Welcome to the Imperial Guard tactics summary.
So You Want To Join The Imperial Guard
Hello and welcome to what hopefully will be a concise guide to some of the most important aspects of an Imperial Guard army. My name is Siceralc and as the resident Imperial Guard player it falls to me to offer some opinions and advice on how to enjoyably, if not always successfully, play this wonderful soul destroying army.
A little disclaimer before we continue though. Please don't take my advice as law; this is MY point of view as a Guard player who plays no other 40k armies but Guard. I'm not interested in Farsight bombs or Azrael blobs, I'm interested in the units, tactics and gaming style of the Imperial Guard. Plenty of people tell me this is restrictive, but I believe it makes my experience easier. When I consider how to use the resources from the codex against each opponent I face I understand the unit synergy just a little bit better, and with that understanding comes better list design and a better overall victory-loss ratio. I may not always be right but I do always enjoy myself with the way that I play, and if you can take any of the information I write and use it to your benefit I'll be completely satisfied.
Now on to the good stuff:
Assuming you've got this far, you've probably landed your first few models and there's really only one thing to say: Congratulations, you're now the proud collector of one of the most ridiculously diverse armies available in 40k.
Diversity is the biggest feature of the Imperial Guard and in it we also find both it's greatest strength and weakness. The fact that you've got a core infantry troop choice that's effectively 5-in-1, a mix of spectacularly hit and miss elites choices, a selection of 7 different Leman Russ variants, 6 artillery vehicles, an almost universally available 55 point APC and its 3 attack oriented chassis variants, 2 flyers, 2 sentinel variants and a handful of special characters make it very hard to know where to begin.
All too often I see casual Guard players with a mish-mash of forces and no clear strategy and more often than not they tend to lose quite convincingly. However once you get an understanding of how this force can work, you can mould a list to suit your style and leave you with an undeniable advantage.
As I mentioned above what I'm going to run through are a handful of things I feel that Guard players must know; please feel free to comment with anything you do believe may be important as well, or anything I may have forgotten. We'll start with one unit ANY player of Imperial Guardsmen cannot and must not go into a game without:
For those of you who have come across this fine young man you'll understand the anxiety this guy can cause in a list. For 65 points and the use of an elites slot you net yourself arguably the best one hit wonder in the 40k universe. Marbo's hilarity begins with his special rule 'He's Behind You'. Effectively what this means is that on the turn he arrives from reserve (he MUST start in reserve, you have no choice) you may place him anywhere on the board that is more than 1 inch away from an enemy model. This is when his primary function begins and ends. In the shooting phase Trooper Marbo can lob a S8 AP2 large blast demolition charge with a range of 6". Now this can backfire spectacularly of course, but as he's BS5 usually you end up with a bunch of dead broadsides/terminators/independent characters, and an opponent who's severely pissed off.
2. The Infantry Platoon.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the Imperial Guard are the countless infantry that make up the bulk of this infinitely scaled organisation. As a Guard player you're ideally suited to make this vision a reality. Your most basic troops choice is of course the Infantry Platoon. At its fundamental level it's made up of 25 models, split between a Platoon Command Squad of 5 and two Infantry Squads of 10. Not only is this probably the most cost effective troops choice available in the warhammer 40,000 univers, but for 130 points you get 25 throwaway scoring units, and you also gain the option of adding 3 more squads of 10 at 50 points each, up to five squads of 3 heavy weapons at 60 points a squad, two 'special weapons' squads at 35 points a pop and a single squad of conscripts which can end up being an enormous blob of 50 BS2 guardsmen for 200 points (or 80 points for 20 at base). All of the above in a SINGLE TROOPS CHOICE. Yup.
