Space Marines Reviews: HQs Part 14: Honor Guard

Image by Jorsch

Image by Jorsch

The unit that is generating a lot of buzz due to their dramatic points decrease is up for review: Honor Guard!

Honor Guard: the men in black protecting the Chapter Master in battle and each a bad ass in his own right. Last edition they rocked almost the same rules, but were too pricey to take in most serious lists. This edition they’ve seen a massive points decrease but is it enough to make them a competitive choice?


Honor Guard are armed to the teeth, and pack some seriously impressive kit allowing them to be a potent assault unit and force multiplier. They can only be taken with a Chapter Master, but hey, that is hardly a setback. They weigh in at a modest points cost (5 melta bombs per model) and can pack a wallop but their lack of an invul save is the only thing that holds them back from being a premiere assault unit.


  • 2+ (Sweeeeeet!)
  • Bolt Pistol
  • Bolter
  • Power Weapon (Sweeeet!)
  • Grenades
  • Options for: Relic Blades on the squad for only 10 pts per model, and a Chapter Banner (+1 Attack, wowzers!) or the Standard of the Emperor Ascendant which is pricey (65pts) but gives all faction Marines within 12″ rerolls to morale and pinning checks, units within 6″ get Hatred (wow!) and add 1 to assault results, lastly, the unit bearing it causes Fear. Expensive, but solid.
  • The Chapter Champion can swap his Bolter for a close combat weapon, or take a Thunder Hammer.
  • The unit can take a Drop Pod, Rhino or Razorback dedicated transport.

Special Rules:

  • Chapter Tactics
  • Honor or Death: The Chapter Champion must always accept or take a challenge. Chaos in disguise. You all know how I feel about this rule by now. It sucks. Taking away player choice is stupid. Forcing an expensive model into a fight it has almost no chance of winning is stupid. If any Space Marines is so prideful as to enter into an unwinnable fight just so that he didn’t look like a pussy in front of his friends, he’s stupid, too.


Honor Guard are almost an exceptional unit. They shoot, they assault, they have good defense, they’re great. However, they’re not exceptional. Why? No invul save, good shooting but not outstanding, and the Champ has to challenge or accept a challenge. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is still a unit that is 100% worth considering in an army, but it has its limitations. Those limitations can be played around though, and this unit can be a great addition to a list but isn’t as overtly powerful as it at first appears.

With their kit, these guys are just insanely points efficient. They have a 2+ which is better this edition than it’s ever been due to the changes to AP in HtH and the reduction in general of low AP weapons as the general meta shifts towards more infantry. A 2+ means that to small arms fire, an Honor Guard is twice as durable as a Space Marine (6 averages wounds as opposed to 3 for a kill). So in that context, they’re already cheaper than 2 Marines and showing why they’re so incredibly efficient. They also hit that AP2 theshhold that means you are protected from Power Weapons, Krak Missiles, etc. It is really powerful, but AP2 and 1 obviously, still smoke you and with crazy combo Riptides about that ignore cover and don’t miss, that is no bueno.

Secondly, they all have better than veteran status with 2 base attacks plus 2 combat weapons and Ld10, which is amazing. That means you get 4 attacks on the charge (5 if you take the Chapter Banner), and they are unlikely to run away. With their power weapons, these guys can really beat this dog doo out of what they assault so long as they can swing. And, further, you again see their crazy points efficiency due to having a power weapon and LD10, which is better than a Veteran Sarge. Again, at less points than 2 basic Marines cost.

They’re very flexible with their choice of kit. As they get Power Weapons; that means Axe, Sword, Maul, or Lance (although the Lance well and truly blows). You can also toss a few Relic Blades in their (or on all of them if you want!) and a T.Hammer on the Champ or give him an additional close combat weapon which means if you take an Axe, you can take another melee weapon to swing at initiative if you choose to. You get a unit that has the ability to gear up to specialize in a given roll, or to generalize to fight all opponents. That is just incredible. Considering a Sarge pays 15pts for just a Power Weapon and isn’t nearly as good, again, you can see how crazy points efficient these guys are. Plus, with Bolters, they shoot well, too! Plop them in a drop pod, Razorback or Rhino, get into position, hop out, double tap, then charge. Solid. Give them the Chapter Banner to boost their already considerable damage output (and at the cost of one Honor Guard for the banner, you get +1 attack for all of them plus any other unit within 12″ gets to reroll morale and pinning checks, crazy!) go to the next level. Their potential damage output is staggering and they’re considerable force multipliers with the Banners they can bring.

