Astra whatsit now? You are in the Imperial Guard, son. Forget power armor, magical space elves, terrifying space bugs, or weird fish people. This is the faction of the brave men and women of the Imperium, going out into the war in the stars armed with nothing but a lasgun, a flak jacket, and faith in the Immortal Emperor, and Naramyth and Corrode have combined their powers to tell you all about it. Like the rest of the articles in the Start Competing series, this is not intended to be a breakdown of every possible unit in the Guard line. This range has been around forever, ever since the days of the Imperial Army in Rogue Trader, and it shows. There are a ton of options and a bunch of them are semi-to-mostly-useless, but we will cover what you can realistically expect to see and use on the table, equipping you to take up arms for Him on Earth and face down the horrors of the galaxy.
Additionally, this is mostly a review of the Astra Militarum codex, rather than “Imperium” as a wider faction. We’ll pull in the most relevant index-only option (Rough Riders) and key Forge World units, but we’re not going to do a deep dive of the Death Korps of Krieg or Elysians, or get into the finer details of Imperial Soup lists, although we will discuss the ever-present “loyal 32” since it’s very relevant to how you will often see Guard deployed on the table. There will be a future “Imperium” article focusing on the crazy number of ways you can build an all-singing all-dancing soup list, which will often include Astra Militarum units, but that’s not what we’re focusing on here.
- Effective shooting and lots of it
- Tons of bodies for cheap
- Ability to act in every phase of the game
- Orders make the basic unit of Guardsman extremely flexible
- T3/5+ saves everywhere
- Vulnerable vehicles
- BS4 almost everywhere hurts against targets with hit modifiers – Alaitoc planes are not your friend
- Tons of similar options makes for some real trap choices for a new player
One of the best pure armies in the game, and if anyone runs a multi-faction Imperium list, you can bet there will probably be a loyal 32 running around. With the ability to act in every phase, mind-bogglingly mobile Troops, strong counter charge presence, and enough shooting to rival Tau or Ad Mech, this really is the book that can almost do it all. For a long period after the book first dropped the Internet was aflame with people complaining that it had completely broken 8th edition. They were wrong, but the Guard book remains a good one, though it suffers from the same issue as many “legacy” ranges, having ten units in each slot when only two of them are any good.
So how do they play? Answer: sort of however you want! The nice thing about all that unit variety is that there’s a bunch of different Guard playstyles available. You can go all-in on infantry, field a bunch of tanks and artillery, fire drop troops out of Valkyries, or a combination of all three. This flexibility means that they also work great with other factions – you can pull in some Custodians or a Knight or whatever else, with the Guard covering off the weaknesses of those factions.
One common build you might see on the table is a Guard Brigade full of Company Commanders, Primaris Psykers, Infantry Squads, Bullgryns and their supporting cast, Scout Sentinels, and Heavy Weapons Squads with mortars, supported by a Supreme Command detachment of Tank Commanders and perhaps a super-heavy tank – Shadowswords are a popular choice thanks to their ability to pick a single vehicle and absolutely deck it. Maybe it trades out the Scout Sentinels for Rough Riders or Hellhounds, and possibly in the Heavy Support slot you’ll find a Wyvern or Basilisk or Manticore. It’s hard to pin down any one unit selection, although as we get into more detail below you’ll see some winners and losers emerge. In any case, the aim is to overwhelm the opponent with a mass of tanks and infantry, perfectly in line with the Guard’s role as the grinding, advancing mass of the Imperium’s armies.
Voice of Command
A special rule that every officer model has. These are functionally spells that cannot fail and provide a lot of the secret sauce for otherwise lacklustre units. At the start of the Shooting phase, infantry officers can choose one matching REGIMENT INFANTRY unit within 6″ and have them immediately do one of the following:
- Take Aim!: Reroll 1s to hit in shooting
- First Rank Fire! Second Rank Fire!: Change all lasguns and hot-shot lasguns to Rapid Fire 2
- Bring it Down!: Reroll 1s to wound in shooting
- Forwards, for the Emperor: The ordered unit can shoot after advancing
- Get Back in the Fight: The unit can shoot even if it fell back
- Move! Move! Move: The unit can move again(and advance), but cannot change
- Fix Bayonets! (only units in combat) The unit immediately fights as if it were the fight phase
All of these are extremely solid options which further support units that are basically mandatory anyway. Doubling the amount of shots even out of a 10 man Infantry Squad really allows them to punch above their weight with FRFSRF, and Move! Move! Move! allows game-winning board control and movement blocking. The ability to throw a unit of infantry a minimum of 14″ away is bananas. Rerolling 1s to hit can be good for Veterans squads, mortar teams or Scions with special weapons. Bring it Down! and Forwards, For The Emperor are a bit more niche, but both have their place – in particular, Bring it Down! can be great as a follow-up order on the aforementioned Veterans or Scions when using the Laurels of Command relic (of which more later).
The Tank Commander’s answer to Voice of Command. There are three orders available to Tank Commanders, which can be used in much the same way as above except that they target <REGIMENT> LEMAN RUSS instead. Back in the bad old days of 8th edition Indexhammer, they weren’t allowed to target themselves with this for some reason, but post-Codex they are and so the most common usage of Tank Orders is for the Commander to order himself. This might sound curious, but everyone needs to give themselves a pep talk every now and then, even if they’re commanding ten tonnes of Imperial steel.
The three orders are:
- Full Throttle!: Instead of shooting, the model can move, must Advance, and cannot declare a charge this turn.
- Gunners, Kill on Sight!: Re-roll hit rolls of 1 until the end of the phase.
- Strike and Shroud!: If the Russ has not used its smoke launchers yet (see the Russ entry below), it can shoot and then immediately launch smoke.
Of the three, Gunners, Kill on Sight! is by far the most commonly used, since it directly buffs the shooting efficiency of the tank. The other two have application though; sometimes you just need to move, particularly late game where claiming an objective might be the difference between victory and defeat, and Strike and Shroud can be dead handy for lessening some of the counterpunch from whatever your Russes are firing at.
A special rule that has been copied by elves and now Marines, this allows Leman Russes and Tank Commanders to shoot their turret weapon twice if they move under half their movement, and ignore the penalty for moving and shooting for the weapon. 2d6 shots from a battle cannon or the 40-shot fistful of dice from a Punisher can be extremely valuable, especially on a Tank Commander’s BS3+ or, even better, Pask’s BS2+.
There’s 8 regiments available to Astra Militarum armies, 7 of which represent “classic” Guard factions from days gone by (Cadian, Catachan, Valhallan, Vostroyan, Armageddon, Tallarn, Mordian) and the last of which is a sub-trait for the Militarum Tempestus. Like other factions, you’re required to keep detachments “pure” to get the trait – so all your units have to be CADIAN to get the Cadian trait, or ARMAGEDDON for the Armageddon trait, etc.
However, unlike most other factions, there are two special categories of Guard unit which ignore this. The first are those units known as “Auxilia,” representing the weird and wonderful array of abhumans, Ad Mech hangers-on, and other oddballs which have been stuffed into the Guard range over the years. This category includes Ogryn and their cousins the Bullgryn, Ratlings, Commissars, and Primaris Psykers, as well as a few others. The second is the Militarum Tempestus; a pure detachment of these gets their own trait, Storm Troopers, but alternatively you can sprinkle them in to a detachment of a different type and although they won’t get their own gimmicks, they don’t break other people’s.
As well as the regimental trait, Guard regiments each get a special order, stratagem, relic, and Warlord trait, although none of the Warlord traits are that good and they won’t be further discussed here.
8 of these things is too many to talk about in detail, so we’re going to focus our main attention on the “good” ones and only briefly touch on the rest. That said, although Cadian and Catachan in particular stand out as being the clear best thanks to their raw efficiency, we’ve seen every regiment except Armageddon on the table at some point and there’s tricks available to all of them.
- Cadian: The bread and butter trait that enables the Guard parking lot, Cadian allows a unit to reroll 1s in the Shooting phase if it doesn’t move; additionally, it modifies Take Aim! to reroll all hits for said units (note that this applies to Take Aim! and not to Gunners, Kill on Sight – no re-rolling all hits on tanks!) Cadian also has a great strategem, “Overlapping Fields of Fire”, which you use after one of your CADIAN units inflicts an unsaved wound on an enemy unit and gives +1 hit for all CADIAN units targeting that unit for the rest of that phase, which is tremendously useful for killing large targets like Knights. Finally, their Tank Commander order “Pound Them to Dust” allows you to re-roll the number of shots for a turret weapon with random numbers of shots. All this stuff is great, and you want it.
