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5th Edition Imperial Guard Codex Fast Attack Review (Polonius)

Scout Sentinel Squadron

Sentinels have been a pretty aggressively mediocre choice for the IG for about a decade, and the newly bifurcated Scout Sentinel Squadron looks to carry that tradition into the future. Scout Sentinels, as differentiated from the Armored Sentinels that get front AV 12, extra armor, and the option from a plasma cannon, are simply the old sentinels with a few tweaks, notably the addition of Move Through Cover and the option to take a Missile Launcher.

The fundamental problem with Sentinels has always been that they don’t really take advantage of the benefits of a Walker platform, which is to mount up to two heavies, or a heavy and a DCCW, on a relatively light platform. Killa Kans, Warwalkers, even penitent engines somehow figure out how to mount lots of kit on a light walker, but sentinels are always stuck with one heavy weapon and no combat option. The argument has always been that that Sentinels are fast attack, and thus are light scout vehicles and won’t be heavily armed, but in my opinion, watered down heavy support is still bad heavy support, and doesn't become good fast attack. Faced with the options of making sentinels cheaper, making them faster, or making them punchier, GW went with a gutless compromise of all three, leaving the Sentinel one of the lease exciting entries in the list.

The basic walker at 35pts with a Multilaser is a pretty decent buy, in all fairness, as it can outflank, it has a decent gun, and three of them run only 105pts. Of course, in terms of sheer firepower, three sentinels pale next to chimeras at 110pts, making the sentinel a relatively inefficient vector for the multi-laser. Oddly, the Heavy flamer and Autocannon are both 5pt upgrades, which is odd as I’d consider a heavy flamer almost always a downgrade from a multi-laser. This codex seems to value heavy flamers very highly, however, and thus all the old Catachan sentinels are nicely overcosted. While they can hang back or outflank to try to scorch enemy medium and light infantry, as walkers, they really rely on the enemy to make a mistake to take a shot. They provide a possible substitute for other forms of outflanking flamers, but I think the opportunity cost is simply too high. The Missile Launcher is only 10pts more than a multilaser, but with the 15pt lascannon option, it’s pretty redundant. 50pts for a move and shoot lascannon looks good until compared with the Vendetta which is literally on the facing page!

The one really neat use I can think of for sentinels is to take autocannons and Hunterkiller missiles for a 50pt alpha strike, either starting on the board or outflanking. Two S7 and a S8 shot at side or rear armor can be pretty potent, and the unit is cheap enough to be a throw away unit. The downside to hunter killer missiles is mitigated by the fact that sentinels rarely, if ever, survive more than a turn or two. I can’t think of any time the heavy flamer will come in handy, now that it’s pricier and can’t deep strike, alas. Lascannon sentinels with hunter-killers might not be an awful unit, but I’d recommend keeping them cheap with multi-lasers and autocannons if you really feel the need to take them.

The squadron can take smoke launchers at 5pts per model, if you feel like overpaying for a 4+ cover save once per game at the expense of shooting.

Scout Sentinel Squadron: Semi-Competitive

Armoured Sentinel Squadron

The other half of the old sentinel entry, the Armoured Sentinel Squadron trades some mobility for far greater durability in a fire fight. For 55pts, or 20pts more than a Scout Sentinel, the Armoured Sentinel has AV12, is closed topped, losses Scout and Move through cover, has extra armor as standard, and can take a Plasma cannon for 20pts. All other options remain the same between the two.

This raises two major issues, namely if 20pts for a major armor boost is worth paying for, and if so, does that make them worth actually taking. The answer to the first is not really, the second is a pretty emphatic no. The 20pts is over half the cost of the multilaser, and a full half of the autocannon Scout Sentinel, for some pretty decent increase durability at the front, but no boost on the sides. Again, the multi-laser Armoured Sentinel simply is inferior to the Chimera when they’re the same cost, the 70pt lascannon sentinel is outclassed by the Vendetta, and the 75pt plasma cannon Sentinel is made redundant by the Executioner.

The single most suggested addition to this review was to point out that with AV12, Armoured sentinels can tar-pit enemy units in close combat and remain relatively safe from most squads. I'll grant that against certain armies (Daemons, Eldar, Necrons) the Armoured sentinel will do well tar-pitting. I'm worried about two things: the relatively low frequency of those armies, and the fact that it's too easy for many units to avoid the charge of the Armoured Sentinel. It is a workable tactic in casual play, however.

Low cost single heavy weapon vehicles work great in other armies because they are on fast vehicle chassis, and aren't limited to moving 6” a turn. Until GW adds a second weapon (I've long advocated pintle heavy stubber, grenade launcher, flamer, and power weapon options), the sentinel will simply languish as a poor choice.

Armoured Sentinels: Casual

Rough Rider Squadron

Another unit that got better but less useful, Rough Riders were the best counter-chargers available to the IG in 4th edition. With 5th edition’s elimination of screening, and the reduced need for counter charge units do to the lack of consolidation into fresh squads, rough riders became both more fragile and less essential.

