Warcry's Cultist Kits Should Have Been Their Own Faction

Carter Kachmarik
January 24, 2023


Age of Sigmar, in stark contrast to much of Warhammer 40k, has almost every faction embodying its own aesthetic to a T, without the trappings of their broader alignment.  While those amidst the Imperium of Man have the aquila and iron halos across Marines, Sororitas, & Guardsman, that’s less present in AoS; this is due in part to the holdover from Warhammer Fantasy, but also from the less grimdark feel of the setting (factions are allowed to enjoy the aesthetics of their own high fantasy tropes).  Moreover, Age of Sigmar has factions of various sizes, with less than 10 individual kits in Flesh-Eater Courts, or dozens in something like the Stormcast Eternals.  It is the combination of these two factors, being wild diversity in model presentation, and the comfortable existence of small factions, that urged me to write this simple fact: The Cultists of Warcry’s Eightpoints ought to have been their very own faction.

Via Age of Sigmar Games

While this take isn’t entirely out of left field, the treatment of the Cultist units (which can be referred-to by their old subfaction, the Idolators) in the new Battletome: Slaves to Darkness is downright cruel.  As background, the Cultist units had always been a strange, little-used club in StD, first receiving proper rules in Broken Realms: Morathi to little applause, given they were nearly unplayable, followed by a slow slew of buffs which eventually allowed them to take Marks of Chaos, and even then, only 1-2 different Cultist units were used.  In the new book, it’s even worse, with the designers changing the Idolator subfaction to merely a command trait, and rewriting the rules of the units which synergized with Cultists (namely, the Ogroid Myrmidon) to being self-sufficient, standalone pieces.  In short, the history of Cultists has been one of neglect, with every ineffective rework resulting in more & more of this grouping of models being swept under the rug.  The question remains, however: What could have been done with these gorgeous models other than lump them into Slaves to Darkness with a half-hearted shrug?  Well, if you’ve read the title of this op-ed, you know my stance.

To be a full-fledged faction in Age of Sigmar, I would posit you need 3 main things: A sufficient diversity & number of kits, a mechanical identity that separates you from other factions, and most important, a ‘sell’, or, ‘why should I play this faction?’.  To start out, I want to define what kits a hypothetical Cultist faction might have, using only existing, in-print models.  There are 10 Warcry cults in Age of Sigmar which got lumped into StD (the oldest being Iron Golems, and newest being Horns of Hashut), explicitly not counting those from Warcry that I wouldn’t place in this group (ie, Darkoath Savagers) because they genuinely belong in Slaves.  Beyond that, I’d look to the monsters, such as the Fomoroid Crusher, the leaders, such as the Centaurion Pit-Marshal, and ‘minions’, being the Raptoryx & Furies.  All counted, that’s 16 distinct units, 17 if you throw in Chaos Spawn, given every non-Skaven Chaos faction can use them.  Moreover, that’s 15 distinct kits, given each of those is their own box aside from the bundled ‘minions’.  To put that into perspective, 15 kits is more than factions like Flesh-Eater Courts, Fyreslayers, but also “larger” ones like Ossiarch Bonereapers & Idoneth Deepkin.  A Cultist-centric faction absolutely has the model diversity to be its own group, especially if they were to release Endless Spells/Invocations & a Terrain piece for it (Like they have for FEC, Beasts of Chaos, and Fyreslayers).  Not only that, while the bulk of these models are on-foot troops, there’s mid-sized monsters, a flying unit, and two distinct leader choices, meaning army construction would be diverse indeed.

Via Bell of Lost Souls

As for its mechanical identity, these Cultist kits have a few unique aspects to them: Each ‘Cult’ has a visually distinct unit leader, and a diverse array of weapon options amongst the rest of the unit.  I see a faction composed of Cults doing something unique to bolster its leader array: Allowing a player to select 1 of these unit leaders, and elevating them to something like a ‘cult demagogue’.  Given each cult is from a different realm, and has their own interpretation of Chaos, choosing 1 of those disparate belief systems to be the guiding tenets of your army could be an engaging way to tie-together a motley band of itinerants.  I could also see some way to incentivize many different types of Cultist, or running a beast-centric list, giving players the option to hone-in on whatever part of the army interests them.

The elephant in the room, however, is that the majority of these units’ warscrolls are lackluster.  There’d need to be pretty heavy rewrites for most of them, or a shifting of power budget to factionwide abilities (as we saw in Beasts of Chaos), which would make the individually mediocre unit rules more palatable.  Whether that’d be via command abilities, some sort of sneaky defensive rule, or something else entirely, depends on the actual flavor of what the faction might be.  On that note, it’s time to tackle this hypothetical army’s ‘sell’.

Part of what originally got me into Warcry was its outlook on Chaos throughout the realms.  Traditionally, you see Chaos as the four main Gods, or via the worship of minor gods like the Great Horned Rat, or Morghur.  However, in the case of the cults, they view Chaos holistically: They are Chaos-worshippers, yes, but their guide for aesthetics & belief is grounded in their Realm, such as the slithering Splintered Fang of Ghyran, or the mutilation-obsessed Unmade of Shyish.  The ‘sell’ to me, of this Cultist faction, resides in that novel approach to Chaos: These are pilgrims, roving throughout the Realms, spreading their own strange tapestry of beliefs that they pick up through their travels,  They’re motley groups of outsiders, nomads of the Realms, sowing Chaos worship among the populace through their evangelism.  The ‘sell’ is to see all those differently colored believers, strange beasts, and gribbly pets, and feel the urge to start a similar patchwork quilt of Chaos.

Via Goonhammer

This is something that’s been on my mind ever since it leaked that Slaves to Darkness would be doing-away with the Idolators as a faction; to me it was the ultimate missed opportunity, to see so many different gorgeous kits go by the wayside.  On my own time, I’ve even cooked up some fan-rules for a faction as described above, but that’s of course another thing entirely.  So many people have Warcry models just lying around between games, and it’s truly a shame that essentially none of them are playable in Age of Sigmar itself, despite so many attempts to get them to see use.

The thing that truly shocked me was how many Warcry-specific Cultist kits there were: Depending on how you count it, like I said, you’re looking at 15-17 different boxes, when there are full existing factions that have less.  The catalogue in Slaves is already plenty deep without these models, so some course of action would do a TON to drive interest in both Warcry, and these misfit, ‘orphaned’ kits.

What do you think about this idea of a Cultist breakaway faction?  Do you think such a divide is worth thinking about?  Were you an Idolator player, or someone who already plays a Cultist-heavy StD army?  Let me know any thoughts you have in the comments below!


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