A Guide To Building An Effective Imperial Guard Army
Where to Start?
When picking any army you have to consider what it is you need to achieve and work from there, picking units that allow you to achieve your objectives, whether it is to take and hold an objective, kill the enemy units or simply act as a distraction. In this Tactica I won’t be running though each individual unit and its strengths and weaknesses in depth, but instead looking at battlefield roles and how units can be used to accomplish those roles.
I do it this way because I read a similar tactica for 3rd edition guard ages ago, and although I was doing many of the things it suggested I didn't realise I was doing them, once I conciously began picking units with specialised roles I became a much better player within a few weeks. So if the original author is out there and reading this thanks and drop me a PM as this is basically an updated version of your own taking into account the new codex and 5th edition rules.
There are 5 main roles in the army...
Close Combat – And how to avoid it
Command and Control
Specialists – HQ, Elites, and Fast Attack
Big Guns – Anti-tank and Ordnance
Close Combat – And how to avoid it.
Every guardsman’s worst nightmare. It doesn’t matter how many points you’ve poured into shooting upgrades if the enemy makes it to close combat and kills you before you get the chance to fire them. You lose. If your enemy’s assault force is shot to pieces before it reaches your lines, likewise, they’ve lost. You win. No one wants to get into a fire fight with the Imperial Guard. If you can force your opponent’s hand, make him engage your army on your terms, you’ve already got the hard part of the battle taken care of.
In 5th edition we’ve seen a marked increase in the use of transport vehicles, with many of the more competitive lists being almost entirely mechanised, the transport is going to be the key to any assaulting army’s success against the Imperial Guard. An assault based army will have a number of transports and if even one of these reaches your lines it’ll cause havoc.
Your main aim is to stop the transports as quickly as possible, you can live with the casualties inflicted by the enemies shooting, but a single unit managing to get into close combat with your troops will ruin your whole day. Now when I say stop, that’s exactly what I mean, a transport unable to move (either stunned or immobilised) should then be ignored as it is no longer the same threat as a mobile transport. If after killing the other transports you still have weapons left, then by all means come back and finish the job. Fortunately the Imperial Guard has a number of units perfect for popping transports.
Autocannons and Multi-lasers are the main weapons of choice as light vehicle killers, both combine a medium strength with a high rate of fire and can be found in many units in the Codex...
1) Heavy Weapon Squad with autocannons, provides 6 shots at strength 7 and is one of the premier anti-light vehicle units you can take, the downside is that they tend to be easy to take out being a single unit of three two-wound models with a toughness of 3.
2) Infantry squad with autocannon, provides two long ranged attacks capable of penetrating the front armour of any dedicated transport short of a Land raider backed up with a number of ablative wounds, while not being able to put out the same level of firepower as a heavy weapons squad with autocannons it is more resilient.
3) Chimeras, With the ability to throw out up to 6 medium strength shots and move and fire the chimera tends to be one of the most underrated units in the codex, normally your opponent with think of it simply as a transport vehicle for your objective takers. It is also a lot more durable as most forces will not be able to take out three or more AV12 at range without concentrating their anti-tank firepower. This leaves them a tough decision...Do they target your transports or your artillery and Leman Russ battle tanks?
You can pick any of the units above but remember that you are going to need more than one squad ideally at least 5 or 6 to reliably stop transports, more in larger games, but remember that if in doubt more is better, you can turn your autocannons and multi-lasers on the enemy infantry. These units should form the core of your force.
The second stage is dealing with the actual assault units, ideally if you’ve destroyed all the enemy transports there should be little risk of an immediate assault and you can mop up the remaining units and stroll home for the win. Unfortunately this probably won’t happen. You need to accept that inevitably some of the enemy units may make it into combat. A single tactical marine can spell the doom of an entire infantry squad. It is here that the Imperial Guard are at their weakest, any semi decent assault unit will wipe out or drive off your units.