In the new codex, Rough Riders now must all take hunting lances and a 5pt sergeant, but drop a point in cost. Riders may now take up to two special weapons instead of a hunting lance, and finally have frag and krak grenades standard. The sarge can take a plasma pistol or a power weapon, but not both, and does not get a bonus weapon with the PW.

As units go, this one has a pretty simple premise: wait until the enemy gets near, and charge! At S5, I5 powered weapons, the hunting lance will cut through the enemy pretty well, and frag grenades finally allow them to charge into cover. The down side is that they’re still a dedicated assault squad that can’t contribute shooting, and they give up a KP pretty easily. I think that in many environments, they’ll retain their old usefulness, but in general at the higher levels rough riders are a luxury unit that eats up points and slots better spent on other choices. The main thing keeping them competitive is their usefulness against vehicles and their low cost.

The Mogul Kamir is an option, bumping a standard sergeant up to WS4, W2, and A3, and fearless (for him and his squad). He also gets +d3 attacks on the charge instead of +1, and subjects the entire squad to Rage. For 40pts, those aren’t bad abilities, but rage forces them to always move towards the closest enemy, and if they run, to run towards the closest enemy. Even in combat, they must consolidate closer to the enemy. Setting up a good Rough Rider charge is all about timing and placement, and a rule that monkeys with that is simply too great a price.

Rough Riders: Competitive

Mogul Kamir: Casual

Hellhound Squadron

I have to make a disclaimer about hellhounds: I simply don’t like them. When most IG players really dug the 4th edition Hellhound, I found it to be a very underwhelming medium tank that was both under gunned and surprisingly fragile. I’ll try to be as objective as possible, but I felt that I should mention that up front when discussing the new Hellhound Squadron.

In this new squadron, you can take up to three hellhound variants in a single unit with three different turret variants available. The Hull weapon is a basic heavy bolter, with the option to take a free heavy flamer or a 15pt Multimelta. The squad as a whole can buy nicely overpriced dozer blades (at 10pts they’ve doubled in price while halving in effectiveness), smoke launchers (5pts a hound), or extra armor (the new imperial standard 15pt).

The big new difference is that hellhounds are finally fast vehicles, while retaining their AV12 on the front and side. This has two big effects: once again Hellhounds can move 6” and shoot all their weapons, or they can scoot the full twelve and shoot shorter ranged weapons.

The elephant in the room for all fast attack choices is the fact that they all compete with the Valkyrie and the Vendetta, in both points and slots. As discussed below, the new skimmers are very efficient, making much of the rest of the Fast Attack choices redundant. The downside to them is their large size, which maybe end up clogging a table faster than the IG player would like.

The second effect is most useful with the inferno cannon on the new Hellhound, which is now a 12” range weapon (with only the narrow end of the template needing to be within 12”) instead of a 24” range weapon (where the entire template needed to be in range). While the overall range hasn't gone down very much, the key to remember is that the Hellhound will often end up in charge range (or melta gun range) of whatever it shot at. In addition, at AP4, while the hellhound shreds Orks, it simply doesn't put enough wounds on anything 3+ or better to be anything more than harassment. One way to view the basic Hellhound is that it’s a 130 fast vehicle that can contest objectives, shrug off all light and most medium firepower, and can lay some serious wounds on light infantry when given the chance. The other way to view it is a 130pt tank that is short ranged and can’t reliably hurt MEQs.

The first of the new variants is the Devil Dog, which swaps the inferno cannon for the new Melta Cannon. I had hoped the melta cannon would be a longer ranged or twin linked multi-melta, but instead it’s simply a blast multimelta. The new blast rules mean that the Melta Cannon is more likely to hit small squads, but is actually less likely to hit anything smaller than a landraider than the Multi-melta. The Devil Dog is pretty cheap at 120pts, and the effective range of ~24” is about as good for long range anti-tank as the IG can hope for. The downside is that for 125pts you can take a PCS with four melta guns in a Chimera, for better, if shorter, anti-tank, along with good anti-infantry and decent anti-AV10 work. Applying the mighty 20% rule, if Devil Dogs were 95pts, would they be the hottest thing in the codex? Answer: they’re still not as good as troops with meltas or the Vendetta. It is a fun build, but just not good enough.

The final variant is the Bane Wolf, which reminds IG veterans of the old 3rd edition Hellhound. The Chem Cannon has no range, but wounds on a 2+ with AP3. The hidden strength of the Chem Cannon is that at Strength 1, it counts as a defensive weapon, meaning you always get to fire the hull weapon as well as the turret. While this has the same fragility problems due to the short range as the rest of the Hellhound types, the Bane Wolf murders anything that it touches (except terminators). Toss in the effects of a hull heavy flamer which goes off at the same time, and the one shot a game that the Bane Wolf gets can actually really matter. I think if you’re going to take a short ranged tank, you should take the tank that can actually accomplish something.

