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5th Edition Imperial Guard Codex Heavy Support Review (Polonius)

Leman Russ Squadron

Most of the analysis performed on the units so far has had as an unspoken assumption that the IG player is loading up on Leman Russes in the heavy section, and for good reason. All LR variants are AV14/13/10, with the heavier chassis AV11 in the rear. All of them are buy-able, mix and match, at 1-3 per squadron. They all have gained the “lumbering behemoth” rule, which essentially makes the turret a defensive weapon, allowing it to shoot in addition to anything else, even if ordnance. The stated downside is that the tank only moves 6+d6” at cruising speed. The unstated downside is that they created the lumbering behemoth rule because nobody bought Hull Lascannons or to a lesser extent sponsons, but then immediately figured, “hey, we just made hull lascannons better, we better increase their cost”. So the 10pt lascnnytooiufdon option that nobody took if they could is now 15pts, although admittedly it can fire along with the turret. I wish I could say that was the only time they made something slightly better and immediately jacked the cost up to cancel out the benefit, but that would be lying.

In addition to the hull heavy weapons (which include a heavy flamer if you really want), the various Russes can take sponsons with either heavy bolters/flamers (20pts), Multi-meltas (30pts) or plasma cannons (40 pts). The heavy bolter price I buy. If I can keep my russ stationary and shoot a turret plus three heavy bolters, that’s worth some points. It provides good synergy with anti-infantry turrets, and given the role of the russ, it’ll often be stationary so it can fire. While I plan on running many of my russes naked, it’s a good option to have. I think GW missed an opportunity to actually see players take the heavy flamer option by pricing them at 10pts. Who wouldn’t be tempted to try that out once? As for the multi-meltas, you’re either waiting for something to move within 12” of the tank, or you move up and are paying 30pts for a single BS3 multi-melta. Either way, I’m not horribly impressed, although combining them with the Exterminator for the 6 S7-8 shots at 24” isn't bad against medium vehicles. Still not a competitive option, I don’t think. Finally, the plasma cannons are very good with the new blast rules, and combined with either the Executioner turret or the old demolisher, that’s a lot of high strength AP2 shooting. A high value upgrade for a high price, the plasma sponsons aren’t a great deal, but are quite good.

The Russ has the usual stable of options, and has a searchlight and smoke launchers built in, which is nice for that turn when the Russ is shaken.

There are a whopping seven different turret variants, but sure enough the GW rule of three eliminates four of them from serious consideration pretty quickly, although one of the also rans (the punisher) is interesting enough to merit at least serious consideration.

The first, and oldest, variant is the old Lady of the Imperial Guard, the basic Leman Russ Battle Tank. The Battle Cannon is unchanged, offering the same long range, S8 AP3 large blast it always offered. At 150pts base it’s a little more expensive than before, but the new Lumbering Behemoth rule and Side AV13 make up for that. If the Leman Russ Variants were women, the LRBT is the wholesome girl next door, the kind you can take home to mother, out with the boys, and she’s never out of place. In many ways, the battle Cannon is similar to the Missile Launcher, offering a flexible combination of anti-tank and anti-infantry firepower. Unlike the Missile launcher, the LRBT is not sold at a premium (it’s actually the cheapest variant) and it actually excels at anything with a 3+ save or worse. While capable of glancing AV14, the Battle Cannon is often wasted on vehicles due to the scatter rules, but with S8 and picking the highest of two dice the Battle cannon is pretty reliable at cracking up to AV12.

The key with all of the LRs is that whatever is picked leaves holes for the rest of the army to fill. In the case of the LRBT the weak points are AV14, terminators, and monstrous creatures; although against assault terminators the advantage of AP2 is reduced to only twice the damage from four times the damage for normal terminators. In a list with plasma guns and melta vets, the LRBT adds a flexible and affordable amount of firepower that simply wrecks MEQs.

Continuing the mildly misogynist trend of comparing tanks to broad archetypes of women, if the LRBT is the wholesome girl next door, the Leman Russ Exterminator is her looser sister that used to be hot but has aged very poorly. Back in the Third Edition book, the LRE was cheaper than the LRBT and could shoot all of it’s weapons if it didn’t move (and then could shoot them all on the move with the Trial Vehicle Rules), making it an appealing for those looking for something a little cheaper, a little flashier, and more effective against Kult of Speed. Now, with the new movement rules once again preventing the LRE from moving and firing with everything, and the Lumbering Behemoth rule allowing ordnance to be combined with other weapons firing, the LRE needed to do something amazing to stay competitive. What it got was a doubling of its Autocannon shots from two to four, and a price hike of 25pts.