- Catachan: Their stratagem sucks, and their order sucks, but who cares. +1 strength on Guardsmen, +1 Leadership for units within 6″ of officers, and rerolling random shots for their vehicles is like 3 traits rolled into one. +1 strength dudes allows Guard to actually be aggressive and charge units. 12 swings from a 10 man unit isn’t bad, and with Straken and a Priest that can turn into 32 swings! It’s not good quality, but it’s a lot of quantity. Catachans also have access to Sergeant Harker, so you can re-roll 1s in the Shooting phase for stuff within 6″ of him. Basically, Cadian and Catachan can replicate each other’s main stuff to differing degrees, and your choice between them comes down to what parts you value more.
- Tallarn: The fast ones. Move and advance without penalty all the time with their Infantry allows them to cover a lot of ground and strike further than expected. Their Tank Commanders can shoot after moving with their special order, and their stratagem allows 3 units (one of which can be a VEHICLE) to outflank, providing some unexpected threat vectors and allow for some silly things like hidden Shadowswords. Also objectively the coolest looking infantry regiment. Don’t at me.
- Vostroyan: The trait is fringe useful (adding 6″ to the range of punisher cannons is pretty good), the order is ok, the relic sure does exist. What you’re interested in here is the stratagem, Firstborn Pride, which gives you +1 to hit with Shooting attacks. Dead handy for dropping on a Shadowsword to get it hitting on a 3+ to make sure you really, really ruin something’s day.
As well as the regiments, it makes sense to discuss here the specialist detachments available to the Astra Militarum in the Vigilus Defiant book. With a mighty 5 different options in the book, of which at least 4 are seeing play commonly, the Guard did extremely well out of Vigilus Defiant. The detachments are:
- Emperor’s Blade Assault Company – affecting mostly infantry units and Dedicated Transports, this detachment is all about recreating mech Guard from 5th edition. It doesn’t really get there, but at least they tried. Also has a fun relic in the form of an imitation Shadowfield. This detachment does have a “get out after moving” strat which can lead to some real reach for infantry to grab objectives or go for some charges to tie up important gun platforms.
- Emperor’s Wrath Artillery Company – affecting Company Commanders, Masters of Ordnance, Basilisks, Hydras, and Wyverns, this detachment gives a Warlord Trait with bonuses to AP, and a relic to help you ignore cover. The key things here are the stratagems – 1CP lets you trade one of the tanks shooting for stopping an enemy unit firing Overwatch and halve their movement, and 2CP lets a model to shoot one of its weapons twice. Quite commonly used to buff a single Basilisk and Wyvern, this offers some tricks as well as the ever-helpful brute firepower of enabling 8D6 mortar rounds which can re-roll failed wounds.
- Emperor’s Conclave Infantry Company – affecting Company and Platoon Commanders, Command Squads, Infantry Squads, Conscripts, Priests, and Crusaders, you can gain a Warlord trait to re-roll 1s to hit in the Fight phase (rare in the Guard!), an ok relic, and another two stratagems – 2CP to be an ersatz Wulfen (getting to fight when they die), and 1CP to get +1 to charge for units within 12″ of a Priest which successfully charges. A reasonable investment if you’re going all in on Straken punching.
- Emperor’s Fist Tank Company – this one is for Leman Russes. A Warlord trait to let you re-roll hits in Overwatch, a couple of handy stratagems – 1CP to Grinding Advance no matter how far you moved, 1CP to so some mortal wounds on the charge – but the real money here is the Hammer of Sunderance, which swaps out the regular battle cannon for one which does a straight damage 3 instead of d3. Worth paying the CP for that alone.
- Tempestus Drop Force – affecting everything Militarum Tempestus, plus Valkyries. This all works pretty well together, apart from the completely irrelevant relic – the Warlord trait lets you add 1 to hit rolls for Scions dropping out of a Valkyrie, one stratagem for 1CP lets you drop out of a Valkyrie without the risk of dying on the way, and the other strat, also for 1CP, lets the Valkyrie fire Overwatch at something charging the Scions it just dropped off and hit on a 4+ when doing so. Not a bad investment and a great way to deliver some plasma death to something that you really want dead.
The final thing to talk about before we get into the meat of the article is the Psykana discipline, the Guard-specific psychic power lore. This contains six powers as below:
- Terrifying Visions – WC7 – pick one enemy unit within 18″, that unit has -2 Ld until the start of its next turn
- Gaze of the Emperor – WC6 – draw a straight line 2D6″ from the psyker; for each model the line passes over, roll a dice and on a 4+ that model’s unit takes a mortal wound
- Psychic Barrier – WC6 – pick a friendly ASTRA MILITARUM unit within 12″; until the start of your next Psychic phase, add 1 to that unit’s saving throws
- Nightshroud – WC6 – pick a friendly ASTRA MILITARUM unit within 12″; until the start of your next turn, ranged weapons shooting at that unit are -1 to hit
- Mental Fortitude – WC4 – pick a friendly ASTRA MILITARUM unit within 12″; until the start of your next Psychic, that unit automatically passes Morale tests
- Psychic Maelstrom – WC7 – pick an enemy unit within 18″; roll a D6 and on a 2+ it takes a mortal wound. Unless the wound is negated, roll again and on a 3+ that unit suffers another mortal wound, adding 1 to the dice roll until you either fail to cause a mortal wound or the enemy unit is destroyed
Realistically, the powers you want here are Psychic Barrier and Nightshroud, for buffing Bullgryn or Shadowswords or similar. The rest are generally “ok” at best – Terrifying Visions can be helpful, for example for supporting a Callidus’ gun, but you generally need to line up a lot of stuff and Imperium doesn’t have that much that lets a Leadership bomb work (and in any case, lots of factions just straight up ignore Morale). Gaze of the Emperor is in the category of “neutered Jaws of the World Wolf” powers which do less than you’d hope for, and Mental Fortitude is fine but there’s not that many things in the Militarum book which you desperately need to stick around which are worth taking a psyker and using their one cast a turn to support. Finally there’s Psychic Maelstrom or “gimmick Smite.” This can potentially throw out 5 mortal wounds, which is pretty good, but your chances of actually doing it are pretty low and the weird rider that someone making a clutch FNP can stop the power makes it even less appealing. Compared to something like Executioner or Gaze of Ynnead, it’s really not that impressive.
As previously mentioned, Guard have a goddamn lot of units, and a bunch of those units have a plethora of options. It’s not as bad as the 100+ datasheet Space Marines, but it’s close. The list flatters to deceive because there’s a bunch of irrelevant ones in there, including the overstuffed Elites section, the interchangeable Russ turrets which might as well say “take a battle cannon or a punisher gatling cannon and ignore the rest,” and of course the 8 different variants on the Baneblade chassis. And that’s not even accounting for the giant pile of things Forge World have made for the Imperial Guard, because if Forge World has any mission statement besides upsetting Wings it’s making endless boxes for Guardsmen to drive.
Given all that, then, we’ll be doing the following. Each slot will list out the options available to it, then will follow a brief paragraph highlighting anything which is an outright trap or otherwise irrelevant for the level we’re pitching at here (which is, roughly, “you want to take this to a tournament or other competitive event”), and then fuller discussion of the merits of things which actually matter.
In terms of Forge World stuff, there’s no way we’re adding the 59 extra datasheets listed in “Forces of the Astra Militarum”, let alone Death Korps of Krieg or Elysian-specific units. If anything is extremely relevant we’ll bring it in, but don’t expect to see much of this. If you disagree with our assessment of what’s relevant or not, feel free to @ us and generate click-driving engagement.
In the list of available units, we will note which ones are named characters (denoted “NC”) and, where units are regiment-specific, what regiment they belong to. We will also note “Auxilia” units as described in the Regiments section above, as well as Forge World units (denoted “FW”). Rough Riders are also noted as being an index unit, mostly so you know where to find them.
