Friday, 8 January 2016

Review: Imperial Guard in Mont'ka

Having heard there were some Imperial Guard (no, I shall not use the book title that shall not be named) formations in the new campaign book, I picked it up to have a look at what was on offer to the lowly guardsmen.

In a reverse of normal reviews, I'll start with a summary - that way if you're not interested in the detail, you can get a brief review and ignore the rest of the post.

In Summary

This DOES give you some nice new formations... and a new way of fielding the army as a whole. But the points cost of the Guard version of a Decurion is steep, the benefits are small, and I really don't think it's worthwhile. Cherry picking one or two of the better auxiliary formations to use with your existing force, that you may find some nice new toys. And while the Cadian relics and warlord traits aren't great, they have at least given us some Guard tactical objectives, that are available to ALL Guard players, and I personally will be making use of those in future. Overall, I don't begrudge buying this book, and if you are living in a vacuum of hobbyists then I would say it's worth picking up... but if you have a buddy who plays Tau, they have far more reasons to buy this book... let him buy it and just borrow it for a bit! :-P

Right, now that the impatient have left us to it, let's get down to the meat of it...

edit - I should probably have split this review into parts, but I've typed it all now, so I'm posting it all now. It's longer than I originally intended, so either scan read to find the bits you want, or make yourself a brew before you start...

I'll start near the back, as it let's me get the easy to explain stuff out of the way first.

Tactical Objectives

This section has 6 tactical objectives that replace the first six in the standard deck, and in my experience these tend to be far more suited to the army you play. No difference here. The objectives can be summarised as
1 - kill something with a tank
2 - charge something (note, not kill something in assault, win, or anything so ambitious... just give it a go, you sacrificial lambs you)
3 - Issue 3 orders. Issue 6 for D3 points. Chances are you'd be issuing orders anyway, so why the hell not. I suppose if you've designed an army that makes little use of orders you may be stumped, but knowing these are in the deck, list building is down to you.
4 - Have half your units in your deployment zone... tough one for guard I know...
5 - Control more objectives than your opponent, with D3 for controlling 3+ more than them. Gee, with a ready supply of cheap obj secured troops I wonder if this one shall be difficult...
6 - Kill something during the shooting phase, with increasing points available the more things you kill. Hmm, remind, is it the shooting phase Guard tend to favour? I get a feeling it's probably this, I know it's NOT the psychic phase that is their specialty...

So yeah, new objectives, fantastic for a guard army. Sit back, shoot stuff, issue orders to shoot more stuff, shoot stuff with tanks, hold on to those objectives, and send a few brave souls off to die in vain... perfect...


Warlord Traits

1 - Your warlord has the Zealot special rule. This is a bit useless unless you plan for it, and if you're planning for it, chances are you'd just take a priest anyway. So a bit redundant.
2 - Your warlord has +2BS, his unit +1. Nice, but situational. On a unit designed to sit back and issue orders and probably equipped with lasguns, maybe a solitary heavy weapon, not great. If you've taken the command squad and loaded with meltaguns planning to throw these guys in harms way, this could be very nice, albeit short lived. If you've taken a Tank Commander on the other hand, perhaps even Pask... hello my new favourite warlord trait.
3 - Once per game, make an artillery bombardment as if you were a Master of Ordnance. As a person who rarely uses the MoOman anyway, giving me an extra shot doesn't tickle my fancy too much, and I've never been that keen on once per game abilities anyway... or if it IS once per game, then it needs to be pretty devastating. Not something I can pick up for 20 points for every turn so in a 5 turn game it works out at a value of 4 points? The longer the game the less value that warlord trait has? Great...
4 - Friendly Cadian units within 12" ignore the 25% casualty rate - same as 3 in standard codex.
5 - Your warlord gains voice of command/one additional order. Familiar.
6 -Friendly Cadian characters MUST issue and accept challenges... wait, WHAT? How is this a good thing? Generally speaking I want my characters hiding from combat as much as possible as, outside of Tau, there is very little they could beat... and even then, if a Tau is issuing a challenge, the chances are it's cos he knows he can stomp on the puny human and take away whatever special rule is keeping the blob of 50 conscripts in the fight against him. Now admittedly, you can select who issues/accepts, so with adequate sergeants you can keep your character alive for a while, but still... this is NOT the guard way. What other codex puts a poisoned chalice in the table?

