Genestealer Cult and 40k – How Will The Army Work?


Let’s take a look at how Genestealer Cult may play in 40k and what each unit’s role will be.

Well GW’s done it again folks. That’s right: another nostalgia army! By this of course I mean armies from ye olden days of Rogue Trader and 2nd Edition that haven’t been playable for years. We got Skitarii and Cult Mechanicus, Eldar Harlequins, and Wulfen, but now we’ve got Genestealer Cult on the horizon, and what a release it’s shaping up to be!

Now we have only seen them in the context of the new Deathwatch: Overkill board game, but there’s no doubt in anyone’s minds that they’re going to become the newest army for Warhammer 40,000 as well. With that in mind, let’s take a hypothetical look at how this army will play in 40k and what each unit’s role will be.

The Army List

Genestealer Patriarch:

Genestealer Patriarch

This bad boy is a step above and beyond the more recent Genestealer Broodlord. Back in 2nd Edition, the Patriarch was a fat, Don Corleone lookin’ genestealer on a throne (there was a running version too….but Don Corleone was too good an image to pass up on). The psychic powers have always been prevalent with the Patriarch, and the newest version seems to be as well. Taking cues from the Space Hulk Broodlord and Spawn of Cryptus, he’s spiny, psychic, and has talons up the wazzoo. In gameplay terms, he’s likely to be the real powerhouse in the army. Expect high stats across the board, at least Mastery Level 2, and maybe even an invulnerable save.

Genestealer Magus:

Genestealer Magus

The other classic HQ choice for the Genestealer Cult, the Magus is the face of the cult- the most human-looking among them as a 4th generation hybrid, and a powerful psyker and inspiring leader. Dominating the Psychic Phase may just be the name of the game for the Genestealer Cult in 40k, as the two prominent psychic HQ choices, combined with the possibility of Shadow In The Warp (they ARE Tyranids, after all), could be a potent game-changer. Expect closer to Guardsman-level stats with this guy, save for Mastery Level 2 or 3, probably a Refractor Field or some such to keep him alive, and some leadership abilities so that he acts as a force-multiplier for the Cult’s lesser goons.

Genestealer Primus:

Genestealer Primus

Now this is the guy I’m really excited about. An entirely new unit, the Primus is a 1st or 2nd Generation Hybrid who’s been schooled in the arts of war since birth, hidden away from the human populace with a singular goal: to lead the Cult into glorious combat once they reveal themselves as a rebellion. He has the choicest wargear, best weapons, and looks BAMF-tacular to boot. He has a genestealer rending claw, a bonesword, and a needle pistol, so he’s likely to pack a wallop in combat. I imagine he’ll be somewhere between a Space Marine and an Imperial Guard commander in terms of stats, and will likely be the most “customizable” character choice with options for many more weapons, relics, and wargear items.

First and Second Generation Hybrids:

Genestealer Gen 3 & 4

The classic hybrids, more genestealer than human, most have three arms and wield crude knives and autopistols, in addition to their natural rending claws. They look fearsome and are likely to have a high number of attacks, and possibly a decent armor save accounting for their chitinous shells. Hybrids were one of the original troops choices for a Genestealer Cult army-  in second edition they had high initiative and strength, were decent fighters but poor shots. I imagine they’ll be fairly similar in their new incarnation as well. In addition to their standard armaments, they also appear able to take Mining Lasers as a heavy weapon.

Third and Fourth Generation Hybrids:

Genestealer Gen 1 & 2

The more human-like of the bunch, these hybrids carry autoguns and wear their old mining pressure suits. These guys tend to be closer to Imperial Guardsmen, usually cheaper in points and better shots than their less humanoid kin, at the cost of weaker armor and less skill at close combat. In addition to their autoguns, some of these hybrids carry grenade launchers for some added punch.

Purestrain Genestealers:

Purestrain Genestealer

Now these guys are a conundrum. On the one hand, we all know and love Genestealers for what they are (aside from lacking Assault Grenades). On the other….you only get two of them with the Deathwatch: Overkill box…which may indicate Genestealers are getting an overhaul rules-wise. If we assume they’re staying the same, they’re a powerful melee-centric, fast assault unit that can ruin most armies’ day with a well-timed charge.

