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Armament and Tactical Application of Imperial Guard Armour

Submitted By: [dixon] Date: September 16, 2005, 11:32:25 AM Views: 5524

I.   Introduction

The Imperial Guard is justly famous for two things: its infantry and its tanks.  The Guard's modus operandi is to smash any foe into trembling defeat with superior numbers and firepower.  Guardsmen supply the numbers and tanks supply the firepower.  In the theatres of war were you will seek glory, you can expect to observe Imperial armour in operation.  There is no sight like it!
Until you have witnessed a massed tank charge, you cannot understand the Imperial way of war.  No enemy can stand before the rolling thunder of a brigade of 60 ton tanks bearing down on them, with the fury of the Emperor blasting from their chimney stacks and roaring cannon muzzles!  Together, infantry and tank will pulverize any challenger into quivering submission.
- The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer, Chapter 4, Imperial Guard Armour and Tank Recognition; Affiliated & Enemy Variants

The Imperial Guard is known mainly by two defining characteristics - lots of men and lots of tanks.  Here I will focus on the second aspect, the tanks available to an Imperial Guard commander, and try to explain how they can best be equipped and used against your opponent.  I shall begin with a general description of how to use tanks in games of 40k, follow with a rundown on all the tanks available and how best to use them, and shall conclude with my thoughts on the various upgrades available to all tanks.

II.   General Tactics for Armoured Vehicles

Deployment
The most important part of the game when tanks are concerned is deployment.  As tanks are really only useful for shooting, your main priority should be to position your tanks where they have wide firing arcs to maximize their potential.  Unfortunately, if you lose the roll for first turn, you will have placed your tanks so they are very vulnerable to enemy fire.  Since tanks deploy on the field first, your opponent will have set up his anti-tank weapons so they have positions to neutralize your tanks.  To counter this, always set up your tanks out of line of sight.  Since all tanks can move and still fire ordnance, or move and fire most of their weapons, if you lose the first turn, you can still count on having your tanks operational when your turn comes around.

Movement
Tanks in 4th Edition 40k are relatively mobile.  Although most vehicles will move no more than 6", they can do so with little to no diminished firepower.  If you play Imperial Guard with a static infantry formation, tanks and APCs will be the vehicles to take table quarters and other objectives.  Don't forget to move your tanks, as this will be very important in the next topic, assault.

Assault
When powerfist-wielding marines come running at your tanks, you know you are in for a bad time.  Tanks are very vulnerable to enemy assaults, and as they cannot fight back, there is little the tank can do.  The most important step to keeping tanks alive is to always move them if there is a risk of being assaulted the next turn, as this will mean instead of automatic hits on the tank, your opponent will need a 4+ to hit it, which discounts half of the attacks directed against your tanks.  Another way is to use heavy flamer sentinels or infantry units to walk along with the tanks, the tank screening them from enemy fire.  This way, the other unit can tie up the assault unit your opponent sends and allow the tank to grind away unscathed.

III.   Tank Options of the Imperial Guard

Transport: Chimera Armoured Personnel Carrier
The Chimera is the only codex transport available to the Imperial Guard, and it is arguably the best light tank in the game.  It is also one of the few transports in the game that cannot be damaged by standard issue weapons to the front facing.  Despite its obvious transport capabilities, I prefer to use them as light tanks.  As transports, they will often move at maximum speed, which means no firing of all the nice weapons it has.  As such, in any mission that does not require the taking of objectives, I would keep the Infantry Squad at home with the rest of the battle line.  Note that certain units, such as ogryn and storm troopers, should stay in the chimera, as they may (will in the case of mounted ogryn) want to get close to the enemy.

A note on transports of all colors, not just the Chimera- do not start the game with the transported unit inside the tank, unless it is completely out of sight.  If you do not get the first turn, and transports get destroyed, you will end up with an entangled unit, which is not much fun.  Instead, deploy the unit within the 2" of the hatches so that on your first turn they can board up and take off with almost no penalties.  If the transport is destroyed, they can just clamber on top off the wreckage for a nice 4+ hard cover save.

The standard weapons configuration, turret multi-laser and hull heavy bolter, is the best in my opinion.  I prefer the S6 on the Multilaser over the AP4 of a heavy bolter as it allows for the Chimera to make easier work of light vehicles, which are my target of choice for the Chimera.  Heavy flamers in either hardpoint are useful if you intend to use it as a transport for ogryn or another squad that you need to get to enemy lines quickly, but can also be used to discourage enemy assaults, if the Chimera is transporting, say a Stormtrooper squad who's purpose is to rapid-fire some steamy plasma death into the opponent's forces.  The turret heavy bolter is only more effective against 4+ and 5+ save armies, which are a minority in most areas, so the multi-laser will be a better choice in most situations.

