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    Default Astra Militarum Tactica

    Ok guys, you know the drill

    This is something I should have done a few months ago but haven't really had the chance to do, this is my first proper 7th Edition Tactica and as such it is quite a long one (something I am trying to address in future series').

    Make sure to not reply to this post until the last section - Manticores and Deathstrikes - has been posted! Thank you all!

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    HQ's Part I

    Commissar Yarrick

    Overview

    Historically one of the tougher choices when selecting a HQ for Astra Militarum forces is deciding between either a Company Command Squad or a Lord Commissar. On the one hand you get a Warlord that counts as between five and eight models that can issue Orders and provide all sorts of special abilities, and on the other a character that stops all your nearby infantry from fleeing the field. Both have their merits and until the new codex I would have generally said there is no clear victor, but then along comes an iconic unique character that flawlessly combines the best of both worlds.

    Commissar Yarrick has been given some significant additions and a hefty points drop from his previous incarnation in an attempt to make him match the background of a born leader and a battle-hardened soldier. Where Yarrick previously was just a tough as nails Lord Commissar that was hard to fully beat down, the new one now has the same capabilities as a Company Commander and can thus direct your forces while also making sure they don't run away. This makes Yarrick a true generalist HQ choice that will function incredibly well in almost any match-up, though his value as a cheap denial of a Slay the Warlord victory point is also noteworthy.

    The old traits of Yarrick are mostly all there, between the various tweaked Commissar rules affording his attached unit a guaranteed pass on most Leadership-based tests at the cost of an unlucky soldiers' life, bringing the pain with some nasty Strength 6 AP2 Unwieldy attacks and being one of the few normal humans to carry a Storm Bolter. His gimmick of getting back up on a 3+ similar to Necron Ever Living rolls is identical, but now Yarrick has both the Eternal Warrior special rule and a 4+ invulnerable save to really tank some damage.

    Even despite losing out on forcing opponents to re-roll successful to wound roll against his Toughness 4, the addition of a 4+ invulnerable save and Eternal Warrior means he will "die" far less often with saves against power weapons and ignoring Instant Death. A Toughness 4 character with 4+ armour and a 4+ invulnerable save is nearly on par with a Space Marine Captain without upgrades for defence, but throw in the Iron Will and Eternal Warrior and you have yourself a Warlord that is incredibly unlikely to ever give up Slay the Warlord. His Commissar abilities and melee prowess serve to make Yarrick a great value package as-is, and that is before one even considers the rest of his abilities.

    Yarrick has a guaranteed Warlord Trait that allows friendly Astra Militarum units within 12" to ignore Morale tests for losing 25% of their unit as casualties to a shooting attack. For an army that is heavily based around infantry-centric gun-lines, this is quite possibly the best Warlord Trait you could ask for - couple this with all friendly units within 6" of Yarrick using his Leadership value of 10 and you can see why many competitive players have sworn by the old dog.

    While Yarrick strangely doesn't confer Stubborn - and no longer provides Fearless - the Summary Execution rules mitigate this problem for his unit at least, so there's no change of him or his unit running of the table. This makes him the perfect complement to a Primaris Psyker in a blob squad where Yarrick can act as both a bodyguard and fulfill the role of a Ministorum Priest by keeping the unit in check. A nice touch is that Yarrick also isn't reserved strictly to melee combat as far as damage output is concerned as he can use both his Storm Bolter and the Bale Eye to good effect with Ballistic Skill 5. The latter is effectively a Hot-Shot Laspistol that can be fired alongside the Storm Bolter which gives Yarrick a nice little attack for softening enemy units before a charge.

    Of course, where Yarrick has seen the biggest change is in the addition of both the Voice of Command and Senior Officer special rules which sees him styled as a Company Commander in disguise. This means that not only can Yarrick issue Orders just like any other "Commander" model in the Astra Militarum, he can issue up to two Orders per turn and gets access to the strongest of these normally exclusive to Company Commanders. Orders are similar to classic psychic powers where they are based on a Leadership test, but their main value comes from opponents having absolutely no say in their application - Orders can't be stopped or denied! Not only is this a serious boon over psychic powers in general, but the fact that many of the Orders are so powerful - giving an entire unit Ignores Cover on its ranged attacks, or affording a squad both the Monster Hunter and Tank Hunter rules - sees that Yarrick's value is amplified exponentially as a support character.

    When you consider that he also provides Leadership 10 to units within 6" - but not for Orders - Yarrick quickly stamps himself as one of the premier characters in the book. He stops your gunline from fleeing much like a Ministorum Priest, he is a nasty melee character similar to a kitted out Lord Commissar, he is an incredibly tough Warlord akin to a Tank Commander and he doles out high-tier Orders just as a Company Command Squad. Yarrick is the complete package and quite possibly the best HQ choice available to the Astra Militarum while he is easily the best special character in the codex. There is no army list that cannot be improved through the use of Commissar Yarrick.

    A quick note for those confused about Yarrick having both the Chain of Command and Senior Officer special rules. Most groups and players are ruling that Yarrick can be the Warlord as long as you don't also take a Company Command Squad, as otherwise there would be no reason for him to have a Warlord Trait.


    Best Uses

    Commissar Yarrick belongs in the heart of an infantry based gunline sporting Artillery units and all kinds of heavy support options, whether it be Manticores or Leman Russ Battle Tanks. The sheer devastation that can be wrought by giving a Heavy Weapons Team Ignores Cover or Sabre Defence Platforms both Monster Hunter and Tank Hunter is insane and justifies Yarrick's inclusion alone. To then make the most of his other abilities, stick him in the middle of nice and big Infantry Squad blob consisting of at least thirty models plus characters; this unit will anchor your defensive line and with Yarrick and some psychic support this unit will be absolutely devastating as well.

    You want to make the most of Yarrick's Leadership 10 bubble as well as his 12" range on ignoring Morale tests against shooting casualties and the "unit" requirement means you don't have to bunch up too much either. While you can use Yarrick more aggressively in a transport as part of a mechanized force, it will waste his Orders for several turns until your units disembark from their transports while also remembering that Guardsmen of all kinds don't belong in an assault except as a defensive or counter-attacking last resort. They are at home blasting the opponents to pieces while characters such as Yarrick are the lynchpins - though Yarrick is darned tough, try to keep him towards the rear of the unit he joins as you don't want him to die unnecessarily. If you want Yarrick in combat, join him to a unit of Bullgryns and an allied Land Raider Crusader for maximum devastation. The old dog also does well manning an Aegis Defence Line or Bastion weapon emplacement with Ballistic Skill 5, but keep in mind that he will still have to shoot at whatever unit the rest of the squad chooses (though you could expend an Order with Smite at Will to Split Fire).



    Company Command Squads

    Overview

    Perhaps the most obvious example of the "drown them in bodies" approach of the Astra Militarum is that their traditional "Commander" option - equivalent to a Space Marine Captain or Ork Warboss - is actually a squad and not a single independent character model. While the Warlord him or herself is just the Company Commander, it is interesting that you the bodyguard is already factored into the (low) base price of the general.

    At its core, a Company Commander Squad consists of five models, these being four Veterans and one Company Commander. The Veterans are as per the Troops choice unit and thus are essentially Ballistic Skill 4 Guardsmen with a heavily expanded array of options, while the Company Commander is a three wound model with weak stats befitting their nature as more of a leader than a fighter. While you can upgrade the Veterans in the unit to have nasty ranged weapons while giving the Commander better saves and deadly melee options, the fact remains that they are Toughness 3 models with mostly sub-par stats outside of their Ballistic Skill and Leadership. You do not want these in a direct engagement because of this and their low numbers so I would rarely recommend you kit them out for close encounters.

    On the flip side, however, comes some amazing support abilities that really distinguish the Company Command Squad as a premier HQ choice for an Astra Militarum army, and these are manifested as Orders. These act much like psychic powers but with no direct way for the opponent to stop them and no actual risks for failing to manifest them, while the effects of each are generally rather strong. Being able to confer Precision Shots on fifty individual Guardsmen models as part of a blob squad can lead to some hilarious character sniping shenanigans, while firing an extra shot per model for ten Tempestus Scions armed with AP3 hot-shot lasguns at rapid fire range will often be devastating against Space Marines.

    What distinguishes the Company Command Squad from a standard Platoon Command Squad is not only the improved profile of all models involved, but the additional functionality in regards to Orders. The Company Commander gains the Senior Officer special rule which is the capability to manifest two Orders a turn rather than just one, though it also unlocks three exclusive Orders that can be insanely powerful with effects like giving Monster Hunter to a squad of Veterans armed with plasma guns or instantly rallying a fleeing Guardsmen unit. Pair all this up with a very low cost across the unit, items like the Regimental Standard that are a literal god-send for your lower Leadership forces and a nice Leadership 9 Warlord option and there is little doubt the Company Command Squad is one of the highest value HQ choices around.


    How to Equip Them

    This one really depends on whether you transport them and if so what transport you purchase for the squad. If they are on foot and part of an infantry-centric gunline, maybe give them a heavy weapon team with a lascannon that makes full use of their Ballistic Skill 4. I also consider Carapace Armour a must for a Command Squad on foot and especially so if the Company Commander is your Warlord choice, while a Regimental Standard is a good and cheap option for making sure your various Infantry Squads and Heavy Weapon Teams don't flee.

    Conversely, a unit mounted up in a Chimera will probably want either meltaguns or plasma guns, with the former being my preference for Command Squads given you can't really afford to lose them as a HQ choice. If you are playing Elysians or otherwise mount your Command Squad in a Valkyrie or Vendetta, between two and four flamers or a heavy flamer thrown in are great for clearing objectives but those options are generally better suited to the Ballistic Skill 3 Platoon Command Squad. Again, I would have to recommend melta or plasma weapons here, though melta weapons would probably edge out the plasma weapons in a flying transport because of the sheer mobility.

    Generally speaking you want the points total to be low for this unit unless you are investing in either mobility or survivability as their main role is not to do damage but instead survive (especially if they are the Warlord unit) and buff your other squads through Orders, so try and keep the upgrades to a minimum. Camo Cloaks are a great upgrade but be wary of the fact that the Company Commander has to pay quite a bit more for them than the Veterans; otherwise, giving Stealth to a unit that will almost always be in cover is worth the points in almost any game. As far as the Regimental Advisors are concerned, the Astropath got a big buff in the new rules and is very much worth your time as - to my knowledge - (s)he is the cheapest Mastery Level 1 psyker in the game now and getting a bonus to both Deny the Witch and warp charge dice is always handy.

    The Officer of the Fleet and Master of Ordnance are cheap options that either provide reserves bonuses or "free" Basilisk shots, though both are generally merely decent as only reserves heavy lists require the former while the latter is completely unreliable. Both are inexpensive though and are thus worth your time if you are playing with lots of flyers or outflanking units, or you just want an extra Basilisk shot every turn. As before, I would still recommend only taking the options you need as you don't want to invest too heavily into between five and eight Toughness 3 models with pitiful saves.

    As for the Heirlooms of Conquest, the best of these for a Company Command Squad is undoubtedly the exclusive Kurov's Aquila. While this particular option costs as much alone as a Command Squad without upgrades, the incredible boost it provides to a stacked gunline list is more than worth the investment. That it affects units within 6" and not individual models is the kicker as you can use this to affect multiple units at a time with ease. The prime units to use in conjunction with this are Leman Russ Executioners, blob Infantry squads and possibly plasma-wielding Veterans as re-rolling 1s for units with lots of shots or Gets Hot is a god-send. To make the most of the Aquila, keep the Command Squad behind a wall of tanks such as Leman Russ Executioners as they will be target number one for any sane opponent. If the opponent brings Barrage weapons or can otherwise get at your squad through mobility or ignoring line of sight, place them in a building such as Bastion or even a Chimera to protect them but also increase the effective range of the effect. On the former, be wary that you will have to use the battlements for issuing Orders seeing as they cannot be issued when embarked in a building.

    The other upgrades for a Command Squad are a bit more situational and less worthwhile, with the Tactical Auto Reliquary probably being the stand-out of the other two Command Squad exclusive items. Orders are fantastic and having a high chance of getting Inspired Tactics each turn is awesome, but I would only say this is really worthwhile if you have lots of Officers and Orders to spread around. The Laurels seem useful at first glance especially as the range is identical to the Aquila but when you consider that a Ministorum Priest that confers straight Fearless on a unit has the same cost, I'm really not sold on this. The Deathmask is a nice bit of wargear but you have to remember that a Company Commander already has a 5+ invulnerable save from his or her Refractor Field, while It Will Not Die really isn't that crash hot on a Toughness 3 model lacking Eternal Warrior. Unfortunately, the Aquila really is the only worthwhile Heirloom of Conquest for a Company Commander.


    Best Uses

    I do tend to prefer Company Command Squads either hiding in a Chimera at the back of your deployment zone where they can use the hatch to dole out Orders, or just sitting in terrain behind your wall of infantry and tanks. The main advantage a Command Squad has over a Lord Commissar as a mandatory HQ choice are the significant benefits that Orders provide, particularly the ones exclusive to Senior Officers. If you just want a Warlord that hides in an infantry squad and keeps your units from fleeing, the Lord Commissar is the superior option; if you want one that really buffs the damage output of your army though, the Company Command Squad is the best option.

    Using the Ballistic Skill 4 of the Veterans on a Heavy Weapon Team with a lascannon or missile launcher is not a bad idea at all so that the squad can still be useful aside from Orders, but just keep in mind that this is a unit you want to keep as bare as possible as they are incredibly fragile. Sit back, use regular Guardsmen and Veteran Squads as a buffer and proceed to give out what amounts to Astra Militarum exclusive psychic powers with all the benefits and none of the downsides. If your Company Command Squad is on foot I recommend the Camo Cloaks first of all as while the Medic is a cheap upgrade I feel Stealth is a bit more universal given the sheer weight of Strength 6 shooting most armies can dish out - Carapace Armour is also a worthwhile option on the Veterans and Commander.


    Regimental Advisors

    Overview

    Astropath - This was previously what I considered the weakest Regimental Advisor back in 6th Edition because the old psyker rules and low Leadership of the Astropath made it a limited and unreliable psyker at best. Enter 7th Edition with psychic tests no longer requiring Leadership tests, greater emphasis placed on generating warp charge points and Psychic Focus; Astropaths may as well be an entirely new unit. They are the cheapest psyker in the game, know two Telepathy powers - being able to throw a Psychic Shriek or roll up Invisibility means these are always scary - and get to hide in a Command Squad that is already built as a support unit. They are simply fantastic value for generating an extra warp charge point alone, but the two Telepahty powers add the icing on the sweet cake.

    Officer of the Fleet - This is a cheap little character that gives the Astra Militarum a moving Comms Relay that also affects enemy reserves in a pinch. Based on a Leadership test at the start of each of his or her turns that is taken on his own mediocre value of seven, this is a useful tool either for or against a heavily reserve based list. The only problem here is that such builds aren't that common for Astra Militarum in particular unless you are running Elysian Drop Troops, that and you can't plan for whether an opponents' army list will feature reserves at all. Still, at such a low cost and with a such a good ability that stacks multiple times - take two so that opponents' reserves arrive on a 5+ -if you think reserves are going to be present in some form then an Officer of the Fleet is a decent purchase. Just remember that he cannot use the Company Commanders' Leadership value to use his ability and as such is unreliable at best - an unfortunate and rather massive nerf to an otherwise valuable model.


    Master of Ordnance - If there's one Regimental Advisor that typifies the "if you have spare points" approach to purchasing models, it is the Master of Ordnance. This upgrade character gives you a whopping Strength 9 AP3 Ordnance Barrage Large Blast shooting attack every turn that he is on the battlefield and not sniffing worms, or what is essentially an even more inaccurate Basilisk battery at roughly one sixth of the cost. While this will rarely hit what you actually want it to, being Strength 9 AP3 with both Ordnance and Barrage means there is very little this won't hurt or flat our destroy, and being able to fire this without line of sight means the Master of Ordnance can remain safe at least for a few turns. As soon as this actually hits something - which it will if it gets to fire at least three times - it will make the Masters' points back immediately and with a bit of luck it can easily get casualties with a combined worth of several hundred points. If you have a Company Command Squad sitting still behind your gunline, the Master of Ordnance is virtually a must-include because of the insane damage potential at such a low cost.


    Best Uses

    Astropath - I feel the Astropath can be put to good use in a more mobile Company Command Squad because of the "free" Psychic Shriek attained through Psychic Focus and the mostly medium ranged Telepathy psychic powers. I prefer Chimeras as they are decently durable, allow the Company Commander to continue issuing Orders and provide a fire point for the Astropath to cast witchfires out of. Of course, the best Telepathy powers are blessings and maledictions and as such you'll want to be disembarked from a vehicle or building wherever possible, but having access to a durable and mobile transport will often be pivotal to keeping the Command Squad alive. I generally don't believe in a front-line Command Squad even with an Astropath itching to use Psychic Shriek so don't use the unit aggressively despite how alluring that power can be. Try and keep them at medium range and use Psychic Shriek as a nasty defensive tool to hopefully force opponents to deal with you through other means. Otherwise, Telepathy blessings and maledictions are more than enough to keep an Astropath occupied. If you get Invisibility, combine it with either blob squads or Leman Russ squadrons so that your opponents will absolutely despise you!

    Officer of the Fleet - Combining an Officer of the Fleet with a Comms Relay of some kind almost guarantees that your reserves will automatically arrive on turn two, but gone is the ability to impose a penalty on your own rolls for tactical play. That you still can against enemies is a nice way to play with an opponent packing flyers or Outflanking units and give you early dominance in a game - something that the Astra Militarum with their insane ranges excel at. The Officer does not need to be stationary to use their ability but they do need to actually be on the board for it, so keeping them in Reserves when they themselves affect Reserves rolls is mostly pointless. Try to combine these in a list with multiple Vendettas or Valkyries and masses of Tempestus Scions to make the most of their special rule.

    Master of Ordnance - Seeing as non-vehicle models cannot fire Ordnance weapons unless they either remain stationary or have the Relentless special rule, a Master of Ordnance consigns your Company Command Squad to sitting still for most of the game. Hiding in a building, ruin or transport is fine if you use them as as bunker and not as mobile protection is preferable seeing as the Master of Ordnance doesn't need line of sight to call an artillery strike. Try to aim this at juicy targets like Toughness 4 multiple wound models, infantry blobs lacking effective cover, medium vehicles that have already suffered hull point damage, important characters and so on. Ultimately, a Strength 9 AP3 Ordnance Barrage Large Blast poses a major threat to roughly 90% of all units in Warhammer 40,000 so you can rarely go wrong with targets unless you aim at 2+ armoured models. Combining the Master of Ordnance with Kurov's Aquila is pretty darn nasty for essentially guaranteeing you will wound whatever the strike hits!



    Lord Castellan Creed

    Overview

    To review the Lord Castellan is to directly contrast his worth against a standard Company Commander; after all, what is Creed if not an upgrade character over the leader of your Command Squads? Unfortunately, I feel that Creed really doesn't justify his staggering points cost - relative to a Company Command Squad - enough to see regular competitive use outside of a few very specific builds. Regardless, what he brings to the table is undeniably impressive.

    Creed uniquely has Leadership 10 as a Warlord option in a Company Command Squad, something you would usually have to employ Commissar Yarrick or a Lord Commissar to achieve. While this sadly won't help out friendly units for the purposes of Orders, certain Warlord Traits available to Creed through the Command table can really make the most out of this for your regular infantry.

    Of course, Creed wouldn't be so famous if it weren't for his Strategic Genius and ability to inspire his soldiers to greater acts of service in the Emperors' name and thankfully at least one of these is still present in the new codex. Gone is the ability to freely Outflank a single unit of your choice, but Creed may now issue up to three Orders a turn and still counts as a Senior Officer for the purposes of using higher tier Orders. This is a fantastic ability alone but when combined with Creed's special rule that forces all failed Orders he issues to be re-rolled, Creed quite easily stamps himself as the best Officer character in the codex purely in terms of successfully issuing Orders.

    While an almost army-wide Leadership 7 or so isn't great, giving each of your units what amounts to a free Vox Caster is immense and effectively doubles your chances of getting an Order off. That Creed can issue three a turn naturally and potentially up to four with the right Warlord Trait allows him to freely buff so many of your units to ungodly levels.

    Creed has a few other very nifty traits that help stamp out a place for him in the codex as a bit more than just an expensive upgrade, and chief among these is his ability to generate two Warlord traits. Creed can either generate one each from two separate tables or both on one chart - generally speaking I prefer to attempt to maximise Creed's insane potential with Orders by rolling twice on the Astra Militarum Warlord Traits table. This is because the last two results both boost his Orders even further by allowing him to issue up to four and increasing the range of these by 6" to a total 18" bubble.

    While Preferred Enemy and Relentless won't really help a Command Squad unless it is joined by a Master of Ordnance, the other traits are also useful either for reducing the amount of morale checks your squads have to make or allowing up to D3 units in his detachment to Outflank. The last of these is obviously a boosted version of his old unique ability with a restriction on it affecting his detachment only, though being available to Creed based on a random roll is nice enough I guess.

    Where Creed starts to fall down is when one considers the value of Orders issued by multiple Senior Officers versus those taken by one model. Creed's exorbitant cost exceeds that of a standard Company Command Squad and he even replaces the Commander rather than simply being added to the squad. For the price of Creed, you could take two Company Command Squads and have the points spare to give one of them a Master of Ordnance or a few other upgrades. While Creed does offer a discount in regards to Vox Casters by forcing his unsuccessful Orders to be re-rolled, a pair of Command Squads can issue up to four Orders a turn and has double the survivability by spreading these out over two units.

    Creed can issue three a turn but has identical survivability to a Company Commander that purchases cheap Carapace Armour, and he is a huge points investment for a single unit comprised entirely (unless you count Nork Deddog) of Toughness 3 models with poor saves. When you consider that Company Command Squads are among the most obvious targets for a smart opponent when trying to break down an Astra Militarum gun-line, taking a pair is almost always better in any situation than taking one with Creed for a roughly equivalent points investment.

    What further gives players legitimate reason to avoid Creed competitively is the potential to replicate his traits at a lower cost through a single Company Commander. Vox Casters are incredibly cheap and especially so when taken in blob squads that only need one, while the sixth Warlord Trait on the Astra Militarum table allows a stock Company Commander to effortlessly mimic Creed. About the only unique trait to Creed otherwise is wielding a pair of hot-shot laspistols that afford him the Gunslinger rule automatically, but with a tiny range and low Strength this is an almost laughable equipment choice on a Toughness 3 model that almost never wants to get close to enemy units.

    The key to competitive Astra Militarum lists is a mixture of psychic powers and Orders; defending models or units that provide such abilities is paramount as they are the best force multipliers available to your forces. Protecting Primaris Psykers is easy enough when they can hide in all manner of units, but protecting the sources of Orders is an altogether different proposition as Yarrick aside they are all naturally part of a small squad with pathetic survivability. The key to keeping your Orders flowing is thus spreading them out across four or more units in standard sized games so that your opponents can't just single them out and destroy them all at once. Creed may as well be anathema to this strategy as his insane cost and inherent fragility not only waste valuable points that could be used to spread Orders around intelligently, but also make him the most obvious and easy target imaginable.


    Best Uses

    Maximising Creed's abilities means putting as much emphasis on Orders as you can - in the new codex this is pretty much Creed's signature ability, after all. This involves blob Infantry Squads, massive Conscript units - both blob types should have Ministorum Priest and Primaris Psyker support - Heavy Weapon Teams, Sabre Defence Platforms and the other various Artillery type units offered by Forge World such as the Basilisk Artillery Batteries and Thudd Guns. All of the above units not only are legal targets for Orders as none qualify as vehicles, but they are all among the most devastating units you can field in terms of raw firepower. Giving - for example - a trio of Basilisks flat Ignores Cover and Tank Hunters will make them among the scariest barrage units in the game, while abusing Go to Ground and then immediately issuing the "Get Back in the Fight" Order with a Stubborn Commissar ensures your blobs will be advancing with minimized casualties.



    Colour Sergeant Kell

    Overview

    Even though bodyguards for Command Squads have effectively disappeared in the new codex, Kell still remains as the loyal herald and standard bearer of Lord Castellan Creed. Unfortunately - yet again - not only is Kell a shadow of his former self, he was and still is just not a worthwhile investment of points. In the previous codex, Kell could be purchased separately to Creed and allowed Orders to be taken on the Officers' Leadership in the Company Command Squad, whether it was Creed or a standard Company Commander. This actually provided a legitimate reason for Creed to have a higher Leadership value over a Company Commander, but now not only is Creed a requirement to take Kell but Orders can only use Kell's Leadership and not that of the reigning Officer. Taking Orders on Leadership 8 is certainly better than taking them on Leadership 7 but it is no way worth the mandatory one hundred and fifty-plus point investment - and that doesn't even include the mandatory Company Command Squad!

    For now though, let us look at the positives for Colour Sergeant Kell. First off, he is essentially a Company Commander with one less wound, Attacks and Leadership. He lacks an invulnerable save but makes up for it with a stock 4+ armour save and Initiative 4. He is kitted for melee combat with both a power sword and a power fist, having three attacks base with the former and two base with the latter. Unfortunately, being Weapon Skill and Initiative 4 with only a few attacks considering his base Strength 3 means Kell really can't be considered a true combat character but is instead a nice deterrent against light assault elements that would otherwise mop up your Command Squads. Kell also saves you points by coming stock with an always useful Regimental Standard that is key to success with blob lists that either don't feature Ministorum Priests - Commissars for everyone! - or if you have lots of Veterans and other various smaller units. Kell thankfully retains his "Look Out - Argh!" rule and as such characters in the same unit as him automatically pass Look Out Sir rolls, though this does unfortunately mean Kell can get picked out very quickly if you don't want your characters to take wounds.

    Sadly, that's where all the good stuff halts in its tracks. Kell is a Toughness 3, two wound model with only a 4+ armour save for defence that is more expensive by himself than an entire Company Command Squad despite being inferior to a Company Commander in terms of survivability. Sure, he's a better bodyguard than a standard Veteran, but what about all the unnecessary equipment he has? A Company Command Squad should never be in combat as even with characters like Kell or Nork Deddog, the important portions of the unit - the Officers like Creed or the Company Commander - will be slaughtered almost instantly. Toughness 3 models with weak stats and saving throws do not belong in close combat with such low numbers and high value. That Look Out - Argh! rule that Kell has? Every time Creed has a wound allocated to him and you obviously take a Look Out Sir, Kell has to take the wound(s) first before any other models, meaning that any random squad of Scouts with Sniper weapons will kill Kell in record time without ever actually targeting him.

    As cool as having both a power fist and a power sword on a Guardsman is, they are rendered superfluous as the Command Squad will rarely get into combat. Kell isn't even that great of a wielder for these weapons as Strength 3 AP3 melee attacks on Weapon Skill 4 are unimpressive, while Strength 6 AP2 attacks at Initiative 1 are hardly worth talking about. Perhaps Kell's cost could be justified if he really benefited Orders much like Creed does - who also isn't worth his points - but the fact that they changed his signature ability so that units only benefit from Leadership 8 and not Leadership 9 or 10 gives almost no reason for you to include him with Creed. Re-rolls on Leadership 7 aren't great but it is more advisable compared to spending almost another century's worth of points on the Command Squad. It is painful enough that Kell isn't a worthwhile option on his own, but making the expensive Creed mandatory to feature the Colour Sergeant sees that no competitive list should ever feature him. Did I mention that Kell also replaces a Veteran. Why!?


    Best Uses

    Seeing as Creed is a requirement to employ Kell and the Lord Castellan is suited to an infantry or artillery heavy force, it comes as no surprise that Kell belongs in the same kind of list as - after all - he is a bodyguard to Creed. Even with Kell providing some melee punch I still recommend keeping this incredibly expensive Command Squad hidden, preferably in a hidden Chimera where they are mostly safe from incoming fire. The unfortunate aspect of Kell's rules is that he must take wounds for his Company Commander and thus Barrage weapons are incredibly deadly against him even if he is nowhere near the centre of the blast. Just as Creed "saves" you points on Vox Casters, Kell "saves" points on Commissars if you plan on fielding more than three which is at least something to consider if you plan on employing him. Just as Creed needs to stay within 12" of friendly units to issue Orders, so too must Kell remain in close proximity to the rest of your forces. Ultimately, as Kell always follows Creed around and is darned expensive, the best way to use him is just to hide the Command Squad so he won't be forced into taking bullets for characters your opponents attempt to single out.

    - - - Updated - - -

    HQ's Part II

    Colonel Straken

    Overview

    Though it may be unfortunate, I can only really begin this segment with a blunt statement; Colonel Straken follows in the footsteps of Lord Castellan Creed by providing awesome abilities but paying far too much for them. Sadly, Straken exacerbates this issue further and ensures that he will be reserved either for themed lists or much larger games where his abilities become more valuable. Still, there is a lot to like about the gung-ho officer with his wealth of wargear, improved saves and melee-oriented unit buffs. This includes a plasma pistol fired at Ballistic Skill 4, a 3+ armour save and a 5+ invulnerable save.

    First up, Straken has a much improved profile over a standard Company Commander with one of the few 3+ armour saves in the codex, a whopping Strength 6 and always dependable Toughness 4. With Weapon Skill 5 and four attacks base due to have a pair of close combat weapons, Straken brings the pain in close combat like no other Astra Militarum character as he combines both Smash and Monster Hunter to destroy even the toughest enemies. Despite the nerf to Smash where the model can make only a single attack at double their Strength, that Straken does so at Strength 10 and also re-rolls armour penetration rolls for that attack makes him roughly equivalent to a lesser Tyranid monstrous creature in combat. That is the alluring aspect of Straken; he is essentially a monstrous creature in terms of melee prowess and one that also heavily buffs your friendly units.

    What is intriguing about Straken is that he is one of a handful of characters in the Astra Militarum codex to have the actual Fearless special rule rather than Summary Execution which is perfect for a melee oriented character. For a squad as small and important as a Company Command Squad this is always useful - though definitely not as much as it would be for a blob Infantry Squad. As good as his four Strength 6 AP2 melee attacks base are though, the buffs Straken provides to a mixed role or shooting oriented Company Command Squad are significant. Providing Relentless to his unit through the Implacable Determination Warlord Trait allows the unit to remain mobile in a Chimera and fire both a Heavy Weapon Team and a Master of Ordnance out of the two fire points, for example. Monster Hunter also works on the units' shooting as it applies to every model in a squad so long as just one model possesses the rule; a Master of Ordnance that re-rolls to-wound rolls against monstrous creatures is sure to hurt ground-based Tyranid armies! Pack in two Orders per turn as a Senior Officer and Straken really mixes up the buffs and damage potential admirably.

    Perhaps Straken's best and most distinct trait is that due to his Cold Steel and Courage special rule both he and all friendly Astra Militarum units within 6" gain both the Counter Attack and Furious Charge rules. For Straken himself this means he will have five Strength 6 AP2 attacks in the first round of combat regardless of whether he charges or not, though if he does assault then his strikes will be resolved at a whopping Strength 7 AP2. A Company Command Squad with these rules gives it slightly more reason to charge - though merely including Straken obviously makes this reasoning superfluous - but what it does for blob Infantry Squads and massive Conscript units is ridiculous. Attach a Ministorum Priest to fifty Guardsmen with five Heavy Weapon Teams bearing lascannons or autocannons - your choice - and keep Straken's Command Squad near. When an enemy inevitably tries to charge the Guardsmen blob because it is typically at its' weakest, they will have to endure up to and potentially above 100 shots in Overwatch and then suffer through around 100 attacks that can re-roll to wound via the Priest. Wow! It bears mentioning that Bullgryns armed with power mauls will annihilate almost any vehicle or frail monstrous creature they come across with this buff as well.

    Of course, this is where the issues really start to become apparent. Bullgryns and possibly blob unit aside, Astra Militarum squads simply do not belong in close combat and that most definitely includes Company Command Squads. The army is made up almost exclusively of Toughness 3 infantry with mediocre stats and either a 5+ or 4+ armour save, the former being by far the more common outside of Militarum Tempestus lists. Aside from characters that no longer get logical discounts on their upgrades compared to Space Marine equivalents, the army lacks proper melee weapons and doesn't bring enough quality attacks to really worry the melee death stars. Drowning enemies in Strength 3 attacks unfortunately can only go so far, though obviously buffs like Prescience and the Ministorum Priest prayers help out significantly. In any case, paying excessively for a character that is heavily built around assault and buffing your units for such a purpose in an army that is essentially allergic to close combat generally isn't a great use of the points.

    Then comes possibly my largest issue with Straken and one that just ruins his competitive usage for me, and that is his limitation on being attached only to a Company Command Squad. If Straken was a proper Independent Character much like Yarrick and could slot into any important unit such as a huge blob of Conscripts he would be far more valuable. While being in a Command Squad means less models surrounding him so his 6" buffs and 12" Order range can still work, that it is a unit comprised of between five and eight Toughness 3 models - assuming no Independent Characters - with pitiful saving throws ensures that any smart player will target Straken right from the get go. Straken himself might be reasonably tough with defensive stats almost equivalent to a Space Marine Captain with no upgrades, but lacking Eternal Warrior on a Toughness 4 model when considering his "bodyguards" sees that any form of dedicated firepower will destroy any chance of him reaching combat. This would be all well and good if Straken was like a regular Company Commander and was used solely to provide Orders and other minor buffs, but the fact that Straken is outfitted specifically for close combat and augments your units for such purposes wastes a lot of his potential when used cautiously. His (awesome) background demands otherwise, after all!

    Ultimately, Straken gives your units some ridiculous melee based buffs that turn even basic Guardsmen - providing a friendly Ministorum Priest or Commissar is joined - into rough Hormagaunt equivalents with significantly better equipment. As much as you want him to be in an assault based list, Astra Militarum just don't do that well - you might get mileage out of him in a transport of some kind but getting your other melee units into position is difficult with a lack of in-codex assault transports. Where he is best suited is in a counter-punch list that makes use of the ridiculous firepower that blob Infantry Squads and standard fare static Astra Militarum elements - Wyverns, Manticores, Basilisks and so on - that can out-muscle even medium assault units up close.

    He is just far too expensive to really fit in such a list outside of larger games in the 2000+ range; using him in a Land Raider variant of some sort may be effective but I wouldn't exactly call it efficient when you consider how expensive the combined package is. It doesn't help that Straken himself will get slaughtered by a high Initiative opponent with good wargear such as a Chapter Master with the Burning Blade due to his Initiative 3, but once the old dog gets to strike he will definitely pile on the damage like few others.

    Sadly, this also brings me to my final problem with Straken - his Gung Ho special rule mimics the worst aspect of the Champion of Chaos rule, meaning the Colonel has to always issue and accept challenges. As strong as he is, this is one of the weakest rules any combat character could have - though the 7th Edition tweaks to challenges do certainly help - as being forced to accept a challenge against a deadly monster like Ghazghkull ensures Straken can be taken out of a fight in record time. I think Straken is worth the points you pay for him (and him alone) simply because of how strong he is in melee and how much he affects units like Bullgryns and huge infantry units, but what ruins him for me is that both his cost and the price of making the most of his abilities are far too high for regular sized games. If he could be attached to any unit like Yarrick then Straken would be one of the better choices in the HQ slot by far, but being forced to stick with a mere handful of Toughness 3 5+ armoured models that jack his price up significantly is just too much of a detriment I feel.


