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Grading The Guard: A Review of the New Codex: Imperial Guard  by Patrick Eibel
With the latest versions of Codex: Orks and Codex: Space Marines, Games Workshop has changed the role of special characters in an army, making them instruments to purchase special items and abilities or take special units as Troops.  The Imperial Guard is not a character-heavy army, and many Guard players were worried whether the “must-have” character trend would continue, especially with the rumored loss of Disciplines.  Well, the news is good: while there are special characters in the army, they are not game-changers as in the Space Marine Codex.  In fact, the Imperial Guard Codex is one of the better books released in this current wave.  I will go through the Codex and grade each section for usefulness and competitiveness.

Background Section: Grade A
For some players, the background section is the stuff they add to fill out the number of pages; for others, it is the reason to buy the book.  The Guard background does a nice job of putting the army in historical context with a timeline of battles.  There are write-ups for each of the Imperial Guard figure lines GW has produced, other than the Praetorians, and a neat map showing all of the Imperial-held planets.  There are plenty of interesting little bits that players can use to flesh out the background of their own armies, which is the main purpose of the section.

Forces of the Guard Section: B +
The Forces section is where you get the details for the squads in the army.  Keeping with the recent format, these pages are cross-referenced in the army list so that you can find the rules you need quickly.  Also, in keeping with recent trends, there seems to be no logic in the order that the entries are listed, other than special characters are last. 

First off, the Disciplines from the last Codex have nominally been replaced with Orders.  The Orders make those required Command Squads a little more useful.  All of the Senior Officer Orders are good, but the best are: Bring It Down! in which a Senior Officer can make a heavy weapon team (say three lascannons) twin-linked versus a specified vehicle, and Get Back In The Fight! in which a fleeing unit automatically rallies.  Junior Officers get useful Orders too: First Rank, FIRE!... is basically Bladestorm for Guard, and Move! Move! Move! will be useful for grabbing objectives at the end of a game.

Commissars continue to be a great upgrade to a Command unit, as adding another WS 4/BS 4 leader to the mix can make command units viable counterassault options.  One interesting possibility involves a unit with a Commissar and Nork Deddog – if the Commissar executes the Company Commander, Nork will wax the Commissar in return.  We hypothesized that Nork would then take over command of the army, which is just too funny.  Of the other advisor choices, the standouts are: Astropaths, which help with Reserve rolls (anything to bring tanks on sooner is good), and Priests (for 60 points each I can get a guy with an eviscerator, a 4+ invulnerable save, and imbues Righteous Fury to the squad he is attached to, and I can get up to five of them?  Booyah!). 

There are plenty of new tanks to entice treadheads to build Armored Companies.  Pay attention to the Lumbering Behemoth rules, where a Leman Russ can move at combat speed and fire its ordnance turret in addition to any other weapons it can fire.  Slap my hind with a melon rind, are you serious?  With the new gratuitously-favorable vehicle rules, the Leman Russ variants, with an Armor Value of 14 to the front, are just too good to pass up. 


"I can move AND fire the battle cannon? Have we gone back to 2nd Edition?"

Hellhounds get two new variants – the Devil Dog and the Bane Wolf.  Much of the buzz from players I talked with is on the Bane Wolf, which has a template and wounds on a 2+,  but do not underestimate the Devil Dog.  You can take a melta cannon and put a multi-melta in the hull and then have two AP 1 weapons on a Fast vehicle.  And remember, kids, AP 1 weapons add one to their damage rolls.  Tank hunting indeed! 


The Hellhound remains a thing of beauty

The ordnance battery option expands upon the ever-popular Basilisk. The Griffon returns, and the Medusa and Colossus are brought into the fold from Forge World (as well as the Hydra, Manticore, and Deathstrike Missile Launcher). I like the Medusa and Manticore as anti-vehicle options (I guarantee you will face armies with multiple Land Raiders or other high Armor Value vehicles, so you will want Strength 10 weapons), and the Griffon continues to be a reliable troop-killer.  The Basilisk, with a minimum range of 36", becomes more useful in larger, Apocalypse-scale games. 


The Manticore, from the Forgeworld division of Games Workshop: too awesome for mere words

Finally, the real sexy addition to the army list is the Valkyrie Assault Carrier.  Sure the model is $60, but it is still a thing of beauty that can Deep Strike, Scout, strategically drop a unit, and has a nice array of weapons too.  The Valkyrie gives the Guard—previously thought as a static, immovable army—some much-needed maneuverability.  And it looks damn cool too. 


The Valkyrie: you know you want one

There are twelve special characters presented with rules, counting Sergeant Kell separate from Lord Creed.  Some are new: Commander Pask and Sergeant Bastonne, and some are old favorites: Yarrick, Creed, and Ram…er…Marbo.  Many give units they are with cool abilities, such as Fearless or Feel No Pain or are able to give multiple Orders.  None of the characters are all that out of control and, while the extra abilities are nice, none of them are essential to field a competitive army.

The Army List: A+
The Guard army list is a thing of beauty that allows a player to field just about any kind of army they want.  Want an Armored Company? Take two Veteran Squads in Chimeras as Troops and you can get up to nine Hellhound type vehicles and nine Heavy Support vehicles.  Want all-infantry?  With six Troops slots on the Force Organization chart, and an Infantry Platoon having up to five Infantry Squads (not even counting the Command, Heavy Weapon or Special Weapon Squads), that’s a potential 30 squads of ten Guardsmen.  And the real sick thing is that you could field each platoon as one slobberknocker-huge unit for missions that give up Kill Points.  “Oh, let’s see, you’ve killed 20 guys out of my platoon of 60, and get 0 Kill Points.” 

If there are any sick puppies out there that love the sniper rifle (you know who you are), you can take three squads of Ratlings as Elites and up to two regular Guard sniper teams per Infantry Platoon as Troops.  That’s a lot of sniping.  I would invest in Ratlings (you can get ten guys for 100 points), but I already have two units of Storm Troopers whose weapons are now AP 3.  Need to kill some Marines?  Deep Strike your Storm Troopers  with a plasma or melta gun for added punch. 


The new Ratlings: you won't mistake them for wimpy Hobbits any time soon

Of all of the special characters presented in the codex, my personal favorite is Gunnery Sergeant Harker, who allows a Veteran Squad to Infiltrate.  Keep in mind, Harker carries a heavy bolter and the Veterans can have up to three plasma guns.  That is some nice firepower that you can place in range from the start of the game.

Conclusion
There is much in the Imperial Guard Codex to love, too much to go into detail here.  With nearly twenty new additions to the army list, command orders, and new character options, there have been some dramatic changes to how an Imperial Guard army can be fielded.  However, these changes have not stripped away the core identity of an Imperial Guard army: its masses of infantry and numerous tanks.  In fact, these qualities have been greatly enhanced and improved.  With the Catachan and Cadian figure lines fully supported with plastic miniatures, there has never been a better time to go Guard.  Fortunately for me, I already have quite a sizable army (nearly 4,000 points worth), which I will describe in more detail in a future Armies of the Jungle article.  Until then, “Dismissed!”


How awesome is the new codex? Ogryns are now T5 and have 3 Wounds. 
That means that the first two lascannons hits only make them mad


Posted June 2009. All images are copyright 2009 by Games Workshop and used for review purposes. 

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Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle