How I learned to stop worrying and love the Four Armed Emperor

It is a sign of one?s mortality when your twentysomething colleagues (mentioning no names? Josh) project blank stares at your wistful reminisces of games like Adeptus Titanicus and other greats of the Grim Darkness of the late 80?s to early 90?s era of Games Workshop, when the rules were indecipherable and Chaos supplements came with the ?suggested for mature readers? tag.

?Necromunda?? I chance, hopefully.  Another blank stare. 

?I was just starting infant?s school, mate.? Comes the response.

Safe to say he won?t remember Confrontation, its White Dwarf only forebear then, with its wonderfully atmospheric John Blanche pencil work. This exchange brought home to me that there is now a whole generation of hobbyists for whom a lot of the stuff that fortysomethings like myself came into the hobby with are either entirely unknown or just the rose-tinted ramblings of old timers who remember the times of yore before codexes (yes, it was once deemed revolutionary to bring out a book solely devoted to one army, hard as that may be to believe for today?s whippersnappers).

Which brings me on to the subject of the men with suspiciously large craniums, or Genestealer Cults as they are officially known, now enjoying a well deserved renaissance in Warhammer 40,000 with the release of a codex all of their own and a range of spankingly fabulous miniatures. I suspect younger brethren in the hobby community will assume that the pasty faced insurgents are a new addition to the Warhammer 40,000 mythos, but as with many things, what goes around comes around, and the Genestealer Cults are the modern iteration of an army that first appeared under the first edition of the Warhammer 40,000 rules, the fondly remembered, if esoteric Rogue Trader. In that book Genestealers had appeared as humanoid facesuckers from the moon of Ymgarl, the artwork giving the look of a Dr Who monster had Moebius been let loose at the Beeb. Interestingly at this time no link between the funky french kissers and the Tyranid Hive Fleets was mentioned, the Genestealer being just another fleshy alien terror for the denizens of the galaxy to contend with. 

Subsequently the classic Space Hulk game expanded on the Genestealer mythos, with redesigned models giving us the classic look we are all familiar with. Space Hulk?s supplements named Deathwing and Genestealer respectively, introduced the Genestealer Hybrids, models which also featured in the less well known Advanced Space Crusade game.

First appearing in White Dwarf magazine, and then reprinted in 1991?s Warhammer 40,000 Compilation, the Genestealer Cult army was a handy way to cobble together models that came with these other Warhammer 40,000 related games and field them on in games of Rogue Trader. Safe to say that the range of troop types was a lot more limited, and the list featured the bizarre inclusion of limousines (where the obviously xenos Patriarch could hide away from prying eyes), No models were ever produced for these, leaving the more enterprising hobbyists to cobble together constructs from bits of plasticard, balsa wood and bitz scavenged from a multitude of plastic kits. I even remember one game where the player has attempted a Warhammer 40,000 makeover on a 1:48 scale die cast car, with limited aesthetic success, to this observer at least, But those, dear reader, were the times in which we lived.

This being the Rogue Trader era, there was a fair amount of crazy introduced, with Genestealer Cults that could be dedicated to the Chaos Gods being one of the examples that stuck with me. All part of the fun back then though, and the Genestealer Cults have remained a warmly remembered part of the Warhammer 40,000 universe ever since, at least among us old timers.

Well, that?s my potted hobby history lesson done for today. No doubt as you gaze upon the beauteous countenances of the servants of the Four Armed Emperor you will no doubt all be recalibrating your future hobby plans to take in adding these insurgents to your collections. I know I am, having built and undercoated the Cultists from Deathwatch Overkill during the summer (currently ?seasoning? in a figure case, i.e. awaiting paint.) 

Hopefully I haven?t banged on too much today (No. No, not at all – Ed), and Overseer Jamie will let me showcase the results in a future blog. Until then, farewell brave friends!

Author: Ian

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