    Best Uses

    As much as Straken is built for assaults and pays through the roof for admittedly good capabilities on that front, trying to build an actual melee list with the Astra Militarum is likely out of the question even with the use of Allies. The strength of the army is in its incredibly cheap bodies and efficient firepower; while Straken may not fit into this approach at first glance, what he does for an infantry-based gunline is surprisingly noteworthy. Providing Counter Attack and Furious Charge to huge squads of Guardsmen or Conscripts that will already be a difficult target to shift with either Fearless or Summary Execution is awesome and stacks so well with the ridiculous amount of shots such units can put out in both the Shooting Phase and in Overwatch. That Straken also provides Orders is the icing on the cake, but keeping him alive is a major issue.

    Hiding in a ground transport is feasible but paying for something as durable as a Land Raider probably isn't worth mentioning outside of much larger points limits; instead, use the battlements of buildings and the increased radius of his 6" Cold Steel and Courage rule to really build up a fearsome gunline. Being unable to issue Orders from inside buildings is a downer and thus the only place to hide from Barrage weapons and still issue Orders is in a fragile (side AV10) Chimera. Remember, if even one model is in that range then the whole unit will benefit from the effects.

    I honestly don't recommend trying to get Straken into combat unless you can safely disembark from a building or transport and guarantee reaching combat, but why risk losing all the amazing abilities Straken provides by tossing him into a mess of concentrated attacks? Still, use him in combat if you must; after all, he is likely to annihilate something like a Tyranid Carnifex if he gets the charge! A Heavy Weapon Team and Master of Ordnance are good fits with Straken when considering the "Forwards for the Emperor!" Order that allows a unit to shoot and then run and his Warlord Trait providing Relentless, allowing you to move into line of sight, fire and then Run to safety. I still prefer having the unit sit in a building but such tactics are worth mentioning nonetheless if you don't have some kind of fortification or transport for the Company Command Squad.



    Nork Deddog

    Overview

    After reviewing Colour Sergeant Kell who shares a similar purpose to Nork, it would be understandable to think I would also be down on the hulking Ogryn bodyguard. Thankfully this is most definitely not the case as not only is Nork a far superior option to Kell when taken on each individual's own merits, but Nork can actually be described as a justifiable purchase. Though I still don't really believe in adding melee centric options or models to a Company Command Squad as risking the Commander like that is usually silly, if any choice pushes that delightful red button then it is "The Ultimate Bodyguard".

    Nork is an Ogryn and shares a mostly identical profile to a Bone 'ead with the only stat difference being that he has an extra point in both Initiative and Leadership. He shares the Hammer of Wrath and Stubborn rules - and thus eliminates any real need for a Lord Commissar in a Company Command Squad - while he even carries around a Ripper Gun, Frag Grenades and an improved 4+ armour save. Nork distinguishes himself from the rest of his sizable brethren by having the Feel No Pain and Look Out - Arghh special rules; the former makes him incredibly survivable, while the latter automatically passes on wounds allocated from other characters to Nork. Where Kell suffers from being far too fragile as an expensive bodyguard option, Nork actually succeeds in this role with his whopping three Toughness 5 wounds, 4+ armour save and 5+ Feel No Pain. Nork is arguably the most durable infantry model in the Astra Militarum outside of possibly Commissar Yarrick and thus makes for the perfect bodyguard. Just be aware that due to Majority Toughness rules Nork will usually only get to make use of his Toughness 5 in melee!

    Again like Kell, Nork also automatically passes Glorious Intervention tests and must perform them whenever possible. What further distinguishes him from the Colour Sergeant is that Nork can never be the target of Summary Execution and thus has no fear of being in the same unit as a Lord Commissar. If that wasn't enough, Nork can exchange his four base Strength 5 attacks at Weapon Skill 4 and Initiative 3 for a single Strength 8 AP3 attack with the Concussive special rule, perfect for inflicting Instant Death on Toughness 4 and Toughness 3 multiple wound models. Space Marine Captains lacking Storm Shields, Chaos Lords without a Daemonic Mount or the Mark of Nurgle, Eldar Autarchs, Daemonic Heralds not of the Nurgle variety - all are fodder for the Thunderous Headbutt! This also allows Nork to really threaten vehicles and even already weakened monstrous creatures in combat and presents the Company Command Squad as a difficult rather than easy and obvious target for assaults.

    If Kell didn't compare badly enough to Nork already - especially seeing as the two are near identical in cost if you don't include the Colour Sergeant's mandatory inclusion of Lord Castellan Creed - then the Heroic Sacrifice special rule the latter possesses just blows the poor Colour Sergeant out of the park. Once Nork loses his last wound he can make his full complement of attacks at the Initiative step in which he was slain - and yes, these can be swapped out for a Thunderous Headbutt as well - as a final retribution against his would-be killer(s). This allows Nork to remain a threat even against high Initiative characters such as Chaos Lords, while low Initiative foes would have to endure potentially eight Strength 5 AP- attacks or two Strength 8 AP3 attacks. These attacks are distinguished from his regular strikes by being forced to re-roll failed to hit and to wound rolls with them; it is almost as if making two rounds of attacks wasn't good enough already!

    While I do maintain that a Company Command Squad should never willingly get into close combat unless there is some opportunity to destroy a valuable target - like a tough vehicle with weak rear armour - Nork (and Straken) certainly stamp themselves as potentially worthy of over-turning this mantra. The unfortunate reality is that gunline builds will simply shoot such units off the board and never worry about actually engaging them in close combat, while melee based armies will inevitably have to work through a plethora of fodder infantry and tanks. In that sense, though Nork is worth his points he will probably rate as an unnecessary purchase seeing as you likely would be making a big mistake for the Command Squad to be in combat, or your opponent got exceedingly lucky and their assault units somehow reached your valuable units unmolested.

    I can't stress enough that Nork is by far the best option as a "bodyguard" and should be taken over Kell in almost any situation - even if you take Creed! - but unless you really feel insecure about assault units getting behind your lines and attacking your Command Squad, I can't recommend Nork as I have found his services really aren't required in most games. If Flying Monstrous Creatures and Vanguard Veterans (excluding Blood Angels) could still charge when switching flying modes or arriving from Deep Strike then I think Nork would definitely have a place, but those changes in 7th (and 6th) Edition see Nork's value understandably reduced. This is because the sheer weight of firepower an Astra Militarum list can put out at any range - and particularly up close - should devastate those kinds of units anyway, though obviously ranged suicide squads like Sternguard in Drop Pods care little for this.

    He is much like Straken in that regard where you must ask yourself whether you really need a melee-oriented character in a Company Command Squad - though Straken obviously brings army buffs to the table as well. If you actually find yourself needing that melee punch to protect your Company Commander, you can't do any better than Nork Deddog! Alternatively, if you don't have transports or buildings available for a Company Command Squad or are afraid of Barrage sniping, Nork also proves his worth here again because of the Look Out - Arghh rule. I still think most lists would be better off spending the points on another Company Command Squad rather than investing heavily in just one, but I definitely see the merits of Nork's inclusion.


    Best Uses

    If you are planning on including Nork Deddog then much like Straken I would still recommend keeping your Command Squad in the backfield with lots of protection from your other units. Though Nork only really confers Stubborn to the unit outside of his worthwhile melee damage capabilities and thus using him as a mere bodyguard might seem a waste, the reality is that you purchase Nork to protect a Company Commander first and foremost. Two Orders per turn with the Senior Officer special rule is why you take a Company Command Squad, not because they give you some nasty and expensive character additions or Ballistic Skill 4 ranged attacks.

    Even with the Death Mask of Ollanius I still cannot recommend pushing a Company Commander into combat as they are just far too fragile - and that doesn't even begin to cover all the Strength 6 Ignores Cover shooting populating the meta right now. Keep them hidden, keep them safe - Nork will ensure that close ranged units can't pick out the Company Commander whether through Precision Shots or assaults. Getting into combat with Nork should be considered a bonus and not a requirement seeing as his Look Out - Arghh special rule and high durability ensure your Commander will remain unharmed for several turns except against heavy firepower.



    Tank Commander

    Overview

    There are few sights more inspiring than a squadron of Leman Russes pounding enemies into submission from afar, all the while being wrapped up in a classic World War I design. The new codex saw some massive improvements to those variants not sporting Ordnance weapons, but with the introduction of Wyverns and general re-balancing of the Heavy Support section those slots certainly were restrictive. Enter 7th Edition with unlimited detachments at any points limit provided mandatory choices are taken and, of course, the all new Tank Commander. While that particular edition change does somewhat reduce the value of the Tank Commander, there is nonetheless a lot to like about this addition to a Leman Russ squadron. After all, if you are taking platoons then taking extra detachments won't be as manageable as taking mechanized Veterans!

    The Tank Commander brings a selection of unique abilities to distinguish him or herself from a standard Leman Russ, including the obvious switch to the HQ slot from the usual Heavy Support position. An issue for many Astra Militarum players has been trying to find a Warlord choice to fulfill the mandatory HQ slot that is both survivable and fits into a mechanized list, and truth be told this has been the case since 5th Edition at least. The Tank Commander is not only incredibly durable as an AV14/13/10(11) tank with three hull points and at least one squad-mate with equivalent defensive stats, but obviously it slots in perfectly to a mechanized list and doesn't force you to take a superfluous Lord Commissar or Company Command Squad.

    What is also notable is that the Tank Commander generates a Warlord Trait much like the Command Tank from Forge World's Armoured Battle Group, though the Tank Commander must instead roll a D3 on the Astra Militarum Warlord Traits table. The Tank Commander is thus restricted to the Grand Strategist, Old Grudges and Draconian Disciplinarian traits - this makes sense as all vehicles are already Relentless and (randomly) giving proper Orders to a Tank Commander would eliminate any need for a Company Command Squad.

    All three of these traits are very useful and well worth making your Tank Commander the Warlord for. Outflanking Punishers, Hellhounds or Fearless Conscript blobs are brutal, just as giving Preferred Enemy to a squadron of Leman Russes is about as nasty as it gets. A mechanized list surprisingly gets a lot of mileage out of Draconian Disciplinarian seeing as whenever a transport is wrecked the unit inside has to take an immediate Pinning test and potentially a Leadership test if it explodes. Provided your army is Battle Forged, having a re-roll on a D3 gives you a great chance of getting the Warlord Trait you want - my favourite overall is Old Grudges as conferring Preferred Enemy on Executioners solves any issues they would otherwise have.

    The interesting effect a Tank Commander has on list building is how much they boost the effectiveness of certain Leman Russ variants through the increased Ballistic Skill 4. While the types that use blast or large blast weapons won't get all that much benefit from Ballistic Skill 4, the Vanquisher and Punisher in particular get important ranged efficiency improvements from a Tank Commander. A Vanquisher isn't great on its' own because of how unreliable it is, but Ballistic Skill 4 sees that it should hit in two out of every three turns. A Punisher usually averages ten hits with its Gatling Cannon, but the Tank Commander increases that to around fourteen and ensures the (probable) sponson heavy bolters make their points back with an average six hits out of nine shots.

    The Exterminator gets the smallest boost by attaining a usual four hits rather than three but re-rolling to hit on Ballistic Skill 4 is a god-send next to Ballistic Skill 3 in my experience! Though the Punisher is good on its' own, the Vanquisher is more mediocre as while it strips hull points off reliably each turn it is unlikely to get an Explodes result with the new Vehicle Damage Chart in 7th Edition. Ballistic Skill 4 sees that both of its Vanquisher Battle Cannon and hull Lascannon should hit each shooting phase which will see the Vanquisher do some hefty damage to any vehicle it sees.

    The other unique ability exclusive to Tank Commanders and Knight Commander Pask are Tank Orders which are the obvious Leman Russ equivalent for standard Astra Militarum Orders. They are resolved in the shooting phase and based on a "test" like regular Orders, but they differ in that the Tank Commander must roll a nine or less on 2D6 - this represents the Tank Commanders' "Leadership" value. Sadly these can only be issued to their own unit and the effects are nowhere near as significant as those provided by the infantry Orders. However, as much as many players have labelled them "useless" I have found them to be worth using in almost every game I have played so far.

    Being able to move Flat Out is good enough for Heavy vehicles that otherwise lack mobility, but 6" plus D6 can be a game-changer for a last minute objective grab or escaping a fast assault unit. Remember, Leman Russ tanks can normally only move 6" a turn so mobile melee squads can corner them pretty easily, but add another 6+D6" for a total possible move of 18" and this allows you to reposition your crucial tanks like never before. Strike and Shroud works wonders with Night Fighting or Camo Netting to give the unit a 4+ cover save when you need it most - perfect for the medium ranged variants - but the best one by far is the 'Split Fire' equivalent. If you are taking a Tank Commander (or Pask) in a Vanquisher and have Executioners or Eradicators as squad-mates - the former to benefit from Old Grudges, the latter for their low cost - then being able to use an entire squadron to their maximum benefit by having the Commander shoot at vehicles and the others blast infantry is awesome.

    Sadly, there are issues with Tank Commanders that need addressing. Firstly, while a medium points increase on a regular Leman Russ variant seems like a small price to pay for all the benefits Tank Commanders provide, they are hamstrung by a mandatory second Leman Russ to accompany his or her Command Tank. This sees that the bare minimum cost of a Tank Commander will be close to the 300 point mark, while adding upgrades, switching the variants or adding a third member can see points costs easily escalate up to the 600 area. Putting that many points into vehicles with rear armour ten or eleven and only three hull points generally isn't a good idea, especially if you want to make use of the short ranged Punisher - krak grenades, haywire grenades and melta bombs are just far too deadly against an expensive unit. Additionally, all it takes is one Night Scythe full of Crypteks armed with Voltaic Staffs to completely wipe out three Leman Russes in one shooting phase - and that unit costs a third or less of a Tank Commander and two squad-mates!

    There is also the consideration of whether you actually need the Tank Commander thanks to 7th Edition's detachment changes, as Ballistic Skill 4 and Tank Orders are only really useful for Vanquishers and Punishers anyway. Infantry based lists get little real benefit from a Tank Commander seeing as a significantly less expensive Company Command Squad provides so many ridiculous buffs for them. If you don't plan on using Vanquishers and Punishers, the points spent on Ballistic Skill 4 and the admittedly situational Tank Orders are just not worth it - especially with the forced addition of a second Leman Russ to form a squadron. Still, for a mechanized list that doesn't want to use more than three Troops choices or one HQ choice, a Tank Commander is a fine addition because they give you what you want in that kind of list. Orders only work for non-vehicle units that are disembarked from their transports so paying more points for the incredible mix of damage output and survivability provided by Leman Russes makes perfect sense. As for whether you should upgrade to Pask or not, I will cover that in a separate article - the Knight Commander is a whole different story altogether!


    Best Uses

    Choosing which Leman Russ to put a Tank Commander in isn't always easy, so I recommend looking at which variants benefit the most from Ballistic Skill 4 and the high possibility of Preferred Enemy. The tanks that use blast-type weapons won't find nearly as much use from Ballistic Skill 4 as the "solid shot" variants, but Executioners in particular get ridiculous benefits from the Old Grudges Warlord Trait. I personally think Tank Commanders are the best reason to take Vanquishers for how important the extra pip of Ballistic Skill is to a one-shot wonder, while Punishers and Executioners are the close seconds because of their incredible rate of fire and unreliability.

    I don't really see any need to put a Tank Commander in the other variants, particularly the "budget tank" Eradicator, but if you just want to free up Heavy Support slots then there is no harm in trying out the different Leman Russes. Try to keep the squad-mates similar to the Tank Commander wherever possible so that you don't end up wasting any of that juicy firepower, but keep in mind that the pseudo Split Fire Tank Order does allow you to mix distinct roles in the one unit. I would do this mostly to take advantage of Old Grudges with Executioners or use cheap Eradicators to fill up the mandatory squad-mate slots.


    Battle Tank

    The key to this variant is its incredible range and versatility - Strength 8 AP3 Ordnance can reliably strip hull points off of all but the toughest vehicles, while it cuts a swathe through infantry lacking in either cover or 2+ armour saves. I would pair this up with either another Battle Tank or possibly even a Vanquisher so that the unit keeps an identical range and can 'Split Fire' where necessary. Battle Tanks are mostly an anti-infantry tool that can do some light damage to vehicles and monstrous creatures, the inability to one-shot either of those two larger unit types being its downside. These can preferably be kept on raised terrain features and perhaps in a corner, allowing them to reach across the entirety of a 6x4 with their whopping 72" range. Alternatively, keep them behind some Infantry Squad or Conscript blobs so that they get moving cover from the Guardsmen and can fire over them without obscuration. Keep the upgrades to a minimum as the Battle Cannon will cause all other weapons to fire Snap Shots anyway.


    Exterminator

    As one of the longer ranged Leman Russ variants, the Exterminator is a decently effective anti-vehicle unit that can make good use of the Tank Commanders' Ballistic Skill 4 through its sponsons and hull weapon. Four twin-linked Strength 7 AP4 shots are decent against light vehicles, but combine them with a hull lascannon and pair of either heavy bolters or multi meltas and the Exterminator becomes a tank-hunting force to be reckoned with at a low cost. The obvious comparison comes against the Vanquisher, and honestly the Exterminator wins hands down against any vehicle that is AV12 or lower due to rate of fire. Strength 7 can't really touch AV13 or AV14 which is where the Vanquisher excels, though the significantly boosted range of the Vanquisher does give it a sizable advantage overall. If you like your chances of rolling up Old Grudges then pairing an Exterminator geared for anti-tank with a Vanquisher kitted similarly isn't a bad idea with the mostly reliable "Gunners, Kill on Sight!" Order so that you can either focus down one vehicle a turn or take your chances at two kills per friendly Shooting Phase.


    Vanquisher

    I honestly think the Tank Commander was designed with the Vanquisher in mind first and foremost simply because Ballistic Skill 4 is all that tank needs to be a worthwhile purchase in a competitive environment. The points you pay to see this tank hit more than 50% of the time with its titular Battle Cannon are well worth it, as is allowing you to pair it up with dissimilar Russ variants like the Eradicator or Punisher due to the "Gunners, Kill on Sight!" Order. Of course, the Vanquisher is also super cheap so there isn't as much need to keep it with an Eradicator for savings.

    Upgrades like the sponson multi-meltas and hull lascannon become so much more alluring with the latter being practically mandatory, though the former upgrade is hamstrung by a pitifully short range compared to the rest of the tanks' weapons. Of course, even on a 6x4 with the Hammer and Anvil deployment it is very likely that an army will close within 24" of a Vanquisher seeing as most armies' best anti-tank weapons do operate at that kind of range - or at least those geared for destroying AV14 - so the sponson multi-meltas will prove valuable in most cases. If you are facing Land Raiders, even one Vanquisher fully kitted with a lascannon and multi-meltas will either slow them down or outright destroy them before they can unload their embarked units. A pair of Vanquishers works well but the squad-mate will still suffer from an unreliable 50% hit rate on average, so I would actually entertain taking an Eradicator to both save points and allow the squadron to be relevant even when vehicles are not present.


    Eradicator

    If you are taking a Tank Commander with an Eradicator, chances are you are doing so just to save points seeing as the two aren't really suited for each other. The Eradicator is fantastic at clearing out light infantry from long ranges but its' main advantage over the other variants is how absurdly inexpensive it is, something an upgrade like the Tank Commander doesn't really work for. For such reasons I would make the compulsory second tank an Eradicator as well just to keep the points low and start putting out enough hits to really worry even elite infantry. Still, Ballistic Skill 4 on the near mandatory heavy bolter sponsons (and hull) is nice and the medium range is good for keeping your Warlord out of the forefront of battle. Aside from the sponsons this tank just doesn't need or really want any upgrades, so aside from considering the usual defensive picks like Camo Netting I would probably just keep these as bare as possible.


    Demolisher

    As the most costly tank before any upgrades are considered, the Demolisher becomes a huge investment with a Tank Commander but thankfully does not need any of the extras to function. Despite being an expensive short-ranged tank that is likely to get destroyed by fast assault units or Deep Striking meltas, I probably wouldn't bother paying for Camo Netting on a Demolisher seeing as it is likely to be outside of cover given how close it must be to fire, but pairing this variant up with a wall of Bullgryns and Camo Netting is actually a really good idea. A side note - Dozer Blades are practically a necessity for this tank as it is all but useless once Immobilized! I would keep it either with an Eradicator to save lots of points and still offer some threat outside of a 24" range, or go all-out and terrify opponents with a brace of Demolisher Cannons. The latter is expensive but then that is always going to be the case when you field Leman Russ Demolishers with a Tank Commander, so doubling down on them isn't a bad idea if you want to field one in the HQ slot. My advice is to not make this tank your Warlord though as these are most definitely on the "suicidal" scale and should be used as a terror weapon and line-breaker.


    Punisher

    Twenty-nine Strength 5 shots at Ballistic Skill 3 are nice and all, but there's just something delicious about resolving them all at an improved Ballistic Skill 4. Of the "siege" variants the Punisher is arguably the most commonly seen now - in no small part due to Pask - and like the Vanquisher improving the accuracy of this tank is easily worth the price of admission. Like the Demolisher, a short range does reduce the value of Camo Netting given that actually getting cover saves from multiple angles is more difficult up close, though the wall of Bullgryns tactic could still work. This is a tank that needs to be mobile even with all the heavy bolters and as such I also recommend Dozer Blades here. Seeing as a regular Punisher is only really a threat to light vehicles, monstrous creatures and infantry, putting it with a Demolisher that can shoot at anything without issue allows the squadron to engage more targets. Alternatively, an Eradicator is inexpensive and solves the Punishers' main issue in dealing with cover-camping infantry squads, while an Exterminator provides significant damage output against light vehicles as well. Executioners are of course the most destructive anti-infantry Leman Russ variant and work well with Punishers, but their risky nature considering the Tank Commander will likely be your Warlord could be a severe issue.


    Executioner

    Giving Ballistic Skill 4 to a single large blast might not be that valuable, but providing it for between three and five small blasts? Priceless. Unfortunately, unless you are going Battle Forged and thus have a good chance of rolling up the Old Grudges Warlord Trait, I can't recommend putting a Tank Commander in an Executioner because of how incredibly likely it is to destroy itself through failed Gets Hot rolls. Otherwise, the plasma cannon sponsons are still worthwhile for the sheer damage boost they provide - even if it almost halves the tanks' chances of survival - while exchanging the hull heavy bolter for a lascannon actually isn't a bad idea on a Ballistic Skill 4 tank. The hull lascannon and five Strength 7 AP2 small blasts will annihilate light to medium vehicles with ease and evaporate infantry and monstrous creatures besides - make no mistake, the Executioner is the most destructive Leman Russ around. If you are putting a Tank Commander in an Executioner then the chances are you are going for the Old Grudges Warlord Trait, so taking a second Executioner is pretty much mandated.



    Knight Commander Pask

    Overview

    Seeing as I have already reviewed the standard Tank Commanders and Pask is effectively an upgrade to those, I will only touch on those core aspects briefly so as to focus on what makes the Knight Commander distinct and unique. The ability to make a Leman Russ tank the army Warlord is a far-cry from the Toughness 3 three wound character options the Astra Militarum usually have, and despite a reduced chart to choose from their available Warlord Traits are all generally useful. The Tank Orders are decent but nothing spectacular - especially when compared to the standard Orders usually reserved for Infantry and Artillery unit types - while being forced to pay for a mandatory squad-mate to the Tank Commander does jack the cost of the unit up considerably. As such, most of the positives and negatives of the Tank Commander hold true for Pask, though he exacerbates the cost issue quite a bit by being a pricey upgrade character that principally provides Ballistic Skill 4 to a single Leman Russ tank.

    Despite all this, Pask easily competes with Commissar Yarrick for the title of best special character in the Astra Militarum codex through a combination of insane damage potential, support abilities and survivability. A Ballistic Skill 4 Leman Russ is generally a decent upgrade for most variants and a pivotal one for others like the Vanquisher and Punisher, but the addition of Crack Shot is what really sets Pask apart. The Knight Commander's Leman Russ can freely re-roll armour penetration attempts against enemy vehicles - including glances in an attempt to do penetrating hits - which is obviously a godsend for something like the Vanquisher that is solely focused on destroying tanks. Additionally, depending on which Leman Russ variant Pask inhabits that vehicle gains a powerful bonus effect ranging from re-rolls to hit with a Vanquisher Battle Cannon to applying the Rending special rule to each shot fired by a Punisher Gatling Cannon. These effects secure Pask's place as one of the most destructive special characters in any Warhammer 40,000 codex, but what really sets him apart is his preset Warlord Trait - Old Grudges.

    Providing Preferred Enemy for re-rolls of 1s for all to hit and to wound rolls on something like a Punisher that puts out potentially twenty-nine shots is simply ludicrous, but the stipulation that it applies to all Leman Russ tanks in Pask's squadron makes him arguably the codex's best Warlord choice. Re-rolling 1s to wound for something like a Leman Russ Demolisher maximises their damage output against pretty much anything outside of Gargantuan Creatures or psykers with Iron Arm, while a Vanquisher will be able to re-roll one third of its misses when firing at full Ballistic Skill. Of course, no tank benefits nearly as much from this buff as the Executioner and this is why Pask should always be worth considering. Executioners' annihilate infantry of all kinds like no other unit in the codex and arguably in the game for the points, but that damage potential comes with great risk with up to five Gets Hot rolls per friendly shooting phase. One outfitted with plasma cannons has a startlingly high chance of destroying itself through hull point damage assuming it fires every turn in an "average" six turn game which obviously reduces the value of the tank considerably. Enter Knight Commander Pask (and Tank Commanders if luck provides) who provides Preferred Enemy to re-roll those failed Gets Hot rolls and see that an Executioner should only ever lose a single hull point to over-heating once every three or so turns on average, and you have yourself a match made in the Emperor's eyes.

    Knight Commander Pask is fantastic based on how destructive he alone is, but the effect he has on friendly Executioners in the same squadron are possibly his most noteworthy ability seeing how incredibly points-efficient those particular tanks are. Seeing as Leman Russ Executioners would easily be the best Leman Russ around if they could ignore Gets Hot all the time, it isn't hard to see just how incredible Pask is even if you don't consider how good Preferred Enemy is for his own tank. Throw in the Crack Shot rule and the fact that Pask is a durable AV 14/13/10(11) three hull point Warlord and I see few reasons for competitive mechanized lists to not include the venerable Knight Commander. There is one downside to Pask and that is the excessive cost of making the most of his abilities, with arguably the most damaging combo being himself in a Punisher with a pair of Executioners kitted for maximum plasma devastation. This Leman Russ squadron is all but guaranteed to annihilate anything it touches, but with a colossal 600 point investment with all the necessary upgrades you would expect such a performance in every game turn. Investing so much into a single unit that is so easily countered by a dedicated or at least speedy melee unit or really any squad packing either Krak or Haywire grenades could prove disastrous, particularly against an army with multiple hard counters for vehicles such as Necrons. As such I do recommend reserving that particular Pask build for the larger games, but as expensive as Pask is regardless I do feel he is definitely worth your time seeing as what he provides over a regular Tank Commander is easily worth the extra investment.


    Best Uses

    I feel that this question is best answered by categorizing it into different points brackets. In lower point games of 750 to 1500, I recommend Pask be used alongside a single Eradicator to save points and maximise its damage output against light infantry. If Pask is leading a Vanquisher then the pseudo Split Fire Tank Order will be necessary to ensure both tanks are firing at their preferred targets. As for which tank is best for Pask at that level, I think that buys into which tank he is best in generally - the Punisher and Vanquisher, in that order. These two tanks make the most of Pask's abilities when considering both Crack Shot and Preferred Enemy, while points allowing any tank is at home in his squadron but particularly Executioners above all others. It is in larger games that you must really start to consider taking Pask with either one or two Executioners as squad-mates because with Preferred Enemy and potential Prescience from either an in-codex or Allied psyker they become easily the most deadly units in the Astra Militarum codex.

    Once you start hitting that 1850 and higher points bracket is when that unit really starts to become so alluring as it is essentially the Astra Militarum "death-star" equivalent, though it does have its obvious weaknesses - fast melee units that can harm rear AV 10-11, units with the Invisibility blessing and so on - that really need to be considered. Personally, I prefer this unit in a mechanized list with lots of other targets such as cheap Leman Russ Eradicators and Chimera-mounted Veterans that flood the field and prevent it from being too easy of a target to reach, but it does hold its own in almost any list. I feel the best use of Pask without investing too heavily on the points is a mixture of either Vanquisher or Punisher - your preference - with a single Executioner. This unit is still devastating and is a prime target for your psychic blessings, but it isn't too big of a points sink in the sense that your army would collapse if they were destroyed.

    As for which tank fits for Pask, I tend to think he is best suited to the Vanquisher and Punisher for the sheer damage output they provide. The Vanquisher with re-rolls both to hit and for armour penetration rolls is guaranteed to put the hurt on any tank whether it is a Rhino or a Land Raider, while the Pask Punisher is infamous for its ludicrous devastation capabilities against anything that isn't an AV14 vehicle. It averages almost three wounds a turn on a Wraithknight and is incredibly likely to kill a T6 W5 3+ armoured monstrous creature in a single shooting phase, while it can reliably destroy an AV13 vehicle with a bit of luck in Rending. Debates often rage as to which tank is "perfect" for Pask and both have their advantages, the Vanquisher with its range keeping it safe and the Punisher with its sheer weight of firepower. I feel that particularly in 7th Edition the Punisher does pull ahead as the best tank with Flying Monstrous Creatures now unable to charge when switching fly modes in addition to the less punishing vehicle damage chart. The short range is only really a massive issue against Necrons and mobile melta units like Raptors or Dominions, with deep striking melta units caring little either way. The other variants generally aren't that great for Pask as the boosts he provides versus the cost of each individual tank just aren't as comparable to the Vanquisher and Punisher.



    Lord Commissar

    Overview

    It is always difficult to intimate just how crucial a units' Leadership value is when the most common army type (Space Marines) completely ignores most of the penalties for failed tests based on that particular statistic. Well unfortunately for me the Lord Commissar is built around that particular aspect of infantry play, and fortunately for you the "fancy hats" are very good at what they do despite arguably being invalidated by the Ministorum Priest. While many armies have a wealth of options to ignore or manipulate Leadership to the point that it doesn't really affect them - and Imperial Guard are no such exception - this is still crucial for forces that rely heavily upon masses of mostly static infantry to win the day. That objective capturing is the name of the game and has been for two editions running only increases the need for models like a Lord Commissar that prevent key scoring units from fleeing the field. However, the importance of firepower and Guardsmen being the most dependable and flexible source of that makes Astra Militarum uniquely dependent on good Leaderhsip management. After all, what is the value of a squad consisting of up to fifty models if it can be made to flee the game table from a single failed morale check forced by losing thirteen models in one shooting phase? Enter the Lord Commissar, the only HQ choice (that fills a slot) that is both an Independent Character and not a Unique model and can thus be used by any army list with respect for theme and fit into any unit where required.

    This cheap individual model has an identical base price to a Chaos Lord from Codex: Chaos Space Marines and the reasoning behind this won't be immediately clear. The Lord Commissar has a weaker profile with most stats being one or two points lower, though certainly the big deal-breakers are the Strength and Toughness disparity. While the grim executioner has a 5+ invulnerable save as standard, a Chaos Lord has a 3+ armour save as opposed to a paltry 5+ armour save. The simple truth is that while a Chaos Lord is built primarily to be a source of heavy damage, a Lord Commissar can't really be the melee powerhouse the codex artefacts might lead you to build him as - as with all other Astra Militarum characters (Nork Deddog aside), this is a model that buffs your forces first and foremost.

    The Lord Commissar does this by providing Leadership 10 and Stubborn to any single unit he or she joins, ensuring that even a combat lost by dozens of wounds will have no effect on how likely the unit is to break away involuntarily. While this can be exploited through either bad luck or forcing multiple tests, the Lord Commissar provides a unit with one of the best special rules a fragile infantry unit could possibly have when combined with the Orders provided by a Senior officer such as a Company Commander. While that Chaos Lord does provide Fearless to an attached unit and prevents them from fleeing full stop, it also ensures that unit can't benefit from the cover save bonuses provided by voluntarily going to ground. One of the best traits of an Astra Militarum list built around infantry is that they can go to ground with a combined squad and benefit from cover saves when fired upon, then immediately ignore the effects of being Pinned through the use of the "Get Back in the Fight" Order to subsequently act as normal. Where Fearless prevents this but has the benefit of the parent unit never running away, the Lord Commissar provides a superior alternative with all the benefits and none of the downsides.

    Both Lord Commissars and regular Commissars possess the Summary Execution special rule, an ability that uses the fear of death to keep Imperial Guardsmen from ever retreating in the face of the Imperium's most terrifying foes. When a unit joined by a Commissar fails any Fear, Morale or Pinning test - as unlikely as it is with Leadership 10 and Stubborn - a single model not including the Commissar him or herself is removed from play as a casualty of progress. The selection of which model dies is based on a D6 roll; a 3+ will see the Commissar's owning player choose which model to remove, but a 1 or 2 on the D6 will instead allow the opponent to select the model that literally bites the bullet. This is bad news for any unit featuring Heavy Weapons Teams or special weapons as there is a 1 in 3 chance that the opponent will get to freely kill off one of those valuable models, but most of the time it will be a regular and near worthless Guardsmen. I recommend never attaching a Lord Commissar to a Command Squad of any kind as not only should that kind of unit never require the Leadership buffs of a Commissar given their value behind the front-lines, but the chance of killing the Commander is just far too grim to take a risk on.

    The kicker here is that once a model has been executed the unit is then treated as having passed the test instead of failing, meaning that a Lord Commissar provides the equivalent of Fearless with the key note that his or her unit can still voluntarily go to ground or flee from combat per the "Our Weapons are Useless" rule. While I tend not to recommend the latter for a platoon-sized single squad due to how much of a risk losing a massive unit is to Sweeping Advance and also because of the low Initiative values of most Guardsmen models, the former can be crucial to keeping a gun-line running without suffering too many casualties. Being able to go to ground with a huge squad of infantry sporting numerous special and heavy weapons behind a defence line or wall of Bullgryns for improved cover saves and then act as normal via a successful Order from a friendly Company Commander is an amazing ability that so many other armies would fall at the heels for.

    This is of course not the only trait a Lord Commissar provides over a standard Commissar and manages to give a valid reason for his or her inclusion over Ministorum Priests, even without considering that the former fills a mandatory HQ slot in a Combined Arms or Allied detachment. Exclusive to the Lord Commissar is the Aura of Discipline special rule, a bubble effect that allows all friendly Astra Militarum units within 6" of the valiant hero(ine) to use their Leadership for all Fear, Morale and Pinning tests. While a Lord Commissar will often be hiding in the middle of a unit to be safe from deep striking units in particular, the threat of barrage weapons is always prevalent and sees that some will actually place the Lord Commissar near a board edge surrounded by multiple squads both to protect from deep striking units and force opponents to risk their barrage scattering off the table. Joining the Lord Commissar to a fifty-strong combined Infantry Squad manning an Aegis Defence Line with a Heavy Weapons Squad on either side hiding behind the giant unit is a good use of the Aura of Discipline and ensures none of the three units will be fleeing the field without great effort expended by the opponent. This can also be exploited using a transport vehicle such as a mere Chimera to a mighty Stormlord so that you can provide that crucial Leadership 10 to multiple units while keeping the Lord Commissar protected from incoming fire and the threat of barrage snipes - at least for a turn anyway!