Remember, as an Armoured Fist transport, you can always leave the squad at home and have the Chimera act as a support tank, mobile screen, or tank shock unit to isolate enemy units as to destroy them without needing priority tests first.  In a transport role, extra armour and smoke launchers are almost a necessity, and track guards can be beneficial.  Smoke launchers have become much better in 4th Edition, as any penetrating hit will cause the occupants of a transport vehicle to bail out.  The smokes can negate this for a turn, and the extra armour will keep the tank moving.  As a light tank, you can take a heavy stubber for more dakka, but this tends to be an expensive investment on a weak (by Imperial Guard standards) tank.

Hellhound Flame Tank
Ahh, the hellhound; it runs up, lets out a blast of flamey-flamey death causing anyone singed to flee in terror, then is destroyed in a horrific burninating explosion.  Wait a minute, that was then, this is now.  Since the new codex, there have been some good things and some bad things changed about the hellhound.  First the good- no more auto-penetrating hits, an improved side AV, and a super flaming template that can be placed anywhere within 24" of the cannon.  Unfortunately, we've lost the auto fall-back on the Inferno Cannon and there has been a nice points increase in the vehicle.  These combined cause for a survivable medium tank that has lost a lot of character.  Despite the changes, the hellhound is still an assault tank, and works best as a mobile screen for a footslogging assaulty unit.  Like most assault units, a single hellhound is good, but two or three can easily cause panic in your opponent.  Run them all up a single flank and burn up some units, and sit contented as they distract your opponent's lascannons and other AT weapons, keeping your heavy armour alive for at least another turn.  Remember though, when dealing with multiples of any assault unit, it is best to focus all of them at one point.  This makes them more valuable and dangerous then any one of them could be by themselves.   Hellhounds can also serve to cover the flanks of the less-armoured Chimera transport, and can provide fire support for the Chimera's occupants.

Do not underestimate the value of the Inferno Cannon on this tank.  With AP4 and ignoring the effects of cover, this vehicle is ideal for eliminating anything without power armour, but especially weak units that tend to hide in cover for extra bonuses, such as ratling snipers and Eldar rangers.  The Inferno Cannon is also useful against swarms; nurglings, scarabs, rippers, etc, as you can fit many of them under a template and the high strength of the Inferno Cannon will provide you with an 'Instant Death' result.  It is also excellent against destroying light vehicles, especially those of the 'Open topped' variety.

No upgrades really scream 'Take me!' for the hellhound, and as this tank still rarely sees the end of a battle, try to keep any upgrades cheap.  Some people add heavy stubbers for more shots before reaching Inferno Cannon range, but again that is a expensive investment for a light tank.

Leman Russ Main Battle Tank
Arguably the most successful tank design in the galaxy, the Leman Russ forms the mainstay of the Imperial Guard's armoured might.  If I choose to include any tanks in an army, I never leave home without at least one of these tanks.  The Leman Russ is the epitome of a power armoured death, as its battlecannon makes short work of anything without a 2+ save.

There are two main strategies when using these tanks, either static or mobile firepower.  In the former, the tank sits back as far as it can, using the impressive range of the Battlecannon to stay out of range of even the most dedicated anti-tank weapons.  The mobile option, is far more viable now, as tanks can move and fire ordnance weapons with little penalty.  As the Leman Russ is generally one of the more mobile and durable elements of a Guard army, it can be entrusted with the task of taking objectives.  A word of warning, however, as against many opponents, their dedicated assault troops, which pose the most danger to a tank, will also be headed for such objectives, meaning it is wise to give any tanks in the mobile role supporting infantry which can delay the assault troops long enough to give the Leman Russ time to move away and prepare to launch some Battlecannon death into the assault troops when the infantry is inevitably wiped out.

As for sponson weapons, I prefer to either choose three heavy bolters or one lascannon.  When the Battlecannon is destroyed, the tank then has a dedicated role, and can still provide active support for the army.  Heavy flamers can be added to the lascannon tank, which can be useful again to discourage assaults, or to make the tank a deadly assault unit, tank shocking the enemy and burning survivors.

