2 Nov 2016

Genestealer Cult - Wargear and Relics

Hello again; it is time.

Wargear of the Cults

This section covers the unique wargear exclusive to the Genestealer Cults, as well as a few notable ones that they share with Astra Militarum and Tyranid forces. The listings are arranged first by sub-type - ranged, melee, special issue and cult vehicle respectively - and then by alphabetical placement.

Ranged Weapons

Clearance Incinerator - An obvious nod to both the Hellhound and the Tyrannofex, Clearance Incinerators are one of a few template weapons available to Genestealer Cults and are the exclusive property of Goliath Rockgrinders. Torrent templates are fantastic for three different reasons; maximising the number of hits you can get with each shot, more than doubling the effective range of the weapon and lastly allowing you to resolve otherwise impossible shots by potentially ignoring intervening models and other such obstructions. The Clearance Incinerator may just be a Heavy Flamer in terms of Strength and AP values, but having Torrent makes such a massive difference to its effective usability that you should always have a use for it. The range in particular allows your Goliath Rockgrinders to get early game shots off and threaten opposing non-vehicle units (whether housed in an open-topped transport or on foot) and light vehicles with little need to close into more dangerous ranges should safety be a concern.

Demolition Charge - Notorious for the colossal risk associated with their usage, Demolition Charges make their way into the hybrids' arsenal by way of Acolytes, the close assault specialist troops of the codex. Strength 8 AP2 Large Blasts are terrifying for most opponents but, in the case of Demolition Charges, this is also very much the case for you and one of the reasons why they aren't necessarily the most popular wargear choice. A 6" range combined with Ballistic Skill 3 wielders ensures that problematic hurls are going to occur wherein your own models - or simply just units that weren't priority targets for you - become the victims rather than who was originally planned. This thankfully isn't so bad on Acolytes given how cheap, numerous and replenishable they and most other Cult units are, but when you consider that the Demolition Charges themselves are one-use-only and on the costly side themselves, it comes as no surprise that these likely won't be your upgraded weapon of choice. Of course, where they shine is in the aptly named Demolition Claw in which the titular weapons become twin-linked or words to that effect, making them far more reliable and, with the added Tank Hunters and chance to bypass the one-use-only limitation, a great deal more valuable too. Otherwise, they excel on summoned Acolyte units that have a good chance of popping up in close proximity to enemy units and promptly unleashing the charges; in this scenario, your concerns of potential self-destruction are washed away due to the non-existent points cost of the parent squad.

Eradicator Nova Cannon - I've deigned not to review the Leman Russ turrets and a few other generic Astra Militarum weapons barring this one for a special reason. I wanted to clear up the confusion caused by a misprint in the codex regarding the Leman Russ Eradicators' Nova Cannon; contrary to what the reference sheet says, the actual codex entry of the heavy gun specifies that it has the Ignores Cover special rule in correlation with the other army in which it is featured in. Be mindful of this in case a wily opponent tries to game you out of that crucial bonus or if they contrarily aren't aware of the editing failure and unnecessarily weaken their own Cult units.

Mining Laser Weapons - Functioning as the answer to medium and heavy tanks as well as a wide range of monstrous creatures, these weapons pack a significant punch that is only held back by the mediocre Ballistic Skill of its users. However, Mining Lasers can be featured in abundance throughout a Genestealer Cult army list given that Neophyte units of any size can field two of the smaller versions whereas the larger type is the domain of Goliath Rockgrinders. A mass of Strength 9 AP2 shots is not to be under-estimated by any means given that the low reliability of said weapons is countered by the staggering number that you can field in any given army list. The obvious comparison to Lascannons is warranted, of course; standard Mining Lasers are half-range Lascannons with Heavy Mining Lasers occupying the middle-ground between the two with the range increments between each gun being a respectable 12". Though Mining Lasers might seem like straight down-grades from Lascannons, their lower cost combined with Cult Ambush alleviates this problem; you don't need to worry about range when five of the six Cult Ambush results that all non-vehicle Genestealer Cult units employ allow you to place your units in close proximity to enemy forces. If you manage to deploy with Cult Ambush before the game starts - usually attained through the Cult Insurrection detachment - you can even perform this tactic while firing at full Ballistic Skill on the 'turn' that the units are placed; the "A Deadly Trap" result is particularly amusing here.

