Monday, 23 October 2017

Astra Militarum Codex Review: Part 1- Special Rules, Regimental Doctrines and Warlord Traits

Welcome to the first part of my Astra Militarum Codex review for the new 8th edition codex. The Imperial Guard are one of my favourite armies and I started a force of them a good few years back. Let's see what the new edition has in store for them.

This first part will take a look at the army special rules (including orders), the Regimental Doctrines and Warlord Traits. 

Special Rules
Voice of Command
This special rule allows selected character models to issue orders to Guard infantry units within 6" that are in the same regiment. Unlike previous editions, these orders are issued automatically, rather than requiring a Leadership test (unless they are conscripts, who need a 4+). This makes them much more reliable and easier to factor into your gameplan. Also, the changes to the rules for targeting Characters means it is easier to keep them alive for longer, meaning your orders will generally be more useful over the course of the game. Each unit can only be ordered once per shooting phase (with some exceptions as we will see below). 

Take Aim!- You can re-roll To Hit rolls of 1 in the shooting phase. Useful for boosting the accuracy of many of your infantry units. Could be useful on an Infantry squad for massed Lasgun fire or for giving your Heavy Weapons Teams a bit more accuracy. This is quite a good benefit, as Guard Characters tend to lack the re-roll 1's to Hit bubbles that characters in many other armies get. 

First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire!- One of the most popular orders used and with good reason. This makes all Lasguns and Hot-shot Lasguns Rapid Fire 2 in the shooting phase. This is great for getting 36 Lasgun shots at close range to try and hurt an enemy unit (still no option to give a Sergeant a Lasgun unfortunately). The downside is that it is harder to make combined squads in 8th edition without using up Command Points, so no using this on a 20 or 30-strong Guardsman squad (though you can still give it a try with Conscripts). I can see this one being just as popular as it ever was. 

Bring it Down!- Re-roll 1's to wound in the shooting phase. Useful for your Heavy Weapons squads or for getting a few extra wounds with an infantry squad. Given the changes to the wound rolls, a lot of vehicles are now wounded by Missile Launchers or Lascannons on a 3+, so getting to re-roll half your misses is a nice boost to the army, as with a general BS of 4+, every hit needs to wound on the more expensive squads. 

Forwards, for the Emperor!- The unit can shoot if it advances. Quite useful for gaining some extra distance to get into rapid fire range, but generally you are not wanting to get too close to the enemy army when playing Guard. As with many of these, useful in the right situation. 

Get Back in the Fight!- The unit can fire even if it fell back. This is a great order. Allows your units to still maximise their firepower, even if they fell back from combat, allowing you to blast away at enemy units. There are not a lot of times a Guard unit will survive an assault, so this may be rarely used, but it could be useful in a number of circumstances. For example, if your Heavy Weapons Squad is charged by a vehicle simply to stop them shooting, rather than with hopes of killing them off. This could be useful for getting a few extra shots (though you will usually be hitting on a 5+ after moving). 

Move! Move! Move!- Another great order for grabbing objectives or getting around the table. The ordered unit immediately moves as if it were the movement phase and must advance. Combined with your movement phase, this allows an infantry squad to move up to 24", moving around 19" on average (assuming you advance in the movement phase). This allows a squad to potentially move around the board very quickly to grab or contest objectives. I can see a lot of use for this in maelstrom games. Pushing a unit into the jaws of the enemy simply to score a maelstrom point is a very Guard thing to do! 

Fix Bayonets!- Can only be issued to a unit within 1" of an enemy unit, allowing them to fight as if it were the fight phase. Could be useful if you need to clear a weakened enemy unit from an objective or to try and finish them off with two rounds of fighting that turn. However, most of the time it would be better to simply fall back and fire on them with the unit or other units in your army. However, if you need to hold an objective, sometimes you simply can't fall back. 

Some very useful orders for use in an Astra Militarum army. I think Move! Move! Move! is the most improved since 7th edition, giving your infantry units much improved mobility on the battlefield. I can see First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire and Get Back in the Fight as being the most useful when the enemy close in on your army. At range, Take Aim! and Bring it Down! will give you some nice accuracy and damage boosts for your long-ranged firepower. 

Regimental Orders
Each named Regiment also gets a unique order to use with their army. 

Pound Them to Dust! (Cadian)- A Tank Order that allows you to re-roll the dice for determining number of shots on a Leman Russ turret weapon. A nice order for potentially increasing your damage output for tanks. The only downside is that you must take a Tank Commander to issue the order, as regular characters cannot issue tank orders. Not such a downside as this is a great character to have, but depends on the type of army you want to build, and with only affecting Leman Russ tanks, will be generally more limited than for orders affecting Infantry Squad. 