The range of options available to each of the above units is myriad and to be honest I don't really have the energy to do that much typing, but suffice to say that usually in 1800 points I'm fielding 2 platoons with somewhere in the region of 90 infantry models on the board all for less than 700 points. If purchasing, assembling and painting vast hordes of infantry isn't your thing, best go back to the Space Marines where you belong. The ability to field this endless supply of infantry can be one of the most valuable tactics you can have as a Guard player. Do some math and invision what 1800 points of imperial guard infantry looks like at an average of 5 points a model. Go ahead. I'll do some of my own while I wait for you. For 1500 points you get 4 full platoons of 5 infantry squads, each with a heavy weapon and special weapon, as well as a platoon command squad with 20 extra points to spend on equipment. 220 infantry models on the board in 25 individual squads. 300 points left over for an HQ, Marbo, an aegis line and maybe a flyer. I don't care what you say or do, but under the current rules it will be simply impossible for you to kill them all in 6 turns.
To paraphrase Joseph Stalin: Quantity has a quality all its own.
Use this power in whatever way you decide to put your list together. Not taking advantage of the ability to cheaply stack up dozens of infantry models is just leaving yourself wide open to be walked all over. You don't have to make it your core strategy, but don't forsake your infantry for a few extra flashy tanks that can get glanced to death by bolt pistols.
3. Orders and The Aegis Defence Line
One of the unique racial abilities of the Imperial Guard is the Command Structure series of rules. Effectively what this means is that an Imperial Guard army made up of either a Company Command Squad or at least one Infantry Platoon has access to a series of abilities performed in the shooting phase that can boost your generally ok BS3 troops with flashlights to a fighting force to be reckoned with.
Imperial Guard orders come in two forms, those issued by Company Commanders and those issued by Platoon Commanders. Company Commanders have access to 6 different orders and can use two of them in the shooting phase to boost or augment another Imperial Guard infantry unit within 12" of his model, provided that the augmented squad passes a leadership check (just quickly on this, any roll of a 12 will fail and no more orders may be issued this turn from ANYONE, any roll of a 2 will grant you an ADDITIONAL FREE ORDER from the Commander in question, and this CAN keep stacking if you're lucky enough to roll double ones twice in a row).
The orders are:
Bring it Down - targeted at any vehicle, unit of vehicles, monstrous creature, unit of monstrous creatures, this order causes all weapons in the augmented squad to become twin-linked.
Fire on my Target - this order can be used to make the targeted enemy unit reroll all successful cover saves from attacks made by the augmented unit.
Get Back in the Fight - instantly rallies a fleeing squad, or eliminates the effects of having 'gone to ground' on the augmented unit.
First Rank Fire - Second Rank Fire - basically adds an additional lasgun shot [and ONLY lasgun, not laspistol or hot-shot lasgun] for the targeted unit; so 2 shots up to 24", 3 shots within 12".
Move-Move-Move - the unit immediately moves 6" as if making a run move and is unable to shoot or assault this turn.
and Incoming - forces the augmented unit to 'go to ground' except adding +2 to it's cover save instead of +1.
Platoon Commanders have access to only the last 3 of those mentioned above, and can make only one order per shooting phase with the same range of 12". In the case of the three attack based orders (Bring it Down, Fire on my Target, First Rank Fire - Second Rank Fire) the Commander issuing the order must have line of sight on the targeted unit, as must the augmented unit (rather obvious considering you can't shoot what you can't see). The orders must be issued at the START of the shooting phase and resolved immediately if successful, and must be issued in a chain of command style, so your highest ranking officer to your lowest (A.K.A. Company Commanders then Platoon Commanders). This set of abilities mean that your infantry core can become a very useful tool under the right circumstances.
And the right circumstances are actually surprisingly easy to create.
If you've been wondering why this section is not simply labelled 'Orders' then stop your wondering. Whether through design oversight or actual intention the arrival of 6th edition has given the Imperial Guard access to the ability to design your own battlefield. The Aegis Defence Line (hereafter known as the ADL cos I'm lazy yet also too anal to not have capital letters) is an almost essential part of a list with even a modest infantry contribution. The ADL grants a generic 4+ cover save and a 2+ cover save if you 'go to ground' behind it.
