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Starting an Imperial Guard Army

Submitted By: [dixon] Date: December 16, 2005, 02:07:16 PM Views: 9371

To many, the prospect of starting an Imperial Guard army is a daunting task.

The Imperial Guard has a unique structure; where most armies purchase single squads as Troops choice, the Imperial Guard gets whole platoons.  The Guard also tends to be a horde style army, which means many miniatures are needed to play even a minimal force (40 men and a tank, being the least in a standard Force Organization Chart.

As such, I have taken the liberty of writing a guide, so to speak, on how someone can create the beginnings of an Imperial Guard army - the HQ and two Troops choices needed for all standard missions.  I'm not telling you how to expand, as when you play a few games, you'll have figured out what you want to buy without me telling you what I would do.  Everyone plays Guard differently, and what I do may not be what you do.  

I also am not going to reference the Doctrines that can be used to personalize your army, as at this point you should concern yourself with the basics before you jump into the details of the Imperial Guard.  I will, however, tell you what you should buy to get the minimum required, and what you should buy to get what I think is a good starting point; my additions will cost you more, but I believe they will greatly enhance your army.  I will not make a list for you, nor will I even bother pointing out the suggestions I make.  They are only suggestions, not the base that you must follow to start an IG army.  Remember, this is your army, not mine, even if you follow everything I say.

The Basics - What You Need

The Imperial Guard structure allows some variation, but is quite rigid in comparison to other armies.  This is to our advantage, as it limits the choices you have to make when starting out.  Each and every Imperial Guard army must have a Command Platoon as a HQ choice, and also must have at least one Infantry Platoon.  The only choice you have to make is whether or not you want a second Infantry Platoon, or if you would rather have an Armoured Fist squad.  Although these will both be mentioned later on, I will list the pros and cons of the two different secondary troops choices now, so you can ponder which you would rather have as you continue reading.  Note that the Conscript Platoon is another choice, but as it is fairly expensive money-wise, and needs doctrines to be used to greatest effect, I won't be touching on them in this guide.

Infantry Platoon
  • More firepower
  • Higher model count
  • Larger leadership base with an extra command squad

  • Sacrifices mobility
  • Costs more, both points-wise and cash-wise

Armoured Fist Squad
  • Adds mobility to an otherwise static army
  • Gives you a tank, if you like those sort of things
  • Cheaper alternative than an Infantry Platoon, both in terms of points and money

  • Less models in army
  • Tanks are vulnerable, as a single luck shot can destroy them
  • Overall firepower of army is reduced

Note that I have implied that having more models is preferable to less models, and in gameplay terms, this is the case.  However, you, like me, may prefer having less models to build and paint, and then the low model count may be a good thing.  However, if this is a major issue, you are better off playing a different army.

Every Imperial Guard army needs a Command Platoon.  This can be somewhat misleading, as support squads are optional, thus you really only need what I like to call a ‘Command HQ' which simply means the Command Squad of your Command Platoon, so don't be confused by the terminology when it is used.  As support squads are optional, and  in my opinion not necessary when starting an army, I will ignore them.

As Cadians are our base army, you will need a Command Squad box set.  This set includes an Officer, Standard Bearer, Medic, Master-Vox, Meltagunner and poor wounded Joe.  This makes up your HQ choice, although I cannot recommend using everything that is in the box.  The officer is a good model unless you want a ranged weapon upgrade, as you can't really convert him to be holding a better gun with the pose that he has.  The Standard Bearer is an excellent choice, and should always be used.  The Medic is good in a plasma-loaded squad, otherwise leave him at home.  If you need a Vox network, you can use the Master-Vox, otherwise I would leave it, as there are more cost effective ways of maintaining a good leadership base.  The Meltagunner is a poor choice for a Command HQ, but could be useful in an Armoured Fist Squad, so he is not a total loss.  You can use this Command Squad if you want, or just want to get an army, and are more concerned with cost than quality.  However, if you want a better Command HQ, you have only two recommended models.  'What else shall I use?' you might ask.

