Wither Art Thou, Astra Militarum?

Hello all,

Rawdogger here and today I wanted to talk about a 40k army near and dear to my heart, the Astra Militarum. With nothing more than a lasgun in their hands and a whispered prayer to the Emperor on their lips, who can say they don’t have a soft spot for the plucky humans as they try and defend humanity from the horrors of the 40k universe?


Recently, I’ve noticed a sharp downturn in the presence of the Astra Militarum in competitive events. Even as three sources have become the norm in ITC competitive tournament play I have been seeing less and less of them at big name tournaments throughout the country. I remember not too long ago we were seeing a lot of people rocking the Lascannon blobs with Ignore Cover orders and Pask in Leman Russ Punishers giving orders to split fire an Executioner. What could be the cause of their decline in their attendance? I thought I’d take a few moments to highlight some of the reasons I believe we are not seeing Astra Militarum on the tabletops of competitive tournaments.

They Ain’t THAT Cheap – Guardsmen clock in at 5 points per model so taking them in any significant amount will start to add up really quickly. The most popular method of taking your standard Guardsmen is to take multiple infantry squads and blobbing them up to make gigantic units but a blob of 50 Guardsmen will run you 250 points before adding any heavy or special weapons to the squads. Their Leman Russ tanks also clock in at a minimum of 120 points and the super popular 5th edition Vendetta now costs 170 points for 3 twin-linked Lascannon shots from a model that won’t come in when you want it to and will hit twice if you are lucky.

What’s an Armor Value? – Let’s face it, an AV of 14 don’t mean JACK in a game that spams grav and D slangin shenanigans in every other army on the table top. As stated above, the armored behemoths of the Astra Militarum aren’t exactly cheap in the points department and when you have so much long range armor shredding weapons on the board the poor Leman Russ Battle Tanks are looking less and less appealing.

Bigger Sometimes Isn’t Better – A common retort by Astra Militarum players regarding competitive game play is that they can drown their opponents in bodies. While they definitely can, and have access to Fearless due to Priests, any good player will just tar pit the unit with a hard to kill, fearless model on their own. Yes, your Guardsmen might eventually grind their opponent down via sergeants with power axes or other such things but your opponent will be tap dancing around your blobs while you do so.

They’re REALLY Easy to Kill – While the ability to blob up your Guardsmen does add a degree of surviveability the fact that a minimum squad of Eldar Jetbikes with Scatter Lasers can shred 8-10 of them per round does not bode well for the squishy humans. Blobbing up in the backfield only encourages death by barrage or drop podding flame templates.

Glass Cannons – A large part of the problem with Astra Militarum is that they hit hard but crumble as soon as any moderate firepower is leveled back at them. Take the Wyvern for example. This bad boy hits hard with 4 twin-linked strength 4 cover ignoring templates that have Shred for some reason. That sounds amazing but I’ve never had one of them survive more than 2 turns before their AV12 open-topped asses got blasted to kingdom come.


I think what it really boils down to is the age old issue of Codex Creep. Sadly, the Astra Militarum are just out-shot and over costed compared to the new codices we’ve seen released in the past year. When you have drop podding grav spam, D-slangin Gargantuan Creatures with a toe in cover, free weapons and transports, and whatever the hell the thing InControl brought to the BAO is you get a sullen acceptance that the Astra Militarum just can’t hang in the current competitive environment.  With the next codex release we need to see Guardsmen heavy weapon squads that clock in at around 10 points per model, a way that Guardsmen can  increase squad sizes without blobbing together, and weaponry that really speaks to the firepower that the Astra Militarum are known to possess.  Until then, I’ll keep plugging away with my Catachans and Steven Seagal (Stormlord) but that’s only because I’ve stopped trying to compete in competitive events long ago.

So what do you guys think? Are the Astra Militarum truly outclassed in the competitive 40k environment? What are some of your best tips and tricks when using your Astra Militarum armies?


