Sunday, August 23, 2009

Let's Talk Tactics: IG in Cities of Death

The next scheduled tournament next month is slated to be a Cities of Death tournament, at 1500 points. I am tickled pink, as I consider this to be my specialty! On ebay I saw two of the old-model Demolishers going for cheap, so I picked them up. I also have been constructing various ICs of differing kinds, and for this tournament I figured Straken would be appropriate.

Let's get into the meat and potatoes of the issue: IG are primarily a "shooty" army, right? So how in the sand-heck are they supposed to contend in a game that places emphasis on tight-quarters battles? Well, I have a few ideas to throw down-

Imperial Guard are PRIMARILY shooty, but they have plenty of options to be more effective in close combat. For example, Colonel Straken lends models within a certain distance of him to have the Counter Attack and Furious Charge special rules. This is in addition to his effectiveness as a combatant himself. As a WS 5, T 4, and S 6, he is not to be taken lightly in assaults. Heaping on the special rules he has access to, he truly becomes a monster in close combat. Thus, I considered him absolutely essential to a cityfight game.

Sometimes, the best way to approach a problem is not from the front, but from the sides! IG are not Space Marines; they don't need to bash their way through opposition all the time. Therefore, using units that have the ability to outflank can prove invaluable at hitting from an angle that one does not expect. There are several ways you can accomplish an outflanking maneuver- A) Take some scout units such as Scout Sentinels, and an Astropath to help ensure they make it on the side of the board they need to go on. B) The special character Usakar Creed lends the outflank ability to any single unit in your army. An outflanking Russ squadron or entire Infantry Platoon is pretty scary. C) Alternatively, if you take the SC Al'Rahem, any part of his Infantry Platoon MUST outflank. I see this as being the worst of the three choices, because it does not leave the decision to outflank up to you.

Those are general ideas that benefit the army strategically, but let's look at tactical decisions you can make in your list based on the units that are available to you:

Veterans can really come into their own in the dense confines of a city table. Melta-vets need short distances to be effective against armor anyway, so having terrain-dense boards like those that are frequently seen in Cities of Death can give them something to hide behind while they close for the kill. If Chimeras don't do much more than add a killpoint for you, then take them out and give the squad either Carapace or Forward Sentinels doctrines. The abundance of cover makes this one of the few instances that you would actually use the Forward Sentinels doctrine, mainly for the cover buff the stealth cloaks give. If you still prefer to have them safely tucked inside a Chimera, then I suggest adding the dozer-blade wargear to the transport for a mere 10 points. That may seem like it would add up, but it is far more costly to risk losing a Chimera to a poor Difficult-Terrain roll.

Now the fun kinds of tanks start showing their worth, as well. Demolishers, Executioners, and Punishers all have a higher rear armor value than any of the other Russ variants. Since assault attacks hit against the rear armor value, that one point makes a HUGE difference in a Cities of Death game where the enemy can be in assault range before you have a chance to fire. Additionally, the shorter effective range of these tank's main armaments make these better suited for this kind of fight.

Fast Attack slots are in high demand as always, and if you have the models, it is pretty much garunteed that the lowly Rough Riders or Sentinels are going to lose out to Vendettas, Valks, and Hellhound variants. The ability to simply cruise over the terrain with a Valk or Vendetta is an obvious advantage, and the amount of firepower those fliers can put out is pretty staggering as well. Add in some suicide Vets with Demolitions, or even Storm Troopers with Meltaguns for a quick grav-chute insertion, and you have a pretty top-notch contender for those FA slots. Your pocketbook might say otherwise, however... the Hellhound variants are slightly cheaper, and no less deadly. They lack any sort of transport capacity of course, but the array of short-ranged weaponry they mount is brutal. The one I am drooling over is the Devil Dog, or the Melta-hound as it is referred to by some. It sports a special kind of meltagun that spits out a blast template up to 24" that is truly terrifying. Another popular variant is the Bane Wolf, or Chem hound. It has an AP3 template, that wounds on 2+ automatically due to being a poison weapon. This has "MEQ-killer" written all over it. It definitely wrecks somebody's day, given the chance to get within template distance. The standard Hellhound seems to be less popular these days, as it's S 6 and AP 4 template are not quite as good as you would expect for a main-armament weapon. It's template, however, can be placed up to 12" away from the weapon's muzzle, making it one of the most range-effective of the 3 variants.