Leman Russ Demolisher
The Leman Russ Demolisher is the hardest hitting Guard tank of them all.  No-one in their right mind would ever dream of getting within 24" of one of these bad boys, and as such, it can be used effectively as an area denial tool.  Place the demolisher on the table first, as close to your opponent as possible.  This will force him back into his deployment zone, or result in some very dead units.  A demolisher in this role is best fitted with a hull lascannon and sponson plasma cannons, as to destroy targets outside its 24" kill zone, and provide a battery of AP2 weaponry, which is difficult to find on Imperial Guard vehicles.  As an aside, never put sponson multi-meltas on this tank, as if you are within their 24" range, you will be shooting the demolisher cannon instead.

The other role for this tank is assault support.  With its strong front and side armour, the demolisher can spearhead an assault and screen assaulting infantry, and as it will be getting quite close to enemy lines, the short range of the demolisher cannon is not much of a liability.  In this role I would recommend three heavy bolters for firing on the move, and for before the demolisher cannon gets in range, although heavy flamers could work as well, as this tank will be getting up close and personal.  This tank tends to be a fire magnet, so taking out the sponsons will make it cheaper, but less survivable.  In the end, the choice is yours.

Basilisk
The basilisk is the mobile artillery of the Imperial Guard, and what a fearsome thing it is.  With a cannon even more frightening than a Leman Russ', it can do severe damage to the enemy.  The most effective upgrade on this vehicle is the indirect fire option, and it is the only upgrade I strongly recommend.  With its relatively weak armour when compared with the Leman Russ chassis, placing it out of line of sight is a must.  The drawback to this however, is the 36" minimum range, which on small tables (less than 6'x4') is too much of a liability, and I suggest leaving the bassie at home.  The basilisk can also carry improved comms safely, but if you are expecting deep-strikers or the equivelant (Space Wolf Scouts), don't put the comms on such a weak target.

On 6'x4' tables, I recommend 2 bassies, placed out of line of sight and in each table corner.  This way, they will be able to cover each other's blind spots and leave no place on the table safe.  On larger tables, you can get away with most any number.  If you only have one by some means, and the enemy does get within 36" you can always roll the tank out of cover and blast them in a regular fashion, but remember that almost every dedicated anti-tank weapon in your opponent's army will now be trained on the unfortunate bassie, meaning it will be destroyed in your opponent's next turn more often than not.

IV.   Tanks of the Past

A Note on the Legality of Using these Vehicles
Since the most recent edition of Codex: Imperial Guard, three vehicles, the Leman Russ Vanquisher, Leman Russ Exterminator, and the Griffon, have been removed from the official army list of the Imperial Guard.  To use these vehicles legally, you will need a copy of Imperial Armour volume 1, available from Forgeworld, and since Forgeworld has so nicely added different shell options for the griffon, you need to buy Imperial Armour v3 as well to field the griffon.  Most people, however will allow you to use the rules in the 3rd Edition Guard Codex for the Exterminator as apart from the differing upgrade options, the Exterminator's rules remain the same.

Leman Russ Vanquisher
A Leman Russ with a cannon for tank commanders who are compensating for something.  Despite it's obvious cool-ness factor, there are much better ways of taking out armour in an Infantry Company.  For an extra 35 points, you get a gun better at blasting tanks, but with the Guard's BS3, it's not entirely worth it.  Granted, if you do hit something, it has a very good chance for doing major damage.  This tank will also be a huge fire magnet, as opponents seem to be drawn to the larger gun.  The option to upgrade to a veteran crew is also overpriced, as with the new veteran tables, 20 pts for a random re-roll isn't exactly the best deal.  The vanquisher does have one thing going for it, that it can choose to fire normal Leman Russ shells, and at a greater range.  If you happen to be playing in a Mega-Battle where you will be able to take the most advantage of this ability, the vanquisher can be superior to the Leman Russ.  All in all, I'd suggest taking something else, but if you prefer to gamble, go ahead, take a Vanquisher.  You know you want to.

Leman Russ Exterminator
My all-time favorite tank, besides the Vanquisher (but that's just for looks).  The Exterminator is ideal in the mobile support role, as it can fire up to 14 shots on the move with no loss of accuracy, provided you give it the obligatory hull and sponson heavy bolters, and a pintle heavy stubber.  This tank should be used either against light infantry or light vehicle squadrons (not light vehicles by themselves, that's what we like to call overkill).  Since it can move and fire without penalty, this tank is another good assault tank, like the Demolisher, and is cheaper to boot.

