The Honour Guard are the premier of a Space Marine Chapter, tasked with the role of guarding the Chapter Master in combat. As bearers of such a prestigious role, they are given access to the best the Chapter has to offer. For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.
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 weigh in at a modest points cost (5 melta bombs per model) and can pack a wallop but their lack of an invulnerable save and their transport options are the only thing that holds them back from being a premiere assault unit. The unit consists of three Honour Guard base, with the option to increase the unit size to 10 models.
- Bolt Pistol
- Power Weapon
- Frag and Krak Grenades
- 2+ armour save
- The Chapter Champion may replace his Boltgun with a Close Combat Weapon (no idea why you would do this, you already get +1A with the Bolt Pistol and Power Weapon).
- The Chapter Champion may take a Thunder Hammer
- Any model may replace their Power Weapon with a Relic Blade (for +10 points).
- One Honour Guard may take a Space Marine Standard (Company Standard, Chapter Banner or Standard of the Emperor Ascendant).
- May take a Drop Pod, Rhino, Razorback or Land Raider as a Dedicated Transport.
- Chapter Tactics
- Honour or Death (Chapter Champion Only)- Must issue and accept challenges whenever possible.
On paper, the Honour Guard are a damn good unit. They have a Veteran’s profile (but with Ld 10). A 2+ armour save is great on a combat unit, as only certain dedicated combat units will be able to negate their armour save in close combat. Armed with a Bolt Pistol and Power Weapon, they will get 4 attacks on the charge (5 for the Champion) and should make a mess of most marine infantry units in combat. If we assume a base cost of 19 points for a Veteran profile, this means they get Artificer Armour and a Power Weapon for around 6 points, which is a real bargain.
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 there (or on all of them if you want!) and a Thunder Hammer on the Champion. You get a unit that has the ability to gear up to specialise in a given roll, or to generalise to fight all opponents. That is just incredible. Considering a Sargeant pays 15 pts 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.
Giving one member a Chapter Banner is almost a mandatory option if you are taking this unit. This gives each model five power weapon attacks on the charge (or four S6 AP3 attacks if you go with the Relic Blade), as well as providing a buff to nearby friendly units. Combined with their Leadership of 10, the re-roll the Banner grants should ensure the unit stays in the fight for longer.
However, as great as the unit may be, they do suffer from a few drawbacks that limit their usefulness.
First (and perhaps the biggest) drawback is the lack of an invulnerable save, or any options to gain an invulnerable save. This means you are extremely vulnerable to any AP2 weapons and there is certainly no shortage of those in the game at the moment. 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.
Second, the Chapter Champion suffers from the Chaos curse of always having to issue and accept challenges. 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. The Chapter Champion will make a mess of any Sergeant-type squad leader in a unit, but will quickly fall to any combat character with access to AP2 weaponry, probably taking a few of your squad with him in the process.
They are an expensive, non-scoring unit. They can kick the crap out of the other guy but they aren’t taking objectives.
The other downside is that the Honour Guard essentially need a transport vehicle to get them to the enemy. In the current meta, running a combat unit across the board is not going to go well for you. Especially in a unit with no invulnerable save and a plethora of grav weaponry on the board. This means you either need to go for the expensive Land Raider for an assault vehicle, or go for a Drop Pod, Rhino or Razorback and wait to assault for a turn after you disembark. This means risking a turn of enemy firepower, but the Honour Guard are also armed with Bolters, so can fire with a bit more effect when they first disembark from a transport vehicle.
There are several Chapter Tactics that benefit the Honour Guard.
The Assault Doctrine from the Ultramarines Chapter Tactics is of benefit to the Honour Guard, ensuring that they get an improved chance of hitting their opponent the turn you use the Doctrine.
White Scars Chapter Tactics are great for any kind of assault unit. Hit and Run on the Honour Guard is brilliant, giving you the chance to escape from unfavourable combats or allowing you to disengage and charge once more for your bonus attacks. The re-roll on run moves is also useful if you find yourself out of position and need to close with the enemy quickly.
The Black Templars’ Righteous Zeal can be useful if you take casualties on the charge, giving you additional attacks for your surviving squad members.
The Iron Hands Chapter Tactics will give the Honour Guard a small durability increase, gaining a 6+ Feel No Pain roll.
The Salamanders Chapter Tactics will help the Honour Guard shake off flamer wounds from overwatch fire (or general shooting) and will allow the Chapter Champion to master craft his Power Weapon (or one of his upgrade weapons).
So what to do with the Honour Guard? 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 Champion 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 Champion 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 or Captain. He is there to tank wounds and provide a pseudo invulnerable save (by tanking wounds). 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 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 Land Raider does. Again, a Storm Raven also does this but strong anti-air or bad reserve rolls really hurts this delivery vehicle in comparison to the Land Raider 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 invulnerable save for them like Azrael. That helps so much. From there you can walk up the field with roughly Terminator resiliency. 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.
For me, the Honour Guard is a decent unit, but I think that the Command Squad or Vanguard Veteran Squad can perform a similar role more effectively.
The Vanguard Veterans have a similar profile and can take a power weapon for only 5 pts each. In addition, they have access to Jump Packs and Storm Shields for the unit, giving them much greater mobility and more durability. They do lack the 2+ armour save and Ld 10 of the Honour Guard, but gain charge re-rolls with Heroic Intervention.
The Command Squad is certainly much more expensive to arm them all with Power Weapons, but they do get access to a wider range of Ranged Weapons, as well as access to bikes for improved mobility, and Storm Shields and an Apothecary for increased durability.
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 fulfil their given roll. 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.
You can also pick up some cheap models in our Second Hand Shop. Some of these gems are quite rare, sometimes they’re fully painted!