It was July 15th, on the hallowed fields of Camp Jordan in East Ridge Tennessee that a great heist was launched. Jeans, by the thousands were stolen. Wait, I mean Genes. I’m talking about the American Team Championship, and Genestealers. Not some run of the mill clothing thieves, but the iconic nemesis to Terminators, the swift, insidious killers of the Tyranid fleets. This is my recounting of how an army of them fared at this years event.

If you want to start building up your Hive Fleet or Cult you can find Genestealers here on Amazon. To give a little context to what was at ATC this year you can check out our article on The Best Armies at ATC 2017.

Army

Before I get into the games, let’s briefly go over the list I brought in what was my 4th year of attendance:

 

Genestealer Cult

Battalion Detachment (+3 Command Points)

HQ: Patriarch, 2x Familiars (Warlord)

HQ: Patriarch, 2x Familiars

HQ: Acolyte Iconoward

 

Troops: Neophyte Hybrids (12), 2x Grenade Launchers, 2x Mining Lasers

Troops: Neophyte Hybrids (12), 2x Grenade Launchers, 2x Mining Lasers

Troops: Neophyte Hybrids (12), 2x Grenade Launchers, 2x Mining Lasers

Troops: Neophyte Hybrids (10)

 

Fast Attack: Cult Scout Sentinel, Missile Launcher, Hunter Killer Missile

Fast Attack: Cult Scout Sentinel, Missile Launcher, Hunter Killer Missile

 

Dedicated Transport: Cult Chimera, 2x Heavy Bolter, Hunter Killer Missile

Dedicated Transport: Cult Chimera, 2x Heavy Bolter, Hunter Killer Missile

Dedicated Transport: Cult Chimera, 2x Heavy Bolter, Hunter Killer Missile

 

Vanguard Detachment (+1 Command Point)

HQ: Patriarch, 2x Familiar

HQ: Acolyte Iconoward

 

Elite: Purestrain Genestealers (20), 20x Purestrain Talons

Elite: Purestrain Genestealers (20), 20x Purestrain Talons

Elite: Purestrain Genestealers (20), 20x Purestrain Talons

 

That’s a lot of units, 18 total in fact, but it allowed me to deploy up to half my army in Cult Ambush every game. For those unaware, Cult Ambush is much like it was in 7th edition, where a unit can be set in Reserves, and a roll is made when they arrive to determine how they arrive. This can range from deploying from a board edge to deploying outside of 9” from an enemy and then moving their full movement. Furthermore, in 8th edition, there is no restriction on Charging after arriving from Reserves. So, typically my games would see 60 Genestealers and the 3 Patriarchs arriving from reserves and looking to tear up some unfortunate unit should I make the charge. Also, there was a timely FAQ that reduced the cost of Purestrain Genestealers from 18pts/model to 10pts/model, as well as making their Purestrain Talons free to include (more about these guys in a later article).

The non-Purestrain units shouldn’t be discounted either, as the 6 Mining Lasers (24” Lascannons) and 2 Missile Launchers did quite a bit of work as well. One of the other results on Cult Ambush allows the unit to deploy more than 9” away and immediately get a free shooting attack, which is awesome to fire off Lascannon shots into a tank they thought was safe. So, let’s see how the Ambushes worked out this year.

Round 1 (Day 1, Game 1)

Vs Chaos Daemons (Ernan from The Wobbly Modelers)

The Mission objectives were Primary Kill Points, Secondary 2 end of game objectives. We ended up rolling for Vanguard deployment. As a quick aside, at ATC this year, all of the Missions were Win/Loss/Draw, except for the Auxiliaries of First Blood, Slay the Warlord, and Linebreaker. Also, a player could only score the Maximum of 20 points for the round by maximizing all of the objectives and tabling their opponent (i.e. Sudden Death).

His army consisted of Magnus, 8 Daemon Princes (all Nurgle if I’m not mistaken), and some 60 Brimstone Horrors. And let me tell you, this mixup was Disgustingly Resilient. Like a wave of disease, his army moved around the board with the Princes and Magnus surrounded by Brimstones to prevent targeting of the larger targets all the while every unit dishing out Mortal wounds for days (via Smite mostly, but the Princes and Magnus had their own variants).

