The evolution of Genestealers |When did Genestealers first come out? How did they evolve? What different Genestealers miniatures are there?

There have been many different types of Genestealers that have existed both in lore and as different miniatures in the Warhammer Universe. These have ranged from the iconic Space Hulk and Space Crusade purestrains to the more modern W40K Genestealer sets that ‘nid’ lovers recognise today.

The evolution of Genestealers - When did Genestealers first come out?

Genestealers are cool miniatures. They always have been in my humble opinion and I am sure many of the Tyranid collectors would agree!

This post looks at the details and variants of these Genestealer models from their first mention in Rogue Trader to their modern counterparts.

As a Genestealer buff or avid Tyranid or Hybrid collector, you may be looking at ways of keeping your Genestealer army interesting? Or perhaps you just want to take a walk down nostalgia lane and look at old Warhammer?

either and or!

Read on!

“The Genestealers appearance over the decades has changed and adapted so that it ties in with game lore and has been influenced by each modellers’ sculpting style.”

( it should be noted that any reference imagery in the post are copyrighted to their respective owners )

When did Genestealers first come out? ( miniatures )

Genestealers were first modelled and launched in 1989 with the 1st edition of Space Hulk. They also came as part of the Alien Players army in the Space Crusade Space board game.

Although the first ‘model’ titled Genestealer came out in 1989. the creature debuted Warhammer lore in the early edition of Rogue Trader – In the Rogue Trader hardback rulebook. Generstealers were in fact introduced into W40K game universe as early as 1987.

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The design evolution of the Genestealer | 1987 onwards

The Genestealer has been around since the late 1980s with the design appearing to take inspiration from the original Alien and Alien films. The Genestealer is an iconic creature in both Space Hulk and Space Crusade.

Neither game would be what it is without the Genestealers. This is particularly true for Space Hulk!

Throughout the history of the Genestealer design, certain physical attributes have been consistent. For example, the creature has always stood in a semi-crouched position. Has a large head and has six limbs. 2 legs, a pair of arms with claws and 2 lower arms with humanoid hands. The Genestealers ( purestrains ) also have tails.

The sketchy description of the Genestealer on paper should therefore equate to the miniature design looking more or less the same.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Genestealers appearance over the decades has changed and adapted so that it ties in with game lore and has been influenced by each modellers’ sculpting style.

Each version of the Genestealers model design has its own unique characteristics and traits. Whether this is the more ‘old-man’ appearance of the First Rogue Trader edition or the more arguably iconic Space Hulk Generstealers of the late 1980s or early ’90s.

The evolution of Genestealers - Space hulk Genestealer paint job
an old paint job for a Genestealer.

Who sculpted the different Genestealers model types? The evolution of Genestealers

The original Genestealers were created by the sculptors that worked at Games Workshop in the late 1980’s. Bob Olley may have been one of the creators as he worked on the early hybrids. Richard Halliwell + Dean Bass were the game designers behind Space Hulk but there is nothing definitive that can be said for who sculpted the first Genestealer.

This image which was likely to have originally featured in an early White Dwaft shows some early Genestealers.

The evolution of Genestealers - rogue trader.

Different Types of Genestealer miniatures | The evolution of Genestealers

Over the years there have been various types of Genestealers sculped and hatched from Games Workshop. From some of the earliest purestrain metal Rogue Trader miniatures to some of the awesome plastic kits you can buy today.

Although this may not be a full and extensive list, here are some of those Genestealers.

  • 1989+ metai Rogue Trader Genestealers
  • 1989+ Plastic Space Hulk Genestealers
  • Plastic Space Crusade Genestealers
  • Special edition Space Hulk Genestealers
  • W40K Genestealers

It should also be noted that in my search for Genestealers I came across a website that documents in detail old miniatures from GW. It has visual references and details for Rogue Trader Genestealers.

The first reference of the Rogue Trader Genestealer – Ymgarl?

One of the first early references to the Genestealer was In the Rogue Trader hardback rule book. This was way back when Games Workshop was creating some of its craziest ideas!

They even had chaos hybrid cultists. That’s right! When Genestealer hybrids met the dark forces of chaos.