We will get to that in a moment, but first let us touch on the roles of the Command HQ.  The most important thing to note is the Officer's Leadership special rule.  The primary role of the Command HQ is to provide a solid Leadership base for the core of the army.  Although a 12' diameter circle can cover many of your squads, it will not help all of them, so your Command HQ must remain mobile to help portions of the line that need his support the most.  Thus, the secondary role is mobility.  These two roles are the most important, and for the third and final role you have a choice between counter-assault and fire support.  Fire support is the best way to go, as although the Command HQ can be a formidable assault unit, it pales in comparison to dedicated assault troops, and as such cannot be thrown into assault lightly.  The primary role is leadership, which cannot be fulfilled if the Officer is in assault or dead.  Thus, fire support is the role of choice, as it is a better compliment to the primary role.  Assault oriented command squads are better for Infantry Platoon Command Squads, and will be discussed in-depth when we reach them.

So, now we can continue into how to equip our Command HQ.  The obvious starting point is the Officer, who has three different stat-lines available.  In a small army, I suggest the Junior Officer, as it is cheaper than the Heroic Senior Officer, but provides the same Leadership abilities of the Senior Officer.  As the Senior Officer is more expensive, and the only benefit is better stats for assault, we wish to steer clear of this choice, leaving the Junior Officer and Heroic Senior Officer.  In a game this small though, we don't need a Heroic Senior Officer, as we can get the same effect with a Junior Officer equipped with an Honorifica Imperialis, but for a marginally cheaper cost.  The officer chosen is up to you, but always purchase a power sword.  They are dirt cheap, and greatly enhance the combat potential of the officer if he winds up in close combat.  As an aside, the officer model in the box set has a power sword, so why pass it up?

Next, we need to discuss the rest of the grunts tagging along with the officer.  The Standard Bearer is most important, as it provides leadership re-rolls to everyone within 12' using the officer's leadership special rule.  Even if you only utilize the potential of this re-roll once, it will have made up its points.  Although not part of the actual squad, an attached commissar is of great use.  As he increases the officer's leadership, you can potentially get LD 10 with a re-roll for all nearby troops, which, if I remember correctly, is around a 99% chance of success.  However, if you are taking leadership tests, you more often than not will have negative modifiers, meaning the commissar is even more effective.  If you decide to include a commissar, which I recommend, get one with a power weapon.  Although the Powerfist is tempting, as it is one of the 2 hidden Powerfists available to Guard, remember that we don't want the Command HQ in assault, so go with the cheaper power weapon instead.

With leadership covered, we continue on to mobility.  The main issue here is not to take anything that would diminish the mobility of the squad.  The only way to increase the mobility is by purchasing a Chimera, but the normal movement rate of the officer and his men is generally more than sufficient.  You should be able to gauge where the bulk of your opponents attack will fall by the end of his first turn, giving you plenty of time to reach that area on foot.  The only way to diminish the mobility of the squad is by taking a heavy weapon, so the solution to the mobility question is simple - don't take a heavy weapon.

Finally we reach fire support.  As heavy weapons have been ruled out, we only need to look at special weapons.  Of the four available, we can rule out meltaguns and flamers, as their range is too short for the Command HQ to be focusing on its primary role, leadership, by staying out of assault.  That leaves two options, plasmaguns and grenade launchers.

The plasmagun Command HQ consists of 2 plasmagunners and a Medic.  The medic ensures the plasmagunners don't bake themselves by overheating by allowing you to ignore failed armour saves, which in all likelihood will fail given the meager protection offered by the standard issue Flak armour.  The problem with this setup is twofold; the plasmaguns make the Command HQ an even bigger priority for your enemy, and as the medic is obligatory, giving you one less special weapon.  However, your two plasmaguns can oftentimes do more damage than three grenade launchers.
The grenade launcher Command HQ has 3 grenadiers (i.e. Guardsmen with grenade launchers).  This setup is cheaper than the plasmagun Command HQ, and also gives us slightly more mobility in that the grenade launcher is an assault weapon as opposed to a rapid fire weapon.  I prefer the grenade launcher command HQ as it is less threatening to the opponent, meaning it has a better chance of survival.  Note that you may need to purchase an additional box of Cadian Shock Troops to get all the necessary grenade launchers.  This has been included in the summary below.

Thus, we can choose one of three Command HQs, listed below, as well with all listed components and their cost, in money, to you.

Economical Command HQ:
Junior Officer with Powersword and Honorifica Imperialis, Standard Bearer, Medic, Master-Vox, Meltagunner
Components: Cadian Command Squad Box Set
Total Price: 35USD, 15GBP, 40CD

Grenade Launcher Command HQ:
Junior Officer with Powersword, Honorifica Imperialis, Standard Bearer, 3x grenadiers, Attached Commissar with Powersword
Components: Cadian Command Squad Box Set, Cadian Shock Troops Box Set (optional), Commissar Blister
Total Price: 80(45)USD, 38(20)GBP, 94(54)CD

Note that this setup is more expensive because I didn't take into account using spare Grenade Launcher troopers, and instead listed another Cadian Shock Troopers box as necessary.  Obviously if you have the spare troopers, another box will not be needed.

Plasmagun Command HQ:
Junior Officer with Honorifica Imperialis, Powersword, Standard Bearer, Medic, 2x plasmagunners, Attached Commissar with Powersword
Components: Cadian Command Squad Boxed Set, 2x Cadian Special Weapons Blister, Commissar Blister
Total Price: 65USD, 32GBP, 86 CD

Note that you can save money by not buying the Cadian Command Squad Boxed Set and instead converting an officer from Cadian Shock Troopers, Cadian Lieutenants or the Imperial Guard Vehicle Accessory Sprue, and purchasing the Cadian Standard Bearer and Medic Blister pack.

Troops - Infantry Platoon
Next are your 2 Troops choices.  An Infantry Platoon is required before you can take a different choice, so let's look at that first.

The Infantry Platoon will be the core of your force.  It can range in size from 25 to 64 men, in the form of a Command Squad, 2 to 5 Infantry Platoons, and a single Remnants Squad.  We will focus on the minimum parts of the Infantry Platoon, a Command Squad and the two Infantry Squads.

Command Squad
The Command Squad uses the same unit entry as the Command HQ, but the only officer available is the Junior Officer, and you cannot take a Standard Bearer.  The Command Squad follows the same priorities as the Command HQ, apart from one major separation - the Command Squad can be used as a counter assault unit, as it is more expendable than the Command HQ.

The leadership role of the Command Squad is not as important as that of the Command HQ, as it isn't as good at the job.  A commissar can boost the squad up to leadership 9, but I would only use a commissar in a dedicated counter-assault squad, as he is quite expensive for a fire support squad.  However, if you need a higher leadership Command Squad because you have more troops than can fit within 12' of the Command HQ, the commissar becomes worthwhile.  However, with the game size we are concerned with, this shouldn't be a problem.

The mobility of the Command Squad follows the same principles of the Command HQ, and as such, any advice that applied there applies here as well, and there is no need to re-iterate those ideas here.

Counter Assault Command Squad
In small games, usually don't need more than one dedicated counter assault unit, and the Command Squad gives you a good place to do this without messing around with Ogryn or Rough Riders, which are not part of your core Force Organization Chart choices.  Mandatory for this squad is a Junior Officer with a Power Sword and a Commissar with a Powerfist.  These two models will do the bulk of the close combat work for your squad, the rest of the men are for the shooting before the assault.  As we expect this squad to come into close contact with the enemy, we can choose to equip the four remaining men with ether meltaguns or flamers.  Flamers are the better choice, as they are far more reliable weapons, and are cheaper.  With meltaguns, you have the benefit of higher strength and AP, but you still have plain old guardsmen shooting them, which means statistically you will be killing a little less than 2 models before you charge in.  Since the counter-assault Command Squad should not be going up against tanks, you do not need the meltaguns for anti-armour purposes.  With flamers, you hit automatically, and each blast has the potential to do more damage than all the meltaguns combined.  I prefer lots of harder to make rolls than a few good chance rolls, as if you have a bad day, you have enough dice to balance things out.  A few botched rolls with Meltaguns can mean that your squad has accomplished nothing before charging in.