Needle Pistol - Available only to Primus', the battle leaders of the rebellious cults, this pistol is bereft of function against vehicles but otherwise is a threat - albeit minor in scale - to all other units. A single Poisoned (2+) shot at 12" on a typically rare Ballistic Skill 4 model is not much to worry about for any foe, especially with a bare AP value of 6, though pinging off the odd Ork Boy or getting a lucky unsaved wound through on a monstrous creature means it is by no means useless.

Seismic Cannon Weapons - By far the most interesting and arguably popular of the Cult exclusive tools, Seismic Cannons combine unique functionality with profiles suited to their wielders' stats and capabilities, resulting in guns that have a use in nearly any situation and against any manner of enemy. Both operate almost exactly the same with the only differences being in total number of shots; range, the functionality of range to the target determining the profile used and the stats of the shots themselves are all shared. If your target is within 12" of the firing Seismic Cannon, your shots are resolved at Strength 8 AP3 - in other words, 3+ armoured monstrous creatures and medium to light vehicles become easy prey -  and if the target is more than 12" away but within the maximum 24" range of the Seismic Cannon being utilised, the shots are instead resolved at Strength 5 AP4 - non-vehicle units beware! Adding Cult Ambush into the mix makes it fairly easy for your units to get into the range you desire for maximum potential destruction, but even should the latter profile be in use you will generally find that Seismic Cannons are fairly potent all-purpose weapons because of their awesome secondary special rule. The Resonance left by these weapons means that any 6s on to-wound or armour-penetration rolls trade their standard AP value for the all-conquering AP1, giving vehicles fits and even mighty foes like Nemesis Dreadknights a reason to fear the underrated ranged presence of a Genestealer Cult force. Seismic Cannons might not be the over-powered equivalent of Graviton weaponry but I am personally thankful that this isn't the case; they are strong, usable, present numerous tactical opportunities and have surprisingly fun mechanics.

Web Weapons - The third ranged weapon sub-type in the Genestealer Cult codex, Web weapons are a nostalgic choice for veteran wargamers and carve out their own niche in the hybrid war efforts due to a nasty if awkward bonus. Determining the AP value of Web weapons by consulting the Strength value of any enemy models affected by it can make for some hilarious situations; Sisters of Battle, Eldar Aspect Warriors and Tempestus Scions hate Webbers in particular, whereas Space Marines donned in proper battle armour, most elites, monstrous creatures and vehicles (against such targets the guns are AP-) care little for their predations. Of course, there's an obvious synergy at work here with a particular psychic power from the Biomancy psychic discipline; Enfeeble reduces both the Strength and Toughness of any single enemy unit by one. Combine this with a Webber on a squad of power-armoured Space Marines to not only wound them on 3s but bypass their armour save altogether, murdering clumped up squads with laughable ease. In any case, the distinction between the standard issue Webber and the rarer Web Pistol is relatively minor; both fire medium ranged small blasts with low Strength values (the rifle has a higher Strength characteristic of 4 as opposed to the pistols' 3); both are available only to Neophytes, with the pistol and particular usable only by Neophyte Sergeants. Web Weapons are interesting anti-infantry tools but have only a few strong match-ups with the aforementioned Marine-killing tactic being reliant on a randomly-generated psychic power, hence making them arguably the most specialised and least versatile gun upgrades available to Neophytes.

Melee Weapons

Bonesword - AP3 melee weapons are common amongst the higher echelons of Genestealer Cults, but arguably none are more feared than the Bonesword given that it is capable of inflicting Instant Death on any foe unlucky enough to face one. Instant Death on to-wound rolls of a 6 are scary for any enemy not protected by 2+ armor saves or Eternal Warrior and, with the Boneswords' usual wielders getting easy access to re-rolls to-hit (Primus' Hatred bubble, Magus' Zealot bubble in the Doting Throng) and bonuses to their Weapon Skill (Cult Icons), killing enemies through such deadly strikes is not an uncommon occurrence. Regardless of this and especially considering all those buffs as well as the important Furious Charge or bonus attack benefits granted to many Cult units via supporting characters, AP3 melee weapons wielded by Genestealer Cultists in particular are very dangerous. For example, a simple Metamorph Leader armed with both a Bonesword and a Metamorph Whip will strike at Initiative 7 and, when backed by nearby Iconwards' and Primus' as well as a Cult Icon in its parent unit, fight with five Strength 5 AP3 attacks that re-roll failed to-hit rolls; entire squads of Space Marines getting cut down by these relatively cheap models is both plausible and expected. Boneswords are strong enough as they are on Tyranids, but for Genestealer Cultists that can obtain a ridiculous amount of buffs to their close combat capabilities, they become a truly frightening prospect for most foes. It is for reason that even the inexpensive Primus is a legitimate threat to characters or monstrous creatures that cost more than double or even triple what he is valued at.

