Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Strata-gems Pt. 1...Imperial Guard Overview

Welcome to Strata-gems. This is new series of posts I will be working on.

The Poor Bloody Infantry- Getting by with a little help from their friends...


Recently I have been enjoying many tactics articles around the web. It has been interesting to read other peoples opinion on how 6th edition has shaped 40k, particularly in relation to the Imperial Guard. It must be said that the Imperial Guard have been experiencing somewhat of a renaissance since the release of the latest codex in 2009. As a long term Guard Fanatic, I found that this has been the most diverse codex to date allowing many different styles of play. Whilst there will always be units which are more efficient in terms of points than others, this codex has generally allowed for a wider spread of units to be used on a more regular basis.

So I have decided to write up a series of tactics articles specific to the Imperial Guard. I will look at individual units in their own right, but this first instalment is largely regarding my own approach when it comes to the attitude of a Guard commander...

OK. This is a tactics article, but mostly it is about how Imperial Guard players can benefit from the right frame of mind whilst playing Guard. I'm not sure if you guys will approve of this article, but I wrote it as an insight into the way I feel the imperial guard, as a force, needs to be understood by their commanders before they can do well on the tabletop/battlefield. With the latest codex the Guard has become one of armies considered more competitive than some of the other books, but it still takes care to wield an Imperial Guard force.

I'm a guard player to the core and believe (even if I'm somewhat bias about this) that the guard are more strategically demanding than any other force in the 40k universe. I would like to hear what you agree with or disagree with in this article, or even if it makes any sense at all. I wrote this in kind of a mad rush of inspiration so it might be complete nonsense.

I also want to state that these are simply what makes guard work for me. You can take bits from it and make them your own, disregard it completely or slander me for believing in such drivel. It’s really up to you.

All words and no pictures make AJ a dull boy!
The Body

Those of you who have read ‘Gaunt's Ghosts’ will be familiar with De Marches. He was an Imperial scholar during the time of Saint Sabbats crusade. His teachings (though based in fiction and relatively lightly explored) struck a chord with me as I read.
He wrote that an army should be wielded as the commander wields his own body. His arms, his fire power, his legs, his movement, and his eyes and ears his scouts.

This at first is difficult to relate to the 40k gaming board, but it will very easily relate to the 40k battlefield and the 40k universe as a whole. Thus bringing my introduction to a close and putting forth my first point...

Play the Army, not the list.

This is true for any and all 40k races, but especially for the guard. I have commanded my guard army for over to a decade. I have used three generations of codex, four different rules sets, and three different model ranges to represent the same regiment. Whilst rules and models have changed vastly, the ethos and spirit of the guard has remained largely untouched. We are not the god like Astarte's, we command little of the finesse of the Sororitas and we certainly don't hold the power or privileges of the wrathful inquisition. All we have is blood and mud and guts and glory. We are the dog faces, the grunts, the poor bloody guard, the front line of defence for humanity and we do what we can to preserve our race.

It’s at this point you are probably asking, where's he going with this?” or, “I thought this was a tactics article?”
Well it's simple. Know your army. Watch them be butchered and feel their loss. Celebrate their victories, feel their hardship and control their fate. If you can do this then they will feel like part of your own body, like in De Marches writings.

OK, you are probably thinking I’ve gone mad, but I assure you, the more you know about your troops, the more you grow to understand each troopers strength and weakness, the more you can learn to use each squad in the appropriate manner. Patterns will emerge that no statistics generator, or clever calculations can account for. You will begin to instinctively know which squad to use for a counter attack with a chance of success and you will become aware of which troops are likely to turn tail at the earliest hint of casualties.
So play YOUR army, Not a list.

And if you are still willing to read on, I will continue with my second point.

The Commissar stands watch over his men as the enemy close in. 


Discipline is vitally important with the Guard. We thrive on structure and follow a strict chain of command. Whilst there are some new toys (ahem...Vendetta FTW...ahem) the Guard is like a heavy blunt weapon, like a hammer. Whilst able to reap destruction on whatever it lands on, it can easily be out manoeuvred by quicker, lighter and sharper weapons. It takes discipline, strength and care to wield a war hammer. The same can be said for a guard army.

