Ok so lets talk about someone that I am big fan of, the Colonel, Iron Hand Straken. He is the commander of the Catachan II and an all around badass. The IG have few combat characters that can actually kick ass, but the Colonel is one of them. Now I am a fan of good ole creed and he is my usual commander for my army, but straken is in many ways the opposite of creed, he punches stuff till its dead and works out the tactics along the way. He gets in there and wins his battles with his guns and fists. Now Creed is a great choice for IG, but he really does lack in any sort of fighting capability in any way and unfortunately the best you can hope for is for him to hid in his coat. Now this is where the Colonel comes in, he has no coat to hide in.
A quick run down of his stats. He is WS5, BS4, S6, T4, has 3 wounds and a 3+ save. He has Ld 9 so not amazing, but he makes up for it being fearless. He can issue 2 orders, has access to all of them but no special ones like creed. Now where his big bonuses come in is that all units within 12" him have furious charge and counter attack, including his unit. This means he can really buff a solid part of your army, lending the edge in fighting back an assault, or leading it himself. He also has man of adamantium giving him his profile and also causes his CC attacks to ignore armor and gets an additional D6 for armor pen. Basically he has a power fist that strikes at initiative, oh an when he charges he is S7 ignoring armor saves. Yeah thats kinda nice. His wargear includes a Shotgun, P pistol, a CC weapon (cause he don't need no power weapon with his crazy bionics), flak armor (see bionics), frag grenades, and a refractor field.
So how does he work. Well as you can see from his stats, he works well with the combat focused Command Squad. Heavy flamers, melta guns, flamers. I personally like throwing in a vox, standard, and melta guns with 2 body guards. You can drop the vox but those orders he will be issuing are important and I like having the back up. The Standard is great, and since he is going to be within 12" of your important units, that reroll of morale and pinning tests is huge. You can also go for 4 melta guns to give you a great squad that can hunt the toughest targets and then finish them off in CC.
Straken in CC. Now key thing to note is that he only has I 3, so do not target high I opponents with AP3 weapons. Also, stay away from MCs, unless you have a few bodyguards to act as ablative wounds. He does not have eternal warrior so he can still get smushed. He has 5 attacks on the charge, so use him wisely. What he is great at is hunting slow initiative high T and Armor save opponents. regular termies are a great example, striking at I 1 means he is going to be hitting them on 3s with 5 attacks at S7 on the charge, with them have to make invul saves to stay alive. Now since you shot them with melta guns and his own P pistol, you aren't facing a full strength squad. That is also the key, don't fight strong units, target weakened units and use straken to finish them off. He also works well in combined assaults. Have his command squad and another squad assault the same unit, that way the regular IG squad acts as extra wounds and the Sarge can accept challenges for straken. Another technique is to include an adviser, a master of the fleet is great or an astropath. An astropath is my personal favorite as after your reserves are in he is a perfect meat shield and challenge acceptor since he is a character. That keeps straken out of challenges he can't win and grinding up squads like he does best.
Now he really can't tank wounds but in a pinch he will do. The best way is to keep his squad away from the nasty firepower all together and give your opponent other targets to shoot at. Use terrain and vehicles to block LoS to keep him and his squad out of sight. Now the Colonel is not going to win fights on his own. He is still a guardsmen, no matter how many ways you coat it. He is not a Chapter master and even though he can chew 2+ saves apart, he will die to power swords, or just a few bad rolls. He can be insta killed by S8 and up. So take that into consideration. In the end, he is expendable, he is a guardsmen and if needed, throw him away to achieve victory.
When using him, you have to consider how the army is going to be built around him. And you do have to build the army around him. He works well with a decently large infantry army, multiple 20+ blobs are great. You throw them forward, keep straken and your other elite units behind your advancing front line, just forward enough to keep the guardsmen inside of the 12" bubble. This is an assault army. Melta guns, flamers, grenade launchers are ideal weapons to kit them out with. Support this army with fast units and or artillery and heavy weapons. The heavy weapons and artillery weaken your opponent and soften them up for your guardsmen to hit home. It also forces your opponent to choose what to shoot at, does he ignore your heavy weapons and take the hits, hoping he can kill enough of your infantry before his units die to your long range fire, or focus on the heavies and hope he can withstand the close up assault of your infantry.