Lord Castellan Creed (NC, Cadian)
Colonel ‘Iron Hand’ Straken (NC, Catachan)
Knight Commander Pask (NC, Cadian)
Lord Commissar (Auxilia)
Commissar Yarrick (NC, Auxilia)
Tempestor Prime (Militarum Tempestus)
Primaris Psyker (Auxilia)
Sly Marbo (Catachan)
The HQ slot is stuffed full of good options. Note that Marbo isn’t in the core book, but has a separate datasheet that comes with his model. Every single one of these has turned up on a tournament table in 8th edition, with the possible exception of Lord Commissars which tend to be left aside in favour of their cheaper juniors in the Elites slot. Looking at the rest, then, we have:
Unlike HQs in many other armies, the Company Commander’s strengths are not its combat ability, or an especially powerful aura, or being a platform for a mass of accurate guns (hi, Tau Commanders). The statline is distinctly unimpressive – WS3+ and BS3+, S3 T3, 4 Wounds, 3 Attacks, Ld 8 and a 5+ armour save (and Invulnerable save). Probably the critical stat there is Wounds, because if you’ve read Wings’ article on Imperial Assassins you’ll know that 4 is the break point where you’re more likely than not to survive a Vindicare shooting at you. All that said, you don’t really care about the stats that much. This guy’s purpose is simple – being cheap as hell, and giving out orders. They only cost 30pts, and they give out 2 orders per turn. Orders are the engine that make Guard infantry work, so these guys are vital. Besides these, a Company Commander Warlord with the Grand Strategist trait allows you to recover CP, or they can take Old Grudges to allow for re-rolling to wound against a specific enemy unit. Cheap, cheerful, and perfectly efficient at what they do, it’s hard to argue with the Company Commander’s utility.
Lord Castellan Creed
Creed is, more or less, just an upgunned Company Commander. He has a couple of good weapons, but his main features are popping off 3 orders per turn at 12″ range rather than 6″, and giving a bonus 2 CP if he’s your Warlord. At 55pts vs. 30pts for the basic Company Commander, it’s up to you whether you think making him your Warlord for 2CP and the extra order + order range is worthwhile over simply having (nearly) 2 guys. He’s also Cadian-restricted, which influences your choice – as your Warlord he must have the Cadian trait, for a potential bonus order (for a different unit) on a 4+, which locks you out of the more usual Guard traits (see the Warlord Traits section at the bottom). He can be dead handy if you want to take just the one officer and fill your other slot in a Battalion with a Primaris Psyker, since he can handle the order duties of 2.25 Commanders (once you account for the bonus orders from his Warlord trait); on the other hand he’s defensively identical to a single Commander, so he’s precisely half as durable as having two.
Basically, taking him is never a bad choice, but it’s also not necessarily the optimal choice. It really is up to you.
Colonel ‘Iron Hand’ Straken
Unlike Creed, old ‘Iron Hand’ Straken is very different to the basic Company Commander. A glance at the stats alone will suggest this – WS2+, S6, T4, W5, A4, and a 3+ save all combine to make him a lot beefier than your average Company Commander. He’s also loaded down with weaponry – a plasma pistol, a shotgun, frag and krak grenades, and a bionic arm with “devil’s claw” which grants him AP-1 and D2. As well as all this, he has two key abilities – Been There, Seen It, Killed It, which lets him re-roll failed wounds in the Fight phase when attacking MONSTERS, and Cold Steel and Courage which grants all CATACHAN units within 6″ in the Fight phase (including Straken himself) and extra attack. Like any other senior officer, he also dishes out two orders a turn, and has a 5+ invulnerable, and of course since he’s CATACHAN INFANTRY himself he gains an extra +1 Strength such that his real profile is S7, 5 attacks. If he’s your Warlord, he also takes the Catachan trait, giving him an extended Heroic Intervention range and re-rolling failed hits on the charge. All that for a mere 75pts!
Straken is about the only respectable combat character that the Guard can offer. He is also a central element in the “combat Guard” or “Straken blob” build – taking a pile of S4 Guardsmen, a Priest, and Straken, and running them into things for an absolute pile of S4 swings. If you’re running Catachans, he’s a very good pick, since he brings something genuinely different over a Company Commander.
The Tank Commander is, more or less, a straight-up better Leman Russ. It can take whatever guns the Russ can, has an improved BS3+, and can give out orders, usually to itself as discussed in the “Orders” section. It also fills up one of your mandatory HQ slots. Your best choices here are the battle cannon or the punisher gatling cannon, laying out either accurate anti-tank fire or a pile of anti-infantry shots. You might possibly also consider sponson weapons to add more dakka, though realistically the best use for this is to add additional anti-infantry punch with heavy bolters to a punisher – the rest of the options are too expensive for the increase in firepower. Most often though you’re going to want to keep these cheap and cheerful, and for 172pts at its cheapest, you can’t go far wrong.
Knight Commander Pask
If a Tank Commander is best described as a better Leman Russ, than Knight Commander Pask is a better Tank Commander. As with other Tank Commanders he can take any weapons he fancies, but unlike them he boasts a base BS2+. He can hand out two tanks orders per turn, handy if you have any regular Russes who could use the order which would normally be reserved for the Tank Commander itself. The only real strike against him in this regard is that as a Cadian, he already gets the regimental trait to re-roll 1s to hit if stationary, so the orders are consequently less important than they otherwise would be. You can’t argue with that BS2+ though, even if he is 35pts more expensive for the privilege.
Yarrick is the Commissar’s Commissar, a special character from the early days of 40k. In 8th edition he has WS2+ and BS2+, T4, W4, and A3 with a 4+ armour save. He also carries a bolt pistol, storm bolter, and power klaw, as well as the Bale Eye, a S3 AP-2 D1 pistol with a short range. He shares the Aura of Discipline with other Commissars, letting them use his Ld9, has a 3+ Feel No Pain (the best in the game except for the Contorted Epitome), and a 4+ invulnerable. He can also summarily execute models in a unit which flees, which post-FAQ allows them to re-roll the Morale test rather than the much more effective ability printed on his datasheet. Finally, he has the Hero of Hades Hive ability, which allows ASTRA MILITARUM units within 6″ to re-roll hit rolls of 1, or re-roll all hits against Orks. If you make him the Warlord, he can also give orders like an officer.
Yarrick is reasonably-priced at 100pts, and his re-roll bubble is fairly unique in the Astra Militarum – It’s a straight buff to allow your shooting and combat. To an extent you’re overpaying a bit for all the weapons and the that excellent FNP he gets, but at least he has the BS and WS to make good use of them.
The sole HQ choice of the Militarum Tempestus, a Tempestor Prime is a Company Commander which costs 10pts more and gives 1 order fewer. This sounds like a crap deal, but for 5pts he can swap his hot-shot laspistol for a Tempestus command road which allows him to give 2 orders, and of course there’s always the Inspired Tactics stratagem. The extra points also buy him the ability to deep strike. Really, the main argument for the Prime is that you have to have him if you want a Scions detachment to have orders, since other commanders can’t order them around. They do have a secondary use though – as a cheap 40pt piece with deep strike this guy can drop onto the board late in the game, hide behind the character targeting rules and being (hopefully) not much of a target, claim a distant objective.
Once upon a time Primaris Psykers were very cheap, whereas these days they’re just regular old “quite cheap.” Coming in at 46pts, they have a similar profile to the Company Commander, though they lack the 5+ invulnerable. They tote a force stave, which grants them 3 S5 AP-1 Dd3 attacks, which at WS3+ can be an occasional surprise for an unwary opponent, but their main usage is casting powers. They can only cast one and deny one per turn, but they know two plus Smite. Psychic Barrier and Nightshroud are your best picks, though if you want nothing but those two powers you’re best off picking an Astropath. The Primaris has one other handy rule – if he dies of Perils within 6″ of a Commissar, he doesn’t blow up, instead being executed immediately. As a platform for casting Smite, giving you a deny, and having some other flexibility available, you can’t go wrong with this guy, and he fills up an HQ slot to boot.
Marbo didn’t make it into the Guard book, but he emerged a little later in 8th edition when GW released his new model. Sly is a lean, mean, violence machine. At 55pts including wargear, he’s a pretty great choice to take up an HQ slot. His base profile is reasonable, but not substantially better than a Company Commander. He can’t be ordered, either. However, he comes with some solid weapons – a S5 3 shot pistol that wounds infantry on 2s, and an envenomed blade for +1S (making him S5 with the Catachan trait) that also wounds infantry on 2s. On top of that, if he’s in cover he gets +2 to his saves rather than +1, for a very reasonable 3+.