So all in all, two that are the same as the normal codex (and weren't overwhelming then) one that could be good if you could count on it, and is easy to get in other way, one that seems pitifully stingy, but that you will gladly take instead of the "lets fuck up your day" that is the sixth one... and One that could be awesome, IF you build your army a certain way. Overall, not impressed.

Heirlooms of Cadia

So, in the heirlooms, we have a melee weapon that gives the user a 4++ save... for every one passed, they get an automatic rending hit against their opponent, even if they were killed by the unsaved wounds. So a quite nice way to potentially take an opponents character with you, IF they put a bucket of attacks on you (this must be in a challenge by the way) and you pass a lot of invulnerable saves... cos quite frankly you won't be hurting them with your own punches with this user str ap - melee weapon...

There is a tank commander specific one that is quite nice, it let's you issue a tank order not just to your unit, but other Leman Russ units within 12" (same order for all) So if you're going for an armoured company, I'd recommend this.

A +2 str AP3 Melee weapon.

A std that when planted prevents the command squad from  moving, running or charging, but it makes any friendly cadian units within 18" Fearless. Nice, but personally I've always liked using priests, where I can hold enemy up for ages as if fearless but when I DO need to release the enemy ready for my guns to be brought to bear, that is where the priest steps up and gets his head kicked in, the men break, are run down, and the victorious enemy find themselves staring down the barrels of 100 lasguns and half a dozen battlecannons... Fearless isn't my cup of tea, but I can see its uses.

A melee weapon (yes, ANOTHER one) that makes the user better at issuing orders... think Captain Harris with his stick, but with slightly more respect from the troops.

A pistol that wounds on a 4+ and makes any armour save of better than 4+ into a 4+. Pretty good for 5 points, but it's one shot... I can see you doing one wound, and then getting pasted in return for standing so close to the enemy and then annoying them like that...

So collectively, a bunch of melee weapons and a pistol... I'd really rather not thank you very much. A banner that makes a guard army that castles up fearless (situationally useful) and a nice trick IF you are building an armoured company... great for those who are, but for those who aren't... meh.


Cadian Battle Group (Guard Decurion)

So, first up, the extra rules you get for taking this "Decurion"
Company Commanders taken as part of the HQ section of the Battle Group can issue one extra order, and at longer range. Nice. Go on.
When an officer from this detachment issues an order to a unit from this detachment, roll an additional dice for the ld test and discard the highest roll. Nice again, although that does make the melee weapon that means you only fail an on a double 6 kinda redundant...
Models in this detachment can reroll 1s when firing lasguns or hot shot lasguns... nice to see the old "No Cadian misses THAT badly" rule returning. Go on...

Nope, that's it. Now don't get me wrong, these are all in character, and synergise quite well with an infantry force, but they aren't exactly balls to the wall spectacular. More importantly, what is conspicuous by its absence, is Obj Sec. One of the biggest benefits of a guard army is the sheer number of cheap scoring units you can overwhelm your opponent with... but now they're only half as good, as a single scoring unit of his can be surrounded by guard squads and just say "who cares, we sill own this"


Anyway, to the detachment itself. You must take a command (which is either a company command squad or a tank commander, so a standard HQ for an infantry/standard army or a tank based army) All good so far.

Core choices are the Emperors Shield Infantry Company, or the Emperors Fist armoured company. Taking one of these will enable you to field up to three auxiliary choices, which I shall come to later. But basically, what you have here are the building blocks for either a tank army, or an infantry/mixed forces one. So let's look at those core choices in more detail.

Tanks

I'll start with the Emperors Fist, or Tank Company. In this you get a tank commander, 3 leman russ squadrons, and 1-3 enginseers. So a minimum of 5 LR and a enginseer. The enginseers give the tanks a bit more survivability (apart from the obvious repair rolls, if they are within 6" the opponent rolls two dice on the vehicle damage table and discards the highest. Any tank within 12" of the commander becomes BS4. Plus there is a cumulative effect to being tank shocked/rammed by this formation, which is nice though I don't see this getting much use.

