Building a Genestealer Cult: Core Formations


Hey everyone, Reecius here from Frontline Gaming to talk about the awesome new Genestealer Cults!

Check the Tactics Corner for more great reviews and articles.

There’s a lot to love (and talk about!) in the new Genestealer Cults codex. I think Games Workshop did an excellent job with this book. It’s characterful, fun, has a unique play style and I think it will be good on the tabletop, too! Nicely done, GW.

While going over the book with my friend and teammate iNcontroL (which you can listen to, here, or watch, here) we were debating the pros and cons of the various core formation choices in their Cult Insurrection Detachment (Decurion style detachment). We both agreed the command benefits of it made it more attractive to us than a CAD but I gravitated towards the Neophyte Cavalcade while iNcontroL was drawn to the Brood Cycle. The Brood Cycle features more of the unique Genestealer Cult units while the Neophyte Cavalcade has more of an Astra Militarum feel to it, and is cheaper.

The Neophyte Cavalcade comes with some “tax” units, which are usually what makes or breaks these Decurion style detachments. In this instance, the perceived tax units are pretty much all of the Astra Militarum units, haha. The stock Leman Russ Eradicator it comes with is cheap as chips and actually not bad though, in my experience


Having used one frequently with my Astra Militarum I can say that no, it is not an all star unit, but for 120pts you get a solid tank. AV14, and an Ignores Cover large blast that ISN’T Ordnance (meaning you can fire all other weapons without Snap Firing) makes it a solid “tax” unit. I usually run mine with a Heavy Bolter or Flamer. If I take Sponsons for it, which I typically do not, I run with Heavy Bolter Sponsons. Dozer Blades are a good consideration though, as you will often have to move through terrain to get into range of your main cannon. Keep this bad boy in the rear with the gear to protect backfield objectives or go after enemy light infantry sitting on objectives such as Scouts, Fire Warriors, Guardians, etc. He’s great at taking them out, just be wary of enemy infantry assaulting him as he will go down pretty easily in melee.


The Sentinel, unfortunately, is just terrible. I love the model but man they are so bad. This is the real tax in the formation but thankfully he’s cheap at 35pts stock. He also gains the Cult Ambush special rule which lets him deploy using some fun special rules, potentially getting to shoot twice or assault first turn, which is good fun. Otherwise, just use him to go after objectives and try not to die. In this instance, I’d run with either the stock Multi-laser or a Heavy Flamer and call it a day.


The formation’s two units of Neophytes must take Chimeras as their dedicated transports which is not bad, but not good either. Chimeras are meh this edition, certainly not bad but the core rules limiting vehicles to a single normal shot when they move really hurts them, unfortunately. It encourages them to sit and shoot which is counter to what a vehicle should be, IMO. But hey, that’s a topic for another day. The Chimera though, is not bad as stated. I run mine now with the Multi-laser and a Heavy Flamer in most instances if they will be mobile as these often will. The Chimeras also gain Outflank which is super useful and fits in with the high mobility of the rest of the army.

Also, all of the above units gain the ability to ignore the effects of Crew Stunned or Shaken on a 4+ (although they still lose a Hull Point) which is a nice bonus. In all, You’re looking at a base cost of only 285 points in “tax” units of which only 1 is truly bad (the Sentinel) but if you get first turn and roll well on the Cult Ambush table can actually do some serious work. Dropping two Heavy Flamer templates on a vulnerable unit or assaulting a shooting unit the first turn and tying it up can be really useful.


As for the Neophytes in the formation? For now on paper I have them with just two Flamers per unit to keep them cheap but play-testing may change that opinion. Some of their special weapons are pretty cool and could be quite good appearing in the backfield via Outflanking Chimeras.


So why this choice over the Brood Cycle which has no tax units and comes with a lot more of the characterful Genestealer Cults units? Because for me, the fun in this army is going to be in playing them using the Cult Ambush and Numbers Beyond Counting special rules! These are where the real fun for me will be I think. The Subterranean Uprising formation gives you MUCH better odds of using the above rules to maximum benefit as that formation’s special rules: Time to Rise Up and Meticulous Planner let you roll 2 or 3d6 on the table and choose the result you want. That way, every point I spend on units that will take advantage of Cult Ambush will be doing so more efficiently.