We commanders must exhibit these traits if we are to succeed. It is our orders that will lead to the success or failure of the operation. This begins right in the earliest deployment and continues until the last roll of the dice. The easy part is building the battle plan, the difficult part is sticking it out despite the hand that lady luck deals us.
I shall attempt to go through each phase in turn.


Make a plan. This doesn't have to be too detailed or complicated. It can simply be a list of priority enemy units, which objectives you wish to attempt, or where you would like to draw out the enemy attack. Deploy with this plan in mind. It is important that you take into consideration firing lanes. It is also vital that your units are supporting one another without getting in each other’s way. For example, there is little point in placing a Leman Russ right in front of a chimera which wishes to move forward in turn one, simply to try and keep fire off it.
It is also vital that you take a moment before deploying anything if the plan you have chosen will be the right course of action for the scenario. There is little merit in deploying everything as far back as possible when you are playing an objective mission. Once settled on a plan, follow it through until the end. Stick to it as much as physically possible.
A lot of discipline is also needed in deployment when it comes to the placement of enemy strengths. Try not to succumb to responding to enemy deployments. This can lead to you being drawn into deploying where the enemy wants you to, and can be costly in redeployment time during the battle.


Movement requires a large amount of discipline. It can be arguably the most vital and important stage in the IG turn. There is a careful balance in the Guard that needs to be preserved between firepower and mobility. Few armies have such a lack of mobility as the Imperial Guard Infantry company list. It is for this reason that I rarely equip my infantry squads with heavy weapons. This to a lot of you may be an outrage, but I feel for my own style of play it allows me greater flexibility in movement. Those of you who feel the need for heavy weapons in your infantry (and I should point out I have nothing against it, simply that my own style prefers to keep them in dedicated heavies squads) require larger amounts of discipline. Even with the advent of snap fire, I feel the desire to keep my blob squads stationary is too great with heavy weapons.

There will come times when you may have to sacrifice a good proportion of firepower to move the squad to a better or more valuable location. Have the strength and discipline to do this and you will probably be rewarded. Again however it is important that each movement is whole hearted, as leaving squads unsupported too far from your lines is simply giving away vital assets.



The phase most guard players look forward to most is also the most treacherous and the one that demands the most discipline. It is tempting to let loose and kill with wanton abandon, but it is here
that we must remember the heavy, blunt blows of the war hammer. We must use our might to strike down each enemy target in turn and destroy it with all our might before turning our attention to another target. Before firing a shot, step back and take a look. What is the biggest threat to your lines? What squad is the juiciest in points cost and would it be worth killing it over a more pressing threat. Is it worth targeting the terminators, when it is the bike squad who will be in melta range next turn?

Then pick which weapons are best suited to the job, Firing auto cannons at the tactical squad when there are some Razorbacks in range? These are obvious, but it is surprising how often these simple questions get over looked in the heat of battle. Then when shooting at your main target I always find it beneficial to start with the weakest weapons and work up. This means that I can save my bigger guns, if I am lucky enough to destroy the first threat with the weaker firepower. Allowing me the maximum destructive force onto my secondary target, and so on and so forth.

Also, if attempting to launch a pre emptive assault on an enemy unit, be careful with using firepower to whittle down the squad you wish to assault. Your opponent will remove the closest casualties, so that your unit is no longer within combat range, leaving you wide open to be assaulted the next turn.

The Penal Squad sneak around to attack the flanks of the approaching horde.


Assaults need to be carefully planned, as you would expect with any armies commitment to assault. However with the guard extra precaution is needed. Be wary of sending officers in, as their ability to be challanged often marks them ripe for an early grave. Don't however hold them back at all costs, rather send them in to assure victory. It is rarely wise to attack a full squad of any enemy assaulter's. It is often best to pick on already weakened units, or units already locked in combat with a fair amount of your own troops.

Guard can however hold their own in combat, and not only by good fortune or luck. When used correctly a guard charge can change the tide of a battle. As enemies often underestimate the guard in combat, it is easy to slip under their defences and pick your combats carefully. If you have the balls to give a guard assault a go, and trust your men to give it a go, then you may just be surprised how far they can go (remember play the army, not the list.) Oh and commissars help as well!

That’s all for now. I will start looking into each unit in turn, if you guys can stand anymore.


  1. Simply one of the best posts I've read in a long long time (although also one of the hardest as the text came up yellow-on-white on this computer)!

    Brilliant and I utterly agree.