    While many will still prefer Ministorum Priests for their "blob" squads considering the much lower cost compared to a Lord Commissar and allowing both HQ slots to be filled by Company Command Squads in a single detachment, the trick that exploits Go to Ground and "Get Back in the Fight" is almost too good to pass on and also gives standard Commissars a bit of a place. If you need a single cheap Independent Character to fill your HQ slot, the Lord Commissar is a great option as he or she is much tougher than either the Commissar or Ministorum Priest and not that much more expensive either. The beauty of the Astra Militarum codex is that the buff characters, while crucial, are entirely inexpensive and have their own unique benefits and traits to diversify and allow each to be useful in any given army list.

    The profile of a Lord Commissar is the most survivable of these as a character with a stock standard invulnerable save, three wounds and the capability to hide in any unit of the infantry sub-type from Bullgryns to an entire combined Infantry Squad. They also have exclusive access to certain Heirlooms of Conquest - much like the Company Command Squad - and undoubtedly have the more "cool" choices among these. The Emperor's Benediction is the best use of points you could ever find on a Lord Commissar while the Death Mask of Ollanius provides the Lord Commissar with a significant survivability boost. As for the regular Commissar, the identical points cost to a Ministorum Priest, inferior defensive wargear and lack of War Hymms does make him or her an inferior model in terms of overall value as a support character, though the Go to Ground trick is still a very useful trait of the Commissar that a Ministorum Priest is incapable of mimicking.


    How to Equip Them

    One of my most basic principles when it comes to an Astra Militarum army list is to avoid spending too many points on any individual unit given that the army is, perhaps more than any other, based upon quantity over quality. Leman Russ tanks are a perfect mix of firepower and durability at a low price because they are not as precise as Space Marine or Eldar battle tanks, while Guardsmen are just shy of being a third of what an individual Tactical Marine costs despite being surprisingly well equipped for a fodder unit. This principle should be applied to the codex's characters that, Nork Deddog aside, are built primarily for a supporting role rather than making their name as combat power-houses. Despite being one of the only models with access to the awesome Blade of Conquest and having the background to match, I don't suggest investing heavily in a Lord Commissar as they are very easily killed when singled out and can never compete with something like a Chaos Lord in terms of melee prowess. While not having to accept challenges is an advantage I am thankful for over the scions of the Chaos Gods, a Lord Commissar outfitted even with something as strong as a power fist isn't going to do all that much damage in combat compared to the equivalent points spent on heavy weapons for shooting purposes.

    Being perfectly honest, I would always take a Ministorum Priest to attach to a separate blob squad rather than take a power fist for a Lord Commissar if only because Astra Militarum infantry units absolutely need some kind of Fearless provider or Leadership buff. If there is one upgrade that I think any Lord Commissar should take however it is the Emperor's Benediction, a pistol that is so cheap and so powerful that it is the definition of spare points well spent. While I don't think the wargear is too well priced for a model that is both Toughness 3 and already has a 5+ invulnerable save stock, the Deathmask of Ollanius is nonetheless the best way to boost the survivability of a Lord Commissar and help protect them from those pesky and increasingly common barrage snipes. Carapace Armour is also a very cheap and surprisingly helpful upgrade to give the Lord Commissar a 4+ armour save that I recommend if you have spare points, much like the Emperor's Benediction.

    Still, I do prefer to keep my characters cheap so that I can take more of the good stuff elsewhere; more than any other army, I feel the Astra Militarum army can cut a few points here or there and take an amazing and cheap unit such as a Wyvern, Leman Russ Eradicator or deep striking Scion squad with two meltaguns with the points you save on pointless upgrades. If you do find in your experiences that your Lord Commissars are rather vulnerable and being slain by attacks not of the Strength 6 variety then I would say the Deathmask is a near mandatory upgrade because a 4+ invulnerable save with It Will Not Die should prolong a Lord Commissar's life for at least an extra turn. As for the regular Commissar, consider taking a boltgun over the bolt pistol if only for the range and extra shot at the same range seeing as it is a free exchange - a Commissar in a melee is usually a dead Commissar unless there are bodies in the way anyway!


    Best Uses

    A Lord Commissar or standard Commissar is purpose-built for a combined Infantry Squad or Conscript unit consisting of thirty or more models; these units lack the ability to ignore Leadership problems on their own, an issue Commissars alone can fix. The idea is that the bigger a unit is, the more important preventing them from fleeing and freely giving up their victory points will be. This means that you should be attaching Commissars and Lord Commissars to those huge thirty plus model units, and to any unit that will actually be taking casualties either in a melee or from shooting. This rules out Command Squads that should almost always be hiding out of line of sight while I would argue Heavy Weapon Squads are better served with a Ministorum Priest as losing a Heavy Weapon team to execution is more painful than losing a single Guardsman, while suicide squads such as small Scion or Special Weapon Squads don't really need that kind of support.

    Much the same as Heavy Weapon Squads I prefer to use Ministorum Priests with Ogryns or Bullgryns because of how expensive each model lost to Summary Execution is, though it does bear mentioning that Stubborn on Leadership 10 means test failures will be incredibly rare. Try to keep your Commissars and Lord Commissars cheap so that you can take multiples for each of your blob or "bigger" squads or fit in more heavy firepower elsewhere. Proper placement of these models should be in the centre of the unit or otherwise surrounded by a wealth of models so that attempts at singling out the character from deep striking units are far less likely to succeed. Decline challenges where possible or deputize them to squad Sergeants; Toughness 3 Commissars and Lord Commissars are notoriously fragile and can endanger a squad to routing if killed.



    Regimental Specialists

    Overview

    Ministorum Priest - While some might say that Codex: Adepta Sororitas gave us fair warning of what this unit was about to become, I don't think anyone really anticipated just how amazing Ministorum Priests would be in a codex with huge infantry squads like the Astra Militarum. Gripped by religious fervor and inspiring their fellow warriors to similar acts of faith in the Emperor's eyes, the Ministorum Priest provides the codex with what could be classed a superior competitor to the Commissar and Lord Commissar. This is because the basic role of a Ministorum Priest is to prevent his or her attached unit from ever retreating by conferring the Zealot special rule upon them, combining Fearless with Hatred to act as the Astra Militarum equivalent to a Chaplain at almost a quarter of the cost. It is amusing then that the Ministorum Priest is actually an incredibly competitive choice but the Chaplain is not given the latter could be deemed the staple and forerunner of the Zealot rule, but that is a discussion for another time.

    While giving Hatred to a unit of between thirty to fifty Guardsmen or Conscripts is more of a nice combat buff that won't always see use due to the high amount of purely ranged armies in the meta, Fearless is almost too good to be true on such a cheap model for an army that can often rely upon gigantic amounts of low Leadership infantry. The only two weaknesses a Guardsmen "blob" has is a vulnerability to morale checks or Pinning and a lack of mobility; the latter is insignificant with the amount of firepower a unit can put out, and the former can now be easily and cheaply fixed by either a Commissar or Ministorum Priest. While Summary Execution is a perfectly good alternative to Fearless because it allows the unit to go to ground or flee from a combat it can't physically win, the risk of losing an important model to it is a pretty major downside especially in a unit that will likely feature one or more Heavy Weapons teams. This is why many will prefer the blanket Fearless a Ministorum Priest provides as it means the unit will stay where you need them to and suffer no drawbacks to doing so.

    What also has many leaning towards Ministorum Priests over standard Commissars is the enhanced profile of the former, featuring a weaker combat profile but having a 4+ invulnerable save for defence instead of a paltry 5+ armour save. Even with only one wound, having fifty other models to cut through assuming you stick him or her in a blob means that outside of Sniper weapons and Barrage weapons a Ministorum Priest will be quite difficult to pick out, and ignoring half of the wounds inflicted on the Priest gives some great protection when those weapons find their mark. Besides this a Ministorum Priest also offers unique melee-centric buffs in the form of War Hymms, prayers to the Emperor that bestow His strength upon the Priests' attached unit. These are inconsistent and unreliable given that they are based off of a Leadership test using the Priests' value of seven but they are nonetheless very nice little abilities like re-rolling failed saves or re-rolling to wound on a unit-wide level that give the Priest even more value over a Commissar. Ultimately any army list featuring a blob squad or Conscript unit of any note needs either Commissars or Ministorum Priests for each individual unit, where Priests are undoubtedly the superior option and well worth every point spent on them.

    Primaris Psyker - While the new Psychic Phase rules may at first seem to be a big improvement for cheap casters such as a Primaris Psyker, the reality is that they are far less reliable at casting powers and will be completely shut out by a warp charge spam Grey Knights or Tzeentch Daemons army. Going from casting amazing blessings such as Prescience on Leadership 9 with a characteristic test to having to roll two 4+ rolls from at least two D6 has neutered the efficiency of the Primaris Psyker, especially seeing as the maximum potential warp charges a single Astra Militarum detachment can generate is a mediocre seven (before the D6 roll). When casting Prescience requires three or four warp charge points to have some kind of guarantee and the warp charge pool for Astra Militarum has a relatively low threshold, taking Primaris Psykers just as cheap providers of re-rolls is no longer a truly viable option. This also significantly increases the value of taking the Psychic Mastery Level 2 upgrade as that extra warp charge can prove pivotal even just for getting powers off with a mere warp charge cost of one.

    Still, I would be lying if I described a Primaris Psyker as anything but a cheap and useful psychic character with access to some of the best disciplines available. While Divination may not be the "easy" option anymore due to the severely reduced chances of successfully using Prescience, the other powers are still very useful while Telepathy and Biomancy provide some significant defensive benefits for crucial points-intensive units - such as blobs or Tank Commander squadrons. Defensively a Primaris Psyker doesn't compare too well to a Librarian and value wise most of his or her appeal came from being a cheap Divination caster, but generally speaking psykers want to stay out of combat anyway so questions of value in combat are less important. What you have then is a cheap Leadership 9 character with two Toughness 3 wounds and a 5+ invulnerable save which is decent by Astra Militarum standards. Heck, three attacks base when counting the two melee weapons made with a Force Weapon at Weapon Skill 4 and Initiative 3 can surprise opponents and have a small chance of killing an important model, especially with so many challenge "monkeys" in the form of Sergeants. They are cheap and worth their points but I will warn players that these are not as generally useful as they used to be, especially against a psychic-heavy list such as Grey Knights.

    Enginseer - With 7th Edition providing some massive boosts to the majority of vehicles in the game - open-topped transports excepted - it naturally comes as no surprise that the value of models that can repair said engines of war has increased significantly. While no codex - the Astra Militarum included - could ever hope to match the Iron Hands for just outright ignoring vehicle damage, the capacity to take three Enginseers per detachment at such a low cost does allow the Emperors' Armoured Fist to keep vehicles running at peak efficiency better than most other armies. While an Enginseer is as effective at repairing vehicles as most other Techmarine equivalents, that he or she is so inexpensive while packing on a very nice secondary ability makes them one of the best of their kind without a doubt. Repairing vehicles on a 5+ is one thing, but conferring Power of the Machine Spirit on a single vehicle within 12" at the start of the friendly shooting phase is another entirely - and the only cost is the sacrifice of shooting a laspistol (oh woe is me!) or throwing a grenade. This can be used either to grant a form of Split Fire to a vehicle squadron - like shooting an Executioner Cannon at one squad but diverting the plasma cannon sponsons to another unit - or just to allow a squad to shoot a weapon at full Ballistic Skill they normally wouldn't be able to.

    The rules clarify that this cannot be used to allow a tank to fire an Ordnance weapon and another weapon both at full Ballistic Skill, but for a Hydra or Wyvern it could be so that the tank can reposition 6" or more and still fire a weapon (or both) at full Ballistic Skill. While the latter use of this ability is limited, the former is certainly great for maximizing the damage output of vehicle squadrons popularized by the Astra Militarum. It bears mentioning that an Enginseer has a 3+ armour save but only a single wound at Toughness 3, meaning they also need defence from some "bodyguards" - whether they be Servitors or Guardsmen. Don't let the power axe and melee profile of the servo arm deceive you though, an Enginseer does not belong in combat and two Strength 4 AP2 Unwieldy attacks, while decent, aren't really worth sacrificing a highly useful support character for mechanized army lists. As for Servitors, they are cheap enough and warrant an inclusion if you want to guarantee your repair rolls work but will leave an Enginseer vulnerable due to their lack of models and poor defensive stats despite the price of each model. Try to hide such a unit behind a Leman Russ squadron or super heavy - the bigger the better with repair attempts - and use the lack of mobility from the former to keep in pace even with more aggressive variants such as the Demolisher. Both units are cheap enough to fit into any mechanized Astra Militarum list at the expense of something as cheap as a Chimera or Wyvern, and they are certainly worthwhile to such lists if only to guarantee one more devastating salvo from a Leman Russ Executioner.


    Best Uses

    Ministorum Priest - There's little doubt as to which units this amazing model was designed for, a list that includes but is not limited to combined Infantry squads, Conscripts, Bullgryns, Heavy Artillery Carriages and Ogryns. Basically any unit that is a huge investment of points like a Bullgryn wall or infantry blob requires either Fearless or Summary Execution to remove their key Leadership issues; thankfully for the Astra Militarum this is easily done with models as incredibly cheap as the Ministorum Priest. Whether it is a unit that is used more aggressively (like a Bullgryn wall) or merely sits back and provides heavy firepower (like an infantry blob) the Ministorum Priest is a great addition just for Zealot alone, regardless of how useful the War Hymms can be. Situate them either towards the back and in the middle of a squad to protect them both from the shooting of deployed units and from deep striking units.

    Primaris Psyker - Much like any of the supporting cast for the Astra Militarum, a Primaris Psyker needs to be kept under constant protection by an attached squad given their fragility and lack of any real damage output save for some light melee punch. Leadership 9 works just fine in a Heavy Weapons Team and gives the Primaris Psyker a good vantage point to cast psychic powers from, but this does come at the cost of survivability and an advanced position for shorter ranged abilities. I still maintain that these kinds of characters are perfectly suited to a combined Infantry Squad or Conscript squad due to the sheer number of models opponents need to cut through to get at the important unit buffers. It is important to note though that a Primaris Psyker does not provide the crucial immunity to fleeing that a Commissar or Ministorum Priest provides and thus should be taken alongside one of those in a blob unit, not singly. I recommend taking the extra Psychic Mastery Level on the Primaris Psyker as the extra power and warp charge point are easily worth the points, and I find that Divination and Telepathy are the most widely applicable psychic disciplines for a heavily infantry-based gun-line army like the Astra Militarum.

    Enginseer - Your first priority should be which of your vehicles are both the most valuable and the most likely to see constant pressure from your opponent, usually meaning Leman Russ squadrons or a Baneblade variant. Your artillery tanks should be hiding due to their fragility and ability to fire indirectly, and vehicles such as Chimeras or Hellhounds are either inexpensive enough or too mobile to not warrant an Enginseers' attention. You can feasibly hide an Enginseer solo behind one of these tanks and only ever worry about attacks from outflanking, deep striking or mobile units in addition to the seemingly unavoidable barrage weapons, though I do prefer to take a few Servitors per Enginseer to boost the repair rolls at the very least. The nice aspect to an Enginseer is that he or she never has to expose themselves to the enemy for their abilities to function at full effectiveness which means an opponent would actually have to dedicate something like a barrage weapon - which usually doesn't come cheap, mind - to be rid of them. If firepower is expended to kill the Enginseer and not the tank(s) they are repairing then, while not the most optimal outcome, at the very least the escort vehicles should have a greater chance of surviving until the next turn. The beauty of Enginseers is that they and their Servitor escorts are ridiculously cheap and are highly effective in a mechanized list, though it obviously could be argued that merely purchasing more tanks might be a more efficient approach.
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    Troops

    Platoon Command Squad

    Overview
    While many might see a Platoon Command Squad as just one of the three mandatory units in an Infantry Platoon, the reality is that they are a cheap and efficient support unit that provides amazing buffs for other squads in the form of Orders. This is effectively a slightly cheaper version of the Company Command Squad but with a few key differences, notably that the Commander has only a single wound and the Veterans are exchanged for regular Guardsmen. Generally speaking though these changes are more superfluous than anything else given that a Command Squad getting shot at will probably disappear in shot order anyway, while the firepower it offers even with upgrades will never match what Veterans or Tempestus Scions can put out.

    What really matters is how the unit correlates to Orders and this is where the major difference lies; the Platoon Commander is bereft of the Senior Officer special rule and thus is barred from issuing the three best Orders available, and can only issue one per friendly shooting phase. Being unable to provide Ignores Cover or Tank/Monster Hunter to a unit does limit the Platoon Command Squad quite a bit but honestly the sheer damage boost doled out by "First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire" or giving an entire unit Precision Shots are still great abilities to have. Allowing a unit of fifty Guardsmen to fire three shots per model from their lasguns and backed by Prescience from a cheap Primaris Psyker gives Astra Militarum by far the highest rate of fire of any army matched against the points investment, even if it is all only Strength 3 AP-. This is a unit comprised of five Toughness 3 models with a single wound each, possessing pitiful saves and poor equipment; Orders are what defines this unit and for that purpose Platoon Command Squads work just fine.


    How to Equip Them
    I often don't bother upgrading my Platoon Command Squads at all as there are no real must-take options available like the Master of Ordnance or Regimental Standard for a Company Command Squad. The Platoon Standard should be skipped as a Command Squad should really never be in combat while a medi-pack isn't as useful here as it would be for the HQ equivalent given the much lower cost and value. Worthwhile options include vox casters and krak grenades, the former for ensuring your Orders are heard and the latter as a "throw-away" upgrade if you have the points - remember, even five krak grenades can easily destroy a rear AV10 vehicle with three hull points in combat. I would keep the lasguns on the Guardsmen just for a few extra shots at long range seeing as a Command Squad generally doesn't want to be taking fire anyway, though if you take a Heavy Weapons Team then this probably won't matter anyway.

    On that subject, I prefer autocannons over lascannons for Platoon Command Squads due to their Ballistic Skill 3 Guardsmen crew - mortars and heavy bolters are still better left alone for Wyverns and Leman Russes to pack the same or better weapons on a more protected platform. If you want to use this unit as a Special Weapon Squad without having to pay for that unit - the Command Squad is mandatory after all - then you will be happy to know the costs are identical for both the base unit and weapon options. This is fun for delivering four flamers or three and one heavy flamer out of a Valkyrie or Vendetta as a super mobile Objective Secured Troops choice that can easily clear light to medium infantry out of a fortified position. Aside from packing special weapons in a transport or throwing in a heavy weapons team though I find little use for the upgrades on a Platoon Command Squad as they are there to provide Orders rather than any real firepower.


    Best Uses
    The general idea with a Command Squad is to keep them out of sight of most of your opponents' shooting so that they can safely issue Orders to your more important squads like Heavy Weapons Teams or Veterans. Still, any firepower an opponent directs at a squad with a points cost lower than fifty points works in your favour assuming the squad is camped in cover - Orders are great but not exactly essential and if it means your Heavy Weapon Squads survive a turn longer then all the better! Still, it goes without saying that keeping the support unit alive is the best outcome so that your fodder infantry can eat bullets and shoot back in good measure. Hiding behind stationary Leman Russ variants like Battle Tanks and within 12" of at least one good target for Orders - particularly a Combined Infantry Squad - works just fine given the durable AV14/13/10(11) chassis and decently wide berth, though using cover or even intervening squads is also effective. If they do have a heavy weapons team then there's no reason not to use the awesome 48" range of the gun from the back of the field and surrounded by friendly infantry units, peppering light vehicles or monstrous creatures with minimal Strength 7 AP4 shooting.



    Infantry Squad

    Overview
    Though these soldiers are definitely not the lowest class of warrior enlisted by the Imperium, they are nonetheless among its most numerous and ill equipped - it is the belief of their superiors that victory is worth any price, even the death of billions at a time. It is probable that more Guardsmen and Guardswomen die in one year than the sum of all living or dead Space Marines, a grim truth that highlights the cold brutality of sending countless souls to their end all in the name of a husk atop a throne of gold. How this translates to the tabletop war-game is predictable in that they are among the cheapest and most numerous units in the game with the highest potential unit size and unparalleled quantity of models through the platoon rules, outmatching even Orks and Tyranids for sheer numbers. It becomes quickly apparent though that your regular Guardsmen are not just mere pathetic fodder like many other cheap horde unit types but instead have a wide variety of upgrades, transport options and even become a deadly threat at medium range due to the incredible support abilities various characters in the codex can easily bestow upon them.

    Fifty Guardsmen firing with just lasguns backed by the "First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire" Order can potentially put out a ridiculous 140 Strength 3 shots at 12", averaging 70 hits, 23 wounds against Space Marines and a further 8 casualties from failed armour saves (rounding down for all fractions) - cover and re-rolls need not apply! The basic profile of a Guardsman is less than inspiring but when multiplied between ten and fifty times over it will quickly come to surprise you with just how valuable it is, especially in light of a glaring lack of a certain wargear selection for armies like Chaos Daemons and Tyranids. Threes across the board with a decent Leadership 7, poor 5+ armour save and one attack per model mark them as the "human" archetype unit that various others such as Termagants and even the previous version of Eldar Guardians are based on. Each Guardsman has a lasgun, a pitiful Strength 3 AP- gun with a 24" range and the Rapid Fire type that is near useless by itself but quickly becomes worrisome for elite or low Toughness units when used in great numbers - the doctrine of all Astra Militarum commanders is to win through bodies after all! Similarly, one Strength 3 attack per model is pretty poor but when fifty of those can fight with added re-rolls to hit from a friendly Ministorum Priest then that unit can quickly cut through even dedicated melee units just by soaking up so many wounds in each round of combat.

    Attrition is the name of the game with Infantry Squads and they arguably do it better than anyone else, especially with a decent 5+ armour save and Toughness 3 on such a cheap model making them far better equipped than Ork Gretchin or Tyranid Termagant. This is especially true once you notice that even your basic Guardsman has frag grenades and thus will strike at Initiative when charging through cover, something even elite melee units like Genestealers or Screamers lack entirely. The Imperium has the best tools, no? If it wasn't obvious already, an Infantry Squad comprises of only ten models and thus my earlier talk of fifty-strong squads might seem confusing; I am referring of course to the unique Combined Squads special rule exclusive to Infantry Squads. This is what distinguishes Infantry Squads from Veterans by allowing you to field an efficient horde unit that can be useful at both range and in combat unlike most horde units from other codices, packing heavy weapons and special weapons with easily obtained buffs among a literal storm of lasguns.

    That the decision to make a Combined Squad can be made before Warlord Traits are rolled rather than being restricted to the army list creation phase allows you to split a Combined Squad up if it would suit an objective-oriented game or allow you to better survive the limited but heavily concentrated firepower a list brings, such as from a Baneblade or Hellhammer. Ultimately though such occurrences are generally rare and there is usually little downside to making a Combined Squad as it is more difficult for opponents to take First Blood based on how much larger a unit is, and I would especially recommend keeping them together seeing as characters like Commissars and Ministorum Priests are limited and can't be spread around too freely. It is a unit that takes and holds objectives like no other in the codex while still maintaining Objective Secured, providing firepower in almost frightening quantities that can be boosted to ridiculous levels through a combination of Orders and psychic blessings. However you decide to build this unit though - whether as a "blob" or as multiple smaller units - they mark themselves as one of the more points-efficient fodder units in the game and certainly embody the Astra Militarum fighting philosophy of drowning an opponent in bodies.


    How to Equip Them
    The good news here is that there is no single "right" way to equip Infantry Squads as all are the weapon options are very useful with a respective transport or forming up a combined unit. A unit in a Chimera can be given a flamer for clearing out objectives or a meltagun and krak grenades as a cheap light anti-tank unit. This also applies to a Valkyrie but it bears mentioning that you can use a static wall of Chimeras packed with Infantry Squads and use heavy weapon teams to provide a lot of cheap long ranged firepower protected by AV12 front armour. As for blobs, this really depends on whether you want your combined unit to be an objective holder or objective taker.

    The former wants either autocannon or lascannon heavy weapon teams (autocannons without Prescience, lascannons with Prescience) and maybe a few plasma guns to be a huge and nasty unit when combined with Orders and relevant psychic blessings. The latter wants at least half the squad to take krak grenades so that it won't be rendered useless by a wall of vehicles and from there either some meltaguns or flamers depending on which kind of shooting is less easily found elsewhere in your army list. This kind of unit also loves to have power weapons or power fists on its Sergeants to have lots of "challenge monkeys" for a more important attached character that can also "hide" from monstrous creatures or squads and smash them to bits. Vox Casters are a nice upgrade for any type of non-mechanized unit given their low Leadership 7, though arguably adding a Leadership 9 Commissar to a unit reduces the need for these.


    Best Uses
    When it comes right down to it Veterans are a mere two handfuls of points more than a standard Guardsmen squad, packing an improved Ballistic Skill and numerous additional options such as being able to field up to three special weapons per unit. If you want squads packed into Chimeras or as lone squads of ten models then Veterans will be superior in almost any situation you can think of for the points, so playing to an Infantry Squad's strengths is key to their success. This revolves around the Combined Squad rule as it allows your regular Guardsmen to perform a role Veterans cannot, and that is as a massive concentrated horde that minimizes the amount of character spread and support required as opposed to multiple units. Thirty to fifty models is my general barometer for an average Guardsmen blob seeing as twenty is negligible at best while the higher numbers will at least be able to survive some punishment.

    A durable Objective Secured unit is hard to come by for the Astra Militarum and a Combined Squad is the only unit even remotely close to that if only through the sheer amount of wounds it packs in. While many players will often outfit such units with multiple heavy weapon teams and longer ranged special weapons to fit into a gunline build designed purely to annihilate enemies through its unrivaled quantity of firepower, I feel that mobile Objective Secured on a "survivable" platform is only accessible with a Combined Squad. For this reason you may want to skip on the Heavy Weapon Teams and prioritize flamers or meltaguns so that you don't have to compromise on mobility, though I do feel that a huge squad of Conscripts are better in this type of role as they don't waste the potential to take and protect Heavy Weapon Teams. If you do use a Combined Squad then make sure to attach at least one (Lord) Commissar or Ministorum Priest so that the unit is immune to Leadership manipulation and failing morale or pinning checks; a Combined Squad is also an optimal target for every single Order due to the number of models affected.



    Heavy Weapons Squad

    Overview
    If there is one good thing about a Heavy Weapons Squad it would be that it is reasonably cheap and thus when it dies you won't feel too guilty about the units' sacrifice, though unfortunately I feel this unit really should be a bit cheaper than it currently is. What this squad boils down to is a trio of Heavy Weapon Teams, singular models with the Bulky special rule that are formed by the joining (not that kind) of two regular Guardsmen and Guardswomen. Because of the sheer size and power of the various and devastating heavy weapons the Imperium employs it takes two human soldiers to carry one into battle as opposed to just one Space Marine. This sadly doesn't really help them to survive oncoming fire which will be directed at them once your opponents realize just how fragile a Heavy Weapons Squad is, as three models with 5+ armour saves and two wounds each at Toughness 3 will be annihilated by anything from boltguns to Serpent Shields in short order. That the latter is so common and comes packed with Ignores Cover means that taking Heavy Weapons Squads against Eldar in particular is effectively wasted points given that they will probably only get one shooting phase - if at all - before they are slaughtered.

    This is my main issue with Heavy Weapons Squads and it ties into why they belong in a Combined Squad; protecting Heavy Weapon Teams with lots of cheap infantry models means your opponent has to cut through several models before your long range firepower starts taking a hit, whereas Heavy Weapon Squads have no such luxury and lose effectiveness almost immediately. They can't defend themselves in combat with two attacks each with all the "threes" for stats albeit two attacks per model, an issue that a wall of Guardsmen backed by a Ministorum Priest or Commissar can alleviate, while their low Leadership and inability to take a Sergeant or Vox Caster makes them unreliable beneficiaries of Orders. That the unit is so small and fragile also makes it a poor choice for Commissars or other Independent Characters to join if you did want to fix that annoying issue of Leadership - on that front, losing just one Heavy Weapon Team out of the three forces a morale test on Leadership 7.

    As appealing as they might seem for an infantry-centric Astra Militarum list as a relatively cheap way to add some more heavy firepower to an army, the unit is just so fragile and easily countered by almost any codex that it is really difficult to justify taking them - especially if you are already packing Heavy Weapon Teams as part of Combined Squads. While this unit is massively flawed I would be lying if I said it was expensive, even if it is over-priced for what it does. For roughly the same price of one squad of five Space Marine Devastators with lascannons, you can take two Heavy Weapon Squads with autocannons for triple the amount of shots - if you care little for a units' survivability and purely for its damage output then the rate of fire and points per shot of a Heavy Weapons Squad isn't bad at all when considering its competitors.

    Unfortunately, Warhammer 40,000 is not a game where any single unit can get a "free pass" to do as it pleases; counters exist and opponents will use them to destroy your valuable units as quickly as they can. If Heavy Weapon Squads didn't pay an unnecessary fifteen point tax over what three Heavy Weapon Teams taken individually would cost and had some way of adding either regular Guardsmen or Conscripts as bullet sponges then it would be a good, if not great unit for its points that would actually be worth investing your valuable but limited support or psychic abilities into. As it is though, this is probably the weakest of the five different Platoon units because even with protection from an Aegis Defence Line and nearby squads the unit is just far too fragile and prone to fleeing to really provide a return on investment. They can be viewed as a somewhat inexpensive way of adding some extra anti-tank shooting into an army list but such a role can easily be performed by any number of the Leman Russ variants, Manticores, Basilisks and so on.


    How to Equip Them
    While I might usually ask what kind of firepower - anti-infantry or anti-tank - is lacking from your army and thus have your Heavy Weapon Squads or Devastator equivalents built around that, this unit definitely should be geared for anti-tank. Your basic infantry are incapable of dealing with vehicles at medium to long ranges and Heavy Weapon Teams are the answer to this problem without having to resort to Leman Russ variants or Basilisks and other artillery. Lasguns and the hull heavy bolters on nearly every Imperial ground vehicle will be more than enough for killing infantry so make sure that your Heavy Weapon Squads have autocannons or lascannons for tank suppression. Mortars would be interesting if they weren't so poor and completely outclassed by Wyverns, while heavy bolters are common everywhere in an Astra Militarum list.

    The choice then comes down to autocannons, missile launchers and lascannons, a decision that isn't nearly as easy as it was in the 5th Edition codex. The points cost disparity has shrunk while twin-linking via psychic powers or Preferred Enemy are more accessible than ever. Each of the three weapons has their own niche to fill and I think that you can take any of them and feel comfortable about your choice, though let us look at each one in a bit more detail. Autocannons are the best light vehicle destroyer by far due to their rate of fire and nice Strength 7, their preferred targets being AV11 and AV10 vehicles such as Rhinos, Venoms and Tauroxes. Missile Launchers are billed as a generalist weapon but their frag shell is pretty weak except against tightly clustered light infantry, though they are slightly better than autocannons against AV12 and AV13 vehicles such as Dreadnoughts or Ghost Arks. It also bears mentioning that autocannons are pretty poor against most monstrous creatures except when taken en masse, while missile launchers can quite easily strip wounds off of most Tyranid monstrous creatures and so on. Lascannons are the only choice of the three that has the (minor) potential to cause an Explodes result on a non open-topped vehicle and are much better at taking wounds off of pesky Riptides and Wraithknights than the other two, but it is the most expensive of course.

    I generally prefer autocannons on Ballistic Skill 3 models with a doubled rate of fire making up for their inaccuracy, but I feel that with the ever increasing importance of tanks that lascannons may be better because of how important AP2 is now with the tweaked vehicle damage table. This does come with a disclaimer though that lascannons shine more with re-rolls to hit from psychic powers or some other means because they are inaccurate, while autocannons are preferable if you lack those abilities or prefer to invest them elsewhere. Missile Launchers fill an interesting middle role but I feel that their frag shell isn't all that great no matter how often I see it used, while the krak shell is far inferior to the lascannon. By the by, krak grenades are funny but much better for Infantry Squads that don't really care if they move; Heavy Weapon Squads should just shoot the target instead of sticking grenades to them!


    Best Uses
    Continuing on from the previous section and assuming you have equipped your Heavy Weapon Squad(s) with your anti-tank weapon of choice, the question then becomes how to protect these incredibly fragile units. The reality is that three Toughness 3 models with six wounds between them and puny 5+ armour saves makes for a heavy duty shooting unit with very little in the way of survivability, making them one of the easiest and most obvious targets for opponents. This is why I feel an Aegis Defence Line or other form of fortification is absolutely crucial for an infantry-based Astra Militarum list as not only do you provide cover to dozens of models but your key scoring and shooting units also get the protection they require.

    Heavy Weapon Squads suffer from being unable to relocate without sacrificing their firepower seeing as each of their weapons has the Heavy type, while the lack of "fodder" bodies means that each casualty sees the strength of the unit decrease significantly. This is why supporting them with Infantry Squads or even static Combined Squads is optimal as you can use those units as bullet shields or hold up melee assailants. Ultimately the only real way to keep them safe is to have them either embarked on a building with firing ports or behind cover that provides a 4+ save; you can't add extra models nor improve their standard saving throws otherwise. Make sure to combine "Bring it down" and Prescience with the Heavy Weapons Squad whenever they are available - as in not being used on a more important Combined Squad or Heavy Artillery Battery - to maximise their unreliable damage output.



    Special Weapons Squad

    Overview
    The idea behind a Special Weapons Squad is rather simple; to provide the focused firepower of a Veteran or Scion unit while working within the constraints of an Infantry Platoon, sacrificing accuracy for a lowered cost and squad size. That the unit is forced to take three special weapons should draw immediate comparisons to Veterans that are also an Objective Secured Troops choice in a standard Combined Arms detachment and sadly I don't think the Special Weapons Squad has the edge here. The price disparity is significant seeing as a unit of ten Veterans is twice as expensive as a six-strong Special Weapons Squad, but the former packs in Ballistic Skill 4, significantly more upgrades to choose from and the all important Dedicated Transport option. If you want a unit packing special weapons like plasma guns or meltaguns then the higher Ballistic Skill option is usually superior, especially as on a per-model basis Veterans are a mere single point more expensive than regular Guardsmen (the models that comprise Infantry Squads and Special Weapons Squads).

    The big problem I have with the Special Weapons Squad is less that they are a cheaper yet less efficient specialist ranged unit than Veterans but more that they are incapable of taking a Dedicated Transport option for themselves. This means that they either need to steal a Dedicated Transport from another unit and hop in on the first turn or be forced to use a Vendetta or Valkyrie for aerial insertion, at least if you want to keep to the codex anyway. It's an odd situation to be in as their role is so narrow seeing as they are forced to take special weapons and have no inexpensive, easily accessed delivery option like a Chimera unless they look to Space Wolves or another Imperial codex. Much like Heavy Weapons Squads, I feel that the specialist short and long ranged units in Infantry Platoons seem to have arbitrary and unnecessary limitations or weaknesses that stop them from being the most useful investment of points when contrasted with their competitors. Veterans outclass Special Weapons Squads in all except cost but feature better accuracy and more bodies to boot, while packing your Heavy Weapon Teams into Infantry Squads provides them with much needed protection and gives you access to the awesome Combined Squads in the process. It's a shame as these Ballistic Skill 3 Guardsmen are at least priced identically to a regular Infantry Squad if it was cut down to six models, and they do work very well popping out of a Vendetta or Valkyrie with three flamers to clear an objective and use Objective Secured to capture it.