Heavy Rock Weapons - One of two melee weapon sub-types present in the codex, Heavy Rock Weapons all share numerous defining features, namely that they are almost like-for-like replacements of power fists with a number of jaw-dropping extra special rules. Doubling the users' Strength and applying AP2 to their attacks is nasty enough for models with base Strength 4, but doing so when considering yet again how quickly stacking buffs can render even basic Acolytes utter murder machines, it's easy to see just how dangerous the Heavy Rock Weapons can truly be. Coincidentally, Acolytes - the workhorses of a Cult list - are the only models capable of wielding these rarely seen mining tools, serving as replacements to the Acolytes' own Rending Claws and close combat weapons - not that you are likely to use them instead, of course. Being two-handed and thus losing out on a potential bonus attack is a bummer until you remember that granting re-rolls on failed to-hit rolls to Cult units is all too easy, while being Unwieldy is merely a byproduct of these choices' incredible raw hitting power. You must be aware that they are expensive and wielded only by fragile models that suffer greatly from striking at Initiative 1, making the choice both of which to field and whether you should use them whatsoever all the more important. With that in mind, let us look at each weapon in a bit more detail;

Heavy Rock Cutter - This weapon grants the Snip special rule, forcing enemies that suffer even a single unsaved wound from it to immediately take a Toughness test for each unsaved wound suffered with the penalty for failing being that the model in question is promptly removed from play. My initial appraisal of the Cutter was that it was of limited use in many cases - models that aren't vulnerable to Instant Death are normally high Toughness anyway, meaning that those few unsaved wounds that do get through are unlikely to benefit from the Snip special rule. Of course, I quickly realised that its unique ability is crucial when dealing with foes such as the infamous "Eternal Chapter Master" and offers one of the few potential counters to those nigh invulnerable models that populate the competitive meta-game. While they aren't necessarily the most reliable tools for this purpose and are vulnerable to being sniped out given that characters can't access them, having a means of instantly pacifying such models gives you more than enough justification to field the Cutters. Additionally, both monstrous and gargantuan creatures fear these for differing reasons; the former for what amounts to Instant Death, and the latter for the additional wounds it inflicts with each successful snip.

Heavy Rock Drill - The cheapest of the Heavy Rock weapons by a measly handful of points, the Drill has what will likely prove to be the least useful special rule to have in most games. Before any modifiers and bonuses are accounted for other than the standard extra attack for charging, exchanging three Strength 8 AP2 attacks for one Strength 10 AP1 attack is a bad trade in almost all cases. It's the lesser option against anything except perhaps AV13-14 vehicles (though the far lower reliability of making one attack versus three balances this discrepancy out) and Toughness 5 models with multiple wounds; everything that doesn't fit either of those two categories is best served suffering from the greater number of Strength 8 AP2 attacks. It becomes more useful when re-rolls to-hit are in play and attack bonuses are nowhere to be found (losing out on one attack as opposed to two or more is at least acceptable) but, as its pricing indicates, it is probably the least useful of the Heavy Rock weapons. The Cutter is better for killing models that aren't Toughness 5 without Eternal Warrior (Centurions, Bullgryns and Ogryns, Chaos Spawn) but is otherwise strictly better against all non-vehicle models, while the Drill isn't even that good against such models given that it relies on making a mere single attack. In almost all cases I have found that benefiting from all the bonus attacks and special rules Genestealer Cultists have access to (Might from the Beyond, Cult Demagogue, Nexus of Devotion, Frenzied Devotion, etc) gives the other weapons and the base profile of the Drill more of a place than using the Pulverise rule as a replacement.

Heavy Rock Saw - Easily the simplest of the Heavy Rock weapons to understand and utilise, the Saw provides Armorbane to all of its attacks and nothing more, marking it out as the anti-tank specialist and giving Cultists access to both power fist and chain fist knock-offs. It is the best of the Heavy Rock tool trio against vehicles and is the undisputed top armoured behemoth buster present in the codex; not having the chance to break open a transport and assault the occupants inside in the same turn is a downer, but having an easy means of destroying Land Raider equivalents and the beefier walkers in the game will be useful against almost all opponents.

