JStove is back at it again with more Necromunda: Underhive, and this time he’s going over the newest rules addition, the Chaos Cultists.
I’m back in the underhive with my continuing series on Necromunda gang reviews. Today, I’m unpacking the Chaos Cult.
As usual, the focus of the article is whether or not the gang can run the way it needs to out of the box, or if it needs more extra sauce than it’s worth. I’ll do a recap of every gang so far for brevity.
Goliath– The worst box. Thumbs down. Needs lots of work to make a campaign-ready gang.
Escher- Thumbs up. Good options for special weapons, and the 5 credit lasgun goddess.
Orlock– The best gang box currently going. Thumbs way up, this is the box that has everything.
Genestealer Cults– Thumb sideways. It can work if you keep it cheap, but if you go crazy, it gets expensive, and the best way to run the Cult in my analysis is to run it cheap.
Is it cheap?
When I last talked about the GSC, I decided they were the cheapest gang in the game if you decided to run them out of the box with no aberrants. (Which I don’t think are great.) Well, the new god of budget gangs is here, and Chaos takes the crown. Any Chaos player on earth with a Dark Vengeance box from the last edition of 40k has a Cult gang, and you don’t even have to do anything to the models. So right now the way we’re looking at it, at the cost of a big handful of nothing and a White Dwarf, Chaos Cult is the cheapest buy-in to Necromunda. Now, unfortunately, if for some reason you are a filthy loyalist lapdog and you’re not a Chaos player, then things get a little strange.
The best way to get Chaos Cultists was through the DV box. Buying them on eBay or in that little 5 for $15 box from GW? That’s not so great.
This brings us to a new question- If you’re not a Chaos player, and you don’t already have the Cultists on hand, are these guys still cheap and effective? My answer, in that case, is that you’re better off going with a House gang, ideally Orlock, because you’ll be one-and-done with one box. Trying to assemble a Cult gang piecemeal makes it less cheap.
What makes the Cult good?
The Cult can work, and more importantly, it can work without doing anything to the 40k models, since most of your gang is going to be autogun mooks.
Like Genestealer Cults, the Chaos Cult has a simple mantra- What they lack in firepower they make up in bodies. The average dude in both Cultists has access to only a shotgun or an autogun but is cheap as dirt. Hence, your goal is to put boots on the table and roll those rapid-fire dice.
The real difference between the GSC and Chaos Cults though is that the GSC mook is a better soldier. He has an amazing Cool score of 5+, which means that when his buddies get shot dead right in front of him, he’s rock solid and he probably won’t run off. The Chaos Cultist is even cheaper than the GSC guy, but he has a Cool of 7+, so he’s pretty much got a half-half chance to take off running when the crap hits the fan. What’s the tradeoff? The Chaos Cultist is 10 credits cheaper, making him the new cheapest mook in the game. A Chaos Cultist with an autogun is 50 credits out the door.
The Cool problem is mitigated by the Cult Leader’s special skill that gives him a 9” bubble that allows his buddies to use his awesome Cool of 5+, which will keep the grunts in line, but could potentially give your opponent target saturation, and House gangs have no problems getting access to rapid-fire guns, templates, and grenades.
Guns Guns Guns
The biggest problem with the GSC was that they only got 1 big gun at the door. Chaos doesn’t have this problem. Both Disciples/Champions/whatever they call them can grab a heavy stubber or a heavy flamer, which means that they can compete in firepower with the house gangs. As much as I love flame weapons in the Underhive, I have a serious problem with the heavy flamer, it’s very expensive, and unless you are fighting a lot of T4 Goliaths, that S5 that you paid all that extra money for doesn’t come into play.
Keep in mind that Necromunda uses the new 8E wound rolls, where you don’t hit on a 2+ to wound until your double toughness, which means that on an average T3 model, the strength ‘break’ to look for is 6. 5 isn’t better than 4 unless you’re up against House Goliath. So for my money, as much as it pains me to say it, the heavy stubber is more effective and cheaper in this gang. Leave the flamers at home.
Rituals, Spawn, Witches, and Map Tiles
Chaos Cults have unique perks, but a lot of them are based on unreliable randomness and are difficult to make work, or are contrary in nature. They’re pretty strong if they go off though.
You can have your dudes pray to the gods to select their devotion, with each god rewarding different perks. Khorne gives you a reroll chance on a wound, Nurgle gives you a reroll chance on a recovery check, and Tzeentch lets you take a shot with no accuracy modifiers. The Tzeentch one is probably the best of the three, but they all don’t stand a chance against Slaanesh, which allows you to activate another model, effectively adding a third champion to your gang. You can switch allegiance to gods between games, but naturally, there’s a penalty for that so it’s inadvisable, and really, there’s no reason not to be all Slaanesh all the time. If you roll crap on the ritual, one of your guys dies and becomes a spawn.
