Recently, I decided to jump into building a brand new army that I promised myself I would get back into after the sale of Gamer's Haven in 2014. It was the first army that I ever started when I started getting into Warhammer 40,000 fifteen years ago.
The reason I'm publicizing this journey is to show you the process and the journey of building your own Warhammer 40,000 Army over the course of 4 months. But to understand why I chose the Imperial Guard, I must regale my tale of starting off with the worst edition to play them.
My brother went into a Blockbuster to get some video games in Fayetteville, NC. In the back of this particular Blockbuster was another section of the store where there was these strange boxes with nicely detailed and painted science fiction style models. In addition to that, there was a 4 foot by 4 foot table with those nicely painted models. After talking to the guy that was selling them, he found out that it was a tabletop game where you put together models similar to a model train set but set in a science fiction universe. There were also rules to play it as a board game using a six sided dice system to determine whether or not models were hit and wounded in combat. He invested quite a bit into it, picking up a Ultramarines army and showed it to me. I quickly got interested in it and became a regular at a game store in Jacksonville, the closest store that was active at the time to where I was. However, I didn't want to do the same thing my brother did. I looked at the various armies out there and the one that stood out to me was the Imperial Guard (now called Astra Militarum). I liked the idea of the basic human going up against superhuman forces in defense of the galaxy. It was very much an underdog story, a force that by all rights should be pushed over. Yet it somehow kept order in a galaxy engulfed in flames. I got excited about this force and instantly fell in love with it.
However, I chose the worst army to get started with.
Space Marines were, and still are, the best way to start playing Warhammer 40,000 if you are interested in getting into the game. They require fewer models, are more durable to keep on the table, and can be branched off into various different other Space Marine armies that can specialize in either Melee combat, Heavy Weapons combat, Vehicles/Tanks, or a mixture of the three with several factions to choose from to make your Space Marines stand out. The Imperial Guard, on the other hand, require numerous Infantry Squads and relied heavily on their Tanks to do the heavy lifting. Making a melee focused Imperial Guard army is laughably bad and impossible at that time, still is unless you take Ogrun or Rough Riders. They are fragile, not very mobile, cheap in terms of points, and didn't have much variety aside from taking a lot of Infantry Squads as one Troop Choice. Orders did not exist back then. Back in 3rd Edition, there were rules that specifically made it not very fun to play the Imperial Guard. First, you could not split fire with units. Heavy Weapon Squads on their own did not exist. Heavy weapons had to be placed in Infantry Squads. This meant that in order to fire with that nice shiny new Lascannon in your Infantry Squad, you had to fire that at your target and let the Lasgun troopers bounce shots off at the Tank that Lascannon fired at since weapons required a certain Strength in order to even have a chance to do something to it. Rapid Fire weapons lost distance for just moving, down to 12" to be exact. As a result, if you wanted to get in a decent amount of shots with that Infantry Squad before it died in a horrible fire with very little chance of impacting a Space Marine unit with its volley, you had to move within charge range in order to get one volley off before they were assaulted in Close Combat during your opponent's turn. Overwatch did not exist either back in 3rd Edition. Also, you couldn't charge in 3rd Edition after firing a Rapid Fire or Heavy weapon. So with all of these problems, why did I continue to play the worst army possible?
I slowly continued building my Imperial Guard army over the course of 4 years mostly because I was already invested and it didn't make much sense for me to abandon them and the game since my social network consisted of people who played Warhammer 40,000 every Saturday. I wasn't a very popular kid in school and found my comfort space in a local game store called Hobby Chest in Jacksonville. Its why I still believe in board games and tabletop games to this day as it helped me develop as a person for me to be more open to people. I also found that I was interested in painting and creating something physical that I could say was my own. Yes, the models themselves may be the same, but you can always look at two Infantry Squads painted by two different people and tell them apart even if painted in the same paint scheme. Its this uniqueness that I loved most and wanted to show people. I loved it so much I even opened up my own store for 4 years.