    They are a cheap source of melta and plasma shooting as well but I would argue that Veterans in Chimeras can perform this role so much better with Ballistic Skill 4 and having their own Dedicated Transport. The Ballistic Skill 3 of the Special Weapons Squad isn't really suited to meltaguns or plasma guns, but flamers care little for this discrepancy; similarly, Veterans that pay for Ballistic Skill 4 really shouldn't waste it on template weapons that need no roll to hit. In this case, Special Weapons Squads do at least have a role and it is similar to the objective-clearing Platoon Command Squad riding in a Vendetta - the unit size of six has been around for ages but changing the Vendetta's transport capacity to that same number is not a coincidence - and it comes without sacrificing that units' Orders in the early turns as well. I must clarify that I don't think this unit is bad at all and they function just fine as a suicidal unit, but I must stress that this kind of role is far better performed by Veterans.


    How to Equip Them
    Whether we like it or not, I must address the elephant in the room; Veterans are Ballistic Skill 4 and Special Weapons Squads are Ballistic Skill 3. One is much more accurate with the single-shot and rapid fire meltaguns and plasma guns, the other doesn't waste a higher Ballistic Skill by taking flamers. I don't really believe three sniper rifles are going to do much good on a Ballistic Skill 3 unit, even one so cheap when Ratlings are sitting right there in the Elites slot. Similarly, grenade launchers are a poor choice even in the best of circumstances and don't even warrant an in-depth analysis. This leaves the unit to four choices - one exclusive to Special Weapons Squads - in the form of flamers, meltaguns, plasma guns and demolition charges.

    Many will argue the first is the best here despite the 8" range of templates because it ignores the mediocre Ballistic Skill of the unit and is the cheapest to boot, though meltaguns do work well for a unit that cares little if it vacates a zooming Vendetta and dies in the process. Plasma Guns ride that line between being a bit too expensive to waste on a suicidal squad and having you care little if they overheat and kill the carrier. Ballistic Skill is irrelevant against overheating unless it exceeds five, though actually getting hits with between three and six shots does favour the more accurate unit considering the high cost of each weapon. For this reason and the ease with which a Special Weapons Squad can be tossed out of a zooming flyer to "Deep Strike" near a valuable target has me favouring the shorter ranged flamers and meltaguns with each obviously fulfilling the separate anti-infantry and anti-tank roles, respectively.

    Sitting in a corner just daring you to purchase them are the entirely distinct demolition charges, one-use-only wargear that function much like a miniaturized Demolisher Cannon shell that has the incredible likelihood of annihilating its users. These are the most expensive option by far but undeniably the most terrifying for opponents using masses of infantry fitting any description, whether elite like Terminators or light such as Termagants. A Strength 8 AP2 large blast can eviscerate entire units at a time with ridiculous ease and a Special Weapons Squad packing in up to three of these can quickly make short work of a squad that is far more expensive than they - the Emperor preserve a large brood (or squad) of Tyranid Warriors or Paladins that faces these. Unfortunately, the pitiful 6" range of demolition charges pretty much forces you to use Deep Strike deployment options as otherwise the high cost of the weapons will have almost no guarantee of reaching the enemy lines safely seeing as any sane opponent will destroy them in short order.

    On a less important but altogether humorous note, the 6" range of the large blast weapons coupled with the poor Ballistic Skill 3 of the Special Weapons Squad will see that so many games featuring these will result in the unit wiping itself out involuntarily. This isn't so important given that the unit is a one trick pony with one-use-only weapons and quickly becomes near useless after it has used the demolition charges - besides, one good hit on an enemy squad should make the Special Weapons Squads' points back immediately. Even if they fail to use them whether by not getting in range or being shot to death, the mere threat of demolition charges can also work in your favour by forcing your opponent to spread out and potentially leaving some units more vulnerable to your ground forces. The high cost, risk and limited range of demolition charges does make them the most risky investment for a Special Weapons Squad but ultimately they are an awesome and devastating option that deserves to be tested out at least once. Make sure the units' transport is nowhere near the potential blast radius!


    Best Uses
    Given that this unit will never match Veterans for reliability or versatility I think they are designed purely to provide an incredibly cheap source of either meltaguns or flamers, the former as a unit with those will cost the same as bare-bones Veterans and the latter because it ignores their mediocre Ballistic Skill. Vendettas are the prime transport option unless you can secure the Grand Strategist Warlord Trait that allows D3 units to Outflank, with the former employing Grav Chute Insertion or switching to Hover mode depending on the situation. Deep Striking out of a flyer is perfectly normal for a cheap suicidal unit while switching to Hover mode with a flyer as expensive as a Vendetta should only be done if you are sure your opponent won't have the means to dispose of or otherwise neuter it, such as preventing it from swapping back to Zoom mode.

    Depending on the units' armament, melta weapons should be used to go for a more likely kill rather than a hail mary given the inaccuracy of three Ballistic Skill 3 shots, while flamers are best suited to kill Toughness 4 4+ armoured models or those with weaker defensive stats than that basic template. Still, do not underestimate the killing power of three well-placed templates even against Space Marines - managing to kill three or four Space Marines will be heavily luck dependent but will pay for the Special Weapons Squad instantly. If the squad actually manages to survive after it has delivered its initial payload then I recommend either seeking a new target to continue being an annoyance to your opponent - this unit is so inexpensive and just dares your opponent to waste quality shooting on them - or camping on or taking an objective. I really do recommend Vendettas or Valkyries for the latter reason especially as it allows you to drop a cheap throwaway unit onto an objective which could potentially give you a point in a Maelstrom of War mission, or even target an enemy corresponding to one of the Tactical Objectives.



    Conscripts

    Overview
    If Morpheus told you that Conscripts were just weaker and cheaper Guardsmen with no options, would you believe him and still take the red pill? All these and other life-changing questions can be answered by a simple maths equation; Conscripts are less than Guardsmen in every way, properly presented as C < G. On a serious note though, this defines Conscripts in a nutshell - they lose a point in Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill, two points in Leadership and two points on their cost per model as well as any options whatsoever save to add extra models but are otherwise identical in every way to standard Infantry Squads. The option to take both a Combined Squad composed of up to five Infantry Squads and one giant unit of Conscripts per Infantry Platoon - both units numbering fifty models each - allows Astra Militarum players to field significantly more models than any other Games Workshop codex per Combined Arms detachment. This not only fits the theme of the Imperium being the largest faction in the galaxy but also gives Astra Militarum players access to some of the cheapest and most efficient horde units in the game.

    The differences between Combined Squads and Conscripts serve to highlight the usefulness of static and mobile tactics for each unit and which respective squad is best suited to either role. That Conscripts cannot take special or heavy weapons gives Combined Squads a good reason to remain static on a backfield objective as they can provide intense firepower anywhere in the 48" or lower area, while the more inexpensive Conscripts are better suited to a combat role provided supporting characters are in attendance. You aren't wasting the potential of any heavy or special weapons by charging with Conscripts and Weapon Skill 2 as opposed to Weapon Skill 3 only really makes a difference against Weapon Skill 5 foes that are relatively rare outside of characters for most armies. The silly facts are that Conscripts have the exact same basic equipment as Guardsmen including the 5+ armour save, lasguns and even frag grenades - yes, Conscripts have frag grenades but both Tyranids and Chaos Daemons (mostly) can't buy them even if they wanted to. The standard human profile with the differences mentioned above is perfectly fine on a standard Guardsmen and the cost decrease compensates for those changes with Conscripts, making them possibly the cheapest and probably the most cost-effective horde unit in the game. Ork and Tyranid players need only compare Gretchin, Termagants and Hormagaunts to Conscripts and weep at how the Imperium just seems to do almost everything better and cheaper (this is vaguely sarcastic, mind).

    This unit is only really good as a constantly advancing unit designed as a crazily cheap roadblock that can literally bury more than one objective in Toughness 3, 5+ armoured bodies. Heck, that is all that really needs to be said here - a 5+ armour save on a Toughness 3 model is all you need for a cheap horde unit and Conscripts could be seen as under-paying for this privilege, certainly in the Eternal War missions where their lack of mobility isn't as much of a weakness. About the only complaint I could make about this unit is that it can't take any kind of wargear options, but the sheer size, low cost and same capability to add support characters means any real complaints should be ignored. Chuck a Commissar or Ministorum Priest (or both) in this unit to ensure it never runs away, providing a massive moving wall of cover to your more important squads behind that neither you nor they will care about if the models die in their droves.


    Best Uses
    Take a minimum thirty of these, but preferably fifty, and at the very least throw a Commissar or Ministorum Priest into the unit. Either of the two fits just fine but the Commissar may be preferable to some for the boosted Leadership in regards to Orders, where straight Fearless and the War Hymms are probably more useful for a close quarters-centric horde unit. Use this unit as your "advancing" giant squad that captures objectives in the midfield and dares opponents to try and dislodge them, their sheer numbers requiring dedicated attention but low cost making their loss almost insignificant to your overall chances of victory. The unit puts out a ridiculous amount of shots between their own shooting phase and Overwatch, while the number of attacks - even at Strength 3 and Initiative 3 - are not to be underestimated with War Hymms and psychic blessings possibly in play. As large as this unit is you should treat it as a throw-away unit because of how cheap and numerous it is, able to sustain casualties better than any other unit in your army and keep chugging on.

    You want them for their Objective Secured scoring and ability to soak up damage that your other units - like Heavy Weapons Teams - can't in addition to tying down valuable enemy units in combat for an eternity. One of the most common tricks to use with Conscripts in conjunction with valuable short ranged units such as Leman Russ Demolishers or Chimeras loaded with Veterans is to spread out and advance, covering a wide amount of space and spreading the models thin to make them less vulnerable to blast weapons. Move and run them forward each turn with those units advancing behind them, using the Conscripts as a gigantic wall of flesh providing 5+ cover saves to anything they obscure. Combine this tactic with Bullgryns armed with slab shields if you want to go all-in on a Straken themed build that wants to get into melee and just outnumber and overwhelm the opponent. Make sure that your Commissar or Ministorum Priest - or any other attached characters - are safely tucked in around a well spread out core of models, towards the back and central to keep them safe from threats to the front as well as deep striking opponents. If you face a gunline that is hugging its board edge then using the Conscripts as the moving wall that advances from cover to cover will work just fine, while spreading them out to sit on multiple objectives can be a hilarious way to force your opponent to focus on the inexpensive horde unit.



    Veterans

    Overview
    Explaining the differences between Infantry Squads and Veterans is surprisingly easy even when one takes into account the inclusion of Platoon rules for the former, seeing as Veterans are essentially Infantry Squads with a few extra options and one increased stat. Ballistic Skill 4 Guardsmen that are priced similarly to Ork Boyz and armed with all the usual gear including lasguns, flak armour and frag grenades make for some very cost effective Troops choices that can be fielded in decent but hardly significant numbers. The unit size both begins and ends at ten with no option for a smaller or larger squad - if you want Guardsmen and Guardswomen in their droves then Infantry Platoons are your primary option. For a squad comprised entirely of Toughness 3 models with a 5+ armour save (before applicable upgrades) that has options geared mostly for medium to close range firefights, this could be considered a major weakness. Fortunately, the Astra Militarum not only has inexpensive and hardy enough transports but the Veterans themselves are mercifully cheap enough for this not to be a real issue.

    Really, aside from being incapable of forming a Combined Squad with other Infantry Squads, a minor points increase, raised Ballistic Skill and an expanded arsenal of weapons and upgrades, Veterans are virtually identical to Infantry Squads in every way even down to having the exact same Leadership values between the "privates" and the sergeants. It is amusing then that Veterans usually fulfill entirely separate roles to Infantry Squads in Astra Militarum army lists, proving that even the slightest changes can make all the difference in a game as complex and deep as Warhammer 40,000. The Ballistic Skill 4 Veterans are far better suited to weapons such as meltaguns or plasma guns and have an increased special weapon allowance to show for this, whereas the less precise Infantry Squads are more restricted in the number of upgraded guns they can take and make far better use of autocannons or flamers because straight accuracy is less important with these weapons. This translates to Veterans performing far better as a mounted squad inside a Chimera or Taurox by using up to three special weapons to deliver crushing firepower at close ranges, whereas Infantry Squads can form Combined Squads that work better as static fire-bases with the addition of Commissars or Ministorum Priests - characters that are wasted on a ten-strong Veterans unit.

    Veterans also have three exclusive wargear options that are aptly named "doctrines, providing a mixture of equipment that further specialize the squad into something closely resembling Militarum Tempestus Scions. From defensive camouflage to demolition kits including melta bombs for every model in the unit, doctrines allow a player to customize Veterans to a level unavailable for most other Astra Militarum units - the "Forward Sentries" doctrine allows you to mimic the traits of a Catachan force, while Grenadiers might work more closely with something like a Steel Legion regiment. The diversity of Veterans and their greater ranged presence despite a minimal points increase over Infantry Squads make for a great unit that is also the premier choice for mobile Objective Secured scoring units in ground transports. They are an efficient choice whether they are used to hold an objective in your deployment zone or provide a burst of intense damage at close range from the fire point of a Chimera - I heartily recommend them for a mechanized army list and they definitely make for a good supporting unit to an Infantry Platoon.


    How to Equip Them
    There are a few advantages a unit of Veterans has over a basic Infantry Squad, with one of them being the Ballistic Skill boost they pay for. This predictably influences which weapons are best suited for the squad as opposed to regular Guardsmen that are best suited to template based weapons or those that have a higher rate of fire. If you take Veterans then you accept that you are paying for Ballistic Skill 4 and thus you may as well use it as best you can, otherwise you may as well stick to Infantry Squads and the benefits a Platoon brings you. For this reason I advocate keeping flamers away from Veterans and more towards mobile Platoon Command Squads or Special Weapon Squads as it doesn't waste that Ballistic Skill 4, even if Veterans are generally a more useful unit to use in Chimeras. A player that uses Veterans will often lean towards a mechanized list because the more elite of the two Troops choices is far better suited to Chimeras with higher Ballistic Skill, doctrines, additional special weapons and so on. If there is one glaring weakness with such lists it tends to be dealing with other vehicles or monstrous creatures that are as durable or more so than Predators and Nemesis Dreadknights.

    Enter Veterans with plasma guns and meltaguns for dual purpose monster and tank hunting - plasma guns are more the generalist weapon with their range and rate of fire, whereas meltaguns are more of a specialist anti-tank choice - that combo perfectly with the fast moving and reasonably survivable Chimeras that pack a bit of a punch on their own. The choice of which generally depends on whether you have sufficient tools to deal with AV13 and AV14 vehicles outside of your Veteran squads, as an army lacking in that area will necessitate meltaguns on the Veterans to compensate. On the other hand, plasma guns are a far less risky weapon choice in terms of range that ensures your Veterans won't be charged or shot at soon as they jump out of their Chimera, though the increased cost and potential wounds caused by Gets Hot do balance this out. Generally speaking the 5+ armour save - or 4+ if you pay for a particular doctrine - doesn't work very well with plasma weapons as there is a significant chance the model that rolls a Gets Hot will perish in the process, sacrificing themselves unnecessarily. I feel that the Astra Militarum codex does have trouble against units such as Land Raiders and Monoliths if it is played as a purely mechanized list where lascannon spam from Heavy Weapons Teams and Sabre Defence Platforms is impossible to replicate and so meltaguns are generally the better option for an army list built to take on any opponent. Ultimately though, up to three plasma guns in a Ballistic Skill 4 squad that is so inexpensive with access to an appropriately priced transport can be incredibly scary for armies such as Tyranids or Grey Knights whose monstrous creatures typically operate at close ranges.

    For the other options, sniper rifles are cheap but the changes in 7th Edition hurt their overall usefulness badly and as such I would rather spend the extra points for a far more useful weapon like a meltagun that can actually hurt the vast majority of vehicles in the game, and rather easily at that. I've mentioned already that grenade launchers should be skipped and this is no exception on Ballistic Skill 4 Veterans, and the same is very much true of the mortar if you decide to take a Heavy Weapons Team. Missile Launchers and lascannons are very appealing on Veterans because of their increased accuracy as opposed to standard Guardsmen, and while autocannons are still useful I feel they are better reserved for the Ballistic Skill 3 units as their rate of fire mitigates the accuracy issues such squads have. I would avoid flakk missiles - and this goes for any other units with access to them - because of how expensive and wasteful they are compared to something like a flying transport such as the Vendetta that is armed with whopping firepower taking the form of three twin-linked lascannons. The heavy bolter is definitely one to skip with it being near useless against vehicles and heavy infantry, something that a mass of lasguns the rest of the unit brings cannot solve. I would skip shotguns as Veterans in particular with their small numbers should never voluntarily be charging anything given how pitiful they are in combat outside of latching krak grenades or melta bombs to tanks, though against such targets shotguns will be of no more use than lasguns anyway.

    Krak Grenades are an efficient upgrade for Veterans that are riding along in a Chimera as insurance against your melta or plasma weapons failing to destroy an enemy vehicle - an event that occurs surprisingly often - though they are hardly necessary, much like any of the three doctrines. Each of the doctrines is best suited to a different kind of Veteran squad, with grenadiers giving embarked squads the extra survivability they need to survive close firefights once they disembark their transport of choice. Forward Sentries is more useful instead for static units as they are far more likely to be camped in cover - such as behind an Aegis Defence Line - and thus the +1 cover save bonus is both more useful for the (lower) points than the armour save but also more likely to gain use when partaking in a long ranged firefight. That this particular doctrine also offers a form of defensive grenades is just a bonus, though if you find such a unit lacking in the anti-tank department then the Demolitions doctrine may be perfectly suited to you. Giving melta bombs to ten models for the price of three meltaguns is scary for any opponent that brings melee monstrous creatures or heavy transports - remembering that the Astra Militarum lacks a proper assault transport - while adding a single demolition charge in gives the unit some serious punch at close quarters. Still, I do feel paying for two plasma guns or a pair of meltaguns with an autocannon can fulfill the same role and still allow the unit to be useful both at all ranges without having to endanger themselves through combat - remember, melta bombs are Unwieldy and Veterans are fragile!


    Sergeant Harker
    For those that to theme their army around the forces of Catachan and more specifically its second regiment the "Catachan Devils", Gunnery Sergeant Harker is a cool albeit expensive addition to add character and steel to a Veterans squad. Though the change to Relentless does mean you can no longer use Harker to allow a Heavy Weapons Team to fire at full Ballistic Skill on the move, the giant of a man can still fire his special Heavy Bolter regardless of whether he moves or not. Three shots at Ballistic Skill 4 that are Strength 5, AP4 and Rending are nice but ultimately not worth the Gunnery Sergeant's whopping price tag - especially seeing as he replaces the existing Veteran Sergeant! Having natural Strength 4 and krak grenades as standard is not enough to make up for his excessive cost as providing Relentless to the squad no longer functions as it used to, meaning that even if you did want to run a "combat" Veterans unit they would stop as soon as they use their lasguns. It doesn't help that Veterans themselves don't want to be in combat unless it is a vehicle that isn't also a nasty walker - such as a Furioso Dreadnought with blood talons - that can tear the squad apart before they strike back. Harker is just too expensive for what he does considering all he can really provide over a standard Veteran Sergeant in 7th Edition is a slightly superior heavy bolter that can be shot on the move, but seeing as heavy bolters aren't that great to begin with this is hardly a compliment.


    Best Uses
    While "mechanized Veterans" has existed as a tactic for longer than Imperator Guides has existed as a blog, it nonetheless remains a hallmark even through to 7th Edition where AP1 and AP2 weapons are more coveted than ever because of the more forgiving vehicle damage chart. You cannot take massed missile launchers and expect to wreck every tank you see with a single lucky 5+ roll anymore; you either need to be able to strip hull points off incredibly quickly or be able to reliably cause an Explodes result on a vehicle in one or two shooting phases with your dedicated anti-tank units. Veterans armed with three meltaguns and loaded up in either a Chimera or Taurox - but preferably the former for its added survivability with such a fragile close ranged unit embarked - tick one of those requirements and can shred most vehicles up to and including Land Raiders with ease, earmarking themselves as the best tool for such enemies in a mechanized army.

    They are cheap enough with a good transport that itself offers solid firepower to be considered one of the more points efficient choices in the codex, though their presence in a static list is also not to be under-estimated. Ballistic Skill 4 Heavy Weapon Teams are awesome as is a bevy of plasma or melta special weapons, while the unit remains inexpensive even despite their increased cost over Infantry Squads - they pay appropriately for the benefits they receive, especially when the forward sentries doctrine is taken into account. While I don't think grenadiers is a required doctrine for a mechanized squad if only to save points - though units with plasma guns should really consider the upgrade - I do feel the super low cost of forward sentries and the impressive defensive boost it provides to a static unit is well worth the extra points investment. Fortunately and much like the renamed Stormtroopers, Veterans are versatile and yet still amazingly cheap for what they do and as such it is truly difficult to put a wrong foot forward with them.

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    Dedicated Transports

    Chimeras

    Overview
    The Chimera is one of the most commonly seen transports in the game because of its great combination of firepower, survivability of a sort, above average transport capacity and widespread availability. This is all at a price that strikes a medium between the cheap but feature-lacking Space Marine Rhino and the costly but powerful Eldar Wave Serpent, giving Astra Militarum players an efficient transport option that has a cost suited perfectly to units such as Veterans. Being a tank and not a skimmer can be considered a down-side but the Chimera is certainly cheap enough to compensate for this, while its generalist shooting is more of an added bonus on a transport that should be constantly moving in the first few turns. Compared to a Rhino that has either a storm bolter or combi-bolter - depending on the alignment - included in its base profile, a Chimera combines a heavy bolter with a multi-laser; the latter of these is essentially a stronger heavy bolter that has inferior armour save penetration. The 36" range of both weapons combined with the Chimera's front armour twelve and the option to place a Heavy Weapons Team inside to use one of two fire ports can make for a decent static shooting unit(s), but generally speaking Chimeras are still transports first and foremost.

    As a transport, front armour twelve with three hull points is certainly superior to a Rhino unless you are facing against multiple flanking units, though side and rear armour ten aren't great for a vehicle that is almost double the cost of the aforementioned archetype from the Space Marine codex. The firepower a Chimera provides should be considered as "additional value" rather than key components as by moving 6" a turn one of the two guns will be Snap Firing, while a 12" move ensures both have to Snap Fire. Once a Chimera delivers its embarked unit to their destination then its two weapons become surprisingly useful given how efficient they are at destroying light vehicles and taking wounds off of monstrous creatures. That the Chimera has two fire ports and a pair of lasgun arrays means a single Chimera and one embarked unit can potentially shoot at up to four different targets per shooting phase, certainly making it a far more fearsome option than something like a Rhino as far as presence in the Shooting Phase is concerned. Even though lasguns are pitiful and these are forced to fire at Ballistic Skill 3, that they can shoot at full Ballistic Skill even if the Chimera moves 12" in the Movement Phase can cause a few extra unsaved wounds here or there which is just icing on a unit this cheap that fulfills so many different roles.

    With a carrying capacity of twelve, Chimeras can ferry any kind of Infantry unit you could imagine short of a Combined Squad or Conscript unit. The common choice is Veterans due to their proliferation of special weapons and improved Ballistic Skill 4, though having a Special Weapons Squad or Heavy Weapons Squad hijack another units' Chimera certainly isn't a bad option - just be prepared to sacrifice a Shooting Phase for the latter unit even if the Chimera remains motionless. For Veterans and Infantry Squads, however, this allows you to field an Independent Character - or two - such as a Lord Commissar inside the squad, a trait that Space Marine players have been demanding for their own transports for several editions running. Of the three Dedicated Transports in the codex, the Chimera is unique in that it is always equipped with smoke launchers and a searchlight which are both perfect for a transport with mediocre survivability. This is also the most widespread transport option in the codex and arguably the "staple" choice, meaning it can be used for almost any requirement you might have. Overall, the Chimera is a fine Dedicated Transport that mixes lots of Strength 5 and Strength 6 shooting with good front armour, making it the perfect choice for Veterans or Company Command Squads alike. On that note, the Chimera is also the only transport that allows an Officer model to issue Orders while embarked inside - this is crucial considering the fragility and value of Command Squads and yet another reason to use these instead of the new Taurox vehicles.


    How to Equip Them
    The key to the vast majority of transports in the game is keeping them as cheap as possible because they are solely there to provide mobility and an added layer of protection to the embarked unit; certainly this is no different with the Chimera. If there are any upgrades you should be taking for transports then it should be those that keep it moving, whether by re-rolling failed dangerous terrain tests or turning "Crew Stunned" results into "Crew Shaken" results instead. These include Dozer Blades and Extra Armour but both are avoidable if only because they are unnecessary - most game boards should have enough open spaces for Chimeras to advance through without risk of taking dangerous terrain tests, while "Crew Shaken" is far more common a result than "Crew Stunned". Upgrades like the Fire Barrels, Recovery Gear and Relic Plating are more useful for a typically close-ranged - transports everyone! - vehicle than something like a standard Leman Russ Battle Tank that sits at range because these will be drawing more close range shooting.

    Still, I prefer to keep Chimeras stock because they aren't exactly cheap seeing as they double the total points cost of a Veteran unit without upgrades - you want these as cheap as possible so that you can take them in their multitudes, as is the Imperial Guard doctrine of warfare. As for the weapon options, I prefer the standard multi-laser and heavy bolter because three Strength 6 and three Strength 5 shots at 36" makes for very decent firepower on a transport. I avoid heavy flamers even despite how close a Chimera will typically get to enemy infantry units because of the likelihood of them being forced to snap fire and thus not shoot at all, while replacing the multi-laser for a heavy bolter isn't really a great trade I feel. The extra point of Strength makes a big difference when shooting at light vehicles which is amusingly a type of unit that Chimeras can bring down reasonably well.


    Best Uses
    While I hate to parrot on about the "netlist" builds because almost everyone invariably knows some variation of the force, it still bears mentioning that Veterans in Chimeras are undoubtedly the best application of the latter unit and probably the former as well. Chimeras may not be as inexpensive as Space Marine Rhinos but ultimately their function is identical, and that is to deliver a squad of highly damaging close ranged models to valuable enemy targets as soon as possible. Their front armour of twelve is great for an advancing transport, while two fire ports, a number of lasgun arrays and two long ranged guns on the chassis make it a surprisingly decent mobile fire-base. They are the perennial all-rounder of the Dedicated Transport options and perfectly complement the fragile Veterans embarked upon them. Alternatively, purchasing these for Infantry Squads and then hopping Special Weapon Squads inside is a decent option though ultimately this wastes the lasgun arrays. There are many nice little vehicle tricks that players use mostly with transports given their more expendable nature.

    These tactics include firing the disembarked unit at their target, then moving the transport in front of them with a Flat Out move to block line of sight and return fire to the squad; using the transport as moving cover for a more expensive short-ranged tank like a Leman Russ Demolisher - or vice-versa - and so on. For the Chimera specifically I would avoid pulling the trick involving deploying them with their long facing towards the opponent, then pivoting on the first turn to gain a few inches of "free movement" because of their weak side armour. Chimeras pay quite a bit for front armour twelve which is quite rare among transports - particularly for the Imperium - and leaving their sides exposed to first turn fire even if you are taking that first turn leaves them highly vulnerable to a Seize and subsequent destruction. There is nothing worse than a filled transport being destroyed or immobilized before it can move as both it and its embarked unit essentially become free points for your opponent. A nice trick to keeping Chimeras safe I have found is to run them in pairs adjacent to each other to present a wide "front armour" angle to your opponent and reduce the chances of their side armour being singled out, though obviously this should not be done against an army with units capable of destroying them in close combat or that has access to high Strength blast weapons. Hellhounds make for perfect companions to Chimeras, advancing further and drawing attention with their devastating anti-infantry weaponry.



    Taurox and Taurox Prime

    Overview
    The two newcomers to the transport scene, the Taurox and Taurox Prime are both in a similar price range to the Chimera but ultimately carve out their own little niches in terms of usefulness and capabilities. I will of course address the elephant in the room directly by stating that the Chimera is still the king of the Astra Militarum transports and the new vehicles aren't quite as efficient overall, but they definitely don't qualify as "bad" units in any sense. Still, the comparisons to the long revered Chimera do deserve mentioning considering the regular Taurox in particular is a direct competitor with the Chimera as a widely accessible Dedicated Transport option. A Taurox shares the same weak side and rear armour of ten, but features a reduced front armour value of eleven making it even less survivable than a Space Marine Rhino despite costing quite a bit more. It has a transport capacity of ten as opposed to the Chimera's twelve which only makes a difference if you want to attach an Independent Character to a Veteran or Infantry Squad, though it has two more access points and fire points to compensate.

    Instead of a heavy bolter and multi laser for decent long ranged shooting, a Taurox features a twin-linked autocannon with the same Ballistic Skill 3 which makes it capable of glancing AV13 vehicles but it ultimately is less efficient against lightly armoured vehicles and infantry with a mere third of the total rate of fire. The Taurox variants both share the "All-Terrain APC" special rule which allows them to re-roll failed dangerous terrain tests, an ability that a Chimera needs to pay a few measly points for - it is worth noting that a Chimera is the equivalent of a quarter of a minute more expensive in points than a Taurox if neither takes any upgrades. To make up for this of course, a Chimera allows the embarked unit to either fire out of the two lasgun arrays or issue Orders from the top hatch - the latter feature is sadly lacking for the Taurox and thus makes it the clearly inferior choice as a transport for any type of Command Squad. Considering its points cost and abilities, the standard Taurox seems much like a stripped down Chimera with only a slight points decrease to compensate which marks it as inefficient to my eyes - inferior firepower, transport capacity, survivability and overall abilities (issuing Orders) are the key issues here.

    That both Taurox variants lack smoke launchers and searchlights - both of which are standard equipment for the majority of Imperial vehicles - just serves to make them seem like oddly priced attempts at stealing the thunder of the superior Chimera. The Taurox Prime does have a few more nifty tricks up its sleeve but it pays for this by being nearly twice as expensive as a regular Taurox, and one could argue its "upgrades" aren't worth all those extra points. The Prime is a Fast vehicle which makes it far more alluring as a transport for a short ranged unit which, coincidentally, is the only type of squad they can transport given their exclusivity with the Militarum Tempestus. Adding a second heavy weapon and an improved Ballistic Skill 4 make its firepower more effective certainly, but the weapon upgrades themselves are expensive and the stock guns are barely an improvement over the regular Taurox. I really think the Prime pays way too much for what it brings over the standard Taurox and that it is exclusive to Militarum Tempestus units really limits its uses as far as a transport is concerned, especially seeing as its high cost and those squads' innate Deep Strike capabilities have it draw very near to being redundant.

    I need to stress however that these two vehicles are by no means inefficient in general but they just don't beat out the Chimera for overall effectiveness as a transport first and foremost. The in-built "dozer blade" effect is nice and they have decent firepower but the difference in durability between front armour eleven and front armour twelve is not insignificant and the Chimera just works better as an all-purpose transport with the lasgun arrays and smoke launchers. There is a limit to how many points one can feasibly spend on a vehicle as fragile as a Taurox and both of them certainly have difficulty striking that balance - the Prime especially is far too easily destroyed for how sizable its cost is - and that is why I think paying some extra (or fewer) points for a Chimera is usually the more advisable choice.


    How to Equip Them
    This is a fairly simple question to answer with regards to the standard Taurox seeing as it has no weapon options and needs no upgrades to perform its stated role as a transport. The twin-linked autocannon is the only weapon it can be outfitted with unless you count pintle-mounted storm bolters and heavy stubbers, but seeing as a transport should be moving that will usually see those weapons snap firing anyway. The vehicle upgrades are mostly wasted here for similar reasons to the Chimera - it just doesn't require any of them and you want to keep a transport this fragile as cheap as you possibly can so that its inevitable destruction isn't so painful when it does eventually occur. The only upgrade that I would usually recommend for this or a Chimera would be a dozer blade but fortunately the Taurox comes with the same effect built in to its base cost, meaning the dozer blade is unsurprisingly a "useless" upgrade for a Taurox.

    The Taurox Prime is an altogether different story with multiple primary and secondary weapon options (I consider pintle-mounted weapons to be tertiary) though its heavily increased base cost reduces the value of the various vehicle upgrades even further. The stock primary weapon is the Taurox battle cannon which is essentially an autocannon that fires a single blast instead of two solid shells, making it a gun I wouldn't really rate over a twin-linked autocannon. It can be replaced by either a twin-linked taurox gatling cannon or a taurox missile launcher, either of which aren't cheap exchanges. Ten Strength 4 shots with re-rolls to hit on Ballistic Skill 4 isn't bad by any means but it limits the Taurox Prime to a dedicated anti-infantry attacker, a role that the unit embarked upon it should be fulfilling instead. On the other hand is the missile launcher and while this does amount to a typhoon missile launcher, that it increases the price of the incredibly fragile Taurox Prime to a century's worth of points makes it far too "risky" of an option. The return on investment simply isn't there, especially for a transport that needs to be moving closer to the opposition and objectives to be useful rather than a pure waste of points that could be spent on a proper "gun-boat" like a Leman Russ tank.

    As for the secondary twin-linked hot-shot volley gun versus a twin-linked autocannon, I prefer the latter in every situation for the range and Strength that allows a Taurox Prime to engage other light vehicles fairly respectably. That it is a free weapon exchange makes it almost a no-brainer even though the hot-shot volley gun is a very decent Space Marine killer in its own right. If you somehow find yourself lacking efficient sources of anti-infantry such as Leman Russ Eradicators, Hellhounds, Leman Russ Executioners, Vendettas, Combined Squads, Wyverns and so on, then a Taurox Prime equipped with both the gatling cannon and the hot-shot volley gun might appeal to you as a heavily stripped down Leman Russ Punisher. It can be argued that this variation does suit the only unit it can transport - Militarum Tempestus Platoons - that will typically be outfitted with plasma or melta weaponry to combat vehicles with their increased special weapon allowance and Ballistic Skill 4, but I just don't really see the merits here. The cold hard truth of the matter is that a Taurox Prime doesn't compare well to any of those other options in that role and as such you should really just stick with the battle cannon and autocannon to keep it as cheap as possible and provide a nice mobile base of Strength 7 AP4 shooting. Like with the regular Taurox, the dozer blade is unnecessary because the Taurox Prime already re-rolls failed dangerous terrain tests, while the other upgrades should be avoided because they either aren't that useful or just add on too much to an already overly expensive vehicle.


    Best Uses
    My most basic advice for both variants of the Taurox is to keep them bare - save for swapping the volley gun for the autocannon on the Prime - and that means no upgrades or switching weapons. This is because both of these vehicles are fragile, expensive and already have the effects of the most important option for a transport, the dozer blade, as an innate special rule. From there, standard Imperial transport tactics apply with a small footnote related to the Taurox Prime. Disembarking a unit once it is range of its quarry or objective, then making a Flat Out move with the transport after the unit has fired provides an extra layer of defence for the more important squad. This is far easier for the Taurox variants than with the Chimera due to the extra pair of access points, the standard variant having little firepower to worry about wasting, and the Prime because it is a Fast vehicle with a 12" Flat Out move.

