New Codex Genestealer Cults 2022 Review – Warhammer 40k 9th Edition
A deadly secret is spreading throughout the heart of the Imperium itself. Hiding in plain sight within the manufactorums and industry are a network of individuals tainted with Xenos blood who are pulling the strings in the background to prepare for the coming of their gods. As the Tyranid Hive Fleets drift through the void of space, the Genestealer Cults rise up to overthrow and disrupt the planetary defences in order to expedite the fall of the planet to horrors from beyond… only at the end do they realise their terrible fate.
Up for pre order today is Codex Genestealer Cults for Warhammer 40,000, allowing followers of the four armed emperor the chance to get their many hands on not only updated rules and profiles for 9th edition, but also access to some of the really cool stuff we have seen for the latest books such as Crusade content! Massive thanks to Games Workshop for providing a free copy for review purposes.
If you would like to support the site then why not order the new Genestealer Cults Codex through our affiliate Element Games and save yourself some cash too!
If you would like to watch this view then check out our video below or over on YouTube!
Still with us? Excellent, let us prepare for the coming of the true gods of this universe…
Codex Genestealer Cults (2022)
Back towards the end of 8th Edition we saw the Genestealer Cults reimagined and released for Warhammer 40,000 – Previously a niche sub-list in the back of the 2nd Edition Tyranids Codex, the Genestealer Cults got an amazing new plastic model range and rules to reflect their tricksy nature and ability to slip out of the shadows to attack at just the right time. Lots of people (myself included) fell in love with the range and pledged ourselves to a terrifying alien race, welcoming them to us without perhaps realising what would happen when they arrived! The Cults have been in an odd spot since 9th edition with their ability to ambush lessened slightly by the fact that all units can come in as reinforcements in the current game. Some units struggled while others became no-brainer picks, and it was always anticipated that things would be refreshed somewhat when the new Codex dropped.
In the new Genestealer Cults Codex, up for pre order today, things have indeed been changed! New army mechanics have been added, old ones have been tweaked, profiles have been amended and some entirely removed from the book. But fear not, the Genestealer Cults are in a great place and once again capture the feeling of how the army should play.
For both new and returning Genestealer Cults players we get a considerable lore section explaining who the cults are and what the Genestealer curse is, covering the generational changes upon those who are tainted and detailing how the cults operate through lore breakdowns, stories and a look into specific conflicts such as Chalnath (Recently featured in a Kill Team box) This is accompanied as ever with gorgeous artwork (Both old and new) and shots of the entire miniatures range in both the main studio scheme and some of the other cults. This along with the narrative for each of the various cults really helps to inspire you to create whichever of the cults that captures your imagination!
As ever, the design and presentation is excellent, with the book itself being a gorgeous thing to flick through! But as great as the first half of the book is, I imagine everyone wants to know what is contained within the rules themselves…
As mentioned in the intro, the Genestealer Cults have had some considerable rules changes over the previous edition codex. Some of these may require some players to restructure their army a little, but honestly I feel that these changes are for the betterment of the game and lead to a really flavourful army.
A big change for the army is that each character can only be included in each detachment once – if you want to take multiple of the same character then you are going to have to take multiple detachments in order to do this. Existing Genestealer Cults players tended to have multiple detachments of different cults, so this may not impact you massively, but it’s something to consider if you want to minimise the number of detachments you take.
Speaking of detachments, something that the Genestealer Cults often struggled with in the current edition of the game was fitting all their many, many, character options within a single detachment – Now with the Gene-Sect rule you are allowed to take a character choice without taking up a force org slot for every HQ choice character you take – meaning if you take one of each HQ option then you are freeing yourself a lot of Elite choices for the various character options we have – making list building much easier than it used to be!
Broodcoven is a new rule that dictates who the warlord should be, for example if you have a Patriarch then that model MUST be the warlord (Which makes sense from a lore point of view!), If you do not have a Patriarch then instead your Primus or Magus is your warlord, and if you have non of the above then finally an Iconward or Alphus can take command – its worth noting that any character choice that isnt HQ can never be your warlord!
