Readers of this blog may recall that it took a bit more effort than actually anticipated, but I did finally acquire a copy of the "new" Imperial Guard Codex for Warhammer 40,000. I use the quotation marks because, like so much of the 40k universe these days, there is almost nothing truly "new", just a middling re-shuffling of piddling rules that had little impact on the fighting ability of the Imperial Guard forces themselves, but will still f**k with the players sufficiently to compel them to have to reorganize their "army" (editor's note - a 40k force is a "detachment" at most, but anyway...)
So you may be asking "why go through the frustration of continuing on the Codex Carousel then?" What can I say? As Dallas has already hinted at in a recent post, there is something about the game which snagged me in its Rogue Trader era. Especially the Imperial Guard (once known as just the "Imperial Army"). They were the first figures I painted. And when I got tired of the paint job, I re-painted them! Then again! They had like four layers of paint on them, including a layer of Testors...
Yes - the 40k fan boy is still in there somewhere. With some really excellent rules out there (including elsewhere in their own company!), I hope one day the 40k über tubes will see a business case for wargaming that is actually engaging and fun, and not an exercise in soul-draining scoring-unit power calculation.
So, with this in mind, let's do a little review of the book.
The fluff is pretty much cut and paste from prior GW publications. The Imperial Guard is big. They are loyal to the Emperor. At some point in the past, Human Resources had issues with a guy named Horus, leading to some manner of intergalactic civl war. Commissars are mean. Cadians are organized. It's cold on Valhalla. Yawn.
The fluff in many ways is the most depressing aspect of this codex (and others). The paint-by-numbers-nothing-new cut-and-paste approach to the character of the faction is an implicit endorsement of the core dominance of power gaming calculation in the 40k aspect of the "Games Workshop Hobby".
You can almost hear the writers at the 40k studio talking. "This key audience doesn't really care about the fluff. We know it. They know it. They know we know. Let's get right to the rules, and include enough fluff to have covered all the bases." Depressing to see the results of that in print. In the Rogue Trader days, a single article about a single new type of Imperial Guard squad would have more entertaining and engaging writing than this entire Codex. The 40k Compendium is still the best "book" for liking, and reading about, the Imperial Guard!
As for the rules themselves, there are certainly "new" things. Some good, and some bad, and some I have missed because I don't have the necessary 40k background to immediately spot rules changes. I'm sure the more knowledgeable 40k gamers out there will correct me.
Great news everyone - we're all a troops choice!
First big change - no more "doctrines". I think that a lot of Guard players were ticked at this - at least they were if they were trying to give their army character (as opposed to some kind of Necron player). At one level, this ticks me off too - by eliminating the doctrines, my Storm-Trooper Grenadier Cadian Force - which never won a single game - was rendered invalid!
But if you think about it, the doctrines were so restrictive that it was very difficult to get real differences into your force. People who may have done "drop troop" armies, "armoured" forces (i.e. Vostroyans) or even bizarre things like "warrior weapons" may feel the pain. But chances are these will re-emerge in some White Dwarf article (if you're lucky) or appalling Imperial Armour book (if you're unlucky).
The other "doctrines", that helped perhaps in close combat, or with firing, were very restrictive as well. The system of issuing orders I think is less bureaucratic in terms of organizing the force (although it will be more bureaucratic on the table).
Other positives - Storm Troopers now have a weapon that will actually hurt something. The 40k game is all about Armour Penetration or "AP", and they have an AP of 3 on their weapons now. So, assuming they wound something, it will probably drop. Which makes sense, given the size of the stupid backpacks on the figures!
Veterans are a troops choice now - so you can pack your army with veterans and still get credit for picking "troops" slots (this is an example of how some players should not pine so much for the doctrines).
Heavy Weapon and Special Weapon squads are now wrapped into the "infantry platoon" troop choice. This is a big improvement, as previously they were in the HQ section, or a heavy support choice. So you can now have these without sacrificing a selection of a tank, or having an HQ echelon so large it looks like the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
It's nice to see the plastic Valkyrie on the scene too, despite the challenges of the model. And the Vendetta variant will clearly draw a lot of adherents.
Sly Marbo sez "For the Emperor..."
The Guard can get vehicles in "squadrons" now. In theory, even more tanks, artillery, etc. In practice, not a big advantage. Squadrons have a variety of ridiculous conditions that apply to them, and a squadron of tanks actually makes them a liability to one-another. Just take two or three seperate vehicles using your three heavy support choices!
The new rules around issuing orders, while compensating for the lack of doctrines, will slow the game quite a bit. Each officer gets a certain number of a certain type of orders...conceptually it's fine, but why would the Guard only have this? Why would your Eldar or Space Marine opponent play a normal turn, and then your turn have to resemble a game of Cold War Commander?
Oh, and Catachans are still around. Worst. Models. Ever.
"How many shots do I get?"
The Hydra - finally in the game without the encumbrance of Imperial Armour! You still need to pick up a kit from the clowns at Forge World, but it's progress. So why is this "ugly"? Well, why is it that a quad auto-cannon vehicle has such a limited number of shots????? It's like a ZSU-23-4 set to single-shot. Worried about game balance? Then why allow a stupid Leman Russ variant with 20 shots (see below)?
"Fire on that sniper!"
Not content with the nine (by my count) variants of the Leman Russ already available, GW seems to think the storied tank is some kind of app-store, with even more new variants that, frankly, are so similar to some of the others that you lose track. There is one that even has 20 strength five shots! Don't get too excited - the AP is "-", meaning it will help you slaughter things you can already slaughter with your troops. Classic.
Joining the ranks of the whatever, GW has also issued a whole new set of command figures - which double up nicely on the ones that are already available....they are fine figures, and plastic to boot, but again - did we need them?
Also, even more Commissars. Don't get me wrong - they are very nice figures. So were the other ones. How many frigging Commissars are needed????
Another blip - the "advisers" - Astropath, Fleet Officer, and some Ordnance Dude. Nice figures, but really marginal little odds and sods. A potential to delay your reserves slightly? No compensation for being obliterated a turn late.
Final Red Herring - the Guard can have a Death Strike Missile Launcher now. Because those would really apply in a tactical situation.
Chimera with Autocannon - no longer valid, but still for sale
It seems increasingly each new 40k Codex is like some kind of government bail-out bill, where some factions win, and other lose, and no core issues are addressed. When you see the final product, you often wonder at what sort of Potemkin groupthink led to a given change. Like the "vox-caster", now with a limited range. Was someone out there cleaning up at tournaments thanks to vox-caster loop hole? Seriously?
Imperial Officers can issue orders - but what, the Space Marines lack the discipline to concentrate fire? Or the Eldar?
Was some group of players out there saying "Get me rules for the Death Strike Missile Launcher or I'll never play again!"? Seriously?
Why is the Chimera not able to have an autocannon? Especially when you can still purchase one for a cool 8.80 GBPs? Were autocannon Chimeras cleaning up at the GW tournaments?
What could have been - whole new regiments? Including rules for the Elysian Drop Troops or Death Korps? Why mention the Valhallans and Steel Legion guys when they are like 40$ US per squad now as "collectors"?
In the final estimation, this book is a C+ disappointment - like much of the 40k universe - not so much because of what it is, but what it could have been....