We had comparable kill points, but in his case the units had much stronger survivability. The Brimstones have a 4+ invulnerable save, the Princes, once targetable, were rocking a 5+ invulnerable and a 5+ Disgusting Resilience (which lets them ignore Wounds), and a fair number of wounds. So I knew going into the game it would be a tough fight but I felt with some luck, the Cult would triumph.

Despite finishing my deployment first, and thus going first, I was Seized on. Ultimately losing 1st turn did not hurt as I had deployed relatively defensively so it mostly consisted of the Princes moving forward. Flip to my Turn 1 and Cult Ambushes: of the 5 rolled I only rolled one 6 (allowing me a free movement after deploying 9” away), and another 5 (allowing me to move D6” instead of my full movement). I tried to whittle down one of his Brimstone roadblocks in my shooting phase, but was only able to inflict minor damage thanks to their 4++. I did launch 2 of the 3 Purestrain/Patriarch units into combat with 2 of the Brimstone units. A flurry of claws and talons saw them killed (for First blood in fact).

Unfortunately, this left my heavy hitters standing face to face with the wall of Mortal Wounds my opponent unleashed in his responding turn(s). This continued for 3 turns, my Assaulting in, chopping up little daemons, then getting my brains melted by the powers of the warp in return. Soon the Princes made it past my remaining Genestealers and he managed to remove my last unit on turn 6.

Final Score: 1 – 19 (Loss)

 

Round 2 (Day 1, Game 2)

Vs Craftworld Aeldari (The Wobbly Modelers)

This matchup saw us playing Relic as the Primary mission, and Big Guns Never Tire as secondary. Deployment ended up being Hammer and Anvil. Facing my bloodied stealers was a force made of a Fareseer, several units of Fire Dragons and Guardians, a unit of Warwalkers, a Wraithknight, several Fire Prisms, and a unit of Dark Reapers. He finished his deployment first thanks to all the transports and I failed to seize, still I felt somewhat confident in this matchup based on playtesting. As usual, I had my Genestealers and Patriarchs in Reserve, along with 2 units of Neophytes in hopes of sneaking in some surprise Lascannon shots on his back-lines.

Not surprisingly, he was able to melt one of my Chimera, though it did take more than he expected from his reactions. Toughness 7, 12 wounds, and a 3+ save isn’t anything to sneeze at now that a Lascannon(or equivalent) can’t just one shot vehicles anymore. So, with First Blood secured, he prepared for the onslaught. And what an onslaught as I proceeded to roll a 4, 5, and 6 on my Purestrain/Patriarch Ambushes! I should probably explain: Within Cult Ambush, if a Character is performing one, they may choose to include an Infantry unit along with them. The Infantry unit receives the same roll, so that can be good or bad.

I was able to position a seething mass of talons and hatred next to his Warlord and Dark Reapers in his back field, next to his Wraithknight mid-field, and near his War Walkers that were advancing into my deployment zone. And then proceeded to make ALL of the charges. Needless to say, when the dust settled, I had Slay the Warlord, the Wraithknight down it some 6-10 wounds, and 2 Heavy Support kills which went towards the Big Guns Never Tire objective. Oh and 50+ Genestealers intermingled in his lines all over the board. The game went downhill from there, ending on turn 6 as I was chasing his last remaining Wave Serpent with only 4 Wounds left with a unit of 5 Genestealers; and i was in possession of all of the objectives.

Final Score: 19 – 1 (Win)

 

Round 3 (Day 1, Game 3)

Vs Tau (No Daddy Noooo!)

Alright, so now I had a win and a loss under my belt, both against strong lists and both resounding in either victory or defeat. We chose me to take on the Tau due to my ability to get in his gunline’s face. His army consisted of a Storm Surge, a Coldstar Commander loaded for bear with missile pods, 2 Ghostkeels, a crisis suit team, 2 units of pathfinders, 3 units of Fire Warriors, a Cadre Fireblade, and another loan commander, with drones sprinkled throughout. We faced off playing Primary Objectives and 2 Secondary Objectives, on Hammer and Anvil (yay for random rolling every deployment…). I also was in a position to utilize Mass Hypnosis, one of the Genestealer Cult Psychic powers to maximum advantage (to prevent his ability to Overwatch and giving a minus to hit until my next turn). He went first thanks to yet another Seize the Initiative.

