Welcome to 8th edition Astra Militarum – Imperial Guard to us old dogs!
I’ve been looking forward to writing that for a while now. In fact as soon as Games Workshop started to drop hints and sneak peeks I’ve been on edge waiting for news of my favourite army. So after finally getting a chance to see the rules up close over the last weekend, I can start to form an impression of exactly what the Astra Militarum/Guard will be like under 8th Edition.
It’s all new
First up, with such a massive reboot of the game system that we’ve seen so far under the 8th Edition rule set, it’s hard to gauge exactly what every unit will be like “in game”. And certainly some of the more competitive players will instantly tell you what is good and what’s bad, but that’s not what this article is about. This is more an introduction into a brave new world where even GW itself is throwing the word “balance” around and trying to reassure players that they’ll not idly sit by as they previously did under earlier editions and let one faction become the top dog….looking at you Eldar Ynnari…
Out with old Guard – In with the New Guard
So, what does this mean for the poor old Imperial Guard, who suffered at the start of 6th Edition and fell even more so behind under 7th Edition? Well, for a start the fact that all vehicles have a toughness value and multiple wounds means (in theory at least) one or two melta guns at close range won’t just nuke all your lovely Leman Russ’s! The key is survivability now, tanks and vehicles should have more table time.
8th Edition also changes how fast the Guard tanks can move now, with most having 10”moves it mitigates the previous editions armies’ problems of just not being able to get to objectives and move around the table efficiently. That’s not all, we can now overwatch with vehicles! Watch your opponents face the first time they charge a Hellhound now with an Inferno Cannon and Heavy Flamer and take D6 auto hits from each weapon!
That’s another big change under 8th that I was quite sceptical about at first, no more blast or flamer templates. But after seeing some games now, and playing around, it’s actually quite refreshing! Gone are the arguments over “he’s under the blast marker” or “it scattered that way, not this way”. It’s now quicker to resolve too, as we don’t need to wander around the table and place the blast marker – resolve the scatter – and roll again for multiple barrages.
And it’s not just the tanks that got a boost either, the Guards orders got refined too. All units now auto-pass orders, no more Leadership tests. I was hoping they’d keep “Bring it down” to a flat re-roll wounds rather than just 1’s but after reading through most of the other factions that word balance starts to creep in, it’d be just too powerful of an order, so re-roll 1’s it is. The stand out order now though, for me at least at this early stage, is “Get back in the fight”. Essentially with how units can fall back out of combat now rather than being locked in, you can turn a unit around and they shoot as per normal, which is great for special weapons squads and veterans. It’s just a shame we can’t charge back in but…balance.
The Guard list has had quite a shake up too, with lots of units pushed to either HQ, fast, elite or heavy. It means some slots will be hard to fill than others. Platoon Commanders are now characters under elite. Special Weapons Squads join him there too, as do Veterans. While Tempestus Scions got moved to troops. Heavy options got pretty much left alone, with just Heavy Weapons teams being moved over. Which leads me to the biggest change under 8th Edition, NO MORE 50 MAN GUARD BLOBS, gone, vamoosed, arrivederci! Wow, that’s a big change!
You may think that’s going to hurt the Guard, but no, I don’t think it does! That word is back again…balance. A big blob squad was probably just too powerful in this edition, and I can see why, with lasguns and First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire a 50 man blob squad could effectively put out 196 shots under this edition, and that’s just too much! So, they’ve gone, but don’t despair, Conscripts are here to fill the void. At 3pts a model and can be taken in squads of up to 50, so the Guard can still get a big meat shield…just one with a lot worse shooting and lacking heavy and special weapons.
A number of characters are back in, just a shame some old favourites aren’t. It’s saddening that we don’t get a new set of Marbo rules! Creed’s back, so rumours of his injuries and subsequent kidnapping by Trazyn the Infinite are wildly exaggerated, so too is Colour Sergeant Kell. Old Man Yarrick is here and is probably an auto include for most lists. Knight Commander Pask is in too, although he’s far less of a threat than his last incarnation. Iron Hand Straken and Sergeant Harker are representing the Catachan’s and Nork Deddog too with his Thunderous headbutt.
The stand out units for me so far are Hellhounds, Manticores, Wyverns and the Shadowsword. Each can do crazy amounts of damage or shots and combined can cripple some enemy armies quite easily within a turn or two.
In fact that’s one thing I think the new Guard list does well again, artillery and shooting! Just like the background of the army itself, massive barrages followed by cheap troops units moving forward under the cover. The fact that our armour isn’t so fragile anymore gives us that opportunity to really punish our opponents. What this army will do is grind elite armies down, to the point where late game, the Guard will have the numbers to effectively control areas of the board, it’ll take some play testing, and I’m really looking forward to that!
That’s not all that’s changed, Rough Riders are actually an option now (Gasps!). Especially with the changes to how reserves work under 8th. You can effectively bring them on from ANY table edge (9” away from any enemy model though) with up to two special weapons and then charge! And you get to decide what turn they do that on, just remember to bring them on before T4 or else they’re destroyed.
The not so good
The losers so far, and this is still ridiculously early to be really calling out losers, would be the humble Leman Russ, Basilisks and Infantry Squads. They’re either way too expensive for their fire output, or just too vulnerable. Who’s going to want to spend points on an Infantry Squad, when Veterans have better shooting and Conscripts are more tactically viable…they just seem like an oddity right now. As does the Deathstrike, it’s still a one shot weapon, but now you need to roll a D6 and add it to the Battle Round number. If the result is an 8 it fires, so it could, in theory, not fire at all during a 5-6 turn game! Sure it’ll kill what it hits, but it’s still only hitting on a 4+, and that’s if it didn’t move. Just seems like it needs some adjustment there with how it fires. Another loser would be the Vendetta, it’s been cast out, back to whence it came…Imperial Armour.
The other disappointment would be some of the weapon costs throughout the Guard list, 20pts for a Lascannon sounds a lot, most of the tanks will be hitting on 5+ if they move and the squads that can take them, are incredibly vulnerable to small arms fire. Just seems like an odd cost right now, perhaps during play testing the balance was just not right with them being any cheaper. Theirs a few other oddities too, Demolisher Cannons are 40pts on a Leman Russ, seems a bit much. As are Twin Heavy Flamers and Twin Heavy Bolters, perhaps time will tell if they’re appropriately costed, but right now, they seem far too expensive. The Guard tanks have also completely most of their war gear options, no more dozer blades or search lights.
Wrap it up
Overall I’m liking the changes, it’s certainly good to see the Guard back and doing what they should again, and in time I hope Games Workshop does balance out some of the weapons and unit costs. It’s still early days and it’s not even fully released yet (is it June 17th yet??)
I just want to finally have a usable Deathstrike Missile Launcher…it’s the only standard Astra Militarum tank I don’t currently own…
Bring on the big guns*!!
*and missiles, don’t forget missiles