Greetings all, this is going to be a codex review with a difference, and something we hope to introduce to all of our codex reviews here on the Grim Dark Brotherhood. Not only will we be focusing on the units and their abilities on the tabletop, we will be reviewing the codex as a whole, and that means units, formations, background and fluff.
Ok, I hear you say, but there’s loads of guys out there doing reviews that include the fluff. Not as many as you’d imagine, and certainly not in the way we’ll be reviewing it.
That’s why this first part of our codex review is being written before we have even seen the book! That’s right, not a single one of the brotherhood have seen the genestealer cult codex and already we’re doing a review. Why? Well, we have said all along that one of the key factors we want to bring back to the hobby is the fluff. We want to see narrative games where armies represent the fluff and they behave on the tabletop as you expect them to based on their background. This first post therefore sets out what we expect to see from the codex, how we would expect the units within it to fight and where its strengths and weaknesses should lie.
What we know of the genestealer cult.
The cult has been present in the background of the 40k universe since its earliest days, and I fondly remember playing the original space hulk game and marvelling at the rendering of the genestealer on the loading screen, which was far in advance of anything I’d seen before. What that and my other forays into 40k told me was this:
The genestealer cults were founded by a patriarch, the first genestealer to begin the breeding cycle on a new planet. This patriarch would then grow beyond the classic genestealer into a much larger specimen. There would also frequently be a Magus, a psychically powerful creature infected by the genestealer taint who would lead the cult in their worship of the genestealers in general and the patriarch in particular.
Humans infected by genestealers would gradually become less noticeable as the generations passed, eventually being able to pass for human. Once the Tyranids latched onto a new planet where the cult was strong enough, then the cult would smooth the way for the invasion, rising up and causing mayhem and destruction upon the world, preventing it from responding fully and dangerously against the incoming attack.
What does that mean for the rules in the codex?
This is the key part of delivering a background-accurate codex. Translating that fluff into rules on the tabletop.
The Genestealer Cult needs to represent an unusual fighting force on the tabletop. They are not an organised army, nor a formal military force. The majority of their members, though certainly capable and trained for combat, would be working men and women most of the time, resulting in average stats. They are human-equivalent and will not be wearing armour, though hazard suits would be perfectly realistic since the majority of them would be workers in mines, tunnels etc.
The one really distinctive feature of any rebellion however, and particularly those in this case given the above description, is that you don’t know it’s coming, so striking suddenly and without warning will be an important factor. The cult troops are also no tougher than your average human, so once again, GW are left with the conundrum of having to develop a ‘glass hammer’ style of army. This, I believe, they singularly failed to achieve in the Dark Eldar codex, so it will be interesting to see what lessons have been learned from that experience.
On top of this, the ability to take purestrain genestealers in the army is important. These guys should be the absolute stars of the codex, striking from nowhere and shredding their opponents before melting back into the shadows. Whilst I don’t play Tyranids I have faced genestealers and played alongside them a few times and they are exceedingly lacklustre in my experience given their supposed terrifying abilities.
GW were never going to replicate the old genestealer pimped limo from the last time the genestealer cult saw the tabletop, but they will most definitely need a transport of some kind.
Drawing in addition on my experience of the Black Library (in particular Sandy Mitchell’s excellent ‘For the Emperor’, I think it is fairly clear that when a genestealer cult infiltrates a world, then that world’s military forces are also affected. Inevitably that leans us towards the idea that the cult can support their forces with their military broodkin, and whatever weapons of war they can bring with them, such as the mighty leman russ. These however should not form the main strength of the cult (except perhaps on a plant like Cadia) and so I would expect to see some kind of limitation on such units.
So there you have it, we need a fragile army that hits hard, and more importantly hits suddenly, avoiding an over-reliance on units liberated from other codices or slightly ridiculous concepts such as cars with guns on them and leopard print interiors ("he's from de udda side").
Next up will be my first look at the actual fluff in the new book!