As seen recently on Warhammer Community, Brood Brothers has changed quite a lot! The Genestealer Cults codex does not have any Astra Militarum units in it any more! Instead for each Genestealer Cults detachment you take you can also take an Astra Militarum detachment, and as long as the guard units points or power totals no more than 25% of your entire army then you do not lose the ability to use any Cults specific rules such as Crossfire. As a bonus the entire Brood Brother detachment gets +2 leadership and access to the Unquestioning Loyalty ability (we’ll cover this shortly). While this may disappoint some players who had considerable Guard elements to their Genestealer Cults armies, I do feel that this is for the best – it allows you to have the flavour of an allied guard detachment without opening it up to abuse too much and honestly this is something I would like to see added to Chaos Space Marines to allow the Lost and the Damned and Daemons to accompany them while not becoming the majority of the army. There’s still some fun thematic stuff that can be done here and there’s lots you can fit in a 500 point detachment to add some flexibility to your cult!
Conceal (Ambush and Underground)
As with the previous codex can can opt to place your units either in Ambush or Underground at the start of the game by using the Conceal ability. This is very similar to the previous iteration but has a couple of decent changes. Ambushing models work much the same way, instead of deploying a unit you instead place an ambush marker (And good news, you get a sheet of tokens included with the Codex!) there are then revealed at the end of your command phase or at the end of your opponents movement phase depending on who has the first turn. Units that are Underground (This can only be done on Infantry or Bikers) can be placed anywhere on the battlefield outside of 8″ if they would like to charge, or 6″ if they forsake charging – this is a fantastic improvement that not only gets your combat units an inch closer, but allows you to get shooting units where they need to be in order to trigger crossfire (As we will see shortly Crossfire is going to be brutal!)
Whats even better is that if a unit with an ability that is used in the command phase pops up from underground then they are allowed to use that ability when they are placed, meaning you don’t miss out on any of your abilities!
This works much as it did in the old book, with characters being able to pass damage off to nearby units on a 4+ when they fail a save, but Patriarchs now get a +1 to this roll saving them now on a 3+
Summon the Cult
One of the new rules that is really going to change the way we play the army is Summon the Cult. This represents the endless hordes of troops that the Genestealer Cults have with an unending swarm of cultists ready to throw their life to the cause. To represent this all units with banners (Neophytes, Metamorphs and Acolytes) are able to bring back D3 dead models each command phase (D6 for Neophytes). On top of this your Iconward Can also trigger this ability for all Core units within 6″ (And this includes Atalan Jackals!) – and yes this stacks with the unit’s own banner enabling you to get the maximum number of models back! There is a cap to how many you can get back in a turn (6 for Neophytes and 3 for other units) but makes our units much more survivable than they used to be and means enemies will have to wipe out units entirely if they want to get rid of them.
The other big new rule is Crossfire – this allows units to get a number of different buffs by placing crossfire markers on a target unit. To place a crossfire marker you just need to get a hit with 5 or more damage 1 weapons or a single hit with a weapon with a damage value of more than 1. This makes hand flamers on your Acolytes and Metamorphs very good as they are essentially guaranteed to get at least 5 hits!
Once a unit has a Crossfire marker on it then all other units are +1 to hit it. On top of this if the target unit is exposed (You can draw a line through the target unit to another friendly unit on the other side) then they also get +1 to wound. Finally if the target unit has both a crossfire marker and is exposed and is within 12″ then the target unit no longer gets the benefit of cover. With our ability to drop a unit outside of 6″ with Underground deployment it is very easy to pop some flamers on the far side of a unit of Drukhari for example to place a crossfire marker and expose them and then wound them on a 2+ using the humble shotguns of your Neophytes! Get some crossfire and exposure going on tougher targets such as vehicles and our various heavy weapons will sting even more and even 20 shotgun shots from a bare bones unit having more of a chance of getting through some damage.
I feel this is something that will make the Genestealer Cults very powerful once mastered
The sheet of tokens included with the book is double sided allowing you to use these to mark crossfire, which is another nice touch.
As with the previous Codex you can have your army from 1 of 6 different cults, each with different abilities – I suspect we might see some mix and match across multiple detachments – personally I roll Rusted Claw because I love the scheme!
Cult of the Four Armed Emperor
These guys can re-roll charges and count as being in light cover if you try to shoot them more than 12″ away. Their traits and strat manipulate stratagems making them cost less for you, or cost more for your opponent. They also have a psychic power that reduces movement, advancing and charging of a target unit.
