaders, the Iconward is the consummate buffer of the Genestealer Cult and acts as its locus of inspiration. He's not much of a fighter and is arguably the weakest of the various HQ choices in this regard, while he's also only marginally more difficult to kill than a Magus thanks to his 6+ Feel No Pain attribute. Unlike the Primus and Magus who embody either the offensive or defensive aspects of the Cult, the Iconward leverages the duality of hybrids with both types of benefits. Doling out Feel No Pain (6+) and Furious Charge to all nearby cultists, so is the seething rage and unquenchable resolve of their Patriarch personified through this nexus of the Cults' devotion. This makes the Iconward the unquestioned king of the support game in this codex and, given that he is the only mandatory (if you use the Brood Cycle as your Core formation) character in the Cult Insurrection detachment, one you should never leave home without. Of note is that his ability does improve the Feel No Pain rolls of nearby units by one if they already possess the special rule - this obviously caters both to the loathsome Aberrants and any models affected by the Endurance psychic power - though there might be some confusion regarding placing numerous Iconwards together for a super bubble of Feel No Pain stacking. For what it's worth the official Warhammer 40,000 Facebook page did comment on the matter by saying that the rule would not stack with itself and it is the way I play it, though obviously the situation may differ in your gaming group.
Acolyte Hybrids - Of the two Troops choices available to Genestealer Cults, Acolytes reign supreme in the realm of close combat whereas the Neophytes are more their ranged counterparts. Speaking of Acolytes, this is one unit that is sure to turn heads when players are on the receiving end of their brutal assault capabilities; truthfully, this may be the best close combat light infantry unit in the game that is also a Troops choice. Though they are fragile with Toughness 3 and a paltry 5+ armour save, cover and other means of protection do exist to keep them around; that and they have the potential to strike from unexpected angles and make it to combat by virtue of bodies overwhelming bullets. Once in combat, there's little that can actually survive a proper Acolyte strike; with four Strength 4 AP5 attacks each on the charge at Weapon Skill 4 and Initiative 4, a basic Acolyte is every bit as dangerous in combat as a significantly more expensive Space Marine Veteran. However, the equation changes dramatically once Rending is factored in; this incredible ability coupled with the sheer volume of attacks that Acolytes unleash signifies mass destruction for any unlucky or foolish enough to be charged by them. If ten Acolytes manage to charge a unit that costs over three times as much as them in the form of Assault Terminators packing Thunder Hammers and Storm Shields, the Acolytes will - assuming average rolls - grind down the Terminators and most likely beat them over a few rounds. For a Troops choice that is delightfully inexpensive, this is a truly incredible feat and something that almost no other unit in the game can match for a similar points cost.
Once you consider that most enemies in the game are Weapon Skill 4 or lower, adding a cheap Cult Icon into the mix dramatically improves their effective damage output, as will any of the buff auras from Iconwards or Primus' and even psychic blessings bestowed upon them by Patriarchs and Magi. For how little you have to invest into the unit, they punch well above their weight class and will give even Dreadnought equivalents - as well as most non-walker vehicles with weak rear armour values - a rough time. They absolutely belong in a Cult Insurrection detachment and specifically a Subterranean Uprising formation to maximise on the incredible tactical flexibility that Cult Ambush offers; if even one Acolyte unit in your army manages to charge on the first game turn, you will already have a significant advantage in the majority of match ups due to how ridiculously hard-hitting Acolytes are against almost any target. There's very little that can stand in their way, but most notable among them are AV13 Walkers such as Soul Grinders (unless you can get Might From Beyond or Furious Charge on the Acolytes) as well as high Initiative foes like Harlequins that can capitalise on the Acolytes' fragility to kill them before they strike. Always keep your assault grenades in mind as unlike many other "assault" armies your models have good Initiative scores and the ability to charge into cover without being slowed down. I'll bookend this with a quick word on wargear; sprinkling a few hand flamers throughout a squad is a good investment of points, as is taking the occasional Heavy Rock weapon (I like the anti-vehicle Saw most of all) but otherwise you don't really need to upgrade the unit given that it already mulches nearly anything stupid enough to cross its path.