With all other options identical, the sole question for the gamer is: “When are four twin linked autocannon shots worth the same price as a battle cannon?” The bonus round question, of course, is to remind the gamer that autocannons are broadly and generally available in every single FOC slot of the IG codex, even discounting the LRE. Tossing an LRE into a squadron with Executioners to take hits and for S7 synergy isn’t a terrible call, but the poor exterminator simply costs too much for the kind of shooting that too many other parts of the army can produce.

The Leman Russ Vanquisher is the biggest tease in the codex, offering what every IG player lusts after: reliably long range anti-tank, but rarely, if ever, delivers. The Vanquisher losses the battle cannon completely, in order to gain a single shot at S8, AP2 that always rolls two dice for armor penetration. It looks good at first, but at BS3 and 155pts it simply fails to deliver the goods. It can be combined with the Hull lascannon and Pask to be slightly more reliably, but at 220pts you’re looking at the cost of a Valkyrie and melta CCS or vets, for less effectiveness. Add in its complete lack of a blast option and it’s maddening lack of AP1, and the Vanquisher is a tease, offering plenty but delivering little.

When you’re tired of the same of type of relationship, everybody leaves their comfort zone, and tries something new. The Leman Russ Eradicator is just that, the type of girl that’s maybe a little freaky, but fun…for a while. Swapping the trusty Battle Cannon for the Eradicator Nova Cannon, the Eradicator drops to S6 AP4 but gains the ability to ignore cover. This is new and sexy, and allows the IG player to rip up lootas, pathfinders, boys under a KFF, etc. Alas, like many a relationship built on novelty, the Eradicator fails to satisfy. At 160pts you pay a premium for this over the basic russ, and with the cheaper Chimera as well as the Valk, there are many more cover save ignoring options available to the IG player. Without AP3, marines aren't seriously afraid of it, and at S6 it’s really no threat to vehicles. While pretty devastating to it’s key targets, the key targets are simply too narrow in range (see the Ogryn section for another example of this phenomenon) to justify the Eradicator in take on all comers lists. If you fight a lot of foot slogging light infantry, than dropping one or two in your force won’t kill you, but that’s about it.

As a really, really amazing tank with some serious draw backs, the Leman Russ Demolisher fills the role of the hot girl with some baggage. The Demolisher has the rightly feared demolisher cannon (S10 AP2, 24” Range) along with bumped up rear armor 11, at a cost of 165pts. While not cheap, the Demolisher can engage any target at range and deal with it. The biggest draw backs are its relatively short range and the high cost with full AP2 load out, as adding lascannon and plasma cannon sponsons take the tank up to 220pts, which seems far too high for a single IG tank. With the Executioner offering top shelf AP2 death, I plan on running my demolishers with simply a hull heavy bolter. The demolisher is built to crack open terminators and heavy tanks, and while the executioner handles the latter better, the demolisher is a good mixed price tank that can handle more roles. Lacking the range to deal with transports and enemy tanks, the demolisher relies on the rest of the army to provide firepower to deal with those things, as well as anti-horde firepower.

One of the totally new variants, the Leman Russ Punisher is the girl that seems to be fun, and cute, but is just missing some key component that prevents anybody from getting too close. The Punisher Gatling Cannon, with 20 shots at S5 AP- looks like it should be good at thinning hordes along with heavy bolters, but the math just isn't encouraging. With three heavy bolters, the Punisher takes 29 shots, 14.5 hit, and 10 wound T4. In the open that’ll result in almost 9 wounds against Ork boys, 3 wounds against marines, and 4.5 wounds against orks in 4+ cover. Now, the Punisher will get to shoot a couple of times, but even assuming it wipes out a full Ork boy mob (which seems optimistic) you've spent 200pts to buy a unit that will struggle to wipe out its intended target that only costs 230pts. With almost no punch against vehicles and limited punch against armored models, not to mention a very short 24” range, the Punisher is another narrow focus tank that has its moments, but simply fails to put it all together.