This stage involves counter assault tactics, now this does not mean that the counter assault unit need to be geared up for close combat, just that it be capable of stopping, or more often, slowing down the assaulting unit. Again there are a number of units in the codex capable of fulfilling this role..
1) Ogryns, at the price of a Terminator you get a Toughness 5, 3 wound beast capable of dragging out a combat over a number of turns giving you the chance to redeploy and setup new firing positions. The downside is that the Ogyrns themselves probably won’t be able to take down Marine equivalent’s quickly enough to win combat due to a lack of power weapons but against eldar or other strength 3, toughness 3 assault specialists they can really earn their points.
2) Rough Riders, now coming standard with hunting lances make a great counter assault unit against MEQs. The problem is that your opponent will most likely be aware of this and due to the size of the models and the difficult task of providing cover for these units they fall easily to even sporadic ranged fire. Also note that the hunting lances can only be used once, so after the unit charges it is almost useless for the remainder of the game.
3) Command Squads, having the ability to take multiple special weapons allows the command squad to load out on flamers, after the opponent has destroyed the squad it charged in the previous turn it should be nicely packed for a devastating torrent of flamer templates, achieving 15-20 hits is not uncommon and even MEQs will have to sit up and take notice against that. I would also advise putting this unit into a Chimera for the protection and manoeuvrability it affords.
These units should form a small part of your army ideally two units as a minimum, more if you expect to encounter a lot of assault troops. Once you have cleared you lines of the hopefully small number of units who were able to get into assault they can assist in destroying the rest of your opponents army.
Command and Control
The Imperial Guard Company Command squad, unlike most HQ units from other codexes is not an uber-unit capable of killing the enemy in droves, instead it forms the centre of your force, making other units function more effectively and generally providing support to the rest of the army. With the latest edition of the codex the Company Command squad lost the rule that defined it in the previous codex, namely the Leadership rule, that, in conjunction with the Iron Disciple doctrine, kept your nearby units in the fight.
The Company Commanders job is no longer to sit in the backfield and prevent troops from running off the board, they are now a far more integral part of your army with the new orders system, allowing you to increase the effectiveness of key units. No longer do you spend points on giving lascannon teams the sharpshooters skill only to come up against a horde army, now you can increase the effectiveness of a unit once deployed. The downside is that the units who would benefit most from orders, heavy weapon squads, are stuck with a basic leadership of 7 and no way to increase this.
The other change is the ability to take advisors...
1) The Master of Ordnance, allows you to fire a Earthshaker round anywhere on the table, a highly inaccurate earthsaker round, but against hordes you should be able to hit something, and at 30 points anything he kills is a bonus
2) The Officer of the Fleet and the Astropath, allow the Imperial Guard player to manipulate the reserves of both armies, although the Astropaths ability to allow you to re-roll the board edge for outflanking is priceless and will most likely be considered standard in any Guard army in which units outflank. The officer of the fleet is a more risky proposal as he only earns his points if your opponent keeps units in reserve
3) Bodyguards, allow you to reallocate 2 wounds from your Company Commander onto the bodyguard and function basically as ablative wounds, keeping your valuable officer alive longer. Consider them a must have in assault based Company Command Squads.
The Company Command Squad, therefore, functions best as a type of support squad, this is not to say that a Company Command Squad is ineffective in combat, it can be configured to be highly effective at short ranges with rapid-firing plasma guns and multiple flamers and with the addition of special officers, attached advisors, and the right equipment, can kick ass in close combat.
Also in this section are Commissars, although attached to specific units in the codex they all fulfil the same role, adding some serious close combat clout to your units if equipped correctly, but more importantly by providing LD 9 and conferring the Stubborn USR on the unit. This means your unit is more likely to stay fighting and more effective at carrying out orders.
Specialists – HQ, Elites, and fast attack
Even in the Imperial Guard there are those units who are trained or equipped to carry out specific tasks, they tend to cost more points but if used wisely can inflict severe casualties. In most armies specialists are found in the elites section and are the units that excel in their roles, veteran assault squads, for example, crushing entire flanks almost single handed. In an Imperial Guard army specialists act as support units...