Neophyte Hybrids - The opposite of Acolytes in the sense that this particular unit does not consider close quarters engagements their preferred method of fighting, Neophytes are the more humanoid of the hybrids and serve as the cheap auxiliary infantry of a Cult army. They are every bit as fragile as Acolytes and more than earn the comparisons to Imperial Guard Infantry with their virtually identical profiles, though the Neophytes do have a few key improvements to their name. This is most obvious in the combination of the Cult Ambush and Return to the Shadows special rules, allowing them to essentially redeploy on the fly; this makes them a far superior scoring unit to Guardsmen and also allows them to avoid tough situations such as an encroaching melee unit by simply disappearing into Ongoing Reserves. Though they are unlikely to do nearly as much damage as Acolytes in any given turn of a game, they can be entertainingly disruptive to your opponent should they get good results on the Cult Ambush chart. In a Cult Insurrection detachment, the Neophytes are given the chance to deploy by Cult Ambush and potentially gain the ability to fire all their weapons before set-up is complete, and then again in their subsequent Shooting phase. This adds to the incredible first turn alpha strike potential of a Genestealer Cult army and, depending on how you rule Heavy Weapons firing when a unit sets up with Cult Ambush (do they snap fire or not, there's a lot of debate on this matter and I won't offer an opinion either way) you can actually put a serious dent in any given unit.
An example of what I managed to accomplish in such a scenario was destroying a light transport during "deployment" by setting up behind it (we played it that their Heavy Weapons didn't need to fire Snap Shots for that match) and then subsequently killing half of the Space Marine unit dislodged by their Rhino's termination. That this can be achieved before an opponent even has a turn is remarkable considering how inexpensive Neophytes are, but a word of caution; as Neophytes lack the medium Strength massed Rending attacks of their Acolyte brethren, deploying them in close proximity to enemies can often lead to the squad being mercilessly cut down in an assault. Though they are surprisingly Weapon Skill 4 and Initiative 4 unlike most light ranged infantry, their base Strength 3 and lack of extra close combat weapons means they can't really put up much of a fight. However, like all things in the Genestealer Cult codex, you can surprise your opponent with a powerful charge; a blob of twenty Neophytes with Might from Beyond and the support of both a Primus and an Iconward will have very little difficulty mulching most other medium Toughness opponents. Still, they are at home in the Shooting phase and so tend to be your objective campers who sit on strategic locations that your assault forces (such as Acolytes) clear out in prior turns. They work best either training numerous heavy weapons onto a light vehicle or aiming their plethora of Strength 3 shots at other infantry, though realistically anything with a Toughness value below seven is a possible target for them. As to which weapons to choose, I've found that Seismic Cannons or Autocannons in addition to Grenade Launchers have been the most useful for me generally, though Webbers are amusing against low Strength elite armies such as Eldar or Sisters of Battle, while you can make a strong case for Mining Lasers and Autocannons as alternative heavy weapons.