The real winners here are his ambush abilities, though. He can ambush natively, hiding off table and setting up later in the game, and when he does so he can immediately pick 1 of 3 options – move D6″ and add 2 attacks until the start of your next turn, immediately shoot (targeting enemy characters when he does so), or pick a unit on the table and do d3 mortal wounds to it on a 4+ (modifiable by +1 for units of 10 or more, or -1 if targeting a character) which can also do d6 wounds on a 7+ i.e. a roll of a 6 with the modifier. These are all handy abilities and give him a lot of flexibility to appear somewhere crucial and impact the game immediately – and also, assuming he survives, then once per battle you can pick him up at the beginning of your Movement phases and then he can reappear and do the same thing again. If nothing else, he’s a cheap way to get two bites at seizing a far-off objective, but realistically he can be a lot more than that, and your opponent has to deal with him or he’ll do it again. For 55pts, that’s pretty great.
Militarum Tempestus Scions (Militarum Tempestus)
Thank God for the Troops slot and its svelte 3 unit choices. Of these, Infantry Squads and Tempestus Scions are the relevant ones. Once upon a time, Conscript blobs were feared throughout the meta, thanks to their ability to stand around and die but take a long time about it, but a succession of nerfs (including the stupid and reactionary errata to Commissars which, with the hindsight afforded by history, turned out to be unjustified) made them more or less irrelevant.
The humble Infantry Squad is the basic, bread and butter unit of the Imperial Guard – just 10 guys and their lasguns. At an astonishingly cheap 40pts, Infantry Squads offer not much in terms of their pure stats – the fragile T3 W1 5+ save defensive stats are nothing to write home about, nor is the lasgun’s base profile. What they’re great for, however, is existing, offering cheap screening, surprisingly fast objective grabbers when supported by Move! Move! Move!, volume of shots to get rid of hordes with First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire!, and objective secured. The effective use of Infantry Squads is key to playing Astra Militarum well.
Besides scooting around with orders, there are other tricks available here. The Grenadiers stratagem can offer surprising firepower, letting all 10 Guardsmen pile grenades into something. As mentioned in the Regiments section, the Catachan trait can make the humble Guardsman S4 – the same as a Space Marine! – and with support from Colonel Straken and a Priest they can throw out a high volume of attacks which will usually do something. “Everything counts in large amounts” might as well be the slogan of the Guard, and nowhere is that truer than with Infantry Squads.
Scions are the polar opposite of the regular Guardsman. They’re more expensive, at a hefty 9pts per model, though at least they no longer pay 1pt for the hot-shot lasgun. The bonuses are threefold – first, a 4+ armour save makes them a little more durable; second, BS3+ makes them much more accurate; third, they can Deep Strike, which is great for getting the special weapons they can mass (2 for every 5 guys) into position (although maddeningly doesn’t allow them to rapid fire their 18″ range hot shot guns). Right at the start of 8th edition, mass drop Scions supported by Tauroxes was a top-tier list, but meta changes – in particular, the evolving Tactical Reserves rule – caught up with them.
These days, their best use is either small squads offering second-wave support, or piling a bunch of them into a Valkyrie and taking advantage of the Tempestus Drop Force discussed above to really, really hurt something you want dead before getting punched back and falling over. For that job, they’re really not that expensive, and if there’s ever genuinely nothing worth throwing them at, there’s still the fallback option of dumping them into cover and getting them a fairly reliable 2+ save by utilising the Take Cover stratagem – if nothing else, it means your opponent has to do some real work to dig them out.
Conscripts have had a wild ride in 8th. Starting the edition as 3 point models in blocks of 50 guys, backed up by a Commissar that made sure only one ever ran away, they now cost the same per model as Infantry Squads yet have a WS/BS 5+ and only pass orders on a 4+. The advantage of them of them is that they come 20-30 models per blob, so they are great stratagem/spell targets, and the Commissar effect still exists in a Valhallan relic (and technically the Death Korps of Krieg Commissar, but don’t do that because the reasoning is intensely lame). Still, in today’s meta people have come to expect to kill 100+ Boyz or 60ish Plaguebearers, so now that people are loaded up to take vastly tougher hordes down, the drawbacks of these heavily outweigh the benefits.
RIP 5th edition. Long gone are the days of shiny metal boxes lined up on the deployment line full of Veterans armed with plasma and melta ready to shoot from the safety of their beautiful rides. Now to shoot those glorious special weapons they need to get out of their transport, before the transport moves, and use their guns on foot, like animals. Guard transports now are gunboats with a couple of cute tricks such as cutting down on the number of army drops,and the aforementioned infantry mobility with the Emperor’s Blade Assault Company strat.
Taurox Prime (Militarum Tempestus)
All three of these are basically gun platforms. The Chimera is very cheap for what it is (10 T7 wounds for 73 points and a 9/12 shot platform) and it holding 12 models allows characters to hitch a ride with some troops. The 88 point double heavy flamer option is honestly pretty close to a Hellhound with transport capacity, and 81 point FW Helhounds were very playable last year, even in the Castellan meta. Taurox Primes had some time to shine early in 8th with being 26 shot platforms for around 100 points, but in another early-8th overreaction GW point bumped them into uselessness. All that shooting would be dead handy against the modern horde meta if these things just cost what they used to. Additionally being T6 and stuck with only having Scions and Commissars being able to ride really limits some of the cooler tricks that could be done – no squeezing in officers to reduce drops and getting some use out of that transport capacity.
Master of Ordnance (Auxilia)
Colour Sergeant Kell (NC, Cadian)
Special Weapons Squad
Sergeant Harker (NC, Catachan)
Militarum Tempestus Command Squad (Militarum Tempestus)
Ministorum Priest (Auxilia)
Tech-priest Enginseer (Auxilia)
Officer of the Fleet (Auxilia)
Wyrdvane Psykers (Auxilia)
Ogryn Bodyguard (Auxilia)
Nork Deddog (NC, Auxilia)
Goddamn, that’s a lot of units. With 21 Elites in the book, Guard have the heaviest Elites slot outside of vanilla Space Marines. You can see how much has been stuffed in here over the years without much rhyme or reason. It’s also chock full of Auxilia units – in fact apart from a couple of HQs, I think they’re all in here. In short, if it’s weird and loosely Imperial, it’s in the Elites slot.
Luckily for us, and for you reading, not all of this merits much discussion. Servitors have no purpose whatsoever here. Special Weapons Squads sort of exist, but their job is done better by either Veterans or Tempestus Scions. Wyrdvane Psykers are long past their heyday as Battle Psyker Squads in 5th edition. We’ve never yet seen an Officer of the Fleet on the table (Editor’s note from Wings: I have – it was surprisingly OK), despite Corrode owns=ing two. Nork Deddog is a rare sight, with most of his role being occupied by the Ogryn Bodyguard, and basic Ogryns themselves tend to be absent in favour of Bullgryn and their much superior offensive and defensive output. Ratlings, as much as their models are insanely characterful, are usually absent. Even in lists with Creed, Kell rarely appears.
That sounds like we’ve eliminated a bunch of things, but there’s still 13 units to talk about. Oof.
The Schwarzenegger in Predator stand in. Harker is a lean, mean, fighting machine; in tabletop terms he’s a Catachan S4 muscle man with an assault heavy bolter that hits at BS 3+. More importantly, he provides a reroll 1s in Shooting bubble for Catachan units. An extremely efficient buff unit for 50 points, especially for making an artillery park just that bit more efficient. If only he was an HQ so he could fill a slot you really cared about, he would truly be top tier.
Commmand Squad/Tempestus Scions Command Squad
These are very similar units, so we’ve grouped them together. In both cases the main application of them is to mass a bunch of special weapons at BS3+ and then blast away with them. The Scions have the advantage here since they can deep strike natively and have a 4+ rather than 5+ save, though they’re also a few points more expensive, but the regular Command Squad can hang out with a Platoon or Company Commander with the Dagger of Tu’sakh to outflank and achieve much the same goal. You can only take one Command Squad per <REGIMENT> OFFICER or Tempestor Prime in the detachment, but if you’re taking these guys you’re probably taking a commander to buff them anyway, so here you go.The other potential use of Command Squads (less so Tempestus ones) is to keep them cheap and take a flag, which gives out +1 Ld – helpful for keeping your guys on the table a bit longer. This is kind of helpful, and at 29pts per very cheap, but if your opponent does care about your Leadership for some reason then it’s probably not too hard for them to blast out 4 guys with 5+ saves if they want to.