Artillery has been referred to as the "King of Battle" before, and in Cities of Death this becomes even more apparent. The advantage of firing while remaining out-of-sight is pretty obvious, but the real trick to the artillery is matching the power of the weapon for the job you need it for, as well as ensuring that the range contributes to that role as well. For example, the standard Basilisk might be fine for normal games that take place on a 4x6' board, where the high-power and long range are better utilized, but on a smaller 4x4' board that is the city-fight standard for Alpha and Gamma level games... the minimum range of 36" basically renders this artillery piece as a glorified gun emplacement: needing to shoot what it sees. In a Cityfight, the best bang for your buck is going to come from one of two artillery pieces, in this author's opinion: either the Medusa or the Griffon. The Medusa does not suffer from a minimum range due to not being an barrage weapon. The only weapon that comes close to the power of a Medusa is the Basilisk, which suffers from a massive minimum range requirement. If you are going to have to shoot over iron-sights anyway, it may as well be with the bigger gun, right? The Griffon is one of my preferred artillery pieces for a Cities of Death game, because it has a very short minimum range and it has the Accurate Bombardment special rule that allows a re-roll of the scatter dice. At S 6, AP 4, it is still going to threaten infantry as well as light armor (because remember that barrage weapons resolve hits as if they hit the side armor, to represent the weaker top armor), but deliver its payload much more efficiently. At a maximum range of 48", that is more than enough for Alpha and Gamma level boards.

Now let's talk about Infantry Platoons... In this game, you need to make a choice with your infantry platoons. Are they going to be mobile, and take objectives? Or are they going to be stationary, and lay down covering fire down open avenues? If the former, then you are going to want to take assault weapons (i.e. flamers and whatnot). If it is the latter, you will want to outfit some squads with Heavy Weapon teams such as lascannons, missile launchers, autocannons, or mortars. This is one of the few game types where the mortars can come into play rather effectively, so I like to add a squad of them to tuck out-of-sight to harass the opponent's infantry. For my squads, I kit them according to what weaponry I think my army is missing... usually Lascannons or Missile Launchers. If you are keeping them mobile, blob them together and have your flamers lead the way, putting enemies to the torch. If you are static and using gun-teams, then you have the choice of blobbing them for extra-padding for the gun teams, or keeping them separate to take different firing lanes. Either way you run them, you can use your PCS accordingly. The PCS can either stay close-by for order support, or it can do its own thing. Be forewarned, however, and take note that a PCS is only half the size of a single squad and has many less soldiers to use as ablative wounds. It is considerably more fragile than your other units.

And lastly, I like using Storm Troopers. True, they are a lot more expensive than vets and they are not scoring, but consider this: they have better armor, better standard weapons, the same ballistic skill, and they also have the benefit of their Special Operations rule. This allows them to do whatever you think will suit your strategic plan best- infiltrate and cause pinning on the first round of firing, reroll your scatter dice on a deepstrike, or move-through-cover and scout. This allows a great amount of tactical flexibility. I prefer to deepstrike them accurately in the opponents backfield, distracting him and causing his advance to falter. He has to make the choice of doubling back to defeat this threat quickly, or hoping that the Storm Troopers won't kill everything if he doesn't outright destroy it right away. The more special weapons you have in this squad, the harder it is for him to ignore... 2 meltaguns make them definitely not a unit he wants deepstriking behind a squadron of Leman Russes or an ordinance battery. And of course, the AP 3 hot-shots are tailor-made for puncturing Space Marine power armor, or those Tau suits. Sure its still only S 3, but think of how many wounds you would get with those regular lasguns if your opponent wasn't allowed to roll all those saves... And if your opponent has power armor troops, chances are he isn't making them stick to cover that much. Most SM or CSM players get used to not needing the cover unless faced with heavy weaponry, so it is likely that a deepstriking unit that can puncture their armor will catch them unaware.

