Thursday, December 5, 2013
Imperial Guard Infantry Tactics: The Bloody Infantry PT3
So its on to the next part on our march through the Imperial Guard Troops and we have finally made it to the humble Infantry Platoon. These are the back bone of many a IG Regiment and will be what most will be relying on to carry the day. I think that the Infantry Platoon is hands down the best single troops choice in the entire game. It has the advantage of large hordes, multiple squads, heavy weapons, special weapons, and conscripts. The sheer number of models you can field in one troop choice is staggering. You can have 137 models in a single troops choice (more if add in all the commissars too), that is just mind boggling in the amount of men you can bring to the field. Added to the fact that this is all damn cheap, being 880 pts for all of this (no upgrades). This means if you are looking to field endless waves of guardsmen, you have found what you are looking for. The other wonderful bonuses to this is that you treat it as a single unit in regards to deployment and reserves. So you can in theory have a seriously large flanking force for your opponent to deal with. The other rule that is important is combined squads, which is sort of the reverse of combat squads for SM, you can combine infantry squads together at the start of the game, they then act as single unit. This is where the often mentioned blob squad comes from. Now for this one I am going to break it down by the individual units within the platoon and then go over unit tactics and special characters.
Please not this is a longer read, I got a little more in depth than I planned.
To start it off I want to take a look at conscripts, the cheapest troops you can get and the meat shields of the imperial guard. To be honest they were better in the last edition when they were separate from the platoon structure and could take special weapons and had at least some minor flexibility. The other reason they were better in the last edition was because of how commissars worked, you got 0-5 for your army and spread them out as you saw fit. This meant conscripts could get a cheap commissar without sacrificing an HQ slot for your army. The current conscripts are 4 pts a model and start at 20 for 80 pts, going all the way up to 50. They are dirt cheap, have BS & WS of 2 and Ld 7, other than that there is little more too them. There is a special character that affects them but I will talk about that in a bit.
The main issue with them is that you can't give them a commissar like other infantry squads and command squads. This hurts conscripts the most as they are very low Ld and need that stubborn commissar to keep them in line. There low stats and lack of access to any wargear means they can deal with only a few threats, and by deal I mean die in droves as a distraction for the rest of your army. The only way to boost them is to throw a lord commissar in there with them, but that is a waste of a lord commissar as he is far better off in a regular guardsmen blob or with more critical units.
What they can do though is force your opponent to deal with bodies and in this they make a good sacrificial lamb and speed bump. Don't be fooled into thinking they can tarpit a unit though, they will be easily swept and it is very much suck when 40 guardsmen are removed because they lost combat against an MC or Special Character that killed 3 of them but they then broke and were swept. They have a very crappy weapon skill and ballistic skill that means even with their large numbers, they can't do much, they simply don't have enough shots or attacks to really be effective, they miss far too much.
If you are going to take them though and want them to be effective, you need to take commander chenkov, he is a must as he has the send in the next wave special rule which allows you to remove a conscript squad at the beginning of your turn and get them back at the start of your next turn. Note any special characters in that squad do not come back, so don't put them in there. The other thing is he can issue 2 orders, though he only has 2 they are the ones that are important for conscripts and that is get back in the fight and move move move. He can now make up for the Ld of the conscripts by reforming them if they break and can get them the chance to have a decent run, which you might as well because they shoot like shit. Himself he is nothing special, has a power sword and few other wargear but nothing really special, he is a little spendy in a 50 pt upgrade, but its about where all IG special characters are in the non HQ choices. He isn't bad but he won't be chewing threw combats, but he can prey on a weak unit if you get the chance. The key thing to note is that the send in the next wave rule does not require chenkov to be alive to still work, it is something you purchase for the conscript squads and they have it, chenkov himself does not have the actual rule, it is under his bestiary page, he just unlocks it for the army. So don't feel you need to protect him, he works best following behind the conscripts to keep them moving forward.
As to how to play them, two conscript squads are about all you will ever need, as you will be hard to have that many models left over for the rest of your army unless you really have a lot of guardsmen, and they just aren't effective enough to be worth their points at that point. You take two of 40-50 and throw them forward, chenkov and whatever other units can follow behind and use the meat shields. They key with them is to get them as far forward as fast and as early as possible. They are there to slow the enemy and be a speed bump, spread them out enough so your opponent will have no option but to chew through them in order to get to the rest of your army. In almost all case I would say let them be assaulted, you have chenkov and send in the next wave so if they miraculously survive the round of combat, just remove them on your turn and shoot the crap out of whatever charged them. You get them back next turn, send forward and rinse repeat. Don't be afraid to remove them, unless you are playing kill points, the goal with them is to clog your opponent with bodies and force them to assault your expendable units when you want them to be assaulted and then shoot them to pieces, forcing your opponent to slog through them inch by inch.
Other than that, I would almost never take them, the combined blob squad is infinitely more effective at everything and still dirt cheap. They can work but lack of options like flamers and ability to get a normal commissar hurts their effectiveness. Yes you can throw a special character on them, but that is a waste, he will be far more useful in combined squad of regular guardsmen. If you really like them though, then take them, just know you have to be aggressive with them and need send in the next wave to make them effective.
Special Weapons Squads
Next is the special weapons squads, they are pretty simple, 6 guardsmen and three can take a special weapon of their choosing. Start at 35 and go from there. Of note is that one can take a demo charge, which is a very nice little weapon. These guys are straight forward, give them 3 special weapons, keep them in a good position or protect them, then spring forward to annihilate whatever their target is.
Weapons that they aren't really worth taking is probably sniper rifles, as the only way to make them effective is through bring it down which is only useful against MCs (Sniper rifles suck against vehicles unless you have a lot), but even then the math doesn't support them, you will be lucky with one wound every round of shooting and most times they will make the armor save. So in theory they are nice but in practice they don't hold up. A load out I personally like is 2 flamers and a demo charge, this is a cheap suicide assault unit that can run up and seriously blunt and attack, they will most likely die and stand a good chance of dying to their own charge, but that's ok they are only 6 guardsmen. The other way I have seen is to take them with 2 meltas and a demo, this is another good load out as you can have a nice little tank destroyer squad and use bring it down on them to ensure that demo charge hits, and the meltas too. This is another bang for your buck moment.
If you want to go the cheap route, three flamers or grenade launchers are a great option and are cheap, its a good way to add a random scoring unit that is low threat and will be forgotten about over the blobs and main infantry squads, but can still do damage in a pinch and be late game objective takers. Unfortunately they cannot join combined squads, so their weakness is simply their low model count, and if it is where you concentrated your special weapons, can be an easy target for your opponent.
For these guys, they work well and are best kept cheap, but if you are looking for a way to add cheap special weapons to your army they are a great choice. They cannot take a transport s take that into account, but they can jump into someone elses chimera on turn one and use it as a battle taxi to roll up and flame a few squads. They are fun and decently priced so its up to you, I find that I can usually get the job done with special weapons in my blobs and vets, but these are another good option if you are looking for a relatively cheap way to add some special weapons in. Just steer clear of sniper rifles.
Heavy Weapons Squads
Oh my favorite thing about IG is all the heavy weapons you can get, and here is where most of them reside. You can get 5 per platoon and they consist of 3 heavy weapons each. My only gripe is that they are T3 W2 model, which means its easy to lose the whole thing to one wound. Be careful, most clever opponents will realise this and if they start shooting autocannons at them, say goodbye as they will disappear quickly. They start off as mortars (which are amazing!!) and you can swap them out for any other heavy weapon, you don't have to all have the same weapon though, so you could theoretically have a mortar, lascannon, and heavy bolter in the same squad if you wanted.
They get the most expensive with lascannon squads which top out at 110 per. So the points can add up quick and its a key thing to keep your eye on when building your list. What you want to have is a good mix of anti infantry and anti tank. The main thing is you wan them to supplement your infantry squads and balance them out. If you are going anti tank go all in and get lascannons, with bring it down they can reliably kill most medium to light vehicles in one go. I would strongly recommend you get 2+ of them, they work very well with the high volume of fire and they will be a high target priority so you are going to lose some of them, having more will ensure you have enough fire to bring the whole game in spite of casualties.
For anti infantry you should always consider mortars, they are the cheapest and have an amazing bang for their buck, they will often produce more wounds than an autocannon squad has shots and are pinning and barrage to boot. I have won so many games off these guys that I cannot recommend strongly enough to bring them, and bring two because a single squad will miss just enough that you will not reach the full effectiveness. Two will ensure you have a high probability with hitting, and when you throw in orders you can use the fire on my target to make your opponent re-roll those pesky cover save. No its not as great as ignores cover but its good enough and boosts their effectiveness quite a bit. Other anti infantry choices include heavy bolter squads and auto cannons, both are good, I like heavy bolters for the 3 extra shots and for most infantry they can deal damage too. Autocannons are good for general purpose use, being good at infantry and vehicle hunting. Their weakness being lack of shots to be truly effective anti infantry killers.