About Jason

Raw Dogger, aka, Phat J Sleaze (formerly of the Booty Boyzzz) is a highly opinionated, questionably skilled 40k enthusiast. When not working at Frontline Gaming, he can be found down on Jabroni Avenue.

42 Responses to “Wither Art Thou, Astra Militarum?”

  1. Twitch July 16, 2015 12:30 am #

    Guardsmen ARE 5 points per model

    • Reecius July 16, 2015 7:46 am #

      Well, technically no, they aren’t. They’re actually 4pts per model plus the mandatory 10pt sarge upgrade. So, effectively they come out to 5ppm, but that’s not the actual cost of a Guardsman.

      • abusepuppy July 16, 2015 8:42 am #

        Guard don’t pay for sergeants, generally speaking- compare an Infantry Squad (50pts, 10 bodies including sergeant) to a Special Weapon Squad (30pts, 6 bodies no sergeant.) Now, in cases where their characters can issue Orders (i.e. the PCS and CCS) this isn’t strictly true, but in those cases you are really paying for the Orders, not the character.

    • Raw Dogger July 16, 2015 7:57 am #

      Oops, yeah misprint. I’ve edited it back to the correct points cost. Thanks!

  2. Nightman July 16, 2015 12:53 am #

    Playing against them it feels like their biggest issue is bs3 and no mobility. I think the blob still has potential (with no heavy weapons so they can move around) as an allied detachment, but they are getting weaker for each codex release 🙁

    • Trueknight July 17, 2015 7:03 am #

      Agreed. Their main issue is lack of mobility. There is no way to score Maelstrom objectives on a turn to turn basis like other armies can. The standard gunline just does not do it anymore.

      I love my guard army and have 7k of points mostly painted at that. But come to tournament time I leave them at home cause they have no chance of winning.

      At best they can be an ally for space marines and hang out as backfield holders

  3. Samuel Sanchez July 16, 2015 3:08 am #

    Guards also lack meaningful formations. We are still playing 6th Ed in a 7th Ed game.

  4. Blackfel July 16, 2015 3:29 am #

    You summed up the problem with those two magic words: Codex Creep. When 7th edition first came out, Games Workshop did a great job toning down the power of some of the worst armies of 6th edition. For a while there, they stuck to their guns, keeping everyone on a relatively even keel. Unfortunately, all it takes is for one bad apple to spoil the bunch, and after the Eldar codex dropped, it was off to the races.

    If you play without the formations, some of that excessive power disappears (though there are exceptions, of course!) but whoever came up with the idea of “freebies” at a GW staff meeting deserves a raise. Whoever it was figured out a way around two problems at the same time: how do you get people who have been collecting for years or decades to open up their wallets, and how do we work around the 1850/2000 point limit that is the standard for most games? Easy enough to do! Formations! We’ll let them take their regular army, then give them 720 points of extra equipment/vehicles. Technically, it’s still a 2000 point game, but now our customers have to buy 13 Razorbacks that we haven’t been able to give away.

    It’s brilliant on their part, and I wholeheartedly approve, especially since they don’t mind redoing a codex during the same edition. Personally, I can’t wait to see what goodies they will give my Dark Eldar when the “Commoragh” book comes out!

    • Raw Dogger July 16, 2015 7:53 am #

      I agree that from a marketing and sales standpoint the ‘free points’ angle is brilliant. The amount of people I hear or read comments from stating that they were taking this and that and wow FREE POINTS makes me shake my head. Those points aren’t REALLY free, are they?

      • Dom July 16, 2015 8:25 am #

        Yea I never really understood that. So okay, you get some free stuff, which is obviously cool.
        But are “free points” some kind of magic superpower?
        I think not, because I’d still rather buy some overpowered-yet-way-too-cheap unit (say a Wyvern for 65 points or a Wraithknight) and can think of it in a way “this thing is so powerful that I essentially just got 50/100/whatever free points”.

