Monday, December 5, 2011

The Changing Face of the Guard

Here is an old IG picture, from White Dwarf 109, from 1989.  It shows a Necromundan regiment, marching into battle against the forces of chaos.  It's an image that has stuck with me for a long time--these guys are marching in ordered ranks, carrying their lasguns at right shoulder shift arms, in the midst of battle.  It is reminiscent of Napoleonic warfare, or perhaps the American Civil War.

Here is a picture of Catachan guardsmen holding the line against a Tyranid attack, from the latest Codex.
While they still fly the their colors proudly, that's really all they have in common with the guardsmen in the picture above.   What you see in the original picture is something you'd never expect to see in the "modern" conception of the Imperial Guard--guardsmen marching into battle.  Guardsmen go into battle in Chimeras.  With Leman Russes trundling alongside.  And Baneblades and Stormhammers and Macharius tanks.  With Valkyries flying overhead.  And throw in a few Basilisks too.

Actually, who needs the guardsmen?  Just give me all their vehicles!

This isn't to say I don't think all of that stuff is awesome.  But the Imperial Guard have become a fully mechanized army.  What happened to the Imperial Guard being the most diverse force in the Galaxy?

Here's a selection of what we have available to us, and their inspiration:

Catachans:  Vietnam-era, i.e., Rambo.
Cadians:  Generic modern-era soldier, ranging from World War II to modern.
Tallarn:  Middle Eastern/World War II desert fighters.
Death Korps:  World War I Europe
Valhallans:  World War II Russian

What they do have in common is a 20th century aesthetic.  For a while the Praetorians bucked the trend with their Zulu Wars inspiration, but GW has since renounced this "heresy" and swept them under the rug.  Currently the Vostroyans are the only guardsmen that do not have a 20th Century aesthetic.  Even the Mordians, while they fight in their dress uniforms, have a 20th century aesthetic.

While the Imperial Guard codex talks about less advanced guardsmen, those from feral, medieval, or pre-industrial worlds, for the most part they are rarely if ever seen on the battlefield.  Indeed, GW does not provide any models for them.  The door is left open if you want to convert some Warhammer miniatures, but that's it...

What about the Scottish Highlanders at Culloden?  If IG players can paint camouflage patterns, surely we can paint plaid!
 The Battle of Culloden (1746) by David Morier
Just give those Jacobites some laspistols and they'd be good to go.  For that matter, why not use some of those redcoats, too.  Substitute lasguns for those muskets and you have some Imperial Guardsmen...

The point is, there are tons of really cool styles out there that would make some cool Imperial Guardsmen regiments.

I think the Vostroyans were an attempt at this, but the idea of Imperial Russians running around with tanks looks a bit absurd on its own, so they tried to give them a steampunk feel with their rebreathers and goggles.
I can't tell you the number of times I've come across regiments named "The 95th _____ Rifles" (fill in the blank with whatever planet name you want.  Every planet in the Imperium has one.  If GW sold a set of Guardsmen who looked like this...
...but with lasguns and Imperial eagles on their shakos, they'd be flying off the shelves...


Atreides said...

agreed, and this is why, in a couple of respects, the previous codex was better.

while i love the new codex and all the cool stuff we can now field, i do miss the doctrines a lot. the doctrine system allowed for real customisation of your regiment, not only in terms of game-play, but fluff too.

take the doctrine 'close order drill'. this gave you +1 LD and I when an entire squad was in base to base with itself, encouraging ranking up. or 'light infantry' and 'jungle fighters', encouraging a skirmishing style of play making use of terrain. Or my favourite, the 'warrior weapons' special equipment option, enabling feral guardsmen. this was even better when combined with the 'carapace armour' special equipment, which allowed plate armoured knights in space!

they really missed a trick by removing those, in my opinion.

plus i am left with a load of axe-wielding maniacs on round bases i can no longer use properly...

Admiral Drax said...

Aye, you're right to mourn the loss of variety in the guard. It's a real shame.

I love my guardsmen, but I sometimes feel embarrassed by having the stock 'Cadian' models, and wuite a few tanks even though I never play cheesey lists.