    Advance with cover in mind at all times - especially as the Taurox variants lack smoke launchers - because both of these vehicles are more fragile than the Space Marine Rhino despite being either slightly or considerably more expensive. I recommend advancing through cover wherever possible to increase the chances of each transports' survival - you may as well use that in-built dozer blade effect! Leman Russ Demolishers or a Bullgryn wall are slow but ultimately far more survivable than the other moving cover-providing options you could use, while the limited transport capacity of a Taurox compared to the Chimera means you should really keep squads and not attached independent characters reserved (as in a waiting line) for this vehicle. The additional fire ports compared to a Chimera make this more appealing to Veterans and Militarum Tempestus squads than for standard Infantry Squads, while a Special Weapons Squad or Heavy Weapons Team could feasibly hijack one of these. For the Taurox Prime in particular, use its Fast vehicle type to your advantage and move 12" a turn so that your embarked unit can be delivered as quickly as possible while sacrificing only half the firepower of the Prime rather than all of it.

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    Elites

    Ogryns and Bullgryns

    Overview
    While there are a few common themes between the Astra Militarum and the Adeptus Astartes, perhaps the strangest is that the former has an equivalent of the latter's iconic Terminators despite being a typically static, long-ranged gun-line army. These manifest as the Ogryns and Bullgryns, a sub-human species of titanic proportions that is cursed - or gifted, depending on your perspective - with limited intelligence, making for crude but powerful assault troops in an army list that is otherwise bereft of such units. Against anything that isn't a Strength 10 attack, these two units are far more survivable than Terminators despite being priced similarly with a whopping three wounds per model at Toughness 5, even accounting for their poor to mediocre saving throws. While regular Ogryns will fall rapidly to concentrated pulse rifle fire from Tau Fire Warriors with only a pitiful 5+ armour save, the more heavily equipped Bullgryns with their 4+ or 3+ armour saves are incredibly survivable. While all but one variation of Bullgryns lack invulnerable saves, the Ogryn sub-types can't be put down nearly as quickly by plasma guns as Terminators - a Terminator will have a saving throw against it, but once it fails that roll it dies immediately whereas an Ogryn can truck on with two wounds remaining.

    Their profile is very impressive and definitely makes Tyranid Warriors reek of jealousy, though Leadership 6 (seven on the "sergeant") with Stubborn combined with a poor Initiative 2 makes them incredibly susceptible to failing morale checks and Sweeping Advances. I am sure many players are thankful then that the Astra Militarum has numerous fixes for this particular issue with Leadership 9 from a Primaris Psyker, Fearless from a Ministorum Priest or Summary Execution from a Commissar! As for actual damage output, Ogryns of all kinds have an impressive three Strength 5 attacks each with a respectable Weapon Skill 4, making them above average melee fighters that can handily compete with lesser dedicated assault units such as Assault Marines. Throw in Hammer of Wrath and assault grenades - not that they really matter with Initiative 2 - and you have yourself a tough and suitably damaging assault unit that is priced almost identically to Space Marine Terminators despite having immensely improved durability.

    Unfortunately, an issue with their army list and not the unit itself is that they lack an easily attainable delivery system - with no assault transports in the Astra Militarum codex and no option to Deep Strike, these squads are forced to either foot-slog and be used as a fire magnet or chuck a few models in a Chimera or Taurox. The latter option isn't a great alternative to foot-slogging because each Ogryn and Bullgryn is Very Bulky and thus takes up three spots per model in a transport, and seeing as the Chimera has twelve spots and a Taurox only three this really limits how many models you can take in a unit. An allied Land Raider Crusader is perfect for them but the cost of the unit does mount up to ridiculous levels and even exceeds that of most Terminator squads in the specific case of Bullgryns armed with power mauls and brute shields. Ogryns and Bullgryns with slab shields suffer from being incapable of dealing with AV12 or higher walkers with their limit to Strength 5 or lower attacks and having the inability to take upgraded ranged weapons such as meltaguns or a suitable Ogryn equivalent. This does leave them lacking against vehicles with similar rear armour values which are thankfully rare, but it nonetheless is an issue that is only addressed by paying exorbitant prices to give Bullgryns power mauls. The ranged weapons of each unit are limited by that mediocre Ballistic Skill 3 and the guns themselves have 12" ranges and are only really good for clearing out light infantry.

    I am guessing the burning question on everyone's minds is who would win in a fist fight between Ogryns (or Bullgryns) and Terminators considering the two units are priced identically if the latter takes no upgrades. Whether we use standard Terminators or Assault Terminators makes surprisingly little difference to the end result, even if the Assault Terminators are further outfitted with thunder hammers and storm shields. In the case of power fists and thunder hammers, the Ogryns strike first with thirty Strength 5 attacks hitting on 4s and wounding on 3s, causing ten wounds to which one or two are unsaved on average. In reply, the Terminators strike back with twenty Strength 8 attacks hitting on 4s and wounding on 2s, causing roughly nine unsaved wounds for three dead Ogryns.

    If you instead use lightning claws on the Assault Terminators, they attack first with thirty Strength 4 attacks that hit on 4s and wound on 5s with re-rolls thanks to Shred, causing roughly eight to nine unsaved wounds for - again - approximately three dead Ogryns that are then unable to attack back. Even if you account for Hammer of Wrath and shooting - the latter area gives Terminators a further edge unless they are of the Assault variety - the end results are mostly the same with the Terminators pulling ahead. You might ask though, what about the considerably more expensive Bullgryns with power mauls? If they are able to strike first then they hit fifteen times for around thirteen wounds caused, and two dead Terminators as a result due to their 2+ armour saves. The strikes back deal roughly six unsaved wounds rather than nine given that the Bullgryns have a 5+ invulnerable save for a total of two dead models per side, a trade that doesn't favour the Bullgryns as they lose more attacks and cost either twenty or fifteen points more per model than the Terminators. This is why I cannot label these units as top-tier melee units as they lack the hitting power to compete even with the generally over-priced Terminators, though they will definitely plow through Astra Militarum blobs and other horde units in record time.

    All three of the units have their uses and are good if only as a very tough fire magnet, but they can't really be considered an elite melee unit unless you take the immensely expensive Bullgryns with power mauls and brute shields. This is why I feel Bullgryns with slab shields are the best unit overall out of the three choices available because they are more of a support unit than anything else, acting as a wall of meat that provides significant defensive bonuses to other friendly infantry and vehicles. They do suffer a bit from being some of only a few units in the codex that actually want to get into close combat as often as possible that presents a bit of a clash of ideologies - Astra Militarum units are mostly fragile and good at shooting and thus avoid melees as much as they can. Still, I can't fault them as they do provide a tough unit in an army that traditionally lacks these and they serve as natural - if expensive - fire magnets even if they can be hard-countered a bit too easily by a certain new Tyranid monstrous creature, a Manticore or something as "common" as a Demolisher Cannon.


    How to Equip Them
    Seeing as Ogryns have absolutely no options in terms of wargear, I can instead focus all of my attention on Bullgryns who are slightly improved with the choice of two different load-outs. Considering how incredibly expensive these units are in terms of points per individual model, it probably comes as no surprise that I heartily recommend sticking with the standard weapon set as it also gives Bullgryns a more generalist role. Their ranged weapons are inaccurate and nothing special with such a limited range but when fired en masse they can scythe through horde units incredibly quickly, while their mass of Strength 5 close combat attacks and Hammer of Wrath can put tougher melee units to shame. Still, the best reason to stick with the standard equipment is the slabshield, a piece of wargear that provides any unit obscured by the Bullgryns an impressive 4+ cover save instead of the usual 5+.

    For an army that lacks tough Objective Secured units and instead must rely on slow hordes of inexpensive but fragile bodies to keep enemies at bay on an objective, this is an absolutely critical ability and serves to make Bullgryns far more useful than Ogryns ever could be. Having the equivalent of a mobile Aegis Defence Line on a unit that is universally Toughness 5 with three wounds and a 4+ or 3+ armour save - the latter is used when they bunch up - is a godsend for an army like the Astra Militarum that does have trouble capturing enemy controlled or neutral objectives in the midfield and opposing deployment zone. The brute shield and power maul combo does turn Bullgryns into more expensive but far deadlier Terminator equivalents but the cost to upgrade and loss of the all important slabshield just doesn't seem as appealing to me, especially seeing as the Astra Militarum lacks any native assault transport options, reducing the value of a dedicated melee unit.


    Best Uses
    While many may debate as to the best application of Ogryns, Bullgryns with slabshields have one very obvious role and that is to be used as a mobile defence line by providing 4+ cover saves to all units they obscure. Considering the size of Bullgryn models and the widespread access for camo cloaks or camo gear across the codex, this can see the vast majority of your army protected by a whopping 3+ cover save. The key that ties this all together is the Toughness 5 models with three wounds each and a 3+ armour save when in base contact with each other. There is an important note to make with the slabshield rules and that is the specification that two or more models have to be in base contact for those specific models to get the armour save boost. What this means is that you can have a squad of ten and then divide them into five "pairs of two models each in base contact with each other but each pair separated by the usual 2" unit coherency rules.

    This allows you to cover a huge area, roughly 25" across, where all models behind the Bullgryns that are even partially obscured will benefit from an impressive 4+ cover save. The aptly named "Bullgryn Wall" is easily the best and most useful application of the unit given that getting them into combat isn't easy with no assault transport or incredibly durable platform outside of Super Heavies to ferry them across the battlefield reliably. The unit itself is tough enough to soak up incredible amounts of firepower and, unless it is focused on early, the more important squads or vehicles advancing behind it will be relatively safe from harm. Leman Russes, Chimeras and Combined Squads all benefit immensely from easily accessed 4+ cover saves, especially in Maelstrom of War missions where the key to victory is to be mobile - something that usually isn't possible with most Astra Militarum lists because of their static nature. While the Bullgryn Wall might not be the most widely used unit in tournaments, I feel it is definitely the best answer to Maelstrom of War missions if you play an army list consisting heavily of foot-slogging infantry - mechanized armies of course have the mobility to not require this unit.

    For Ogryns and Bullgryns with brute shields, their uses are a bit more narrow - they can advance as a line or block formation to provide a huge fire magnet for your opponents, but the Bullgryns aside they just lack the damage output to really be a major threat to most enemies. Ogryns are lacking in both shooting and close combat when one considers how expensive they are, while their short range and paltry 5+ armour save sees that they really should be ferried forwards by Chimeras or Tauroxes - the latter is surprisingly preferable here if you want to save some points and use an extra fire point. Bullgryns with brute shields don't fulfill the same support role as Bullgryns with slab shields and should thus be seen as a dedicated melee unit that packs a whopping punch, and though they are scarily tough they need to be transported much like Ogryns as otherwise they will accomplish nothing. Any savvy opponent knows that Bullgryns with brute shields and Ogryns can do nothing to their own units until they close in to a 12" or smaller zone and will thus ignore them in favour of more pressing targets early on, such as your Wyverns, Basilisks and Objective Secured Troops choices.

    Ogryns and Bullgryns with brute shields are theoretically good Terminator equivalents but the lack of other proper close ranged assault or shooting units in the codex for the most part makes them standout as a bit of a red herring, an odd child amongst a force typically suited to a gunline. They aren't bad by any means but their pure damage output is strictly reliant on close quarters combat and unless they steal an allied assault transport they aren't going to be getting there in a hurry, especially seeing as the rest of the codex isn't suited to that type of warfare. The reason standard Bullgryns don't suffer from this issue is that they are built as a support unit first and a combat unit second; they can still be a crucial buffer for the rest of your army, whereas the other two don't fulfill that same role nearly as well. Attaching a Ministorum Priest to any of these three units is heavily advised given their high cost and low Leadership values.

    It is also prevalent to note that Bullgryns with slab shields are just a far better unit overall compared to the other two, being the toughest of the three against small arms fire and providing a huge defensive bonus for an army with typically fragile infantry and vehicles that are susceptible to melee attackers. As for unit sizes, the Bullgryn Wall should be run as a unit of ten - this will be all you need at games of 1500 or more points to protect your Objective Secured scoring units. Bullgryns with brute shields should be run in groups of three or four depending on which transport they use - or up to eight if you steal a Land Raider Crusader - though a big foot-slogging unit could feasibly work when combined with Biomancy psychic powers such as Endurance. For Ogryns, the lack of a 3+ armour save or 5+ invulnerable save even despite still being Toughness 5 with three wounds a piece just makes them far too easily mowed down by even basic Tau Fire Warriors, and thus a transport of your preference is also recommended - this means three or four models if it is a Taurox or Chimera, respectively.



    Ratlings

    Overview
    When discussing Ratlings I think it is pertinent to note that comparisons to Scout Snipers will always end in favour of the latter unit given that they have all of Toughness 4, better saves, thrice or more the number of deployment options, Objective Secured in a Combined Arms detachment and all at a roughly equivalent price point on a per model basis. Ratlings really don't compare all that well to other specialist sniper units with a pathetic Toughness 2, 5+ armour save and the Stealth special rule making them amongst the most fragile infantry squads in the game. They also cannot defend themselves in close combat as a result, especially with one attack each at Strength 2 even despite a higher than average (for a human or sub-human species) Initiative 4. Leadership 6 will also see them flee quite easily once fired upon and what is worse is that they are just not worth purchasing a Commissar or Ministorum Priest for so as to fix this issue given how fragile they are. Their Ballistic Skill 4 and ability to Infiltrate are nice for a specialist sniper unit even if the latter rule shouldn't be used to get them closer to enemies that can kill them with impunity through some token bolter shots of all things. The small stature of the models means they are a pretty easy unit to miss while their firepower is limited enough to be an inconvenience, so much so that opponents will often ignore them in favour of more sizable threats. If a titanic Wraithknight manages to somehow get sight of their miniscule frames then it will probably just coldly "laugh" at them and shoot the Basilisk hiding underneath or behind them, though somehow I think anything is an easy target behind a unit such as Ratlings.

    Their unique special rule "Shoot Sharp and Scarper" that allows them to shoot and then run in the same shooting phase really isn't that useful given that traditionally the best use of such a rule - using the Eldar's Battle Focus as a barometer - is to fire and then flee out of sight or range of the opponent. If you try to hide with a unit carrying sniper rifles after they shoot then you will practically forfeit their next shooting phase as they will be forced to move back into position so they can have line of sight to the target. Still, provided you don't have them just sitting in a ruin or building this might actually be useful if only to try and run on to an objective when necessary to fulfill either the Maelstrom of War or Eternal War mission requirements. Honestly though the rule just doesn't work all that well for a squad that already has a 36" range and doesn't want to move whatsoever save to try and get out of assault range of nearby enemy units. Ratlings are cool for trying to pick out important characters like Commissars or special weapon holders in enemy units but with the change to sniper weapons and their severely reduced usefulness against vehicles I just can't recommend this unit at all. A bare-bones Infantry Squad is a far better "minimalist scoring unit", and the points spent on a Ratling unit to actually make them be able to reliably pick off a model or two will almost always be far better spent on a Wyvern that is roughly the cost of six or seven Ratlings. There is nothing a sniper weapon can do that a Barrage weapon can't do better now that the former has lost Rending against vehicles.


    Best Uses
    These guys will shine against blob-based Astra Militarum army lists because of how easily killed a Commissar or Ministorum Priest is, especially as both are single wound models and the former is not an Independent Character and thus only benefits from a 4+ Look Out Sir roll. Otherwise, you want a squad of probably around five to just be an irritation by trying to pick our Tactical Marines wielding plasma guns, Sergeants, carriers of "Chapter Banner" equivalents and so on. The unit lacks the hitting power to actually do any serious damage to a squad either through lack of rate of fire or the middling profile of sniper weapons. Use their unique special rule to move backwards if you are situated on flat terrain or near a ruin and have an encroaching enemy assault unit, though this won't really work if you place snipers where they usually want to be - in the high reaches of a ruin or building. Treat them as an annoyance and throw away unit that doesn't need any real support abilities to function and they should do alright for you, even if spending those same points elsewhere in an Astra Militarum list will usually yield better results.



    Wyrdvane Psykers

    Overview
    As one of two in-codex psyker options for the Astra Militarum, Wyrdvane Psykers take up a relatively free Elites slot whereas their main competitor the Primaris Psyker can be fielded in up to three different instances without taking up a slot. Both are thus only really constrained by their points costs and relative worth so the question then becomes how does a unit of psykers compare to just one? The answer is both simple and unfortunate - poorly. The most important aspect of the new Psychic Phase is your warp charge generation and that means maximising your Psychic Mastery Levels as best you can. Primaris Psykers can provide two warp charge dice at three quarters worth of points from a century, whereas Wyrdvane Psykers are capped at one warp charge dice regardless of whether they number the minimum five or maximum ten in the unit. Primaris Psykers with Psychic Mastery Level 2 are significantly cheaper than taking two separate Wyrdvane Psyker squads and are thus your most efficient source of warp charge generation, ear-marking themselves as the best choice when considering how ridiculous psychic defences are for a certain few armies like Eldar.

    When measured by their other qualities, I feel the disparity only grows rather than retracts even despite how seemingly useful all those extra wounds would be for Perils of the Warp and Barrage sniping. Wyrdvane Psykers are laughably easy to kill with one wound each at Toughness 3 with a terrible 5+ armour save, meaning that Barrage snipes would just kill the entire unit rather than potentially single out a Primaris Psyker. Perils of the Warp is about the only potential advantage here for a Brotherhood of Psykers over an Independent Character but since most of the results are based on a Leadership test this could actually be seen as favouring the Leadership 9 Primaris Psyker, especially as many of the D6 rolls won't result in his or her death. Despite being able to take either a Chimera or Taurox as a Dedicated Transport - which would only really matter if either of those were as dominating as a Wave Serpent - there are very few situations where the lone squad will require more investment to remove by an opponent over a Primaris Psyker hiding in a blob squad.

    Additionally, Wyrdvanes are ridiculously susceptible to melee attackers with two pathetic Strength 2 Weapon Skill 2 attacks each at Initiative 3 - even Tactical Marines will laugh at the "combat prowess" of such a squad! Wyrdvanes lack any real reason to be taken over Primaris Psykers seeing as the latter is a much cheaper source of warp charge points when upgraded to Psychic Mastery Level 2 and is far more difficult to single out. Both squad and character share the exact same psychic disciplines while being less susceptible to Perils of the Warp is almost a non-issue seeing as the majority of them only inflict one unsaved wound at worst. If Wyrdvanes actually kept their two unique psychic powers from the 5th Edition codex then they would have fared a lot better as there would have actually been something to properly differentiate them from the more cost-efficient Primaris Psyker, but alas those were removed as well in favour of random generation. Two psychic powers through the Psychic Focus special rule is nice and all but hardly a point of note seeing as the same applies to the Primaris Psyker.


    Best Uses
    As much as their previous uses involved suicidal runs in Chimeras as an attempt to destroy nasty enemy units with either of their two ridiculous unique psychic powers, the renamed Wyrdvane Psykers really need to be kept near the bulk of your forces so as to not waste the all important warp charge die they provide. While Grey Knights and Tzeentch Daemons aren't as prominent in the 7th Edition competitive scene as many may have initially guessed, they are nonetheless popular forces that can and will shut down all of your psychic powers through the ridiculous number of warp charge dice they generate. It doesn't help that the way in which psychic powers are manifested is now far less reliable with a power as good as Prescience now requiring up to four or five dice to reliably cast successfully, which in turn invites more common Perils of the Warp results. Whether they are in a Chimera as part of a mechanized force or hiding in a ruin and supporting the Combined Squads, Heavy Weapon Teams and so on, these units are just so fragile and make for very easy prey.

    They can cause quite a bit of harm with their Psychic Powers and the number of wounds in a unit does allow them to more safely court the Daemonology disciplines, though I just don't see this as an aggressive unit given how lacking they are in damage output and survivability. As for which psychic powers to generate, the new Psyker rules allow them to attempt to manifest even Warp Charge 2 or Warp Charge 3 powers regardless of being Psychic Mastery Level 1 themselves, an important note given how powerful certain psychic powers are in 7th Edition. While they unfortunately cannot generate from the Telepathy discipline and thus take a stab at rolling up the completely over-powered Invisibility, rolling up something like Telekine Dome for a foot-slogging list or Endurance for a Bullgryn Wall will justify the points spent on the unit in an instant. They are pretty diverse as far as psykers go with access to a total of six psychic disciplines and so you should always have a different use for them depending on which role needs fulfilling, whether it be a cheap witchfire-slinging unit with Pyromancy or a dedicated support squad with Divination.



    Militarum Tempestus

    Note: As Militarum Tempestus Command Squads and Scions are virtually identical with only a few differences, this can be considered a review for both units. Specific sections will focus on either unit, but the general points raised apply to both Command Squads and Scions.

    Overview
    These Scions and Command Squads of the Militarum Tempestus may seem new with their updated models and rules, but ultimately these are the Stormtroopers or "Karskins" of old - the true Veterans of an Imperial Guard force. They are the most expensive "Guardsmen" in terms of points per model but are also easily the best equipped, coming stock with 4+ armour saves, both frag and krak grenades in addition to their infamous hot shot lasguns. While Strength 3 guns generally don't get too far against most armies, when they are rapid fire weapons with AP3 they will attract a lot of dislike from Eldar and Space Marines in particular - even despite having a reduced 18" range in comparison to regular lasguns. As befits their background, Stormtroopers (I will keep referring to them as these whether Games Workshop likes it or not!) are the most well suited to front-line action of all the Guardsmen and Guardswomen options in the codex, having the best armour save available to your regular infantry and the best mix of guns. Their profile is also roughly identical to that of Veterans with Ballistic Skill 4 being the standout stat for what is otherwise a profile fairly typical of humans in Warhammer 40,000. Weapon Skill 3, Strength 3 and Initiative 3 with 1 Attack per model ear-mark them as a unit that doesn't want to willingly engage in close combat with anything except a vehicle. Similarly, Toughness 3 and Leadership 7 (Leadership 8 on the Sergeant or "Tempestor") ensure that they are both fragile and more prone to running away than elite units from other armies.

    Considering that not only do Stormtroopers pay for a mandatory Sergeant but are at least twice the points per model price of Veterans, that there is absolutely no change in the profile aside from having stock standard 4+ armour saves - a cheap upgrade for Veterans - is rather disappointing. Veterans also get krak grenades cheap, while I cannot in good faith say hot-shot lasguns are a massive improvement over lasguns if only because Strength 3 is still so limiting despite adding AP3 to what is typically an AP- weapon. What serves to diversify Militarum Tempestus from just being expensive Veterans is their special rules; while Move Through Cover isn't that big of a deal at first glance, having innate Deep Strike capabilities most certainly is. Stormtroopers are thus the only infantry unit in the Astra Militarum codex to have Deep Strike capabilities without employing an aerial or orbital transport such as a Drop Pod or Valkyrie. This allows the unit to deliver multiple special weapons - Stormtroopers can conveniently take two per five-strong unit - via an alpha strike without having to pay for any of the varied Astra Militarum transports, and also provides the safest delivery option for meltaguns. This is also where Move Through Cover is surprisingly useful as it negates Dangerous Terrain tests and thus the only risks of damage from Deep Striking the unit come from less common Interceptor fire and mishaps. When used as a five-strong melta slinging unit though the squad is cheap enough to be considered a "throw-away" option, especially when run in multiples as is allowed by the flexible platoon rules and lack of other competitive choices in the Elites slot.

    They also won't be deterred as much by intervening terrain if they actually manage to survive the ensuing shooting phase from the opponent, moving towards another juicy target with their deadly close ranged shooting. Considering that the Leman Russ Vanquisher is still an iffy option for dealing with AV14 at before it reaches your fragile infantry or vehicle lines, Stormtroopers remain an important choice for dealing with Land Raiders and similarly well protected assault transports. That their Deep Strike and Move Through Cover special rules allow them to deploy anywhere and then remain mobile on the table is a huge asset to have in a Maelstrom of War mission, especially seeing as most Astra Militarum unit options tend to favour a more static approach. This is the real value of Stormtroopers and one of the big reasons that they are worthwhile for most Imperial Guard army lists despite their high cost and seemingly similar role next to the Objective Secured Veterans. The hot-shot lasguns are more of a nice bonus than their real defining feature, while being able to take two special weapons even with a minimalist squad size allows them to be used in a suicidal anti-tank role much like Sternguard Veterans, solo Crisis Suits with dual fusion blasters and so on. They are doubtless the best equipped Guardsmen and Guardswomen in the army list, though their price per model, limited shooting range and inability to address the core fragility of Toughness 3 Infantry does make them more of a specialist choice than anything else.

    I wouldn't just throw Stormtroopers into a list or expect them to form the core of your army (unless you use the supplement, of course) as their expensive transports and squads will mold them into an elite force that just doesn't really compare to Space Marines for versatility and survivability. That they can exclusively make use of the Taurox Prime also isn't much of a boon as it is just yet another big points sink to add to what are really rather expensive models despite being Toughness 3 with 4+ armour saves. While some might point to Dire Avengers and say that fragile infantry at that price point still work, there is a big gulf in capabilities between the two units. Avengers not only have access to the best vehicle in the game (the Wave Serpent) for two editions running as a dedicated transport option, but their shooting capabilities are absolutely ridiculous against anything with a Toughness value even despite lacking heavy or special weapons. They do fulfil separate roles but to say Stormtroopers make as effective a "core" of an army as Dire Avengers is patently false, especially as the Astra Militarum has nowhere near the psychic support capabilities of an Eldar force.

    Stormtroopers are still good units even despite losing their awesome battle doctrines, but they are expensive for what they do and ultimately perform more of a niche role. There aren't too many things they can deal with that cannot also be handled by massed lascannons, Wyverns and so on, though they nonetheless have a place because delivering deadly meltaguns via Deep Strike along with some decent AP3 shooting is always good to have purely as an option. Spamming lascannons won't make a difference against enemy artillery hiding out of sight like Manticores or Night Spinners, but Stormtroopers Deep Striking in most certainly will as even if they fail with their shooting they still have krak grenades to fall back on. As for the traits a Command Squad brings to the table, the Clarion Vox-net special rule is very nice but ultimately won't see much use seeing as you would need to take at least three squads in the same Platoon to really benefit from its effects. The Voice of Command special rule and boosted profile offered by the Tempestor Prime is what really matters here as giving Stormtroopers "First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire" for an extra shot per model eliminates the issues the short range of their hot-shot lasguns provides. If you are actually within 9" of a unit and get to make use of that Order then you can reasonably count on a few casualties as even Strength 3 shooting will eventually cause some wounds, especially with that juicy AP3. The other Orders that focus on increased mobility or Precision Shots are also quite useful for Militarum Tempestus units given that they will generally be up close and trying to steal objectives from unsuspecting opponents. Both are good units and the points you pay for the Command Squad are well worth it, especially seeing as the Tempestor Prime effectively adds an extra wound (but not a model) to the unit, though if you just want the Deep Striking suicide units then the Command Squad isn't really necessary.


    How to Equip Them
    With the introduction of the Wyvern and incredibly reduced cost of both the Leman Russ Eradicator and Leman Russ Executioner, the Astra Militarum has a strong case for the best equipped force for dealing with infantry of all kinds. Hellhounds, Bane Wolves, Valkyries and the other artillery variants are all fantastic at destroying infantry formations, while Infantry Platoons provide some of the most efficient long ranged anti-tank shooting you could hope for. This leaves one crucial area that the army list can be a bit lacking in and that is reliably dealing with AV14 vehicles; massed lascannons are expensive and can only get one so far against three Land Raider Crusaders packed with Deathwing and a power field generator. This is a role the Leman Russ Vanquisher is supposed to fill - that of a dedicated heavy tank hunter - but for the most part it is inefficient with just one shot that can easily be stopped through cover saves, invulnerable saves or bad rolling on an inaccurate Ballistic Skill 3 platform.

    Enter Deep Striking or Outflanking squads packed with melta weaponry that have both the number of shots and the reliable AV14 penetration to deal with those insanely durable assault transports. Militarum Tempestus squads are possibly the best close-range anti-tank unit the Astra Militarum has access to outside of Veterans, if only because while Veterans require a transport and can get shot along the way to their quarry, Scions (and Command Squads) have the innate ability to Deep Strike and are thus immune to most shooting. Now that Interceptor fire must also Skyfire if that second special rule is present, Deep Striking ground units have even greater freedom than in 6th Edition to arrive and "alpha strike" enemies with their specialist weapons. That the Militarum Tempestus squads are all Ballistic Skill 4, have a five-strong minimum unit size and can take two special weapons even without adding any extra squad members gives you the equivalent of a Drop Pod full of Sternguard with combi-meltas. While Deep Striking is inaccurate and relying on Reserves to win the day won't always work - though the Astra Militarum has ways around this with their Regimental Advisors - meltas nonetheless remain the best bet against AV14 vehicles if you have a lascannon deficiency for any reason.

    Still, to say that is the only use for this unit would be downright silly - it just tends to be more of what the Astra Militarum needs from Militarum Tempestus units because anti-infantry shooting is more than handled even by a pair of Wyverns alone. That they are Ballistic Skill 4 further increases the value of single-shot weapons such as meltaguns, but also makes them good carriers for plasma guns. Just be aware of over-heating especially seeing as Militarum Tempestus models are almost as expensive as Space Marine Tactical Marines per model but are less survivable with Toughness 3 and only a 4+ armour save. Flamers are nice if you want the unit to act a small and inexpensive objective-clearing unit which can work wonders in Maelstrom of War missions due to the ever-changing nature of the game, but again you have to consider that a Wyvern can perform the same job more effectively at a lower price point. Grenade Launchers are as lacking here as they are elsewhere, while the exclusive hot-shot volley gun is a very interesting choice if you want to use the unit for straight up Space Marine hunting. The silly part of the gun is that it is Salvo which doesn't gel at all with the Militarum Tempestus not only with the reduced 18" range of hot-shot lasguns but also that they are naturally used for Deep Striking. They are intended to be even more mobile than Veterans in both background and rules, so being forced to sit still to get the most out of the hot-shot volley gun seems quite a waste, especially as it is priced identically to a meltagun that allows the unit to actually threaten vehicles.

    I would also skip melee weapons for the Sergeants if only because Militarum Tempestus units belong in combat about as much as the other human elements in the Astra Militarum army list, which is to say not at all. Strength 3, Weapon Skill 3 and Initiative 3 are not the hallmarks of a close combat unit and even spending points on a power sword or power fist for "defensive" purposes doesn't change the fact that the unit should be shooting and retreating from combat given their fragility. Like Veterans, you pay for that Ballistic Skill 4 and you should make full use of it (which is another reason why I prefer meltaguns or plasma guns over flamers for these units). I would skip vox casters for these units as Orders aren't nearly as integral to their success as they are for Infantry Platoons, Conscripts and Heavy Weapons Squads, while the platoon standard also isn't really useful given that - again - Militarum Tempestus units should be avoiding combat. Paying for Feel No Pain on a costly five-strong squad that is likely to be used in a suicidal role as per the Stormtrooper methods of war isn't all that good of an investment, especially seeing as they are only Toughness 3 with 4+ armour saves.


    Best Uses
    As alluring as running multiple full platoons all mounted up in Taurox Prime's might be for those that want to really embrace the new direction of the Militarum Tempestus, ultimately that army is very lacking even if you use the supplement. The firepower and survivability are frankly terrible when judged against the overall points investment of each unit and transport, while it wastes the precise shooting delivered by Deep Striking small squads across the game table. Being able to deliver medium doses of Strength 3 AP3 shooting is not to be underestimated and nor can Deep Striking meltaguns or plasma guns ever be ignored by an army that isn't also entirely embarked exclusively upon Land Raiders. Stormtroopers are just too expensive to really be run in significant numbers given that they can be well emulated by the considerably cheaper Veterans that also bring Objective Secured and Heavy Weapons to the table. Militarum Tempestus Command Squads, on the other hand, should only be used if you actually do take at least two other Scion units - their abilities are nice for the points but only really worthwhile when you have more than two squads to benefit from them. While you can issue Orders to non-Tempestus units like any other Command Squad, if you use Stormtrooper variations as they are intended to be used - Deep Striking - they will usually be far away from other potential beneficiaries of Orders.

    If you really want to make the most of their stock krak grenades, 18" rapid fire hot-shot lasguns and option for two special weapons at the minimum squad size of five models, you want to get them as close as possible and the cheapest, most efficient method of doing that is to Deep Strike them. They thus form a great combo with the cheap Officer of the Fleet; throwing one of these into the army list works wonders as long as you have two Stormtrooper squads and a flyer or two hiding in reserves. I would keep squad sizes to a minimum because the real value comes from delivering two special weapons at super close ranges via an alpha strike, with the Strength 3 AP3 hot-shot las weapons being more of an added benefit against expensive elites than anything else. As stated previously, Astra Militarum lists have absolutely no issues with enemy infantry formations no matter their survivability, so focusing instead on anti-tank functions will make your Stormtroopers more generally useful in an army list. Two meltaguns are generally your best bet as massed Strength 7 or Strength 9 shooting based upon your preference between autocannons or lascannons will generally see to any medium or light vehicles, while AV14 always tends to be a bit of an issue for Astra Militarum lists if it is taken in multiples.

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    Fast Attack

    Sentinels

    Overview
    If there is one Imperial Guard that consciously wears its Star Wars inspiration on its sleeve, it is the Sentinel - the love-child of the AT-ST and the gritty, rugged machinations of human technology in the Warhammer 40,000 setting. Sadly, Sentinels just don't live up to their awesome models with regards to their efficiency and uses in-game. Let me first qualify this statement by saying that I don't think Sentinels are necessarily bad, but that you can invest the points spent on them elsewhere and generally get a unit that either fits the Astra Militarum play-style better or is more efficient. While Walkers did get a few direct and indirect improvements via the 7th Edition rule-set, generally speaking Sentinels do still sit towards the middle or lower end of the competitive spectrum when compared to others of their type. They are frail, allergic to close combat and provide inaccurate but admittedly cheap firepower on a small platform. At the very least, they aren't confused about their role much like a Helbrute and nor are they are prohibitively expensive enough to be reserved solely to themed lists.

    The main issue with Sentinels is that they are crazily fragile and tied with Venoms for perhaps the most easily countered vehicles in the game, with the open-topped Scout Sentinels having only two hull points per model and AV10 on their front, rear and side facings. While Armoured Sentinels do somewhat alleviate this issue by replacing the open-topped special rule with front AV12, both variants are nonetheless ridiculously easy to destroy with any kind of medium to high Strength shooting. Tau Fire Warriors will literally eat Scout Sentinels for breakfast, while five Strength 7 hits are enough to destroy the Armoured Sentinel statistically. This would be acceptable if Sentinels either provided intense firepower or were useful transports, both of which are traits of the Dark Eldar Venom, but sadly neither are applicable to Sentinels. Each Sentinel is Ballistic Skill 3 and comes stock with a decent but hardly inspiring multi-laser, and its only options to increase its firepower come both with points cost and at the sacrifice of the multi-laser. These weapons aren't nearly as destructive as a pair of splinter cannons against non-vehicular opponents as with a Venom, with Ballistic Skill 3 autocannons and lascannons being the strongest shooting Sentinels can provide. If it wasn't obvious, the open-topped specification of the Scout Sentinel serves no purpose rules-wise other than to make it even more fragile than it really should be.

