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Tactica: Leman Russ Exterminator

Submitted By: PaxImperator Date: January 28, 2008, 12:00:00 AM Views: 1740

Tactica Exterminator


The elusive Exterminator; a vehicle after my heart. Not only is it the most awesome tank in the coolest army in the game, it also spits out more shots per turn than practically anything.  That’s right, short of insane Vehicle Design Rules creations and super heavies, no tank in the game can beat its phenomenal rate of fire of 14 rounds a turn.

Seeing the awesomeness oze from every pore of this behemoth, dark forces gathered. Towards the end of Warhammer 40,000’s 3rd edition, an evil alliance of demented games developers and jealous players of other armies succeeded in keeping the Exterminator and its compatriots the Griffon and Vanquisher out of the new Imperial Guard codex. The reason cited for this was lack of shelf space in GW stores. The place in the codex that should rightfully have been reserved for these tanks was filled up with badly photo shopped images that are in fact copy and paste jobs of lesser tanks’ box art. Every time I turn to pages 48 and 49 of my Imperial Guard codex, I meditate on the happy thought of travelling back in time and hurling Exterminators cast in lead at games developers’ heads.

And by The Emperor, so should you.

Ranting and conspiracy theories aside, this article aims to discuss how to equip and use Leman Russ Exterminators in Imperial Guard infantry companies. Many of the same philosophies apply to their use in armoured companies, but this tactica is still very much one for the footsloggers. I should mention that it is full of my all-too biased opinions on what's best. What works for me may not work for you. In the end it's your responsibility to decide what you want to do with your army. I'm just here to give you a very firm nudge in what I consider the right direction.

Finding the Rules
“But what is the use for a tactica about an obsolete tank?” you might ask. I’m very happy to say that there are ways around the absence of the Exterminator in our current codex. Firstly, for the ludicrously rich there is Imperial Armour Volume I. It’s the legal and most widely accepted place to find the Exterminator’s rules. If you want to use your Exterminator in a tournament, this is the book you’ll need. Just be aware that not nearly all tournaments allow the use of Imperial Armour. Check with the organisers well in advance. There is also a number of cheaper, more informal sources of the Exterminator’s rules. These include the old Imperial Guard codex, the first and third Chapter Approved annuals and Imperial Armour One. Presuming you select your vehicle upgrades from the current Imperial Guard codex, all these entries are identical. In fact they’re the exact same as the entry in Imperial Armour Volume I. With but one difference: they’re all ILLEGAL in an infantry company. That’s because they’re either obsolete or not meant for use in infantry companies. However, getting your opponent’s permission to use an Exterminator with these rules should not be too hard if you play in a friendly environment. Just don’t expect to ever be allowed to use one in a tournament in this fashion.
When to use an Exterminator
At least as important to know as how to use something, is the knowledge when to use it. Despite my obvious bias, I’m willing to grant that not every Imperial Guard army will be well served by the inclusion of an Exterminator, or any tank for that matter. For example there is no place for a single vehicle in an otherwise all-infantry list, because it will be the sole target of the enemy’s anti-tank weapons. Like all tanks, the Exterminator needs some friendly tanks on the field to draw fire and generally present an overabundance of armour to the enemy’s thinly stretched anti-tank assets.
Supposing your army has some tanks in it, it becomes a question of whether the Exterminator will fit in or not. Leman Russ Battle Tanks are more well-rounded vehicles, able to deal fairly well with 90% of the infantry you’ll face. Demolishers are slightly more specialised, trading range for the abililty to deal with a rough 99% of enemy infantry types, as well as with stupidly big and heavily armoured tanks. The Exterminator is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It will have little or no effect against anything heavily armoured, but is far better than its two sister tanks when shooting at soft targets. It is also more mobile, being able to fire at full effectiveness when on the move. The Exterminator is a speciality vehicle. Use it when your army is lacking in mobility and/or anti-infantry firepower. If you’ve got those departments covered already, you should probably take a Leman Russ Battle Tank or Demolisher in favour of an Exterminator, depending on your exact needs.