A nice choice for a shooty force, they can shoot at -1 to hit after falling back, and falling back and/or shooting doesn’t stop them from performing actions. They also have a stratagem that can put a crossfire marker on a unit before it is shot, giving the shooting unit the benefits from Crossfire.
The Bladed Cog
These guys get 3″ extra range on all their weapons and can reroll one wound roll each when attacking – they also get an army wide 6+ inv save
The Rusted Claw
Reduce the Ap of attacks that target them of AP -1 or -2 by 1 and count as being stationary for the purposes of shooting if they advance or move (Really nice for a fast moving mad max vibe) While the old every model throws grenades strat is long gone, the rusted claw get something to make up for it in allowing a demo charge to be fired during the movement phase and automatically gets 6 attacks.
The Pauper Princes
The Pauper Princes get an army wide +1 to hit if they charged, got charged or intervened, and also ignore combat attrition modifiers.
The Twisted Helix
Finally we get the Twisted Helix who get +1 Strength across the entire force, add 1 to movement and can only be wounded on a 3 or more! Really nice potential for a nasty close combat force with these guys
Finally, Genestealer Cults players can create their own Cult using 2 pages of different abilities with different costs – they have 4 points to spend among these in order to create something tailored to their army. A lot of these are seen in the cult rules above, but they also have access to some unique ones such as always treating target units as having crossfire markers or automatically wounding targets on a hit of 6!
Strats have had quite a revision in the new book, and many go-to choices such as the ability for every model in a unit to throw grenades have been removed – but we still get some cool stuff such as making grenades hit on a 2+, overloading Industrial weapons to make them more powerful or allowing Jackals to make nearby units count as exposed to your other models regardless of positioning.
Something that is new for the Genestealer Cults is the ability to upgrade units through Proficient Planning – these are abilities that can be purchased for specific models in the army to make them more effective (At a points cost) – for example one can be purchased for a Biophagus that allows them to give any unit in your army one of their genomic upgrades during list construction rather than having to roll during the game. Or if you want to really scare someone then why not upgrade a big nasty combat unit with “From Every Angle” allowing them to come out of reserves on turn 1?!
Warlord Traits and Psychic Powers
Warlord traits are much the same in the new Codex with a couple of tweaks – Biomorph Adaptation now increases Toughness rather than Strength, and Born Survivor is replaced with Prowling Agitant which allows the warlord to move 6″ when they are declared the target of a charge, perhaps moving them out of range or into heroic intervention range of another target.
Psychic powers have had a major revision with a lot of the powerful ones changed.
Mass Hypnosis now reduces the attacks of a target by 1 and makes it fight last
Mind Control makes a target -1 to hit
Psionic Blast now does D3 mortal wounds (3 if the psychic test was higher than the targets leadership)
Mental Onslaught has changed somewhat, you roll 4 dice and each 5+ is a mortal wound, you then roll 3 dice, then 2 etc until the unit is destroyed or you dont roll a 5
Psychic Stimulus allows you to shoot and/or charge after falling back also lets the target fire weapons with no penalty after advancing
Might from Beyond now only increases the attacks of a target unit.
As with other 9th edition books, the Genestealer Cults also get a selection of Objectives for matched Play games – these are themed around the playstyle of the army so expect some really fun thematic stuff!
Sabotage Critical Location has the opponent place 2 markers on the battlefield – you then have to perform an action on them to remove them with the points awarded dropping as the game continues. Combined with the ability to deploy a unit from Underground on turn 1 by using the From Every Angle upgrade this gives you a great chance to get one of them turn 1 for a juicy 9 points!
Broodswarm is a fun one, you get a point for having more models in your opponents deployment zone, a point for having more in your deployment zone and a point for having more not in a deployment zone – again a pretty easy one to achieve a decent score for with your movement and deployment shenanigans
Ambush is all around taking advantage of Crossfire, with a point awarded for killing a unit with a target with a crossfire counter, a point for killing using something that has just come out of ambush and a point for killing an exposed unit.
One of the things I was very excited to see in this new Codex was the Crusade rules, and I have to say I was not disappointed! This is possibly one of the most detailed Crusade systems yet, with Genestealer players finding a planet to infiltrate and over the course of the campaign start taking over key institutions, with your army growing into later generations of cultists as time progresses. There’s a chance that your shadowy movements are discovered by the inhabitants and a one off game is played to represent the day of ascension, with consequences for the GSC player if the uprising is not successful! This is the kind of thing that makes Crusade really enjoyable and helps construct an ongoing narrative around your army – especially if your local gaming group really embraces the Crusade way of playing!
