Warhammer 40K Shadow Throne Preview

The Genestealer Cult face off against the Emperors' chosen, the Talons of the Emperor. We look at the new Warhammer 40K box in our Shadow Throne Preview.

Published: December 11, 2021 5:00 AM /

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Warhammer 40K Shadow Throne.

Terra, the homeworld of the Imperium of Man and one of the most fortified and defended planets under humanity’s rule, has had enemies in number set foot on its soil only a handful of times since the Emperor began his campaign to unite humanity under His banner. Attacking Terra in force would be met in kind and would require an army of such size that their defenses would see it coming. But taint, slowly and steadily poured into the foundations has a chance to take root, but if found, would be met with swift and violent force. The latest boxed set for Warhammer 40,000 (40K) sees just this, with the forces of the Genestealer Cults going toe-to-toe with the Emperor's chosen warriors in Shadow Throne. In this article, we’ll take a look at what Shadow Throne contains, including a detailed look at the two forces, and how to use the boxed set.

Warhammer 40K Shadow Throne.

Shadow Throne

Shadow Throne is a boxed set containing two different forces, a booklet with the rules for the miniatures it contains, and a narrative campaign using those forces. To use Shadow Throne, players will need a copy of the Warhammer 40,000 Core Rulebook, along with a measuring tool and some six-sided dice. Both forces can be used out of the box, and expanded upon to build full-sized 40K armies. Most of the miniatures it contains are available separately, but there are two brand new characters, one for each force that are currently unique to this boxed set.

Warhammer 40K Shadow Throne.

The datasheets for each of the different units in the Shadow Throne book do have some rules that reference the Codex for that force, the new Codex for the Adeptus Custodes, and Genestealer Cults, which have been delayed until next year. The forces can be played without access to those rules and the Codexes, but if you want to take them further, using the forces in games outside of the box, competitively or building up to a full-sized army, then you'll need to look at picking up the Codex for your chosen faction later.

Shadow Throne features forces for the Genestealer Cults and the Talons of the Emperor which contains:

Talons of the Emperor

  • 1x Blade Champion
  • 3x Allarus Custodians (One can be built as a Shield-Captain in Allarus Terminator Armour and another can be built as a Vexilus Praetor in Allarus Terminator Armour)
  • 5x Sisters of Silence (Can be built as Witchseekers, Vigilators, or Prosecutors)

Genestealer Cult

  • 1x Patriarch
  • 1x Primus
  • 1x Magus
  • 1x Reductus Saboteur
  • 10x Neophyte Hybrids

The Shadow Throne book contains several pages of background for both the Genstealer Cults and Talons of the Emperor, along with background for the Shadow Throne setting. It also has two missions and the special rules for them, including a new Theatre of War, Deadly Ambush which gives the Cults player access to nine Ruses, special abilities to even the odds. Our favorite ruse is Ready and Waiting, which can be used during your opponent's charge phase to give all your units either overwatch on a 5+, or add one to the hit rolls if they're the target of a charge. Shadow Throne also has Crusade Rules for both the Talons and Cults, including Battle Traits and Relics.

Warhammer 40K Shadow Throne.
The TechRaptor Shadow Throne Talons of the Emperor.

Talons of the Emperor

The Talons of the Emperor is the collective name for the Adeptus Custodes, designed to be extremely proficient lone warriors (as opposed to the Space Marines who work as a team), and protect the Emperor by dealing with threats head-on, along with the Sisters of Silence, who are Pariah’s or blanks and nullify nearby psychic powers.

Blade Champion

The Blade Champion is an absolute beast in melee combat. Armed with Vaultswords, the Champion can select one of three different profiles to use for the weapons whenever he attacks. The first, Behemor adds two to the Champions strength, has armor-piercing of -4, deals two damage per hit, and automatically wounds on a hit roll of four or more. Hurricanis only has an armor-piercing of -1, but double's the number of hit rolls made when attacking. Finally, Victus adds one to the Champions' strength, has armor-piercing of -4, and deals three damage per hit, and it also lets you reroll wound rolls when targeting characters. 

The Blade Champions also gets to attack first if they start the phase within engagement range of any enemy units, and if there are any left afterward, their Consummate Swordsman ability reduces the effectiveness of incoming enemy attacks by making them automatically miss on rolls of one to three, and also boosting their own saving roll by one.

Warhammer 40K Shadow Throne.

Allarus Custodians

The Shadow Throne set allows you to build a unit of three Allarus Custodians, or you can build one as a Shield-Captain and another as a Vexilus Praetor. The missions in the Shadow Throne book require a unit of three Allarus Custodians to balance off against the Genestealer Cults force, so we built ours as those.

The Allarus Custodians all come with four attacks, and a 2+ saving throw. They're armed with Balistus Grenade Launchers, with an Assault D3 eighteen-inch range and AP -3, and for when they get in close, Guardian Spears or Castellan Axes. The Axe has a higher strength, but a lower AP value, and as the Custodians' strength is already higher than the base GSC forces, we opted for the spears to negate any saving throws. Taking the axes would make it much easier to wound the GSC characters, but we're also thinking of taking our Custodian force further, and the extra AP may come in handy.

The Allarus Custodians also have a Slayer of Tyrants ability, that lets them move towards enemy characters, rather than the closet unit during combat.

