Friday, February 15, 2019

Genestealer Cults Codex Review: Characters

I've decided to break this up a bit differently than the usual split by FOC slots. I will be pointing out the situations where the Battlefield Role does matter (Troops and HQs), but I'm going to do just three posts: Characters, Squads, and Vehicles. As I said before, these are, as much as anything, just me working my way through the Codex for my own purposes. Thinking out loud, more or less. If you still want to know about the GSC, but don't want to deal with this wall of text, there are more wieldy reviews elsewhere.

The first thing to note about GSC Characters is the Gene Sects Rule. In Matched Play, you cannot include more than one of any given Character in a single Detachment. This doesn't really seem like a huge issue to me, since a number of them are quite good, but none of them really scream out to be spammed. But it's worth keeping in mind.

The next thing to keep in mind as you go through these is the Unquestioning Loyalty Rule that most GSC Units have. As long as you keep a Squad within 3", you can pawn off roughly half of your failed Saves and Mortal Wounds onto a nearby Unit instead of taking them on the Character. It's not something to rely on, and you have to be even more careful than usual to not let them get separated from their supporting Units, but it does make them significantly more durable, especially against sniper fire and such. It can also often buy you the extra bit of time you need to buy back a couple of Wounds with Hyper-Metabolism.

Finally, before we get into the Characters themselves, note that basically all of the Aura and other buff abilities only affect other Units of the same Cult Creed. I'm just going to mention it once, rather than typing it out for every single one of these.

HQ Characters:

- Patriarch: First off, there are two more Rules that are technically Army Rules, but mostly affect Patriarchs. The Broodfather Rule means that, in Matched Play, if you have one or more Patriarchs, no other GSC or Brood Brothers Character can be your Warlord. It's either a Patriarch, or an allied Tyranid Character if you have one of those. The main impact here is that I'm going to be considering Warlord Traits much more with regard to the Patriarch than most other Characters. However, if a Patriarch is your Warlord, you can use the Broodcoven stratagem to give a Warlord Trait to one Magus and/or Primus as well. The other isn't a full Rule on its own, but an exception in the Cult Creeds Rule: Because he has the Genestealer Keyword, a Patriarch will not benefit from his Cult's Creed. Unfortunate, because some of them would be awesome, but we'll deal, and at least he still has access to things like the Cult Warlord Traits and Relics.

Now, then. While the Patriarch is the best all-around beatstick Model in the Army, but I don't think that's actually its best role. Certainly, it is not a solo beatstick Character like a Smash Captain or something. The biggest value, to me, is in its Auras and other abilities. The broadest of these is Living Idol, which makes Cult and Brood Brothers Units within 6" automatically pass Morale. GSC do generally have decent Ld values, but they also have a number of Units that want to be pretty large, so being able to completely ignore Morale is excellent. He's also a Psyker, who knows two Powers from the Broodmind Discipline and can cast one of them each Turn. Ld10 makes Mental Onslaught a natural choice for him, and then pretty much any of the others, depending on how you're planning to use him. A Familiar is a pretty worthwhile upgrade, letting him cast two Powers in one Turn, once per Game, and effectively being a free Wound after that, and/or opening up The Crouchling as a Relic option.

If he's primarily going to be a Support Character and counter-Assault Unit, then something like Might from beyond or Psychic Stimulus is probably best. Or Psionic Blast can let him double down on the ability to snipe Models out with Psychic Powers. In this role, Alien Majesty is pretty much the go-to Warlord Trait, adding 3" to the range of his Auras, altho Shadow Stalker for some extra defence, and Inscrutable Cunning and Beloved Grandsire are worth considering if running the appropriate Creeds. If you want to use a Relic here, The Amulet of the Voidwyrm or The Crouchling are probably best.

As a combat Character, you're going to want to take advantage of his other Aura. Brood Telepathy gives Genestealer Units within 6" +1 to Hit, making them effectively WS2+, which is pretty awesome. I said earlier that the Patriarch isn't a solo beatstick. But with a big Brood of Purestrain Genestealers alongside, there ain't a whole lot that bunch can't handle together. Note that Brood Telepathy will also affect the Patriarch himself, as he has the relevant keyword. This will almost never matter, but if you end up with a penalty to Hit for whatever reason, it can be clutch.