While the mechanics are fairly straight forward there is a great amount of depth and interaction here giving you almost a sub-game outside of the game for planning an enacting your infiltration of a target world!
And so onto the Datasheets! Most units see some changes, and I’m going to cover the biggest ones below, on the whole most units are improved over their old incarnations, but alongside this we have seen points changes for nearly every unit in the book, some going up, some going down.
Along with the Brood Brothers units being removed from the book, the Tectonic Fragdrill is also no more! I think the problem with a lot of the 40k army specific scenery pieces is the fact you have to pay points for them – I feel that if they worked similar to AOS pieces and you just got them as part of your army we would see them included more often!
Patriarch, Primus and Magus
We have covered these already in our Shadow Throne review and they keep the exact same profiles here – couple of tweaks compared to the last book but nothing massive, the Magus has a nice 6″ aura that shuts down mortal wounds in the Psychic phase and the Primus now allows rerolls of 1 to hit for nearby units. The Patriarch is a lot more reliable with his random damage changed to 2
Absolutely vital unit now! his Nexus of Devotion ability allows Core units to Summon the Cult, essentially allowing those units to return slain models every command phase. This is massive and will work really well on decent units of Acoytes and Jackals to make them really hard to shift. he also now gives nearby units +1 to charge too!
The Alphus has been made a lot more reliable with better AP, better strength and a flat damage of 3 on the sniper! It also does additional mortal wounds on a wound roll of 4+ too! It can also mark a friendly unit and an enemy unit, giving both the Alphus and the friendly unit Exposed against the target unit, allowing you the advantage of +1 to wound – something that can be really nasty in some situations.
The Acolytes are a point more expensive each, but get a massive boost in an extra point of toughness and improved weapons! The flamers now have a 12″ range allowing them to be used out of Ambush as a great source of Crossfire counters. Rock Drills have improved with every hit automatically wounding and an AP of -4! Likewise the Rock Cutter is really good with a flat 3 damage. Demo charges are now flat damage 2 but are one use only, with a model in the unit able to take a pair of them. Claws and Knife have been consolidated into a decent AP -2 profile. They also carry the all important banner allowing them to resurrect dead models each command phase!
These are the same as we saw in Shadow Throne with the same much improved weapons, Strength 4 shotguns (personally these are the go-to choice for me over autoguns, especially in a quick cult like Rusted Claw) and a banner allowing up to 6 models to return each command phase! Net increase in points including the banner, but well worth it and a great troops choice!
Genestealers are scary again! now boasting a weapon skill of 2+, 4 attacks and a flat Ap -3 on their weapons these will tear through most units, especially if taken in the twisted Helix where they are Strength 5! they also have a 4+ invulnerable save now, making them a little more survivable. To top it off they are also 3 points cheaper than they used to be too!
The Metamorphs often got overlooked in the old book, being in competition in the elites slot and arguably not being as versatile as the Acolytes, where in the new book they are pretty much Genestealers with flamers who can come back each turn! The weapons profiles have been consolidated into a single one “Metamorph Mutations” giving them Strength 5 AP -3. This along with their extra toughness makes them a pretty scary unit to face! They also have the ability to fight before being removed as a standard ability and not tied to any weapon! Finally they can take a banner and have the Core keyword meaning they can gain models back through Summon the Cult. Net points increase, but worth it now models can return every turn.
Speaking of scary units, the Aberrants are now amazing! Still cost the same, but weapons are now free making them slightly cheaper per model. They are now toughness 5 with 3 wounds each and still reduce damage by 1 (however they have lost their 5+ wounds shrug)! Heavy Power Weapons are now much better hitting at Strength 8 AP -2 and 3 damage on top of an extra attack each on their profile. The stop sign is less good now, but does spill excess damage onto the target unit making it a decent way to not waste any damage on a horde unit.
The Abominant has gone down 15 points and moved from the HQ slot to the very busy Elites slot, his hammer is a lot better no longer giving you -1 to hit and now does 3+D3 damage. He has lost his ability to heal however and now allows nearby Aberrants reroll hits rather than cause extra hits on 6s. He has also gained an extra wound!