The Astropath is like a baby version of the Primaris Psyker, coming in at 20pts cheaper. They only know 1 power, and cast Smite on 1D6 rather than 2D6, so they’re much less versatile, but if you really just need something to cast Psychic Barrier and Nightshroud on something you can’t really argue with them. The Astropath does bring one other handy ability, Astral Divination, which lets you pick one unit within 18″ of the Astropath and stop it from benefiting from cover for attacks made by units within 6″ of the Astropath. It’s a useful little thing to have in the back pocket, although setting it all up can be difficult to achieve.
Master of Ordnance
Provides a reroll 1s to hit bubble or Basilisks, Wyverns, Manticores, or Deathstrikes should one ever make it to a gaming table, but only at targets over 36″ away which makes it difficult to use effectively. He also has a once per game Basilisk shot, hitting on 3s if he has not moved and can see the target, which can be trivial to setup with him being a character. At 30 points that is almost good. You probably aren’t dying to include him, but as slot filler in a Brigade there’s worse choices.
The junior officer to the Company Commander. Only 1 order and 3 wounds, but only 10 points less expensive and an Elite choice, which can be nice if you are filling HQ slots with Tank Commanders. You can often just squeeze this guy into a weird points gap to get a bonus Order on the table and a handy character for sitting around on an objective being unthreatening.
Once upon a time these were Troops and every Guardsman was a Veteran, hiding in a Chimera with 3 meltaguns and powersliding around the table firing from the safety of their metal boxes. Those days are gone, and now they’re in the much less useful Elites slot. Veterans cost 1 point per model more than an Infantry Squad, but can take 3 special weapons and have BS3+. Being Elites is a pretty big blow for making a mechanized Guard work since they do not help towards a battalion, but there is some play with these guys being stuffed into Valkyries, Chimeras, or outflanked with the relic dagger or via the Tallarn strat.
A fairly straightforward unit here. Priests on their own are fairly weak characters, but their 35 point gets you +1 Attack in a 6″ bubble for all infantry, and it stacks with Straken. 3 attacks per model can make even the lowly Guardsmen dangerous to some of the tougher targets out there – sheer weight of numbers can overwhelm almost anything. A cute trick is to skip the Codex entry here and pull in a Sisters of Battle Preacher as an Elite, since he won’t break the detachment and brings the same bubble for 10 points less.
These aren’t really Guard units at all, being Ecclesiarchical infantry (right up to having the additional ADEPTUS MINISTORUM keyword and appearing in the Sisters codex) armed with power swords and storm shields. They can get down to one of the few remaining 2++ invulnerable saves left in the game by having Psychic Barrier cast on them, but what with only being T3 simple volume of fire can take these guys down. Still an ok countercharge unit, and great for jamming in on an objective somewhere and requiring your opponent to really commit to getting rid of them.
A vehicle repair guy from the Adeptus Mechanicus. Cheap and cheerful and handy for keeping the motor pool running if you’ve gone vehicle heavy.
At a mere 15pts, plus 1 for his mandatory bolt pistol, this guy is very cheap and a great slot filler for a Brigade. The Commissar has a Ld8 bubble which can stack with the Catachan Officer +1 Leadership bubble to have Ld9 infantry, lets you re-roll failed Morale (after killing a guy with that big old bolt pistol) and executes periling psykers so they don’t blow up. Like many of the other cheap characters here, he’s also dead handy for sitting on an objective somewhere not bothering anyone and scoring points.
Generally clocks in at 52 points with a Bullgryn maul and a 4++ save from his brute shield. For another 5 points you can drop the invulnerable and get a 2+ save. This guy has been the source of some hilarious interactions in the past, including the endless Bodyguard chain and, for much longer, the invincible Ogryn using a relic to get a 2+ invulnerable. That stuff is gone, but this guy is still useful, providing some extra wounds for the squishy characters in a world where every Imperium player can have a Vindicare in their pocket. He’s reasonable in combat too, with 5 S7 -1 2D swings on the charge and 6 wounds.
One of the main reasons to play guard. 378 points gives you 9 bodies with a variety of 2+ or 4++ saves. What gets silly is they can use the “Take Cover!” Strat to get +1 armor save, which stacks with a cover save from “Prepared Positions” or just being in cover, which also stacks with the power “Psychic Barrier” bringing these guys down to ludicrous -1 Save or 3+ invulnerable. Add on Nightshroud for a -1 to hit against ranged attacks and these guys can confidently stride down the center of the board like a bowling ball and just kind of exist while your opponent tries to shift them. 4 autocannon swings per Bullgryn on the charge that can go to 5 with a nearby Priest makes these guys also incredibly dangerous to tangle with in melee. That is a lot of resources, but all of the supporting pieces are things you probably want anyway: Primaris Pskyers or Astropaths and a Priest are all already great picks in almost any Guard army.
Hellhounds (including Devil Dog/Bane Wolf)
Rough Riders (Index)
There’s not much in the Fast Attack slots, but they’re important in the world of cheap Guard Brigades. Sentinels are the cheap option for just filling the thing out, but everything here has some function.
Hellhounds are are a great midfield presence against hordes. Providing 2d6 S6 -1 1D shots at 16″ off the main turret is extremely good for clearing trash, putting wounds on units with -1 to hit, and just providing decent midfield presence with T7 11W hulls for just over 100 points. You do have to be careful with infantry hordes which can tag you and stop you shooting; even with the overwatch a large squad of infantry can get into combat and wrap up the tank to be effectively immune to shooting. The Forge World Artemia pattern variant loses d6 shots (although you can re-roll your one dice) to gain flat 2D and it blows up on 4s for d6 mortals. Naramyth has had a series of Artemia Hellhounds chain explode and wipe out multiple Hive Tyrants and the Swarmlord. Hellhounds are a great bit of punch and a useful way to get around the hit-penalty problem that most other Guard units have.
Sadly, the Bane Wolf and Devil Dog variants are trash.
Sentinels (Scout or Armoured)
35 point Fast Attack fillers that can sit on objectives or do some scout move zoning with the Scout variant. Both are very vulnerable to being wrapped up and taken out of the game, but for the points that’s often not that big of a deal, though watch out for a smart opponent using them as a way to use charge moves against you to chain through these and into your backfield. For 5 points you can get a plasma cannon which makes the objective-camping Armored variant passingly useful, while the Scout Sentinel has a cute 1CP strat called “Go! Recon!” that lets it move 2D6″ in the Shooting phase, great for grabbing a distant objective unexpectedly.
50 points for 10 wounds of outflanking Guardsmen. If you have the flex for points in a Brigade these guys can threaten some light backfield units, and be some downtown reach in an otherwise static army. For 1 point you can swap the mandatory 2 point lance on two members of the squad for a 3 point grenade launcher which allows them to do something on the turn they come in. Naramyth pulled 2 wounds off a Wave Serpent once! Ultimately, cheap things that threaten the backfield are never not good.
Heavy Weapons Squad
Leman Russ Battle Tanks (inc. FW variants)
Trojan Support Vehicle (FW)
Like a thousand others, seriously, it’s a lot (FW)
For treadheads around the world, this is the big one – Guard Heavy Support. The slot is actually thinner than you’d expect, with just 7 choices, but then again you can take 9 Leman Russes all differently equipped so there’s still a dizzying number of options.
In terms of good and bad, the only units to be outright dismissed here are Deathstrikes and Hydras. Hydras are just kind of irrelevant the world over, offering anaemic firepower for their cost, which is sad when you think of the terrors they were when they came into existence in 5th edition. Deathstrikes are firmly in the category of joke inclusion, and the joke isn’t even very good – for all the set-up required and the unreliability of the thing even firing, the actual effect is a bit of a damp nothing. Regular style Russes aren’t up to that much either, but they’re worth talking about just to contrast with Tank Commanders, and to also get into the details of why we’ve only talked about battle cannons and punisher gatling cannons so far, plus make mention of the Forge World options.
Other than that, the only other Forge World unit we’ll discuss is the Trojan Support Vehicle, purely because it has a little utility when taken with superheavies. Don’t expect to see this very often, but it’s occasionally relevant, so here it is.