Fire Support Command Squad
The fire support Command Squad is similar to the fire support Command HQ, except you can take an additional special weapon.  As such the information there is relevant here as well.  This squad is more suitable for plasmaguns, as the squad is less of a target to the enemy.  As mentioned above, if you need more leadership, the commissar can be a good choice, and choose a power sword for him like you would for the fire support Command HQ.

Infantry Squads
Infantry Squads are the core of any Imperial Guard army.  The smallest legal army has three (one of which is mounted in a chimera) while a maxed out Force Organization Chart would have 30 of these units.

The veteran sergeant upgrade is largely unnecessary, as your squads should always be in command range of a Junior Officer at the very least, so his extra leadership is not a bonus.  The additional attack on his profile also isn't worth the points, as he cannot take any upgraded close combat weaponry to take advantage of it.  Vox-casters should also be avoided, for the same reasons.  The cost of setting up a Vox network is to high in all but the largest troop-heavy armies to justify the cost of the Master Vox, as you should be in command range of an Officer at all times.
The sergeant can be equipped either with a lasgun, laspistol and close combat weapon, or a shotgun.  As the Infantry Squad should not be assaulting, there is no need for a shotgun, and as we shouldn't be upgrading the squad for close combat, stick with the lasgun.

The bulk of your squad consists of guardsmen with lasguns.  As such, it is important to select upgraded weaponry that complements the standard weaponry of the squad.  For heavy weapons, you should then avoid lascannons, as if you are shooting it at a tank you have only a 50% chance of hitting in the first place, but will either be wasting the lasguns by blasting away at tanks, or the lascannon by shooting infantry.  For the points you pay for the lascannon, it is not an effective choice.  Autocannons and Heavy Bolters are both good anti-infantry weapons, and their high rate of fire helps balance out the lack of accuracy our guardsmen posses.  However, I believe that the missile launcher is the best choice, as when other opponents are out of range of the lasguns you can target tanks with krak missiles, and when they are in range, you can keep blasting krak missiles against power armour, or frag missiles when fighting less armoured foes.

Special weapons should also complement both the heavy weapons and the lasguns.  Plasmaguns are to be avoided as they can overheat and you cannot have a medic to save the poor chap.  Meltaguns are poor choices as well, as they will only get a single shot off if lucky before you are charged, and as the squad will not be moving, you shouldn't have to worry about tanks that close to you main battle line.  This leaves us with grenade launchers and flamers.  Flamers suffer from the same range problem as meltaguns, but as they are cheaper can be an economical choice, and they also don't need to roll to hit.  I recommend grenade launchers, however, as they have the range to complement the lasguns and have a decent statline.  As an aside, the Imperial Guard is the only army that can field a large amount of grenade launchers, so might as well take advantage of that.

To build an Infantry Platoon, you will need a box of Cadian Shock Troops, a Cadian Heavy Weapons Squad box, and a blister of Cadian Lieutenants.  You may end up needing additional Special Weapons blisters, depending on how you equip your Command Squads.  As there is far more room for variation, I won't list Infantry Platoons here like I did with Command HQs, but you should be able to figure out what you need on your own.

Be sure to get a lieutenant with a power weapon, and do swap out his plasma pistol for a laspistol from a spare sergeant arm from the Cadian Shock Troops box, which you should have plenty of.  It is also worth noting that buying the Cadian Battleforce box is not a bad idea, providing that you intend to include tanks in your Imperial Guard army when you expand.  If you are going to use all the components in the box, you will save some money, which is always a good thing.  However do note that the savings from the box will not make much of a difference if you are not going to use all of the components.

Troops - Your Second Choice
For your second Troops choice, I recommend either a second Infantry Platoon, or an Armoured Fist Squad.  If you choose to buy a second Infantry Platoon, you can take a fire support Command Squad as opposed to a counter assault Command Squad, although either choice is a valid option.  As I have already covered Infantry Platoons above, there is no need to cover them here.
There is the option of a conscript platoon as well.  However I do not think they are good in a compulsory FOC army.  The reason for this is that they are most effective with 50 men and either an independent Commissar or an officer close behind.  In small battles you need all the Heavy and Special Weapons you can get, and conscripts are not the best way to get them, as you pay more for less.  If you love the idea of these guys, go ahead and use them.  However I will not be covering them in this article.