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. These guys have several rules (or lack thereof) you have to think about when considering how to actually use them on the table top.

For one, they do not have an invul save. That means that they are very vulnerable to anything with AP2 weapons. Anyone remember 3rd ed Terminators that didn’t have an invul? Yeah, you never saw them on the table. It means that in an exchange with a comparable unit that does have that save, the Honor Guard come out on the losing end. Hammernators for example, even costing more, will typically beat them to death in an even points fight, although they will suffer casualties in return. This is compounded by their very average Initiative 4, which is nothing to get excited about. It means they will typically swing simultaneously at best with most units and second against many of the premiere assault units in the game. What this means is that the truly powerful assault units  will still whip your ass in a fight. Monstrous Creatures, and high Initiative units with either AP2 or Rending attacks will have the advantage over you and often at a lower points cost/greater speed/etc. Now, your 2+ is going to help a lot to mitigate that and often the Honor Guard will at least give as good as they get, but they won’t be the dominating powerhouse as they appear to be with their stats at first glance.

Secondly, their Champ HAS to challenge or accept. Boo. I have been over multiple times why this is so crummy, but for completeness’ sake, here we go again. Losing choice is bad. Challenges are designed to be a narrative driving rules mechanic in which two players pit their heroic or nefarious warriors against one another, let the bones roll and have fun seeing what happens. In reality, with a game based on funky math where some characters have almost no chance of winning a fight, players game the system for maximum advantage. What you get is an exploited rules mechanic wherein you use challenges to either prolong or speed up a combat to end it on a chosen turn, or to protect or remove a character form a fight. It is a tactical exercise, not usually forging a narrative. So, when you take that choice away from the controlling player it is easily manipulated by the other player for advantage. Having a pricey model that while yes, is potent, he isn’t good enough by any stretch of the imagination to actually win a tough fight.

For example, you charge Abbadon with your unit, you HAVE to challenge with the Champion, and Abby accepts, you now do not get to attack with any of your Honor Guard who lose their charge bonus, Abby slaughters the Champ safe from counter attack, then kills half the unit in the next turn and beats their asses. Or, a flying Daemon Prince or Greater Daemon charges you, challenges, you have to accept, kills him in his turn which keeps him safe from shooting in your turn as he stays locked in combat, then kills the rest of the unit in your turn, freeing him to assault another unit in his turn. Also, a model with a lot of attacks, such as the Chapter Champion, can only kill one model in a challenge (who often only has one wound) thereby actually blunting his punch. A lot of the time, your opponent WANTS you to be in a challenge as it is better for him. It is stupid. That is a limiting factor on this unit as smart players will use it against you. He has choice, you do not.

They are an expensive, non-scoring unit. They can kick the crap out of the other guy but they aren’t taking objectives.

So what to do? Set your expectations accordingly. These guys are not meant to kill the truly powerful assault units in the game. Now, that is not to say that if you were to charge a powerful model (assuming your stupid Champ was not in the equation) and be willing to trade models for the kill or go into a unit of studly assaulters and grind them down, they can, but you will often be subsequently and dramatically diminished in capability to the point where your unit is neutered. In other words, a Pyrrhic victory. What these guys do extremely well is destroy light and heavy infantry, moderate MCs and Characters and tanks (properly equipped). That is where they shine and if anything, are overkill.

For example, you send them into Chaos Marines, your champ should kill theirs or at least die with him, and your unit butchers theirs with few if any casualties. Rinse and repeat. These guys do very well in that function. At their reasonable price point, you can realistically expect them to take down a lot of units in the course of the game if played intelligently. This is where they shine.