Heavy Weapons Squads
Heavy Weapons Squads (HWS) are made up of 3 Heavy Weapons Teams, 60mm bases with a couple of guys on them plus a heavy weapon. There’s a wide variety of options available to them, including mortars, autocannons, heavy bolters, missile launchers, and lascannons. Out in the real world, you mostly see them with mortars, because the whole squad weighs in at a cheap, cheap 33pts for 3d6 S4 shots which don’t need line of sight. This is helpful for two reasons – firstly, it lets you project anti-infantry firepower out across the table, including against units behind cover or inside an ITC “magic box”, and secondly, it means you can hide your HWS from return fire, important when they have a flimsy T3 W2 5+ save defensive profile and no bullet catchers in the squad to protect them. Great Brigade filler, great to soup in with other Imperial forces (especially ones which lack their own indirect fire), easy to sit back with a Commander or two and buff with orders, it’s hard to go wrong with a mortar-equipped HWS or three.
The Basilisk looks pretty good at first: board wide range, 2d6 pick highest shots, S9 AP-3 Dd3 is a pretty cheap supplement to some other shooting. There is even the Aerial Spotters stratagem which provide some better accuracy. However, without rerolls that BS4 is underwhelming and against any -1 or more to hit these things quickly become a joke. Also since the model’s gun is so big it can be difficult to hide and at T6 11W it can be quickly bracketed or destroyed by long distance anti tank. The Vigilus detachment certainly breathed some life into this almost good artillery piece, but it seems that the utility strats tend to be used with the Wyvern option instead. You do occasionally still see these in lists, but the days when Corrode ran 3 of them or the infamous 9 Basilisk list at LGT are over.
4d6 shots indirect! Rerolling wounds! The Wyvern can put out a real silly amount of shooting to shred infantry cowering behind line of sight blocking terrain, and since the targets this model wants to shoot at tend to not have any -1s it can be pretty effective. However, BS4 without rerolls is rough, the variance of the number of shots can hurt, and shooting infantry in cover can be frustrating since it does not ignore cover nor have an AP. This thing is pretty decent with the Vigilus detachment, since shooting twice smooths out that variance on the 4d6, and a Catachan one can of course benefit from Harker’s re-roll 1s plus getting another variance-altering bump with the re-roll of a single d6 worth of shots.
The Manticore has a soft spot in this Naramyth’s heart, since he had two of them terrify his group for most of 5th and 6th edition. Smaller and easier to hide than a Basilisk, this bad boy does 2d6 board wide shots at S10, Ap-2, d3 damage. It’s a very solid platform against most useful targets as everyone who is anyone has an invuln and high AP can be wasted, and with the amount of possible shots it tends to be a bit more effective against higher model counts compared to the Basilisk. However it shares the same downsides as the Wyvern: high variance BS4 shooting can be a real letdown, and you can’t even shoot twice with it, though the same discussion about Harker and the Catachan re-roll applies here. It’s also paying for S10 over the Basilisk’s S9, but the list of units that’s relevant against isn’t enormous – T5 multiwound infantry like Kataphrons or other people’s Bullgryn is the main place you’ll see a benefit and maybe Drukhari Raiders.
Leman Russ Battle Tanks
The main problem with the Leman Russ is that it’s not a Tank Commander. You lose out on orders, and trade BS3+ for BS4+, which sucks. About the only place these are worthwhile is with Harker shouting at them in Catachan, but even then you’re probably better off with the Tank Commanders. The one benefit is that you can take them in squadrons, and therefore deploy 9, but if you’re deploying 9 Leman Russ you’re not getting much else on the table.
We mention them here only to talk about variants. As highlighted above, the only real choices for a Russ are the stock battle cannon or potentially the punisher gatling cannon. The former has a reliable, efficient profile for putting hurt on any target, while the gatling cannon excels at wasting large blobs of infantry, which is very relevant in the 8th edition horde meta. Your other options are the exterminator autocannon, vanquisher battle cannon, eradicator nova cannon, demolisher cannon, or executioner plasma cannon. The problem here is kind of the problem of 8th edition – these are all guns with relatively similar jobs, most of which with the exception of the eradictor are anti-tank, and in all cases either the battle cannon or the punisher are more efficient. The vanquisher is the worst example – it’s meant to be a high-impact tank-destroyer, but Heavy 1, S8 AP-3, 2d6 damage drop lowest is… just not very much, when you get down to it.
There’s three Forge World options here that bear talking about; they are the Conqueror, the Annihilator, and the Stygies Vanquisher. The Annihilator is just a Russ with a twin lascannon turret, modelled on the Predator Annihilator. Two BS4+ lascannon shots are not exactly setting the world alight. The Stygies Vanquisher and the Conqueror share the “co-axial” rule, with a storm bolter attached to their turret which, if both are aimed at the same target, allows them to re-roll hit rolls. The Stygies Vanquisher also gains +1 to hit if it doesn’t move, but is otherwise the same as the regular Vanquisher, and therefore shares the low damage ceiling of its ill-fated brother. On the other hand, the Conqueror is actually worth considering if you’re going to take a battle cannon Russ in this slot, since its Conqueror cannon trades the 72″ range for 48″ but is otherwise the same – and given that 48″ is still 2/3rds of the length of the board, that isn’t too big of a trade-off.
Trojan Support Vehicle
This Forge World unit is much more along the lines of what they were originally set up to make – i.e. weird and wonderful little bits of characterful stuff which didn’t fit into 40k proper, rather than 10,000 variants on a Leman Russ or an entire range of Space Marines with accompanying game. The Support Vehicle isn’t much to write home about by itself. It has a heavy bolter, and it can take a couple of other weapon options, but they’re nothing that a Guardsman of some form couldn’t carry. It has a respectable defensive profile of T7 W10 and a 3+ save, and a small transport capacity of 6. What it’s mainly for, though, is the Support Vehicle ability. During each Shooting phase, a single friendly <REGIMENT> VEHICLE within 6″ can re-roll any failed hit rolls when making shooting attacks. This is a great little force multiplier – the Trojan itself is quite small and easy to hide, and because it’s unthreatening opponents often don’t think about targeting it. Buffing hit rolls is fantastic though, especially for an army like Guard with a flat BS4+ and no other easy source for re-rolling all failed hits. Stick one of these hidden somewhere that it can buff a Shadowsword or other super-heavy and it’s a great way to maximise the big guy’s shooting output.
Avenger Strike Fighter
Lightning Strike Fighter
Thunderbolt Heavy Fighter
Most of these fliers are FW trash. BS4 with heavy weapons is not kind to units that have to move every turn. This would be fine if they could have a Regiment tag, but all the Guard fliers are tagged with the Aeronutica Imperialis subfaction which means the dream of Tallarn Air Wings allowing these models to be playable will remain just that. However, the Valkyrie and Vulture do see play.
The Valkyrie is a strange beast. It can hold 12 models, and is armed with a multi laser and 2 hellstrike missiles (S8 -2, D2d6 pick highest) for 117 points on a 14W T7 flier chassis. If the Valk chooses to hover it gets +1 hit against targets that do not have FLY, which combined with not having to move any more makes them reasonably accurate. Its biggest trick though is “Grav Chute Insertion” which allows units to disembark after the vehicle moves. Once upon a time they could also move after dropping, but no more. This can be huge for delivery of melta/plasma vets or command squads, close combat focused characters, or even a small unit of Bullgryn – though do note that if you move over 20″, there’s a chance they’ll die! These also come in squadrons of three so there are some crazy skew builds that have 9 Valkyries flying around blocking off huge parts of the table with flier bases.
The Vulture build worth mentioning clocks in at 160pts and is armed with a heavy bolter and 2 punisher gatling cannons, which makes this a 43 S5 shot flying platform, which has Strafing Run to give an always on +1 hit against targets that do not have FLY. A pretty solid platform that is cheaper than a Tank Commander punisher, great for anti infantry that can’t be tagged in combat and provides some move blocking and character sniping.
Lords of War
40k unit choices, or brainstorming list of names for black metal bands? The decision is yours. They’re all variants on a theme of “big tank with lots of guns” and realistically, despite the variety on offer, the only two that merit much discussion here are the Shadowsword and the Stormlord. The Baneblade nearly gets there, but its role as “generalist heavy gun platform” has rather outlived its usefulness in the modern metagame.