Genestealer Aberrants:

Genestealer Aberrants

Last, but definitely not least we have the Genestealer Aberrants. These hulking, malformed creatures appear to be pure close-combat specialists. They carry heavy mining tools- the power hammer or power pick – mentioned as being able to crack open space marine armor. These beasts are sure to be units with high strength and toughness, multiple wounds, and possibly even Feel No Pain.

Play To Your Strengths

So how will the Genestealer Cult play on the tabletop? Warhammer 40,000 armies tend to be either Horde armies (Chaos Daemons, Orks, Imperial Guard, or Tyranids) or Elite armies (Space Marines of all flavors, Eldar, Necrons, Tau)- with variations being model count, skill at close combat or ranged warfare, etc. The older armies tend to have more flexibility overall- you can run a horde Imperial Guard army with a ridiculously high model count, or you can run them as elite troops with veterans, storm troopers, etc.

Genestealer Cult looks to be short ranged, effective in melee, and absolutely dominating in the psychic phase. We may still get a few further units (Brood Brothers/Brethren, Cult Limousine, and a few other potentials are likely for the full release), but with what we see right now we’ll have some ranged support with 3rd and 4th Gen Hybrids, whilst 1st and 2nd Gen Hybrids, the Primus, and Aberrants will likely be melee fighters of varying usefulness. Armor doesn’t seem to be a specialty with the army, nor does ranged combat, but numbers may be, and short-ranged firepower too. So we’re looking at a short-ranged, melee-centric force, which is different than many done before. They won’t have the armor support of Imperial Guard, the all-around toughness of Space Marines, or the randomness of Orks, but nor will they be a defensive shooting force like Tau.

Until we see rules of course, this is speculation, but I imagine positioning will be important with Genestealer Cult armies- firing line with your 3rd and 4th Gen Hybrids and their autoguns, swing into assault with 1st and 2nd Gen Hybrids, and then use Aberrants to break through heavy obstacles like MEQ or TEQ. You’re likely to need your Primus and his special wargear attached to a 1st and 2nd Gen Hybrid squad for maximum effectiveness, while your Magus and Patriarch will likely be acting as psychic support and to shut down your opponent’s psykers- I imagine they will have a large number of psychology-based powers which reflect the Genestealers’ hypnotic abilities.

What are your hopes for how the Genestealer Cult Army will be laid out on the 40K tabletop?

  • BrotherCaptain

    My money’s on a Harlie-style army: a pretty limited force by themselves, but a good ally for a larger army (read: Tyranids).

    • Chris. K Cook

      Yeah that’s my guess too.

  • Djbz

    I seriously doubt they’ll give the Patriacrch an invunrable save.
    And if they do it’ll probably be limited to close combat.

    • Daniel Sundblad

      If you go find the old stories, like “Deathwing” ,you’ll see there is a clear precedent in the background for it. Psychic forcefields stopping bolts and psychic blasts…

      Of course, this was a fluff explaination for a game mechanic, in the first version of Space Hulk everything had 1 Hitpoint, but you could expand cards from your hand that had an “Aura” effect, to negate a killing hit, but still..

      • Grafton Is Dust

        I think he’s referencing the fact that Nids don’t get Invuln Saves, aside from the odd Psychic Field on Malanthropes and Zoeys, or the Swarmlord in CC.

        They certainly can’t buy them like nearly every other faction can. :/

        • Daniel Sundblad

          Then again, ‘Nids don’t get autoguns or mining lasers either…

          • Andrew Thomas

            My Chaos Cultists need mining lasers, for the big guys.

        • Spiderpope

          If they are their own army, what the nids do and don’t get isn’t really an issue. In theory that limitation is for internal balance, if cults dont get the same units as the regular ‘nids, then they dont need that restriction.

          • Grafton Is Dust

            It’s not really a restriction, just a trait of Tyranid units.