Hybrid Metamorphs - If there's an all-star unit in this army, I think that the Metamorphs may just steal that spot from the Purestrains. Everything that I said about Acolytes can be directly applied to Metamorphs who are identical in almost every way, the key differences being that the latter unit is an Elites choice with a lower maximum unit size and access to the divergent Metamorph Weapons. As I've covered those unique death-dealing appendages in an earlier article, I'll be brief here; what makes Metamorphs really stand out next to Acolytes is that they get to combine their Rending Claws with a special buff from their chosen Metamorph Weapon. This is because Metamorph Weapons specify that the stat boosts they provide are active so long as the parent model is equipped with that specific Metamorph Weapon, meaning that a model with Metamorph Talons would have the benefit of +1 Weapon Skill while still using its deadly Rending Claws. In that sense, a stock Metamorph with its Talon is equivalent to an Acolyte that is under the effects of a Cult Icon; this means that a ten man unit of Acolytes equipped with their holy standard would be identical in price to a standard ten man Metamorph squad and be inseparable in terms of melee prowess. Of course, Metamorphs themselves have access to a Cult Icon and thus can be raised to a whopping Weapon Skill 6 - something even the most elite assault forces tend to lack outside of their characters. To be quite honest though, I find that combining the other two Metamorph Weapons with a Cult Icon is your best given that the practical benefits of Weapon Skill 6 as opposed to Weapon Skill 5 are, in most cases, non-existent. Choosing between the Claws and Whips is a tough choice; the Whips are superior against Initiative 5 to Initiative 7 opponents simply because it allows the Metamorphs to strike first or simultaneously which makes a huge difference for such an easily slain albeit deadly unit. They also win out in a lot of cases against Initiative 4 opponents as it allows you the chance to kill enemy models before they can strike back and this tends to be of greatest value against dedicated assault forces that would otherwise wipe out your squad, while Harlequins in particular will be petrified at the mere mention of Metamorph Whips given that they have no viable assault-based counter to them outside of their characters. Hand Flamers can be costly in high numbers but give the Metamorphs some great anti-infantry capabilities and a slightly improved ranged presence.
On the flip side, the Claws provide the biggest damage boost by far in terms of raw wounds or hull points dealt per Metamorph with the trade-off being that they are more likely to lose models in return than a squad instead armed with Whips. The Claws allow Metamorphs to tear apart Land Raiders with little difficulty - something almost no other unit in the Cult codex is capable of on their own - and also make them an utter nightmare to anything that is Initiative 4 or lower, whether it be monstrous creatures or bikes and jetbikes. Be mindful that they have no benefit over the whips against Toughness 8 opponents unless you can boost their Strength, but also be wary that enemies lacking assault grenades to complement their own high Initiative value - a Dimachaeron comes to mind - will be more afraid of the Claws than the Whips if you position your squads appropriately. However you choose to equip your Metamorphs, I have found that they are incredibly deadly for pretty much any army that isn't prepared to deal with them should they manage a charge on the first turn via a lucky Cult Ambush result; as you can imagine, Metamorphs are unbelievably strong in the Subterranean Uprising formation and are easily the best choice for the groups' Primus to join. Otherwise, they're basically just upgraded Acolytes that are slightly more expensive but oh so much more frightening on the battlefield; smart opponents will opt to deal with them before most other units out of respect for their abilities and to protect their own vulnerable forces.
Purestrain Genestealers - It's amazing how much a few simple changes can fully flip a units' competitive potential in a meta-game where Ignores Cover weaponry would normally signal the death of expensive, poorly armoured assault squads. Purestrain Genestealers combat this problem, an issue that ultimately destroys regular Genestealers' chances of appearing in most tournament-worthy army lists, by bringing a 5+ invulnerable save to the table - in fact, they are the only Cult unit to possess an invulnerable save whatsoever. This means that template weapons won't immediately spell their doom as with their Tyranid codex brethren, but don't interpret this bonus as them being invincible; they still die fairly easily to small arms fire and a 5+ save, invulnerable or not, won't save them against massed wounds. Still, the invulnerable save is a massive help as it, with Cult Ambush factored in, gives them far greater chances of making it into a melee than would be the case for others of their kind. They are even deadlier once they get there too seeing as each Purestrain has three base attacks to their name; if you go off sheer destructive potential alone, Purestrains are arguably the best assault unit in the codex should you adhere to value and points equivalency. They might not seem to be any stronger than Metamorphs but this is made up for by their high Weapon Skill and Initiative values, essentially combining the benefits of the Metamorph Talon and Metamorph Whip together and making them an incredibly potent war-brood.