        Points values are just some arbitrary numbers somehow meant to provide balance, not always successfully so.
        Guess why nobody cared about the first formation to actually get free upgrades (Blood Angels Vanguard/Sternguard in Shield of Baal)?
        Cause the regularly priced weapon options would be way too expensive to begin with, which is why the Vanguard only pays 5 pts instead of 15 for a power weapon with the new Codex:SM.

        • Chosen of Khorne July 16, 2015 4:39 pm #

          The same brilliant marketer that released imp knights as a non-lord of war with its own codex to foster acceptance of the previously disallowed super heavy class, and then rerelease the book changing it all to the way it should have been originally, as LoW. Now that everyone has bought one, and some people have whole armies, the community is reluctant to going back to the no LoW meta, which promotes ongoing sales of the previously rarely used expensive models.

          GW is not good at writing balanced rules, but they are good at using the meta to make people buy more stuff by releasing lists with more free stuff (through free wargear or summoning) to make you buy more models to fill that same 1850 point list.

          • Adam (Thediceabide.com) July 17, 2015 6:09 am

            That’s an issue with the community, not the game. Mechanically being a LoW makes literally zero difference RAW, as they FAQ’d all the bonuses for killing/facing LoW out of the regular game. There was to bait and switch by GW, and thr community could choose to fix their own silly restrictions, but would rather instead nerf IK… You know, because they’re OP, lol.

      • Jural July 16, 2015 2:18 pm #

        Yes, they are REALLY free for some lists. In other lists, they allow you flexibility you never had previously, or at least more bodies/ hull points to remove for the same point cost.

        The best example I know of is drop pods- an all podding SM list can have saved 500 or more points now, and has a larger selection of OS units. For real free! 😉

  5. Lord Krungharr July 16, 2015 3:43 am #

    Seems like the AstraM should still be good allies for competitive armies though. I mean just getting the three Priests to buff assault terminators could be pretty awesome, and have the vet squads in drop pods? Sounds good to me. I always had great luck with three death strikes on a sky shield. Blob squads are annoying to use and never worked for me though. Keep trying, gotta be some crazy combos yet undiscovered!

  6. Dom July 16, 2015 6:04 am #

    How are you talking about Guardsmen costing 10 points per model and you wanting them to cost 5? Isn’t that exactly their price?
    Or are you already factoring in all kinds of upgrades for weapons and attached characters?

    I find Guardsmen to be reasonably priced, especially with Veterans coming about for only one extra point per model.
    The problems lie elsewhere imo (lack of mobility, bad BS, oftentimes fragile). But particularly I dislike how you’re encouraged to blob (both Infantry and Tanks) in order to facilitate on psychic powers, orders, joining characters with their special rules, and so on.
    I think the Guard infantry should have many small units rather than one big blob plus some support.

    • Raw Dogger July 16, 2015 7:45 am #

      Oh duh, I fixed that point cost thanks for pointing it out! I agree that lack of mobility is a key issue and I should have brought it up in the article. Reece likes to counter by saying that you can take Veterans in Tauroxes but that’s 50 points for a AV 11 vehicle that will kill more than half your squad when it goes nuclear.

    • westrider July 16, 2015 8:12 am #

      I’ve always felt the opposite on the blobs. I thought it was a really nice way of emphasizing the IG’s centralized nature and awkward command and control structure compared to Marines, plus the fact that they’re weak enough that a small Platoon is more or less equivalent to a Marine Squad in actual effectiveness. Really, what I want from them is to be able to fold my PCS, and maybe HWTs into the blobs.

      That said, the overpriced nature of the basic Guard Squad in the current environment (should at least go down to just being 45 Points, the Vet Sarge isn’t worth an extra 10) definitely hurts. A small Platoon (PCS+2 Squads) with some gear should probably come out about the same as a kitted-out Marine Squad.

  7. PrimoFederalist July 16, 2015 6:30 am #

    Good article! I’m not a competitive gamer (although I’d like to be – unfortunately the work schedule doesn’t facility), but I did expect to see someone crack the IG nut on the competitive circuit shortly after the latest codex came out.

    There are (were) so many good options in the codex that it seemed only a matter of time before someone optimized a TAC list.