The Nexos is now really good, allowing you to extend the aura abilities of a friendly character to a target unit anywhere on the battlefield!
Everyone’s favourite alien-blooded DJ now allows friendly units to shoot while performing an action and pass combat attrition tests! They still stop enemy reinforcements being set up within 12″ and can also stop enemy units within 12″ from performing actions! I feel these are going to be a great choice for Matched Play.
The Locus now works like other 9th edition bodyguard units, stopping their ward from being targeted until the Locus is dead himself! Think of it as a “Look Out Sir Plus” with the person they are body guarding not being targetable by shooting or melee while the Locus is near them.
The gun slinging Kellermorph has had a bit of a buff, his pistols are now Strength 5 and have an 18″ range, can ignore look out sir and cause extra mortals on a wound of 6, and he now gets to shoot all his guns twice if he hits any target, not just characters! Finally after shooting he can now move too!
The Sanctus (in particular armed with a rifle) is now really cool – he automatically hits his target, ignores look out sir and his gun is now Strength 5, AP-3 and 2 damage! He is also -1 to hit, counts as being cover, gets an additional +1 to his save in cover and has a 5+ inv save. Will be a really hard unit to flush out and a great way of finishing off enemy characters!
Same profile as in Shadow Throne, still a great anti-tank unit with a potential of 18 damage to a vehicle or monster with her remote explosives! Like with the Sanctus will be hard to flush out with a -1 to hit!
The Biophagus still works the same way, however the buffs have changed! Firstly he can now buff Core units in addition to Aberants! for Core you roll a D3 for a random upgrade but for Aberants you can simply select the one that you want! His familiar extends the range of this ability to 18″ once per game too! As for the buffs they have changed since the last book with the options now being 1) Increase AP, 2)Each hit of 6 does an additional hit, 3)5+ wound shrug
His Injector Goad has changed too, if you wound a unit, if you can roll over the targets wounds characteristic on a D6 then the target is slain!
The Jackals have also had some decent updates, not only are they cheaper but they get an extra wound and a better 4+ save! Their weapons have been consolidated into S4 2 shot pistols and +1S Ap-2 power weapons, and now get a pre game move of 9″ along with the ability to fall back and shoot/charge. As they have the core keyword you can also bring back dead models using an Iconward!
Like with the Jackals the Ridgerunner now gets a 9″pre game move. It also now has a 6+ invulnerable save rather than a wound shrug from the Flares, with the spotter adding 12″ to weapon ranges rather than 6. The missile launcher is a little better now getting 3 shots with AP-3 and a flat 3 damage. With exposed now giving +1 to wound it may be worth swapping out the mining laser in place of the more reliable flat damage and number of shots
Goliath Rockgrinder / Truck
I’ve lumped these both together here, movement has increased up to 12″ on top tier, and they are now better at shooting with a BS of 3+. They are also tougher to crack open with a 3+ save and -1 damage reduction. The Dozer blade is slightly weaker but does a flat 2 damage now!
So what do I think of the new Genestealer Cults Codex? For a start, I really think the new rules capture the feeling of a Genestealer Cult, moving their way around the back of an opponent before trapping hem off and setting up an ambush. People will have to be very careful about how they deploy their units, as the Genestealer Cults will be able to take advantage of any gaps and force units that are pushing for objectives to expose themselves. +1 to wound is massive and will really turn the tide if set up correctly. Likewise being able to slink away and restore lost models will keep GSC players in the fight longer. I do feel this will be more of a finesse army however, with decent plyers being able to do some really cool stuff with them!
The Genestealer Cults have one of the greatest model ranges in Warhammer 40,000, and the new book finally does them justice. Yes, we are more limited in the percentage of what models can be taken from the Astra Militarum – but we still have the advantage of this flexibility and do not have to sacrifice any of our detachment abilities as long as we stay within that 25% bracket.
Crusade content is fun and offers loads of potential for narrative antics and stories to be formed around your army!
I’m really happy with what they have done with the book and look forward to pitting my Genestealer Cult against their enemies!
Codex Genestealer Cults is available for pre order today and is released Saturday 15th January.
Games Workshop provided Sprews & Brews a free copy for review purposes.