A Combat Broodlord is likely to end up places where he might actually be able to Mind Control something, and Mass Hypnosis/Might from Beyond are great before Charging something nasty. Shadow Stalker can, again, be a good choice for Warlord Trait, but I would tend to lean toward Biomorph Adaptation here. Entropic Touch, Beloved Grandsire, or Bio-Alchemist are all solid options if you're running the appropriate Creed as well. The Amulet of the Voidwyrm and The Crouchling are again prime Relic options, but Vockor's Talisman or The Prime Elixir are also very worth consideration if running the right Cult.

- Magus: As you might guess from the title, a Magus is primarily notable for being a Psyker. Even her Aura plays into that, letting Units within 6" Deny the Witch when they are targeted by a Psychic Power. The only available upgrade option is a Familiar or two, at least one of which seems very worthwhile. Of her available Psychic Power choices, the Patriarch is a better user for Mental Onslaught, and the Magus is kind of fragile to be getting close enough to use Mind Control. Psionic Blast, Mass Hypnosis, and Might from beyond are probably the best options. I'd generally go for whichever the Patriarch doesn't have. The tendency for a Magus to hang back from the action also makes them the most likely Model to use as the "focus" for the Telepathic Summons Stratagem.

If using the Broodcoven Stratagem, or not running a Patriarch, defensive or utility Warlord Traits are probably best. Her Aura, while good, doesn't really seem worth using Alien Majesty to extend. I'd probably go with Focus of Adoration or Shadow Stalker from the general list, and all of the Cult choices except for Entropic Touch and Bio-Alchemist are worth considering. As with the Patriarch, The Crouchling and The Amulet of the Voidwyrm are both good general-purpose Relic options. If you do want to get your Magus stuck into combat, the Dagger of Swift Sacrifice or (if Rusted Claw) The Metallophagic Stave will help make her a bit less terrible. The Biomorph Adaptation Warlord Trait and Might from Beyond are probably also good choices in that case.
No, not that Primus

- Primus: The Primus is a Combat Support Character, most useful for his Auras, but capable of holding his own in a fight if necessary. He grants +1 to Hit in the Fight Phase for Units within 6", and (in any Phase) also lets those Units re-roll 1s to Wound against a single Enemy Unit chosen when he is first set up on the table. Four Attacks at WS2+, and with a couple of good Weapons available means he adds some significant punch to any Combat he's helping out with, but as with other GSC Characters, he should not get into fights without support from other Units. Alien Majesty, Shadow Stalker, or Biomorph Adaptation are again standout Warlord Trait options if using Broodcoven,  along with any of the Cult Traits other than Single-Minded Obsession. For a Relic, there are two Relic Boneswords, one generic, one for the Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor, and they're both good enough that I don't think I'd consider any Relic other than one of those for a Primus.

- Acolyte Iconward: Even more so than the Magus, the Iconward is here as a Support Character, not to get into Combats. His banner provides a 6+ "Feel no Pain" roll to all Units within 6" (other than Aberrants, who get to re-roll 1s for their similar rule instead), and lets those Units re-roll failed Morale Tests as well. I find it unlikely that an Iconward will have a Warlord Trait often, but if he does, Alien Majesty is the obvious choice. Relic choice is similarly straightforward, since the Icon of the Cult Ascendant, which adds +1S to his other Aura effects, isn't available to anyone else.