I usually play a mixed list - I tend to aim for the style you used to see two codexes ago - and actively avoid things like meltavets, but the last time I played a 'mech' list (a simple, non-upgunned armoured fist platoon) a casual observer at the club bemoaned the amount of tanks I had.

It's a fair point, because as the points values have diminished so much I feel tempted to take vehicles just so that the game is quicker!

Either way, the next game I played I took 1750pts' worth of infantry, just to make a point.

The game took bloody ages.

I wish I could afford a different aesthetic for my guard, but sadly - other than taking mixed lists - it's simply not an option.


The Lord of Excess said...

I came to love the GW universe(s) in 2000. The dark dystopian future with "only war" was a great place to play some games with miniatures :) Somewhat affordable miniatures (at least you could get good full army deals back then). The old guard was still around Rick, Andy, etc. etc. were still calling the shots. West coast gamesdays, GW run GTs, etc. etc.

Over the past six or so years that has largely changed for me, in my own experience. I know that many people have come into the hobby and have the exact opposite experience.

Another thing that really has struck me since the 3rd-4th ed days is GW has been hell bent on eradicating anything interesting or humorous in the 40K universe. They seem to revile any uniqueness in codexes (the old Chaos codex) and gone in for garish, odd stuff that seems only designed to sell with no considering for continuity, etc. (new necron codex). I've been lamenting this for years. Anytime I've mentioned that on the internet though I usually get shouted down by fanboys who blindly defend anyting GW does with the old "they are a company, they need to make money" yada yada defense. At my high water mark with GW I owned about (and I'm not exaggerating here) $20,000.00 to $25,000.00 worth of GW stuff. I spent years buying, buying, buying. I had a few dozen fully painted 3000++ point armies and mountains of stuff still in the box (literally a full spare room of my house). I've spent the last few years pretty stedily ebaying all that stuff off. I've converted most of my GW stuff into board games, camera stuff, and now with the last batch of GW stuff I have yet to sell ... I plan to get into 28 MM Romans, Old West, etc. I'll keep a little bit of Marine stuff and Chaos stuff probably, a beloved Ork army and probably my bugs. I do have to thank GW though because their steady price increases meant that I was able to pretty much break even, if not usually make a little profit on all my ebay auctions (even with fees, etc.). Now I'm down from seriously ... hundreds of thousands of points of GW stuff (hence my nickname "The Lord of Excess") to less than 20,000 points. I will likely not buy any more 40K stuff. I bought Space Hulk and Dreadfleet but other than that I haven't made a GW purchase in nearly two years. For me the GW ship long ago sailed and was lost at sea someplace. I don't hate GW though, they just have gone a different way from where I want to be in terms of gaming and mini games. They are far closer to collectible competitive stuff than to historical games and for me that is why I've moved away from them and towards historical style gaming. I have come to prefer games where I can buy the minis and the rules and own my game entirely, and do with it what I want. One could theoretically do that with GW, hell I tried, but people are going to play GW games for what they are at present.

Darkwing said...

I miss doctrines too. If they had unit options that allowed the additional variety (like the warrior weapons), I wouldn't mind their loss so much.

I don't think there's anything to be ashamed about in taking Cadians--my entire force is Cadians as well, and I have plenty of tanks (although no transports). But I think that Imperial Guard armies would be richer if non-Cadian-esque armies were supported better (and I mean more than just Catachans). I want more Tallarns, Valhallans, and Praetorians!

@The Lord of Excess
I also lament the loss of humor in the 40k Universe. The galaxy's a big place, so one would think there is room for it. The 40k Universe is a depressing place--we need some laughter to keep us from crying all the time.

Jack Badelaire said...

You might remember a few years ago I thought about building a Tallarn "light infantry" force using those cool doctrines. Shame they don't really exist anymroe, because I think a desert raider army with a sort of Special Forces / Afghan War twist would be really cool.

Alas, I don't think it'll ever happen...

Chorus Lucia said...

For look, take a look here (also a fellow Alliance player):

Vostroyans with some serious style. I played a 1500pt game against them last week and they're a gorgeous army, and holy crap is that dirigible (counts as a Vendetta) scary. He played mostly foot troops, with his only vehicles (the dirigible and a banewolf) coming in from reserve only in our last turn.