Now there is a misconception that IG sucks in CC. This is not the case, as many will attest having faced the stubborn IG blob with power axes and other wonderful toys. You see an individual guardsmen may suck, but in numbers and with the right bonuses, IG can win in assault. Also think of assault in two stages, Shooting & CC. You use your firepower combined with orders when you get close to weaken your opponents units, then assault with others to finish those units off in CC. One on One you may lose (except to tau), but with that one two punch combo you can win most of your close combats. Don't be afraid to charge, you'll always be better in CC charging than not.
The other army that really works well with straken is the Mech/Air Cav army. Throw in a bunch of vets with shot guns and special weapons in Chimeras or Valkyries/vendettas and use your maneuverability to mass on your opponent and beat him down. Now what I mean by Massing is to put more of your combat power on a part your opponents army than he can put on yours. So hit one of his flanks with your majority of troops, mop it up, then hop back in your chimeras or valkyries and move to the next part. The only armies that can do this better is the Eldar/DE. Other than that you can really hurt your opponent with your chimeras keeping your guys mobile and safe. You can't assault when you disembark, but 4 vet squads backed up by strakens CCS and a few other units will do a lot of damage.
The key with straken is to build an aggressive army and just go for it. DOn't spend a lot of points on expensive armor. A single leman russ is ok, but you need to invest in a large portion of infantry to take advantage of his rules. Don't forget to issue orders, that is half of his utility. Many battles have been won simply from First rank fire. Straken is great because even if you get counter charged, counter attack ensures you will get plenty of attacks back to make your opponent pay for it.
One thing straken can be good at is hunting Riptides, or other MCs with low I. You soften it up with melta and his P pistol, then on the charge you punch it to death, hitting and wounding on 3s and ignoring armor. You have enough bodies to soak up the few attacks back even if it survives the first round, but with 5 attacks from straken alone, and taking into account the wounds taken from shooting. That is a dead riptide, rinse repeat.
The other thing about straken is that he is a great character to model. I have made him to be a Colonel for the Cadian army of mine, as my stand in for straken since I do not play catachan. Here is my version of him:
A standard Cadian officer from the command sprue, a shotgun, and a little bit of green stuff gave me this guy. I cut the power sword arm and used green stuff to reattach it in a better pose. The shotgun was attached to the hand with a little green stuff to form the thumb that I cut off. The shotgun and ammo came from the Cadian Shotgun vets from forge world. Its a great kit, but my hopes are up that the new plastic kits will make it no longer necessary. The eye bionic was made from green stuff, the lens of a bino, and the cabling of a servo skull. He was a lot of fun to make.
I haven't used him in a while but now I may get him out and build and army for him to go out and conquer with. I really like him and if you want to take I him I highly recommend him. He works well with infantry and veteran heavy armies. Other Special characters to consider is Al rahim, to give you a platoon to outflank, that keeps them safe and gets them across the board. That lends you a great One Two punch with the platoons you have charging across the board with Straken and Rahims coming out of reserve behind them. You can overwhelm your opponent with too many targets to deal with and overrun him. The other SC is Chenkov, he is decent himself and lets you take Conscripts and lets them be useful. With furious charge they are halfway decent and with 80 of them your opponent will have to deal with them. Put them out front leading the way, with your veterans and regular guardsmen behind them. They will take the wounds and you can bring them back too :). You can make your opponent cry, though I suggest you don't as that is a dick move. I am also just assuming you are taking marbo, because you should.
All in all he is a great combat support character. Use him to boost your offensive capabilities and throw his squad at tough nuts, or weak points in your lines. The key thing is to always remember that he is only a part of your army, support him and have him support your units. He has orders, use them. He does good in a fight against basic units and characters. Keep him away form power swords and challenges, though he can be useful in killing suicidal chaos champions that have no power weapons.
Taking him depends on your style. If you like an aggressive and in your face IG army, he is the guy to take. Dont forget marbo and harker, they are his natural companions.
Please share in your stories of straken. My favorite was when he chewed through a terminator squad, the other when he mashed a carnifex :).