- Abominant: As the Patriarch is to Purestrain Stealers, so the Abominant is to Aberrants. The hardest hitting CC Character in the list, but with only 3 Attacks at WS4+, fairly unreliable. By statline, it's a bit less durable than a Patriarch, but between its 5+ "FNP" roll and regaining d3 Wounds at the start of each friendly Turn, it probably comes out a bit more durable on average. It also has two Aura effects, one that gives Enemy Psykers (other than Tyranids) within 12" -1 to cast, and one that gives nearby friendly Aberrants (including itself) double hits on natural 6s. An Abominant absolutely needs some kind of support, at minimum a nearby Primus, so that it will somewhat reliably connect with its few, but exceedingly powerful, Attacks. Might from Beyond would be handy, too, if you can spare it. I don't find them particularly impressive except in Twisted Helix Armies, where the Elixir of the Prime Specimen Relic can turn it into a real monster. It's probably too fragile a basket to put that many eggs in, but in that situation, I'd also be very tempted to make it my Warlord and give it Biomorph Adaptation as well. The Abominant is one of the few Units that I can see making it worthwhile to mix Cult Creeds in an Army. It might be worth looking into a Twisted Helix Vanguard Detachment with an Abominant, a Primus, at least one Brood of Aberrants, and then fill it out with a Biophagus, and maybe some Metamorphs or one or more of the Elite Characters that work alright on their own, like a Sanctus or a Nexos, as something worth taking alongside a main force of a different Cult.

- Jackal Alphus: The completely new option, the Alphus has several useful abilities, but is pretty clearly intended to work alongside other Atalan Jackals, and isn't necessarily a great choice for all Armies. She's one of those extreme rarities, a shooty HQ, with a souped up Sniper Rifle, along with some impressive mobility thanks to her Bike, and some nice bonus defence with an inherent -1 to Hit her in the Shooting Phase. As with all other GSC HQs, tho, she also has a support Aura. In her case, she gets to pick any one Unit visible to her and within 36" at the start of each of your Shooting Phases, and all Units within 6" (or Bikers out to 12") get +1 to Hit against it until the end of the Phase. GSC aren't really a shooty Army, but they do have some significant firepower available, and this is one of the few buffs we have for that firepower. This combos well with a Primus that picked the same Unit when it was set up, to re-roll 1s to Wound.

With the inherent -1 to Hit, the Alphus actually makes a reasonable candidate for Warlord if not running a Patriarch. You can double down on the defence with Shadow Stalker, if avoiding giving up Slay the Warlord is a principle concern, or the Hivelord and Single-Minded Obsession Traits provide some extra shooting buffs with the right Creed. The Alphus also has a Relic Sniper Rifle available, The Gift from Beyond, that's actually pretty good, letting her Wound most Infantry on 2+. The Alphus isn't quite as limited in Creed as the Abominant, but Rusted Claw really does stand out for her, buffing her Save and letting her shoot on the move without penalty. Like the Abominant, I can see her leading a side Detachment, in this case a Rusted Claw Outrider along with some Jackals and Ridgerunners.

Elite Characters: For many older Armies, 8th Ed saw Models that had previously been specialists in certain Unit split off to become Characters in the Elites section. GSC didn't have any of those, so these are all brand new. Theoretically, you could make them your Warlord and/or give them Relics, but there's pretty much no reason to do so, except for the Sanctus.

- Clamavus: I must admit, I find the name kind of stupid, but the in-game effects are pretty handy. The Clamavus is some sort of propaganda and information warfare specialist, supporting friendly Units and hampering enemies. Friendly Units within 6" get a boost to their Ld, as well as their Advance and Charge rolls, which is particularly great for an Army that's likely to have a fair number of Assault Units coming in 9" away from their targets. An 8" Charge is 50% more likely than a 9" Charge, and there are other possibilities to enhance that still further. The Clamavus also adds further pushback on enemy Reserves, prohibiting them from being set up within 12" of her, and any enemy Units within 6" or her at the start of your Shooting Phase will take a Mortal Wound on the roll of a 6. Nice little package of abilities for less than 60 Points.
The swords over the back make me want to paint him like Deadpool

- Locus: A Bodyguard Character, in the fluff specifically for a Magus, but the Rules work for any GSC Character. GW's attempts at Bodyguard-style Units have historically been pretty hit or miss, but the Locus is a decent one. It comes in at about half the Points per Wound of the Models it's supposed to be protecting, and has some decent, but not amazing capabilities in other regards. It's a good fighter for a GEq, but don't expect it to take on even a mid-tier SM Character or anything. It's got a couple of Rules with overly-complicated wording that basically let it bodyguard, and then a -1Ld debuff Aura out to 6", which is nifty. Not a bad buy to effectively pick up a few extra Wounds for your more significant Characters, maybe add a couple of extra Wounds in an Assault if circumstances merit, and/or cheaply fill an Elites slot for a Brigade or something.