Finally, the belle of the ball, the girl everybody wants to get with, the Leman Russ Executioner brings top shelf killing power to the leman Russ chassis. With three plasma cannon shots from the turret at 190pts, and the option to tack two more on for 40pts more, the Executioner is the best pure Terminator killer in the codex, while retaining at least decent punch against transports. The new blast rules mean that the Plasma Cannons will hit monstrous creatures about half the time, enabling it to do what no other tank in the IG can: lay a bunch of wounds on an MC. While expensive, the executioner is the best source for plasma outside of basic infantry. For the cost of a full loaded Executioner, the IG player can buy two veteran squads with three plasma guns each. Different armies will have different playing styles, but the Executioner is better in armies with more limited infantry, allowing veterans to focus on meltagunning tanks, while the executioners handle infantry and transports if need be.

The final special character of the book is Knight Commander Pask, who is a 50pt upgrade for any Leman Russ tank. He provides that tank with BS4, and any shots against Armor gain +1 to armor pen, and any failed wounds against Monstrous Creatures may be re-rolled. The best uses for Pask are on weapons that shoot using BS, but those are alas two of the weaker variants. It could be fun to mount Pask on an Exterminator with Hull lascannon for 225, and have essentially 4 S8 shots and a S10 shot all at BS4. It’s not necessarily good, but it can do some damage to medium armor. The real trick is to mount Pask up in a Punisher, and turn him against MCs. Even absent AP, and even with only S5, a fully kitted punisher against T6 takes 29shots, with ~20hits, and roughly 10 savable wounds. That’s a torrent of fire that can bring down a lot of MCs. Of course, at 250 he runs more than the MCs he’s shooting at, but in a nidzilla heavy environment it’s not a bad choice.

Leman Russ Battle Tank: Competitive

Leman Russ Exterminators: Semi-Competitive

Leman Russ Vanquisher: Casual

Leman Russ Eradicator: Semi-Competitive

Leman Russ Demolisher: Highly Competitive

Leman Russ Punisher: Semi-Competitive

Leman Russ Executioner: Highly Competitive

Knight Command Pask: Semi-Competitive

Hydra Flak Tank Battery

The Hydra is an interesting new option for the IG: a focused but cheap weapon on a relatively fragile, direct fire platform. Nobody will deny that the Hydra Cannon is a great weapon: 4 shots, twin linked, long range autocannons that ignore skimmers moving fast or turboboosting cover saves. That this weapon is only 75pts is a stone cold steal, but the hydra is a heavy support choice competing with the russes and artillery, and on a chimera, it’s very easy to shake, stun or damage.

After railing about the narrow applications of many of the Leman Russ variants, the hydra, while almost as limited in ideal targets, is far cheaper as well as better suited for its role as a transport slayer. Absent transports, Autocannons do well against MCs, bikes, anything high toughness, and finally basic infantry. The long range means the hydra will seldom lack a target, and at 225 for three, unless you really need the heavy support choices, the Hydra will simply always be a competitor. In terms of usage, the Hydra is better in mechanized lists, as infantry heavy guard will have plenty of their own Autocannons in infantry squads, and will instead need the heavier firepower of tanks or artillery. In mechanized lists, however, the Hydra will generally enjoy cover from friendly chimeras, while shooting up opposing transports. In addition, the AV12 of the Hydra creates a monolithic wall of armor from the Chimera to the Valkyrie. No army can stop 6+ AV12 vehicles, and some of them will accomplish their tasks.

Hydra: Highly Competitive

Ordnance Battery

This choice is a set of four different artillery weapons, ranging in strength, AP, armor piercing, and special rules. All are mounted on a Chimera hull with either Hull heavy bolter or Heavy Flamer. In addition, like all non-skimmer IG vehicles, the artillery can take camo-nets. This is an upgrade that gives a +1 to any cover save if the vehicle didn't move in the previous movement phase. While not addressing what happens on the first turn, this gives a potent ability to vehicles that stay put and will help them survive. On most tanks, it’s a 20pt upgrade and probably not worth giving up the move for, but on Artillery, where it’s most useful, it’s a 30pt upgrade. In general, I don’t think this will see too much use, as really the only good way to give cover to a vehicle is with another vehicle, and a +1 to the save is good, but not great. In addition, much of the threat to indirect fire ordnance is now from deep strikers, outflankers, or fast moving assaults, not ranged shooting.

In general, I’m not wild about indirect fire ordnance in Fifth Edition, which deflates all of my ratings.