    That dream was shattered, of course, with the sudden and inexplicable introduction of Necrons, Eldar, and Space Marines. I was GW’s #1 apologist as they released Orks, Space Wolves, Dark Eldar to be very stream-lined and toned down, fully expecting the Eldar, Tau, and Space Marines to follow. What a sap I was!

    Anyway, yes, codex power creep (more like power surge) is the problem. The latest IG book was tremendously well-balanced internally and provides so many good options.

    Oh well, Infinity just released USAriadna, so I’m taking a GW break for a while.

    Thanks again for the article. Cheers!

  8. bogalubov July 16, 2015 7:44 am #

    I think the pinnacle of recent IG power was the last 3 weeks of 6th edition.

    Maelstrom did not exist and psychic buffs were easy to pull off without being the central focus of your list.

    With the rise of maelstrom or maelstrom like missions the IG were severely penalized. You could no longer sit back and make people come to you. Even the Tau have decent fast attack choices, Riptides and crisis suits to grab objectives. IG don’t even get any outflankers ala-Kroot. If you try to blob up and slog it forward you’re just as likely to lose bodies at a rate that negates any movement.

    At the end of 6th edition you could also grab a 55 point inquisitor that would twin link your blob or give them a reliable 4++. That combined with orders gave you cover ignoring, twin linked lascannons. Now if you have 2 warp charges you’re probably not even getting one power off without using all your dice and your opponent can still block it.

    Playing the base codex without throwing in FW artillery and allies is playing 40k on Insane Mode. You basically start with no chance of winning maelstrom, which is even more crippling since it’s worth as much as primary. Furthermore now with big game hunter, table quarters and king of the hill the blob is a huge liability. So the chance of winning any tertiary points is also low. So you’re down to 50/50 on winning primary and have no chance in hell in getting secondary or tertiary.

  9. iNcontroL July 16, 2015 7:49 am #

    I always enjoy your articles jason 🙂

  10. z3n1st July 16, 2015 7:57 am #

    Although AM might not be the most competitive army in this day and age of Voltron and blackmarket freebies for taking stuff you would take anyway, I would have to say I find them much more enjoyable than my competition army (eldar). I don’t have to hear about ‘cheese’ and ‘unfair’, or ‘totally broken’ while my opponent is taking 5+ hivetyrants, or 30 units of stuff (half of which he didn’t pay for), or an army that only dies after rolling less than a 4 twice in a row (for the chump guys!), or an army that has 80% of the rules in the book and crosses 5+ codices in a 3 codex limit environment.

    The decurion crap may be the wave of the future, but in the short term (pre all codices benefiting) its not really helping game balance at all, only hindering. Maybe once all codices get the curtsey reach around things will level out bit.

    • iNcontroL July 16, 2015 9:03 am #

      Agreed! You just forgot those opponents who take double pie plate d slinging weapon platforms that are nigh invincible backed by the best troops in the game and HQ’s that cast powers with impunity and are almost invincible themselves unless you fail a 2+ rerollable! Oh and two of the best MC’s in the game too ^____________^;;

  11. Bellerah July 16, 2015 7:58 am #

    Like most my 40k Armies, my AM have been shelved. This is a game of specialization and efficiency and AM are an army of generalists and numbers. Sadly they can not put out the amount of firepower needed to overcome that inefficiency for the most part. Even things like blobs, you are playing not to lose rather than to win in today’s game, and with the amount of mobile dakka out there, they can be worn down and tar-pitted or other wise avoided.

  12. Hotsauceman1 July 16, 2015 8:27 am #

    I think AM might be up soon. There are several deals on the Site for IG, aswell as How to paint.
    Im currently working on how to make them good, but im sturggling because of one thing, Objectives and progressive objectives

  13. Variance Hammer July 16, 2015 9:39 am #

    Didn’t we just have an article about how awesome heavy armor is? Grav isn’t particularly good vs. AV 14 unless it’s in truly staggering numbers, and while Eldar D weapons are a problem, AV 14 is also immune to the Scatbikes everyone’s so worried about.