1) Storm Troopers, at 16 points a model, with an AP3 gun, storm troopers are at first glance ideal for taking out MEQs, the downside is their high cost means you need to kill a high number of marines to earn back your points, standing at 12” and trading shots with a power armoured marine with a boltgun is not a good way to do this. Leave them at home.
2) Ratlings, are BS4 soldiers armed with sniper rifles and are one of the more competitively priced specialist units. Snipers tend to be best used against high toughness monsters and trying to pin basic infantry. Combined with a psyker battle squad they can put their pinning abilities to maximum use. Infiltrate and scout help to keep them alive a little bit longer.
3) Hellhounds and variants, finally fast vehicles, they can move 6” and fire all weapons, the basic Chimera is great against light infantry, the blast multi-melta of the devil dog means it is more likely to miss vehicles smaller than a land raider, only the bane wolf is really competitive, and although it suffers from a lack of range, it absolutely murders MEQs, easily capable of wiping out half a squad in one go.
4) Hydras, are an interesting new option for the Imperial Guard, 4 shots, twin linked, long range autocannons that ignore skimmers moving fast or turbo-boosting cover saves. At 75pts it would be considered a must have in almost any army, were it not for the fact that it competes against your battle tanks and artillery for a heavy support slot. It is however a peerless transport killer and is highly competitive in mechanised lists where the enemy has to split his fire between 8+ Av12 vehicles.
5) Psyker battle squads, these are a completely new unit and much has been written regarding the tactics you can employ, the most obvious is to weaken the resolve of a unit near its own board edge and then force it to fall back off the table, the other ability is the Soulstorm, a large blast attack with a random AP and the strength equal to the number of psykers left in the squad. The downside is that at LD9 it is vulnerable to most anti-psyker defences and the increase in mechanised units means Weaken resolve may be ineffective for much of the game. For the cheap cost they are almost a must have unit, but to extend their lifespan they need mounting in a Chimera.
6) Guardsman Marbo, what can I say? He can show up, anywhere on the table, and drop a demo charge, potentially wiping out a dangerous unit, and there is nothing your opponent can do to stop it. In the unlikely event he lives until his next turn he can then shoot his AP2 pistol at a unit and then charge doing some serious damage (5 attacks at WS5 always wounding on a 2+). Marbo allows you to force your opponent to react to your list, drastically changing their own plans in an attempt to avoid losing a unit to a single 65 point model. Again most people will consider Marbo an almost compulsory elites choice.
7) Priests, in the previous codex these were widely regarded as being next to useless, with their new 1 wound profile and independent character status they are now officially useless.
8) Techpriests, are now a HQ choice that doesn’t use a HQ slot, best role is to either repair vehicles by having a large group of servitors or simply taking 2 servitors with plasma cannons for a fire support squad. Either way there are much better units that could be taken instead.
9) Valkyries, one of the most highly anticipated plastic models (short of a Thunderhawk anyway) Valkyries put even Eldar skimmers to shame with AV 12 on the front and sides, built in extra armour and the ability to scout or deep strike and the Grav Chute Insertion special rule. The optimal configuration of Valkyrie is to upgrade the two Hellstrike missiles to Multiple Rocket Pods, allowing the Valkyrie to fire two S4 large blast markers and a multilaser whilst moving 12”
10) Vendettas, nearly everything about the Vendetta is the same as the Valkyrie with one exception, where the Valkyrie is optimal as an anti-horde weapon the Vendetta does its thing against tanks with 3 twin-linked lascannons.
11) Sentinels, come in two variety’s, Scout Sentinels and Armoured Sentinels. Scout sentinel have the move through cover USRs. The best option for scout sentinels is to take either autocannons or stock multi lasers and Hunter-killer missiles for a 50pt alpha strike entering via outflanking to take Two S7 (or 3 S6) and a S8 shot at side or rear armour. The Armoured Sentinel weighs in at 20 points more than a scout sentinel and trades the two USRs for an increase in the front armour and extra armour as standard, for the same price you can get a Chimera which is much more effective. The only real option for a Armoured sentinel is as a tarpit for units of daemons etc which do not have powerfists in the squads, thus making it hard to destroy. I’d personally only ever take the scout sentinel as an outflanking suicide unit.