You've probably picked up on what I'm about to explain by now, but I'll continue anyway.
The combination of an ADL and a Company Command Squad means that your 5 point per model infantry get Terminator saves, and then can be ordered to 'Get Back in the Fight' in the shooting phase and deal out punishment as if nothing ever happened. Watch the silly shooty Grey Knights waste bolt rounds on your troops hoping for easy kills only to discover that your 2+ cover save beats their 3+ armour save, and they're actually losing more models than you are.
The downside of this of course is telegraphing your deployment zone in having to deploy your fortification before the actual deployment phase, but if you're playing semi-static Guard tactics and you have an artillery piece or two trust me when I say there's not that much difference in how the enemy will deploy.
More will be coming in the future, please keep checking back! I'm a little more lazy than the others but I promise I'll keep updating!
Flyers - Codex and Forgeworld
Hello again, tonight I'm going to quickly run over a few things I've learned about the range of Imperial Guard flyers, both Codex and Imperial Armour, and reassure you that they're still alright even in the face of Crazy424 spreading his damn Tau anti-air ideas to the world.
When you include Forgeworld the Imperial Guard has a hilarious range of flyers, probably the most diverse of any of the races in 40k, however it is the stock Codex flyers that have for so long been the centrepiece of so many competetive lists. Enthusiasm for these must be tempered by the fact that one of these flyers is near useless when you consider them both side by side. However I digress.
The first available Codex flyer is the Valkyrie. A flyer with hover, bs3, av12 12 10 3HP, a multi-laser, 2 hellstrike missiles (s8 ap3 ordnance 1, one use only), available in squadrons of up to THREE and a carrying capacity of 12 models (no Ogryns allowed) this little critter seems to be a bargain at just 100 points. You can replace the hellstrikes with multiple rocket pods (s4 ap5 large blast) for 30 points and replace the multi-laser with a lascannon for 15. Throw in the option to mount 2 heavy bolters as side sponsons (possibly the most AWESOME side sponsons of all time - Vietnam style door gunners... queue the Rolling Stones) for just 10 points and you might be alt-tabbing off to get yourself one right now. Before you do that however, consider it's sister craft.
The Vendetta is only 130 points for the same profile as above and three, thats THREE, twin-linked lascannons. Honestly I haven't met a single person who has taken a Valkyrie intentionally in any tournament or casual game I've played. For 130 points you gain enough anti-vehicle firepower to annihilate about 80% of the most used heavy support and fast attack choices in 40k. And when you take 2 or more of these things the odds just tilt further in your favor. One-on-one they only flyer that I'm consistantly worried about is the Space Marine Stormraven and then only because of the efficacy of the multi-melta. However the Vendetta has one over on the Stormraven because you can take 2 Vendettas for around the same price as a single Stomraven and the Vendettas have access to the squadron rule, with a possible 3 Vendettas able to be taken as a single fast attack choice. The most ridiculous and hilarious abuse of the squadron rule I've seen with these flyers is 9 Vendettas in 3 squadrons in 1850 points. 27 twin-linked lascannons firing a turn. Ouch.
My current tactic with these - when not trying to conceive how I could carry 9 flyers to a tournament - is to take 2 Vendettas, each carrying a Platoon Command Squad stacked up with 4 flamers. As a late game objective clearing system they work very well, the option to have them popping up whereever they're most needed is invaluable and the fact that they're a troops choice means that if you can completely clear an objective you can score on it rather than just simply denying it. I'd highly recommend it. Couple your flyers with an astropath (meaning almost every game you'll have reserves arriving on a 2+ rather than a 3+) for extra security and you'll soon be confident of air-superiority in most games you play.
Once we bring Forgeworld into the equation though - and it appears as though more tournaments are becoming comfortable allowing it - you have access to about 8 additional flyers. Now admittedly most of them are shit, but the two that stand out are the Vulture Gunship and the Valkyrie Sky Talon.