Lash Whip and Bonesword - While only Acolyte squad leaders can access these, this doesn't make them any less of a threat to your opponents. A model with up to six - hooray for psychic support! - Strength 6 - what was that about psykers and Iconwards? - Initiative 7 attacks backed by assault grenades and Weapon Skill 5 for just over 40 points before accounting for supporting tools is simply incredible and indicative of the Cults' ridiculous potential for melee devastation. Said models' attacks are both AP3 and inflict Instant Death on 6s just like the stand-alone Bonesword, rendering a basic unit sergeant a merciless blender of all manner of foes that even expensive 200+ point characters from other armies can only dream of emulating. It is, justifiably, a costly upgrade.

Metamorph Weapons - As you may have guessed from the name, these weapons are associated with Metamorph Hybrids and are what properly distinguishes them from their Acolyte kit-siblings. While Acolytes are slightly cheaper per model and are almost identical in every way, Metamorphs balance the equation with these stylised mutations manifesting as all manner of claws, talons and whips. What makes these so powerful is that they stack with the Metamorphs' Rending Claws, meaning you gain all the usual benefits of the AP5 Rending attacks on top of the stat boosts that each individual Metamorph Weapon provides. For example, a Metamorph equipped with a Metamorph Whip and a set of Rending Claws would benefit from the +3 Initiative bonus of the Whip even if it uses the Rending Claws, meaning its attacks would normally be resolved at Initiative 7 and AP5 with the Rending special rule applied. As such, Metamorphs might be decently more expensive than Acolyte Hybrids and lose out on both potential Objective Secured and a lot of special weapon upgrades, but they make up for this by being by far the deadlier melee combatants. As you might expect, each Metamorph Weapon is best suited to different targets. I have appraised each one below to assist you in choosing one (or multiple) for your needs;

Metamorph Claw - Granting +2 Strength to its users, Metamorph Claws allow your Metamorphs to feasibly tear even mighty Land Raiders apart while utterly demolishing all other manner of vehicles; should Walkers be prevalent in your local gaming area, consider outfitting Metamorphs with the Claws to entirely bypass their primary defences. These also tear through Toughness 3 models that rely on Feel No Pain or have multiple wounds, while forcing a ridiculous amount of saves through on anything short of Toughness 8 or higher critters; for raw damage output, the Claws shine brightest, especially if you can stack them with Furious Charge from an Iconward to give them a ridiculous Strength 7 on the charge!

Metamorph Talon - The stock weapon used by Metamorphs and understandably the least useful overall, the Talon provides users with +1 to their Weapon Skill characteristic (meaning your average Metamorph is Weapon Skill 5). However, where the Talon loses its lustre is when you apply it in-game; functionally, spending a few handfuls worth of points on a Cult Icon to give a unit Weapon Skill 5 or using them as part of a Brood Cycle formation can accomplish the same effect while still allowing the unit to benefit from either the Claws or Whips. On top of that, should you stack the Talons with the other Weapon Skill-boosting effects, you will find that going beyond Weapon Skill 5 tends not to make a difference in most cases; as the vast majority of units in the game are Weapon Skill 4 or lower, being Weapon Skill 5 means you hit such foes on 3s, while Weapon Skill 5 also ensures you won't hit any opponent on a 5+. As an aside, there is a fourth option available to Metamorphs and that is to swap both their stock Talon and Rending Claws out for a pair of Talons that boost them to a high Weapon Skill 6; impressive as this may be, losing out on the Rending special rule massively neuters the units' combat potential and effective damage output. Avoid taking the paired talons at all costs, but keeping your units cheap with the single Talon and Rending Claw combination isn't a terrible idea should you find yourself strapped for points; just be aware that Talons benefit the least from the many stacking buffs that Genestealer Cult armies can layer on your Metamorphs.

Metamorph Whip - Acting as the more defensively oriented of the Metamorph weapons, the Whips' +3 Initiative bonus marks a gargantuan boost to Metamorphs' speed by having them strike at Initiative 7 even when charging (thanks to their assault grenades). Striking before even the quickest of enemy armies like Harlequins and Dark Eldar barring but a handful of models in different codices is fantastic as it usually means your Metamorphs can unleash their oft devastating melee onslaught on foes before they get a chance to strike back. This is crucial as many armies like the aforementioned Harlequins rely on their high Initiative scores to defeat foes before they can strike back, a trait that Metamorph Whips swiftly deny, and this is also important as Metamorphs - like other Genestealer Cultists - are notoriously easy to kill. This is why I find that the Whips tend to complement Metamorphs better than the other options available to them; the Whips deny your opponent attacks against your vulnerable squads all the while letting you circumvent a war of attrition by simply winning first.