    • Reecius July 16, 2015 10:41 am #

      Different authors, different opinions. I still think Russes are awesome, Raw Dogger does not.

  14. wellspokenman July 16, 2015 9:40 am #

    Guard lack mobility. Maelstrom missions really hurt foot guard and mech hasn’t been viable for ages. The other two things that really killed Guard were Skyhammer and Eldar. They can kill too many men and tanks without taking much in the way of return fire.

    There is still potential to be tapped in the codex and as others have commented, a couple of nifty formations could breathe some life back into it. Also, the Guardsman’s best friend, Azrael, got better at being a best friend. Rapid Maneuver in a Guard blob makes for a very mobile foot unit when combined with orders. Most of Azzie’s buddies got significantly better too.

    • Hotsauceman1 July 16, 2015 12:11 pm #

      Except you need Azreal in a CAD to take him, meaning guard is relegated to Allies. Meaning less toys

      • wellspokenman July 17, 2015 6:48 am #

        Guard can cram an awful lot into an Allied Detatchment. I can take 3 Russes, 3 Wyverns, 3 Hellhounds, and well over 100 infantry in an Allied Detatchmen. What they really lose is some tactical flexibilty. What DA bring to the table in their current form copensates for that loss.

    • Requizen July 16, 2015 12:32 pm #

      I think this is the real hard hitting issue for them. Like Tau, AM rocked in a game where you spent a lot of time castled in a corner or camping on a few objectives. Now, where missions are much more focused on mobility and board control, you can’t just sit back and remove enemy models while not moving.

      • Reecius July 16, 2015 3:37 pm #

        I agree. But like Tau, dedicated AM players have adjusted. I actually don’t have trouble with grabbing objectives anymore with my AM. Mine seem to function just fine in 7th ed, actually. I just took a few units to grab objectives and it worked quite well.

  15. Truesight July 16, 2015 10:50 am #

    I still love my Kriegers, they’ll continue to hold the line against superior foes and die in hordes. Praise the Emperor.

  16. bnb July 16, 2015 2:56 pm #

    I was going to make a post to help Raw Doggers ego, but this conversation is nice and long.

    Henceforth, this post’s purpose is to diminish his ego and bring balance to the force.

  17. bnb July 16, 2015 2:57 pm #

    Oh, what about AM as a viable allied force? I think they might be.

    • Reecius July 16, 2015 3:35 pm #

      I think they make fantastic allies!

  18. Mtzbk86 July 16, 2015 3:25 pm #

    I love russes too. However, when you bring 5 and you see lend-leased drop pods for reduced cover bs7 skitari what’s a guard army to do. Yes guass does it similar but no where near as devastating as skitari, a 5 minute game in round 2. Oh well, I’m frustrated but meh my opponent knew what he was doing can’t blame him. I kling on the the hope that I’ll get free toys too. If this is GW idea to move product kudos, because when the guard time comes andthey want to sell 50 dollar tanks/transports they’ll be reduced in points cost and/or free.drown in blood? Nah run them down with 12 av 14 russes. Until then, back to the drawing board.

    • Reecius July 16, 2015 3:35 pm #

      Yeah, you need bubble warp or counter reserves tactics. It is tough with some of the very powerful drop armies in the game at present, I agree.

  19. Fizzelix November 5, 2015 3:26 am #

    A very good idea is to take Leman Russ Vanquisher with Beast Hunter Shells (Imperial Armour Second Edition). S8 DS2 SmallBlast with Instant Death is pretty good…

  20. Rumpeltroll February 24, 2016 6:11 am #

    I find the naval officer very good to have. I use 2 HW choices in 1650p games and up. So 2 naval officers that will give my enemies reserve -2 on there roll.
    Then u won’t have to worry about drop pods that much…

    • sqauwky March 5, 2016 4:56 am #

      The issue is that half the drop pods in your opponents army WILL come in turn 1 (no roll required) so that -2 wont do nothin

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