Now these look quite good, but put 5 LR out there, plus presumably your Command Choice of a Tank Commander for another 2 (but if you're gonna hope for the increased BS warlord trait, you might as well make it 3) we're looking at 8 Leman Russes and probably a good 1600 points spent... not much left for those auxiliaries we are now allowed. Also, hate to be the spoiler of things here, but straight away you won't be issuing many orders, or shooting many lasguns. The main benefits of the detachment are already out of the window... in fact, there's little point taking the detachment at all - you might as well just pile extra Leman Russes into this formation and roll with just this one formation as your army, if you're feeling in a track happy kind of mood.

So a good formation, but probably best to run it alone and sod the detachment it's supposed to unlock.

So that brings us on to...

Infantry

The Emperors Shield infantry company... it's made up of a Company Command Squad, and 3 Emperors Shield Infantry Platoons. Ok, so what are they? Well an ESIP (I got sick of typing Emperor) consists of 1 infantry platoon (which must have at least 5 infantry units, and I am hoping to hell that includes heavy weapon/specialist weapon squads or this formation is worse than I thought) and 1-3 units of sentinels. The platoon is not allowed to take transports. So we're paying a sentinel tax (much as I love the model, it is fairly useless in game) to gain the ability for our guardsmen to move through cover when near said sentinel. Plus issue an order that let's you count as being stationary for shooting purposes... hence why I hope heavy weapon teams count as infantry choices otherwise this is fairly pointless. As part of the big squad, they gain the ability to issue FRFSRF to as many units as you want, on a single roll, if they all shoot the same target.

So, let me get this straight... despite giving me such great new objectives as kill stuff with tanks, issue lots of orders, kill lots of targets, and stay in my deployment zone... you want the core of my army to be a mass of infantry, that is meant to advance on the enemy, and it's best trick is to issue a single order to annihilate a single target?

The really frustrating part of this for me is that, I've never known Cadians to be about moving towards the enemy through cover with sentinel support. There is another army that sounds more like. Catachans! If this was done with Catachans, and some different buffs (perhaps even one that made sentinels ok instead of dead weight) then this could be so good! But it's been used for Cadians, so while you could proxy Catachans, you can't include Straken in the list. What an opportunity missed.

Auxiliaries

So, there's a sentinel one, that lets you field between 4 and 12 sentinels, making one of them a sentinel commander and giving them preferred enemy against one unit an the ability to issue orders. This could be a nice little buff, and clearly GW wants to sell some sentinels, but again this SO should have been a Catachan formation, it's what they were known for. They couldn't HAVE tanks, so they relied heavily on sentinels. This is SO them.

There's one I like which is Company Command, 3 units vets (all in transports) plus 1-3 hellhound squadrons... all of which are Obj Sec. They also have preferred enemy against any enemy units within 6" of an obj marker. Now this I like, it's got the all important obj sec and a nice little boost to the units. They are supposed to clear objectives, and that is exactly what they shall do. At the same time, nothing broken, as it only works in that small area, and it's guardsmen and chimera chassis vehicles at the end of the day, it's not the most durable target to deal with. This is how all formations should be - nicely thematic, rules to reflect the background, not broken or stupid.


Next is one I expect will be seen a lot. Company Command in transport, 1-3 enginseers, plus 2 units of Basilisks/Hydras/Wyverns and 1 unit of Manticore/Deathstrike. The Command Squad can issue orders to the tanks, such as split fire, pinning, or ignore cover... yeah, that last one caught my attention too. There's also a little gimmick that a friendly unit with a vox close enough to the target can twin link your rolls. So yes, you can have a Basilisk battery that is twin linked ignore cover bombard your enemies position. Sure, it's gonna take some work to get all three of those components into play, and it'll only work once before your opponent makes sure to kill the command squad/any approaching vox units as an immediate priority next game, but it could be quite good fun. Other uses I can see involve giving Hydras their ability to ignore "jink" saves, although they still aren't as good as they used to be...