Patriarch's Claws - As if having basic Rending Claws wasn't enough for the all powerful father of a Genestealer Cult, the rules designers saw fit to give even mighty Broodlords cause for envy with Patriarchs gaining two major buffs for their otherwise very similar weapons. An AP3 melee weapon with both Shred and Rending is an obvious nod to the Ravens' Talons made famous by Sons of Corax, but they are particularly brutal here owing to the awesome base Strength 6 of Patriarchs. Even high Toughness opponents aren't safe from a Patriarch, with almost any model relying on a 3+ armour save being easy prey for the leviathan progenitor of the Cults. Don't be surprised to see a Patriarch emerge victorious in most duels it participates in - thanks in no small part to the Unquestioning Loyalty special rule no doubt - or just simply scythe through most units with little difficulty.

Power Hammer and Power Pick - While Aberrants might not match Ogryns and Bullgryns for raw size and durability, they have them beat when it comes to actual death-dealing thanks to these simplistic albeit brutal mining tools. As both weapons constitute all of an Aberrant units' wargear options and are free either way, choosing between the two is an important matter. Both are Unwieldy melee weapons and give the Aberrants massive Strength bonuses but are otherwise fairly distinct. The Hammers make Aberrants Strength 8 with AP2 applied to their attacks - nothing is safe from these - whereas the Picks instead give them Strength 7 and AP3. While the Hammers seem like the clearly superior choice, you need to consider that the Hammers are Two-Handed Specialist Weapons and thus do not provide the Aberrants with bonus attacks for wielding two or more melee weapons, something the Picks do indeed provide. As such, you need to work out what you need more from your Aberrants; the Hammers give you three Strength 8 AP2 attacks per model on the charge whereas the Picks provide you with four Strength 7 AP3 attacks per model on the turn in which they successfully assault. I find that having a mix of the two as per the Overkill set is generally your best bet as you want a good volume of attacks to mitigate bad rolls while you also often need that extra hitting power for the tougher foes you will likely send your Aberrants at. Regardless of which you use, though, be mindful that both weapons will still eviscerate 3+ armored foes of all shapes and sizes; a good example of this would be Space Marine Bikers that are killed on 2s to-wound by either weapon. The Picks can be seen as the better weapon instead in that sense but seeing as Genestealer Cults lack a proper dedicated tank-hunting unit and instead need to rely on Might from Beyond, Furious Charge and other bonuses to give units like Purestrains a fighting chance against AV14 and super high Toughness foes, the Power Hammers earn their place given that they can harm AV14 and beat 2+ armored foes to a messy pulp. The short answer is to take both and profit!

Rending Claws - Though I'll not bother to cover the Scything Talons given that they exist solely to grant Purestrains bonus attacks, its partner is the most widespread melee weapon in the codex and is what earns the Genestealer Cults their standing as a freakishly destructive close assault faction. The natural AP5 of the weapon lets your base Strength 4 Acolytes, Metamorphs and Purestrains bypass the armour of weaker infantry and thus cut through them like sickles through crops, making Cultists the nightmare of all horde armies. On the flip side, the Rending special rule means that even your basic melee infantry are capable of mauling Terminators, Riptides and even Wraithknights with the ability to automatically wound any non-vehicle foe on the roll of a 6 with the added benefit of AP2. When you consider that easily obtained buffs like Weapon Skill increases, Furious Charge, psychic-charged Strength bonuses and Rage are all readily available to Genestealer Cultists while each model capable of using Rending Claws has an extraordinarily high volume of attacks that only Orks can truly compete with, you begin to realise just how brutal the army really is. Competing with a Genestealer Cult army in the assault phase is downright impossible for most armies given that massed Rending attacks will destroy anything short of armoured behemoths like Land Raiders - but even these are not safe should you add up numerous differing buffs on your units. As any quick glance or foray into statistics will inform you, Rending is at its most dangerous when you have massed attacks rather than a high Strength value to compliment it and the first is what Cult forces specialise in (though their minimum base Strength 4 compared to something like a Daemonette's Strength 3 is still hugely important). It is one of the best special rules in the game for assault units and this is perhaps no better exemplified than with Genestealer Cult units such as Acolytes and Metamorphs; the former of these units is comprised of sub ten-point models that fill up Troop slots, yet said squads are not only capable but almost guaranteed to wreak havoc among foes that cost many magnitudes greater points than they do. Ten Acolytes that manage to charge into combat with ten Initiative 4 power-armoured Space Marines lacking invulnerable saves will emerge victorious in nearly every scenario, especially if they have a cheap Cult Icon present in the unit; in such an example, four or five Rends out of 40 attacks hitting on 3s will gut (nearly or fully) half the Space Marine unit before the rest of the wounds inflicted force through another two to three casualties. This is all thanks to the potent Rending Claws that classic Genestealers and other Tyranid organisms have made famous, though one can easily make the case that hybrids make better use of them than their forebears.