They truly shine when combined with a Patriarch acting as the Warlord in a First Curse formation where the possibility to gain assault grenades and charge on the first game turn become very real, and that's not to mention the Furious Charge benefit the Patriarch provides. In a nutshell, Purestrains are the most self-reliant assault unit in the codex; they innately have Infiltrate and so too gain Shrouded in the Cult Insurrection detachment, they possess both Fleet and Move Through Cover to make charging and crossing the board much less painful, they have a high Leadership 10, they add Stealth into the mix for improved cover saves and importantly sport an invulnerable save that can protect them when caught by Ignores Cover weapons or elite assault units. They aren't close to being over-powered unless you have the dice gods on your side, but they completely leap frog their lesser kin and prove themselves as a competitive choice in a great codex; the First Cure is a legitimate army-crushing formation that can be nigh unstoppable if you can manage to bounce from combat to combat, while little can stand up to such a unit when it is supported by Might from Beyond and any other number of buffs. Their high cost per model does mean you have to be a bit more careful with them but the benefit of being able to endure punishment that no other non-vehicle Cultist unit (barring Aberrants) can gives them a venerated spot in the army that they deserve.
Aberrants - Speaking of Aberrants, this is the odd duck of the Cult infantry regiments for numerous reasons; firstly, they are the only Toughness 4 models in the entire codex and also the only ones outside of the Iconward to sport Feel No Pain. Next, they are unavailable for conventional purchase outside of forking out for an entire Deathwatch: Overkill box set making them unappealing to use in large numbers should you lack the outside means to procure them individually. Though they keep their Rending Claws like you would expect of early generation Hybrids, the Aberrants wield mighty Power Hammers and Power Picks suited to crushing vehicles and high Toughness foes, tasks that the Aberrants regularly achieve with aplomb. Indeed, these monstrosities put out a good volume of Strength 7-8 AP3-2 attacks and thus are a real threat to most models in the game, though the fact that these weapons are Unwieldy does mean that a high damaging enemy unit can be their downfall. Where this unit becomes interesting is that each member has two wounds and proper Feel No Pain (5+) on top of their 5+ armour save, meaning that - and this is especially the case if you use cover liberally - they can actually withstand a good deal of punishment, except for when Strength 8 or Instant Death weapons are in play. This immediately slaps a target on their heads as tank-heavy armies that might otherwise be able to withstand your assaults find themselves out of luck against a decently sized group of Aberrants, and when you combine an Iconwards' buff and Might From Beyond with them, they will even blast through AV14 and Toughness 9 foes.
Being Stubborn does help them absorb casualties without routing - something which becomes critical given their low model count - and it truthfully doesn't take as much damage as you might think to put them down, but nonetheless this is an odd unit - an aberration, if you will - that grabs everyone's attention in the right circumstances (good Cult Ambush rolls). If ignoring other Cult units leads to bad results, foes will be in for a shock if they are on the receiving end of a fully sized Aberrant band - such a unit is expensive but, hilariously, can easily withstand charges from enemies like Space Marine Bikers and handily bludgeon them into a bloody mess. Much like the Metamorphs, you want these to pop up in a Subterranean Uprising formation where they can benefit from heavy cover bonuses if also party to a Cult Insurrection detachment as well as another chance at rolling the dreaded '6' result on the Cult Ambush chart. The base unit of four that you get with Deathwatch: Overkill will ream Tactical Squads and their equivalents as well as medium to light vehicles and even lesser monstrous creatures; make sure to stay away from any walker or monstrous creature with Strength 8 or higher attacks that will simply pulverise your unit and this unusual unit should perform within perfectly acceptable parameters.
