Starting An IG Army

"Everyone seems to play either Space Marines or aliens of some sort in 40K, and I understand the appeal, I started in the hobby with Space Marines, too. But I want to play the Imperial Guard. Unfortunately, the IG codex is a little more complicated to put together a starting army least, it seems so to me. Any guidance, for a beginner commissar?"

Though I began as a Space Marine player just like you, and many hobbyists--they really are the icons of the forty-first millennium, so I think we can be forgiven that :)--I too find the gothic soldiery of the Imperial Guard appealing, and have fielded a small force. In my case I've used them exclusively with my Daemonhunters, as inducted Guard. Frankly, that is actually the path I recommend to players new to the IG: assembling a force is much more straightforward than the IGdex's Platoon structure, and while there are some limitations to what you can use, the core forces are available. Take a look at either Codex: Daemonhunters or Codex: Witch Hunters; you will find their 'choose a leader (HQ) and fill out your Force Organization Chart with individual units' methodology very similar to what you've used as a Space Marines player (and the various options for Inquisitors, Imperial Assassins and Operatives over and above the Guard options are extremely colourful, besides).

If, however, you are less an adventurist than a militarist; if you prefer reading Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels to his Eisenhorn or Ravenor series; if you want to start from scratch building a pure Imperial Guard army, codex-legal--it isn't difficult so much as it is simply different. And that difference is both fun, and a big part of what gives the Imperial Guard its essential nature. Far be it from me to dissuade you from such a pursuit; rather, I present the thoughts of one of the hobby's premier Imperial Guard commanders, Mike Major, to actively encourage it! Currently of Winnipeg, Canada and one of the two primary driving forces (along with Christian Augst) of the best event series in the 40K hobby, the Astronomi-Cons ( ), Mike is also a highly successful competitive player, including a Chicago Grand Tournament championship. His Colonel Arcturan Senekal is one of the best known figures in the sub-hobby of '40K fan fiction'--probably *the* best known IG personality. This is what Mike had to say, about assembling a starter army from the current Imperial Guard codex (the bracketed interpolations are mine, for clarity); having your Codex: Imperial Guard handy to reference the many things he refers to is recommended:

"I'd recommend [filling the requisite 1 HQ and 2 Troops choices with] a Command HQ unit, a 25 man Platoon and an Armoured Fist Squad. This keeps the cost and points down while you learn the army. There are a lot of routes to go with the HQ unit, but I think one of the best for a starter player is an officer with a power fist and possibly a commissar with him also with a 'fist. This gives you some solid countercharge punch at a relatively small point and monetary cost. Going heroic senior officer is best for this and I'd add both a trademark item to the officer and/or a standard. Best special weapons for this team would be a couple of flamers or a melta and a flamer. I'd stay away from the vox at first.

The first Troops choice is your Platoon, which consists of a Platoon Command unit and two or more Platoon squads. Platoon Command can either be similarly equipped [to the HQ Command unit] or set up for shooting. I prefer the latter myself as a one Wound Independent Character with a 'fist all too often doesn't ever get to swing. If you go the HtH [hand-to-hand combat-oriented] route, a PF [power fist] is still better than a PW [power weapon] as the LT [lieutenant, or junior officer commanding the Platoon Command unit] is probably still going to be swinging last anyway. May as well hit hard. If you go HtH for the Platoon Command, consider a second commissar with 'fist for them, too.

Platoon tacs [squads] are your shooting support. Give the squads a heavy weapon of some kind. In a small platoon I'd go with either a LC [lascannon] and a HB [heavy bolter] or 2 ML [missile launchers]. Basically you need flexibility. You can always swap out for another LC later as the army grows - or another HB or AC [autocannon] if you've gone heavy AT [anti-tank] in your Platoon Command.

AF [Armoured Fist] squads are fun, maneuverable but fragile. I like them with flamers or grenade launchers and generally give them a heavy [weapon] and a veteran sergeant to keep them flexible and in the fight. The basic weapons load out on the Chimera [their APC, or armoured personnel carrier; the vehicle the squad rides in] is a good one. Give it a heavy stubber or pintlemounted storm bolter and a smoke launcher. Searchlights are good too."

Follow Mike's instructions and you will have an HQ designed to heroically mix it up in fist fighting with the vastly stronger/faster/mightier superbeings, aliens and monsters of the 40K universe--achieving legendary status every time these underdogs win against the odds--and two Troops choices designed to provide a withering firebase, one of them mounted in a nice, inexpensive armoured vehicle to get around on the table top and snatch objectives with. I would reconsider giving the Armoured Fist squad a heavy weapon precisely because my style is to move, that is how I would use this unit--and if they are moving, they aren't shooting--and would definitely endorse the missile launchers as heavy weapons of choice for the Platoon squads: they are flexible, able to fire either anti-tank or anti-personnel, and template weapons in general have gotten better in the newest edition of the game. I am also fonder of power weapons than Mike, as I just hate to hit last. But that is one of the joys of the Imperial Guard--there are so many elements of it, you really can customize it to be the army you want it to be (or, if you follow my first recommendation, *armies*--as a Daemon- or Witch Hunter army plays very differently than straight Guard, with relatively few changes in models).

And when you've built the basic starter Imperial Guard force Mike outlines above--it is time to reward yourself, by making the next addition something special. With Guard, that can be an elite unit, such as storm troopers or Ogryn...but for most players drawn to the Imperial Guard, what it likeliest means is, it is time to add a tank. Not an APC...though the Chimera is a good looking and underrated specimen of one...but a full-on, battlefield-dominating, thunder-belching and fire-spitting monster. For Guardsmen, that means a Leman Russ Battle Tank. There are a great number of variants--not just those available at retail from GW, like the very impressive Demolisher, but the multitude cast in resin from subsidy specialty caster Forge World ( )--but your best first choice is the standard Leman Russ, complete with battle cannon primary armament (see above comment about the effectiveness of template weapons in the new edition of the game). Build a Leman Russ, to back up your heroes, firebase and APC. When you've done that, you will be not only an Imperial Guard player, a special enough breed in the Warhammer 40,000 community, but an official and duly sworn member of the treadhead society, as well.

That's when the fun really begins.