For middle of the road effectiveness, Autocannons and Missile Launchers are king and do the job nicely. I like missile launchers and their flexibility and even though low number of shots means low hit probability, you can twin link them with bring it down against vehicles and MCs, which you will be shooting most at anyways. Against infantry three blasts are still quite effective and will do many wounds to horde infantry. Autocannons work in the same way though they cannot hurt as much armor as missile's can. A good little generalist squad is two autocannos and one missile launcher, that way when you target those medium vehicles, you have a good chance on getting that pen with the missile and enough glances with the autocannons to finish it off if the penetration doesn't get a good result. This is also still effective and putting down infantry and against MC's as well.
For all heavy weapon squads I would say taking them in pairs is a must. That is where they work the best and you get the most use out of them. With BS 3 you are only getting 50% of your shots hitting, so in pairs you are essentially making up for the BS3 and guaranteeing that hit. No it doesn't work out that way all the time, but it is a good rule of thumb, plus I am of the mind that the more shots you have the better things are. For a good infantry heavy army you should be taking two anti infantry squads and two anti tank squads, giving you the need fire support. I would always recommend taking mortars, its a rare game that they do not prove useful. Another thing to consider is they can take krak grenades, not most common to take them but it can be useful if they are charged by a dread or a MC, giving them a chance in the fight at least. Not critical but it is some food for thought as I have had it happen on a few occasions.
Ok making our way through this now and have finally made it to the infantry squad, the bread and butter of the platoon. Well what do you have here? For 50 pts you have 10 guardsmen (1x SGT), frag grenades and lasguns. Nothing special here but 5 pts a model is a very good thing. For the platoon you have to have 2 at a minimum and can take up to 5 total. Additional equipment for the squad is krak grenades, a vox, all of the special weapons minus the heavy flamer. The Sgt has access to all the usual upgrades in power weapons and fists, plasma pistol, melta bombs, and the infuriating 2 pt bolt pistol. Seriously, I have to take fucking five no so I can have it all add up correctly! Is it so goddamn hard to have it be 5 pts, makes it such a pain in the ass when building a list. Ok venting done.
The vox is a must have, the re rolls on orders is essential, and if you are planning on combining the squads, then you only have to pay for one for the whole blob to benefit from it, so that makes a big difference and can pay for your special weapons. In most cases I would recommend the basic weapons such as the flamer or grenade launcher, both are versatile and the flamer is great in defending against assaults and in supporting your own. The grenade launcher can threaten vehicles and infantry alike and has helped win me many games. The sniper rifle is cheap, and is great when it gets lucky, but most times it won't. Unless you are fielding it en masse in all or a lot of your squads, I would not recommend it. The melta gun and plasma guns are good and you all should know what they do, one kills tanks and the other kills marines. There is nothing wrong with the weapons themselves, its just that they can only bring one and its a guardsmen that is firing it. 50/50 is not great odds when you really need that one melta gun to hit. I recommend these weapons if you are planning on combining squads, otherwise stick to the cheaper and more effective special weapons. Taking krak grenades is a strong recommendation, and if the choice is between a melta gun and krak grenades, take the grenades. Why? Well because you will have 10 grenades that will be hitting on 3s on rear armor, instead of 1 melta hitting on 4s. Your odds of killing a vehicle is far higher. You have to get there but that comes down to you and your opponents maneuvering.
Heavy weapons can be taken by infantry squads, these can be a good option, but be careful as often times the heavy weapon squads are where you want to go. There are some good weapons though that you can take and I would recommend the Heavy Bolter, Autocannon, and Missile Launcher. These are all flexible and multi purpose weapons and will suit the roles of your infantry squads. The lascannon is too expensive and good of a weapon for one BS3 shot. And combing squads to get more of them together is counter productive, your wasting the 30+ guardsmen that now have to sit back and act as wounds, and will still be useless because the lascannons will be targeting tanks that they cannot hurt. The mortar is in the same boat, its cheap, but its one of those weapons that you will end up wasting the 8 other guardsmen in the squad for one possible small blast hit, also combine it with the fact that it is least effective when the guardsmen are most, ie within 12". In the same squad they conflict roles too much and do not support each other. Apart they do the opposite and support each other wonderfully and complement the strengths of each. I would never take them in an infantry squad.
Combining squads is a whole other thing and there are many out there with differing opinions on it. I personally like the options that it brings though I do not often bring large 50 man blobs to the table. The reason combining squads is used so often and so successfully is it allows you to maximise the effectiveness of your guardsmen and increase the units durability. You only have to buy one vox, one commissar, then you have extra to buy things like krak grenades and weapons for your Sgts. Combined squads are best when tooled to do a specific thing, especially when it comes to weapon load outs. If going anti tank bring along meltas and melta bombs for the sgts and krak grenades for the squads.