Special Issue Wargear

Blasting Charges - Though they might not give your units an additional quirky ranged attack, being assault grenades alone is enough for your units honestly. Genestealer Cult units have a major advantage on many other horde-based assault armies by combining great base stats with stock assault grenades, allowing them to safely engage a wide range of enemies without fear of cover ruining their assault capabilities. That almost every Cult unit has these is a blessing, especially as its users are all Initiative 4 or greater so as to least strike simultaneously with Space Marines.

Cult Icon - Increasing the Weapon Skill of its parent unit without sacrificing a weapon on the wielder is fantastic for how cheap the upgrade is, especially considering that almost every unit can access them as opposed to other armies that often only find such items on their Command Squad equivalents. This is a near must-take on your Acolytes and Metamorphs - barring perhaps those squads found in a Brood Cycle - and is still useful for your Neophytes seeing as charging those light ranged units should be a common tactic for many opponents, though for that last unit I would err on the side of leaving these out so as to save points elsewhere.

Genestealer Familiar - A pitifully cheap upgrade that your Patriarchs and Magi can employ, Familiars provide those models with two extra Strength 4 AP- Rending attacks that, while operating with their own offensive stats, still benefit from the Weapon Skill and Initiative values of the parent model. I've found that these are fairly useful for Patriarchs that can afford to spend a handful of points to maximise their damage output, but they might not be worth it for a Magus that you typically won't want to be leaving in close combat anyway. Still, bonus attacks at Strength 4 with Rending is not bad; consider that for two points more than an Acolyte you can have four Strength 4 Rending attacks (losing out on AP5 which Rending Claws possess will rarely make a difference) on a model that can have higher (in the case of the Patriarch) or equal (for the Magus) stats and you will see why these are worthy of your attention. Of course these aren't going to be as useful as taking something like a Cult Icon on one of your squads for a similar amount of points, but should you find yourself incapable of filling out the last few spots of your army list then giving these a chance to shine is well worth considering.

Sacred Cult Banner - Unlike the generic Cult Icon your units can field, Sacred Cult Banners instead provide all friendly Genestealer Cult units within 12" of the bearer the Furious Charge special rule as a clear demonstration of the Cults' focus on improving multiple units beyond their normal means simultaneously. As with all other independent characters in the codex, Iconwards - the bearers of the Cults' cherished heraldry - provide awesome area-affecting buffs to your units, and Furious Charge is every bit as nasty as you could want it to be when combined with massed Rending attacks from your dedicated assault forces.

Toxin Injector - A weird item restricted to the Primus', applying the Poisoned special rule to his Rending Claws is an odd but appreciated little bonus; basically, it means you'll force through more AP5 wounds against higher Toughness opponents and benefit from re-rolls to-wound against lower Toughness enemies. Of course in most cases the Bonesword will be the better bet in a melee with few exceptions; vehicles, 2+ armoured foes and so on, but should these be your prey then the Poisoned upgrade is a nice little token improvement to keep in mind.

Cult Vehicle Equipment

Cache of Demolition Charges - Remember those Demolition Charges I reviewed earlier? Remember how I discussed the massive risks they impose upon any that try to use them and how annoying it is that they have the one-use-only limitation? Yeah, about that; Goliaths of both types get their own superior version of Demolition Charges and, rather than just carrying around one charge like dopey cultists, they bring a fleshed out cache of explosives and thus bypass the grating one-use-only restriction. This is fantastic for those that have cavorted with the Chaos Gods for dice luck, and merely good for everyone else; Demolition Charges still have a terrible range and are more than capable of scattering onto friendly units rather than your target of choice. While a Rockgrinder does protect the firer (the vehicle equips the Cache but it still needs embarked models to use them, much like a Chimeras' lasgun arrays) and isn't too fearful of a Demolition Charge given that it isn't Open-Topped and thus the chances of causing a self-inflicted Explodes are slim, watching a fairly costly vehicle model suffer great mechanical harm at the hands of your own weapons is not pleasant. This is especially the case when you consider that any Rockgrinder equipped thus will suffer an additional Strength 8 AP2 hit on the roll of a 1 rolled for separately after the vehicle suffers a penetrating hit from any source. Though it's not clear which armour value the hit is resolved against, this is still yet another risk associated with an expensive weapon that is fundamentally ham-strung by its severely limited range. Again, outside of the Demolition Claw, Demolition Charges prove to be very much an acquired taste and something that is generally more fun than it is necessarily useful.