The Shadowsword is a model of brutal efficiency. It’s on the same Baneblade chassis as all the other Guard superheavies, i.e. Toughness 8, 27 wounds, 3+ save. It has the usual ability to shoot out of combat, never be tied up, and of course the giant tank treads of death which can (combined with the stratagem to hit on 2s on the charge) make it a surprisingly effective melee counter-charger. What you’re here for though is the volcano cannon – 3d3 shots at a ludicrous 120″ range, S16, AP-5, doing 2D6 damage, and just in case wounding them on 2s wasn’t enough, re-rolling to wound against TITANIC units. Additionally, it gets +1 to hit against TITANIC, and of course you can combo it with the Vostroyan stratagem mentioned previously for an additional +1 to hit, which turns the fairly mediocre BS4+ into a much more respectable 2+ to hit, 2+ to wound re-rolling against Knights, other superheavies, etc.
Really the only downside to the Shadowsword is that it’s a giant asshole tank you can never hide, and that if you don’t go first against someone who has to worry about it, they’re more than likely going to target it immediately and take it to pieces. One possible counter-play here is to forgo the Vostroyan hit buff and instead run it as Tallarn, which allows you to outflank the thing and therefore protect it from shooting – although this does give up one, and possibly even two, Shooting phases to your opponent before you get to take one of their units off the table.
During a meta dominated by the House Raven Castellan and its reliable, high strength, AP-4 or AP-5 guns , and the concurrent 3+invulnerable save, Shadowswords fell out of favour a bit because despite that amazing profile they couldn’t be relied on to consistently kill their main threat, and the Castellan could trivially remove the Shadowsword in response. In a post-Castellan world where you’re much more likely to see 3 Crusaders or 3 Despoilers with twin avengers across the table and no-one can get that 3+ invulnerable, the Shadowsword could well see a return to competitive viability – the stuff pointing at it is that bit less likely to delete it, and the Shadowsword itself has a much better chance of punching back in return. The inability to even hit an Alaitoc plane that’s under Lightning Fast Reactions is the main thing still keeping it down.
The Stormlord is the answer to “exactly how many dudes can I put in a ride” and the answer is 40. The same chassis and issues that the Shadowsword has but it drops the volcano cannon for a 20 shot S6 -2 2D Vulcan Mega Bolter and gains a 40 dude carrying capacity with a 20 person firing deck. That last bit is interesting, as it allows things like 15ish unbuffed plasma guns shooting out of the back, or 9 protected lascannon Heavy Weapon Teams, or just a way to hide every silly character and Infantry squad off the table to seriously lower an army’s drop count.
That is a lot of cute tricks, but ultimately most armies can handle an Imperial Knight or three, so a big, points-heavy tank without an invulnerable save is in a bad spot. Additionally, it can be difficult but GSC or Chaos hordes could also probably wrap up this tank so that when it does get killed, most of the squads inside would die.
Other tips and tricks
That’s it for the unit breakdown, and what an extensive set of units it is. Next up we’re going to talk about stratagems and relics, touch on some warlord traits, and then finally cover some introductory souping.
Guard don’t have too many exceptional stratagems – there’s no Agents of Vect or Rotate Ion Shields here where the stratagem is key to how the army plays. What they do have, however, is a bunch of handy 1-2 CP stratagems which give you little bumps across the pitch that can make the difference at just the right moment. We’ve already talked about many them in the above, but we’ll touch on them briefly again here, and highlight anything we haven’t previously discussed as well. This list will skip the truly awful or pointless stuff – for example Vortex Missile, the 3CP stratagem to make your non-existent Deathstrike more effective (but still not that good), will be sadly passed over. Stratagems appear roughly in the order they are listed in the codex. We’ll also skip the “extra relics” stratagem – you know the drill here, 1CP/3CP for 1/2 more relics.
- Crush Them! – 1CP – Use at the start of the Charge phase and pick a vehicle. That unit can charge even if it Advanced, and in the following Fight phase its attacks hit on a 2+. Handy on a Leman Russ to make it into an ok counter-charger, and outright nasty on something on a Baneblade chassis, which suddenly has a potential 9 attacks at S9, AP-2, Dd3 hitting on a 2+.
- Aerial Spotter – 2CP – Use at the start of the Shooting phase on a Basilisk or Wyvern, that unit can re-roll failed hit rolls. Handy for squeezing a bit more efficiency out of these units, and especially great if you’re also going to double shoot them with the Vigilus stratagem.
- Jury Rigging – 1CP – Use at the start of your turn. Pick a vehicle, heal 1 wound, but you can’t move/charge/pile in. Dead handy for keeping things alive a little longer. Top tip here is to look for opportunities to bring a vehicle back above a degradation threshold to bring its shooting effectiveness back up.
- Consolidate Squads – 1CP – Use at the end of your Movement phase. Choose an Infantry Squad within 2″ of another Infantry Squad from the same <REGIMENT>. They merge int o a single unit and are treated as such for the rest of the battle. Handy for creating bigger blobs where needed, or denying victory points – for example, in a kill points game where your horde of Guardsman might give up points easily.
- Preliminary Bombardment – 2CP – Use before the first battle round begins. Roll a dice for each enemy unit on the battlefield, and on a 6 they suffer 1 mortal wound. Crap in our opinion, but people do keep using it, so here it is.
- Inspired Tactics – 1CP – Use after an officer has issued an order or tank order. That officer may immediately issue an additional order. This is great for squeezing utility out of your officers, whether that’s getting a 3rd FRFSRF out, or getting them to order 2 units and then order themselves to scurry off to safety, or whatever else.
- Defensive Gunners – 1CP – Use when firing Overwatch with a vehicle. That unit hits on a 5 or a 6 instead of just a 6. Doubling your number of hits with a vehicle being charged can be clutch, particularly if it’s something a Manticore and hitting a few times could legitimately expect to kill the charger. Also great on something like a Russ with a punisher gatling cannon, where this can make for a very swingy burst of fire which could well cripple a light unit intending to tag it and tie it up.
- Take Cover – 1CP – Add 1 to saving throws for a unit targeted by Shooting. Briefly at the start of the edition you could Take Cover on anything including a Baneblade, but it’s since been erratad to be Infantry only. Should you care to combine this with Psychic Barrier you can get a basic squad of Infantry in cover down to a 2+ save, or Scions to a 1+, or of course use the Bullgryn stack described above for an utterly ridiculous -1+ save – at which point it takes some seriously heavy weaponry to get rid of them.
- Grenadiers – 1CP – Use this before an infantry unit shoots or fires Overwatch. Up to ten models can throw grenades instead of only one model. Great for when there’s something lasguns just can’t deal with, and particularly hilarious on a big block of Scions which can throw out 10 krak grenades at BS3+.
- Fight to the Death – 1CP – Use when taking a Morale test. You can roll a D3 rather than a D6 for this test. Dead handy for keeping a unit around when it’s sat on a crucial objective.
- Go! Recon! – 1CP – As discussed in the Sentinels entry, this allows them to move 2D6″ in the Shooting phase but not shoot or charge this turn. Another handy little objective grabber and a way to get some extra utility out of your Brigade-filler sentinels.
- Vengeance for Cadia! – 1CP – Use this before an infantry unit shoots or fires Overwatch. Re-roll failed hit and wound rolls against CHAOS units. This one doesn’t have the most utility, but Chaos is a strong faction right now, and getting to re-roll everything against it can be dead helpful – imagine something like a squad of Tempestus Scions trying to take down a Daemon Prince with plasma.
- Overlapping Fields of Fire – 2CP – Use this after a CADIAN unit from your army inflicts an unsaved wound on an enemy unit in the Shooting phase. Add 1 to hit rolls for any other CADIAN units which target the same enemy unit this phase. Really helpful for getting a pile-on to a key target, this stratagem is a great reason to use Cadians.
- Firstborn Pride – 1CP – At the start of your Shooting phase, select a VOSTROYAN unit from your army and add 1 to hit rolls until the end of the phase. The above-mentioned stratagem, often utilised on a solitary Shadowsword to get it hitting on 3s (or 2s against TITANIC).
- Ambush – 3CP – Choose up to three TALLARN units (of which one can be a VEHICLE unit) and set them up in ambush instead of placing them. At the end of any Movement phase, set them up wholly within 7″ of any battlefield edge and more than 9″ from any enemy models. Great for hiding a superheavy, or bringing on a squadron of Hellhounds in your enemy’s backfield.