    That said, I've still got a '5th Ed' head on, and your article appeals to this. Have you not found (as I have) that our beloved Guard seem to be far harder pressed these days against codex-crept foes that seem designed to counter the once-ubiquitous-and-strong competitive Guard threat?

    1. Apologies for the text problem. I forgot to deformat the text after editing it in word. Doh!

      As for the 5th ed head, I do agree. With recent codex's, guard are starting to show some weaknesses. However, I think this I a constant problem with Games Workshop's 'Shiny new thing' syndrome. Some of the rules components in 6th have generally improved guard Aegis defence lines and over-watch for example)

      I do think the codex is not as powerful as it once was, but I quite like this. Every win with the guard should be and generally is hard earned despite the power of codex's.

    2. Your last comment = so true...so very true!

      I really disliked playing Guard for 2 years with everyone assuing I was playing them simply as they were the armeƩ du jour. Guardsmen should always be against the odds!

  2. Well done, sir, well done.

    I too have played guard for almost 2 decades now, that's hard to believe first off, an I have always played spirited games. I started as a very competitive player, then eased into a mire fluff oriented play style, though my wins tally is pretty sad looking these days.

    I admit, guard charges are some of the greatest things to watch, especially when an opponent is quick to denounce your decision to do so. My current army is modeled off a WW1 French play style, loads of infantry assaulting across the board, with plenty of heavy bolters, mortars and Thudd guns dumping support fire into my opponent. These types of attacks take coordination and as you stated discipline. My regular opponents really don't get it. We need a lot of time to develop our strategies even one as Unimaginative as massed infantry waves. They see my wanton expenditure of life as a waste, but once 5 or 6 infantry squads help deliver a squad of demo vets (pioneers) or a squad or two of cavalry they start to see the picture more clearly than they had expected. This was quite long winded for a reply...

    However I have a question, do you think that the use of transports has truly changed they way IG play? I've been a mech IG player since just after Eye of Terror, and have very recently eschewed the use of any vehicular support what so ever, to me it's refreshing, but a winning combo, but it's nice to field more models per point value over my opponents. In 5th I played mech IG with the 78th Mordant, then dropped out of the 40k scene when the game became a competitive nightmare of meta gaming and true low cost high reward spamming. This now goes back to the question, if your mind do the guard really need to be mech to be effective? And what of your thoughts on theming an army and playing that theme? If you claim your army is the 532nd Rifles why are they ridiculously tank heavy and light on the rifles so to speak.

    Cheers to you, Colonel, erm.... I mean AJ, spirited article.

  3. The influence of mechanised units has waned somewhat in 6th edition. I think hull points really balanced vehicles very well. They are still very useful, but cannot be the be all and end all.

    I agree with you that infantry waves can be very effective, although as you said, they take dicipline. Not everyone has the patience to opperate an army like the guard. Sometimes I here that Imperial Guard are over powered, and all you need to do is stand and shoot, but there is so much more to the guard than that.

    As for theme, its very important to me. Every unit that i build and paint has a place in my regiment. If I pick an army list from my guard army, it has to fit with what my regiment uses. As a general rule, I dont like playing with unpainted units (although this is only a personal choice).

    I dont mind if opponents dont stick to a theme, but I do enjoy it immensely when they do. Even if its just a simple one.

    Thanks Commissar! Its good to see you about again. :)

    1. I got tired of not playing, and I found some opponents that will likely be themed and fun.

      I've seen the waning on mech, it's sorta funny to read the forum, and see all the mech and "airmobile" lists. I personally believe that the FW Elysian list is the gold standard for air mobility, and it is challenging too. I digress, the game is changing again, and thus far appears balanced with the newer 'dex's.

      I'm glad to see another hobbyist that enjoys the theme! I do see it in your work, I enjoy the work you do too. That's why I follow your blog, makes me want to jump back into the blogging scene honestly.

      I fully agree about the assessment on discipline, it's easy to judge the might of the Imperial Guard as a sit and shoot army, but you see a lot of undisciplined IG players at gaming clubs and tourneys that just don't play right, but they win because they use raw power and proper combos, much like the Space Wolves jaws/missile spam list, not strategy, just heavy hitting and lacking real skill.

      That personal rule is the same as my own, it needs to be painted, I hate having unpainted stuff on the board. Can't wait to read more


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...