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Friday, April 29, 2011

Armies in 5th: Imperial Guard Part 3: Bubble-wrap & Parking Lots

In the last article for Imperial Guard we looked at their mobility and some potential issues which can arise compared to other armies due to a series of design concepts. Remember, Imperial Guard aren't immobile but without proper understanding and protection of key aspects of the Imperial Guard army (i.e. side AV10 of Chimeras or parking lots), an Imperial Guard player can find themselves quickly out-manoeuvred and on the back foot with their army.

One of the key ways to protect Imperial Guard tanks is with infantry or a bubble-wrap. Specifically, this infantry bubble-wrap protects the backfield tanks such as artillery pieces or what is commonly referred to as the parking lot. It can also apply to midfield simply by having units jump out and protect your tanks there. Less effective as your midfield tanks are closer to the enemy regardless and you may often be sacrificing a more important unit to do this (i.e. meltavets) but it is a viable option and helps you maintain movement BEHIND the bubble-wrap. This is where a lot of players go wrong.

We all know the basic premise of bubble-wrap and if you don't, here's a crash course (skip this paragraph if you do). Tanks are highly vulnerable to two things: meltaguns and high strength attacks in combat against stationary vehicles. There are obvious extensions of this (i.e. any gun which can easily defeat high armor and improves damage result due to AP1) but both of these attacks are able to virtually negate armor and generate penetrating hits. Both however, are close ranged which is a huge drawback and makes them easier to defend against. This is where bubble-wrap comes in. Bubble-wrap is a infantry squad (in the case of Imperial Guard, it is generally combined infantry platoons with meltaguns, a Commissar and autocannons) placed in front of the tanks to prevent meltaguns getting 2D6" penetration (or even be out of ranged altogether) and stop assaults on tanks by being in the way. It also provides a backfield scoring unit for the Imperial Guard player, has tank shock defenses with meltaguns and shooting potential with several autocannons. In short it's a scoring screen which protects your tanks and contributes to the overall battle.

What bubble-wrap then does is increase the survivability of the tanks you have wrapped and importantly, allows increased mobility of backfield parking lots. Bubble-wrap will limit your forward movement but often the backfield tanks such as artillery don't wish to go in that direction but when opponents begin to close in, the bubble-wrap can delay opponents as the parking lot remobilises laterally. There is lost firepower here as discussed before but importantly the bubble-wrap provides protection for the parking lot and if necessary, the parking lot can move away from the threats whilst maintaining effective fighting trim.

However, the forward elements of an Imperial Guard army really need to avoid bubble-wrapping themselves in early on as this really restrains the armies ability to move into midfield (outside of Vendetta/Valkyrie units but moving them closer to the enemy brings more guns to bear on them). For this reason you want to ensure you don't bubble-wrap these units as you will significantly hurt your mobility and whilst it will make your vehicles tougher and it's harder for your opponent to get side shots (more oblique angles), your opponent is more capable of controlling the board unless you literally shoot them off it.

Remember as well you can use this tactic in midfield to protect your tanks at the cost of a forward infantry unit. This is an obvious and immediate trade-off which needs to be considered and can be quite potent in the right army (look at MVB's Imperial Guard for example where the Veterans are actually capable in combat and there are supporting units around which are also capable in combat). This generally will save the tank whilst sacrificing the infantry squad which can be used for many reasons (further protection of other squads, protection of the squad inside the tank, mobility, etc.) and should be deployed at the time rather than deliberately set up like a backfield bubble-wrap.


Bubble-wrapping backfield tanks allows the Imperial Guard player to deploy them in a parking lot which provides numerous advantages. The bubble-wrap importantly provides assault defenses against these often stationary tanks so multi-assaults on them don't wreck multiple vehicles in one go. This deployment also protects these tanks from close-ranged guns and generally delays the opponent's ability to deal with them. All that being said, this deployment isn't mandatory as there are numerous advantages for not deploying in a parking lot (greater fields of fire, easier to get clear shots with some tanks, generate more fire lanes, improved mobility, etc.) so these need to be weighed against each other. The bubble-wrap unit will often find a use however even if it is wrapping just a couple of tanks.

This process can also be done mid-game in a more aggressive manner to protect other tanks with any infantry unit. This shouldn't be done as a set up however as bubble-wrap will hinder forward movement but can provide mobility escape routes laterally across the board. In the end bubble-wrapping is not a necessary part of an Imperial Guard army but the combination of protecting tanks from close ranged weaponry and assaults, providing them with safe lateral movement and allowing them to deploy in parking lot like formations whilst also providing fire support and scoring opportunities for an Imperial Guard army makes them a valuable asset to the army (wow that was a long sentence). Regardless of whether or not you take a dedicated bubble-wrap unit, protecting your tanks with infantry to preserve mobility for other units (and thus scoring ability and firepower) is an essential part of the army.

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