With their name changed for reasons unknown, or at least unconfirmed *cough* copyright *cough*, here comes the Star Army – or Astra Militarum in High Gothic. Or just the plain old Imperial Guard to those of us who will always know them as such (it even says so on the title page). We’re mostly all familiar with the new format Codex’s so I’ll just say it’s on par with the best of them. The artwork is beautiful, it’s full colour (although I still reserve my love for the monochrome inks) and top quality throughout, everything you expect from the hardbacks. I’ve been quite looking forward to seeing what [insert authors name here as Games Workshop won’t tell you anymore] has done for the Imperial Guard as I wasn’t a big fan of the last codex, I don’t know why. Maybe because it was crap (in my humble opinion). Specifically, I didn’t like how the orders worked – the 6” range for Platoon Command squads was just unworkable, Vox Casters didn’t give you extra range to issue orders which just seemed plain stupid to me. Seeing as how the orders system was supposed to be the Imperial Guard’s ‘thing’, I didn’t feel like it was executed properly as it wasn’t inclusive of most of the list, and forced you to either play in a very limited way, always take Ursarker Creed, or join the Valkyrie party like everyone else who wanted to occasionally win a game. So addressing the orders first, you’ll be happy to know they have changed for the better – not perfect, but definitely better. It’s a blanket 12” range for everyone now unless stated in a special rule – and this can be extended out to 18” through the Warlord Trait table. The Imperium can send a message trillions of miles across the galaxy, but still can’t send one from one side of the battlefield to the other, so Vox Casters still don’t affect range – granting you the re-roll to the leadership test for the order to be carried out instead. There are more orders now for total of nine – three of which are still for senior officers only, defined with an additional special rule over the new ‘Voice of Command’ rule which is what enables you to issue orders in the first place. But a few of the old orders have gone (like go to ground) so a lot of the list is actually new – and also better accommodates things like Storm Troopers, I mean Storm Army, I mean Militarum Tempestus. Damn copyright. The Storm Troopers have changed considerably, now taken as elite platoons in the same way as standard infantry, with the officer able to issue orders to them and so actually including them in the whole army ‘thing’ this time round whereas before they just…weren’t really. This is a good thing as it removes some of the reliance on the Valkyries as it becomes difficult to move an entire platoon around in flyers and is not really feasible points wise now the Valkyrie/Vulture points cost has gone up massively – which it needed to, as they were a bit too good. And this leads into the primary reason for the new Rhinox Transport coming into being: it’s a cheap, heavily gunned transport able to negotiate difficult terrain – essentially a poor troopers Valkyrie on tracks – and now the go to method of moving around your expensive Storm Troopers without inviting the dangers of deep strike. It’s also worth noting Storm Troopers have now lost their Hellpistols and so are significantly worse in the assaults they often find themselves in, what with being so daring and everything. I’m unsure of the reasoning behind this, but the cynic in me is looking at the Ogryn shaped other new kit that came out and is now the only unit which can actually do anything in an assault without placing your Command units in harm’s way. Which is a shame because, for as much as Storm Troopers had a definite lean towards shooting, they are still supposed to be special forces bad asses who could mix it up in an assault too. A big plus is the addition of Tank Commanders, enabling you to do proper armoured companies with Veteran Grenadiers mounted in Chimera’s still acting as your troops. The tank orders, whilst not amazing, encourage you to race your Leman Russ’ around the board terrifying your opponent, which sounds fun. But while this is good if you are doing an armoured company, it may not be so desirable if you’re sticking with some foot sloggers. The orders also revolve around taking squadrons of tanks which again, is something that would typically appeal to armoured companies over everything else – in short, standard Tank Commanders only makes sense if you’re doing an armoured company. Everyone else can take Knight Commander Pask –who’s got even better, and cheaper, and he now has a different effect depending on the type of tank he’s riding in (whilst also clearing up any ambiguity over what he could ride in for the pedantic souls amongst us). Take him with an Executioner and you can fire a single large blast instead 3 small ones, or give a Punisher Rending? Yes please, thank you very much, don’t mind if I do, much obliged….you get the picture, he’s cool. Very cool.
Some of the Tanks have got cheaper (although a couple did go up a bit too), most notably the aforementioned Executioner – which I’m guessing is to compensate for the fact it tends to glance itself to death with the inevitable overheats that come from firing three plasma cannons a turn. But at least that can part pay for Pask, and then if you’re only firing a single large blast the chances are even slimmer. Conscripts also made it onto the reduced points list and are now very cheap – presumably in line with the Chaos Cultists who are identical. This makes horde armies more appealing now and if you can get your Commissar ‘Voice of Command’ via two of the Warlord Traits they can issue orders to them too – as long as they are your only HQ choice that is, which is a nice bit of character making its way back into the list. And I think that’s where the book triumphs, it brings the character of the army back and away from the special characters you were forced to take previously. There are of course casualties in doing this (poor Marbo) and it will never have the full flavour of a list dedicated to each world (still a possibility?), but it’s enough for you to generally field the army you want in the way you want. The book is a big improvement on its predecessor. The unit choices are generally cheaper and work better with each other, giving you a little more flexibility in what is an otherwise clunky army. The improved order system keeps the flavour of the army intact and rewards you for holding your nerve and timing them right for maximum effect. It’s methodical, organised death – just the way the Imperial Guard should be.
Codex Astra Militarum is available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00.