Griffon Heavy Mortar
The cheapest tank that is available to the Imperial Guard, and arguably the best.  For the price of three griffons you can almost buy two Leman Russes, and against anything that is not in power armour, the griffon simply annihilates them and causing a nice ordnance barrage pinning test to boot, which can be invaluable against armies such as Tau, but not so much Orks and Tyranids, as their Mob Checks and Synapse effectively negate pinning.  The siege shells upgrade is cheap enough that I would always suggest buying it, as if you do run into some bunkers they will make short work of them.  It is also the only upgrade worth purchasing for the Griffon.  Unlike the Basilisk, the Griffon does not have as constraining a minimum range, and can be used on small tables where it can easily make its points back in a 500-750 point game.

Imperial Armour v3 has added in several new shell types in addition to the siege shells from Third Edition, which are Illum Shells, Smoke Shells and Infernus Shells.  Illum shells can help a fair bit in "Dusk & Dawn" scenarios, where the night fighting rules can be a great disadvantage to the Imperial Guard, especially on the first turn.  I would always suggest equipping one Griffon with this upgrade.  Smoke Shells act as a smoke launcher on vehicles, as well as giving soft cover to troops.  If you play offensively, this upgrade can allow you to cover your advancing troops, and get more of them where they need to go.  Your playing style should reflect whether or not you make use of this upgrade.  Infernus Shells are an excellent deal for a defensive guard player, as any unit even hit, not necessarily wounded must immediate fall-back move, which placed on 3 griffons can provide a solid anti-assault unit.  Again, playing style should dictate your choice, but I would always take this upgrade.  Remember also, you can give multiple shell types to the same vehicle, offering tactical flexibility at a price.

V.   Imperial Guard Vehicle Upgrades

Here I will give a rundown of the vehicle upgrades available to Imperial Guard tanks, and my thoughts on each (surprise, surprise).

Armoured Crew Compartment
A complete waste.  As it only affects basilisks and griffons, both of which should not be in a position to be shot at, it has no real use, unless you play Armageddon Steel Legion or the like and want to stay fluffy.

Camo Netting
A good value if you know you will be playing a scenario that uses the hidden set-up rules.  Since most battles do not, there is no real need to purchase it.

Extra Armour
If you have the points, get it, and is a must on transport vehicles.  If you get a crew shaken result, you can still move the tank behind cover to avoid enemy fire during your opponent's next turn.

Hunter-Killer Missile
If you really need the extra anti-tank power, maybe.  However, a single shot at BS3 isn't anything to write home about, so the ten points are better spent elsewhere, like extra armour, or pintle mounts.

Minesweeper
If you know you will be running through lots of minefields, and your tanks are going to be on the attack, this may be useful.  Not recommended for an all-comers list, or a tourney list.  Also comes in handy against Marine players who can't get enough of their shiny new Castellan missiles.

Improved Comms
These can be a lifesaver in escalation missions if you have lots of armour.  Place them on a Leman Russ, as they can be used even if the vehicle is not on the board.  Also come in handy if you know you are playing a mission with a preliminary bombardment.

Pintle Storm Bolter/Heavy Stubber
Good on tanks like Chimeras and Exterminators, or anything that will primarily be firing at light infantry.  Always choose a heavy stubber over a storm bolter, as the extended range and extra shot will always make a difference, while the storm bolter's AP will only come into effect against 5+ save armies.

Rough Terrain ModificationIf you like to plow your vehicles through forests, up hills, and in other places they generally shouldn't be, go ahead and purchase a few of these for your more mobile tanks.  As I tend to keep my vehicles in open terrain, I don't use them, but your personal tactics should decide this, not me.

Searchlight
A steal for 1 point, and good for when you have an odd number of points left over.  As the Imperial Guard tend to be the army that loses most with the night fight rules, these can help make those dusk & dawn scenarios more tolerable.  If you have the points, go for it, as it doesn't take much to earn your points back with these.

Smoke Launchers
Another one of the good buys for Imperial vehicles.  A must for transport vehicles, as it will keep the occupants safely inside their vehicle for at least a turn (which is generally all they need).  If you have points to spare, these also do well on your tanks.  "But then they can't shoot" you'll say, but there are times when you can't shoot anyways (crew shaken/stunned anyone?) and then the Smoke Launchers come in handy.

Track Guards
Despite the shiny new track guards on the vehicle accessory sprue, these are rarely worth it.  On main battle tanks, never, ever take Track Guards.  You would much rather shoot and not move then be able to move and not shoot, right?  On transports they can be useful, but I would put the points elsewhere.  If you must use the track guards parts, justify them as Extra Armour, instead.

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