    Of course, comparing Sentinels directly to Venoms is a little bit unfair as the former are classed as Walkers and can thus defend themselves in close combat to some extent. Sadly, their prowess in melee is limited at best with one Strength 5 attack at Weapon Skill and Initiative 3 per Sentinel - hardly the type of unit that wants to be in combat. Strength 4 units can destroy Scout Sentinels with ease, while anyone with krak grenades will have a field day against Armoured Sentinels. The key here is to understand that these units should only intentionally make it into close combat as a temporary "tarpit" given that there do exist either Strength 3 units or those lacking krak grenades, particularly Eldar infantry that don't feature haywire grenades. The problem then becomes that Sentinels are at their most vulnerable up close to opponents where plasma, bolt and really most types of 24" ranged weapons become a legitimate threat. The over-arching reality is that Sentinels provide limited melee and ranged damage output, have terrible durability and no real mobility outside of Scout Sentinels featuring their name-sake special rule in addition to Move Through Cover. Scout Sentinels are cheap enough and have some nice uses with Outflank (via the Scout special rule) but just have too small an impact in game to really justify their inclusion, and the same is true of the much more appropriately priced Armoured Sentinels. I'm not exactly sure how one would fix this unit while staying true to their background, but I think everyone can agree that Sentinels are not worthwhile for the most part in their current incarnation.


    How to Equip Them
    As these are Ballistic Skill 3 models, you generally want to avoid the single-shot weapons like missile launchers and lascannons because of how inaccurate they will be. Given the low cost and fragility of Sentinels you don't want to be wasting the now much rarer Prescience on them instead of using it for more damaging units such as Leman Russ squadrons or Combined Squads. This means that the stock multi-lasers and optional autocannons tend to be the best all-round bet with their good to high Strength values and decent rate of fire. After all, a lot of armies - including the Astra Militarum - tend to employ vehicles with weak rear armour that might be more easily dealt with via Outflanking Scout Sentinels popping up with three Strength 6 or two Strength 7 shots. While I wouldn't call either missile launchers or lascannons terrible options by any means especially with their low price per model, they are just a tad bit too inaccurate on what is an already fragile unit that doesn't want to spend too many points on upgrades.

    Heavy Flamers might be decent on Scout Sentinels whether you make the Scout redeployment or Outflank - but preferably the latter - but being incapable of Snap Firing and relying on getting up close with AV10 all-round walkers probably isn't the best plan to have. An alternative and exclusive option for Armoured Sentinels is the plasma cannon which, surprisingly, isn't as bad of a deal as you might think. Three of these are roughly equivalent to a single Leman Russ Executioner in terms of firepower and feature double the hull points, though obviously the overall survivability doesn't really compare as well. If you want AP2 at long range but don't have the Heavy Support or HQ slots to fit in Leman Russ Executioners - though a second Combined Arms Detachment is always available! - then Armoured Sentinels possessing them aren't a terrible idea. Just be aware that you will statistically lose a hull point from a Sentinel once every four shooting phases which, honestly, isn't nearly as scary as you would think given the reputation of something like an Executioner. If I have one recommendation, it is to avoid the Vehicle Equipment list for Sentinels - both units don't want any of the upgrades and want to be as inexpensive as possible given how easy it is for any army to destroy them.


    Best Uses
    For Scout Sentinels, I would rather Outflank them instead of just using the Scout re-deployment as their weapons are typically long ranged anyway and you only increase the chances of the Sentinels being destroyed early on by deploying them closer to your opponent. The Outflank option might rely on reserves rolls but given the low cost of Sentinels and their status as a "chaff" equivalent ripped straight from Warhammer Fantasy, you probably won't care too much if they don't show up until turn four. Outflanking a handful of multi-lasers or autocannons behind your opponents' advancing line works wonders against mechanized lists, with Wave Serpents being at their most vulnerable (barring melee) against shooting attacks to the rear. The short ranged Leman Russ variants and most Space Marine tanks tend to have poor rear armour, and using Scout Sentinels to shoot at the rear armour of such vehicles is particularly nasty against Ork Battlewagons if you can arrive on turn two.

    For every other potential use of Sentinels, the Armoured variants are superior because they have reasonably increased survivability and an extra potential weapon option. With these particular Sentinels I would be keeping them back behind your other units, particularly your infantry squads, to abuse their height and easily accessed cover even from small Imperial Guardsmen models. They can fire without obscuration against opponents but will benefit from cover themselves against most ranged attacks. Try to focus their efforts alongside your other Heavy Weapon Teams or units with similar weaponry for maximum effect; three Sentinels really don't dish out that much firepower, unfortunately, and work better as a form of slightly more competitive Heavy Weapons Squad. Avoid melee as best you can with either variant of Sentinel as any unit with krak grenades or Strength 4 melee attacks (against Scout Sentinels) will tear them apart with an ease afforded out of pity.



    Rough Riders

    Overview
    As one of the more iconic cavalry units in Warhammer 40,000, Rough Riders give the Astra Militarum a mobile squad that is neither a vehicle nor relies on the Deep Strike or Outflank special rules. They are also one of a handful of selections in the codex that isn't natively a ranged choice, though that doesn't automatically disqualify them from a more competitive army list. What does hinder their chances is an oddball combination of fragility and a lack of damage output after the first round of combat that they charged into, though honestly at such a low points cost per model it is hard to really complain about such issues. A maxed out squad of ten Rough Riders will just barely exceed the century mark in terms of points and has the killing power to slaughter just over half a dozen Space Marines - or Toughness 4 models with a 3+ or worse armour save - in close combat before they can strike, assuming they are Initiative 4 or lower. Though their basic profile is definitely unimpressive and strikingly identical to a standard Imperial Guardsman, one who under-estimates Rough Riders is sure to be an unhappy gamer on the receiving end of a beating. Each Rough Rider is equipped with a unique hunting lance, a weapon that functions exactly like a power lance but trades indestructibility for greater damage output once it sees use. Though they are specialist weapons and thus don't provide an extra attack for having two close combat weapons, the hunting lances nonetheless hit like a truck as they are resolved at Strength 5 and Initiative 5.

    With two attacks each on the charge and frag grenades to ensure they strike at Initiative order, Rough Riders can pulverize medium infantry like Space Marines with relative impunity before they can react. The fact that the hunting lances are one-use-only and are restricted to functioning on the charge doesn't excuse how much damage they can do in just one round of combat. Besides, the unit now has two close combats (including a laspistol) so that they can have three attacks on the charge per model the next time to make it into combat, or two each in subsequent rounds after the first. They also have krak grenades for destroying vehicles with weak rear armour values which also gives Astra Militarum players another situational tool for dealing with Wave Serpents and other annoying skimmers. As cavalry, the unit is also very likely to make it into combat both quickly and reliably through a 12" movement and the Fleet special rule. But so sayeth the submerged serpent, then there were issues aplenty. First off, being cheap doesn't excuse horrid defensive stats for what is most definitely a dedicated melee squad; it is all well and good being quick but it doesn't matter if you are likely to lose half of a ten man squad from five Tactical Marines firing their boltguns at rapid fire range. For most units, that would signal the "cover me timbers" brigade but as cavalry take dangerous terrain tests for simply moving through terrain that will rarely be a good option. When your Rough Riders have 5+ armour saves and are very susceptible to failed dangerous terrain tests, losing one or two models just to gain a cover save often won't seem like a good trade-off. Still, losing a few so that the many can make it into combat will teach you the necessity of sacrifice, the better seeing that Rough Riders are essentially a mounted distraction squad.

    Assuming you lose a few to dangerous terrain, just wait as even your opponents' most basic ranged units like Kroot or Cultists blast them into pieces by the handful, making light of Rough Riders' pitiful Toughness 3 and 5+ armour save. If shooting from any kind of minor unit doesn't manage to devastate the Rough Riders adequately, then surely their Overwatch will drop a few cavalry models as well before they can even guarantee they will make the charge. This needs to be repeated every time one mentions the various uses of Rough Riders; a ten-strong Infantry Squad of Guardsmen and Guardswomen that fires at long range with their lasguns will kill roughly two or three Rough Riders in a single shooting phase, the same unit rapid-firing will cause a further three or four Rough Riders in a subsequent shooting phase, and the units' Overwatch should kill another one or two models. Assuming average rolls, a single Infantry Squad - one of the cheapest Troops choices in the game if you exclude the other mandatory selections in an Infantry Platoon - should kill between six and nine Rough Riders before the cavalry unit can even make it into combat provided the Guardsmen are moving backwards or forwards to maximise the number of shooting rounds they get. What use is a dedicated melee unit if even the most basic infantry in the game will destroy them before they can charge and cost either half as much or equal to the melee unit while bearing ranged weapons for use in multiple turns? This is why Rough Riders are saved only by their low cost rather than their explosive but limited damage output, as anywhere from five to ten of them in an army list can serve as a small little distraction that - in Maelstrom of War missions particularly - is a good little scoring squad. They are just far too fragile and lack the hitting power after the charge to really justify any significant points investment made on them.


    How to Equip Them
    Being perfectly honest here, Rough Riders don't really need any upgrades aside from any additional squad members you would like to purchase to buff out a units' ranks. The reason for this is that their stock hunting lances are so enticingly devastating on the turn that they finally see use, and any weapon exchanges for Rough Riders are done so by replacing these valuable lances resonating with medieval influence. Seeing as a hunting lance is effectively an enhanced power lance with a one-use-only profile, exchanging one or two of those out on a squad with numbers ranging from five to ten models seems like an inefficient trade, especially as there is no discount on any special weapons you take. The fact of the matter is that the hunting lances can easily pierce through anything that is not either a vehicle with rear AV11 (or a walker with the equivalent in front armour) or a model with either Toughness 7 or a 2+ armour save. Even then, you should always be using the squads' stock krak grenades against vehicles or Toughness 7 monstrous creatures anyway, where destroying AV12 vehicles in particular becomes a tangible objective for a unit.

    This is without even mentioning the conflict each special weapon has with Rough Riders either because of survivability implications or a clash of role. The motto goes that if you exchange something as nasty as a hunting lance, whatever the replacement is needs to be worth taking in the first place regardless of its cost. As such, you can rule out the near useless grenade launcher and arguably the flamers - the latter is great for clearing out light to medium infantry formations but the units massed melee attacks and frag grenades alleviate this issue already. This leaves meltaguns and plasma guns, with the former having such a small range that the Rough Riders may as well charge the target, and the latter bearing serious risks for any wielder given that the unit shares a paltry 5+ armour save. The only special weapon you should ever take is the meltagun, but even so this is not what you really want Rough Riders for - Militarum Tempestus Scions that Deep Strike or even your basic Veterans in Chimeras can perform the role of a fast-moving anti-tank unit aimed at AV13 or higher vehicles. Why bother using Rough Riders for this when your Troops, Elites and arguably Heavy Support choices should all be performing that same role in their multitudes? As such, I heavily advise keeping the hunting lances across the unit and abusing how cheap and devastating they are as a dedicated melee unit - their mobility and hitting power are fantastic, while their low cost makes up for how innately fragile Rough Riders are.

    Besides, if you take meltaguns instead of a pair of hunting lances in a squad, you'll wonder why you bothered with the former once you declare a charge on that same unit that is in both your 12" shooting and assault ranges that is more than likely susceptible either to the hunting lances or the krak grenades. Skip the upgrades and let these seemingly archaic warriors duke it out on their own terms, and that means getting them into combat as quickly as possible where their fragility is less over-stated and they can cause a lot of havoc. If you really want another unit with a melta weapon for taking on AV 14/14/14 vehicles, upgrade your mandatory Sergeant with melta bombs and save yourself both the price of the meltaguns and the cost of losing out on hunting lances. Just do yourself a favour and don't even bother with a plasma pistol or power weapon on the Rough Rider Sergeant. Plasma Pistols are notoriously likely to kill your expensive 5+ armoured model and add considerably to the cost of the unit without really adding that much reliable damage output, while adding a power weapon seems like a bit of a waste. The reason for this is that Rough Riders are very likely to die in the first round of combat, or in the second assault they launch - either they destroy their first target utterly with the hunting lances or get caught up by the fact that they are still Toughness 3 with 5+ armour saves, making them fodder even for Tactical Marines. Paying extra points for a weapon that you are unlikely to even use seems like a bit of a waste, especially as you lose the Initiative bonus from the hunting lance that is so important for the otherwise Initiative 3 unit to actually strike on the charge. You could pay for a power lance and it would fit with the rest of the unit, but realistically those are just extra points that probably belong elsewhere.


    Best Uses
    If there's one thing that Rough Riders are good at, it is providing an Astra Militarum army with yet another cheap distraction unit for your primary scoring or support units to actually win a match. Though they are slightly over double the cost of a Guardsmen per model and identical defensive stats, Rough Riders excel in the category that counts for any "distraction" - mobility. The reality is that members of these squads will drop like flies to anything from sporadic boltgun fire to dangerous terrain tests, and while they certainly hit hard that only really applies to the very first combat they charge into. You need to get them into combat as quickly as possible and that generally involves throwing caution to the wind so that your opponent might be drawn into targeting them before your transports, combined squads or battle tanks. Of course, a distraction unit is a waste unless it actually manages to draw some serious attention away from your other units - and that specifically applies to Veterans and Infantry Squads - so maybe keeping them behind an advancing line of transports for a few turns isn't the worst strategy to use.

    I would still use these as roving kill squads with an eye for smaller Objective Secured scoring units and backfield infantry squads that baby-sit your opponents home objectives, simply because those are the kinds of units that can win games and killing them off from shooting isn't always easy. With cover and terrain that blocks line of sight, a Guard army that has its barrage weapons neutralized early on and lacks Outflanking units or flyers will struggle to deal with such enemies - this is where a fast, hard hitting melee unit like Rough Riders really sets itself apart as perfect for defeating those squads. As for unit sizes, five will generally be enough to kill off smaller infantry squads and vehicles with low armour values, though if you have the points spare then ten models a squad would be preferable if only because they can slaughter entire units of Space Marines with ease on the charge. If you only have the points for ten Rough Riders in your army list, however, then split them up into two units of five - this forces your opponent to "overkill" each individual squad and invest more units into their destruction.



    Hellhounds

    Overview
    As a more heavily armoured form of the Chimera chassis, the Hellhound class of tanks trade any form of transport capacity for heavier firepower using chemical or incendiary munitions. The readjustment of space previously used for ferrying infantry squads allows Hellhounds to power their engines and weaponry to a degree a standard tank using the Chimera chassis would be incapable of. Of course, Hellhounds wouldn't be what they are if it didn't come at a physical manufacturing cost and that certainly reflects on the table top with Hellhounds being both far less accessible and roughly twice as expensive to field as Chimeras before the unit attached to the latter is accounted for. As each Hellhound shares the Chimera chassis, the profile can be a bit deceiving; given that they are designed for closer battles and clearing defenders from buildings or ruins commonly found in tightly packed city environments, the boosted side AV12 is both a fitting survivability boost and a very useful one at that. Otherwise, the stats and defences of a Hellhound are what you would expect; front AV12 and rear AV10, Ballistic Skill 3 crew and a total of three hull points. Basically, they are still fodder for Wave Serpents, autocannons, missile pods and so on, while close combat is still anathema for them just as it is for almost any other vehicle. For any weapon that doesn't use a template, Hellhounds are just as inaccurate as any other Imperial Guard unit, while their traditional role as close quarters, independent objective sweepers means they are likely to draw a lot of unwanted attention.

    While I'm not particularly a fan of the term and think it applies more so to Rough Riders than anything else as far as the Astra Militarum codex is concerned, I do consider Hellhound variants to be "glass cannons" to a degree as their damage output and mobility are insane but they are comparatively fragile for their cost when put beside equivalently priced Leman Russ tanks. Their mediocre armour values aside, what really provides good incentives to employ Hellhounds is their sheer mobility which is perfectly suited for 7th Edition; as Fast vehicles, Hellhounds can move and fire with impunity or use their increased flat out move distance to cover territory with almost unrivaled speed for an Imperial tank. Their weapons are also suitably devastating to fit the satanic designations of the tanks themselves, with each one possessing a primary and secondary weapon system. The secondary weapon system is similar across each Hellhound variant with three options to choose from, including the free heavy bolter or heavy flamer, and the paid for multi melta. What serves to differentiate each variant from each other, however, is the primary weapon system which is unique to each type of Hellhound. The titular tank that gives the class its namesake possesses a mighty Inferno Cannon, a Strength 6 AP4 Torrent template weapon that Tyranid players would no doubt be familiar with given the Tyrannofex's Acid Spray is identical in every way. This is easily the best of the three weapons in a 7th Edition context where the occupants of open-topped transports suffer D6 automatic hits when the transport itself is struck by a template weapon, Objective Secured troops choice and mobile scoring units are in their prime, and Ignores Cover is still one of the best special rules in the game. The Inferno Cannon annihilates anything with a 4+ armour save with ease, while the Torrent special rule allows you to maximise your hits by a huge amount while also allowing the Hellhound itself to fire without nearly as much fear of reprisal.

    While the Inferno Cannon's uses against vehicles are most certainly limited, it is the Bane Wolf's Chem Cannon that classifies as truly useless against anything with an armour value as it is a Poisoned weapon with a natural Strength 1. That the Chem Cannon always wounds models with a Toughness value on a 2+ and has AP3 to boot makes it by far the deadliest against tightly clustered elite infantry such as Space Marines, though its lack of Torrent means it cannot land anywhere near as many hits as an Inferno Cannon while the Bane Wolf itself has to have close proximity to its target to fire. Considering that vehicles of all kinds barring chariots and walkers want to avoid close combat at all costs, and that 8" range is also where all melta weapons become absolutely deadly, this makes the Bane Wolf an almost suicidal unit in its application. Still, the first two variants are undeniably anti-infantry platforms and this is where the Devil Dog deserves some love if only because it offers something entirely distinct of the other two. Where a Bane Wolf reads as an inferior Hellhound given that a Strength 6 AP4 template with Torrent almost always beats out the raw damage output of a Poisoned (2+) AP3 regular template, the Devil Dog distinguishes itself from the rest of the pack by providing a devastating Strength 8 AP1 Melta small blast with a hefty 24" range. If ever you have wanted to annihilate AV13 and AV14 vehicles on the first turn of a game but lacked the long ranged Strength 9 AP2 power provided by lascannons, then surely a blast-based melta weapon with a 24" melta range mounted on a fast vehicle that can move 12" and still fire its two weapons should appeal to you. If you go off the long table-edge deployment option on a standard 6x4 gaming table, a Devil Dog that starts on the very edge of the deployment zone and then moves straight forward 12" will theoretically be able to fire its Melta Cannon at a juicy heavily armoured target and, with a direct hit, be able to benefit from the pseudo Armourbane provided by being within half range of a melta weapon. Still, the inherent inaccuracy and slightly higher cost of the Devil Dog compared to the other variants - and in particular the titular Hellhound itself - does somewhat leave it as a bit of a niche choice, especially once you start comparing each Hellhound variant next to its most analogous Leman Russ sub-type.

    This is the main issue with Hellhounds in the current codex and why you will often see players forgo their generally more reliable firepower and impressive mobility which is fantastic in a Maelstrom of War context for the raw durability and potential weaponry per tank that only Leman Russes can provide. This is where my "glass cannon" specification rears its ugly head as Hellhounds are certainly no more durable than a Space Marine Dreadnought in the context of 7th Edition, even with the various defensive buffs that walkers and vehicles in general received. Massed Strength 7 firepower of almost any kind - whether through Eldar Serpent Shields, Imperial (or Chaos) Autocannons or Tau Missile Pods - will annihilate these vehicles in rapid succession, making them overly expensive fodder unless they are well hidden or manage to grab the first turn and a favourable deployment map. Compare this to Leman Russes that are entirely immune to Strength 7 shooting and are really only vulnerable to melta or haywire weapons in addition to the usual close combat attacks and it isn't difficult to see why they are often preferred over Hellhounds. Still, what works in favour of Hellhounds is that the firepower debate generally favours their side, especially once you consider that templates cannot scatter whatsoever. A Leman Russ Eradicator is ever so slightly cheaper than a Hellhound and offers a weapon with the exact same Strength and AP, but trades the torrent template specifications for a 36" range large blast instead. Don't let the vast gulf in initial range fool you; when movement is taken into account, the Hellhound has an effective range of 32" with its Inferno Cannon, while a Leman Russ Eradicator only receives a mere 10" more range with an effective range of 42" when firing its Eradicator Nova Cannon. No matter how important survivability and the likelihood of increased shooting phases to participate in can be, there's no denying how essential at least some mobility is for Maelstrom of War missions; if you choose not to move out and capture objectives or single out well defended units, your chances of winning are as slim as tabling an opponent that has four Deathwing Land Raiders with 4+ invulnerable saves. It is for these reasons that Hellhound variants still have a place in competitive Astra Militarum army lists, even if you are usually better off investing in Vendettas or the various Forge World flyers to handle anti-air defences.


    How to Equip Them
    Given how crucial staying mobile is to these inherently short ranged tanks, dozer blades can be considered a near-mandatory upgrade for the Bane Wolf and a good but unnecessary addition to a Hellhound or Devil Dog. This is because the Bane Wolf has an effective range of 20" when its movement is taken into account, while the Hellhound has a 32" effective range and the Devil Dog has a 36" effective range. The huge range disparity between the Bane Wolf and the other two variants and the limit of its actual 8" shooting range means that it absolutely cannot afford to be immobilized early on and become essentially an overly expensive road-block, while the other two at least can use their primary weapons to provide a decent threat zone of 20" or more. As such, I also recommend that you take a heavy bolter on a Bane Wolf as the secondary weapon because it will otherwise just be a harmless and scary-looking tank to your opponent for the better part of two turns. While the same principle does apply to the Hellhound as well and especially as you don't want to waste its huge distance advantage between itself and its targets for the purposes of retaliatory attacks, a heavy flamer isn't out of place for a fast moving tank that does have some medium ranged damage capabilities. The Devil Dog really should take a multi melta as the secondary weapon to provide it a more reliable chance of actively damaging enemy vehicles or monstrous creatures, especially as its Melta Cannon is very inaccurate given the Ballistic Skill 3 small blast it employs.

    Of course, you can get away with a heavy bolter on a Devil Dog as well if you need to save points seeing as it does give you a little extra light anti-tank punch. Just try not to mix multi-meltas with the Hellhound and Bane Wolf and definitely do not use a heavy flamer with a Devil Dog; as nice as versatility can be, for fragile tanks that are by definition very aggressive and fragile it is rarely a good idea to pay for mildly threatening multiple targets rather than focusing on their specific quarry. A Hellhound wastes its Inferno Cannon by using a multi-melta against vehicles and monstrous creatures to a lesser extent, while a Devil Dog's Melta Cannon is not suited to the super close ranged infantry-destruction a heavy flamer provides - especially as an unlucky scatter can easily see a Devil Dog destroy itself when firing in such tight areas! At least a multi-melta isn't too bad for a Bane Wolf as you have something to use against enemy transports (which a Bane Wolf is useless against) while you try to close the distance between it and enemy infantry, but mixing the various types of weapons is generally a bad idea on tanks that often only live to see two or three shooting phases if that. Don't bother with any of the other upgrades; Hellhound variants already face fierce competition from Leman Russes in the current codex and they don't need to further tip the balance towards the latter by arbitrarily increasing their cost through pointless or unnecessary upgrades.


    Best Uses
    Before I begin, let me address a common mistake I see made in multiple matches involving vehicles with the Fast type; whether the vehicle in question is a tank or a skimmer, it can fire all weapons at full Ballistic Skill if it moves 6" and two weapons at full Ballistic Skill if it moves 12". With that out of the way, let me make it absolutely clear that Hellhound variants are not designed around cautious play; they are there to expose seemingly guarded infantry units (or vehicles in the case of a Devil Dog) and annihilate them swiftly. They are built for speed as befits their canine naming conventions and are thus perfect for Maelstrom of War missions where you need to have at least a handful of units that can zoom around the battlefield and score variable victory points as necessary. Hellhounds used to suffer towards the tail end of 6th Edition as Leman Russ Eradicators and Vanquishers in particular did the same job as their counter-part Hellhound variants performed but traded unnecessary speed for outright survivability and range. In this case, 7th Edition has given this particular adaptation of the Chimera chassis a huge buff regardless of whether you play Maelstrom of War or Eternal War missions seeing as both exploit their high movement for capturing or contesting objectives on the fly. The trick is that Hellhounds typically never survive until the end of the game, but their total 24" movement a turn including flat out makes them incredibly valuable for what is an otherwise sluggish force in the Astra Militarum. While one could argue a static Astra Militarum list doesn't worry too much about an opponents' non-mobile Objective Secured units as they will typically just squash the opponent through weight of fire and claim the objectives in their own half with ease, such army lists are gradually being forced to adapt to the speedy pace of Maelstrom of War missions.

    As for which targets each variant prefers, Hellhounds are suited more to dealing with light to medium infantry while dealing with otherwise nasty threats you don't want to get close to - such as your usual Space Marine squad with krak grenades - at range, while Bane Wolfs do prefer those hardier forces but this obviously comes at much greater risk to their own safety. The Devil Dog is a vehicle hunter by nature but it is also bears situational use for targeting tightly clustered heavy infantry squads such as Deep Striking Terminators or sniping wounds off of monstrous creatures. Ultimately though, the Hellhound is the most adaptable of the three - it can stay at range just like the Devil Dog, but it ignores cover on all wounds its main gun causes like the Bane Wolf, while Strength 6 gives it limited but decent damage potential against light vehicles such as Rhinos or Venoms. It is also the most accurate of the three in terms of average number of hits inflicted due to the Torrent special rule on its Inferno Cannon, meaning it can stay 20" away (the 12" Torrent "range" and the 8" length of a template) and annihilate a row of Ork Trukks or Dark Eldar Venoms while simultaneously dispatching the valuable contents within. The Bane Wolf is only really worthwhile against Space Marines and significantly damaged monstrous creatures but its chosen targets are all capable of destroying it with ease, especially as a non-torrent template cannot really guarantee a large number of hits on enemy units; that it is forced to get so close has seen not an insignificant amount of players emblazon it with the "suicidal" tag. If you are fielding any of these three tanks, field them alone - you don't want to invest too many points into a vehicle squadron that is designed for close encounters and will get absolutely mauled when charged. The only exception to this rule would be if you are fielding a pair of flyers in the slot such as two Vendettas, as you generally do not want to squadron those whatsoever and thus taking the blow on Hellhounds becomes a more sensible decision.



    Valkyries and Vendettas

    Overview
    While the flyer craze only really kicked off when they received proper rules in 6th Edition, many people forget that the Imperial Guard have fielded aircraft for at least a dozen years now in some form or another. While it wasn't always a plastic kit, the Valkyrie (and the Vendetta by extension) is nonetheless the most iconic Warhammer 40,000 flyer with a unique design that remains appealing even to this day. Even if it wasn't the first, the Valkyrie would still be famous because of its sheer size - to this day, not a single Games Workshop flyer comes anywhere close to the sheer bulk and wing span of a Valkyrie. While I am unsure as to whether its size was the original source of the "flying tank" moniker or not, its rules most definitely reflect that. As far as flyers go, few are more survivable than the Valkyrie (a note, you can append "and the Vendetta" to every sentence that mentions "the Valkyrie") with front and side AV12 and the usual rear AV10, three hull points and stock Extra Armour. Not only do they have some of the best armour values of any aircraft in the game, but they also treat Crew Stunned results as Crew Shaken results instead which is highly useful even for flyers.

    What further reinforces the validity of the nickname is that the Valkyrie has a sizable transport capacity much like a Space Marine Stormraven, ferrying up to twelve models at a time - on the flip side, a Vendetta has half the transport capacity with a potential six models but compensates for this with greatly superior firepower. Like most flyers, Valkyries can freely choose to hover or zoom in correspondence with your whims; this means that they can land and drop off infantry as necessary or stay in the skies to remain safe from ground fire. Unlike some other flying transports, however, a Valkyrie still allows the unit inside to disembark even if the flyer remains zooming. This is because of the Grav Chute Insertion special rule, allowing a unit to Deep Strike anywhere along the Valkyrie's movement path while it is zooming; if the unit scatters even one inch off course, all models in the unit are forced to take a dangerous terrain test. Even with the weak armour saves of most Guardsmen units this really isn't too much of a bother given that you need to roll a one and then fail an armour save on each model, and the chances of losing the important models (special weapon holders, characters and so on) are slim. This allows Valkyries to fly over an objective and air-drop a unit onto it while itself remaining in the skies and doing nasty damage to enemy units, providing a very nice scoring combo with potential Objective Secured for an otherwise traditionally plodding Astra Militarum army.

    Of course, being a flying transport with awesome defensive capabilities would be nothing if these flyers didn't have the firepower to match, right? The answer depends on whether you choose the Valkyrie or the Vendetta; the former has decent but uninspiring anti-infantry firepower, while the latter can devastate other aircraft and ground vehicles with ease. With Ballistic Skill 3 pilots Valkyries generally aren't know for their accuracy or reliable damage output, though Vendettas side-step this issue by having three twin-linked weapons. Oh, and yes, those three twin-linked guns just happen to be lascannons; hooray for a dedicated anti-air flyer in a codex that otherwise has to rely on the over-priced but still decent Hydra (if you stick purely to the codex)! While the Vendetta is quite expensive as far as flyers go it is hard to argue against its points-efficiency given that it reliably destroys most other flyers in one shooting phase, while the Valkyrie is incredibly inexpensive given it is a flying AV12/12/10 transport. Both are great for their points even if Valkyries alone won't deal much damage to anything but light or medium infantry given their proliferation of Strength 4 large blasts, though their boosted transport capacity and significantly decreased cost do compensate for their lack of real damage output.


    How to Equip Them
    My general advice for these two aircraft is to keep them as cheap as possible given that both are rather expensive, even though I would still argue both are easily worth their respective points costs. Vendettas in particular can ignore all of the equipment exchanges available to them, with their three twin-linked lascannons both being far superior to any other weapon they could take and also definitely not gelling at all well with heavy bolters. If Vendettas could split-fire their weapons freely like super-heavies then sure, the heavy bolters would be a nice upgrade, but as it is they will just be a waste of points given that the preferred targets of lascannons and heavy bolters are far too dissimilar. Valkyries, on the other hand, should always take at least the two multiple rocket pods whenever possible given that Ordnance missiles on a flyer with a minimum of three weapons are practically worthless anyway - if you want a dedicated tank or flyer hunter, just use the Vendetta instead. Replacing the multi-laser with the lascannon is unnecessary but a nice enough upgrade, though on a Ballistic Skill 3 model you are probably just better off keeping the three shot Strength 6 weapon for hunting infantry anyway. Unlike the Vendetta, the heavy bolter sponsons actually make sense for a Valkyrie given that it is essentially a light infantry destroyer, though the fact that you can only fire four weapons at full Ballistic Skill and a Valkyrie with the sponsons would have five in total does mean you will be wasting at least one of its' guns. Generally speaking, you can skip upgrades for the Vendetta and probably ignore the heavy bolter sponsons for a Valkyrie given that four weapon limit, but the multiple rocket pods are pretty much mandatory for the latter.


    Best Uses
    Before I get started on some general tactics, take a close look at both of these flyers; strictly operating from the codex with no allies, supplements or Forge World support, the Valkyrie and Vendetta are the absolutely closest thing to assault transports in the codex. The reason for this is the incredible 36" move and then the Grav Chute Insertion allowing any embarked unit to disembark via Deep Strike - of course, whether you actually believe this is an effective tactic or not is a different matter altogether. Assuming you equipped each of these flyers as I recommended, their preferred targets are as follows; Valkyries will mash through horde units like Ork Boyz, Tyranid Hormagaunts, Dark Eldar Kabalite Warriors, Chaos Daemon Bloodletters of Khorne and so on. They excel at mulching through medium to light infantry over a few turns by unloading a plethora of large blasts and regular shots on a single unit which, if clustered near other fragile squads, can lead to lots of carnage. The inaccuracy and lack of Ignores Cover or high Strength means the Valkyrie still needs some luck and a few shooting phases to really make a dent in your opponents' infantry stocks, but given how cheap and durable a Valkyrie is you really can't complain about its damage output.

    The Vendetta is an entirely different beast as one would expect of a flyer carrying not two but three twin-linked lascannons; even with Ballistic Skill 3, it still reliably hits two out of three shots at a time and they pack a punch at Strength 9 with AP2. While it might not necessarily be the most efficient in its role, the Vendetta is nonetheless one of the top dogs when it comes to anti-aircraft duties and certainly will outweigh the usefulness of Hydras when facing off against a Caestus Assault Ram or Necron Nightshroud Bomber. It also functions similarly to a German '88 from World War II when faced with tanks, obliterating all but the most hardy with contemptuous ease - even if it is more difficult than ever to land an Explodes result on a vehicle, three Strength 9 shots are sure to strip hull points off of tanks in record time.In regards to using these flying tanks as transports, make sure that it is an inexpensive squad that you aren't too fussed about when it inevitably dies. The reason for this is that any flyer destroyed while Zooming while inflict automatic Strength 10 hits on the occupants, while using a flyer as a transport instead of a much cheaper Chimera generally means you need that unit to get in close proximity to your enemy. Platoon Command Squads with flamers, Special Weapons Squads with meltaguns, Tempestus Scions and other such squads are good units to put inside one of these transports - with any of them pairing up well with the six model transport restriction on the Vendetta.

    Normally another detractor for a flying transport is that the flyer has to switch to Hover mode so that the unit can disembark, but Valkyies and Vendettas - like Stormravens - allow embarked units to drop out of the transport by way of Deep Striking. This is very risky unless the unit in question has Move Through Cover and you are dropping them in a less populated area, though one of the more interesting and safe uses of this is to fly over a vacated home objective and air-drop a unit on top of it. Opponents will often target your backfield scoring units with their own equivalents of Hellhounds or Outflanking units to remove them from the equation and then focus on the usual objective rush in the middle of the field, so being able to air-drop an Objective Secured unit onto any objective you want gives you some great flexibility. However, unless you use Elysians, I would refrain from putting any expensive units in these flyers as you could do just as well by using an advancing Bullgryn Wall or mass of Chimeras and Tauroxes while saving points and time - remember, outside of a few very specific circumstances flyers can't arrive on the battlefield until turn two at the earliest and even that is no guarantee!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Heavy Support

    Leman Russ Squadrons

    Overview
    Before we begin, I have a few general points to discuss that apply to each Leman Russ variant. First off, each of these tanks has at minimum the armour values 14/13/10 and three hull points, making them incredibly durable given their low points cost. While they are incredibly difficult to shift anywhere except right up close including a melee, their firepower is generally decent rather than great. This is because all Leman Russ tanks are Ballistic Skill 3, limiting their accuracy to 50% when firing standard shots and scattering a fair distance when using blast templates. However, all Leman Russ tanks are cheap and are treated as Heavy vehicles, firing all weapons at full Ballistic Skill regardless of whether the tank moves as long as one of them isn't an Ordnance weapon. They are, however, limited in terms of mobility accordingly with an inability to move at a speed greater than Combat Speed (or 6" in each Movement Phase) and nor can they perform a Flat Out manoeuvre.

