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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Armies in 5th: Imperial Guard Part 2: Mobility

In the first article about Imperial Guard in 5th we looked at how important AV12 can be compared to many armies out there and the advantages the Chimera gives to an army with restricted mobility and weak infantry. There is a trade-off however. The more aggressively you push your Chimeras the more likely you are to expose your side armor. This was discussed in this post and the consequences of such were alluded to in the comments section. Let's examine this more closely.

Now first off let's be clear. Properly built Imperial Guard are not static. They are not a gunline and certainly not a foot gunline. These type of armies are bad. Whilst they may have a lot of firepower, anything significant which breaks through can simply start eating this sort of army alive. No consolidating into combat in 5th edition helped limit the effect a single squad can have but even just a single squad gaining combat against these armies can prove problematic. That being said, Imperial Guard can easily found themselves quickly overwhelmed by more mobile armies. This isn't to say they move faster, Imperial Guard have excellent access to Fast Attack choices (Vendettas/Valks, Hellhound variants, Scout Sentinels, etc.) and have access to a lot of vehicles which as we know, move 12". However, a lot of these tanks are often backfield oriented, don't move much and are all about throwing firepower downfield. It can't out manoeuvre you if it's dead right? This isn't always the case however so let's look at why mobility can sometimes be an issue for Imperial Guard. There are three main reasons.

1. Chimeras - side armor 10

This has already been mentioned but the more aggressive you get with your Chimeras, the more likely your opponent gets side shots and Chimeras don't have the ability to squadron up (unlike Land Speeders) to make them more durable. This makes the Chimeras very fragile and thus the unit inside is under great threat as well. There are ways to minimise your side armor accessibility through Chimera positioning and ensuring as much AV12 is presented as possible and overlapping this on the AV10 sides. Such deployments may look like a hedgehog or a checkers board (I will try and put Vassal pictures of these up later) but can force your opponent to work harder to get side armor shots (or at least grant 3+ cover saves). In the end though, the further you push forward with Chimeras, or the longer the game goes, the more likely your opponent is able to get side shots. This reduces their overall survivability and in turn generates an inverse relationship between survivability and mobility (to an extent; it's obviously not an exact science here!).

Due to the Chimera's role, this can severly impact upon an Imperial Guard army and its mobility. Chimeras often carry Troops and meltaguns, both of which are very important in 5th edition. If you are too aggressive too early, your opponent will get side shots and expose those units whilst if you are too passive they sit back and do nothing. Obviously a happy medium is where you need to end up but sometimes you are going to need to be aggressive to get those meltaguns across the board. In the end side shots will happen but the more you minimise them or make your opponent work for them (and potentially put them out of position), the better off you'll be.

2. Opportunity Cost - shooting

The more you move, the less you shoot. Very few tanks in the Imperial Guard arsenal can move over 6" and fire to full effect and you'll often find with proper deployment they don't move much at all (which leads to a parking lot which shall be covered later). When tanks do move there is going to be some degree of shooting ability lost and whilst most armies which aren't fast (i.e. Eldar, Dark Eldar, Blood Angels) suffer from this, due to the efficiency of Imperial Guard shooting and the extreme benefits they gain from Chimera top hatches, this is very important. If an opponent can force Imperial tanks to start moving significantly to avoid combat or other close-ranged weapons, the incoming firepower has been greatly reduced and if the Imperial Guard tanks don't move, the opponent gets free hits in combat.

3. The Parking Lot - what mobility?

Which brings us to the parking lot. Parking lots (commonly known as castling) are great for cramming a bunch of tanks into a small area, help generate cover and present better armor to a larger portion of the board all the while ensuring clear fire lanes for the tanks involved. This has been covered before here. The downside of this is you lose mobility. Try getting that tank in the middle of the castle out without moving any other can't. If your opponent starts to stunn or immobilise any of those outside and forward tanks, your mobility plummets. You're still getting all the bonuses but a couple of ill-placed stunned/immob results can halt the forward progress of your armor.

Furthermore, if your opponent is able to get assaults off on a parking lot (whether it moved last turn or not) that's a lot of tanks that are going to potentially be hit and if they didn't move or moved slowly, that's a lot of tanks being damaged. Even if they are all just shaken, that's less firepower your opponent is taking. That being said, those assaulting units are bunched up and primed for some heavy flamer action (you brought heavy flamers ya?).

Obviously as an Imperial Guard player you don't have to castle your tanks but you'll find layering your tanks to some degree will give your backfield tanks increased the cost of freedom of movement to a certain extent. Even in midfield with Chimeras, a certain amount of layering is going to happen if you want to minimise the exposure of your side AV 10 and this in turn limits how much your tanks are capable of moving. If they do move 'out of formation' to increase mobility, we go to the original point in this article and will expose their fragile side armor.


What this all boils down to is Imperial Guard are less capable of moving their army and covering the whole board compared to other armies of similar disposition (i.e. not fast based armies) and when they do, they lose certain aspects of their army. This is one of they key ways your defeat them. Ensuring you get side armor shots on their aggressive Chimeras really deadens the ability for most Imperial Guard lists to move around at speed whilst still threatening you. Follow-up with assaults on stationary or slow groups of tanks for maximum damage and you're looking good.

Easier said than done however. Although Guard armies may be restricted mobility wise compared to other mech armies of a similar disposition, they still have ways to maximise their strengths. When there's a bunch of Chimeras in midfield even hitting AV10 on some of them doesn't mean they are going to go down fast if they have been setup properly and you're going to have to work hard more often than not to get into the side armor facing. Parking lots often have bubble-wraps surrounding them (another post incoming) to help delay the process of assaults on tanks and can move tanks forward as sacrifices. Follow this up with mass heavy flamers from the rest of the tanks and it may sound easy to run rings around an Imperial Guard army but they'll have something to say about it as well.

This in the end is what separates good Imperial Guard players from great Imperial Guard players, their movement. Although this could be said of any force as movement is really where games are tactically won and lost, I think it's even more important with Imperial Guard due to the limitations they suffer from in this regard.

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