Finally, we come to Stratagems. If you haven't already, pop over to GW's website and look up their stratagems specifically released for the IG in CoD. I'll just go over some of my favorites:

First up is Forward Spotters. This can give you a theme to your army by itself... basically any unit that has a voxcaster can "spot" for ordinance weapons... meaning that if a vox-equipped unit has LOS to the target of the barrage, then the barrage weapon can re-roll the scatter dice as if it is twin-linked. This stratagem can be a huge help to armies that rely on mortars and ordinance batteries. It can even be of use to a Master of Ordinance! It is listed under the Dirty Tricks category.

Second is less useful, but a neat idea for conversionists or kit-bashers. It's called a Killdozer Tracked Ordinance device, and it is under the Armory category. Basically its a bomb on wheels that can escort "an elite infantry unit" and be used to blow up a single city ruin. I could see where this could have its uses, but it wouldn't be my first choice.

Third up is a Key Building, called a Voxbooster. If an officer is inside the building, this device adds an extra 12" inches to his command range. Can you imagine Creed giving orders up to 36" away? Especially on a smaller 4'x4' board, this could be invaluable.

Fourth is another Key Building, called a Communications Relay. As long as a friendly unit occupies it, the Array grants the player the ability to re-roll any of his reserve rolls he wishes. It says that nearly word-for-word on the website, so I see that this might be interpreted differently, but to me it is pretty clear that you only should get ONE reroll of a reserve roll per turn.

Fifth is definitely unique... but it would take some uniquely-converted miniatures to pull off. Its called Lascutters, and it is part of the Armory category. It allows any infantry unit to be outfitted with a single Lascutter, which in turn allows the unit to move through an impassable terrain feature to the other side by treating it as difficult terrain, with the condition that the entire unit must roll a high enough difficult terrain test to move through it in one turn. No stopping in the middle! Again, the rules are kind of vague, but I am sure you can't use the cutter to move through an impossible water feature! Using your head and playing fair, not being "That Guy", and generally being a good sport will show its valor here.

There are a few more, but they are not my favorites, so go on over to the site and check them out.

So, to Recap:
You can gear you're army to have more assault-proficient units.
You can opt for avoiding direct confrontation and approach from the flanks
Keep in mind that the units you choose will be fighting in closer quarters and at shorter ranges, and that line of sight will often be obstructed.
Also keep in mind there will be abundant cover, and to utilize it to your advantage.
There are a wide variety of stratagems available to Guard players, as written on GW's website article "Imperial Guard: Cities of Death Tactics."

Well, that concludes this in-depth look at Imperial Guard and their uses in Cities of Death games. Did I leave anything out? Feel free to add to this post by commenting!

Until next time,


  1. Great article. You don't see enough tactica on the expansions.

    One correction, though. The standard HellHound does negate cover saves. It is treated as a normal template weapon after it is placed. Normal template weapons ignore cover (see pg 29 BRB).

    Personally, I field the HH and BW with a melta on the BW. One annoys MEQs, the other kills them. Both, working together, are wonderful for clearing buildings.

  2. Thanks for noticing that... it took me 2 and a half hours to write this post so some of the later paragraphs were in the wee hours of the morning... I edited that bit out. Good bit about the putting the multi-melta on the BW... I hadn't really noticed that option until you mentioned it!

  3. When you put the multi-melta on the BW you can use it as the primary weapon. The chem cannon is S2 - it counts as a defensive weapon. So you can jump forward 12", shoot the MM at some armor, then shoot the chem cannon at the armor and "miss" - just have part of the template touch the armor and the rest of the template covering the troops beside or in front of the armor.

    It's a pretty mean machine.



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