The Genestealer Patriarch became an ‘Oracle’ when in this situation arose and became possessed by the Chaos gods.


One of the earliest Genestealers was from Rogue Trader, the Ymgarl Genestealer.

The Ymgarl had more of an armoured leech appearance with scales, teeth and claws. The head of the creature was practically featureless aside from a gaping orifice for a mouth surrounded by sharp teeth. It resembled a leech – a bloodsucker.

Its upper arms were clawed, the lower set were more like human hands.

Some notable differences with this original version of the Genestealer are the lack of a chitinous plate and the iconic bulbous head.

Genestealers as we started to know them – Early Rogue Trader Purestrains

These models are more familiar and comparable to the Genestealers we see from the 1990s onwards. The white metal versions of the Rogue Trader purestrains ( prime ) are rarer than the plastic versions.

This edition of the Genestealer came with facial features, defined chitinous plate armour, and large prominent claws. This version also came with 2 significant organic textures to its body. The soft flesh in the creases of its armour and the chitin plate that covered the majority of its body from head to toe.

They were typically painted blue and purple too.

Early Genestealers for Space Hulk ( 1989 first edition & 2nd edition)

In appearance, these Genestealer models were the same as the Space Crusade Genestealers. I only know this as I previously used to own both games – this is at least true for the UK editions.

The Genestealer for Space Hulk came with ridged chitinous plate armour that covered most of its body – the carapace. The upper limbs had 2 large sets of claws and that look like they could pierce steel!

It had a bulbous head and protruding tongue. One of the very notable features of this model was the exposed back that was texturally different to the rest of the body. These looked like ribs.

The plastic sprue was a dark deep blue colour too which was in keeping the inspiration for the miniature design.

The paint scheme for the model was often depicted as blue and purple. ( note white, like these photo’s take by myself )

undercoated Genestealer

It could be argued that this is one of the most iconic designs of the Generstealers. Aesthetically these purestrains set the tone for hybrids.

The evolution of Genestealers - space hulk Genestealer undercoated and ready for paint!
The evolution of Genestealers | Miniature types

Original Space Crusade Genestealers

It was from playing Space Crusade that I fell in love with Genestealers. In HeroQuest it was the Fimir and Space Crusade it was the Genestealers!

Appearance-wise the Genestealers look the same as the Space Hulk version. These too were plastic, came in 3 parts excluding their bases and had an exposed back area between their shoulder blades. This area provided a great opportunity for contrasting colours and paint.

Newer Edition of Genestealers

Later designs of the Genestealers show a smoother and sleeker design. Although in my opinion earlier editions of the Genestealers looked more horrifying and detailed. I hate to say it but I find the sleeker versions almost ‘cuter’.

But perhaps that was the intention. Some of Games Workshop earlier ideas and models were crazier and the notion behind often scarier. Making the Genestealers still just as alien-like but marginally less horrifying opens them up to a wider market.

And things need to be kept new and fresh too!

One notable difference with these models was the removal of the exposed back areas. The paint scheme also changed too from the classic blue and purple to white and red. And bone coloured schemes.

Limited Edition Space Hulk Genestealers

The more recent version of the Limited Space Hulk uses the newer design for the Genestealers. These Genestealers are more heavily armoured and come in a range of poses.

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The different types of Genestealers model over time! The evolution of Genestealers

This iconic model design has been around for a long time. A cult model design taking influence from a cult film franchise.

Although the Genestealer has changed alongside the lore. Here are some or practical visual differences in the Genestealer model design:

  • Earliest versions were metal with plastic arms. I have seen 3 different types.
  • Space Hulk & Space Crusade Genestealers were sleeker and made entirely of plastic
  • Warhammer 40,000 Genestealers game as a multi-part kit, made of grey plastic.
  • Special Edition Space Hulk harked back to the more classics design of Generstealer with a new breath of life in them.

Miniature design for the Genestealer | The evolution of Genestealers

External Source and Information | The evolution of Genestealers

Private knowledge and experience.

The evolution of Genestealers | Dragon Bone Games