With a volley of advanced weapons fire, the Tau were able to secure First Blood, eliminating a Chimera (I’m noticing a trend at this point), also solidly securing the midfield in anticipation of a turn 2 volley. My response? Rolling a 4, 5, and 6 for my Purestrain Ambushes put me in a familiar position to fight the cleft-hoofed fishmen in their realm of choice, Assault! I was not able to capitalize on one of my assaults in his backfield despite using a Command Point, but I was able to surge forward and pick apart one of the Ghostkeels and engage both units of Pathfinders.


This game truly tested the Purestrain’s ability to reach out and affect as many units as possible, while taking incoming fire every turn (and an impressive volume of fire at that). His turn 2 saw all but his Warlord enter the fray (his hesitation a sign of his concern over the Genestealers covering the board). With multiple retreat and fire actions, the Tau did all they could to kill the waves of murderous Xenos. It came down to the final turn, with his last Ghostkeel locked up by 2 squads of Neophytes, and a unit of Genestealers making a 9” charge to secure the last of the Primary Objectives for the Cult to win the day.

He’d taken First Blood, Slay the Warlord, and Linebreaker, and then we proceeded to split the Secondary. As I only took 2 to his 1 objectives in the Primary it was only a minor Win (for 8pts). Had I failed that charge it would have been his victory instead.

Final Score: 11 – 6 (Win, barely)

 

Day 1 Observations

After 3 games, netting a 2-1 Win-Loss record Day 1 I felt the army was working as intended. 8th Edition certainly sees quite a bit of carnage on both side of the table with a much more streamlined gameplay as things like Shooting and Assaults are very intuitive. Also, I was getting the feeling that positioning was nearly as important as in 7th, but not for the same reasons. Before, it was to protect important models (joined characters, special weapons, to put vehicle weapons in firing arcs), but now it was to ensure unit capabilities were maximized (keeping shortest charge ranges, maintaining aura presences, retaining objective control, etc).

 

Round 4 (Day 2, Game 1)

Vs Grey Knights (ETA III)

Rolling into Day 2 at a staggering 7 am, I was taken by the captain of ETA III and his Grey Knights. His list consisted of a Grand Master in Terminator Armor, Inquisitor Greyfax, 2 Interceptor squads, 2 Purifier Squads, Brother Castellan Crow, a pair of Dreadknights, and a Pair of Stormravens. The sheer volume of shooting this elite army could lay down was a concern, as was their ability to traverse the board with their Shunt and Deepstrike abilities. We were squaring off with The Scouring as Primary, and Kill Points as Secondary. We ended up rolling and playing on Vanguard Strike. His small army finished deploying first, reserving most in Deepstrike with the rest in the Stormravens. I responded as I had in most missions with the 3 Purestrains and Patriarchs in Ambush, along with a pair of Neophyte Squads, everything else bottled up in my deployment corner.

His first turn put 2 Purifier squads and 2 Storm Ravens right on my lines, blasting away at one of my Walkers, but failing to take its last wound, denying First Blood to the Sons of Titan. He chose to keep back his reserves, knowing I would have to bring in mine enmass and he wanted to respond to that with his own. Sure enough, I brought in all 3 units, though only rolling one 5 and the remaining Ambush rolls put them outside of Assault ranges. Regardless, the Genestealer Cult remained fanatically resolute and proceeded to Assault the poor Purifiers who’d ventured close to my back lines. Eliminating one unit and trapping the other with a convenient consolidation, the Purestrains hunkered down for the Greyknight response.

In his own arrival of teleportations, the retaliatory strike was set to be staggering. Unfortunately for the Grey Knights, my dice were literally on fire, as I took minimal casualties thanks to a series of astonishing 5+ saves across the board. With everything on both sides in play, a sort of calm came over our game when I asked “Do you pass the turn?”. His silent consent saw my forces assault Greyfax, the Grand Master, Crow, a Dreadknight (who’d had a successful Mass Hypnosis cast on him), and a unit of Interceptors all tied up in assault. Only the Grand Master lived under the weight of attacks long enough to Gate of Infinity away on his next turn.

The rest of the game played out much the same, with casualties on both sides, but in the end, in favor of the Purestrains. With a bit of a disconnect at the 20minute mark, my opponent had a gameplan to win Kill Points and thus at least secure a closer loss, but instead of giving into the bloodlust, as the player going second, I opted to play the mission and instead took all of the objectives and denied him any further kill points. To cement my lucky dice rolling streak, a Stormraven fired some 15 shots at a 4 man unit of Neophytes. Only 6 hit/wounded, reducing me to a 5+ armor and a 6+ Fanatical Devotion(FNP)…. I rolled 5 5s or 6s, and converted the last roll into a 6”. Had time not run out, or had my dice been any less stellar I can fully admit the game would have been different for sure.

