Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Genestealer Cult Codex Review - Part 2 - Fluff


Morning all,
welcome to part 2 of the Genestealer Codex review. You can read part 1 here where I talk about my expectations from the codex.

This part of the codex review is going to be all about the fluff, and as we know, fluff is what translates into the rules and fighting style of the faction, so really this is where the whole character of the army is developed, and it's been an interesting exercise doing a review on the fluff to see how GW reinforce that character through the background writing for the army.



Back in part 1, we went into our expectations for the codex and what we already knew about genestealer cults from previous appearances in the 40k universe. I can honestly say that - thankfully - GW have not gone back and changed drastic amounts of this fluff, the Genestealer Cults you knew about before are the ones in this book, and really the codex simply adds detail that wasn't there before.

The basic premise of the genestealer cult remains the same, they arrive on a planet either from hitching a lift on a space hulk or a bulk transporter, something of that nature, and use their 'ovipositor' to infect a human. The codex covers this in much more detail however, even going so far as to describe how the genestealers don't just pile out of a ship and bite the first human they find, this is a much more stealthy infestation than you might imagine, with the genestealers taking a long time to understand their surroundings first, before picking on a vulnerable individual.

That first infection functions as it always did as well, the genestealer that causes it gradually becomes the Patriarch. The Patriarch itself however is rather different to its former incarnation. The Patriarch becomes bigger, more dangerous and develops its psychic talents and in general becomes and all-round badass.

Bigger, nastier claws, stronger, the aforementioned psychic powers, this guy becomes a true leader of the cult as he 'evolves'.

A little different to the old patriarch I'm sure you'll agree, who whilst increased in size and apparent power, seemingly got fat on the new-found strength and became some kind of all-powerful sofa-sloth, ruling over his cult with an iron hard grip and woe betide any who defied him and was then foolish enough to come within swiping range of his throne, cos boy was he not getting up to chase you!

Where the new codex really shines though as I mentioned is in the detail, and whilst we previously knew that generations would pass with the offspring of the cult gradually becoming more human in appearance, we now have these steps categorised, set out with appropriate nomenclature, with other branched stages identified too.

The Acolyte Hybrids are basically the first two generations following infestation, and are essentially the generations that cannot pass as human, extra limbs, claws etc making that pretty difficult. The third and fourth generations are now classed as Neophyte Hybrids, and can pass as human, albeit some more easily than others. The codex describes these generations as being able to infiltrate all layers of Imperial Society, including the Guard and PDF forces, and therefore able to bring some of the Imperial machines of war to the fight on the side of the Genestealers.

So far, this is absolutely what I'd have expected to see. Two other units are introduced at this stage however, these are the hybrid metamorphs, and generally only begin to appear when a tyranid hive fleet is approaching. Essentially what happens is that some of the offspring begin to show mutations (the metamorphs bit) in their appearance, resembling typical tyranid bio-weapons, so some have big claws, some develop stabbing talons, or organic lash whips etc. The second of the new branches are the aberrants. Essentially these guys represent malformed offspring - not representative of their generation and certainly not capable of blending into imperial society. Useful though, because they're particularly strong and tough.

A really strong theme running through the whole codex is the actual insurrection itself, and I think this is where the fluff runs out of a bit of originality and interest for me. Not that the idea of a cult uprising and throwing off the shackles of their Imperial 'masters' isn't cool, but the fluff reiterates this point so many times that when you read it as I did, you get the impression that several of the pages are basically telling the same story, just in a different fashion. Where the codex needed more attention in my humble opinion is in expanding that fluff - ok so a cult will reach a 'critical mass' and revolt, often when a hive fleet approaches the planet, but what if no hive fleet arrives, does the cult then look to spread to neighbouring planets, will it ever war with another cult if one establishes itself, say for example on a hive world? There was a black library novel by Ian Watson waaaay back when they first started writing books where a Callidus Assassin infiltrated a cult by impersonating a genestealer from a different cult and therefore with no psychic connection to the Patriarch.

Now it may be a case of first codex establishes the fluff in a codex format and the next one will expand upon it, bringing new units etc, but personally I think there was a little bit of a missed opportunity in really rounding out the Cult fluff in a wider fashion - has a cult ever infested a Craftworld? Or a Tau Sept for example?

There are references in the codex to certain cult leaders, Magus and Primaris in particular, escaping Imperial forces when a Cult is destroyed, this I think is a nice touch, but it's very limited in its scope to the timeline section only, and there are no special characters appear in the book. Again, I think that's a shame, there'd be scope in my mind for either a Magus or a Primaris in particular to develop themselves beyond the standard profile, possibly even escaping from a world to assist or found new types of cult elsewhere.

My absolute favourite part of the fluff however is the piece that revolves around what happens when a hive fleet actually arrives on a planet. We know by htis point that the genestealers are the outriders of the hive fleets in a way, and prepare the planets for invasion. We also know that members of a genestealer cult are absolutely devoted to their leaders, laying down their lives without thought to protect those at the head of the cult. What happens next however is a stroke of genius to whoever wrote it. The Genestealer Cult is not devoted to the Tyranid Hive Fleets in the same way, and whilst their insurrection paves the way for the coming of the being they worship in whatever form it takes, the codex makes it clear that the coming of the hive fleets is not an occasion of divine ascendance for the cultists, but is just as horrific, bloody and final as it is for the unaltered Imperial citizens.

Maybe it's just me, but it very much reminds me of the scene from Independence Day where a bunch of people are gathered to welcome the aliens and they cheer when the ships portal opens, then it blows up the building they're standing on and all descends to screaming and death.

So there you have it - a review of the fluff from the Genestealer Cult codex. In conclusion I'd say that this is a good first effort. Personally I'd have liked to see a little more attention paid to widening the scope of the fluff, but what is there is good, gives a nice amount of detail to the army and makes it very easy to understand how it is intended to fight.

Part 3 of the review will start to look at units, and possibly some of the wargear and ancillary items that come alongside the army.