    Battle Tank - The most basic and iconic variant of the Leman Russ chassis, the Battle Tank is famous for providing a hugely powerful large blast at extreme ranges and being the primary option from the standard kit. For the uninitiated a Battle Cannon fires a single Strength 8 AP3 Ordnance Large Blast, devastating anything from Space Marines to Tyranid Warriors and pretty much anything with a 3+ or worse armour save that isn't also either a monstrous creature or possesses some kind of cover or invulnerable save. It is also decent against vehicles for stripping off hull points one at a time but generally does the most damage against tightly packed infantry formations with that always useful large blast. The problem here is that the Leman Russ chassis has been bereft of the Lumbering Behemoth special rule since the beginning of 6th Edition, meaning that once it fires its Battle Cannon the Ordnance rules impose the Snap Shot limitation on all other weapons employed by the Leman Russ. While the other Leman Russ variants barring the Demolisher suffered nothing at the hands of this change, the Battle Tank was most affected of all as there is now almost no point to using the otherwise incredibly valuable sponson weapons. Similarly, the hull weapon is now a situational little extra that is entirely unreliable and thus leaves little reason to be upgraded from the stock heavy bolter. Despite the Battle Tank being the only Leman Russ variant alongside the Demolisher to actively see a reduction in effectiveness, the two Ordnance-packing Leman Russ tanks were also the only ones not to see a points drop. This incredibly confusing set of changes has left the Battle Tank as a far less valuable variant than previously, especially as its primary role of destroying infantry formations is performed far better by the significantly cheaper Eradicator now - and if you need an elite-infantry destroyer, the Executioner is the best in class by far. While the Battle Tank is still a decent generalist at face value, the changes to the vehicle damage chart and the proliferation of cover make it much more of a niche choice than it really should be.

    Exterminator - With a significant price reduction, the Exterminator now has some reason for existence - even if its fulfilment of two roles leave it as decidedly lacklustre in each specific role. The Exterminator is your only real "anti-air" Leman Russ even if it is rather poor at the role - take two Hydras instead if you want dedicated anti-air shooting - while it is also probably the best against light vehicles considering its points cost, though it is also one of the worst against infantry. Four shots at Strength 7, AP4 with twin-linking aren't bad against non-vehicle models by any means but they certainly don't compare well to twenty Strength 5 shots offered by the Punisher or any of the various blast-type weapons. Similarly, it does decently against monstrous creatures but is out-performed by the AP2 Executioner, though it is entirely useless against heavy vehicles unlike the Vanquisher. As you can see, the Exterminator fits the bill of "generalist" perhaps more than any other Leman Russ - especially as it is one of only three that can fire at aircraft with its primary weapon - but it is mediocre against each type of target barring light vehicles, rather than particularly good. At the very least it is cheap and you can outfit it with different weapon upgrades so that you can specialize it against specific enemy types, including using multi melta sponsons for improved tank hunting in addition to a hull lascannon. Unfortunately, spending more points on this variant just exposes its limitations and ultimately the Astra Militarum can't really afford mediocrity; you should go for the more expensive variants like the Executioner so that you can have dedicated AP2 firepower, while you want an Eradicator to guarantee cover-camping infantry aren't a problem.

    Vanquisher - Billed as the tank hunter of the Leman Russ brigade, no variant of this iconic chassis looks quite as imposing as the long-barreled Vanquisher. Sadly, it is possibly the most inefficient Leman Russ in terms of performing its dedicated role; spending nearly 150 points (the price of a Battle Tank) for two high Strength shots with useful AP2 that are resolved at Ballistic Skill 3 really isn't that impressive. While the titular Vanquisher Battle Cannon does offer a single Strength 8 AP2 Armourbane shot and the cheap hull lascannon upgrade provides one Strength 9 AP2 shot, both with a range of 48" or greater, that only one of these two shots will hit per shooting phase makes it a poor tank hunter for the points, really. What this effectively boils down to once you remember the changes to the vehicle damage chart is a tank-hunter that has a one-in-six chance of outright destroying a vehicle almost every time it shoots, but is ultimately a glorified hull-point stripper. In terms of raw damage output the Vanquisher just does not compare well to something like a Vendetta even once you factor in the latter starts in reserve, and frankly the only thing the Vanquisher is really good at is reliably taking hull points off of other AV14 vehicles. If you face AV12 or lower tanks more regularly then you may as well just use the Exterminator, while your basic autocannon-wielding Heavy Weapon Teams should do the job just fine as well. While the multi-melta sponsons do heavily increase the offensive presence of a Vanquisher, it is just adding more points to an inaccurate tank that wants to stay far away from enemy lines because it is virtually incapable of dealing with any unit consisting of ten or more models.

    Eradicator - As the cheapest Leman Russ variant by a small amount next to the Exterminator, an Eradicator saw perhaps the biggest buff of any Leman Russ in the codex seeing as it previously paid more than a Battle Tank for an arguably inferior weapon overall. Now, at a super low price, the Eradicator competes not just with other Leman Russ tanks but also with the infamous Hellhounds, providing firepower of the same devastating scale against infantry but at a much longer range and at a slightly cheaper cost. When you consider that a Leman Russ has AV 14/13/10 and a Hellhound has a significantly less impressive AV 12/12/10, a quick glance might paint the latter in a bad light - of course, what a Hellhound brings over an Eradicator is not just speed but accuracy. Whereas a Hellhound fires a Torrent Template, an Eradicator uses the Large Blast marker instead and is thus prone to scatter with a mediocre Ballistic Skill 3 - the 36" range of the weapon isn't all that greater than the effective 20" range of the Inferno Cannon, especially once you consider the movement values of both tanks. Still, paying so few points for a Leman Russ chassis with what is still a very strong weapon in the form of the Eradicator Nova Cannon - firing a single Strength 6 AP4 Large Blast with the Ignores Cover special rule - is absolutely amazing and pushes the Eradicator forward as arguably the best Leman Russ variant right now. Having such amazing anti-infantry firepower on a platform that can additionally mount three heavy bolters without exceeding the cost of a standard Battle Tank that can fire all four weapons at full Ballistic Skill 3 on the move is as heavenly as it seems. That the Leman Russ chassis is survivable on a level comparable (but inferior) to Land Raiders and the Eradicator is still so darned cheap is just ridiculous, honestly, and it proves itself in almost every game it has ever seen use in if only because opponents will struggle to deal with these cheap, durable tanks.

    Demolisher - The first of three "siege" variants employing the Leman Russ chassis, the Demolisher is not only the poster child of the alternate Leman Russ kit but it is also quite possibly the scariest when considering all possible opponents. Featuring a titular Demolisher Cannon that fires an incredible Strength 10 AP2 Large Blast with the Ordnance special rule, a Leman Russ Demolisher can put the fear of god in many opponents with a weapon that is quite capable of annihilating anything from Centurions to Battlewagons with ease. With its short (for a Leman Russ) 24" range and incredibly powerful gun, the Leman Russ Demolisher qualifies most as a "line-breaker" above all the other variants - punching a hole through a vulnerable part of the enemy lines and acting mostly as an aggression-drawing focal point of your advancing vehicles. With a slightly upgraded AV 14/13/11, the Demolisher is minimally more survivable than other Leman Russ variants - and as a note, the Punisher and Executioner share this improved armour as well - and uses that durability to great effect considering its role as a terror weapon. The reality of Demolisher Cannons even on Ballistic Skill 4 Vindicators is that they are good but not great against vehicles with its single AP2 shot, they are rendered mostly worthless against cover and invulnerable saves, they aren't great for killing monstrous creatures (excepting Toughness 5 ones) and worst of all is that they scatter horribly for the most part. For the Leman Russ Demolisher you are typically looking at a 4" scatter in a random direction (the average result of 2D6 is 7) which the total 5" width of a large blast doesn't really alleviate unfortunately, and if it does hit something the target will often still have a good saving throw to use that will reduce the total unsaved wounds you would otherwise cause by a significant amount. Throw in the changes to Ordnance for Leman Russes in 6th Edition and a slight but nonetheless baffling points increase for the Demolisher against the severe cost decreases for other variants barring the Battle Tank, and honestly I feel the Demolisher just isn't that great anymore. It is still good in the sense that it is only a handful points more than it was, and it was used commonly in the last codex - still, the minimal range, vulnerability to melee (somewhat aided by the rear AV11) and lack of reliable damage output make it mediocre rather than good, working best as a fire magnet more than anything else.

    Punisher - Aside from being the favourite of many aesthetically, the Punisher is the second siege variant using the Leman Russ chassis and thus receives a slight boost to its rear armour that makes it ever so slightly less vulnerable to close combat attacks. What sets this particular tank apart from the rest is its Punisher Gatling Cannon, trading the usual blast or large blast markers for a jaw-dropping twenty Strength 5 AP- shots with a short range of 24". Like with any other unit with a crazily high rate of fire, the Punisher is one of the best recipients for either Preferred Enemy or twin-linking of some form, whether through Prescience or other means. As a Ballistic Skill 3 model that fires twenty shots, it will average ten hits with its Gatling Cannon which increases to fifteen hits when given full twin-linking. As one would expect, this will on average tear apart vehicles with three hull points and AV10 in one shooting phase assuming no cover or invulnerable saves, while it should average one or two glances against AV11 - hunting light vehicles isn't exactly its' speciality but I wouldn't say it is terrible at it. Seeing as its gun does not fire Ordnance like the Battle Tank and Demolisher, the Punisher can feasibly mount two sponsons and the obvious aesthetic and background options in the heavy bolters make for a literal mini-gun tank. After all, how can anyone resist the allure of a Leman Russ that fires a whopping twenty nine Strength 5 shots, nine of which are AP4 and have a 36" range, while the rest are AP- and share a reduced 24" range? This is easily the best variant to use against flying monstrous creatures and AV11 flyers or weaker with its crazy amount of shots and potential access to re-rolls, while it is decent if not good against infantry and monstrous creatures. The problem for the Punisher is the limited range of the main gun which heavily exposes it to counter-attack, the medium Strength value of the Gatling Cannon and the general unreliable nature of the tank - it gets hits by rolling moving tides of dice rather than with proper accuracy. It isn't quite as generally useful against cover-camping infantry as an Eradicator and nor is it anywhere near as cheap, but it is hard to say this tank is inefficient - you can equip it to be a generalist feasibly as well - considering that it becomes absolutely brutal with psychic support.

    Executioner - As the third and final siege Leman Russ variant, the Executioner also brings with it the largest pedigree of any Leman Russ - while some might be more frightened of the Demolishers' raw Strength 10 Ordnance, experienced opponents know to fear the raw devastation an Executioner can wreak. Unlike the other two 'siege' Leman Russes, an Executioner has a main weapon with a 36" range and thus should be sitting quite a ways outside of the front or advancing lines, making it safer in a sense against most anti-tank weapons. However, this is of course balanced by the tanks' incredibly risky weapons and natural talent to destroy itself over the length of a full game. The reason the Executioner is feared above all is that it fires a crazy three Strength 7 AP2 Small Blasts (the equivalent of three plasma cannon shots) at that medium 36" range, making it not only a dedicated Terminator-killer but also a tank that devastates infantry formations faster than the other variants. The reason for this is that three small blasts will generally hit more models after scatter has been resolved than a single large blast depending on model placement, and that these hits are AP2 gives the Executioner the perfect mix of hitting power and rate of fire. Strength 7 makes it a legitimate threat to medium vehicles, monstrous creatures and infantry of all kinds, but having three shots as opposed to just one makes it far more potentially useful against models that cannot be slain in one shot (easily). This tank is also thematically the best to give sponson Plasma Cannons to, though that does serve to illuminate the obvious fact; the main cannon having three Gets Hot shots is bad enough, but adding two extra Gets Hot shots may as well consign the Executioner to oblivion. Over the course of a standard six-turn game, an Executioner that fires all five of its Gets Hot shots will statistically wreck itself through hull point damage from failed Gets Hot rolls, a fact that serves to justify its incredibly low cost. Don't be fooled into thinking this is a vehicle unworthy of your attentions, however; the firepower on offer here is absolutely insane, as is the survivability when you consider this is a medium to long ranged tank. The super low price of the Executioner serves to balance out all those Gets Hot rolls and even with all the attached risks this is still easily one of the most generally useful Leman Russ variants right now.


    How to Equip Them
    Battle Tank - Any vehicle that has an Ordnance weapon and no special rule to override the Snap Firing rules when using other guns in conjunction with the Ordnance weapon should avoid ranged weapon upgrades wherever possible. Once you fire an Ordnance weapon, all other guns on the vehicle must fire Snap Shots and the 7th Edition Leman Russ variants have no rules to override this - truly disappointing given how unalike this is compared to their 5th Edition incarnations. As such, you can forget the sponson weapons and any hull-mounted weapon that isn't a heavy bolter as all of them are effectively a complete waste of points seeing as the primary Battle Cannon should always take precedence given its insane range and potential damage output. Don't bother with the hull lascannon or heavy flamer seeing as the latter cannot fire at all and the former fires a single shot needing a 6 to hit if you use the Battle Cannon as you should always be doing. This tank should be sitting at long range and thus needs no extra wargear; it is one of those few vehicles that really doesn't want or need any upgrades whatsoever.

    Exterminator - The role of this tank is that of a generalist perhaps more than any other Leman Russ variant in the codex, what with its main gun firing four Strength 7 shots that are both AP4 and twin-linked at an impressive 48" range. It is a gun that deals well with most monstrous creatures and light to medium vehicles due to its high Strength, though it is lacking against the more heavily armed examples of either unit type; on the other hand, it has decent enough rate of fire to be a tangible threat to infantry formations but will find dealing with hordes to be nearly impossible. With that in mind, customize the Exterminator based on what you need; if you really want a decent tank hunter that isn't a Vanquisher, take sponson multi-meltas and the hull lascannon. If you instead prefer to mow down infantry and deal with non 2+ armoured monsters, outfit it with heavy bolter sponsons and either a hull heavy bolter or hull lascannon and mow down infantry at half the rate that an Eradicator or Punisher does, but enjoy greater situational use against monstrous creatures. This tank is already over-priced for what it does and doesn't need any upgrades to function well given its generally long-range for most or all weapons it should be using.

    Vanquisher - About the only mandatory upgrade on a Vanquisher is a hull lascannon, seeing as its main gun is specifically designed for tank-hunting at extreme ranges and the lascannon is the well priced, perfect counter-part for that. The significantly decreased range of all the sponson weapon options compared to both the hull lascannon upgrade and the Vanquisher Battle Cannon make them all mostly avoidable, though if you want a tank that can destroy any monstrous creature or vehicle that draws too close then the sponson multi-meltas are a suitable addition. Just be aware that these tanks will get destroyed very quickly at close ranges without support as they are absolutely terrible at wiping out infantry, and this is crucial given that the basic squads of many armies can tear apart rear AV10 vehicles in close combat. If you want a midfield destroyer that annihilates Land Raiders and Monoliths with aplomb, take the sponson multi-meltas, hull lascannon and a Dozer Blade to ensure you get to where you need to. Otherwise, take the hull lascannon and nothing else - this tank is already rather inefficient as a tank hunter compared to many other options in the codex and so arbitrarily increasing its price will actively hurt its competitive usage rather than benefit it with their inclusion.

    Eradicator - As the most inexpensive tank and easily the deadliest against light to medium infantry per point spent on the model, if you want to upgrade an Eradicator with any sponsons then those should always be heavy bolters - and be sure to keep the hull heavy bolter as well. This is a tank that can sit at medium range (and thus invalidate any want for a heavy flamer) and unload nine Strength 5 AP4 shots and a single Strength 6 AP4 Large Blast with the Ignores Cover special rule on any single unit that comes within 36" (or 42" if you count its 6" movement speed). This will devastate anything short of medium vehicles and decently tough monstrous creatures and is ridiculously cheap given the sheer firepower it possesses, trading the incredible rate-of-fire from a Punisher for Ignores Cover and an increased Strength value on the primary weapon. Like the Battle Tank, an Eradicator doesn't need to move much at all and thus you can skip the Vehicle Equipment upgrades for it. You could potentially use plasma cannons to make it an elite infantry and monstrous creature hunter as well, but the cost is not insignificant and most certainly adds unwanted risks to a tank that is so good because it is both safe and cheap.

    Demolisher - Much like the Battle Tank, a Demolisher should avoid taking any weapon upgrades as they will effectively be wasted as soon as the titular cannon is fired. Stick with the hull heavy bolter for shooting until the Demolisher comes in range of a viable target, then proceed to unload with one of the scariest guns in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Unlike the Battle Tank, a Demolisher is a decidedly close-ranged vehicle and thus will benefit immensely from Dozer Blades, Extra Armour and even Recovery Gear, though I would probably just take the Dozer Blades if only because Demolishers are already very expensive and don't need any more unnecessary cost increases.

    Punisher - While the limited range of the Punisher Gatling Cannon is a hefty price to pay for the ridiculous rate of fire it offers, I would still advise heavy bolters on this tank even if multi-meltas have the same threat zone as the primary weapon. This thing will mow down infantry, light vehicles and weak monstrous creatures much like an Eradicator through a ridiculous amount of Strength 5 shots, so adding two Strength 8 shots to the mix so it can possibly deal with tanks seems like a bit of a waste of the main gun when you could just use a Vanquisher for that job. A crazy twenty-nine Strength 5 shots from a Punisher outfitted with three heavy bolters will average roughly fifteen hits (rounding up) for three glances against AV11 or five glances against AV10, making it a great light vehicle hunter. Against your average Toughness 6 3+ armoured monstrous creature, those fifteen hits turn into five wounds inflicted for a total of two unsaved wounds, which isn't bad at all. And once you fire at infantry, those Toughness 4 3+ armoured Space Marines will drop roughly three models at a time before the barrels of a Punisher. The key to remember here is that a Punisher is likely to be destroyed once it moves into that 24" range because that is where most armies' anti-tank weapons become far more pronounced - particularly melta weapons and psycannons - so being able to fire nine Strength 5 AP4 shots at a 36" range in the mean-time is always a good deal. This tank requires Dozer Blades and Extra Armour just as much as a Demolisher, though you can skip these upgrades in favour of cost-cutting to fit in more inexpensive units throughout the army such as Wyverns. On that note, if your army does field Wyverns then I strongly recommend the multi-melta sponsons if only because a Punisher simply cannot match the anti-infantry devastation the former wreaks, so giving it some anti-tank punch will help to diversify your army list.

    Executioner - While I would advise the plasma cannon sponsons above all others for this tank given that they fit with the Executioner Cannon and further seal its place as the most destructive elite infantry hunter in the game given its cost, the risks do outweigh the benefits for the most part. This is a tank that will statistically destroy itself in the space of six game turns and sacrifice one shot or more every shooting phase or two, and if you are unlucky then that inevitability can occur far sooner than you would reasonably expect. Firing five Gets Hot shots per turn when you outfit it with the sponson plasma cannons is about as dangerous as it gets for a tank that will at minimum cost nearly 200 points when outfitted with those extra plasma weapons, especially as they only receive a mere "4+ saving throw" against Gets Hot results. This is where a Tank Commander in a Combined Arms detachment or Knight Commander Pask enters the fray; with the re-roll on the Warlord Traits result for the former and the guaranteed trait for the latter providing the unit with Preferred Enemy and thus re-rolls for their Gets Hot rolls. If you want to use "plasmacutioners" or Executioners with five plasma cannon shots, you need one of the above two options (though obviously this means taking a Tank Commander HQ choice and not a Leman Russ Squadron Heavy Support choice). Otherwise, you can leave these tanks bare - they are expensive and dangerously prone to destroying themselves so keeping them light is for the best, though exchanging the hull heavy bolter for a lascannon is purely up to you seeing as it is cheap and either weapon fits with the Strength 7 AP2 main guns.


    Best Uses
    Battle Tank - As much as that gorgeous Strength 8 Ordnance Large Blast should appeal to your anti-tank desires, the reality is that a Battle Tank is definitely an anti-infantry platform first and foremost. If we assume the average roll on 2D6 is a 7 (usually a '4' and a '3') then this means a Battle Cannon's average armour penetration roll is 12, hardly the stuff of a proper anti-tank weapon especially seeing as it has a single shot only. In practice its uses against vehicles are situational with light vehicles being the best prey, though AP3 and one shot are incapable of doing serious damage to a tank in 7th Edition. What the Battle Tank is good at is demolishing Space Marines and other infantry with a 3+ or worse armour save, obliterating entire broods of Tyranid Warriors or Tactical Marines in a single shot - that is, if it doesn't scatter and has clear line of sight to the target and no obscuration. It is an unreliable weapon and the fact that it is Ordnance restricts the Battle Tank from using any other weaponry to good effect, limiting it to an anti-infantry role and some very situational uses against other targets. By the by, taking one wound off of a monstrous creature per shooting phase with a tank this expensive is a losing proposition in almost any game you play, so don't bother unless you are confident your army's combined shooting can do the job. Keep this tank in your backfield to make full use of its colossal 72" range while keeping out of your opponents' own threat ranges, staying safe from all but the quickest enemies.

    Exterminator - Given that this is a tank with a highly variable role based solely on any sponson choices you take for it, the Exterminator ranks as a decent choice against all types of models with a Toughness value outside of 2+ armoured units, and it is similarly effective against light to medium vehicles. You can make it the bane of 2+ armoured units at a discount price compared to the Executioner with plasma cannon sponsons or turn it into a dedicated tank hunter with multi melta sponsons, though either configuration will still have good versatility making it useful against a wide range of targets. Aside from the Punisher, this is also the only tank that is a decent anti-air platform - the Vanquisher lacks the rate of fire and re-rolls to perform the job, while all the other variants are completely incapable of harming a flyer with their primary weapons. While the Punisher is restricted to harming AV11 or lower aircraft, an Exterminator can actually do some damage to the AV12 and much rarer AV13 variants. Realistically, keep this tank back to make the most of its medium 36" range and it should do just fine against most targets - if there aren't transports or flyers to harass, then there should be infantry or monstrous creatures to annoy; the Exterminator performs fine against all or most of these targets based upon their individual defensive stats.

    Vanquisher - Provided you use the Vanquisher as intended and keep it well away from opposing infantry by making full use of its colossal range, you should have yourself a decent if uninspiring tank hunter. The fact that the Vanquisher Battle Cannon and hull lascannon are each AP2 weapons with whopping Strength values solidifies this Leman Russ as a big game hunter and easily the best of these tanks in that regard. A Strength 8 AP2 Armourbane shot is one of the few things that can reliably crack AV14 and from a massive range as well, but the lack of rate of fire and mediocre accuracy of the tank make it a mediocre vehicle destroyer in the usual sense. You shouldn't use a Vanquisher to take out weaker vehicles that your Heavy Weapons Teams and other anti-tank units can handle well enough, but instead play to its strengths by targeting the most heavily armoured vehicle in your opponents army list. This will traditionally be either a Land Raider or a Tyrannofex (in the case of Tyranids), and the reason you prefer these targets as opposed to others is because you can punch through that armour and strip hull points off with regularity. Don't even bother with the one-in-six chance to destroy any vehicle outright with a single shot, but remember that the Vanquisher is your only long-ranged anti-tank that is semi-accurate, not a Barrage weapon and can actually threaten AV14 vehicles. Of course, if the AV14 vehicle in question is something like a lone Leman Russ with little damage output then prioritize the opponents' transports and other important targets first - just remember that destroying light tanks is what plenty of other units in the army are designed for, wasting the Vanquishers' potential.

    Eradicator - While the Eradicator has the range to sit back and be a constant nuisance throughout the game much like your standard Battle Tank, its low cost and more limited primary weapon make it a more "expendable" vehicle than your other Leman Russ variants for the most part. If you are going to use your survivable Leman Russ tanks to capture objectives in the midfield then Eradicators are a fine bet because the codex is literally stacked with similar weaponry to it even before accounting for how inexpensive it is. Obviously, it still needs support - it can't deal with other tanks at all and shouldn't ever be used to target a monstrous creature unless both the heavy bolter sponsons are taken and the monster is already weakened by other shooting. One useful tactic to remember for an Eradicator is that as its Nova Cannon has the Ignores Cover special rule, you can situate the Eradicator behind cover for heavy defensive bonuses without limiting its damage potential - usually, this would also provide your opponents' units with cover saves, but the Eradicator ignores this. Though obviously terrain types will vary between local gaming clubs and Games Workshop stores, I've found any type of terrain that covers the majority of the hull is perfect - as long as the Nova Cannon itself can see the target, there is no downside for the Eradicator itself.

    Demolisher - Whereas you might want to be a bit more cautious with a similarly short-ranged Punisher because it cannot deal with any medium to heavy vehicle whatsoever, there is absolutely no subtlety required to the Leman Russ Demolisher. Use this as aggressively as you possibly can; the reason for this is that anything with a Demolisher Cannon or equivalent weapon is effectively a terror weapon on the battlefield and will more than likely scare the pants off of opponents, whether they be inexperienced or tested veterans. Even through cover and invulnerable saves, that Strength 10 AP2 Ordnance Large Blast will wreck units in record time and remains one of the few Leman Russ primary weapons that can still outright destroy a vehicle in one shot, even if it is incredibly unlikely. Even a single Demolisher out of an advancing wall of transports and tanks will still draw a crazy amount of attention as no-one wants to risk being hit by a weapon of that power, so you may as well be as forefront with it as you can.

    Punisher - This particular Leman Russ variant excels when outfitted purely for anti-infantry devastation, wreaking havoc among all kinds of squads or broods with a ridiculous rate of fire making it one of the first and best recipients of Prescience. I don't advocate using this in your standard static gun-line lists as its limited 24" range doesn't really fit with the rest of the incredibly long ranged firepower that an Astra Militarum list should bring to the table, though in a mechanized list they are absolutely a perfect fit. Heck, a mixed list wants these as well - just make sure they don't advance unsupported as they are completely incapable of dealing with tougher, fast moving assault units and heavily armoured vehicles or monstrous creatures. If there are no non-vehicle, non-monstrous units in range, prioritize lightly armoured transports and possibly any nearby flying monstrous creatures - it is hard to go wrong with twenty-nine Strength 5 shots after all!

    Executioner - If you still face Terminators or other 2+ armoured opponents with regularity, the Executioner is your best answer as an Astra Militarum player by far. Not only will this annihilate any infantry unit of twenty models or less in one salvo assuming average rolls, but it will rip a huge chunk of wounds of out any monstrous creature barring a Wraithknight that gets within its sights. Provided you don't have bad luck with scatter, an Executioner with plasma cannon sponsons and Preferred Enemy from either Pask or a Tank Commander should average something like three or four hits and two or three unsaved wounds on your average Toughness 6 monstrous creatures, assuming no cover or invulnerable saves. This is a tank that shouldn't need to move forward much if at all, but instead move back every so often so that it can keep away from any nearby assault units threatening to charge it. With five Strength 7 AP2 shots at a 36" range, the Executioner can threaten anything in the game on a consistent basis that isn't an AV13 or AV14 vehicle, or a flyer of course. I would advise running one or two of these with a Tank Commander for maximum devastation and reliability so that they don't destroy themselves through Gets Hot rolls, as otherwise they end up being just a tad too inconsistent and downright suicidal.



    Hydra Batteries

    Overview
    With the first proper plastic kit finally released for this grizzled old tank, famous both for its usage of the Chimera chassis and its status as the "original" anti-aircraft unit, Hydras were previously among the most devastating all-rounder units in 5th Edition Warhammer 40,000 with only Land Raiders and Monoliths being immune to its furious hailstorm. The release of 6th Edition subsequently culled its competitive usage considerably despite its status as a dedicated anti-air tool in the first ever rule-set to properly feature flyers, a somewhat confusing change of fortune for an iconic unit. While the change to Interceptor in 7th Edition did largely neuter most other anti-air units in the same way adding just Skyfire to the Hydra did, it nonetheless remains as more of a niche unit that is specifically designed to take down three unit types in particular. If you haven't caught on to what the Skyfire rule entails by now - and yes, it defines the Hydra and thus warrants this explanation - then it allows ground units to fire at full Ballistic Skill against zooming flyers and swooping flying monstrous creatures rather than be forced to rely on snap shots as normal. This means that a Hydra with its two twin-linked Hydra Autocannons is capable of hitting on 4s due to its Ballistic Skill 3 against either of those two unit types when they are zooming or swooping, respectively, though as the Hydra Autocannons themselves have the Skyfire rule this means any other weapon present on the Hydra tank will still have to fire snap shots at those targets as normal. With four shots at Strength 7 AP4 that should average three hits per shooting phase, that's not a bad deal at all when you consider that most aircraft are AV 11/11/10 or something to that to extent, excepting the Imperial and Chaos flyers of course, while the majority of flying monstrous creatures are Toughness 5 with 4+ or 3+ armour saves.

    The damage output fits and makes the Hydra a decent aggressor against the units it wants to target, but the unfortunate side-effect of Skyfire is that it makes any unit bearing it almost useless against ground targets unless the unit has some kind of special rule - such as a Mortis Dreadnought or Mortis Contemptor - that allows it to choose either to use or not to use Skyfire in any given shooting phase. The Hydra, sadly, lacks this element of choice and is thus only really useful against all those flying units you seen, though thankfully even with some general tweaks in 7th Edition those kinds of units are all still very common - Tyranid flying monstrous creatures are soaring high right now, just as the various Xenos and Imperial flyers remain useful to capitalize on the vulnerabilities of unprepared generals. That Skyfire also allows the recipient to fire at full Ballistic Skill against skimmers makes the Hydra a bit more versatile than it would initially seem, meaning it can be a threat against at least one unit in almost every codex in Warhammer 40,000. The thinking goes that the Hydra is cheap enough to warrant an inclusion even with the removal of its Jink-ignoring unique special rule seeing as skimmers, flyers and flying monstrous creatures pop up in almost any competitive army list, and this is true for the most part if you consider that most of those units are incredibly susceptible to Strength 7 AP4 shooting.

    The high Strength and colossal range are all nice, but there is one crippling issue for the Hydra that limits its usage considerably; as it lacks the Interceptor special rule, opposing flyers arriving from reserves will get the first shot and compromise its fragile AV 12/10/10 frame, much like flying monstrous creatures and skimmers all have the mobility and often the firepower to neutralize Hydras early in the game. Those units can afford to hide and zoom out of cover or simply bear the brunt of a Hydras' shooting attacks if they have cover saves seeing as the Hydra is incapable of ignoring cover saves, and then make full use of their unique movement and swiftness to counter-attack and destroy the relatively fragile Hydra. While the Hydra obviously can be hidden out of sight with its relatively medium to small sized model and then moved into position after a flyer enters from reserves or the target otherwise exposes itself, the problem here is that the Hydra is a standard vehicle lacking the Fast classification. Its Hydra Autocannons come in a pair of twin-linked weapons, meaning that as soon as a Hydra moves a single inch it is forced to snap-fire (the irony) with one of them - considering the whole point of the tank is to fire at full Ballistic Skill against flying units, this is a pretty significant in-game weakness that the "theory" side of tactics often fail to mention.

    If you don't have suitable cover for a Hydra to occupy wherein it benefits from a save but does not provide one to its quarry (the high position of the guns makes this possible) preferably from a barricade or wall of some kind, it will either be left in a bad position and make for easy prey or be forced to spend a turn getting into a good position after its quarry has already arrived. In the latter scenario, it still makes for a suitable target for your opponent as unless you take multiple Hydras - squadrons are still fragile and the Heavy Support slots are very valuable, even with 7th Edition's unlimited detachments - or combo them up with Vendettas to cover all your anti-air needs, they are going to be in a spot of bother in some form or another. Some match-ups will also render them almost completely useless unless you count their searchlight, smoke launchers, hull heavy bolter and capability to ram enemies - certainly not the stuff of legends when you consider that almost every single Imperial Guard tank features all three of those equipment pieces. After all, not everyone wants to jump on the flyer craze post 6th Edition and in all likelihood this will also be a Space Marine or Imperial player, meaning there will be a distinct lack of skimmers to fire upon as well. While the Hydra is decent in theory, it struggles immensely in practice due to its inability to properly reposition against targets that will otherwise be able to perform an "alpha strike" on it, as well as its fragility compounded by the fact it will often be one of the few obvious anti-air units in an army list making it an easily identified and destroyed target. By the by, even if it can target skimmers, don't expect anything good against Wave Serpents - Hydra Autocannons might have the range advantage over the Serpent Shield, but Wave Serpents can easily survive your shooting and destroy your Hydras in turn.


    How to Equip Them
    While some theorize that as the Hydra Autocannons have Skyfire rather than the Hydra itself one should replace the stock heavy bolters with heavy flamers to potentially deal with nearby infantry as desired - after all, it is a free exchange - I am not a subscriber to this belief. The usage of hull heavy flamers amounts to "here, have this tank" considering its tight 8" long template and having zero synergy with the Hydra Autocannons. Remember, a heavy bolter can still be used to fire snap shots at flying targets or fire at full Ballistic Skill at ground targets, making it the more versatile weapon and having a 36" range meaning it isn't completely useless for half or more of a game. If you are in a situation where you need to rely on a Hydra to clear out infantry that have managed to close within assault distance of it, the onus is on your actual Infantry Platoons, Leman Russ Eradicators and Hellhounds to clear them out, not a dedicated anti-aircraft tank that finds some use from a three-shot Strength 5 weapon. Other than that, seeing as this is a tank that should only move if it means keeping out of sight from a soon-to-arrive flyer to compensate for its lack of Interceptor, there are no worthwhile upgrades of note available to it. All increase the price of the Hydra and don't provide it with any assistance in its primary role, that of targeting and destroying flyers and skimmers exclusively.


    Best Uses
    The main issue I and other Imperial Guard veteran players have with Hydras is their complete lack of Interceptor throughout both 6th Edition and now 7th Edition, meaning that their main quarry in the form of flyers will have the first shot instead. For an anti-air tank that is AV 12/10/10 with three hull points, this is a pretty serious issue as the majority of flyers in the game have the mobility or firepower to either expose its side armour and neutralize it or destroy it regardless of which facing a flyer is presented with. This generally means either keeping the Hydra behind suitable terrain where the elevated position of its weapons will ensure most targets do not benefit from cover but the Hydra itself will given the low height of the actual chassis, or hiding it entirely out of sight of any possible attack so that it can move into sight and commence firing protocols when ready. I must state fully that neither tactic is entirely preferable seeing as unless one faces skimmers that begin the game on the board in sight of a Hydra, it will almost never get the first shot off against something worthwhile even when you consider its colossal 72" range. While four twin-linked Strength 7 AP4 shots are good against almost anything, that they must snap-fire at any target that is not a flyer or skimmer is a huge downside not only for the Hydra itself but also for most other dedicated anti-air platforms as well. Just try not to forget the stipulation that Skyfire also extends to skimmers; too many times I have seen players mistakenly snap-fire their otherwise decently valuable models against targets which should not impose the Ballistic Skill 1 penalty. A good way to remember which armies Hydras should be able to fire normally against are as follows; Dark Eldar, Eldar, Necrons and Tau all heavily feature skimmers, while it is rare to see a competitive Astra Militarum, Chaos Daemons, Orks, Space Marines (of all varieties, including Chaos but barring Dark Angels) or Tyranid army lacking fliers or flying monstrous creatures.



