Two New IG Armies In One...

With the release of the newest edition Codex: Imperial Guard, many hobbyists will be considering how best to begin such a Warhammer 40,000 army. As it happens, GW has provided an ideal framework through a recent Datasheet for Apocalypse: following its guidelines in constructing a starter 40K IG army will conveniently provide a player with an assembled force useable in two different kinds of play, simply by adding the Datasheet's centerpiece Superheavy tank. Let's walk through the process.

The Datasheet in question is the 'Shadowsword Domination Force,' published in White Dwarf (US issue 351). One of the first 'combined arms' Datasheets GW has released for Apocalypse play, the Domination Force assembles a 'Tank Fleet' around a single centerpiece Superheavy model, in this case the wonderful new Shadowsword Titan-killer variant from GW's recent all-plastic modular Superheavy tank release. The Shadowsword itself would be key, for Apocalypse play: these enormous games are magnitudes more fun for participants who bring Superheavies as parts of their forces--and the special rules of this Datasheet address keeping that Shadowsword alive (and thus more fun to have along) as long as possible.

The 'Fleet' the Datasheet provides guidelines for building around the Shadowsword, however, is entirely composed of traditional Imperial Guard elements straight out of the new Codex; following these guidelines through the prism of the 40K Force Organization chart will give the army builder not only an entire, coherent Apocalypse force to bring to the table but--absent the signature Superheavy--a very nice starter 40K army, as well.

The first thing the Datasheet requires (in fact, the *only* requirement other than the Superheavy--everything else is optional) is a minimum of three and a maximum of six Leman Russ Battle Tanks. These act as 'escorts' to the Shadowsword in Apocalypse games; in a 40K Imperial Guard army, they constitute Heavy Support choices, and come in a multitude of variants (seven, largely distinguished by the configuration of their main gun). A standard 40K Force Org allows up to three Heavy Support choices, easily accommodating the three-Russ- minimum the Datasheet requires--but the new Guard Codex allows such tanks to be purchased in Squadrons of up to three, each Squadron taking only one Heavy Support slot, so the Datasheet maximum of six Russes is equally feasible, as well.

The next 'Fleet' option in the Domination Force is the addition of 0-2 Hydra Flak Tanks, to protect the land task force from aerial harassment. Whether to include any Hydras in the starter 40K army needs to be considered from the outset, because they are Heavy Support choices in Codex: Imperial Guard, as well: to select even one, a player will have to devote one of his three available HS slots to it (although both could be taken with that one Force Org slot if any are, as they are available as Batteries), meaning at least one set of Russes will have to be fielded as a Squadron, as well, to get the Apocalypse minimum three on the 40K battlefield. There are advantages and disadvantages to fielding vehicles in Squadrons; for beginning IG players, it is probably most straightforward to avoid placing such 'big ticket' points-intensive models as Leman Russes in Squadrons if at all possible.

The rest of the Domination Force's components form the 'fleet's' pickets--light perimeter assets designed to scout the task force's path ahead and prevent penetration by an enemy to it's essential core. Conveniently, these forces are chosen from desirable elements of a 40K Imperial Guard army.

Every standard 40K mission requires forces composed with a minimum of two Troops slots from the Force Org chart. The Domination Force Apocalypse Datasheet calls for 0-4 Infantry Squads; in IGdex parlance, those are Troops choices. The easiest way to represent the former via the latter is to choose Veteran Squads: each Squad of a Veteran Sergeant and 9 Veteran Guardsmen is bought individually, so selecting two properly composes your 40K army with the two required minimum Troops choices, and you may select as many as two more and remain consistent with the structure maximums imposed by your Apocalypse Datasheet. Moreover, each Veteran Squad is allowed to equip with a Chimera Armoured Transport--another requirement the Datasheet imposes (in order that the infantry can keep moving with the 'fleet').

