Friday, April 2, 2010

Penal Legion

Hello again DFG readers, Lord Solar here with our first lesson in the Imperial Guard. First lets talk about the codex as a whole and then let me get into a breakdown of something specific.

The different views on how IG should be played is quite vast, with their varying troop choices and the variations in the troops themselves, to the multiple vehicle's available to it, both in the heavy and fast choices specifically, and lastly their specialty units placed inside the elite slots as well as one in the fast... This -doesn't- however mean that all the variations work. The IG codex is, according to most, a pure gun line codex with little or no thought of assault. Accordingly most pick either mass infantry gun spam, with some artillery support or mass tank spam with very little infantry support. (Or at least that's the philosophy I have seen played around with). Sometimes you might run across that fellow who will claim without any doubt that IG can assault and beware such and most people ignore such ideas, however I am here to tell you that to beware a 62 man squad assaulting you with 5 eviscerators, 10 power weapons and 2 power fists in there is quite a scary thing in my opinion.

Needless to say, its hard to decide what you want to do with IG because there is just -SO- much to do with them. So if you want to get to know what might work for you lets review the units of IG one at a time, from its most basic to its most complex.

So where do we start? How about:

Penal Legion Squad

At first glance when you look at the name of the choice I always think. “Wow these guys are going to be so cool!” Even after having read over their rules a million times. Then I decide to read such rules and the point cost and then comes the rambling anger that follows. However I think a fair and balanced idea of what these poor souls can do is in order. So lets talk:

The squad itself consists of 9 penal legion members and 1 custodian. They all have a decent leadership at 8 meaning that even if the so called Custodian dies you are left with a good chance of making any checks you need to against it. The squad size is of normal size for most armies and would seem at first glance to work well enough. However given their weapon skill and ballistic skill of 3 giving them the combined squad order that normal Infantry Platoons would seem like something they should have, and however do not, why it bothers me, will become more apparent.

Secondly we look at their gear. Like all guardsmen they are equipped with Lasguns, Flak Armor and a CCW, while the Custodian has laspistol, CCW and flak armor... thats it... no upgrades... not even the ability to take a chimera. Rough stuff here, mainly due to how much armor we see on the battlefield these days a few throwaway plasmas or meltas would be quite helpful or even perhaps the ability to toss them some krak grenades./melta-bombs, however no such luck once again,

Last but not least is where everyone looks to see how they make up those glaring flaws, and it starts out well enough. Scouts gives them the impressive ability to outflank, a sometimes vital necessity in games or the ability to move before the game starts, also quite useful when you don't have any transport. Second they get the Stubborn special rule, one of, if not -the best- special rule in the entire game, making their 8 leadership all that more impressive because it is not just the custodian that has it. Last but not least is their special special rule.... “Desperadoes”

Desperadoes can give the Penal Legion squad a whole grouping of USRs like making their guns assault 2, or giving them counter attack, fleet and furious charge, or lastly giving them a second CCW and rending. However the huge negative is you don't get to pick which one you want. It is randomly chosen on a die roll before deployment. As fun as this might seem, and is, in fun play, it makes the squads impossible in real competitive play. I mean, ask Captain Obvious how much he “loves” it when his witches roll “always strike first” when he -really- needed and wanted that 12 inch assault.

Over all it almost seems like this troop choice was just an afterthought for the codex, like someone in the office complained about how they removed Colonel Schaeffer's Last Chancers and decided to just toss these in. At to high a points cost with inefficient rules and no special weapons or transport they are just a burden to you rather than a helpful troop, I mean, they aren't even the cheapest troop choice! Perhaps you might ask how to make them better? How to make them playable? It is simple really. Even at their current point cost simply giving them the ability to combine squad before you roll off for their special rule would be a huge upgrade, along with rolling twice on the chart and taking two of the choices, rerolling if you rolled the same as the first time. Or shoot, give me the ability to choose their special rule and give me some special weapons to grab for them. Or a vehicle. Something....

I end up raging on about these guys up at the shop and I am sure Old School, Farseer, and Captain will be tired of hearing about my frustration but its out now and I am done with it. So unless you are playing a game for simple shits and giggles, ignore this troop choice, there are cheaper, more effective squads out there.

Until next time, burn some heretics, kill some mutants, and do it as always...



  1. Great post LSS. 0 coments usually means folks completely agree with you!

  2. Yeah, I keep on looking at penal squads and keep on not taking them. Mathhammer really sold me on that tactic as even with rending and an extra CCW they can't do much against things like marines. Take down a carnifex or Tervigon for sure, but anything else will make minced meat out of them.

    I'm thinking another reason that they are in the 'dex is so that people with warrior weapons modeled guardsmen wouldn't complain so much. Well, they still have a right to. I mean, storm-lases? Really?

  3. I have lots of guard to choose from and have become quite well known for taking a different army every week - mech list one week, infantry horde the next, gunline the week after and "assault" guard the one after that. One thing most of these builds have in common is two penal legion squads.

    Ok, first off, to the suggestion of special weapons, meltabombs, krak grenades etc. These are hardened criminals. Would they really trust them with anything that could do real damage? I do wish they could have frags, as one of the few assault elements in a guard army, but I can understand the fluff behind them not.

    Yes, choosing the skill would be awesome (I rolled rending on both squads against a daemons player - that was slightly less than useful) but I tend to minimise the risk by taking two squads. Hopefully one will get a useful assault skill and will outflank, both even better. Failing that, they're a stubborn scoring unit I can place on a rear objective. If the enemy wants to shoot them, fine, they'll go to ground and ride it out. Meanwhile, the heavy weapons teams you *should* have been firing at will give them some cover.

    I recently took a fluff based list to a doubles tournament. Couple squads penal legion, a squad of storm troopers (We know how popular they are with guard players) in chimera, a scout sentinal and a priest. My teammate took the much maligned Tau. We got two wins, a draw and a loss and finished mid-table. The loss was in a game where we and our opponents misread the scenario, and this ended up with our army arriving in dribs and drabs while theirs set up a firebase from turn 1. The draw was against a guard/space wolf army. In that game, based on kill points, the penal legion squad rampaged through a squad of grey hunters before charging and assaulting the long fangs, eventually dragging them down to tie the game.

    I think one of the most telling aspects of my argument is that a guard player who recently joined our club has seen how effective my penal legions are (with both his guard and his marine army) and has converted some of his own. So I've sold one player on them. Take two squads. Try them for five games. They can win the game for you if you use them right. I hope to change your mind :o)

  4. I mean... I am not sure what to say to that... You killed a squad of grey hunters with a penal legion squad? I mean, even if the grey hunter squad only had 5 members and no special upgrades like mark of wolfen they still should have swung before you, gotten 15 attacks for a 5 man squad, hit 10 wounded 6 or 7 you lose 4 or 5, lets give you benefit and say lost 4. You now have 6 guys left, and lets say you rolled the rending with extra ccw which i am guessing you did, so you have 19 attacks, you hit with 9, wound with wound 5 without a rend or 4 with... lets say 4 with, you kill one. he fails another save, beats you by two you make your leadership test. After this the end could go any way... maybe in your favor....

    But who brings a bare minimum grey hunters squad of 5 members without mark of wolfen? If it was a ten man squad no way you survived his initial attack with more than 1 or 2 guys.

    So you had a deviant game from the averages, that doesnt make them effective.

  5. @Lord SOlar Steve

    They had furious charge, and a priest in the squad. So hitting simultaneously rerolling failed hits and str 4. I can't vouch for what upgrades my opponent had, though bear in mind this was combat patrol so he may have gona for a cheap squad.

    I got out of the initial combat with about 7 or 8 I believe. Cos the one against the long fangs, after ridiculous bad luck on my opponents armour save left him with just one against half a squad of mine, he was winning each round... but stubborn Ld 8 held.

    I'm still not saying this was an average combat, merely a highlight. But they've proved capable enough across enough games that I think they're worth including.