Hellhound: Semi-Competitive

Devil Dog: Semi-Competitive

Banewolf: Competitive

Valkyrie Assault Carrier Squadron

Winning the award for formal unit name that will be least used by players is easily the most anticipated unit in years: the Valkyrie. The basic elements of the squadron are simple: 1-3 fast skimmers with 12 model transport capacity, AV12/12/10, built in extra armor, scout and deep strike capability, and a free searchlight. In addition, embarked units can disembark even if the Valk moves flat out, landing anywhere in the Valk’s movement path via deepstrike rules. This is risky, as the unit takes a dangerous terrain test, and if unable to deploy a model, the entire unit is destroyed. While pretty clearly a desperation tactic, it’s a neat option for late game objective grabs. Keep in mind that the IG gets all of this for only 100pts.

The basic weapon options for the Valkyrie start with a chin multilaser and two hellstrike missiles on the wings. Each hell strike missile is a one shot, long range missile that counts as ordnance, but isn’t blast. As low cost anti-tank weapons go, the Hellstrike isn’t bad, but certainly isn’t good. It still needs to roll to hit, and while it will reliably pen AV12 (with two dice pick the highest), and is of course free, but a roughly one quarter chance to actually hurt AV12 isn’t exactly the marks of a good anti-tank unit. Of course, that’s not why anybody buys the basic valk. The chin multi-laser is a very fine choice, adding a small amount of punch to a chassis that’s basically just a pure transport, and it meshes well with Rocket Pods. The multi-laser can be upgraded to a lascannon for 15pts, continuing the almost ludicrous over costing of lascannons in the codex. The fact that a vendetta is only 15pts more than a valk with lascannon makes it a bit of a silly upgrade, but it’s there if you like magnets and have 15pts one game.

The real offensive fun is the Rocket pods, which are a 30pt upgrade but each provide a Bolter strength large blast. While unimpressive on their own, two of those, plus a multi-laser, provide some pretty decent anti-infantry firepower that can fire after moving 12” a turn. I may be overstating the usefulness of move and shoot firepower, but given the competition the Vendetta provides for anti-tank, the Valk needs to emphasis its strengths, which are either reduced cost or enhance mobility while shooting.

In terms of usefulness, the Valk and Vendetta both lay on a spectrum between almost pure gunship, hybrid shooting transport, and nearly pure transport. The Vendetta fills the role of gunship as well as a hybrid (much like a basic landraider), leaving the Valkyrie to be either the pure transport or the anti-horde hybrid. I think that the prevalence of light infantry will determine if Rocket Pods are worthwhile, because those things just eat up Ork and Nid hordes.

Valks can take heavy bolter sponsons for +10pts, which seems cheap, but again, it’s really hard to justify 10pts for heavy bolters that cant’ shoot on the move when the lascannons for only 20pts more. A solid anti-infantry killer can be constructed from a Valk, Rocket Pods, and heavy bolters, but at 140pts it's getting a little too close to the cost of a russ. It might help to think of the Heavy Bolters like the Shuriken Cannon on eldar skimmers: useful, but truly optional. Personally, if I had 20pts, I'd buy sponsons for a russ before sponsons for two Valkyries.

Another question for the YMDC is if a scouting Valk that moves 24” as its scout move counts as obscured. The skimmers moving fast rule only applies if it moved flat out in it’s last movement phase, implying that it does not. This isn’t a huge deal, but gaining a pregame scout move with the obscured rule makes it very potent.

Valks are also one of the few units where scout will be used, not just to outflank, but also to gain a pre-game move. Assuming the Valks surive the first turn shooting, the Valkyrie can genuinely set up first turn land raider kills if its carrying melta-gun vets or a CCS.

At its core, the Valkyrie radically redefines how the IG play, giving Eldar-like mobility to the IG at a price way below fair market.

Valkyrie: Highly Competitive.

Vendetta Gunship Squadron

Nearly everything about Valkyries is also true about the Vendetta, except instead of serving as cheaper transport or anti-infantry gunship, the Vendetta is a pure anti-tank gunship. With three twin linked lascannons for only 130pts, the Vendetta is the most cost efficient way to buy lascannons in the entire game, and as a fast vehicle it can move 6” and still shoot everything.

As an Eldar player, I’m keenly aware that relying on the shooting from AV12 platforms is a ticket to disappointment. If you drop 3 Vendettas and support them with some Russes, there is too much armor for any army to deal with effectively, but there are some armies that can reliably keep AV12 shaken. That doesn't mean they’re not worth taking, it’s just that Vendettas are better when an army is built around them, rather than simply throwing one into an army. The second downside is that in 5th edition, even three twinned lascannons cant’ really slow down a landraider.

As long as you have realistic expectations and support it properly, the Vendetta will do what it’s best at: sniping at mid range armor or monstrous creatures while carrying melta veterans to deal with anything heavier.

Vendetta: Highly Competitive

Further Reading

IG Codex Review

IG Codex Review HQ

IG Codex Review Elites

IG Codex Review Troops

IG Codex Review Heavy Support


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