        • Drew_Da_Destroya

          *Looks at Cybork gubbinz*
          *Raises a meaty green fist in anger*

    • Ed Butlar

      Don’t care.

  • Old zogwort

    Nice one. Don’t know if it is all true but just reading it makes me enthusiastic about the models 🙂

  • Gabriel De-Vere

    20 years I’ve been waiting for this…. <3 Gw today!!!! Thank you and please make more!!!!

    • Bayne MacGregor

      Me too! And i concur. Genestealer Cults were always one of the cooler creepier parts of the grimdark.

      • euansmith

        Remember, no tongues on a first date.

    • Gabriel De-Vere

      For me i know sisters will make a show but Arbites!!!!!! Cult army Vs Imperial police!!!! I feel like a kid in a candy store with all this new stuff GW is pinging out. Expensive perhaps, but vs the alternative nothing or going back to lead!!!! 🙂

  • Jimmy McFeelgood

    This gives me hope that my Sisters of Battle aren’t forgotten!

    • Miles

      Im already imagining an amazing box set with the sisters facing off against cultists.

      • Jimmy McFeelgood


      • euansmith

        SoB versus Cultists in an abandoned promethium refinery… fire… so much fire…

        • Miles

          Burn the heretic?
          What would the Saint Celestine do?

      • Erber

        Oh god yes!!

        • Miles

          Careful now. Don’t get too excited or you might knock over your agrax earthshade.

  • Miles

    I hope they have a nice synergy together. But above all if they blend in well with an existing Tyranid force as a infiltration force then I will be happy. This may be the update to genestealers that nid players have been waiting for. Hopefully the psychic elements will be able to provide some cover saves/invul saves for them. If you can improve the survive-ability of the genestealers then I imagine that these will be a very popular addition to most nid players.
    But most of all i’m extremely pleased to see these amazing box sets. GW is making good strides with these excellent nostalgia products and if the rules are sufficient then they are on to a winner.

  • Guessing they will be allies with imperial guard (PDF) which will unlock their heavier weapons/vehicles and flesh them out instantly.

    • Grafton Is Dust

      I’d like that, but due to 7th Edition’s stupid Allies Matrix, the IG are part of the Imperium, which means that these guys either will also be Allies with Sisters, Dark Angels, Astartes and every other bugger, or more likely, will be Come The Apocalypse with all of them, IG included.

      – A Totally Not Bitter Gue’vesa Player

      • Daniel Sundblad

        Yeah… that was a move nobody was asking for, and limited stuff for no benefit.

        Sure, you only need one row and column for “Imperium”, but, really… what is that good for, that couldn’t have been made with noting each of them as battle brothers? And that didn’t inconvienience stuff like Gue’Vesa, Dark Mechanicum, Triator guard, Human mercs working with Ork Blood Axes (or the other way around)…

        • Grafton Is Dust

          Yeah. In my opinion, IG are the generic human race faction. They should be able to plug in to almost any faction, using the examples you put among others.

      • disqus_m1PItkrJLN

        The easiest solution for that would be a datasheet listing something like [1 Patriarch/Magus, 1+ hybrids, 1+ Infantry Platoon] with special rule like ‘Will of the Cult’ – All Imperial units in the formation instead follow the rules for Allies of Convenience with respect to units from the Tyranids Faction.

        • Grafton Is Dust


      • JJ

        IDK I would actually like to see them limit allies. It would be fully understandable to just allow BB with IG only. IG represent a local PDF that got infected. They wouldn’t ally with anyone not infected.

        • Grafton Is Dust

          How could they be any more limited?

          • JJ

            I guess I mean break up the whole battle Brothers imperium block!

          • Grafton Is Dust

            Yeah, agreed.

      • Mamut

        IG being part of the imperium doesn’t stop them from only being BB with Guard. Just look at cypher rules:
        “Cypher can be selected as part of a primary detachment from the following codexes: Codex:
        Adepta Sororitas, Codex: Blood Angels, Codex: Chaos Space Marines, Codex: Grey Knights,
        Codex: Imperial Guard, Codex: Inquisition, Codex: Space Marines or Codex: Space Wolves.
        Cypher does not take up any slots from the detachment’s Force Organisation chart. He may
        not be included in an army that includes any models from Codex: Dark Angels.”
        That means that all of this codexes are part of Imperium, but each one is also individual.