Secondly, if you really want to use them as a primary assault unit you should run them with the Chapter master that unlocks them. He is there to tank wounds, provide a pseudo invul save (by tanking wounds) step into challenges for the Champ if he can win them (yet another reason to take that Shield Eternal), freeing up the champ to slice and dice, etc. He takes them to the next level and helps to work around their weaknesses. Plus, the Chapter Banner makes him even more deadly than he already was.

You definitely want to deliver this unit into combat reliably which to me means a Land Raider. The Rhino or Razorback isn’t bad as they shoot decently, but you want to be able to extend their assault range which is what the LR does. Again, a Storm Raven also does this but strong AA or bad reserve rolls really hurts this delivery vehicle in comparison to the LR for me.

A drop pod works well, too. Just be wary of facing armies with powerful AP2 shooting like Tau, who also have powerful interceptor and can wipe the unit before it does a damn thing.

Alternatively you can consider an ally with an invul Save for them like Azrael or a Power Field Dark Angels Libby (although remember that the Power Field works on enemy units, too). That helps so much. From there you can walk up the field with roughly Terminator resiliency, or take Raven Guard CTs for Scouts to get upfield quicker or Outflank, or attach a character that provide the same USR. Tigurius (or any Divination Psyker) can also possibly get Forwarning (4++for the unit) or buff them with awesome Divination powers. Biomancy can also be solid with Endurance, as can Invisibility through Telepathy.

These guys do great with Raven Guard and White Scars CTs (Hit and Run is SO good), as well as Iron Hands (6+ FnP) and to a lesser extent Salamanders (Master-crafted weapon on the champ and defense against Flame weapons), Ultramarines (all the Doctrines benefit them) and Imperial Fists (reroll 1’s to hit with Bolters). Also, obviously, Black Templars love these guys as they buff the Champ a ton and Crusader and Adamantium Will on them is really good. Their Banners also mesh super well with foot Black Templars, buffing all nearby units considerably.

Alternatively, you could run then cheap with a banner in a vehicle to simply buff nearby units and to serve as a light counter assault unit. Not the best use maybe but in a combo list that really takes advantage of their buffs, it could be very useful for a small points investment.

In the end you have an incredibly points efficient unit that has a huge potential top-end damage output and huge force multiplication capability but that has some fairly serious weaknesses that need to be considered before putting them in your list. While they can hit like a freight train, they also stand to get smoked before even swinging in a fight or getting to the fight against the wrong opponent. Think about how you are going to get them where needed, how you deal with overpowering assault units they can’t fight well on their own, and how many points you want to invest into them in order to fulfill their given roll. As I almost always say, plan to be flexible. Take a Chapter Master that can go with them if needed when facing units they can’t take on on their own, and have them hunt units they can realistically overpower while building elements into your list that can handle those things they cannot. If you can balance that, you will have great results with these guys. If not, they will be massively disappointing.


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

21 Responses to “Space Marines Reviews: HQs Part 14: Honor Guard”

  1. Thomas September 27, 2013 10:07 pm #

    I really like honour guard but I can’t decide how big a unit I want to run with my blinged out chapter master. I drop them in. I mostly play 1500 or 1750 points. The points quickly add up and they, like you said, don’t score.

    • Reecius September 28, 2013 11:00 am #

      Yeah, they are expensive and they can be a bit much if you start pouring the points in. I would run mine with a mix of Mauls and Axes with the Banner, personally.

      • Thomas September 28, 2013 12:59 pm #

        I can’t see myself maxing out a squad but I’m not sure how few I can bring. Don’t want to bring too many or my CM with teeth pf terra will loose rampage. Don’t know if 4-5 will be enough.

        • Reecius September 28, 2013 1:11 pm #

          Perhaps switch to the Burning Blade or a Hammer on the CM and don’t worry about it? I think the unit needs numbers for endurance or risk losing your punch early, but as you noted, they get pricey rapidly.

  2. Black Blow Fly September 28, 2013 3:11 am #

    I like the command squad better – power axes, Storm shields , grav guns, a medic and bikes… Way more powerful. So I’ll be running a captain instead of the chapter master .

    • Reecius September 28, 2013 10:21 am #

      Or both! Khan and a Chapter Master is a sick combo.

  3. Thomas September 28, 2013 10:13 am #

    The chapter champion can replace his boltgun with a close combat weapon, not a second power weapon.