Drilldozer Blade - Proof that the Rockgrinder is the only Goliath variant with any kind of interesting wargear available, the Drilldozer Blade is to an Ork Deff Rolla what a Baneblade is to a Leman Russ. In all seriousness, Ork players of all creeds cried out in anguish as they lamented the obviously superior rules of the Blades in contrast to their own Battlewagon-mounted equivalent. Automatically passing dangerous terrain tests - while always good - is nowhere near as interesting as the damage-dealing component of the item, namely that it adds D6 to the Strength of Ram attacks and gives them a chance to cause Explodes results against enemy vehicles. This usually works out to be 7+D6 to work out the Strength value, then rolling another D6 for the armour penetration roll - in essence, 7+2D6 is what you resolve the attack at with the average total of that roll being a whopping 14! It is effectively an automatic hit from a chainfist complete with a +1 bonus to rolls on the vehicle damage chart, albeit the attack itself has one less Strength than normal. The Drilldozer is also more than capable of squishing non-vehicle models underfoot from two different sources, both using the same Tank Shock roots. When Tank Shocking an enemy unit with a Drilldozer Blade, the unit in question must pass an Initiative test which, if failed, inflicts D3 Strength 10 AP2 hits on them - more than enough to squish things like Centurion Devastators! Additionally, should a Death or Glory attack be made against the Rockgrinder and be unsuccessful in stopping the roving truck, a further D3 Strength 10 AP2 hits are suffered; the random allocation might not always be to your tastes but this is still a very deadly ability, so much so that foes will think twice before trying to block the Rockgrinder. While some armies can easily ignore this ability, forcing them to take an Initiative test before any possible Morale test is made means inflicting those Strength 10 AP2 hits becomes a seemingly unavoidable certainty, especially should low Initiative forces like Tau or Necrons be your opponents of the day. There's a lot to like about Drilldozer Blades - especially as you need not pay extra for them on top of the stock Rockgrinder given that they are a part of its default wargear - and they do help to justify the various discrepancies between the two Goliath variants.

Sacred Relics of the Cult

Icon of the Cult Ascendant - An expensive relic that only an Iconward can bear, the Icon of the Cult Ascendant is a cool choice that functions for bearers both in the Brood Cycle or outside of that particular formation thanks to its unique benefits. Granting re-rolls on failed varying types of Leadership tests is really handy for Genestealer Cults that, while having good to great Leadership characteristics universally, tend to lack Fearless or other morale-circumventing abilities. Whether that is useful for you or not, the bonus attack conferred to every model in the bearers' own unit will certainly justify any possible interest in the relic; ignoring any other buffs, giving a unit of Metamorphs both Furious Charge and +1 Attack can give each one five Rending attacks each with Strength values ranging from five to seven. As the most expensive relic available in the Genestealer Cults codex by a decent margin, determining whether this is ultimately of worth to you will largely depend on how much you prioritise morale and Leadership in your armies; if you find yourself struggling to keep your forces in line, the Icon is a cheaper alternative to a Patriarch. Besides, those bonus attacks are phenomenal for Metamorphs in particular and could well be worth purchasing the Icon for.

Dagger of Swift Sacrifice - This Dagger is a fairly cheap option that any non-Patriarch Independent Character should consider; it lets you make a single Poisoned (2+) attack with the Instant Death special rule as opposed to attacking normally. While a Bonesword on a Primus can do a similar job with better results against certain units, this is a bit more universal as the Instant Death is guaranteed - it is a nightmare for weakly armoured monstrous creatures or characters wherein the more random Bonesword can't be relied upon (Greater Daemons are worthy targets for the Dagger). Still, for its points cost, I'd usually much rather take the Sword of the Void's Eye on a Primus and wouldn't really worry about a weapon upgrade for either an Iconward or Magus, so it's not something I've really found myself lusting after.