        • Grafton Is Dust

          Would be nice if GW had kept it that way. You’re forgetting that Cypher was released in 6th edition, before the Matrix changed.

  • Deacon Ix

    Going to get this purely so I can combine it with the ‘stealers in Space Hulk, which up till now I haven’t really had a use for

  • Ed Butlar

    This will be the start of my second army for 40k, I’v always loved the genestealer and the idea of hybrids. It helps that the models are fantastic. I look forward to them to being at least an interesting army to to fight with, I want to buy two boxes but I don’t have a lot of cash atm and I still have a lot of my wolves to paint. What do you guys think of the models?

    • euansmith

      The minis look tip top. I’m sure the Hybrids will be appearing on eBay, like the Dark Vengence Cultists, as people buy the boxes to break them up for resale, so you might not need to splash out on two complete sets.

  • Deacon Ix

    Possibly be used as another faction in the upcoming re-release of Necromunda…

    • Yup, that seems like a pretty obvious use for them

  • Spiderpope

    You get three Purestrains in the box.

    There will only be a army release if Overkill sells. Basically GW has a range designed, but want to be sure they’ll sell before going into full production.

    • dinodoc

      They already said they are releasing rules for it in WD.

      • Spiderpope

        Those cover the models in the board game. I’m talking about a full army release – codex, multiple multi part kits etc.

        • TweetleBeetle

          If that happens, it will likely be something akin to Skitarii – a supplement sized book, perhaps to be combined at a later date with the Tyranids Codex proper (as Skitarii will soon be combined with Cult Mechanicus).

  • Gabriel De-Vere

    I’ve just read through all the messages and I’ve found no GW bashing!!!! Could this be a miracle favourite for the bolls community??? wow…!!!

    • TweetleBeetle

      It’s been difficult to maintain the senseless bashing after the last 8-9 months of releases. Not only giving people gorgeous model ranges from factions people have wanted forever (Mechanicus), but also nostalgic bits like these, the Iron Priest and Ulrik models, etc. Not to mention simplifying the entry point for Sigmar (Start Collecting, Grand Alliance books..), and the entire Specialist Games department taking off.

      GW has been doing good things under the direction of this new CEO. It’s required some egg cracking along the way, and there will be the Thomas Gardiners around forever who will hate everything no matter what, but it’s a good direction.

      • Ed Butlar

        I think the big issue was that they were listening but I remember reading somewhere that it takes about 18 months to put those changes into practice. I know a lot of people who work there and I know they all want to make the gamers and painters happy.

  • 6Cobra

    Just found my new Necromunda gang!

  • It’s been a long wait, but GW has come up trumps on this one. Even familiars get a new release. Well played GW.

  • benn grimm

    They look great, not overly bothered about the rules, though it would be very cool to be able to do a whole army; a few stolen ghetto-quality chimeras etc here n there would be nice.

  • JP

    As a guy who wanted to run a Tyranid list with low model count and didn’t want to deal with Instinctive Behavior tests, I had Genestealers, Deathleaper, Swarmlord, and a few MCs. This is perfect for the type of bug army I wanted to play.

  • Necro Alienerd

    Another proud graduate from the genestealer school of crouching on something while holding a helmet.

  • Gunther Clone C

    I’m assuming they’ll get infiltrate across the board to help the melee get to combat sooner. Either that or the Cult Cadillac vehicles are in the works to get those melee guys to combat faster.

  • Tox

    Genestealer Primus isn’t new, just a renamed version of the Genestealer Hierarch from the 3rd edition, Citadel Journal Codex.

    I’m sure they will get open top trucks in 40k. Hopefully they will get some Brood Brothers in the form of PDF or Guard to supply some tanks too.

    Either way it is the return of my original & favourite 40k with the added bonus of keeping the original design aesthetic. I just dug out all my classic minis.