    • Reecius September 28, 2013 10:21 am #

      Ah yes, good catch, I misread it.

    • Bigpig September 28, 2013 10:50 am #

      I still don’t understand this one. What’s the benefit? He already has a pistol.

      • Reecius September 28, 2013 11:02 am #

        If you take an Axe you can also take a sword to swing at I4 is my only solution to that. Or you give him the hammer and then he also has a sword and pistol to swing at I4 with full attacks.

        • Thomas September 28, 2013 1:01 pm #

          Good against farseers, daemons and stuff like that.

          • Reecius September 28, 2013 1:12 pm

            Yeah, that is what I was thinking, too.

  4. David September 29, 2013 11:56 am #

    I will bring Khan and a allied eternal chapter master from iron hands to a tournament in a month (1500p, heavy comp). Can’t fit neither a bike command squad nor a honor guard at that level (as I also bring a scouting land raider with grav centurions), but at 1850+ I would consider it. Push the raider and the command squad and ICs up hard and the droppod the honor guard behind the lines, that would present most armies with a problem…

    • Reecius September 29, 2013 12:35 pm #

      Yeah, that is a savage combo, we run similar builds here at our shop and it works really well.

      We have considered the Scouting LR with Cents, but haven’t tried it yet. How are you liking it?

      • David September 29, 2013 12:58 pm #

        Really good results actually. In dawn of war deployment, for instance, their threat range covers the whole table, and they will erase a lot of otherwise rock solid units in one salvo.

        If you go first you have such great board control (maybe not against daemons) and even if you go second there is, in the current meta, a quite slim risk to loose your raider. When the centurions are out, I try to make my CM steal all the focus, so they use to survive some turns.

        Also, this way of fielding has a lot of synergy with the rest of the army (the bikes). Sure, my iron hand eternal CM can tank my bike squad quite reasonably, but against say Tau or
        Eldar with misfortune, he can’t take it. In these scenarios I have had success with flat outing my raider in front of the CM to shield them (especially this works well against psyker heavy Eldar). I tank my tank IC with a tank, so to speak.

        • Reecius September 29, 2013 3:39 pm #

          A lot of points but it sounds solid. I will have to try that out myself. We had considered it too, and I think.there is a lot of room for synergy with other elements in the marine book, it’s just a pricey combo.

  5. Akaiyou October 9, 2013 2:46 pm #

    The Chapter Banner does NOT grant +1 attack to all units within 12″ of the bearer, it gives +1 attack to models in his unit only.

    • Reecius October 9, 2013 4:19 pm #

      It does indeed, I forgot to add the rest of the description in there and it came out a bit confusing, thanks for the correction.

      • Akaiyou October 10, 2013 4:31 pm #

        No problem I had actuallly came to read this particular tactica for the sole purpose of getting some thoughts the banners available to see if they were even worth it.

        But you mentioned them as a big buff to all nearby units which i noticed was on the misunderstanding that it grants +1 attack to all units withing 12″ (similar to some of those DA banners)

        But now that we clarified that this is not the case, what are your thoughts on the honour guard with banner?

        Also remember they can instead take that Chapter Relic banner is that thing even worth it at all for them? These are the questions i was hoping to get answered here. Still got my fingers croxxed

  6. Kastor Krieg October 19, 2013 4:25 pm #

    > Plop them in a drop pod, Razorback or Rhino, get into position, hop out, double tap, then charge. Solid.

    It’s more “get into position, get out, double tap, take a round of shooting to the face or a charge, tap once if you still can, then charge”. Not so solid, better served out of a Land Raider / Stormraven.

  7. SOLOYWAG May 30, 2014 9:32 am #

    If you are one of those people who hate the rule that forces you to accept and issue a challenge, you may (somewhat) compensate for it with BT chapter tactics.
    Mine chapter champion has a good duelling history(for a 1W character lol). he beated up every 1W character he encountered, Tigurius and once killed an Eldar autarch with that Instant death, rending fearless blade, while the CM and the rest beated up the other jetbikes which would’ve ran away but i caught them with Crusader USR… cca. 600 pts were sweeping advanced

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