Chimera - The iconic transport of the Astra Militarum infantry regiments and a stalwart of most Guard players' armies, Chimeras find themselves competing with yet another light transport in this codex outside of their loyalist comfort zone, a rival that takes the form of a Goliath instead of a Taurox. Chimeras are generally a solid transport that is purpose built with light infantry in mind; front AV12 isn't as much of a deterrent as it was in editions past but gaining that as opposed to side AV11 like a Space Marine Rhino can still be a good trade-off in many situations. Unlike a Rhino, a Chimera also packs on a respectable amount of firepower given its actual stated purpose of ferrying squads; a multi-laser and heavy bolter comprise its standard weaponry, with either being open to swaps for other guns should you desire. Of course, moving the Chimera tends to be the best bet as - like I've explained numerous times concerning Land Raiders specifically - a transport that is used as a fire-base is, in many cases, wasted points compared to a proper battle tank equivalent. Of course, certain armies beg to differ such as a scouting White Scars Battle Company but said armies tend to have their own tricks to benefit that tactic; Genestealer Cults do not as Cult Ambush doesn't work with transports.
The other thing to consider here is that the Chimera actually has a lot of upside for moving and shooting; the lasgun arrays allow your Neophytes to shoot Ballistic Skill 3 lasguns that fire at full accuracy regardless of whether the Chimera moves more or less than 6", while it also sports two fire points that are perfectly suited to webbers, grenade launchers and so on. Still, using those to instead fire Heavy Weapons from inside the safety of a transport is actually a big deal for the otherwise incredibly brittle Neophytes and is something the Chimera offers that a Land Raider doesn't, meaning you have a viable tactic with using it as an impromptu gun platform when occupied. In that sense it is hard to really take issue with a Chimera if you use it specifically for your Neophytes that benefit immensely from the ability to fire on the move with the added protection of an AV12/10/10 vehicle, though for your assault forces it will most likely prove inferior in application to either of the Goliath variants. There is one strange exception to that rule here; whereas the Goliaths specify that they cannot ferry Purestrain Genestealers or Patriarchs, the Chimera has no such limitation. Should you not have confidence in your Cult Ambush rolls then using a Chimera to safely transport them around is not a bad idea whatsoever, and so keeping one on hand in your Fast Attack slots might be worth considering.
Sentinels - Seeing as both types of Sentinels are incredibly similar and occupy the same Force Organisation slot, I've opted to review them both here. Both have no business in close combat, are very easily destroyed by even token attention from enemies and offer only light firepower to justify their existence. Scout Sentinels are particularly vulnerable to small arms fire, though they do possess the aptly named Scout special rule (on top of Move Through Cover) which makes them nifty little objective grabbers and flankers. Also, there's nothing stopping one from charging into a unit that can't hurt it - rare as they are, some armies do feature such models - but ultimately Sentinels of both types are fairly underwhelming vehicles which is exacerbated by 7th Edition generally not being friendly to vehicles anyway. Scout Sentinels are the cheaper, more mobile of the two and tend to be best used Outflanking with either Heavy Flamers or one of the various anti-tank weapons, whereas Armoured Sentinels gain exclusive access to Plasma Cannons (which is notable) and have a higher front armour value of 12 with a higher base cost to compensate. Scout Sentinels in particular benefit majorly from the Neophyte Cavalcade formation where they become the only vehicles to use Cult Ambush, and while Armoured Sentinels gain no such benefit, they do give the army a form of long ranged AP2 shooting. Of course, Plasma Cannons are a risky proposition for the models carrying them given that Sentinels only possess two hull points, but at the very least the Armoured Sentinel doesn't have to worry about the downsides of the Open-Topped classification. While neither unit really belongs in a tournament-tier army list, they do have their uses; for example, an Outflanking Heavy Flamer on a cheap Scout Sentinel can do some good work in an objective game. Still, there are better choices for most Cult armies; Rockgrinders with Clearance Incinerators that double as transports, Acolytes with Hand Flamers, Neophytes with heavy weapons and so on can all accomplish similar tasks while providing far more utility.