The heart of almost every Imperial Guard army since the days of the first V2 IGdex has been the Infantry Platoon...and you *can* stay within the structure imposed by the Datasheet and build from a Platoon to meet the two Troops choice requirement of a standard 40K army--but it reduces your options considerably: a Platoon consists at minimum of a Platoon Command Squad and two Infantry Squads, constituting a single Troops choice. In the new Codex each of the three can be given a Chimera, so such a minimum sized Platoon could be constructed leaving a Veteran Squad to be chosen as the second Troops choice (and fourth and final Datasheet Infantry Squad). The advantage of such a construction is the Command Squad, with its junior officer's access to Orders and wargear; the disadvantage is that the two regular Infantry Squads are inferior to the Veterans, that you aren't getting access to some of the best things a Platoon offers an IG player--the optional Heavy and Special Weapons Squads--because they cannot get Chimerae, and that you use up all four of your Datasheet 'Armoured Fist' allowances just meeting the Troops requirements: choosing Veteran Squads instead would allow up to two of those slots to go to such interesting Infantry Squads from the new Codex with Chimera access as Storm Troopers, Psyker Battle Squads and Ogryn Squads. As Company Command Squads are classified as Infantry Squads, the 40K-Mandatory HQ Force Org requirement could even be filled (but see following).

The remaining picket option for the Domination Force is 0-3 Sentinel Squadrons. The '0' means none are mandatory--but any 'fleet' commander who ventured out without at least one of (and likely as many as possible of) these fast, mobile, versatile and hard-hitting Imperial Guard walkers to scout his path and protect his flanks would deserve whatever ill befell him. Sentinels are Fast Attack choices in the 40K Force Org, come in Squadrons of 1-3 per slot, and are available in both Scout and Armoured varieties (the Armoured variant increases Front Armour from AV10 to AV12, adds the Extra Armour upgrade at the expense of the Move Through Cover and Scouts special rules, and adds the Plasma cannon as a primary weapon upgrade). Filling all three Fast Attack slots with full Squadrons of Sentinels is very tempting (especially for Apocalypse play, where the Datasheet's 'Piquets' special rule allows the fielding player to sacrifice the cheaper Walkers for Russes or Hydras--or Structure Points on the mighty Shadowsword itself!).

Unless the player opts to make a Company Command Squad one of his four Chimera-borne Armoured Fists, however, he still has the question of the 40K mandatory HQ Force Org slot to address. In the Apocalypse Formation, the Shadowsword is the command platform of the entire 'fleet,' it's commander the ranking officer of his Domination Force. The Superheavy cannot see the field in a standard 40K game-- but that does not mean said commander must be absent. Imagine the 40K version of this army is the assembled land force, enroute to pick up its designated Superheavy charge: it would not be unreasonable to picture the Shadowsword's command crew alongside them for the journey--in fact, I can picture an excellent themed tournament army being constructed around such a notion, with the battles of each tournament round representing hostile encounters along the convoy's journey, and perhaps with the Shadowsword itself present as the centerpiece of the army's display base--and that leap to provide a single additional element to the 40K version of the army over-and-above the Datasheet's minimum/maximums opens up a variety of juicy extra modeling and gameplay options.

The Shadowsword's command crew could be constructed with the Company Command Squad options in the new IGdex, as above, and given a Chimera of their own, perhaps uniquely decorated as would befit such a 'captain's skiff' (to carry the Domination Force's naval analogy further). This would not preclude the already-referenced Chimera- mounted Company Command Squad, if the player wanted a command structure for his escorting force from their own chain-of-command (and the Force Org Chart allows two). If the player just wanted to add the 'fleet admiral' himself (assuming his crew awaits his imperious arrival at the Shadowsword), he could use the Lord Commissar IGdex entry as a template to fashion a 'counts as.' Or a player looking to make his Superheavy commander and crew play more uniquely might consider building such an heroic figure and his retinue from either of the existing Inquisition Codices. He could even give such an officer a Rhino instead of a Chimera, which the Alien and Daemonhunter army lists allow, if he wanted the Shadowsword proxy to really stand out. Most interestingly, however--if the player showed some restraint in maxing out on those Fast Attack Sentinels, above--would be the option of having the command crew born aloft for the journey above their landbound battle convoy in a Valkyrie Assault Carrier: not only would this add mobility and punch to the 40K force and give the new Imperial Guard hobbyist access to the niftiest new model in the IG army in his starter force--but Valkyries come in Squadrons, too...and what high- ranking 'land admiral' would go anywhere without a couple of squads of highly trained, well-equipped bodyguard squads (Storm Trooper Elites)?

And even though these flyers would exist outside the parameters of the Datasheet for Apocalypse games--the great thing about Apocalypse is that, beyond a chosen Datasheet or Formation's specifics, there *are* no Force Org requirements: a player can add such top cover without issue!

Given the various options outlined above, then, this is one straightforward sample build of a Warhammer 40K army which, with the addition of a Shadowsword kit, would become immediately playable as a Shadowsword Domination Force in Apocalypse events, games and multiplayer megabattles:

HQ1: Shadowsword Command Crew - 110Points: Company Command Squad (Company Commander w/ Power Weapon, Veteran w/ Medi-pack, Veteran w/ Domination Force (Regimental) Standard, Veteran w/ Vox-caster, Veteran w/ Lasgun).

TROOP1: Armoured Fist Squad Starboard - 145 Points: Veteran Squad (Vet Sgt, Veteran w/ Vox-caster, Veteran w/ Plasma gun, 7 Veterans w/ Lasguns; Chimera Transport).

TROOP2: Armoured Fist Squad Port - 145 Points: Veteran Squad (Vet Sgt, Veteran w/ Vox-caster, Veteran w/ Plasma Gun, 7 Veterans w/ Lasguns; Chimera Transport).

TROOP3: Armoured Fist Reaction Squad - 200 Points: Veteran Squad (Vet Sgt w/ Power Fist, Veteran w/ Vox-caster, Veteran w/ Grenade launcher, Veteran w/ Flamer, Veteran w/ Heavy flamer, 5 Veterans w/ Lasguns, Grenadiers; Chimera Transport).

FAST ATTACK1: Sentinel Pickets - 138 Points: Scout Sentinel Squadron (3 Sentinels w/ Missile launchers, Searchlights).

FAST ATTACK2: Command Crew Shuttle - 125 Points: Valkyrie Assault Carrier (Lascannon, Sponson Heavy bolters).

HEAVY SUPPORT1: Leman Russ Vanquisher - 245 Points (Knight Commander Pask, Hull Lascannon, Sponson Multi-meltas).

HEAVY SUPPORT2: Leman Russ Battle Tank - 170 Points (Sponson Heavy bolters).

HEAVY SUPPORT3: Leman Russ Battle Tank - 170 Points (Sponson Heavy bolters).

At 1448 Points, you may add vehicle options such a Extra Armour or alter weapons kit-out as suits, to reach a standard 1500 Point 40K army.

With the 'Knight Commander Pask' tank commander template character aboard, the Vanquisher is considered the Command tank; it, along with the Valkyrie and the Sentinels are optimized for anti-vehicle/anti-monster duty, with the two standard Leman Russes and the three Chimerae maximized for anti-personnel. The Sentinels' Missile launchers can back up anti-personnel if the opponent is of the horde variety, and the tanks' battle cannons provide additional (if imprecise) anti-armour capability should that need arise.

This force is light on 'boots on the ground' and significant hand-to-hand combat ability; if I were expanding it to 1750 or 1850 Points (or more), I would add a Commissar Lord with a Power fist to the Armoured Fist Squad tooled up for Reaction, and some Regimental Advisors to the Command Crew in their Valkyrie--particularly the two allowed Enginseers, one of which would immediately join the Lord Commissar in the Reaction force (one mechanic for the Superheavy, one for the escorts)--and probably a second Scout Sentinel Squadron; a fourth Veteran Squad Troops choice probably makes more sense than a Chimera full of Ogryn for the last Chimera picket, too...though the latter sure sounds like more fun.

I would start this army with the plastic Battle Force box of choice (either Cadian or Catachan) and one Squad box: that will provide all 35 Guardsmen needed, plus the first Sentinel, for under US$120. An Apocalypse three-tank Leman Russ Squadron box would add the essential mandatory 'fleet' tanks at a discount from buying them individually; the Chimerae, additional Sentinels and Valkyrie will need to be added a box at a time, unless relevant future Apocalypse or Squadron combination releases appear. What vehicle-heavy forces add to outlay, however, they tend to subtract in assembly and painting time; this is a compact, seven vehicle/three walker/35 infantry IG army that should be easy to use (you know what it does well and what it cannot do), especially for the starting IG commander--plus it is easy to transport, fun to start, assemble, paint, finish and play--

And, with the addition of that centerpiece Shadowsword Superheavy tank, beautifully themed...and best of all, ready to bring the might of the Imperium to the enormous amount of fun that is Apocalypse wargaming. Twice the Imperial Guard fun for the investment, by careful planning from the outset.

Good luck, 'land admiral.'