The Vulture has the same armour profile as the Vendetta however it has a tonne of armament options available making it absurdly diverse in it's potential role fulfilment. Further differences can be found in special rules, as the Vultures have both the Strafing Run (1+ to bs when shooting ground targets, all weapons become pinning) and Vector Dancer (the flyer may make an additional 90 degree pivot at the end of it's zoom move). One of the trade-offs with having access to so many weapon choices though is it has no carry capacity. When possible I run two of these guys, with a set of weapons designed to wipe infantry off objectives and utterly destroy light vehicles.
The first Vulture is armed with a twin-linked Punisher Gatling Cannon. You may recognise this from the Leman Russ Punisher, where the addition of this 24" s5 ap- heavy 20 weapon has made countless new Guard players (including myself) buy a model and assemble it because it looks so damn cool only to end up with a useless vehicle that scores MAYBE 3 wounds a turn. If it's not blown up first. On the Vulture however, as it's twin-linked and firing at bs4 because of Strafing Run, this weapon really comes into it's own. An average turn of shooting leaves you with between 15-18 hits, and at s5 you stand a good chance of getting about 12-14 of those wounding against t4 targets and below. Vehicles with armour 11 or below just simply die. Needless to say this Vulture becomes a prime target to anyone who knows what it does, and anyone who has a unit cleared from the table after a single round of shooting.
The other Vulture seems a little less daunting as it's armed with four multiple rocket pods and a heavy bolter, so 4 s4 ap5 large blast weapons with pinning direct firing within 24" at bs4. It really may not appear that threatening but the first time I used this Vulture I scored 40 hits and about 32 wounds against a group of Crazy's Dire Avengers. It has continued to perform in this manner ever since. This particular instance however led Crazy to start thinking about how to make me very sad, and he's successfully done that with the introduction of the new Tau.
This leads me to why these flyers remain good options for a competetive Imperial Guard list in the face of intercepting Broadsides and tank-hunting commanders with quad-guns. The Vendetta remains the most reliable and best value for points anti-vehicle unit available to Guard, and quite simply available in the game. Considering your other options tend to cost 30-60 points more or need to get stupidly close to be effective, this flyer is almost too good not to take. The ability to load one with a squad of cheap troops to be effective denial or late-game scoring makes them an invaluable objective play asset. And though you might have a REALLY bad time against specifically tailored anti-flyer lists (like some new Tau) you'll also have a really GOOD time against lists with little or no ability to take down an AV12 flyer. Even against such lists that are loaded with weapons dangerous to flyers the fact that you may have a multiple number of these flyers for a VERY low points cost means that should you lose one then your opponent will still have to deal with the rest of your army, that will hopefully be one step closer to wiping him or her out.
When it comes to the Forgeworld flyers my advice is simply take them whenever you can. Believe me if you've made the decision to buy or convert a Vulture and get the chance to field one you'll never look back. Though they take up a valuable fast attack slot each, they can turn a mundane grind of a game into an unpredictable eclectic one as your gunship wipes out whole infantry units each shooting phase and your enemy scrambles to bring it down. The Sky Talon on the other hand can be there for when you just HAVE to be a douche and bring 6 uniquely operating flyers to a game, and back it up with artillery support. Nobody may like you afterward, but then that's the idea.
Anyway I hope this has been somewhat helpful if you're considering flyers for your Guard, or if you had any worries now that we're being faced with lists well capable of denying you the skies. Rest assured they still work very well in most games, and will hopefully continue to do so until the next Guard Codex.
Imperial Guard Artillery
In this post I'll run through the artillery vehicles from lowest points to highest and explain where their weapons might best be used. I'll also try and list some useful common upgrades and finish with a small paragraph about why allying in a Divnation Psyker can help you perform just that little bit better.