In an effort to sell Ogryns, they've given us a formation that let's you take 2 units of Ogryns, 2 units of Bullgryns and a commissar. If the big fellas charge the same targets they get better hammer of wraths, which is nice, and if the commissar is nearby they're all fearless... but if you don't already have them (I do, I like them, but I don't play them often) then chances are this won't convince you. Again, this would have been better in a Catachan army.


There is a Guard version of the libraries conclave that tries to do the same thing, but when the lynchpin is a T3 5++ save human rather than a T4 Space Marine in Terminator armour, well suffice to say I can see this one getting broken on turn 1 before it has the chance to do anything every game you go second... and in the game you go first, he'll perils and get shot...

There is a Baneblade (or variants) formation for three of the guys, plus an Enginseer (they REALLY wanna sell those enginseers don't they?) The best bit of this formation is that any target that is hit by 3 or more Primary Weapons from this formation must pass a morale check on 4D6 unless it has gone to ground... I'm sorry what? If anything has survived getting shot by the three biggest guns the Imperial Guard can muster, the chances are they're probably fearless anyway, although Christ knows what would survive that kind of bombardment in the first place. The only way I can see this working is if there are four enemy units, and you shoot the outer three, just clipping the central one for a casualty or two each shot, and then the survivors, being mostly untouched, take the morale check... but that's a hell of a thing to aim for.


Finally, there is a flyer one... 3 squadrons of Vendettas or Valkyries. They all arrive from reserve together, and their trick is they can do a low flight - they take dangerous terrain tests if they pass over terrain that is more than 3" tall and cannot jink, however any troops that do a grav chute insertion that turn do not scatter. Thus removing the risk for the troops from that manoeuvre. So if you have a clear patch of terrain and perhaps an enemy knight or titan that absolutely has to die, then sure risk the valks to get those meltavets into the sweet spot... Risky but could be worthwhile.

They also have all the rules for the guard superheavies, which is handy of course, and the rules for the assassins. Plus some Tau stuff that looks as much a mixed bag as the guard stuff, but there seemed to be more highlights there, plus a far better "Decurion" (Core choice is the Hunter Cadre you'd probably take anyway, or a Retaliation Cadre, either of which unlocks 1-10 Auxiliaries. Some of which, like I said, are rather nice.)


In (More Detailed) Summary

This book is worth picking up for a Tau player, and being borrowed from said player by their guard friend. If you don't have a Tau friend, then it's a judgement call about whether you purchase it or not. It's not a complete waste, there are some nice things in here... it's just not what I was hoping for.


There are a couple of worthwhile formations, but I doubt I will see them as part of a Cadian Battle Group. I shall most likely see them as add ons to other armies, probably Space Marines enjoying some twin linked ignores cover basilisks to mop up what their skyhammer annihilation force missed...

Ironically, the only time I could ever envisage myself attempting to build the Cadian Battle Group, would be as a counts as Catachan army, where the plethora of sentinels and ogryns would make sense. I'll include the valks too, as they fit the look of the Vietnam inspired Catachans quite well. Just a shame I'd either have to leave Straken out or try to shoehorn him in as some sort of ally really...

So, sorry this went on a bit longer than I originally intended, I should have probably split it into two halves, but hey it's written now so fuck it. I shall go back and put a warning at the top about the length, and I am certainly glad I put that intro summary in there...

4 comments:

  1. Yeah it is a little disappointing with the cadian core formations. The simple addition of objective secured would have made the infantry core a hell of a lot better without being game breaking. While fitting the theme of what the army is about. Die heroically/horrifically while trying to secure an objective. In contrast to the tau formations this is a bit of a miss. Things like the riptide formation are just evil broken and shouldn't be used outside of a tournament. At least you get some decent tactical objectives and the artillery formation is a great addition to most guard armies, hey you're probably taking wvyerns anyway.

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  2. I take the wyverns because they're twin lonked ignore cover... at S4 AP6. If I could have twin linked ignore cover str9 AP3, I'd take that instead ;)

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  3. Or two of basilisk... sure I can only order one per turn, but the other set can shoot something that isn't in cover... not every target is gonna be in cover... :P

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