Then of course, I simply must take the Demolition Claw because mutants chucking TNT with abandon is awesome and the First Curse formation for my love of Genestealers that are actually scary again.

From there, I am batting around some ideas. I definitely think I will ally in another Patirach as they are incredibly for their points, possibly even another First Curse formation, muahaha! Not certain yet, but am enjoying theorizing out a list.

Which Core Formation are you thinking about taking for your Genestealer Cults army? You can pick them up at Frontline Gaming at up to 25% off this week, too!

Also, we have two new F.A.T. Mats now available! Be sure to grab yours, soon!

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  • BartTP

    Gonna ally them with IG so I can field tons of ordinary human cultists. Everything else is secondary.

    • benn grimm

      Seems like the best way in without spending more than it costs to field a fully kitted out FW army.

    • memitchell

      You can pretty much field them as IG without allying with IG. Or, having to field those annoying Command Squads and Platoons.

  • EnTyme

    Repeat after me, BoLS: Multiple Formation Detachment. If it’s not Necron, it’s not a Decurion Detachment.

    • Dan Brugman

      I propose we start referring to the Combined Arms Detachment as Astartes Style Formation just to make the point clear to BoLS writers.

    • benn grimm

      Repeat after me; I will try my best not to be a pedant…

      • TenDM

        Nah, this isn’t pedantic. This is like when your mum calls her computer a Nintendo.

        • benn grimm

          You’re right, it isn’t just pedantic, it’s also obnoxious and patronizing. And my mum would have no clue what a ‘Nintendo’ was.

  • benn grimm

    No knights? 😉 I’m also liking the neophyte calvalcade as the core, slightly less prescriptive and gives me a way into the army that my wallet weeps over slightly less. From there I’m thinking a couple of squads of acolytes, couple of metamorphs and the rest purestrains. Want to see how they fare with straight cad also.

    • Andrew Thomas

      Who needs Knights when I can get a Shadowsword that doesn’t give my Cultists a case of the Navels? Or better yet, a Shadowsword, a Stormlord, and a Doomhammer, with a Techpriest to keep them running? I’m only a couple of boxes shy of a proper Brood Cycle, but Cavalcade does look fun.

      • benn grimm

        Cue evil laugh, sounds awesome… 🙂 The knights thing was just a bit of a joke.

    • TenDM

      I think they’ll do ok in casual games using a CAD but they seem really geared towards the Formation/Detachment bonuses working in harmony with their individual special rules.
      Like if you’re going to be using Cult Ambush you really want that Subterranean Uprising Formation bonus to soften the worst case scenario and build some reliability into it. It’s hard to get a terrible result on the Cult Ambush table but if you’re building your army around it you need to be able to count on getting right up in the face of your primary targets right out the gate.

      I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out because at face value it looks like this is a really good example of what Detachments should be. Good-not-great bonuses with a little flavour that separates the army’s playstyle from the rest without making them dramatically over or under powered.

  • Stealgaze

    At first I will be running the neophyte cavalcade as I don’t have all the models for the brood cycle. But once I get more models I plan to switch to the brood cycle as I think it will better suit the play style of the Main detachment, I am not really a fan of the cavalcade as it is both a points tax and a deployment tax (being stuck in DT), and a unit size gimping (capacity of DT).

    Plan to start brood cycle with most things min but with the neophyte being 2 20 man shotgun squads

    • EnTyme

      I’m wanting to run a Brood Cycle with two 10-man autogun squads so I can fit them in the Goliath trucks. Probably not the most points-efficient way to do things, but it’s hard to turn down those cool models.

    • Dave Bacon

      Yup, i’ll be doing the same, but using my squats as neophytes to save on buying more models. I already have chimeras and Leman Russ to go with the squats. The fluff is that the survivors of the Squatpocalypse are really pissed off that the Imperium and GW have basically ignored them to death, so they sided with the cults. And for a bonus, my squats really annoy one of my regular opponents.