The Big Guns – Anti-tank and Ordnance
Big guns include everything in your arsenal strength 8 or up or Ordnance. Let’s start with the Strength 8 and up non-ordnance weapons first, these form your anti-tank weapons...
1) Lascannons and missile launchers are your main source of long range strength 8+ fire, both are readily available in infantry squads and heavy weapon squads. These should be used to take out enemy tanks that would pose a threat to your own forces (especially your tanks), such as predator annihilators, but if the enemy has a lot of transports use these weapons to aid in stopping the transports first, better to waste a turn firing at a transport than have that transport disgorge a unit which wipes out your lascannon squad.
2) Melta guns, are you main source of close range dedicated anti-tank fire, these should ideally be put into dedicated anti-tank squads either 3 into a veteran squad or four into a command squad to allow for misses and failures to penetrate. Ideally you should be able to kill a tank in one round of shooting, the bring it down order helps here, drastically increasing your chances of a kill.
3) Vanquisher Cannon, with a 72” Range and 2D6 penetration a vanquisher cannon could almost be considered a melta gun on steroids, almost but not quite. Including one in your army means having to pay for a Leman Russ chassis and the AP of 2 means that you don’t get the +1 on the vehicle damage chart that enables you to be sure that when you penetrate a vehicles armour it is going to die. The lack of a blast marker of any sort also decreases the ability to engage targets other than tanks.
Ordnance is a tricky one and I’ll deal with each weapon individually, but one thing to note is that the ability of the some ordnance to fire indirectly is a great boon, allowing you to target a unit out of LOS or provide supporting fire to a unit stranded on its own...
1) Battle cannon/Earthshaker, having a Str 8/9 AP3 weapon makes this weapon great against MEQs on foot but almost useless against vehicles. With current scatter rules you have only a small chance of getting a direct hit on a vehicle which limits your chances of destroying even a 35 point rhino, if the rhino is destroyed by one of your missile launchers or lascannons then you stand a good chance of wiping out half the squad with the same shot.
2) Demolisher/Medusa siege cannon, having a higher strength and lower AP and range the siege cannon stands a good chance of destroying whatever it lands upon, including armoured vehicles. Its main targets however should be TEQs in the opponents army, killing 40+ point models on a 2+ with only a 5+inv save is never a bad thing. Siege shells for the medusa are great tank busters but the scatter rolls mean you’ll usually hit your target less than half the time.
3) Colossus Siege Mortar, at strength 6 AP3 and ignoring cover a colossus seems like a great weapon to take against most opponents, the downside is that it cannot fire directly so must stay stationary to fire and has a minimum range of 24”. Most enemies will be within the range envelope by turn 2 or 3.
4) Griffon, as the cheapest ordnance available you get a str6 ap4 large blast that is substantially more accurate than any other ordnance weapon, the downside is that MEQs will shrug off the AP4 wounds and most probably pass the pining test if they do suffer a casualty.
5) Nova Cannon, ignoring cover saves, a strength of 6 and an AP of 4 means this monster kills light infantry, especially Eldar, stone dead, but is to be found lacking against a MEQ opponent.
6) Storm eagle rockets, firing D3 large blast templates at strength 10 means that whatever the Manticore fires at will usually end up dead but again the AP 4 means that MEQ opponents will get to shrug off wounds
7) Deathstrike, why this was included in the codex I’m not sure, as an apocalypse unit its fine but in a normal game I want something a little more predictable. It’s almost sure to kill whatever it hits but cannot fire until the second turn at the earliest and may never actually get the shot off. Leave this at home.