Options and Upgrades
I’ve grouped the Exterminator’s various vehicle upgrades and options into three broad categories: obligatory, optional and interdicted. The obligatory ones are those that you wish you’d taken as your Exterminator performs badly time and time again. They’re excellent; never leave home without them. The optional upgrades are viable, depending on the circumstances. Don’t use these as a matter of course. Put some thought into whether you really need them or not. The interdicted upgrades are just that: interdicted. Every time I see someone using these, I have my guinea pig travel through the internet and defecate on their breakfast cereals. They don’t even have time to realise those brown things weren’t chocolate chips before they keel over, frothing at the mouth. Please remember this before taking these horrible upgrades. Seriously, don’t take them.

Whatever you do, remember that less is definitely more when it comes to upgrades. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take any at all, just that you should be wary of spending too many points on a single tank. As any Imperial Guard player should know, quantity has a quality of its own. Given the choice between three barely upgraded tanks and two extensively upgraded tanks of the same type, the former should always be preferred. As a rule of thumb, you should have serious reservations about taking an Exterminator costing over 160 points.


Hull Heavy Bolter
Remember how I mentioned Exterminators can dish out 14 shots a turn? This is the first step on the road to attaining that kind of firepower. You have to take a hull-mounted weapon anyway, and this one’s cheap and plays to the Exterminator’s strength of mobile anti-infantry firepower. No reason not to take it.

Sponson Heavy bolters
The second step on the road to 14 shots a turn. The notes about the hull heavy bolter apply equally here. They’re inexpensive, play to the tank’s strength of mobile firepower and should be considered part and parcel of any Exterminator.

Pintle Heavy Stubber
The third and final step in reaching that mythical number of 14 shots. The pintle heavy stubber isn’t as cost-effective as the heavy bolters, but still a very good investment. It can be left off if you’re extremely short on points, but I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re wondering if a storm bolter would be a better choice, the answer is most definitely no. The stubber’s additional shot and range are significantly better than the storm bolter’s improved AP and marginally lower cost.


Rough Terrain Modification
The Exterminator’s forte is mobile firepower. It will move around a lot throughout the game, and this will often be into, through or out of Area terrain. I regularly find myself taking as many as three Dangerous Terrain tests a game. That’s a lot of chances of immobilizing my precious tank. Rough terrain mods reduce the chance of immobilization from 1/6 to 1/36 per test, at a small price. I was tempted to list this upgrade as obligatory, but it’s too dependent on the tables you play on for that. An excellent investment if you play on terrain-heavy boards; a mediocre one if you don’t.

Extra Armour
This isn’t a bad upgrade, as it’s relatively inexpensive and allows your tank to move to safety after being stunned. You won’t be firing your guns anyway, so you might as well make a runner for it. It’s not strictly necessary however, and I personally prefer to save the points for other purchases.

Smoke Launchers
These fall into the same category as extra armour. Not strictly necessary, but useful in a pinch. Never, ever fire these in favour of your weapons. When given the choice between slaughtering your enemy with a hail of hot lead and slightly increasing your tank’s survivability, the proper course of action should be obvious. Smoke launchers come into their own when your Exterminator is shaken or stunned however. You don’t lose any firepower and you gain a nice bit of resilience.

Improved Comms
A set of improved comms can be very useful. An Exterminator is as good a place as any to mount them because of its durability. You want your radio operators to live to call in reinforcements, and the only safer places for them are in an even more heavily armoured Demolisher or in a hidden artillery vehicle.

This can be very useful if the Nigh Fight rules are in effect, and it’s quite cheap. Searchlights are a good way of spending those odd few leftover points you’re likely to have. When considering if you want to take one, remember that you must first spot an enemy before turning the light on. That means you’ll have to get relatively close to the enemy, and expose yourself to a lot of fire. The use of a searchlight can be something of a mixed blessing.

Camo Netting
It’s useful in a mission that uses the Hidden Set-up rules, but these are only very rarely played. Consider taking this if you’re sure there’ll be Hidden Set-up. If not, leave it at home.

Mine Sweeper
Like camo netting, this upgrade should only be taken if you know in advance that Hidden Set-up will be used. It can be very useful in the right mission; the problem is that the right missions are very rarely played. A mine sweeper can also come into its own if you regularly play against Space Marine players with a fondness for Castellan minefields. Outside of these rare scenarios, don’t bother.