Relics are probably the worst part of the Guard book. It’s not as bad as the Adeptus Mechanicus book (where they’re literally so bad that it’s easy to forget to take any of them), but they’re not great. The three different power sword replacements are a particular highlight, along with the inevitable replacement bolt pistol (only available to a Commissar or Lord Commissar, natch).
That said, there’s some helpful stuff in here:
- The Laurels of Command – put this on an Officer and when they order a unit, they can roll a 4+ and order that unit again, for free. Great for piling on orders to get a unit FRFSRF with re-rolls to hit and wound, but of course you’re at the mercy of the coin flip. Not a bad secondary relic if you don’t have plans for any of the others.
- The Deathmask of Ollanius – this used to be hilarious on an Ogryn Bodyguard, since you could manipulate it to have a 2+ invulnerable save and, should your Ogryn ever be wounded, heal D3 wounds once per battle. Sadly that trick has died, and now this thing doesn’t add that much utility – it’s definitely not first choice, and you’re unlikely to want to spend CP on it.
- The Dagger of Tu’sakh – the bearer and one INFANTRY unit from the same <REGIMENT> can set up off the table, and then at the end of the Movement phase deploy anywhere within 6″ of a battlefield edge and within 3″ of each other. A handy way to get some special weapons where you want them.
- Kurov’s Aquila – once considered insanely broken because it a) didn’t require you to be on the table to use it, or even alive and b) comboed with Grand Strategist (more later) for the infamous Imperial CP farm. An OFFICER can carry this, and each time your opponent uses a Stratagem you roll a D6 and gain a Command Point back on a 5+. These days it still sees play, but in much-reduced form following sensible FAQ additions like “the guy carrying it has to actually be on the table, and not dead” and the Tactical Restraint rule.
- Relic of Lost Cadia – another place where the early-edition drafting wasn’t quite up to par. You show off the flag at the start of any turn, and all CADIAN units within 12″ re-roll hit and wound rolls of 1, or re-roll ALL hits and wounds if they are targeting a CHAOS unit. This, obviously, is a one-use-only relic – except it wasn’t when the book released. They straight up forgot the “one use only” wording, so every single turn (yours or your opponents) you “revealed” the relic and all your guys got really motivated. The imagery here is hilarious – just imagine the 5th or 6th time some bored officer drags out a tattered flag or moldy skull and half-heartedly shouts “VENGEANCE FOR CADIA!” as his weary men roll their eyes and make faces at each other. This whole business survived a couple of FAQ rounds before someone on the design team finally heard about it, and it was FAQed into its intended form. Still good, and Cadian is a strong option anyway so this pairs nicely with it, but not quite the insanity it used to be.
- Pietrov’s Mk45 – the Valhallan relic, which can go on any model with a bolt pistol. The weapon profile is whatever, but the helpful part here is that the pistol retains a similar effect to the old Commissar ability – friendly VALHALLAN units within 6″ can never lose more than a single model due to a failed Morale test. Just one more way you can keep your Guardsmen in the fight for longer.
Like other 8th edition codexes, there’s a set of 6 generic Astra Militarum warlord traits unique to this book, plus one trait for each sub-faction (which in this heavily packed book, means a full set of 8!)
There’s a couple of clear winners here, and then a bunch which have never made the table in any form.
- Grand Strategist – the Warlord trait par excellence, this allows you to re-roll a single hit roll, wound roll, or saving throw per battle (notably, not for your Warlord – you can use this any time like a pseudo-CP re-roll). Additionally, while your Warlord is on the battlefield, you can roll a dice for each CP you spend and on a 5+ that point is immediately refunded. Like Kurov’s Aquila, this is much reduced in stature since its heyday pre-Tactical Restraint – the combo of this with the Blood Angels relic meant that once upon a time it was possible to get more CP back than you actually spent. These days it’s still good, but it’s not the pure insanity it once was, and other traits actually matter.
- Old Grudges – well, one other trait, anyway. Old Grudges lets you pick a unit in your opponent’s army, and units within 6″ of your warlord can re-roll failed wound rolls against it. Great for picking out a Knight or other key part of your opponent’s game plan and taking it out in short order.
The rest of the generic traits are intensely mediocre – your Warlord can auto-advance 6″ (as can a unit within 3″ of him), you can re-roll failed Morale tests within 6″ (an ever popular trait on GW’s part, which is almost always totally ignored), you can add 3″ to abilities on the datasheet, you can gain Voice of Command if you don’t have it or gain +1 order per turn if you do. These are all very “whatever” next to the two above.
The faction ones are equally mediocre. Several of them are about improving your Warlord’s combat characteristics in some way, which given that any Warlord gaining access to them is usually going to be a Company Commander of zero meaningful combat ability is a bit of a kick in the teeth. About the only respectable one is Catachan comboing with Straken, because he has the chops to actually get some mileage out of it and you might actually get him into combat deliberately, but even then you probably want to pick a subordinate and make them a Grand Strategist or Old Grudges mule. Really, just pick one of the two listed above and you won’t go far wrong.
There are three main uses for Imperial Guard to soup in to other factions, most of which have been referred to already. In order of cheapest to most expensive, they are:
The Loyal 32 is one of the most common sights on an 8th edition battlefield. It consists of 2 Company Commanders and 3 Infantry Squads to fill out the mandatory slots for a Battalion, weighing in at a mere 180pts and netting you 5 CP for your trouble. Its only competitor for this efficiency on the Imperial side is the Rusty 17, a similar minimum-sized Battalion of Skitarii which weighs in even cheaper at 165pts. The Loyal 32’s two chief advantages over its rival are a) model count and b) the order system. Putting twice as many Troops models on the board is always helpful, whether because (with roughly equivalent defensive stats) they stick around a bit longer than the robots, or because you need to out-score someone on an objective and weight of bodies is vital. For our money though it’s orders that make the difference – Skitarii have no equivalent system available to them, which means the Guardsmen are more flexible in their usage and able to get around quicker, lunging 14-24″ around the table as needed.
The Loyal 32 can also expand out relatively easily and cheaply by bringing along some mortar-equipped Heavy Weapons Squads for only 99pts more, offering a bunch of no-LoS anti-infantry shooting if that’s a hole you need plugging – with a cost still under 300pts, this expanded formation is still cheap and cheerful enough to be a side part of your force, whereas expanding out the Ad Mech quickly starts to become expensive and turns them into more of the core of your army. A single Wyvern with the Emperor’s Wrath Artillery Company detachment is also a popular bolt-on.
Another common option is a Supreme Command detachment of 3 Tank Commanders, or 2 Tank Commanders and Pask, with an optional superheavy if you’re feeling really spicy. Equip them with either Punisher gatling cannons or battle cannons depending on what hole they need to fill in your army, take the Hammer of Sunderance if you chose the latter, and you’re away. Great fire support for a reasonable price on a decently tough platform, and they’re entirely self-supporting thanks to orders, what’s not to like? Catachan for the re-rollable number of shots or Tallarn for skimming around the table with reckless abandon are preferable here.
The Light Brigade
An expanded out version of the Loyal 32, the Light Brigade is the exact same thing conceptually, but a bit bigger. Weighing in at a chunky 582 points, this is a greater part of your army, but also gets you the greater reward of 12 CP. At the absolute cheapest you can take 3 Company Commanders, 3 Commissars, 6 Infantry Squads, 3 Scout Sentinels with multilasers, and 3 Heavy Weapons Squads with mortars. Realistically if you’re investing in this, you probably want to add in a couple of other bits – maybe some more useful Elites, perhaps go all-in on a fat Bullgryn squad and its supporting elements, a couple of Tank Commanders or Primaris Psykers, maybe make it a specialist detachment and take a Wyvern or Basilisk, etc. etc. Whatever you decide, you can get 12 CP for less than 600pts and then go from there. Dead handy for feeding units like Blood Angels slam captains which thirst for CP to do their thing.
That’s it! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, and found it informative and helpful and so on. Inevitably with the sheer number of unit options and other choices available to the Astra Militarum – in particular, the Forge World options we’ve not touched on – there’s going to be stuff you think we’ve missed, or areas where you think we’re wrong. If you spot any, or have any other feedback, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org or over on our Facebook Page, and we’ll do our best to respond.