But first things first, a word on using artillery. There are a couple of things to remember when using IG artillery, the first of which is that 4/6 of the available vehicles are open-topped. While this is undoubtedly extremely annoying considering they're mounted on a 12 10 10 Chimera chassis it is easily resolved by remembering the second point: 5/6 of the artillery weapons are Barrage. This means that you can comfortably sit your fragile artillery behind a large terrain piece and lob shells at your enemy without fear of retaliation. And while firing directly is nice, you really don't want to expose your potentially game-changing cannon to a volley of enemy fire for 3" of reduction from your scatter roll. That sort of thing is both pointless and stupid.
If you're worried about not being able to place your artillery out of sight then there's a simple 15 point upgrade to render them normal vehicles again, and if you pay a further 30 points you can improve your cover save by a point with Camo Netting. While it's an expensive combo, it can often be worth it when you're running the risk of being destroyed by fire warriors or boltguns. Another useful upgrade for your artillery pieces is just the simple heavy flamer. Useful as a deterrent for Outflanking or Deep Striking units, it also bears consideration that since 5/6 of the artillery weapons are ordnance, there'd be very few occasions in which you wouldn't be firing the damn thing as snap shots. IF you had line of sight at all. As far as upgrades go this one will do you more good than harm, and it's totally free.
Also just quickly on the ranges that are to follow. Most of these artillery pieces have both a 'minimum' and a 'maximum' range on their weapons. The rules used to mean you could not fire within what's called the 'minimum range', so the first range value displayed below. However the barrage rules as they stand now mean that you CAN fire within that range, but you MUST fire indirectly, so no BS point reduction on the scatter roll. The maximum range is treated exactly as you would the range on any other weapon, you cannot fire further than that.
Oh also keep in mind the first FOUR of these vehicles can be taken in squadrons of up to three of any combination.
Now on to the Vehicles themselves:
Griffon Heavy Mortar: 12"-48"The first and cheapest of the artillery options, the Griffon really makes it's prescence felt in smaller points games. Having much more mobile armies at 1000 points backed up by 3 of these bad boys means you have some very decent killing power for only 225 points. S6 AP4 Ordnance means light vehicles and most troops will have a hard time, and the large blast gives you plenty of coverage. The other consideration with this vehicle is that it has the special rule 'Accurate Bombardment', giving you automatic rerolls on the scatter dice should you wish, which isn't a bad thing at all. All in all it's not the best option you can take, but if you have the points and need something cheap and effective the Griffon is for you.
Earthshaker Cannon: 36"-240"The quitessential field artillery piece, the Basilisk is a gun to make any commander proud. While designed for much larger games (hence the obscene range) these guys are a very decent option for only 125 points. S9 AP3 means no Marine is safe, and Ordnance leaves you in a very good position to pen even those pesky Land Raiders. It's a pretty generic large blast gun, useful for filling a number of roles, however that is both it's strength and weakness, there are better options for more specific situations.
Medusa Siege Cannon: 36"
Bastion Breacher Shells: 48"The Medusa is the only vehicle in this section that actually needs a direct line of sight, and in this instance an Enclosed Crew Compartment comes in handy. Basically a 36" Demolisher cannon, the Medusa can be very handy indeed against armour lists, where that penetrating power helps. You may have noticed the separate profile for 'Bastion Breacher Shells'; this is not an automatic option. For 5 points you may replace the normal fire mode for what's arguably the most ridiculously OP vehicle killer in the game. S10 AP1 48" Blast, with 2D6 armour penetration means that Land Raider army you're trying to avoid, or that Fortress of Redemption list is positively screwed. While not ideal for all situations the Medusa really comes into it's own if you can keep it alive long enough to clear the board of enemy hardpoints. And considering its VERY low points for destructive potential it's my opinion that the Medusa is worth giving a chance at the very least.
Colossus Siege Mortar: 24"-240"My personal favourite artillery vehicle, the Colossus is possibly the most hated unit I own, only outshined occasionally by Marbo. It's very unassuming profile means unprepared opponents tend to ignore it, but it's a very capable unit regardless. S6 AP3 Ignores Cover large blast means you can drop a shell on that irritating 250 point unit of Sternguard and need 2+ to KILL.
