Welcome to the Imperial Guard! You have been given the task of defending the Imperium of man against the alien, the mutant, and the heretic. I trust you will be up to the task, for this will not be easy.
Threats such as Tyranids, Aeldari of all kinds, Orkish hordes and chaos heretics are all capable of crashing into your lines before you are even aware of their presence. Today we will be focusing on what these threats can do and how to prepare to deal with them.
The infantry and armor under your command are powerful, but slow to move into position and easily outmaneuvered if you are not careful. You will find that in such situations the humble guardsman will serve a crucial role arguably far more important than your powerful fire support units. Even the mighty Leman Russ can be tied down in combat and prevented from fighting effectively. You will need to keep melee threats away from your fire support, giving time for your army to grind the enemy to dust.
While not all-encompassing, these scenarios are a good start for understanding how to field your infantry when facing mobile assault oriented foes.
1: Deep Strike reserve melee
The martyr’s grave is the keystone of the Imperium
Many armies have abilities that allow them to redeploy more than 9” from enemies. Combined with 3d6” charges, re-rollable charges, charge distance bonuses, and the ability to fight twice, these units can devastate whatever they touch.
Deploy your infantry squads on your front line, preferably where they can take shelter from enemy fire. Deploy essential units at least 3” behind your front line guardsmen, filling your deployment area so that no enemies can arrive behind your front line, because your units are all within 9” of the edges of the table and your other units.
Deep striking units may attack your front line guardsmen when they arrive. However, they will not be able to strike blows against your second line or units further behind, which will have a chance to respond.
Be sure to continue this formation for as long as necessary to keep your second line safe. Don’t be afraid to order your guardsmen to Move! Move! Move! in order to get them where they need to go. Their lasguns are often less important than correct positioning. Move non-essential units to fill gaps between units and prevent subsequent deepstrikers from arriving behind your front line.
2: Fast melee units
The truly wise are always afraid
A lot of melee armies will have options to charge from long distances. Tyranid Genestealers can move up to 40” and still charge. Aeldari Shining Spears can move up to 44” and still charge. Often these units can also move away after fighting or fight twice!
If your enemy does not possess effective anti-infantry shooting, deploy your guardsmen in front of your army spaced closely enough that none of the enemy charging models can fit between them. If you place your second line more than 7” behind the front line, even double fighting units will not be able to strike blows against your second line.
Should your enemy have good anti-infantry shooting, having a large infantry unit (such as conscripts) can help. Unless your opponent can shoot most if not all of the conscripts away, you can leave the conscripts that survive where they need to stand in order to block charges to other units. Putting your front line out of sight or in cover is advised as well.
Sometimes it will not be possible, especially later in the game, to prevent fast enemies from pushing through your first line, or from fleeing after fighting. In this case, the best you can do is prevent attacking units from escaping. Keep your units close together so that fringe units cannot be picked off without reprisal. Reserving important units of your own can also help, so long as your opponent cannot block them from arriving where you want them to! You may need to push forward or use indirect fire in order to deny enemies safe places to hide, so plan your army composition accordingly.
3: Units stuck in melee
Excuses are the refuge of the weak.
Often when large numbers of enemies complete their charge they completely surround one or more infantry units, preventing them from fleeing combat. In your following turn, you will not be able to shoot into combat with your troops. The enemy troops often easily dispatch the guardsmen that they have surrounded before charging deeper into your lines on their following turn.
Ensure that your units that can be surrounded are close enough to the rest of your army so that you have a chance to retaliate! Otherwise, your enemy may be able to eliminate your first line and still threaten the rest of your army. If you have deployed well only infantry will be unable to flee, leaving the rest of your army free to respond.
Unengaged infantry squads can still use the Consolidate Squads stratagem to join with the infantry squad already in combat. During your shooting phase your combined squad can be ordered to Fix Bayonets!. This is especially useful if you have Catachan infantry, have power weapons for your sergeants, have supporting characters such as a Ministorum priest, Straken, or Yarrick, or all of the above.
Alternatively, having a second line of Valhallan infantry who can be ordered to Fire on my command! can devastate the attacking unit while also eliminating friendly models still engaged in the melee, freeing up the rest of your fire support to finish off the offending unit.
Having a dedicated melee unit of your own to beat back the attacking unit is an excellent option, so long as it is deployed closely enough to your front line to be able to respond! Units with the infantry keyword are a must in order to reach into ruins. Units for this role will primarily need to handle enemies with multiple models, as large monsters and characters are far more easily fled from. For this role only the unit doesn’t need to be fast, though faster units can also serve other roles in your army.
Failing these options, throwing a non-essential or super heavy vehicle into melee against enemies without good anti-tank attacks can stall their advance, at least for a time. Using the Crush Them! stratagem with your super heavy can put a good dent in most units while you’re at it.
As a Guard commander you will nearly always be slower than your opponent. In the likely event your enemy strikes first, your army cannot be overwhelmed without having a chance to strike back. Guardsmen are instrumental for this task as many enemy units will be able to slay knight titans, let alone any imperial guardsmen who stand before them! Mastering infantry tactics to protect vulnerable fire support units from melee threats is crucial to effectively fielding a well balanced force.
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