Combined squads work great as a tarpit unit that can bring down some of the toughest MCs and units. The sheer number of bodies and with a commissar giving them stubborn means you have a huge amount of ablative wounds for your sgts with power axes or whatever other weapons to get the hits and kill the monster. Now when it comes to the size of a blob, that's where things get tricky. I personally like to go with 20-30 man squads, it keeps the model count manageable and is still quite durable, but I have more flexibility with two large blobs than one supersized one. This also means that your enemy has to target multiple units now to kill the same number of guardsmen. With the rise of highly effective mass shooting, esp in Tau, that can easily put enough wounds out to kill an entire guardsmen blob in one round of shooting. By splitting your blobs up you force your opponent to split their fire and to waste wounds in over kill, causing more wounds than is neccessary to kill the unit and the excess being wasted.
Why I also like having smaller combined squads is that it allows you to do multiple things at the same time, one unit can advance and the other can stay a little behind to support them. That way you are not commiting your whole platoon and if they all are lost then you are left with a bg hole in your line. This way you can last longer as with target saturation, your opponent will have more units to shoot at then he even has and will be ineffective at bringing your army down fast enough. Once you get into the attrition game that is where other armies, especially Tau, start to lose. They cannot take the hits and even small losses significantly reduce their firepower.
You don't have to combine squads and I would not recommend that you always do, if you are not bringing a large number of infantry then you should keep them seperate or in small combined squads. If you are building a mech list the keep them individual squads (obviously). When the squads are kept small, and especially when going the mech route, then it is good to bring heavy weapons, again though mortars and lacannons are going to be a waste and bring those in heavy weapon squads instead. The heavy weapons will add to your chimera's firepower and help you early on with your firepower.
Now there is one specific character that benefits the platoon greatly and the is Al Rahim, in short he is an upgrade to a platoon leader like Chenkov, but the entire platoon Must start in reserve and Must outflank. Can you think of anything scarier than nearly 150 screaming guardsmen overrunning your opponents rear and flank. Intercept that fucker. But seriously this is a great way to add mobility to your army if you want to go the all infantry route, you can throw a lot of infantry across the board very quickly (if they come out of reserves early) and do massive damage. The sheer number of bodies will be hard to deal with and at the very worst means you have time to grab the objectives while your opponent is simply trying to fend all those guardsmen off.
Rahim himself is mediocre and has a power sword that can cause instant death. Don't let that fool you he is not a combat character, keep him protected and throw him at weak things that you know he can kill. Otherwise he has an awesome order that he can issue, like the wind, which lets you shoot and then immeadiately move, like a pseudo battle focus. As a force multiplier he is awesome. If you like lots of infantry he really is a must.
There are many ways to build your IG army around and it its my opinion that you should have at least one of these in almost every army. You can also go all in and build a massive army of infantry. This can be a great fluffy army with lots of expendalbe infantry. I will caveat this in saying that it can also be tedious to play with so many guardsmen. However with practice, good orders management, and use of reserves you can play this army superbly well to be almost unbeatable with the amount of men almost impossible to kill. If you are going to go this route, go all in you cannot go for half measures. Forget about tanks and just about everything else, you are going to be spending a lot on infantry.
You don't have to and platoons perform exceptionally well as part of a combined arms army and that is what most will bring. The are your cornerstone, so always remember they are what is going to win your battles, as shiny as the leman russ is, guardsmen hold objectives.
Platoon Command Squad
This will be short as this has gotten to be a much longer article than I intended. The PCS for short, starts at 30 and you can give it all the options an infantry squad can take. Only major differences are that all the guardsmen(4) can take special weapons and one can take a heavy flamer, they can take a vox, a medic, and a platoon standard. The standard is worthless, it counts as scoring a wound in CC, rarely will that matter. Either you lose combat and are most likely wiped completely, or you already won combat and defeated them. PCS's are not cc monsters and are good at targeting weak units but nothing more. The medic upgrade and is 30, doubling the squads cost for Feel no Pain, which you will rarely get to use as guardsmen are T3. Don't take it on PCS. What they are good for is all the special weapons.
How you use them is pretty simple, they are good to follow behind a combined squad, support them with their special weapons, and take objectives while your opponent ins busy dealing with the blob. They are a good support unit and the source of first rank....fire, they only have one order and have to be within 6" to issue it, so they are good close to what you want shooting a lot of lasguns. They are small and can get lost on the board with the other bigger or more threatening units. Their main use is really to just provide the extra fire and that order. Play them to that strength and its good to supplement the platoons infantry squads this way, by adding weapons they lack to the PCS so the platoon as a whole can deal with multiple targets.
So there you go, that's quite a bit and there is lots more I could talk about but tha covers every component of the Infantry platoon. I will be doing an advanced infantry combat tactics series of article at some point, to really expand upon the basic info and show how all these units can really work well together.
As always, comments and thoughts are appreciated and welcome.