The first and most boring of the artillery options is the Basilisk. Aside from indirect fire now a mandatory upgrade, the Basilisk is essentially unchanged from the old book, even keeping the old price tag of 125pt. Providing high Strength indirect fire at S9, AP3, the basilisk is build for two things: popping monoliths and smiting hidden squads and units. In apocalypse, this is a fantastic unit that always is a star, but in smaller games its huge minimum range and inaccuracy make it punchy but limited. Anything the basilisk can do can be done better and for only a few more points by another option. While a venerable old warhorse, the basilisks days as a top notch choice are alas over.

Next up is the Medusa, which critically is not an indirect fire weapon. Armed with essentially a 36” range demolisher cannon, the Medusa runs a mere 135pts. While the smart player asks why not simply buy a Leman Russ Demolisher for 30more points and gain a ton of protection, the answer lies in the ability to buy bastion-breacher shells for only 5pts. These shells are 48: range, S10 AP1 small blasts that always get a bonus die for Armor Pen. As long as the thing hits, you’re going to do some damage to nearly any vehicle with this weapon. Of course, AV12 direct fire isn't the most durable platform, but one or two good shots is all a weapon like this really needs. While I think it lags far behind air-cav meltas as an anti-tank option, it belongs on the table.

Unlike the LR Eradicator, the Colossus does not give up it’s AP3 in order to ignore cover saves. At S6, AP3, with a 24” blind spot, the Colossus is the premier option for killing MEQs in cover available to the IG. The price tag reflects this, and while 140pts is fair, it’s not a steal. For maximum protection the Colossus should be out of LOS, but if it does it becomes very inaccurate. The Colossus has a pretty narrow target profile: enemy units in cover, but that’s a broad enough category to justify taking one of them. Consider pairing one with a couple of Griffons for maximum accuracy.

The humble Griffon shows that sometimes the cheapest things are also the best. At a mere 75pts, the griffon retains the S6 AP4 of the Griffon, but also gains a re-roll to the scatter dice. Using a Griffon as a range finder for better ordnance sounds good, but in practice once you've hit a unit, it’s rare for a unit to be so big that another template flopped in any random direction will still hit something. Like the Hydra, the Griffon is so cheap as to merit taking any time there is a Heavy Support slot and 75pts available. While not really good at killing much, the Griffon can pound a unit all game, hitting reliably while staying out of LOS. The hidden weakness is the 48” maximum range, which limits it from dominating the game in the corner to corner sense.

Basilisk: Semi-competitive

Medusa: Competitive

Colossus: Competitive

Griffon: Competitive

Manticore Rocket Launcher

The Manticore has always been a neat Forgeworld kit, and as a basilisk with Ap2 in the old rules it was a great choice in big games that rarely lasted longer than four turns. In the current rules, the Imperium has apparently discovered cluster technology, as each rocket shoots d3 S10, AP4 large blasts indirectly with a 24” minimum. This is balanced by a rule that only allows the weapon to shoot four times per game. This is a false limitation, as with a third of games ending on turn five, another third having first turn night fight, and all the ways it’s possible to stop an AV12 weapon from shooting, it’s pretty unlikely that the unit will be shooting more that four times a game most games anyway.

In terms of game use, the manticore has two key targets: light infantry out of cover, and vehicles. Since the Storm Eagle Rockets can be fired over the gun sights, they both ignore minimum range and can be fired on the move, making them a pretty decent tank hunter. If you are only going to buy one piece of artillery, this is probably the one to buy, but without the ability to squadron the Ordnance Batteries are better for overwhelming artillery.

Manticore: Competitive

Deathstrike Missile Launcher

The last unit in the codex is also the goofiest, the Deathstrike Missile Launcher. An apocalypse datasheet that got lost and ended up in the big leagues, the Deathstrike is simply a fun only unit. With a complicated launch procedure on it’s one shot weapon, it’s highly unreliable both in terms of when it will launch and where it will land. Once landed, its S10 AP1 with full strength over the entire template, a d3+3” blast, and no cover saves allowed. While undeniably devastating, the 160pt price tag coupled with the low odds of being able to shoot he missile until turn 3 or 4 makes this unit a major liability in competitive play.

It's worth noting that the Deathstrike template is actually d3+3" blast radius. Depending on the dice roll, this template will be between 8"-12" big.

Deathstrike Missile: Casual

Further Reading

IG Codex Review

IG Codex Review HQ

IG Codex Review Elites

IG Codex Review Troops

IG Codex Review Fast Attack


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