Armoured Fist Squad
An Armoured Fist Squad's main role is to give the Imperial Guard army a semblance of mobility.  As your Infantry Platoons will form the main firing line, an Armoured Fist Squad allows a mobile striking force that can react to enemy movements and seize objectives late in the game.  Keep in mind however that the Armoured Fist is simply a squad of guardsmen, and they die as such.  They are not suitable for attacking by themselves, as they will die quite easily.  Knowing when to use them is half the game.

The Chimera
This is the best light tank in the game, IMO (as in under 33 armour, i.e. Combat Patrol worthy).  The stock configuration is the best for an all around vehicle, with a Turret Multilaser and Hull Heavy Bolter.  Some people like to put a Heavy Bolter in the Turret, but unless you face predominantly Tau or Eldar Aspect Warriors, the extra 2 AP is a waste compared to the bonus Strength.  Sure, it's also better against 5+ saves, but they'll be failing enough of those anyways.  The 2x Heavy Flamer combo is good if you are using it to transport an assault unit like Ogryn, but an Armoured Fist Squad is NOT an assault unit.  They are there to grab objectives early, and hold them until support slogs over there.  They can't hold an objective themselves as it doesn't take much to get them under half strength.

As for upgrades, keep it cheap.  Smokes and Extra Armour are all you need, anything more is excessive.

Using the Armoured Fist Squad
The first thing that you need to know is that Guardsmen are Guardsmen, and can take on few enemies on their own.  There are two main ways to use the Armoured Fist - as a mobile unit, or as a line squad and a tank.  The latter uses the Infantry Squad as an Infantry Platoon squad, and uses the tank on its own.  I am not a great supporter of this tactic, as the Chimera is a Dedicated Transport, and as such gives Victory Points to the enemy but not to you.  It can be done, but I see it as a waste of a unit.  You are better off with a Hellhound instead.

The first technique is the one I will be discussing, which is using the Armoured Fist as a reactionary unit.  Keep in mind that the Armoured Fist needs support just like every other unit in the Imperial Guard Army, which means that it must act along with other units, not by itself.  It can be tempting to race the Chimera on ahead, and use it's troops to secure a frontline objective, but this easily isolates the Armoured Fist from the rest of the army, and can end up blocking your own fire lanes.
Instead, it is better to hold the Armoured Fist back behind your lines, and to move them up when the opponent gets near.  You should be able to tell where the opponent's main assault will fall after a turn or two, and you can move the Chimera to counter this threat, and have it's troops disembark and Rapid Fire into the oncoming unit, and provide 10 more men to charge in the subsequent turn.

Sometimes you may not have the opportunity to use the above tactic, as not all armies are assault oriented.  If this is the case the mobility of the Armoured Fist will come in handy during the latter stages of the battle, where it can quickly move up and secure an objective.  If you have played your army correctly, you should have eliminated enough of the enemy to be able to use your Armoured Fist independently from the rest of your army.

Special Weapons are mandatory for the Armoured Fist.  I recommend Plasma Guns, as they need all the kick they can get in their one shooting phase that the squad gets.  As the Armoured Fist is a mobile unit, the only good heavy weapon to equip them with is the Heavy Bolter, as it is cheapest, and will not be much of a setback if you happen to go the entire game without using it.

The Armoured Fist Squad simple to buy, just buy the nice 'Armoured Fist Box' that includes a Chimera and 10 Guardsmen.  It is also cheaper than an Infantry Platoon, as it costs $50 dollars as opposed to $70 for the Infantry Platoon components.  You may also find that you have enough men left over to make a complete squad, and you just have to buy the Chimera.

Well, that's all I have to say.  I wish you luck on your start to playing the Imperial Guard, and hope that you have fun with them, as that is the most important part of the game.

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