Hatred is, after all, the Emperor’s greatest gift for humanity. And ya’ll kids know that unca JcDent has enough bile, vitriol and foul temper for two racist uncles. I had previously written my wishlist/hatelist for the upcoming Codex: Astra Militarum. That book has since been released, so here I am on the road again, bitching about the new Imperial Guard codex. Codex: Astra Militarum fixed a few problems from the Index, but not all. It introduced a few more. Here they are.
1. Command Squads Are Still Annoying
Quick recap: 8th edition 40K made heroes unable to join units. Their abilities now work in a keyword-based aura. You also can’t target most human-sized heroes if they’re not the closes target. Anyways, for some reason this separated Imperial Guard commanders, squishy humans like you and me, from their command squads. The Company Commander is still a HQ choice, but his command squad of 4 veterans is now an elite choice – just like the platoon commander.
In the new and bad rules, Commanders are mostly useful for Guardsmen because of their orders – automatically successful spells that make them Guardsmen move again in shooting phase, shoot more times and whatever. Clearly, you want that in your army.
However, if you’re a dude like me who wants his commanders to not run around alone – we’re not fucking Space Marines – you now have Command Squads and Platoon commanders taking up elite slots (when you build an army in Warhammer, you do it detachments and those have rules on how many of which slot you get) that could be crammed with other things. It’s also annoying, since you can take Command Squads without commanders. My wish was to make Command Squads as package deals with commanders. Buy a Commander, get the choice of buying a Command Squad. Fluffy, easy, beautiful.
Fortunately, Games Workshop realized some of the mistake they made and Command Squads are now limited to one per commander in Matched Points (read: tournament and other buzzkill munchkin minmaxing) games.
2. Poor bloody conscripts
Conscripts were previously the human grots: the freshly conscripted Imperial Guard recruits that didn’t have the art of battle (they had worse accuracy) and discipline (they hard worse morale) drilled into them. By the previous rules, you were able to take one conscript squad – up to 50 dudes without special weapons or anything – per IG platoon, which already included a Command Squad (Platoon commander and his buddies and maybe one or two squads of Guardsmen), so you couldn’t really spam them.
Since 8th edition killed package deals for some reason, now you could have an entire army of Conscripts, using them to bubble-wrap (be meat shields for) for commissars, priests and maybe even commanders. Combining all sorts of aura effects make conscripts super efficient for people who are bad and don’t play according to the fluff.
The new GW, being somewhat flexible and keeping the ear to the ground, quickly FAQ’d the fuck out of them. Conscripts now cost 4 points per, just like a Guardsman, the squad size is capped at 30 dude, they can only carry out orders on a dice roll of 4+ (which isn’t bad – I mean, they are barely trained boobs), while Commissar summarily execution rule now doesn’t automatically grant a morale test pass – now you sacrifice a dude for an another chance at the roll. This doesn’t really matter in Conscript blobs, it does fucking matter in paper-thin Guardsmen squads of 10 dudes.
Speaking of which…
3. Combined Squads redux
The introduction of orders in the Imperial Guard lead to one of my most hated things to be inflicted upon it: Combined Squads. This is a fancy sounding term for just bashing a platoon’s worth of Guardsmen into a blob up to 50 dudes strong. This made giving orders more efficient, as well as providing a lot of padding for special weapons, and a bigger punch in melee.
And I fucking hated it, since it was one of the Correct Ways to play Guard, unless you ran with Veterans (in which case, The One True Way involved Chimera APCs and melta guns). It also makes the whole platoon structure perfunctory, takes away any friction from orders by not making you chose who you’ll spend the limited amount of orders you have, and in general World War I’s all over your dudemen.
Well, there were no Combined Squads in 8th edition… but then the Codex came out and now we have the reintroduction of Combined Squads as a Stratagem (Stratagems being battlefield “hacks” that you spend your limited amount of command points on). So if you want to combine your squads, you now need to do it on the battlefield and spend a resource that might be used on something else instead. With the decreasing efficiency of Conscripts, this is increasingly attractive to players.
But that doesn’t mean that I’ll let Stratagems to get away with it!
4. Fukken Stratagems
8th edition hams introduced Command Points, which are usually gained when you build your army. An army is made up of one or more detachments. Each detachment gives you a certain amount of CPs. However, you must conform to certain TO&E requirements. Now you can have an army of Terminator marines by taking the Vanguard detachment (1+ HQ choice, 3+ Elite choices), but it only grants 1 Command Point, while more generalist detachments like Battalion give you 3 or more. Command Points are spend on Stratagems – hacks, like I mentioned – the most basic of which is paying a CP to re-roll a dice.