I should stress once more that bad things happen to breakfast cereals and their consumers when I see the following upgrades on Exterminators. Please remember the guinea pig.

Pintle Storm Bolter
This is in fact not such a bad weapon, yet it still falls into the interdicted category. That’s because it’s very much an inferior choice to the pintle heavy stubber. For an insignificant two more points, your storm bolter gains 12” of range and a shot. The loss of AP might seem bad, but don’t let that fool you. Against every conceivable target (except troops with a re-rollable 5+ armour save if you want to be picky), the heavy stubber beats or at the very worst ties with the storm bolter in terms of enemies killed.

Hull Lascannon
Lascannons in general are good. Lascannons on Exterminators are bad. They just don’t have a place on a mobile tank that’s meant to mow down infantry in droves. Unlike the heavy bolter, the lascannon has too high a strength to be fired on the move along with the Exterminator’s autocannon. Again unlike the heavy bolter, it’s rubbish at killing infantry. Add to that the fact that it’s more expensive than the heavy bolter, and it should be obvious why this should never be taken. If it’s lascannons you’re looking for, the Exterminator is not the place to look.

Hunter-killer Missile
Hm… Let me see. So I can buy something that amounts to a hull lascannon, except that I lose a point of strength, AP, and I can only use it once per game? Its “neat” features of unlimited range and a marginally lower points cost completely fail to put it on par with a lascannon. And the hull lascannon is already a disgrace to the Exterminator that it’s mounted on.

Track Guards
This upgrade takes the cake. Not only does it cost a slew of points, it only gives a chance of changing an ‘Immobilised’ result into a ‘Crew Stunned’ one. It’s unreliable at achieving the result it seeks to achieve and the result it seeks to achieve is in fact worse than the result you started out with. Given the choice between being a helpless sitting duck under enemy guns and being immobilized but ready to return fire with everything you’ve got, which would you prefer? Please remember the guinea pig as you’re deciding whether to take this or not.


Now that you’ve equipped your Exterminator to be the brutal killing machine it should be, it’s time for me to talk about how to use it. The tank I use myself is one with all obligatory upgrades as well as rough terrain modifications. As such, my advice may have to be adjusted if you use a different configuration. For example, a tank with a searchlight in a Night Fight mission might need to deploy nearer to the enemy than I’d usually recommend. And you should be warier of difficult terrain than I am if you haven’t taken rough terrain modifications. Use your common sense.

General Principles
The Leman Russ Battle Tank is an all-purpose vehicle. Point it at infantry and 90% of the time it’ll inflict a respectable number of casualties. The Exterminator functions very differently. Point it at the right target and it’ll cause awe-inspiring devastation, but point it at the wrong target and the best you can hope for is some superficial damage. Which makes it extremely important to pick the right target for your Exterminator to lay waste to. Anything with a save of 4+ or worse and any vehicle with AV 10 is fair game. Space Marines and the likes of Battle Sisters and Stealth Suits can be targeted with some success as well, though they are most certainly not an optimal target. The same goes for AV11 vehicles. Shooting at anything more heavily armoured is a near-complete waste of time. Only do so if you have no other options.

Another important thing to bear in mind is that all the Exterminator’s weapons bar the twin-linked autocannon are defensive weapons. In other words: you can always move up to 6” and fire at full effect. It’s easy to underestimate this ability, but it has a major impact on the way the Exterminator operates.

It starts with deployment. You can always deploy your Exterminator out of sight of the enemy, safe in the knowledge that you will get to fire at full effectiveness whether you get first turn or not. Pick a spot where the tank is as completely out of sight as possible. Size 3 Area terrain is preferable to hide behind because it blocks line of sight, but leaves you the option of moving around or through it as you see fit. Impassable and line of sight blocking terrain is viable as well, but it limits your mobility more than area terrain does. Try to find a balance between initial protection and good lines of sight in later turns. If you’re up against Ork footsloggers with mediocre short ranged rokkit launchas, you can quite safely deploy within full sight of the enemy and relatively close. Should you be facing the cowardly Tau and their railguns however, you’d be a fool not to deploy your Exterminator out of sight.

Another, and even more important consideration during deployment is movement paths. The Exterminator needs to move to bring its firepower to bear. It can’t do so if friendly infantry, vehicles or terrain are in the way. Exposed positions tend to have better movement paths while secure positions tend to have worse ones. Try to find a balance between these two factors. There tends to be more room to manoeuvre on the flanks of the battlefield. Deployment on a flank can also open up opportunities for flanking fire on enemy vehicles later in the game.

Once the battle commences, the Exterminator will be continually on the move, acquiring new targets and avoiding the enemy’s big guns whenever possible. Use your mobility to peek out from behind a forest just far enough to see half an enemy squad, or however much of it as you think you can kill in one round. This should preferably be the part without the heavy weapon. Then massacre them.

Should you be unfortunate enough to be staring down a lascannon’s barrel, don’t worry. For one thing, your front armour is the thickest in existence. For another, you can use the Torrent of Fire rule, as found on page 26 of the main Warhammer 40,000 rulebook. This little-known rule lets you ignore all the meatshields in a squad, to strike at the one crucial model that needs killing. Like that lascannon operator. It’s not a sure-fire way to success, but it’s better than taking a lascannon shot, even if it’s on the front armour. The Exterminator lends itself better to inflicting a Torrent of Fire than any other unit, thanks to its great number of high-Strength multiple-shot weapons.
But moving to engage the enemy is only half the story. Moving to disengage is equally important. Your Exterminator will regularly be faced with monstrous creatures, jump infantry, transport-borne assault infantry and so on. At times like these, the most important thing is to keep moving.

Not only does it put more distance between you and them, it also makes your tank harder to hit in assault, should they be really close. Remember that these troops present the greatest threat to you. One good hit from a melta or similar weapon, and you’re a goner. Always present your front armour to these units and fire as you retreat if the target and your speed warrant it.

Combined Arms
Like all units in all armies, the Exterminator benefits from having proper supporting units to increase its effectiveness. The actions or even the mere proximity of these supporting units can significantly boost the Exterminator’s  performance.

For starters, Hellhounds and Exterminators work very well in concert, especially when facing light infantry in cover. When used independently, the Hellhound’s shortcoming is resilience. Its relatively weak armour can’t keep it safe long enough for its devastating inferno cannon to do its work. The Exterminator meanwhile has less trouble surviving thanks to its excellent front armour. But its armament falls short when engaging well-dug in enemies. When working in concert, the two tanks make up for each other’s shortcomings. The Hellhound benefits from hiding from anti-tank weapons behind the Exterminator while the Exterminator benefits from the Hellhound’s considerable firepower.

Another good supporting unit for an Exterminator is an infantry squad or two. This needn’t be an infantry platoon squad, though these are the preferred option because of their cheapness and all-round utility. Infantry can perform a great range of tasks, depending on their equipment. They can use lascannons to engage enemy armour; they can deter buggies, Land Speeders and the like from attacking the Exterminator by leading the way with plasma guns; they can deter Deep Strikers by spreading out to the rear and sides of the tank; they can use the tank as mobile cover to advance behind; they can tie up enemy assaulters and so on. The cooperation between infantry and armour is one suited to nearly all situations and has very obvious benefits for both parties.

Lastly, Rough Riders can support an Exterminator very well against enemy assaulters. On their own, Rough Riders are extremely vulnerable to enemy shooting. This problem is solved by keeping them shielded behind the Exterminator. From this position they can deter or destroy well-armoured enemy assaulters that the Exterminator would otherwise not be able to deal with. A minimum-sized squadron with hunting lances is small enough to hide behind the tank but still large enough to be a significant threat to enemy assault units.


The Exterminator is one beautiful piece of military hardware and a true joy to utilize on the battlefield. I heartily recommend it to any Guard player looking for a new toy challenging tank. And if you need it for its mobile anti-infantry firepower, all the better!

To summarize, the proper use of the Exterminator can be defined with the following maxims:
- Pick your targets.
- Keep moving and firing.
- Use terrain to best effect.
- Use supporting troops where required.
- For goodness’ sake don’t take the wrong upgrades, or my guinea pig will travel through the internet and grace your bowl of breakfast cereals with her very special brand of chocolate chips.

Many thanks to Goyder for his invaluable help.

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