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Tactica Penal Legions

Tactica Penal Legions or: "The way of Tallarn"

Alright. I want to introduce a unit, that is not very often used in competitive gaming: Penal Legions. Normally a guard player takes the more obvious-strong troop units: Veterans. Especially mechanized veterans or alternatively combined infantry.

What is a penal legionnaire?

A basic human soldier who is troop choice, has base ld8, is stubborn, has a lasgun and scout special rule. Lets cover the special abilities later, they are not as important as one may think.

What is the penal legionnaires job?

He is actually the ideal light infantryman. He is possibly the most adaptive troop choice we have.

1. He can either screen in front of your gunline to prevent the enemy from killing your hardhitters before they hit hard.

2. He can also attack a suitable exposed target at the enemys flank to go for a quick takeout and disruption effect.

3. And he can swarm the weak flank of the enemy for the objective march.

What he will do in battle highly depends on the enemys force and deployment.

1. The screen:

Most guard commanders know the principle of bubblewrap. Bubblewrapping is a quite decent method avoiding close combat with their tanks. Most people use combined infantrysquads for this purpose. It works well if you stay put and shoot the heck out of the enemy. But combined infantry is a slow moving thing that slows down your army a lot. Imagine a double 1 rolling for terrain. That will keep you whole army sitting, because it cannot pass your own border.

If you use multiple penal legions, you can create small gaps between the units, which you may close instantly if the enemy approaches. And ahich you can open wider and slip your army through it, if the enemy is far away. You can also avoid being completely imprisoned if the enemy hits your skirmishers on both flanks and they have to keep formation in between. You can also avoid being forced to open the screen if you get charged because of the counter movement(s).

So they are in fact better screening units than combined infantry.

2. Disruption:

There we have a tactic, which is not very familiar to many guard commanders. First of all: Do not think penal legions on their own can be disruptive. You know the guard philosophy: Take 3 units for one job. So keep things like storm troopers or scout sentinels available to support the legions. Lets have a few pictures:

Slowing down an attack:

Here we see two rhinos attacking I assume tacticals in it. I brought in some penal legions behind them shielded by a chimera with stormtroopers with meltaguns. The goal of that move is: The enemy has two bad options. Halt the attack and turn around to face the new opponent under fire from my main line or continue the attack despite my units under their constant harrassment.

Silencing the big guns:

Here we have the same squads on my side attacking an enemy IG support battery with 2 hydra flaks and 2 medusas. My goal is to force that battery to another two bad options. Move away at the cost of firepower or turn and shoot at the cost of a probably continuing attack. And he is in a crossfire situation, either he turns his medusas around and expose the side to a whole gunline or he will ignore te threat and expose the side to the chimera.

Contesting the enemies homebase:

Here we fight orks. This time I go cruising with the chimera because I am not able to kill the orks yet. Main goal is killing the gretchin there with the penal legion and retreating behind the chimera afterwards. Now the remaining orks can move forward watched and followed by the chimera and the legion behind or they turn around and attack the chimera or even worse shoot at the legion. Then they would have problems taking out the tank/the unit and are very vulnerable to return fire because they will be bunched together and out of terrain or in case of shooting they wouldnt have achieved anything.

3. Objective taking

OK now lets have our third main job. The combat with shouldered arms or: How do we outmarch the enemy. After we dealt with the enemys strong but uncautious flank lets deal with his weak flank. We have to assume we will deal with a weak flank here. So the enemy will have almost no units there. There it is important, that you keep a good distance to the enemy and your guys wide spaced and well covered. In most cases the enemies strong flank with hardhitters will be on the side where your guns are. So make sure next to your guns will be only units, you are willing to send to death but at least one scoring unit. And make sure you spread your objectives at both flanks. We guardsmen have an advantage against many enemys. Our scoring units are often not our hard hitters. So in early game our heavy guns will be important and in lategame our scoring part. And the enemy has the choice between important and dangerous. Thats what we will take advantage of when we capture objectives. First make sure to deploy everything that has a big gun in a nice position at the flank. Then the enemy reacts either by deploying as close to you as possible or by closing on your position moving into your direction. If he deployed that way, he takes one movement phase, if he didnt, he will move two movement phases. Now our reserves will come in exactly at the opposite side of the field. Now the enemy has the difficult choice to either wheel around completely under constant fire to defend the threatened flank or to continue the attack on my mostly unimportant firebase and lose the other flank completely. If he spreads his forces, he his probably not able to complete any of the missions unless he is totally superior concerning material.

Now we see, that the special abilities of the penal legion are not the reason why taking them. It is just important for choosing the enemies they will engage. To help fighting the randomness here redundance works well. Take three units and you will most likely get at least 1x the ability you want.

Abilities, opponents and no gos:


Very good screeners. They dont lose a single shot if they move and keep away from the enemy. They keep good distance and dont have to fear charges and stay mobile.

Preferred opponents:

Slow melee infantry. Or infantry with lower range

Opponents to avoid if possible:

Hard jump infantry.

No Go:

Do not let the enemy be in 12" (infantry and closed transports) or 18" (jump infantry or open transports) at the end of your turn. Otherwise you are dead.


They are best used as a first wave in a disruption assault. They have the best charging range and hit hardest if they charge on their own. And on the defending part they have a larger killing zone.

Preferred opponents:

weak infantry (guardsmen, Firewarriors, dire avengers, gretchins, small units of gaunts, perhaps defensive combat squads) and disable vehicles (but dont expect them to wreck them, they are only S4 charging...).

Opponents to avoid if possible:

Units that survive the charge. After charging you are just the weak guardsman with S3.

No Go:

Do not let the enemy charge you first. You are only a weak guardsman and most likely soon a dead one. Dont charge through terrain...

Knife fighters:

These guys can take out a wraithlord on their own with ease or stationary vehicles reliably. They are best used to either take out a target that is well armoured but not very killy. Or to weaken an enemy armoured medium killy unit during a few turns. Or to finish an attrition battle.

Preferred opponents:

any monstrous creature with WS <7, any vehicle except land raider and monolith and medium to heavy walker, any small MEQ or TEQ unit that has either lower initiative or few attacks or both.

Opponents to avoid if possible: MEQ that defend itself (Grey hunters, CSM, BA), High WS, Armour above 11

No Go:

Do not charge through terrain, do not attack infantry with many attacks and high initiative. Do not engage Walkers with some attacks and decent armour, do not overestimate rending. Do not assault anything in small numbers.

These are a few glimpses into basic Penal legion tactics and strategies. Now feel free to experiment witn some dirty moves... ;)

Greetings Naz


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