Scourge of Distant Stars - Expecting anything but another melee-oriented relic out of the Genestealer Cult codex would be foolhardy as proven by the Scourge of Distant Stars, this is the second and final artefact to not be tied to any particular one out of the various Independent Character models that lead the hybrids. The Scourge earns its name by forcing non-vehicle opponents locked in a challenge with the wielder to take a Toughness test before they resolve any attacks, with the penalty for failure being an automatic and unstoppable wound that then also imposes a -1 penalty to both the Initiative and Attack characteristics of the affected model. It is very useful for slowly killing enemies that typically rely on strong saving throws - Kaldor Draigo comes to mind - and just generally claiming whatever advantage you can in a challenge; be mindful though that Feel No Pain can still dissipate the Scourge's harmful effects.

Staff of the Subterran Master - Giving a Magus ten Strength 2 AP- shots with a range of 18" is fairly underwhelming and, honestly, only slightly less so when both Ignores Cover and Rending are factored in. Ballistic Skill 4 on the Magus means that, assuming average rolls, the Staff will give you a single Rending wound or armour penetration roll with each shooting attack - the range in conjunction with Cult Ambush means you should get to use it fairly often too. However, when you consider that the Staff is the equal second most expensive artefact in the codex and almost half the price of a basic Magus, it begs the question of whether or not dishing out one Rend per friendly Shooting phase - especially as the base Strength 2 of the gun makes it almost useless against vehicles - is worth taking this over something like the Crouchling or more models elsewhere in the army. It's amusing for killing elite models one-by-one and pinging wounds off of monstrous creatures but it definitely falls into the category of upgrades that you should only purchase if you have random spare points that can't be spent elsewhere. Keep in mind that the base Strength 2 means it will fail to do anything noteworthy outside of the occasional Rend and maybe an extra cover (but not armour) ignoring wound here or there, but if you actually get good mileage out a specific number of Rending attacks via dice rolling expertise then you can certainly use this relic to your advantage.

Sword of the Void's Eye - A bonesword with a few potent upgrades to sweeten the deal, any single Primus' in your army can exchange aforementioned weapon for this gem of an item; increasing the users' Strength by one and granting them re-rolls of 1 on their to-hit and to-wound rolls is fantastic in the context of a Cult army. As a Primus can "hide" in a challenge and use his or her cronies to soak up killing blows for him, having a base Strength 5 AP3 weapon that possesses a form of Preferred Enemy on top of the potential for Instant Death is well worth what few points you spend on it. Mixing it with Might from Beyond and a nearby Iconwards' aura on top of the Primus' own Hatred effect makes for one incredibly deadly melee character, one that isn't reliant on being in a challenge to get the most out of his special weapon. I consider this a priority over all other Genestealer Cult Sacred Relics bar one, which leads me into my next discussion...

The Crouchling - Unless you somehow only have points enough to choose between this and Mastery Level 2 as the sole upgrade for your Magus, this is an absolute necessity for any Cult army list that is serious about establishing credibility in the Psychic phase. Acting both as a Genestealer Familiar - extra Strength 4 AP- Rending attacks, woo! - and allowing the bearer to generate an additional psychic power on top of how many they could normally roll for, this is fantastic for helping you get the powers you want or need to suit a specific match-up. I favour using this for more chances at getting the Telepathic Summons, Enfeeble or Invisibility psychic powers from the Broodmind, Biomancy and Telepathy disciplines respectively, but the fact that it isn't restricted to any single discipline like many other similarly-constructed relics are makes it a truly phenomenal choice. This is absolutely the best relic you can have and could well be considered mandatory in many circumstances.

With this lengthy article completed, there's not too much more to cover with the Genestealer Cult codex; by my estimation, only a selection of unit and formation reviews remain. Hopefully I don't miss anything! Cheers.

We must scour them from the stars before they do the same to us. 
Ortan Cassius, Master of Sanctity


  1. Thanks for that review Jack! I spent some time poring over the codex myself last night so it's been really timely in terms of getting a second opinion on stuff I had looked at.

    As always, your reviews are carefully considered and more importantly, explained clearly.

  2. My Blood Angels had their first game against the GC in a tournament. With the GC detachment, units kept popping out one turn to reappear the next, and summoned units had 4 democharges each, other units with their seismic cannons. It was crazy. The Blood Angels collapsed and were nearly tabled. Most of the maelstrom points were from the non-engaged GC units popping back in to claim objectives or mission requirements. Game went the full 7 turns too. I think the score was fairly even till about turn 4, then it went bad from there. Frickin Fracken bug people...

  3. Is this site dead alive anymore? No posts this year. Was hoping for some 8th Edition reviews


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