Similarly, the new Wraithguard units lose all advantage against a weapon needing 4+ to kill (not that anyone willingly spends 36 points a model on such a stupid infantry choice). Venom spam getting you down? S6 Ordnance easily clears them away, no Jink saves allowed. Short of Hydra Flak Tanks, this is the next best thing for taking out low armour skimmers. If you get two or three turns of solid hits with this thing you'll have a very pissed off opponent, and a very good chance of winning.
Manticore Rocket Launcher 160
Storm Eagle Rockets: 24"-120"I've been trying to resist the pull of the Manitcore for some time, and it's only been recently that I've given in to its irresistable lure. After watching Crazy424 lose his Commander, Ethereal and entire Broadside unit to just one shot from this thing it's been something that I've had to try for myself. While it can only fire 4 times in a game the Manticore can provide some very solid fire support against any infantry and even heavy vehicles. The high S10 offsets the relatively low AP4, as only one save needs to be failed to cause Instant Death on any number of special characters and elite units that rely on their 2+ or 3+ save. Adding to this the D3 multiple barrage (rolled for each time the Manticore fires) means that rather than getting just 5 hits on said elite unit, you could get 10, or 15 off a single shot. AV14 even trembles in the face of this weapon. If you score 3 hits with the multiple barrage the Ordnance rule will mean at least one will penetrate on average. All in all a badass artillery vehicle. The only real shame is that it can't be taken in a squadron.
Deathstrike Missile Launcher 160
The Deathstrike Missile: 12"-UnlimitedNow I've left this one until last because it's a funny little thing. The Deathstrike is toted as, and I quote out of the codex here: "... the ultimate Doomsday device in the Warhammer 40,000 game..." It may or may not be this in reality depending on how lucky you are, how stupid your opponent is and whether it even gets off in time. In true Doomsday device form the firing mechanism for the Deathstrike is elaborate and amusing. It's basically a countdown. Every turn the Deathstrike is on the board you roll a dice, if the result is a 6 the missile fires as normal. The following modifiers are applied to the roll however: 1+ for each turn the Deathstrike has been on the board, 1- for each Weapon Destroyed result the Deathstrike has taken, 1- for each Crew Stunned or Shaken result the Deathstrike has taken. As it is the only artillery vehicle with a 12 12 10 modified Chimera chassis this normally isn't too bad, meaning that you'll get it off with any luck by turn 3. Hopefully. Maybe. Probably not.
Once you've got the shot off you resolve it with a marker, like you would any other barrage weapon. The difference is that once the final position has been determined you roll a D3, then you add 3". The good news is that 160 points buys you a S10 AP1 Ordance Ignores cover blast that has a DIAMETER of at least 8 inches. The maximum diameter you can achieve is 12", so everything within 6" of the marker takes that hit. This could be undoubtedly game winning, IF you managed to get it off, and managed to get it in the right position, and your opponent had left all their units quite close, and blah blah blah. As fun and unpredictable as this vehicle makes games of Apocalypse, it's realistically not worth your time in regular games of 40k.
Taking A Divination Psyker
I never thought this day would come.
This is something I've only very recently decided to use. While it's a well known tactic, I haven't felt it's been necessary before now, however with the inclusion of the new Tau and Eldar codexes it's become clear that every shot must count. I've lost too many games because of a misplaced round at exactly the wrong time, and now it's time to bow to the inevitable. Since the Imperial Guard psyker cannot take the required discipline a Space Marine Librarian will suit your needs nicely, as most, if not all, of the Marine armies have access to Divination. All you want is the Primaris Power, Prescience that allows one unit rerolls to hit on their attacks. This means you get double the chances to score that much needed hit on the scatter dice. Leave the Librarian with your artillery, cast Prescience on your chosen vehicle (hopefully a Manticore) and watch your enemy slowly degenerate into this: