Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Something Special

Guard Heavy and Special Weapon teams face down the might of the Alaitoc BattleForce.

Imperial Guard Special Weapon Tactica
by Suneokun

The Guard have many shortfalls.  Low toughness, poor basic weaponry, a poor selection of armour piercing weaponry, poor and over priced close combat options, over complicated and restrictive doctrines, the list goes on and on.  In several key areas however, guard can bring more weaponry, armour and firepower pain to bear than any other force.

Armour, Numbers and Special Weapons

In previous diatribes I've already exalted the power and potential of the body and backbone of the Guard force. The Tanks and the Troops.  With a maximum selection of 384 troops and the possibility of fielding up to 13 tanks under the normal codex (1 HQ Chug, 6 Platoon HQ Chugs, 3 Elite Option Chugs, 3 Hellhounds and 3 Heavy Support tanks - tada!) this amounts to an astonishing 54 weapons (3 ordinance, 3 template, 13 defensive (heavy stubber), 3 lascannons and 32 heavy bolter and multilasers.  That's a lot of shots.  But this posting isn't about men or machinery, its about the tactics involved in using special weapons effectively.

Special Thoughts

One of the joys of commanding guard is playing with the composition of special weapons throughout the units.  Guard players constantly tweak they're special weapon outlays.  The problem with guard special weapons is that they are each so good, the balance of benefit to price so correct it's difficult to choose.  First lets look at the weapons themselves, then explore the tactical options available.

Flamer: the lowly flamer, at only 6pts, has been elevated to new heights by the rules changes of 5th Edition.  What the Imperial Guard lack in close combat edge, they more than make up for with sheer numbers and a roaring gush of promethium!  It's no accident that the flamer is perfectly suited to 'giving it to' horde armies such as Tyranids or Orks.  Where armour saves are undone and toughness is tackled by this tenacious weapon.  The beauty of this weapon is that there is no 'roll to hit' making it a ranged waste for veterans and storm troopers but the weapon of choice for the inaccurate conscript.  

Grenade Launcher: The most versatile of the weapons available.  The grenade launcher has the advantage of reasonable anti-MEQ power and excellent assault range combined with the potential to rain a hail of devastating hail of frag grenade amongst the Orks, Tyranids and Eldar.  The other advantage of the grenade launcher is that in being slightly less effective (although cheap and devastating in numbers) it gets ignored when compared to the next two weapons...

Melta: Nothing makes enemy tanks more nervous than this little beauty.  Unlike the Eldar, we don't have to buy a whole squad of overpriced fire dragons.  The simple addition of a meltagun in a basic squad is enough to discourage a vehicle from getting too need.  Particularly useful against Dreadnoughts and wraithlords.

Plasma: 'When you absolutely, positively have to kill every last MEQ in the room, accept no substitute!'  Gamblers choice - What could be better for a self immolating gun than to give it to the cheapest soldier available.  He probably won't last the battle, but hey, he's a guardsman carrying a kick ass weapon - so he probably wouldn't last the battle anyway.  Some guard commanders go mental with this baby (but don't forget that it is a points sink).  

Sniper Rifle: Ok, so you can only take them in Special Weapon teams and under certain doctrines (light infantry), but they are good.  The only downside is that they are best in numbers, and the best snipers available are ratling snipers. The new rules aren't great for the sniper rifle - nerfing it a little - I'd recommend the other special weapons over these rifles.

Demolition Charge: This is one of the funniest weapons to use.  Like the flamer it lacks range and is a bullet magnet, but when it lands on a crop of smurfs - who's laughing now.  Effectively a 6" range battle cannon that might kill you - great!


Infiltration: This is available to vets, ratlings and stormtroopers as standard, but also to all units via the light infantry doctrine.  Useful for three things, positioning heavy weapon teams from turn one, positioning ratlings for sniper roles and placing Stormies and Vets in 'speed bump' position.  With 5th edition, the introduction of 'healthier' drop troop rules and kinder 'no roll up' close combat rules makes speed bumps a waste of your best units.  The best weapon for infiltration has got to be a combination of the grenade launcher and the meltagun - offering cost effective 'harassment' and an anti-tank punch.  Oh and the sniper rifle of course.