Goliath Truck - If you have a preference for guaranteed results (meaning you don't like relying on the random Cult Ambush chart) and appreciate vehicles for whatever reason, the Goliath Truck is the be-all end-all of transports for the assault elements among the hybrids. Compared to a Chimera, a Goliath has a weaker front armour value of 11 but otherwise shares a very similar profile; importantly, its' maximum transport capacity is 10 models instead of 12 which you obviously want to be aware of when designing your army list. It also has less firepower than a Chimera with it replacing an actual heavy weapon with an adorable Heavy Stubber, though the twin-linked Autocannon could be seen as balancing this equation or even swinging it in the Goliaths' favour. Regardless of how you feel about this, the Goliath obviously has a few deficiencies when stood side by side with a Chimera but this is where choosing the right squads for it to carry makes all the difference. A Goliath is open-topped and as such is decidedly less durable than a Chimera, but it makes up for this by acting both as an assault transport and allowing all models inside of it to fire with no numerical restriction. The former of those two distinctions immediately justifies using a Goliath over a Chimera; giving your unit the means to charge from out of their transport rather than having to wait a turn in open view can be a real game-changer when you're talking about Toughness 3 melee specialists. On the flip side, a Neophyte unit with pairs of both special weapons and heavy weapons will get greater mileage out of a Goliath as opposed to a Chimera, but that's only if you aren't really worried about moving - in that case, the Chimera has the advantage with its lasgun arrays being usable at Ballistic Skill 3 even when it moves at Cruising Speed. Another cool upside of both Goliath variants is their Rugged Construction special rule; basically, it gives you a 4+ chance to ignore the effects of Crew Shaken, Crew Stunned and Immobilized (though it would still lose a hull point) which is fantastic for an assault transport. If that wasn't good enough, the Goliath is also a fair bit cheaper than a Chimera; if you had doubts about whether the Goliath was worth it, you can rest easy knowing it is a more than handy addition to your army.
However, this is where the general problem with transports in a Genestealer Cult army becomes evident - and this goes double for Chimeras - and that is the Cult Ambush chart almost completely eliminating the need for transports in the first place. I've deigned to mention this here as it applies to all three transports in the codex to varying degrees, but I'll not mention it in the other reviews so as to not repeat myself. If you think about it, you quickly realise why transports being unnecessary is a very relevant argument; four of the six results let you place your unit anywhere from more than 3" to more than 9" away from the enemy army, while the fifth still gets you close to enemies provided they have at least some presence on both flanks. Thus, the mobility of transports is rendered obsolete by a free special rule that all Cult infantry units intrinsically possess, and this is a rule that all three transports in the codex cannot benefit from. You could discuss the tactical benefits of redeploying but one must then consider the Return to the Shadows special rule which accomplishes a similar end goal, just with random success. The main benefit then for all those points surely has to be durability, but even that comes with an asterisk; in the Cult Insurrection detachment, a good chunk of your army can have Shrouded on the first turn and abuse strong cover saves to survive before they make combat. Additionally, for however much damage you can output with a Goliath or Chimera, you can always exceed that with raw numbers from your infantry. Ultimately, a Cult Insurrection army in particular has little use for transports save for when specific formations are in play with mandatory vehicles, while even normal armies could legitimately forgo them. What I do want to stress though is that this is just one of my observations from playing the faction, and transports definitely work in a Cult army in most cases and can often circumstantially be preferred over relying on Cult Ambush. This adds a cool dynamic to list building with intricacies that few other codices have to contend with and it's just another reason behind my love of the Genestealer Cults.
Goliath Rockgrinder - A more heavily armed and armoured variant of the Goliath, you would have to be completely despondent not to get some kind of excitement from reading the Rockgrinders' rules. This is of course due to the awesome Drilldozer Blade, a weapon that should remind any veteran Ork player of the glory days where Deffrollas were scarier than the models they squished. Inflicting Strength 10 AP2 automatic hits on units is always fun, right? Well, there are some easy counters to it; Fearless units and models with similar damage values stand out, but the beauty of the latter situation is that the Rockgrinder can ignore Shaken, Stunned and Immobilised results on a 4+ or rather the only means of stopping but not destroying the Rockgrinders' onslaught. Thankfully, this tank isn't a one trick pony as it packs some moderate firepower with its optional Clearance Incinerator and Heavy Seismic Cannon; both are great anti-infantry weapons with the latter having the added versatility required to take on enemy vehicles.