Final Score: 18 – 1

 

Round 5 (Day 2, Game 2)

Vs Space Marines (Thomas from The Rejects)

In this mission we had Big Guns Never Tire as Primary and Relic as Secondary. To fight I had to face a veritable parking lot of Razorbacks(some 8, all with Twin Assault Cannons) accompanied by a trio of Venerable Dreadnoughts, a gaggle of Inquisition Acolytes, and the Living Saint Celestine herself. We ended up rolling Secure and Control (the new deployment with a circle of no-man’s land in the center). He was able to go first through my failure to Seize.

In his first turn he had Celestine sprint away with the Relic in hand, and lined up his Razorbacks in a perfect formation to minimize even the best Cult Ambush rolls. He also secured First Blood but laying into one of my Walkers with nearly half of his army, turning it into slag. My response was less than stellar as my Ambushes were at best 9” away from a pair of Razorbacks whom I nearly wrecked. Nearly being the apt term to describe the remainder of the game. Multiple assaults launched along the breadth of his forces, but for naught.

Even with the the constant pressure, I was unable to pierce the barriers of metal bawkses. The game was probably the most enjoyable, despite the outcome, as my opponent and I fell into a casual game after the first few turns. Even still, my opponent told me afterward that it was the only game where he was afraid of putting Celestine into combat with my forces. Despite the game going to him handedly, I took great pride in those words as it meant my army wasn’t seen as easy, but a threat to not be ignored or taken lightly.

Final Score 1 – 19

 

Round 6 (Day 2, Game 3)

Vs Chaos Daemons (Ernan from The Wrongway Kids)

The final game of the event I chose to fight the other team’s Daemons player. I’d already faced one the day before and we felt I could push for the most of a bad situation. His list consisted of a Lord of Change, the Changeling, some 10 squads of Brimstone Horrors, a trio of Exalted Flamers, several Heralds of Tzeentch, and a pair of Nurgle Soul Grinders. Our mission was Secure and Control (2 home objectives), and Retrieval (4 Objectives). Dawn of War deployment and I managed to finally get first turn!

I rolled some decent Ambushes, putting 2 units of Genestealers 9” away, and a unit of Neophytes in firing range. Holding both flanks, his Soul Grinders were my initial targets, and I made it to one, the other taking some damage from the Neophytes. Even with those small victories, the waves of Smites began almost immediately. Spell after spell rippled across my front lines, picking off at least half a dozen genestealers on each flank. My return was less than stellar, as I did manage to bring down one Grinder and move to threaten his bulk of Horrors. This was a holding action only, as even with casualties inflicted into the greater mass, he could simply withdraw and continue hurling warp powers into my forces.

Turn after turn, the game ground onward, with the Daemons barely moving from their initial deployment, but taking far less casualties than my own. An inopportune misplay on my part saw a nearly full unit of Genestealers forgotten in a Charge Phase. Even with a generally enjoyable game with my opponent, he took full advantage of the misplay, unleashing the fury of the Immaterium and dwindling my forgotten unit into almost nothing. I managed to hold my home objective, and did pull out First Blood from the Soul Grinder kill.

Final Score: 6 – 16

 

Final Thoughts

With a 3 and 3 record (both personally and as a team), and another weekend of battles in the books, I can say that I enjoyed all of my games for one reason or another. Shane and the staff handled themselves with their usual professionalism and efficiency. One of my games had a judge call and it was merely to clarify the intent of a piece of styrofoam terrain, another had a question about the Traitor of Tzeentch psychic power (you HAVE to fight in a combat if you are able). In each of my games, much of it came down to Ambush rolls, which I could have played differently in a few games, but all in all, when the dice gods were with me, my opponent could do little but watch as hordes of Purestrains tore apart their army. My army composition felt like it worked as intended, forcing opponents to maneuver and deploy in anticipation of my secluded strike. I will certainly continue to develop my Cult as I enjoy the ebb and flow of the army, after the calculated adjustments of War Convocation or the unrelenting thunderhead of Dark Angels/Wolf -Star. I’m looking forward to next year and all the battles in between.