Flanking: Now this is more like it.  Taking Light Infantry doctrine means your whole army can flank.  The only special weapons without flanking potential are the grenade launcher and the sniper rifle.  Melta and Plasma excel at this in anti tank and 'catch 'em with their pants down' mode.  Flamers are essential for storming the objectives placed adjacent to the right board edge and the Demolition Charge can kill a whole squad of Devastators in one throw. 

Assaulting: Flamers are essential in this role.  Providing the close range, in cover punch absent from the guards close combat role.  Plasma and Melta may be required for MEQ killing, but if the objectives in cover, the flamer is king.  Plus, you know that the first guard squad going in 'over the top' will be mulched - so don't waste those 10 points.  Hand out the frag grenades and get torching...

Covering Fire: coming in behind the assaulting squad, a crack team of 4 grenade launchers and a storm bolter lieutenant will give you maximum move and fire 24" volleys.  Add in a targeter on the officer stormbolter and you'll have range every time.

Deterrence: For those too young to remember, in the Cold war 'deterrence' was the watch-word.  The promised of Mutually Assured Destruction (yes it was called MAD) meant the Soviets and Americans stood off at arms length.  The addition of plasma and especially melta gives serious anti-personnel and anti-tank scare factor to your basic units.  Nothing is as pleasant as watching a big hard tank back up away from your little man with a deadly gun.

Weapons of Choice:
  • Flamer: Tyranids, Daemons and Orks, anything else in range.
  • Grenade Launcher: Eldar, Dark Eldar and Tau.
  • Melta: Tanks, Walkers, Monstrous Creatures, Heroes.
  • Plasma: SMURFs, CSM, Necrons.
  • Sniper: Low Armoured Adversaries and Monstrous Creatures.
  • Demolition Charge: Large Squad of heavily armoured MEQs.
Unit combinations

Command Squads: The combination of 3 plasma guns and a medic are particularly tempting as they offer significant fire power, plus a save from one 'get's hot' roll per player turn. Alternatively, 4 grenade launchers and a storm bolter offer fantastic, cheap fire power.  A command squad of flamers are fantastic for flanking, but are a one-trick pony and once they've captured the objective are very vulnerable. Melta guns are a waste in command squads as they make the squad too 'hot' without the benefit of the plasma/medic combination.

Special Weapons Teams: Just like command squads, I find melta and plasma makes special weapon teams too 'hot' for enemies to pick off.  I tend to go for covering fire grenade launchers with the added punch of a demolition charge ('cause I love 'em). 

Troops: I focus on melta and plasma in the troops selection.  After all these weapons give real punch to the troops and are far harder to 'whittle out' in these larger units.  I usually back up the troops with grenade launcher toting command squads to give covering fire. Flamers are a cheap option, but I usually reserve the flamers for remnant squad (thanks Drax for that suggestion) and the conscripts where they can slip through the come to the front for the much needed charge.

Elites: Some people take flamers in veteran squads, which I see as a complete waste.  Plasma and melta are definitely the way to go with these guys when they are in a flanking role.  If your veterans are supporting your main body of troops, then grenade launchers will give you a definite edge in range, although they'll lack the punch of plasma.  For storm troopers, it's hard not to go with a plasma/melta combination.  Although that said, in both cases, you can sometimes surprise a weaker enemy with a dual flamer and power sword assault.


Special Weapons form the grit in the mill of your offensive troop movements.  I keep static heavy weapons and mobile special weapons separate and take the fight to the enemy.  Remember that special weapons turn what are very hum-drum troops into a force to be reckoned with and give them the extra bite that can turn a battle in your favour.  Use them wisely.