Despite all the obvious damage-oriented upgrades, the transport functionality isn't greatly reduced compared to a normal Goliath; carrying six models prevents squads of decent size and Neophytes from claiming the tank for themselves, but the real stinger is the lack of an Open-Topped classification. Seeing as the only models that can be fielded in a Rockgrinder are the assault forces of the army, this creates a fairly obvious problem, one that is thankfully solved with the hilarious Demolition Claw formation - load up on Demolition Charges on your Acolytes and those Rockgrinders become far more appealing. Speaking of Demolition Charges, outside of that formation I would be hesitant to outfit either Goliath variant with that upgrade due entirely to how unreliable and dangerous they are; transports are costly and any chance of one exploding with a poorly armoured Toughness 3 unit inside is something you should actively avoid. In any case, the ability to field these in squadrons coupled with their Drilldozer Blades can be used to brutal effect against opponents that aren't familiar with units that are automatically killed by a Tank Shock when they have no means to physically get out of the way. Whether I'd invest that heavily into a unit with an admittedly improved AV12/10/10 armour value set is questionable but on its own merits I find the Rockgrinder to be a perfectly acceptable medium vehicle.
Leman Russ Squadron - Though they aren't everyone's preferred source of punishing firepower, I'm really happy that these proper battle tanks managed to warrant an inclusion in this codex. While it is irritating that the 'siege' variants aren't present here, the four standard archetypes are still useful with varying levels of efficiency. The Eradicator is the anti-infantry specialist thanks to its Ignores Cover Large Blast, the Exterminator is the light-vehicle and flyer hunter, the Vanquisher is the behemoth-buster for dealing with heavy tanks, and the famous Battle Cannon-armed Leman Russ is somewhat a generalist but more of an elite hunter. With the inaccuracy of blasts and the Cults' melee-heavy play-style, the Eradicator and Battle Tank can be a detriment to your forces with their propensity to scatter onto and subsequently murder friendly models, while the Vanquisher and Eradicator tend to be underwhelming due to lack of shots or its gun really not accomplishing much generally.
Obviously, you want to use these as an anchor for your backfield that can draw fire off of your vulnerable troops, but their inability to survive against attacks to the rear means positioning is extremely important in an army that can already be fairly unforgiving to poor tactical play. They are best at supporting your close assault forces by targeting transports to expose the juicy squads inside, or to eliminating threats your assault squads either can't handle or can't reach. Otherwise, they are really good in conjunction with a Neophyte-based army that doesn't have to worry nearly as much about friendly fire. If you are worried about possible upgrades to outfit your Leman Russes, follow these guidelines; if the main weapon has the Ordnance rule, don't upgrade the hull mounted gun or sponsons. If the main weapon does not have the Ordnance special rule, ignore the Heavy Flamers and consider the Heavy Bolters and Lascannons for all three of the the hull mounted and sponson slots. Leman Russes never want to be close to anything, rendering Heavy Flamers useless if you were curious about that particular note. Plasma Cannons are also iffy because of the Gets Hot but are undeniably devastating, while Multi Meltas are only good for a tank that isn't afraid of getting close to opponents and is also specialized for tank hunting. Anyway, Leman Russes are a decent source of firepower and fairly durable if you can protect their rear armour; they won't let you down but they're not amazing either.
Cheers all, I want to keep these reviews restricted to single or dual paragraph entries on each unit to try and cut the chaff, so to speak. I made a few exceptions but generally I think getting my thoughts on every unit summarised to a few key points works out better for me with how little time I can currently devote to my articles. Do you like this change? Let me know if you want a return to the longer form articles or prefer these classic quick summations. Thanks!
Rise, Children of the Stars. Our ascension is at hand!