Burn Them Out! (Catachan)- You can re-roll the die for determining the number of shots with Flamers and Heavy Flamers for infantry squads. In addition, targeted units do not gain cover save bonus. A nice bonus, but again, requiring you to get close to the enemy unit to use it. Could work well for Veteran squads with multiple Flamer Weapons. 

Fire on my Command! (Valhallan)- The ordered unit can shoot at enemy units within 1" of friendly units, but each roll of a 1 to hit is resolved against a friendly unit against 1" of an enemy unit. This is a great order, allowing you to tie up enemy units in combat and still fire on them. This will stop the enemy unit from firing in the following turn (unless they have fly or an equivalent rule) and keeping your units safer. This will be great for using large mobs of Conscripts to tie up tricky enemy units but still getting to blast them off the table. Pity this is not available as a general order, it would be great for when your opponent's model placement prevents your unit from falling back. 

Repel the Enemy! (Vostroyan)- Unit can fire at an enemy unit they are within 1" of in the shooting phase. This is useful if you don't want to move a unit (suffering -1 to hit) and still use your firepower when tied up in combat. I think most of the time it will be more useful to fall back and use Get Back in the Fight, allowing other units to fire on the enemy unit. However, in situations where you cannot fall back from combat, this will be a useful substitute.

Mount Up! (Armageddon)- Allows the unit to embark in a friendly transport vehicle (if they are all within 3") after shooting. Great for getting your unit into the safety of a Chimera or Taurox after shooting and not suffering from the enemy firepower. The only drawback is you cannot use this order if you disembarked in the movement phase, so no hopping out of a transport, firing, and then hopping back in again in a single turn. 

Get Around Behind Them! (Tallarn)- A tank order that allows a vehicle to move 6" in the shooting phase before or after firing. This is useful if you want to gain some extra movement with your tank while still being able to fire twice (see Grinding Advance below). Not sure if you can still advance after using this order, but if you can, will make your Tallarn Tanks a lot faster on the battlefield.

Elimination Protocol Sanctioned! (Militarum Tempestus)- Can re-roll failed wound rolls when targeting Vehicles or Monsters. Very useful on those Tempestus squads packing dual Meltaguns or Plasma guns (so all Tempestus squads then). Will ensure that your units do the most damage on the turn they "deep strike" onto the battlefield.

Form Firing Squad (Mordian)- Ordered unit can target Characters with Rapid Fire weapons, even if they are not the closest enemy unit. I think this is a great order for giving you a way to deal with those pesky buffing characters in the enemy army. Only works on Rapid Fire weapons, so make sure you have a couple of Plasma Guns to fire on enemy characters in the ordered unit. Unfortunately, it will not work on Tempestus Squads!

Some really nice orders there. I will probably be sticking with the Cadian detachment as my army is modelled and painted that way. However, if GW decide to do a range of plastic Tallarns or Mordians, I may be tempted to pick up a few units to use in my army. I think most will be useful in your games, but see Mordian and Valhallan being very popular orders to use.

Grinding Advance
A modification of the special rule, giving your Leman Russ tanks a big boost. This allows a Russ to fire its turret weapon twice if it moves less than half its movement value. It also does not suffer the to hit penalty for moving and firing a heavy weapon (though only with the turret weapon). The second shot must fire at the same target as the first shot.

I think this is a great boost for the Leman Russ, greatly increasing its firepower. Let's face it, most of the time the Russ is unlikely to be moving much anyway, so you will be firing twice with its main weapon. Great for the Battle Cannon for taking out enemy armour or monsters, and fantastic on the Punisher Gatling Cannon for mowing down enemy infantry. A Tank Commander in a Punisher (hitting on a 3+) will make a mess of a lot of enemy infantry.

May occasionally be wasted if you destroy your target with the first volley, but a small price to pay for such a great ability.

Regimental Doctrines
This are essentially the "Chapter Tactics" of the Astra Militarum, giving each Regiment access to some nice special rules to help them out.

Cadian- Re-roll to hit rolls of 1 on infantry units if they did not move. If you use the Take Aim! order, the unit can re-roll all failed hits.
This is a pretty good Doctrine and probably the one I will be using. Not necessarily because it is the best, but because I have a Cadian army. Given that most Guard gunlines will be stationary for most of the game, you should get good benefit out of this one. The added bonus for using the Take Aim! order is great and will really benefit squads such as Heavy Weapons Teams, where the poorer accuracy of the Guard can really be a problem. I'm looking forward to using this on the field.

Catachan- Infantry gain +1S and get +1Ld when within 6" of a Catachan officer. In addition, vehicles can re-roll a single die when firing a ranged weapon that fires a random number of shots.
Guardsmen going up to S4 in combat can be useful, giving you a better chance against T3 and T4 models in combat. It also means you will be wounding most vehicles on a 5+ now in combat rather than on a 6+. The bonus Ld is also nice, especially with the new changes to Commissars. The re-roll on the ranged weapon in vehicles is great too. It will work really well with Grinding Advance, as there are lots of time you will roll a 1 for number of shots on your Battle Cannon. This will be useful for increasing the damage output from your tanks during a game.

Valhallan- Infantry units halve the number of models that flee from morale tests. In addition, vehicles that have a damage table double the number of wounds they have remaining for determining what their characteristics are.
The infantry one will be useful very useful with the new changes to Commissars as well. I forsee a lot of Valhallan conscripts in the future. The vehicle one is pretty amazing, helping to ensure that your vehicles will be firing at full effect for longer. For example, a standard Leman Russ will need to lose 9 of its 12 wounds before it goes down a tier on the damage table. Given that there are ways to heal wounds on vehicles, this should keep Valhallan tanks in the battle and effective for much longer, making it harder for your opponent to make them obsolete by taking most of their wounds from them.

Vostroyan- Units add 6" to the maximum range of Heavy or Rapid Fire weapons that have a range of 24" or more.
This is really useful for adding to your ranged firepower in the army. Lasguns will now have a range of 30", meaning most units will be able to fire on the first turn without moving and allowing you to fire with a 15" rapid fire range- great for causing a few more casualties as the enemy units get closer. It will also benefit your Heavy Weapons in certain situations, giving them further range. This will be great for Heavy Weapons Squads when using deployments such as Spearhead Assault, Search and Destroy, Hammer and Anvil and Vanguard Strike, allowing you to deploy even further back in your deployment zone, but still be able to fire with your weapons to full effect. It will also be of benefit to weapons on tanks such as the Heavy Bolter, Punisher Gatling Cannon or Wyvern Mortar, giving them extra range.

Armageddon- Infantry units get 18" rapid fire range instead of 12". Vehicles treat attacks with an AP-1 as AP0.
The extra rapid fire range is a really nice bonus, potentially allowing you to get two turns of rapid fire shooting on enemy units before they can assault. Also, getting a bonus to your vehicle saves against AP-1 attacks is great for keeping your tanks alive for longer, giving most of them a 3+ save against a wide range of weapons.

Tallarn- Infantry units can advance and shoot (except with Heavy Weapons) without penalty. Vehicles don't suffer the -1 to hit for moving and shooting with heavy weapons. Titanic Vehicles that advance treat all their Heavy Weapons as Assault Weapons.
A great bonus for creating a highly mobile Guard army. Advancing and shooting with most weapons without penalty is a really nice bonus, allowing you to advance on the enemy army, or more likely retreat at a faster pace and still fire to full effect. Ignoring the penalty on moving and firing heavy weapons is also great, allowing your tanks to be a lot more mobile and still fire to full effect. You are probably not going to want to move your Leman Russ tanks too far so you can still fire twice, but this allows you to still move and not suffer when firing the hull or sponson weapons. Added to the Tallarn order above, this should make your Tanks pretty mobile if you want them to be.

Militarum Tempestus- If shooting a target at half range or less, you can make an extra shot for each 6+ you roll to hit at the same target.
Not the best of the Doctrines, but a nice bonus for the Militarum Tempestus given how good their Hot-shot Lasguns are and the high access to Special Weapons that they have.

Mordian- If all models from an infantry unit are in base contact, you can add +1 to your Leadership and +1 to hit for overwatch shots. In addition, vehicles get +1 to hit in overwatch if within 3" of another friendly Mordian vehicle.
A nice bonus to overwatch fire, but at the penalty of having to be in base to base contact. While this may not be such a penalty now that template weapons no longer exist, it can diminish your capacity to control the board and stop enemy deep strikers from landing near or behind your lines, making it harder to screen your valuable characters, squads and vehicles. Vehicles will also be hitting on a 5+ in overwatch, giving you a lot of potential for causing damage to chargers, especially if the vehicle gets a lot of shots, such as the Punisher or Wyvern.

Overall, the Astra Militarum have access to a lot of solid Doctrines. I don't think there are really any bad ones, with all having their uses with certain army builds or situations.

Warlord Traits
The Astra Militarum have access to a wide range of warlord traits, many of which are very useful on the tabletop.

Grand Strategist- When your warlord is alive, you can re-roll a single hit roll, wound roll or saving throw per battle. In addition, you recover a Command Point of a 5+ each time you use one for a stratagem.
The re-rolls are a nice bonus for your warlord, but the real key here is the recovery of the command points. Given how cheap Guard units are, it is really easy to be able to access a Brigade or multiple detachments and really rack up command points for your army. Regaining around a third of these points on average is an even better bonus, allowing you to really make the most out of re-rolls or special stratagems in your army. I think this will be a really popular one to take for most armies.

Old Grudges- After deployment, choose a single enemy unit. All units within 6" of your warlord can re-roll failed wounds against that unit.
Pretty decent, but only affects a single enemy unit. I can see a lot of use for this if you are playing a Knight or superheavy vehicle that will be taking a lot of your firepower.

Implacable Determination- Warlord and a single friendly unit within 3" may automatically advance 6" rather than rolling.
Not great to be honest. Given the Move! Move! Move! order and other movement orders, I don't see too much need for this as a warlord trait.

Draconian Disciplinarian- You can re-roll failed morale tests for friendly Infantry units within 6" of the warlord.
This has also gotten a lot better since the change to morale effects of Commissars and could be quite useful in the army now.

Bellowing Voice- Add 3" to any abilities on the warlord's datasheet.
This could be actually very useful, giving you 9" range for orders on your Company Command or Tank Commander. This will allow you to have a wider radius for issuing orders to your units on the battlefield.

Master of Command- Your warlord gains Voice of Command (can issue orders) or make one additional order if they already have it.
Great for giving three orders per turn with your Company Commander. Given that orders are not automatic (for the most part), this can really help with your strategy in your game. There are also ways to give additional orders to units in the codex, so this can be even more useful.

Superior Tactical Training (Cadian)- When you issue an order or tank order, on a 4+ you can issue the same order to an additional Cadian unit the same type as the original target.
I really like this warlord trait, giving you a 50% chance of issuing a bonus order with your warlord each time you issue one. This should give you one extra order per turn with the Company Commander, with the potential of getting up to two extra orders.

Lead From the Front (Catachan)- You warlord can perform a heroic intervention up to 6", and can re-roll failed to hit rolls in combat if he charged, was charged or performed a heroic intervention.
Decent enough for Catachans with their bonus strength, but you generally won't be wanting your Guard characters to get into combat all that often, especially your warlord.

Tenacious (Valhallan)- Your warlord gains a 5+ "feel no pain" (or 6+ if they are a vehicle).
A pretty decent trait to keep your warlord alive for longer, ignoring around a third of wounds caused against them if they are infantry. A better version of Tenacious Survivor.

Honoured Duelist (Vostroyan)- Re-roll failed to hit and to wound rolls in combat.
Pretty good, but again, combat is probably not a place you want your Guard warlord too often.

Ex-gang Leader (Armageddon)-Warlord gains +1 attacks and +1 to wound in the fight phase.
Good for building a combat character if you want. Useful when combined with a Power Fist or some of the Relics available to a character to cause some serious damage in combat.

Swift Attacker (Tallarn)- Your warlord and friendly units within 6" can charge even if they fell back.
Could be useful when combined with various orders, allowing your units to fall back, shoot and still charge in once more to combat, potentially causing a lot of damage to enemy units.

Faithful Servant of the Throne (Militarum Tempestus)- Your warlord can attempt to deny one psychic power per turn as if they were a psyker.
This could actually be quite useful in a Guard army. You have access to a lot of cheap psykers, but an extra psychic defence can still be very useful when facing Smite spam.

Iron Discipline (Mordian)- Roll when a model flees within 6" of your warlord, on a 4+ they do not flee.
Again, a really nice bonus for mitigating the effect of morale on your army. Really useful when combined with a Commissar, meaning that 50% of the time you will not be losing any models to a morale test.

Some really nice warlord traits for the Astra Militarum. However, I think Grand Strategist is the best by a big margin, meaning that I don't think you will be seeing any of the other warlord traits much, particularly in a competitive environment.

So, that is the first part of my review on the new Astra Militarum codex. The next part will look at the awesome new Stratagems available to the Guard.
What do you think of the Regimental Doctrines and Warlord Traits? Which are your favourite and why?


  1. Good review. Such a shame, they couldn't balance commissars properly. Such lovely models, and great part of the background going to waste.

    1. Cheers Padman. Yeah, it's a bit of a shame that the tournament scene has nerfed such as characterful addition to the army.

  2. Forwards, for the Emperor! seems like it could be useful to push a screening Unit further out without sacrificing firepower, or when performing a retrograde advance. One of the cool things about game mechanics like Orders is that you don't have to pay Points for them, so even if they're only useful in very specific situations, there's no cost to have them available in case you might need them.

    While Grand Strategist is the best "generalist" Warlord Trait, I can also see use for Old Grudges, Bellowing Voice, and Master of Command in certain matchups or builds, and the Mordian and Tempestus ones are potentially useful, too. The CC ones are basically all garbage, tho.

    1. Yeah, they seem to really be pushing Guard characters as close combat units in a lot of the options. They might do well against some basic infantry, but are generally going to fall quickly to most combat units in the game.