Over the course of the game's lifespan, it went through various editions and revisions that made the Imperial Guard from one of the worst armies to play to one of the best armies to play. The addition of Heavy Weapon Squads, Orders that give a special rule to units upon receiving them, a brief time where they could get custom rules to fit a theme, new units being added to the Guard's Arsenal to supplement the Infantry Squads, and Flyers like the Vendetta and Valkyrie for greater firepower and transportation made the Imperial Guard a force to be reckoned with. Also changes to the rule system over time made the Guard far more viable as the editions updated rules to make the army more playable. 8th Edition makes them shine in my personal opinion. The changes to Rapid Fire and Heavy Weapons being able to move and fire at full distance, the revamping of how Armor Penetration works to where basic guns do not automatically cause Guardsman to die without a chance to save if not in cover, the ability for models to Split Fire naturally, Vehicles having a bit more durability but not so insanely overpowered/under-powered depending on the edition, Cover is not a be-all-end-all, and the additional Orders make an Infantry army possible and plausible. So the real question is: What will be in my Cadian 8th and why is that?
The End Goal
So for starters, we have 12 Infantry Squads to flesh out our Troop choice selection. Why 12?
Simply put; Weight in numbers.
Their Lasguns by themselves are not very powerful, but when you fire several of them at once, you are bound to start wounding Space Marine models. Officers can give orders to them to make their Lasguns fire more rounds, especially at close range. Tougher units like Terminators will require some penetration like Plasma Guns and Meltaguns, which you can mix in your Infantry Squads. With the changes to how Armor Penetration works, Guardsman have a better chance of staying alive than in previous editions. With Orders like "Move, Move, Move!" that gives you a free Movement Phase instead of Shooting, you can have a unit blitz across the board surprisingly quick to capture that objective. Moving at a minimum 14" with this order and a max of 24", your Guardsman can cover quite a bit of distance. Also, mixing in Heavy Weapons with your Infantry Squads is a viable strategy now since you can now split your firepower naturally in units. Heavy Weapon Squads, while effective and have a heavy amount of damage output from one unit, can be a pretty dangerous and easy target if not in cover. Its far easier to remove 6 Guardsman to destroy 3 Heavy Weapons as opposed to 10 Guardsman to remove one Heavy Weapon in a unit. Special Weapons like Flamers and Grenade Launchers are cheaper alternatives points wise that can be effective in their own way. Flamers help against horde style close combat units like Orks and Hormagaunts while Grenade Launchers can put a punch in those same horde units and possibly even a Tank or Monstrous Creature. The best part about the Orders is that they are not limited to just one type of weapon aside from "First Rank Fire! Second Rank Fire!". "Take Aim!" for instance gives you a re-roll of 1s when rolling To Hit rolls and applies to any weapon fired in that Infantry unit. "For The Emperor!" allows you to fire with any weapon even when Advancing. For the more durable weapon platforms, we turn to the Sentinels and Leman Russ Battle Tanks.
Sentinels come in two different varieties: Armored and Scout. The difference between the two is that the Scout Sentinel gets a free move at the start of the game but comes with less armor. The Armored variant comes with a Space Marine save but no free move. For these three Sentinels, I am going to go with the Armored variant for the staying power. Since the weapons I will be equipping will be long range like a Missile Launcher or Lascannon, the free movement isn't as big of a deal. However, if I were taking Heavy Flamers, then I would definitely go with the Scout variant since it wants to engage up close. With the advent of Stratagems coming in the new Codex, I would imagine that these will play a bigger role later on.
Leman Russ Battle Tanks are a staple of the Imperial Guard. They are hands down one of the best tanks in the game with an impressive armament variety. Leman Russ Tanks can fire their turret mounted weapon without penalty when moving. The Battle Cannon has the longest range, highest strength, and deals D3 damage compared to the other turret mounted weapons. However, the Eradicator Cannon has a lower strength and range, but ignores cover and deals the same damage and Armor Penetration. The Exterminator Autocannon has a set amount of shots, higher strength than the Eradicator, deals 2 Damage, and has slightly longer range. However, it has a weaker Armor Penetration. The Vanquisher Cannon has only one shot, but it can do a greater amount of Damage and has a higher Armor Penetration value, making it very effective versus Tanks and Monstrous Creatures. For this army, I am going to go with one Battle Tank for Space Marine armies, one Vanquisher for Tank Hunting, and an Exterminator for Infantry. The Battle Tank is going to come with a Lascannon and two Heavy Bolters. The Vanquisher is going to come with a Lascannon and two Multi-Meltas. The Exterminator is going to come equipped with three Heavy Bolters.
The goal of this project is to have it fully painted, assembled, and ready to go before Christmas. Hopefully the Codex will come out shortly before or after Christmas. Only time will tell.
Stay tuned folks! More updates will be coming soon!