Spawns are the contrarian model in the Chaos Cult and they really are as random and unreliable as they are in 40k lore. To get a spawn in a campaign gang, you have to see snake eyes on a ritual roll and lose a guy, so basically in order to get a spawn one of your guys has to die and you have to lose your god perks for a game. That’s already a tough deal. The spawn itself has random movement and random stats, making him pretty hard to play around or play with.
The thing that’s nutty about the spawn is that they’re immune to pinning, injury, and flesh wounds. They’re just an unstoppable force that you throw at your opponent like a missile. Spawns don’t even take serious injury rolls if they go out of action, instead, they do something that’s way worse. In the post-game, you have to corral your spawn, sending 1-3 guys to herd him back to your Cult hideout. If any of them rolls a 4, then they succeed in herding the spawn home. If any of them rolls a 1, the spawn slaps them and they take a serious injury roll. If you don’t see any 4s on any of the dice, the spawn wanders off into the wastes and dies. So you can see, despite the spawn being an unstoppable bullet sponge, he’s really quite a handful.
The witch is an unsanctioned psyker that starts the game with one power of your choice and can learn new ones by buying secondary skills. The witch basically has Juve stats and can’t fight worth a damn, so the spells that give him mobility or make him a monster in close combat aren’t worth it since the dude can’t hit crap. One of the witch spells creates a +1 armor save bubble, which would be good if the only armor available to the gang wasn’t flak armor, which you would never buy anyway because more cheaper naked cultists are better than less armored cultists. The real hotness for the witch is the flamer power. The witch can project a S3 flamer template with the blaze rule that doesn’t run out of ammo and doesn’t care about his lousy Ballistic Skill.
The best part about the Cult gang isn’t the witch, the spawn, or the god perks, it’s actually the map tiles. When you’re playing a gang in the underhive on the map tiles, the cult does not take insanity markers from the Chaos Cult tile in the Badzones map tile pack. This is a big deal for a few important reasons, and every Cult gang should always try to fight on the Cult tile.
Enemy models that enter the spooky zone can go insane, and your opponent can lose control of them, an effect that you are immune to because you’re Chaos and you’re already crazy.
The Cult tile is already wide open, so you can draw your foe into the spooky zone and then shoot up his crazy guys with an open line of sight.
You’re gonna blow the crap out of those crazies with your heavy stubber.
The Cult has across the board access to Cunning and everyone except the witch has Ferocity. They also all have secondary access to Combat, however, I don’t think that would ever be relevant since Cultists with autoguns are cheaper than Cultists with melee weapons. Nobody gets shooting, so it’s exactly like their GSC cousins- Cultists don’t shoot with skill, they shoot with more bodies.
Cunning is, in my opinion, a junk skillset full of situational perks. However, because the Cult has start-of-game primary access to it, the Cult Champions can cherrypick it for it’s one good skill, OVERWATCH. Overwatch is nuts since it allows you to interrupt an enemy model’s activation and just shoot him down. Since your Cult champs will have heavy stubbers, this is a sweet deal. Overwatch is the go-to pick.
Does it all work?
The 50 credit autogun cultist does for the Chaos Cult what the 5 credit lasgun does for House Escher, it makes the gang go. I’m a pretty big fan of this gang and I think it will do good stuff, however, I do think the build options are narrow. Autogun spam backed up by the heavy stubber is strictly the optimal way to run the gang. Slaanesh is best, and Tzeentch is a distant second but can come in handy for catching your opponent off guard when he thinks he’s snug in cover and castled up. You can’t have the spawn whenever you want it and one of your guys has to randomly die to get it, and you can potentially lose more keeping it, so I’m not a fan of spawny. You just can’t plan a campaign around him.
The only losers in the Cult are Khorne and Nurgle. Nurgle just doesn’t get any love (re-rolling in the recovery phase is great, but I’d rather cause more damage to my opponent than mitigate his damage to me) and Khorne is an uphill battle because melee weapons are expensive, the Cultists aren’t Cool, and you’ll lose expensive guys trying to get into a fight.
However, with an optimal bullets-and-bodies dakka dakka build, the Cult can hold it’s own pretty comfortably against the overwhelming firepower of typical house gangs. It might even be an effective strategy to forego heavy stabbers altogether and just start the campaign with a dozen or more dudes, just to have an advantage in bodies on activations. The Chaos Cult is certainly the gang to do it if you’re a Chaos player and you’ve got piles of these guys lying around to do the job.
If you’re already a Chaos player, take these boys. They’re the jam. Thumbs up all day. If you’re not already a chaos player and you don’t have a sweet hookup for cult models, take a house gang, because sourcing the cultists will probably cost you more than just a ten model gang box.
FULL SPOILER BELOW