I would suggest taking two choices from the ordnance list above as standard, the first a Leman Russ with a battle cannon or a Basilisk, and a Demolisher or Medusa. Either way I would advise taking one weapon system on a Chimera chassis and one on a Russ chassis (LRBT and Medusas or Basilisks and Demolishers) to force your opponent to split his priorities and his anti-tank fire and to save on cost. A third option is advisable but will vary depending upon your expected opponents. I would also suggest 3 from the anti-tank list, a mixture of heavy weapon squads with missile launchers and lascannons and chimera mounted veteran squads with melta gus work best.
Now for most of this tactica we have been concentrating on doing bad things to your opponents forces but now it’s actually time to think about winning the game and in two out of three game types that means taking or contesting the objectives. With only troops choices being scoring I’ll run through them first...
1) Platoon Command Squads, if your objective grabbers are going to be your platoon command squads you’ll want to have them equipped with assault weapons, either melta guns or flamers ideally. Preferably mount them in a chimera for a bit of protection and speed and they should do just fine.
2) Infantry Platoon Squads, again I’d suggest mounting any objective grabbing squads, they can deploy with the rest of the gun-line and mount up on turn 3 and make a run at an objective. If you’re running them on foot I’d steer clear of a heavy weapon and arm them with either a meltagun in case they come across a tank or a grenade launcher for a more balanced approach.
3) Special Weapon Squads, probably are not going to be alive in the last few turns as they tend to be quite high priority targets for your enemy, but if you still have them they tend to do quite well as they are normally armed with assault type weapons so don’t lose too much firepower by advancing.
4) Heavy Weapon Squads, are useful only to hold your home objective, any time these guys are moving they’re not shooting, and that’s the reason you bought them.
5) Conscripts, if you’re running them conscripts can make excellent objective takers, they have the ability to soak up a lot of firepower and if you go to ground on the objective in cover the enemy is going to have a hard time killing 20+ models with a 3+ cover save, the only downside is getting them there in the first place as they will have to advance on foot.
6) Veterans, these guys make great objective takers, combining the firepower of a special weapons squad with the numbers of a infantry squad, again mounting them increases the effectiveness of the squad at capturing objectives.
7) Penal Legion Squad, although mounted on foot the ability to outflank gives them an impressive ability to come on from your opponents edge towards the end of the game and contest/claim their home objective, but this does have its downsides as they could end up turning up on the wrong side of the table.
Other units can also be used to contest an objective even if they cannot actually capture it. Denying an opponent an objective is almost as good as taking it yourself...
1) Counter attack teams, any units of rough riders or Ogryns that you used to neutralise an opponent’s assault can be pushed further forwards to try to contest an enemy held objective if they managed to survive their primary mission. After all if they’ve done the job you bought them for anything else is a bonus.
2) Damaged vehicles, a hellhound with just a hull heavy bolter can still contest an objective, although a damaged artillery piece like a basilisk with a destroyed Earthshaker is probably a better choice as most people will ignore it once the main weapon is gone.
3) Fast skimmers, like the Valkyrie and Vendetta can move flat out in the final turn and contest an objective 24” from their start point, a tactic that is widely known but hard to stop if the vehicle is still mobile.
Winning the game is the most important thing so you need to make sure you at least have enough mobile units left at the end of the game to capture at least one objective and contest the others. Capturing more objectives is preferable but remember you only need one more than your opponent to claim victory.
So that’s how I go about choosing my armies hopefully it’s been some help to you all and just in summary I’d say you need the following in an army...
5-6 Anti-Transport choices
2-3 Counter attack choices
2-3 Anti-Tank choices
4-6 Dedicated Objective takers
0-2 Specialist units
Now this sounds like a lot of units but a single unit could have multiple roles depending upon the game turn, for example a platoon command squad in a chimera could keep the chimera stationary in the first few turns to take out transports, advance and counter attack an assault in the 3rd turn and advance and take an objective in the 5th. Having units that can fulfil multiple roles like this is a good idea as even if your main objective takers are destroyed you still have secondary objective takers to take over the role.
Anyway, sorry bout the length and to anyone who managed to get the whole way through in one sitting kudos!