Monday, February 7, 2011

A Beginner's Guide to the Guard: Why Go Guard?

Over the weekend I had a follower comment on my YouTube profile saying that he was getting started in 40k and wanted my opinion on which army to choose to have a Dakka-filled list. He also mentioned that he had heard that Imperial Guard were a poor choice for starting out.

Naturally I took offense to this last part. Imperial Guard are my first and only 40k army and I believe that they bring a lot of advantages to the table for newcomers to 40k. So, this week I thought that I'd do a few articles on starting out with IG.

First let's talk about the possible reasons that a new player might choose the Imperial Guard for their first army.

1. The Imperial Guard is one of the strongest armies in the game
I know this is not just my opinion- ask any player what they think of Imperial Guard and talk of the dreaded Leafblower, Mech IG and autocannon spam will dominate the conversation. IG has a strong book with relatively few weak options, and even those options can make it into a halfway decent list simply thanks to the efficiency and power of the other choices.

Having more power in a list means that a new player can make a few more mistakes and still manage to put up a good fight. This is opposed to an older/less powerful book like Eldar or Tau that have a few good builds that require consummate player skill to use and master. IG's raw power level enables them to be a sledgehammer in the command of a newer player, grinding out victories simply through sheer mass.

2. The Imperial Guard have a lot of flexibility

This is along the same lines as point 1. Because so many of the options in the book are good the Guard is capable of a frightening array of options that can cater to pretty much any player.

Like huge gunlines? Play with platoons backed up by heavy weapon teams, tanks and artillery.

Like tank companies? Imperial Guard has TONS of tanks, and their mechanized forces are second to none thanks to the awesomeness that are Veterans.

Want to play Air Cav? Guard invented the term, and Valkyries look damn cool to boot. You can even branch out into Elysians if this is your particular cup of tea.

Enjoy the reserves game? With options like the Astropath, Master of the Fleet, Al'Rahem and CREEEEED! you can boost your reserves, hurt the enemy's and outflank with the best of them.

Even if you like having some close combat Guard can make a halfway-decent build with Straken backing up platoons and plenty of firepower backing him up. While they might not deal a ton of damage hidden nigh-unbreakable power weapons in platoons will take down any opponent given enough time.

If there is a type of force that you want to play, Imperial Guard can almost certainly build it.

3. Through sheer numbers the army is very forgiving

The Guard has always been known for its quantity rather than its quality (though it certainly has both!). With a force like Space Marines losing a unit can be a huge deal, simply because you don't have that many of them. With the Guard you fully expect certain members of your force to die, as you will have plenty more where they came from.

More than any other army the Guard can abuse the Force Organization Chart. Whether it's through bloated platoons that can easily encompass over 50 men or entire squadrons of tanks and planes the Guard will usually simply have more and tougher threats than an opposing army. Platoons don't care if you annihilate 20 of their number- as long as the Commissar holds they aren't going anywhere. Squadrons of tanks are hard to shut down and can enable staggering amounts of firepower to be brought to bear.

This also applies to simple probability. There is a wargaming truism that goes "if you throw enough dice at a problem it will go away." This is the Guard maxim in a nutshell. You will almost always have enough guns or attacks that you can accurately predict how a given unit will perform simply because they have so much redundancy. Where one battle cannon won't do the job three probably will.

Just remember the Imperial Guard motto- bring three to do a job as one will miss and one will be dead.

4. Assembling lots of models builds skills quickly

Because the Guard has so many models it can be a bit daunting at first. However after building and painting a few squads of infantry you will build your skills quickly, making the rest a breeze to do. Plus most of the models in the Guard range are easy to paint and assemble- even with three colors and a wash your average Guardsmen will be looking pretty snazzy indeed.

5. The Guard are not Space Marines

I'm going to catch a bit of flak for this one, but it's true. Some people have a stigma with going for Space Marines for a couple of reasons. I know that I was one of those when I first started out. Marines have all of the advantages going for them- multiple codices, fancy power armor, genetic engineering... pshaw! Who needs it?

The Guard appealed to me because they were just mere mortals standing in front of all of the horrors of the universe, ordinary people tasked with fighting and dying to protect peoples and planets that they have never seen let alone heard of. While your average Guardsman doesn't match up to a Space Marine they have plenty of friends to back them up and see victory in the face of even the greatest odds.

6. The Imperial Guard are Fun!

This last point might be a bit biased, but IG are fun to use! Do you like throwing buckets of dice at things? Making *vroom* *VROOM!* noises as you maneuver tanks around the battle field? Placing huge explosion markers that wreck the competition? Enjoy the fact that your gun is bigger than theirs? Then you'll like the Guard!

Strangely, one of the reasons I like the Guard is how unlikely making a save is or hitting with certain units. Unlike power armor where you are crushed when you don't make that crucial save with the Guard you are ecstatic when that 5+ miraculously comes around. Likewise when firing with a whole platoon at a hard target like Terminators seeing sheer weight of numbers force failed saves on 2+ armor is a brilliant feeling.

The same goes for winning or only narrowly losing close combat. I'll never forget the day that an old school Hive Tyrant charged a squad of Veterans and they held combat. Next turn a squad of Marines charged in, flailed about but failed to do anything. My Sergeant, chainsword in hand, spat on the ground and leapt onto the giant beast and felled it. The Dark Angels tried not to look too ashamed...


Those are my top reasons to start with a Guard army. Throughout the rest of the week we'll be looking at where to start when building a Guard army, good places to look for Guard Tactics, tips on painting your average Guardsman, and some good pics. For you experienced generals out there, what are some of YOUR favorite reasons to GO GUARD?


Hudson said...

You forgot the exhilaration that occurs when a guard model actually does something in combat.

Max said...

Man, I forgot to add that- will do when I have time!

sonsoftaurus said...

Very true. Some of my favorite guard CC stories are when they ALMOST killed something nasty. ;-)

Admiral Drax said...

"with the Guard you are ecstatic when that 5+ miraculously comes around."
- I love this: it's just so...true!

Personally, I love the barrage weapons and how unpredictable they are...nothing says 'Guard' more than watching your own mortar shells deviate onto your own lines!

Max said...

@ Hudson and sonsoftaurus: All right, added a mention to miraculous CC victories. It just doesn't feel as good when TH/SS termies do it...

@ Drax: Ah yes. Especially if it's your Master of Ordnance... and it's Night Fight... and he can't see the target... as nothing says scatter like straight 4d6!

Loquacious said...

May I please add this to the IG page on 40K Beginner's Project?