Sisters of Silence

The Sisters of Silence in Shadow Throne can be built as three different types of units. Witchseekers, which are armed with flamers to bring righteous flame to their enemies, Vigilators, carrying huge greatblades for close-up fighting, and Prosecutors, who are armed with rapid-fire bolters.

We opted for Witchseekers, in order to bring the flame to purge the Cults. Their flamers automatically hit, and the -1 AP will help to bring down the mutants. We built our Witchseeker Sister Superior with the greatblade, but the datasheets say that each Witchseeker is armed with a flamer, there is an option to build the Sister Superior as a flamer-wilding sister, but we opted for the awesome pose, and we'll attach the extra flamer to the miniature later.

Warhammer 40K Shadow Throne.
The TechRaptor Shadow Throne Genestealer Cults.

Genestealer Cults

The Genestealer Cults are a following who infect worlds to prepare for the arrival of the Tyranid Hive Swarm. They recruit members, and if left unchecked, spread throughout worlds, undermining planetary rule and building their own power, eventually either taking over or weakening the defenses for the arrival of the Hive Swarm.

One on one, the Cult has no chance against the Talons of the Emperor, but their covert tactics give them an edge, which allows them to conceal their deployment. The Shadow Throne book details some unique Conceal rules for the Cult, which are different from those in the upcoming Codex. In Shadow Throne, Cult units can be set up Underground, coming on during the Reinforcement Step anywhere on the battlefield (as long as it's more than nine inches away from an enemy), or in Ambush, where they deploy depending on if you have the first or second turn spreading out from an ambush marker you place during deployment.


The Patriarch is the most powerful of the Cult, and where the mutation spreads from. They're extremely fast, with a base eight inches of movement, and they can advance, boosting their movement with D6 inches, and charge in the same turn. Its claws are also very apt at tearing through Custodes armor and is your best chance at taking the Blade Champion down. They also have access to psychic abilities, which aren't listed in Shadow Throne, so you won't have access to these if playing straight out of the box, but they are included in the upcoming Genestealer Cults codex, or the previous Genestealer Cults codex if you have access to that.


The Primus are the leaders of the rebellions, occupying positions of power under the control of the Patriarch. They have access to some nasty weaponry including the scoped needle pistol, that does D3 damage automatically on wound roll of two or more, and along with their Cult bonesword, they also have an extra attack with their Toxin Injector Claw, which does one damage on a wound roll of two or more with -1 AP.

As military leaders, they inspire their forces, allowing nearby Cult units to reroll hit rolls of one, and a selected nearby unit can also reroll wound rolls of one.


The Magus is a Cult psyker, and as with the Patriarch, the abilities aren't listed in Shadow Throne, so you won't have access to these if playing straight out of the box, but they are included in the upcoming Genestealer Cults codex, or the previous Genestealer Cults codex if you have access to that. They do have a chance in combat thanks to their Force Staves' +3 strength and -1 AP, and having them nearby Cult units can protect them against mortal wounds if your opponent is using psychic powers.

Warhammer 40K Shadow Throne.

Reductus Saboteur

The Recuctus Saboteur is a new unit with Shadow Throne, and they're specialist explosive experts with access to several explosive types. Their remote explosives attack has a range of twenty-four inches and does 2D3 strength eight, -3 AP hits. Against vehicles and monsters, the attack's damage is boosted from one to three. They also have blasting and demolition charges with six-inch ranges for when enemies get too close.

Once per game, they can also set up a Reductus Explosive, that deals mortal wounds to nearby enemies at the end of the movement phase or your opponent's charge phase. They're also difficult to target, gaining a bonus to their saving throw when in cover, and also reducing enemies hit trolls when in area terrain.

Neophyte Hybrids

The Neophyte Hybrids are the core of the Genestealer Cults, using numbers where skill and ability lack. They do have access to a mix of weaponry though and can take two heavy weapons and two special weapons in a squad of ten. We armed ours with the Mining Laser and Seismic Cannon, needing the extra AP to get through the Custodes armor, and also the Grenade Launcher and Webber, which have a better chance of damaging the Custodes over the flamer.

We also took the Cult Icon, which means the unit can regenerate D6 destroyed models each command phase, and we armed our Neophyte Leader with the Power Pick for its -2 AP, and the Web Pistol in the hope of rolling high against the Custodes strength. We kept the rest of the Hybrids armed with Autogns rather than shotguns, opting for the longer-range over the slightly higher strength, which doesn't make much difference against the Custodes. Taking the shotguns can make it easier to damage the Sisters, but we didn't fancy their chances against their flamers at that distance.

Warhammer 40K Shadow Throne.

Even without the codexes, Shadow Throne is a fun narrative experience. Exisiting players of each faction will want to pick up the Shadow Throne for the unique units, but will probably already have most of the other units that the set contains. New players will benefit the most, getting a solid core for each faction straight out of the box. I really hope there's a Kill Team tie-in with this set at some point, as with some thematic scenery, it could have been a Kill Team set with a great narrative and clandestine missions.

The copy of Warhammer 40K Shadow Throne used to produce this preview was provided by Games Workshop.


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A Potts TechRaptor
| Senior Tabletop Writer

Adam is a Tabletop Specialist for TechRaptor. He started writing for TechRaptor in 2017 and took over as Tabletop Editor in 2019 and has since stood down… More about Adam

More Info About This Game
Learn more about Warhammer 40,000
Game Page Warhammer 40,000
Games Workshop
Release Date
September 1, 1987 (Calendar)
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