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Warhammer 40K: Five Reasons Genestealer Cults Are Secretly Grimdark Skaven

4 Minute Read
Mar 16 2023
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Let’s talk about why GSC are secretly the Skaven of Warhammer 40K.

Back when the World That Was, was… many people noticed that both WFB and 40K shared a few of the same races. Demons, Humans, various Elf/Eldar, Orks, even Halfings, Ogers and Dwarfs lived in both worlds. Whenever a race showed up in one game people inevitably wanted it in the other game.

While you had some people asking for a T’au or Nid coutner part in WFB, by far the most popular request was to have Skaven in 40K. Players have even spent a lot of time hunting through 40K to see if the Skaven might exist already, with the Hrud being considered very Skaven-like, though recent depictions have moved away from that. However after the slow but steady expansion of the Genestealer Cult models over several editions, I’ve come to the conclusion that Skaven do already have a 40K counterpart, and the is GSC. Let’s talk about why.

Weird Tech

The Skaven are famous for their odd technology. Warplighting cannons, strange balls of blades and other technological monstrosities dominate their battlefields. While its maybe a little random and prone to blowing up, its not quite the kooky “this shouldn’t work” that you get with Ork tech, and much more evil mad scientist.

GSC deferentially have a bit of that vibe going on. While a lot of their stuff in re-purposed Imperial gear, it also runs towards esoteric gear that tends to blow up a bit. Moreover both their gear tends to run towards underground or even mining gear. It often ends up being kind of an evil mirror to the technology of the main Human faction in their world. Looking at the new GSC mining drill terrain/super-weapon I could easily see the Skaven with something similar.

Blades In the Dark


I think this is the model that really made the connection in my mind between Skaven and GSC. Skaven are well know for their use of assassins both on and off the battlefield. If GSC models are anything to go by it looks they also are pushing that assassins theme. And this model just screams Skaven to me. Dark cloaks and glowing green curved blades are pretty much the Skaven assassin official uniform. Even the old piping evokes Skaven to me. You could pretty easily add a tail and some fur and this would work as a Skaven.

Hordes of Cannon Fodder/Big Mutants

Both Skaven and GSC rely on a horde of disposable foot solders to do the bulk of their fighting for them. In lore and on the tabletop they throw hordes of cannon fodder agasint a foe hoping to overwhelm them with numbers. When that doesn’t work they can both rely on big mutated beasts, Rat Ogres and Abominants to do the heavy lifting.


Back in the old WFB days Skaven were an army that loved to ambush the enemy. Often depicted as spewing out of sewers or coming down from roof tops they could be where they wanted. Gutter Runners, Assassins and other units had many rules for breaking the normal deployment rules. In 40K GSC are the same way. They too are often depicted as boiling up from sewers or the underground to over run the surface. And their rules reflect this with their ability to get anywhere they need to be on the tabletop. These can lead to strange similarities in thematic play style.


GSC Skaven Theme

“A strange infection, gnawing at the roots of the decaying city, spreading pestilence and corruption and waiting for the day to boil up and over run the surface.”

That sentence could easily describe either GSC or Skaven, and the thing is that they fill the same thematic role in the settings. Both are the denizens of the “Underground Empire” and the natural result of the corruption of human cities. This is the cancer that eats civilization from below. Both lurk in sewers and use plague to spread power and weaken the enemy.

Both worship their own god, and both wage a slow guerrilla war terrorizing the surface until they can one day rise up and destroy it.

So what do you think? Are GSC 40K’s version of Skaven or not? Let us know down in the comments! 


Author: Abe Apfel
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