- Sanctus: Somewhere between a Death Cult Assassin and an Imperial Assassin, but trending more toward the latter. It can be outfitted either for Close Combat or as a Sniper, but despite GW only ever showing off the CC version, you're going to want to go for the Sniper. The CC version isn't going to get anywhere that matters, and gains no benefit from two of the Special Rules you're paying for (an extra +1 on Saves when in Cover, and Ignores Cover). Plus the Sniper Rifle is pretty cool, causing Perils of the Warp on any Psyker who takes damage from it in addition the the usual Sniper things. The Sanctus is the other Model that can take The Gift from Beyond, and that +2 to Wound non-Vehicle, non-Titanic targets is just as good here as for the Alphus.
Many Judges tried to take him and those men of law were dead

- Kelermorph: The Gunslinger that was the first leaked Model from the new line. Surprisingly, he's actually not terrible at his job. There are a lot of complications in figuring out if he does it efficiently, but the fact that he's likely to do significant damage at all is a welcome change from most other similar Characters in the past. Basically, he just fires a buttload of S4 AP-1 D2 shots at close range, enough of them that he's likely to drop a couple of Primaris Marines, or put ~4 Wounds on a Character with 3+ Armour. He can ignore the Character targeting restrictions, but with only 12" range, that's not terribly likely to be relevant. He's also better off targeting something squishier, because if he kills someone with his shooting, friendly Units within 6" get to re-roll 1s for the rest of the Turn. Have him show up by a screen along with a bunch of Neophytes, and they're likely to tear a pretty good hole in it. That much pistol fire would also be hilarious in a protracted combat. He can take a Relic Pistol, Oppressor's Bane, but it really isn't enough of an improvement to be worth one of your Relic slots. Also, because it only replaces one of his pistols, you then need to split his shots into two groups, which slows things down for very little actual improvement.

- Nexos: Hologram map dude. His job in the fluff is overall strategic command and coordination, which is reflected in his Rules by him not actually doing very much at the tactical level. When you put him on the board, you can reposition one of your Ambush Markers, and during the Game, he can occasionally give you a Command Point whenever anyone uses a Stratagem. There is some cool synergy where he gets +1 on the roll if it was your Stratagem and you have a Clamavus, and the same if it was your opponent's Stratagem and you have a Primus on the table. He's pretty cheap, and probably worthwhile for the CP regen and as a backfield Objective holder, but just kind of boring, especially considering how cool his Model is.

- Biophagus: Mad Scientist dude. He's got a poisoned pokin' stick that can do extra Mortal Wounds to Characters, but his main schtick is buffing Aberrants. At the end of each of your Movement Phases, he can give a nearby Aberrant Unit +1 S, T, or A, determined randomly, and with a small chance of killing one of them. Note that his ability references the Aberrant Keyword rather than the Aberrants Datasheet, so he can use it on an Abominant, too. If you want to risk instakilling your Abominant. It lasts for the rest of the Game, but can only be used once on any given Unit. He can also buy a cute little Familiar, who will let him roll two dice and pick which to use when determining the buff, once per Game. He's only worthwhile if you're running Aberrants, but if you are, he's really quite cheap, and after he's done buffing them, he can go sit on an Objective somewhere and be untargetable, like the Nexos. Probably worth it if you have two or more Units of Aberrants, maybe for just one.

So there you have it. In a pleasant turn of events, all of them look at least reasonably useful, tho some are pretty specific in what kind of list they want to be in. I'll be back soon with some more of my own Models, and until then, y'all have a good one, y'hear!


  1. Excellent write up, thanks. For a wonder, all my preferred models/weapon options seem to be usable. Unfortunately I won't be jumping on the GSC bandwagon this time. I might pick up that sniper and the gunslinger tho just because they are lovely models.

    1. Yeah, they've really done a pretty impressive job with making most of it usable. Even if you don't go all in, I look forward to seeing what you do with any individual Models you might happen to pick up.