    Basilisk Batteries

    Overview
    There is truly nothing in Warhammer 40,000 that screams "fire the heavy guns!" quite like a Basilisk, fielding one of the largest weapons in the game on such a small body - the sight of a squadron of these is admittedly rare but undoubtedly impressive to view. Sadly, these are not the ground-shattering death machines they are made out to be in the background and in the various Dawn of War video games, no matter how useful they still are. At first glance, the Basilisk shares your typical Chimera chassis and all that implies, namely front AV 12, side AV 10 and rear AV 10 with three hull points for a tank that has decent but hardly special survivability. That the Basilisk is open-topped only adds to its potential defensive woes, leaving it crazily vulnerable to attacks from the flanks which, given its role, makes it an obvious choice to protect in your backfield as a possible objective baby-sitter - thank you 7th Edition! Another standard trait making its way to the Basilisk from so many other Astra Militarum tanks is Ballistic Skill 3, meaning it will scatter quite a bit whenever it fires its primary weapon. Smoke Launchers and Searchlights are also included in the basic package as is a hull heavy bolter, just like any tank that uses the Chimera chassis but isn't a Hellhound variant.

    Of course, the defining feature of a Basilisk is its huge Earthshaker Cannon; while it doesn't quite cause a tremor much like the name would suggest (unlike a Thunderfire Cannon), it nonetheless hits like one of the terrifying Flakk 88's from World War II (on an unrelated note, notice any similarities between Thudd Guns and Nebelwerfers?). This functions much like an improved Battle Cannon, firing a single shot that uses the large blast template and impacts at a whopping Strength 9 with a respectable AP3. It possesses the Ordnance and Barrage special rules, meaning that it not only allows you to roll 2D6 choosing the highest for armour penetration, but also that all wounds inflicted by the Earthshaker Cannon are resolved from the centre of the hole rather than the gun itself for the purposes of wound allocation. Oh, and don't forget that Barrage weapons can be used to fire indirectly - meaning without line of sight, but at the cost of increased scatter - and always strike the side armour of vehicles, making them surprisingly good at penetrating most tanks! There are a few downsides that bear mentioning in relation to the Earthshaker Cannon and its interaction with these special rules, but the fact that the Ordnance classification means the Basilisk' other weapons are forced to Snap Fire is effectively a blessing in disguise. A hull heavy bolter on a Ballistic Skill 3 model that wants to stay as far away from enemy attention as possible is unlikely to ever do anything significant anyway, while this also means you don't have to worry about wasting points on pointless weapon upgrades for the model.

    What is important to keep in mind is that the Barrage rules effectively ignore cover saves provided by intervening models or terrain, eliminating the cover saves of most units that have decided to trod on forward towards an objective or other target. Seeing as the Earthshaker Cannon is Strength 9 and AP3, this means it can and will annihilate entire squads of Space Marines, Tyranid Warriors and almost any other kind of infantry at a time; it is because of weapons like these that transports, Malanthropes and defensive re-purposing were invented for the various units susceptible to such attacks. That's just the problem though, a single Strength AP3 Ordnance Barrage shot that is quite inaccurate isn't going to worry most transports all that much as the worst that could happen is it gets Immobilized - unless it is open-topped, of course. On the other hand, the various defensive measures implemented by Tyranids to provide cover for the horde will quickly reduce the damage dealt by a Basilisk from, for example, a dozen wounds to half or less depending on the terrain and Night Fighting. The Basilisk hits hard and from a colossal range, but it is almost as inaccurate as a Master of Ordnance and there are many ways to outright circumvent or otherwise neuter the damage it can cause.

    On the note of range, as far as I am aware there is nothing available in a standard codex that uses a fixed value (i.e. not including Deathstrike Missiles) and isn't fitted on a super heavy or gargantuan creature that exceeds the range of an Earthshaker Cannon; no, that 240" range is not a typo. To clarify just how massive this is, each standard Games Workshop Realm of Battle gaming section - as in the individual square boards - measures 24" across, both vertically and horizontally. To even have a chance of escaping a Basilisk' sights, one would have to play on a 10x10 gaming board and hope you are deployed diagonally opposite of it with each participating party in the absolute opposite corners, hugging the table edges.Yikes! There's just one issue here that amplifies the vulnerabilities of the Basilisk, and that is its ridiculously high minimum range; while firing with line of sight obviously has no repercussions, firing without line of sight or "indirectly" restricts the Basilisk to targeting enemies that are more than 36" away.

    When you consider the aforementioned fragility presented by being open-topped and using the Chimera chassis, this means that games played on standard 6x4 or 4x4 tables will heavily restrict the indirect fire capabilities of a Basilisk and paint it as a relatively easy target. Unless you play against a static gun-line that thinks it can get away with sitting still in Maelstrom of War missions or get the short table edge deployment on a 6x4, the Basilisk' indirect fire will be rendered useless and thus force it to move out to attain line of sight just so that it can fire its unit-defining Earthshaker Cannon. This is a significant and fundamental flaw with the Basilisk that relegates its competitive usage to the types of games that don't emphasize tournament play in the slightest, the ones that are played on massive gaming tables and feature several players or just two humongous armies all vying for dominance. The Basilisk is just too easily destroyed by the common massed Strength 7 or Strength 8 shooting almost every codex can bring once it is placed out in the open, eliminating one of the big advantages offered by Barrage-firing vehicles. While you can obviously still provide it with suitable defences such as cover saves taken from Aegis Defence Lines and other forms of terrain, fortifications or units, exposing a relatively expensive artillery tank with a gun that strong is a recipe to see any hunter swoon with elation.


    How to Equip Them
    If there is one vehicle in the game that has access to upgrades but should never take any of them, the Basilisk is the grand champion of the category. When the tanks' defining weapon happens to be of the Ordnance variety - meaning other guns have to Snap Fire - and has an insane 240" maximum range, you never need to worry about mobility or adding defensive counter-measures, not unless you have a thirst for spending unnecessary points on units that don't need it. Seriously, none of the upgrades are worthwhile here; this is a tank that should be right at the back of the board and hidden as well as possible. If it somehow gets shot at then it will likely see the main weapon rendered useless by the minimum range or it will have a cover save anyway, while a tank that gets into melee is virtually a dead one anyway - why bother with melee counter-measures on an artillery bombardment piece? I also can never imagine where having the capability to move through terrain more reliably or switch stunned results for shaken results instead would ever be required on a Basilisk; not shooting the main gun makes it an overly expensive Chimera without the transport capacity, while moving on a platform with a 240" range means any melee-range units will have gotten past its protective units already.

    Movement is situational for a Basilisk, as are any other upgrades; do not bother with them. Of course, there is just one exception to that rule and that is Camo Netting - if you use Basilisks on 6x4 gaming tables, you will need to fire them directly and thus leave it susceptible to enemy fire. This means you will also need either an Aegis Defence Line, suitable terrain or a Guardsmen squad or two to provide it cover, mandating the valuable Camo Netting upgrade. If you are using the Basilisk on a large gaming table such as 8x8 or larger then you can ignore this upgrade, otherwise I find it very useful for a Basilisk as it will have to endure firepower on average gaming boards to ensure it can fire at all. As for the Enclosed Crew Compartment, I feel having an improved saving throw versus removing a slight vehicle damage chart modifier is superior; if you already take Camo Netting then skip the Enclosed Crew Compartment - you don't want to spend any more points on an already arguably over-priced tank! Of course, if Wave Serpents are common in your area and you aren't on a gaming table suitable to hiding the Basilisks for indirect firing, the Enclosed Crew Compartments will serve you better seeing as Camo Netting is virtually useless against them.


    Best Uses
    When you have an artillery piece with as colossal a range as possessed by the Basilisk through its incredible Earthshaker Cannon, making the most of that range simply isn't possible in your average game and it can lead to some unfortunate limitations. This is why "hiding" Basilisks out of sight and blind-firing them through the Barrage rules simply will not work with its huge 36" minimum range unless you get lucky and play on a 6x4 with the short table edge deployment zones and a large terrain piece handy at the back of your deployment zone. Instead, use any kind of terrain to hide the main hull of a Basilisk, whether it be a wall, a ruin, a barricade or some other terrain feature. As vehicles measure line of sight and range from the barrels of each individual weapon they possess, this means the high arc and length of the Earthshaker Cannon allows the Basilisk to fire without offering cover saves to opponents through its own intervening cover. A similar principle can be applied with the use of your basic Guardsmen - particularly a sizable, cheap Conscript squad - as their height compared to that of a Chimera chassis means even your most basic infantry can provide the Basilisk with a 5+ minimum cover save.

    As for which targets to prioritize with a Basilisk, either aim for the kind of infantry that are terrified by it - Tyranid Warrior equivalents with Toughness 4 and multiple wounds, or any kind of sizable infantry squad with a 3+ or worse armour save - or try and snipe off the remaining hull points of already weakened vehicles. The Barrage rules give the Basilisk an important advantage against Imperial Knights in regards to the way their shield functions; as the shield can only function for one of the front, side or rear armour values and all Barrage weapons automatically target the side armour, this means opponents fielding Imperial Knights will have a struggle against your Imperial Guard artillery. If you field enough lascannons through Heavy Weapon Teams or Leman Russ variants, they will likely prioritize the front-facing shield; this leaves them open to anything that uses the Barrage rule, such as a Basilisk or Manticore. Note that the Barrage rules are used regardless of whether the weapon fires directly or indirectly; you don't lose out on all those tasty benefits just because you wanted to shoot at something in your field of view!



    Wyverns

    Overview
    Ah, the Wyvern, bane of infantry and really anything with a Toughness value short of a monstrous creature or Centurions. Even if Ork Lobbas and various other choices remain as strong competitors or superiors to the Wyvern, it is nonetheless one of the best artillery (as in role, not unit type) units in the game and the 7th Edition buffs to vehicles have not changed its standing one bit. For just over half the price of a Basilisk, a Wyvern has identical survivability seeing as it shares the Chimera chassis - for the uninitiated this means that it is a three hull point, open-topped tank with AV 12/10/10. Like the Basilisk, it either needs to sit completely out of sight to make the most of its Barrage rules and the ability to fire indirectly, or sit behind good cover with the Camo-Netting upgrade to ensure it can survive the inevitable backlash it will draw from any sane opponent. The reason this tank is so coveted and pops up in almost any competitive Astra Militarum list - even if that same army features Thudd Guns! - is because there is literally no better way to spend so few points on a unit so good in the codex. While any number of the Leman Russ variants or other artillery types can obviously prove more useful in a specific force, for general efficiency and reliability there is simply no Heavy Support slot in the codex proper that matches a Wyvern point-for-point. This is because of the Wyvern's two individual Stormshard Mortars, each a devastating yet deceiving weapon that fooled quite a few early adopters of the codex into thinking it was too weak to be of great use.

    Each Stormshard Mortar fires two shots that use the small blast template with a low Strength 4 and terrible AP6. Four small blasts with this profile is essentially the equivalent of four Space Marine Missile Launchers firing frag missiles, but then you add in the many special rules applying to each Stormshard Mortar and you will quickly see why the Wyvern is so brutal. Each shot benefits from re-rolls to wound via Shred, cancels out cover saves with the Ignores Cover special rule, while it can also be fired without line of sight and resolves wounds from the centre of the template because of its Barrage classification. Not only does the Wyvern ignore all cover saves and re-roll failed to wound rolls, but as its two Stormshard Mortars are twin-linked it also re-rolls all "failed" to hit rolls in an attempt to get more hits with the blasts. As it uses the Barrage rules for resolving hits and wound allocation this also means that the latter three of the four small blasts are undertaken by "flipping" off of the initial blast. While this can lead to each small blast hitting nothing if there is some incredibly unlucky scatter rolling, generally this means a Wyvern will average a tonne of hits against most squad types. By having re-rolls on virtually every dice roll the Wyvern directly participates in as well as ignoring cover saves that would otherwise deny this artillery piece numerous kills against weaker infantry, the Wyvern is one of the only units in the game that requires absolutely no support outside of any necessary defensive measures. That the unit doesn't need any help from your psychic powers or other support abilities means you can virtually throw it into an army list with no fear of it failing, while its damage capabilities are absolutely ridiculous. From extensive personal, anecdotal and theoretical evidence, the Wyvern tears apart any infantry squad short of Terminators - and even these will usually suffer a few casualties from its fusillade. At its points cost it is by far the best infantry hunter in the Astra Militarum codex, firing from long range, having guaranteed efficiency with re-rolls for everything, and ignoring cover saves to deal with annoying Nurgle Daemons or other cover-camping squads.

    In this next section of the article, I wanted to feature a throw-back to a still very relevant article I published way back on the 28th of April, suitably titled "The Wondrous Wyvern". Of all the points I have already made here, they are nothing if not provided proper context through comparisons to the Wyvern's chief competitors. To keep those comparisons in line with the 7th Edition context of this Wyvern Tactica article, I have also included the now famous Ork Lobba and its capabilities into the mix. I still think it is fair to say that the Wyvern is one of the best artillery units in Warhammer 40,000 and comfortably sits alongside the Heavy Quad Launcher, Lobba and Thunderfire Cannon as the front-runners for that prestigious title. In fact, once one considers that Prescience is no longer the easily obtained re-roll generator it was in 6th Edition, you could say the Wyvern has an even greater presence in 7th Edition, though obviously this is counter-balanced by the increasing relevance of vehicles in an even more heavily objective-based game.

    Of course, this comparison chart not only points out how amazing the "all-in-one" package a Wyvern is but also the resurgence of Ork Lobbas; they are even more insanely cheap than Wyverns but obviously lack the efficiency of the latter. If you take three Lobbas each with Ammo Runts for just a few points shy of one Wyvern, you will have one less shot but each will be resolved at one greater Strength and AP, with twin-linking for three effective turns (you choose to re-roll one to hit roll with the first Lobba fired each turn, firing a different Lobba each time until you expend the re-rolls). Of course, the trade-off between Shred and Ignores Cover versus Strength 5 and AP5 will generally favour the former, though that comes with the distinction that each of the latter shots uses a large blast as opposed to the formers' small blasts. A Wyvern is more reliable by nature of having Shred and having Ignores Cover so that it isn't neutered by cover saves, but the Lobbas are more useful against vehicles and similarly don't really need support to function well. As impressive as the Wyvern is, you can be sure I will be discussing Mek Guns using Lobbas in my Ork Tactica in detail as they are a superb choice as well!

    Wyvern

    *Cost = 13 Meltabombs
    *Survivability = Armour Value 12/10/10, Hull Points 3
    *Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 3, Twin-Linked
    *Rate of Fire = Four Small Blasts
    *Range = 48"
    *Damage Output = Strength 4 AP6, Shred
    *Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = Yes
    *Unit Size = 1-3
    *Additional Effects = Not applicable

    Heavy Quad Launcher (Thudd Gun)

    *Cost = 11 Meltabombs
    *Survivability = Toughness 7, Wounds 2-4 (Upgradeable), Armour Save 3+
    *Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 3
    *Rate of Fire = Four Small Blasts
    *Range = 60"
    *Damage Output = Strength 5, AP5
    *Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = No
    *Unit Size = 1-3
    *Additional Effects = Pinning tests inflicted by Thudd Gun suffer -1 Leadership penalty

    Whirlwind

    *Cost = 13 Meltabombs
    *Survivability = Armour Value 11/11/10, Hull Points 3
    *Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 4
    *Rate of Fire = One Large Blast
    *Range = 48"
    *Damage Output = Variable (Strength 5 AP4 and Strength 4 AP5)
    *Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = Yes / Ignores Cover = Variable (No on first profile, Yes on second profile)
    *Unit Size = 1
    *Additional Effects = Not applicable

    Thunderfire Cannon

    *Cost = 20 Meltabombs
    *Survivability = Toughness 7, Wounds 2, Armour Save 3+
    *Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 4
    *Rate of Fire = Four Small Blasts
    *Range = 60"
    *Damage Output = Variable (Strength 6 AP5, Strength 5 AP6, Strength 4 AP-)
    *Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = Variable (No on first and third profile, Yes on second profile)
    *Unit Size = 1
    *Additional Effects = Strength 4 shell causes difficult or dangerous terrain tests

    Night Spinner

    *Cost = 23 Meltabombs
    *Survivability = Armour Value 12/12/10, Hull Points 3, Jink
    *Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 4
    *Rate of Fire = One Large Blast
    *Range = 48"
    *Damage Output = Strength 7 AP6 (Monofilament potential AP1 wounds on 6s)
    *Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = No
    *Unit Size = 1
    *Additional Effects = Not applicable

    Shadow Weaver

    *Cost = 6 Meltabombs
    *Survivability = Toughness 7, Wounds 2, Armour Save 3+
    *Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 4
    *Rate of Fire = One Small Blast
    *Range = 48"
    *Damage Output = Strength 6 AP6 (Monofilament potential AP1 wounds on 6s)
    *Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = No
    *Unit Size = 1-3
    *Additional Effects = Not applicable

    Skull Cannon

    *Cost = 25 Meltabombs
    *Survivability = Armour Value 12/12/10, Hull Points 3, Open-Topped, 5+ Invulnerable Save
    *Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 5
    *Rate of Fire = One Large Blast
    *Range = 36"
    *Damage Output = Strength 8 AP5
    *Barrage = No / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = Yes
    *Unit Size = 1
    *Additional Effects = Friendly Daemon units charging target gain assault grenade bonuses

    Biovores

    *Cost = 8 Meltabombs
    *Survivability = Toughness 4, Wounds 3, Armour Save 4+
    *Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 3
    *Rate of Fire = One Large Blast
    *Range = 48"
    *Damage Output = Strength 4 AP4
    *Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = No
    *Unit Size = 1-3
    *Additional Effects = Missed shots generate Spore Mine units

    Griffon

    *Cost = 15 Meltabombs
    *Survivability = Armour Value 12/10/10, Hull Points 3, Open Topped
    *Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 3, Twin-Linked
    *Rate of Fire = One Large Blast
    *Range = 48"
    *Damage Output = Strength 6 AP4
    *Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = Yes / Ignores Cover = No
    *Unit Size = 1-3
    *Additional Effects = Not applicable

    Lobba

    *Cost = 3 Meltabombs + 3 Points
    *Survivability = Toughness 7, Wounds 2, Armour Save 3+
    *Accuracy = Ballistic Skill 3
    *Rate of Fire = One Large Blast
    *Range = 48"
    *Damage Output = Strength 5 AP5
    *Barrage = Yes / Ordnance = No / Ignores Cover = No
    *Unit Size = 1-5
    *Additional Effects = Not applicable


    How to Equip Them
    A Wyvern needs no upgrades for similar reasons to a Basilisk; it will rarely if ever need to move with its 48" range and capability to fire indirectly regardless of enemy proximity, while the firepower provided by its pair of Stormshard Mortars are more than enough to devastate any infantry unit. Besides, this tank is so insanely cheap for what it does and that is why it ranks as arguably the most cost-effective unit in the game - it is fully self-sufficient and needs no support abilities or upgrades to maximise its damage potential and usefulness. Spending extra points on a tank that has essentially already been "perfected" in its role is effectively a waste and as such I recommend leaving these entirely devoid of any upgrades. About the most I would ever bother with on a Wyvern is Camo-Netting and that is only if you have some form of barricade like an Aegis Defence Line that you plan on including in your army list. Using that or another type of fortification in conjunction with the Camo-Netting will provide the Wyvern with a strong cover save while simultaneously allowing it to fire directly at its chosen targets - at least more so than if it was hiding - so that it can make use of its Ballistic Skill to further increase its accuracy.


    Best Uses
    Let's be perfectly honest here; any non-vehicle unit you see that has Toughness 5 or lower is potential prey for a Wyvern. When you have four twin-linked small blasts to play with that re-roll to wound at Strength 4, even units with high Toughness like Ogryns will have a hard time coming out of a bombardment without some casualties. Whether it be tiny units of Eldar Rangers, combined Infantry Squads from this very codex or Space Marine Terminators, a Wyvern can inflict some serious damage on the opposition and will work even against well armoured foes because of the sheer amount of wounds it can reliably inflict. The key word here is efficiency; a Wyvern generally averages around fifteen or more hits against standard 20mm based models that are spread out somewhat, and something like seven or eight against 40mm based models. Each of those hits re-rolls to wound, is AP6 and ignores any cover saves the models might benefit from, forcing them to use their armour or invulnerable saves where applicable. Against Space Marine Tactical Marines, those fifteen hits will translate to roughly eleven wounds for an average of four casualties, rounding up on all fractions. Against Tyranid Termagants or even Ork Boyz lacking 'Eavy Armour, the average casualties inflicted increase to around thirteen and elven, respectively - again factoring in rounded-up fractions.

    Depending on the spacing of heavily armoured units such as Terminators, one to two casualties per volley are par for the course and not the exception; how refreshing is it to see a unit that makes its points back in one shooting phase in almost every single game it is used in? Sarcasm aside, there's very little the Wyvern isn't afraid of shooting at; Space Marine Bikers make good targets as Shred helps to negate their high Toughness advantage, while larger units with weaker saves will be torn apart by the sheer number of hits each Wyvern can cause. Just try not to move the Wyvern and keep it out of sight or at least make the most of its impressive 48" range; it is a very fragile unit with AV 12/10/10 and three hull points with the Open-Topped classification and moving it even slightly will force one of its two Stormshard Mortars to Snap Fire (meaning the gun won't be able to fire whatsoever). Even if it fires indirectly you will find the twin-linking makes it a seriously accurate ranged unit, while its incredible efficiency and reliability means you can simply throw one or two into an army list and never have to worry about supporting it given their ridiculously low cost. As for whether to run them in a squadron or not, this all comes down to how your Heavy Support slots shape up; if you already have two slots filled, running a pair of Wyverns together isn't a bad idea as they are guaranteed to severely damage whatever they target. On the other hand, just one shooting at a given unit is often enough to seriously cripple them and so I do recommend running them separate wherever possible; after all, no opponent is going to be happy if they learn they have to invest units into destroying two separate vehicles rather than just one squadron! While 7th Edition's detachments give you the flexibility to effectively ignore the Force Organization chart (both metaphorically in this case and literally if you count Unbound) if you don't have the required HQ and Troops to fill those mandatory slots then having the option to take squadrons does give you some added flexibility that many other codices lack entirely.



    Manticores and Deathstrikes

    Overview
    Of all the various artillery tanks employed by the Astra Militarum, none are as fearsome or devastating as the aptly named Manticore and Deathstrike. Each of these not only packs the heaviest firepower available to any tank in the codex, but they are also the most survivable of the many artillery units using the Chimera chassis. This is because both tanks effectively come standard with the Enclosed Crew Compartment upgrade meaning they are not Open Topped and thus are less susceptible to immensely debilitating damage results from penetrating hits - though obviously the Deathstrike ignores most of those anyway! While the Manticore shares its armour values with all other standard Chimera-chassis vehicles, being AV 12/10/10, the Deathstrike actually has defences more in tune with a Hellhound seeing as it has AV 12/12/10 instead. Not being Open Topped can be a life-saver for these as it obviously means they are immune to Explodes results from weapons that are AP3 or worse, though on the flip side it reduces the chance of a Crew Stunned or Crew Shaken result being "upgraded" to a Weapon Destroyed or Immobilized result - something which neither vehicle cares about particularly. Both the Manticore and Deathstrike do share numerous traits with the other vehicles in the same class as you would expect, however, with each having a hull heavy bolter, searchlight, smoke launchers and that mediocre Ballistic Skill 3 in addition to their unique primary weapons.

    Speaking of those primary weapons, I'm sad to say that the Manticore is definitely not the show-stopper it used to be in 6th Edition, even if the change wasn't immediately obvious when 7th Edition was released. This isn't to say the Manticore does little damage, as that couldn't be further from the truth. Each of its' four individual Storm Eagle rockets - with only one ever being fired per turn, no matter how you try to spin it with Power of the Machine Spirit from an Enginseer - fires D3 Strength 10 AP4 shots that are resolved with the large blast template, using the Ordnance and Barrage special rules. This means that while the Manticore only has four Storm Eagle rockets and can fire just one per turn, over the course of four turns it can potentially shoot 12 shots with them because each missile splits into between one and three shots. Being Strength 10 not only means they wound pretty much everything in the game on 2s as well inflicting Instant Death on Toughness 5 or lower models, but throw in Ordnance and they also roll 2D6 choosing the highest for armour penetration - that is an incredibly high chance of penetrating hits against any armour value short of the super rare AV15! The Barrage special rule is the cherry on top with wounds being resolved from the centre of the first large blast marker, meaning a good hit can potentially "snipe" crucial models out of a unit while also ignoring cover saves provided by intervening models or terrain. The other important element to consider from Barrage is that it always strikes the side armour of a vehicle, dramatically increasing the chances to land penetrating hits against many a tank or skimmer such as Leman Russes or Space Marine Predators. That each individual missile can split into three large blasts can lead to some incredible damage output from just one Manticore, destroying entire squads of infantry at a time or stripping all three (the average number) hull points off of a vehicle in one shot.

    Unfortunately, there is a severe handicap the Manticore suffers from that has been arbitrarily introduced in the latest codex for no truly discernible reason other than to limit it to much larger games and table sizes, much like the Basilisk. While I can somewhat understand the idea behind this, I and many others are still left wanting with the aftermath of the change - the Manticore has quickly fallen from a guaranteed spot in almost any competitive Astra Militarum list to a surprisingly limited yet still arguably useful choice. The main issue is that the Manticore can never fire directly in regards to its Barrage rules; while many thought at first that this just meant it would merely never benefit from its Ballistic Skill for scatter, the tendrils of stupidity run far deeper. As each of the Manticore's Storm Eagle rockets have a minimum range of 24" and the tank can never fire directly, the Manticore cannot fire at any target that moves within 24" of it per the Barrage rules in the 7th Edition rulebook. While the Basilisk may have a much larger minimum range, at the very least it can still fire directly at those targets on smaller boards so that it can still remain useful once the bulk of your opponents' forces closes with you. A 24" minimum range and an incapability to fire at targets within that radius ensures that any smart opponent will not only go for the objectives just as with any regular game, but they will also move within that minimum range incredibly quickly to avoid the Manticore's predations.

    If you are playing in an Eternal War mission against a static gunline army then obviously this won't be an issue, but in Maelstrom missions you will find this flaw exposed in record time as armies vie for position at the beckoning of Tactical Objectives - the winning armies in 7th Edition are mobile, not static. In such games the minimum range can be exploited to put your own advancing forces at great risk with opponents moving in close proximity to your Guardsmen - who are vulnerable to short ranged shooting and close combat, naturally - and daring you to use your expensive Manticore to fire at them. If you don't, you waste the Manticore, but if you do, you will potentially lose dozens of soldiers to friendly fire given how inaccurate an indirect firing artillery piece is. If you play on a 6x4 then this isn't too big of an issue as you can simply pick a corner and sit there, but this also leaves the Manticore dangerously vulnerable to flanking attacks unless you properly support it. The small points increase definitely doesn't help to soften that rather nasty blow, but luckily the Storm Eagle rockets are nowhere near as vulnerable to Weapon Destroyed results as you might think despite operating off of one singular weapon system. This is because only one single missile can be destroyed per Weapon Destroyed result, meaning that it is incredibly difficult to actually stop a Manticore from firing at some point in the game - that is unless you strip off its three hull points, force a Crew Shaken or Crew Stunned result on it, or just hit it with a lucky AP2 or AP1 shot. This is why Manticores need to be hidden and they need to be far away from the prying eyes of your opponent, kept safe either by solitude or by supporting elements; even getting one shot off with these can make their points back, but they are hilariously inaccurate and sadly limited despite their high cost.

    As has been the case for numerous editions running now, the Deathstrike has generally been seen as the lesser sibling from the dual-kit these two units share and the reasons for these are hard to argue with. It only fires one shot, it can still potentially (and easily) miss, it is worse against vehicles than a multi-shot Storm Eagle rocket and it acts as an inert, immobile over-priced Chimera for all but one game turn in a standard match. However, with the general reduction in effectiveness of the Manticore - though it is obviously still a decent choice based on its firepower and scare factor alone - and some nice improvements to the Deathstrike, it doesn't quite qualify as the "joke" choice it was in editions past. For one, the actual missile itself - and yes, the Deathstrike carries just one - can never be affected by Weapon Destroyed results and is completely immune to both Crew Shaken and Crew Stunned, meaning you actually have to blow up the tank to stop it from firing. The trade-off here is that each Weapon Destroyed result applies a modifier to whether it can actually fire its titular missile; unlike any other unit in the game, the Deathstrike fires based off of a random roll that is affected by various modifiers. It cannot be fired on turn one - making it a prime choice for any Drop Podding or other turn one or two reserves - while every consecutive turn it remains stationary adds a +1 modifier to whether it can fire or not, whereas a Weapon Destroyed result instead applies a -1 modifier to the roll. The actual D6 result after modifiers are accounted for needs to be a 4+ or greater - with a 6 being a success regardless of any modifiers - so that the Deathstrike can be fired; the fact that the missile itself cannot be neutered or destroyed while the "delay" chart is more forgiving makes it a far more reliable unit in terms of actually firing its main warhead.

    When it comes to actually firing a Deathstrike Missile, nothing in the game quite emulates a Destroyer weapon just like a Deathstrike Missile does. Not only is it one of the only weapons in the game outside of Apocalypse, Super Heavies and the like to use an Apocalyptic Blast - that is a 10" diameter if for some reason you have not seen one - but it is Strength 10, AP1 and Ignores Cover. Not only will anything with a Toughness value of 5 or lower be vaporized unless they have an invulnerable save, and not only will any vehicle touched have a very nervous few moments in the wait to see whether they receive an Explodes result, but the Deathstrike also shares the Barrage and Ordnance special rules. That Strength 10 shot will hit the side armour of any vehicles touched and roll 2D6 choosing the highest for armour penetration like a Manticore, but unlike its uncooperative sibling the Deathstrike can actually destroy vehicles in one shot with a roughly 33% chance to do so. Barrage makes it a terrifying weapon to use against characters attached to units, while the unlimited - yes, you read that right - range of the weapon means that unless you get within its 12" minimum range by turn two or turn three, you can never hide from the touch of death.

    Provided a Deathstrike doesn't move on turn one, it will need a 3+ to fire on turn two which makes its' chances of firing identical to bringing on reserves before other modifiers are considered - all but the most mobile armies will be incapable of reaching it in time provided it is well hidden and deep into your deployment zone. While the missile is capable of scattering off and hitting little if anything - as it must fire indirectly it cannot use its Ballistic Skill 3, like the Manticore - that it uses the massive 10" blast means that it should always clip something worthwhile - infantry, bikes, jetbikes, cavalry and really any non-monstrous unit will be obliterated by this shot and should ensure the Deathstrike makes' its points back once it fires. The problem of course is that it is just one shot which is unreliable and inaccurate meaning it could potentially prove effectively worthless, while like a Manticore it becomes an over-priced vehicle with a heavy bolter and the tank classification being its only saving graces once it fires its' namesake missile. The luck of the dice and some help from your opponent as well as any early-game reserves can render the Deathstrike completely worthless by either delaying or destroying it before it can do anything - remember that it needs to remain stationary to get the bonuses to fire the missile - while the fact that it is priced as it is despite having just the one potentially wasted shot does reserve it as a mediocre choice at best. They aren't exactly the "joke" choice they were but they aren't all that much improved to compete with the many other Heavy Support choices in the codex, let alone the Forge World offerings.


    How to Equip Them
    If these tanks aren't hidden out of sight or behind suitable cover right at the back of the board, bubble-wrapped or otherwise protected by decently outfitted units that can stop Deep Strikers or Outflankers in a pinch, these tanks are not going to be of much use to you. They are built purely for firepower at ridiculous ranges and their slightly boosted survivability relative to the other various artillery pieces employed by the Astra Militarum is not enough to change that basic role. Camo-netting is mandatory for a standard list where you don't expect or rely on having suitable terrain that blocks line of sight to them - of course, any regular game should feature an abundance of terrain ranging from small to large - seeing as these tanks really aren't worth it at all unless you can get their payload delivered. While there are obviously games where using them as bait so that other more important units can advance becomes a legitimate tactic, or you have to work with their eventual destruction anyway in the early phases of the game, they are nonetheless expensive units and you really keep them as safe as possible. There's really no reason to invest any other upgrades on to them as they should never really be moving until they have fired their salvo(s), but spending extra on units that then become overly expensive Chimeras with no transport capacity and reduced firepower just as "distractions" is a waste.


    Best Uses
    While the minimum range of the Manticore does mean you are practically forced to keep it in a corner in your deployment zone as far out of sight or range of your opponents' forces as possible, you can afford to be a bit more free with the Deathstrike seeing as it has a mere 12" minimum range. The unlimited range of the Deathstrike does allow you to place it anywhere on the table and expect it to fire at full effect, but given that it fires just the one missile your best bet is trying to deploy it in a space where it is unlikely to draw significant early attention from your opponent. Failing, that deploy it in sight of a crucial choke-point where an objective is placed and likely to be contested close to the centre of the board, or where it has full view of a wide open space populated by one or more objectives. I recommend using Fortifications to provide guaranteed cover saves as well as some small supporting squads if you are expecting outlier forces that can flank and destroy the artillery tanks early on while they are still firing or preparing to fire. If your local gaming area features lots of terrain on its boards then Fortifications won't be a necessity but still receive a recommendation just so that you have some increased options for deployment and defence.

    The preferred targets of the Deathstrike are undoubtedly anything with Toughness 5 and multiple wounds that lacks Eternal Warrior, open-topped vehicles that lack invulnerable saves, or really any type of squad with Toughness 5 or lower. Ogryns, Tyranid Warriors, Tactical Marines, Bike-type units of any kind, huge Hormagaunt broods, Dark Eldar Ravagers and so on are all fodder for a Deathstrike. With some lucky scatter and erroneous placement by your opponent, entire platoons' worth of models can be destroyed with that one shot, though obviously such results are the exception rather than the norm. The ability to ignore cover saves makes it the rough equivalent of a certain incredibly powerful Baneblade variant the Imperial Guard have access to, while also giving Guardsmen a great tool to deal with Bikes and Jetbikes that have proved to be even more popular in 7th Edition than they already were in 6th Edition. As for Manticores, Imperial Knights and really any kind of Super Heavy make for surprisingly viable targets given the D3 Strength 10 Ordnance Barrage shots - they are always resolved against the side armour and roll 2D6 choosing the highest for armour penetration. Manticores strip hull points at an insanely high rate and are particularly effective against Imperial Knights in conjunction with lots of standard anti-tank shooting from your other tanks; if a Knight is forward-facing and has the shield up for that facing to protect against your massed anti-tank shooting, it will be completely vulnerable to Manticore fire that always hits the side armour, bypassing its' shield. This mostly just forces out some tough decisions on your opponent's end but it is nonetheless something to keep in mind; otherwise, Manticores excel against most vehicles (D3 large blasts that easily strip hull points) and any kind of unit with a 3+ or worse armour save that isn't Toughness 6 with multiple wounds.
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  3. #3

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    Amazing job thanks for these helpful guide

  4. #4

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    An amazing amount of effort you have put in here. I'd buy you a pint down the boozer if I could!

 

 

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