Stratagems are now invading every which place. The worst of them are inflicted upon game-modes, replacing, say, Cities of Death stratagems which used to be bought with points allocated specifically for that game mode. Armies are now also getting said Stratagems.
For Guardsmen, you have stuff like Getting More Relics (which basically every army gets), making vehicle ramming attacks not suck, rerolling artillery attacks, making a tank a commissar or transforming a Chimera into a command vehicle for a turn.
Some of these are good, like the aerial spotters (the aforementioned artillery reroll) or Fire On My Position (when a unit with a Vox Caster – radio – is wiped out, it calls in artillery on its positions), only hampered by 8th editions removal of blast templates and introduction of mortal wounds. Some should definitely be mechanics in the game, like Grenadiers, which let each trooper in the squad attack with grenades (normally, it’s only one per squad), which would be amazing in Cities of Death (with grenades now random-number-of-hit weapons, Cities of Death makes them do max hits) and if the game had any mechanics for pinning and dazing enemies.
However, the Command Vehicle one-turn upgrade on Chimera is one of the worst ones. It should be something you get when you build an army! I feel like Officio Prefectum tank (tank Commissar) should also be a buyable upgrade, in both army building and kit.
5. Regimental Tactics
Back in the olden days, when it was called Codex: Imperial Guard instead Codex: Astra Militarum, the book offered a fairly in-depth build-your-own-regiment system. That didn’t last. However, with Warhammer 8th edition, all armies are getting Chapter Tactics-like special rules. Those are somewhat hit and miss. Raven Guard tactics gives enemies more than 12 inches away a -1 modifier to shooting them, which is great. Meanwhile, Iron Hands get a 6+ save after save – kinda trash! Most rulebooks just outright copied those chapter tactics: that’s why Alpha Legion, an Eldar Craftworld and a Mechanicus Forgeworld have the same -1 modifier to hit over 12”. We thought that Imperial Guard would receive the same treatment.
They weren’t and most Guard regiments included in the rulebook received fairly unique tactics. Well, some of them outright suck. You’d think that jungle warfare experts the Catachans would get a -1 modifier to be hit, to reflect their stealthy nature. Instead, Catachans are high-gravity stronk! They have the same Strength (only applies in melee) as Space Marines and their artillery can reroll the random amount of hits arty does in post-blast world. I guess they’re reloading faster! You also get such total trash as modifiers to battle shock (worst morale system Warhammer ever had) and slight improvements to Overwatch (defense against charge, and not overwatch as you’d know from XCOM) fire.
These are trash when compared to, Vostroyans, who add 6” range to basically any infantry weapon that matters. This makes their shooting range match Tau and Primaris Marines! Meanwhile, Armageddon Steal Legion gives them more shots at close range and their vehicles ignore AP -1, the most common armor save modifier. This makes Vostroyans and Steel Legion super good – if only they had the model support to match!
The regiments also get a specific order, stratagem and relic, some of which are, again, useless. Valhallans come with a modifier to battleshock tests (laaame) and their tanks count as a lot less hurt than they are (kinda cool). Their unique Stratagem? Replacing destroyed units with new ones. Which would be OK, if not for the fact that in you have to allocate points for replacements when you play Matched Play games. It’s great idea for preventing summoning shenanigans, but it doesn’t really work here. You already paid for the unit and you waited for it to be destroyed. You also have to deal with the fact that they respawned at the edge of the map.
Some relics are also crap! For example, you can give your squishy commander a better bolt pistol. Or you could hand them a relic that gives you a Command Point on on a 5+ roll whenever the enemy spends one.
And those are the five most prominent gripes that I have with Codex: Astra Militarum. I could whine about Heavy Bolters now becoming the best way to kill Marine and Terminator like-soldiers, leaving Autocannons without a place; I could harp on Veterans being an Elite choice instead of Troops; I could even complain about the endless FAQs and mistakes made in the writing, but that’s a more systematic issue. So that is my take on the system. A final advice? Never play Matched Points, never go to tournaments. Build a list that you like, convert an army, find a friend and build an actual narrative.
Better yet, play Heralds of Ruin Kill Team.