Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Tanker Commander's Guide to 7th Edition

Tanks, specifically the tanks of the Imperial Guard, were my introduction to the hobby. White Dwarf had a army list in 3rd Edition for a tank company, which was the first list I ever played. I have fond memories of my unpainted Leman Russ squadrons getting decimated by Dark Lances and Haywire grenades from games played while in high school.

My tank model collection consists of 14 leman russ hulls, in various stages of being retrofitted for the new 7th Edition IG codex. These models were assembled in pre-magnetism days with sponsons, in the glory days of STR 5 defensive weapons (4th edition). Why GW decides to alternatively buff-then-nerf sponsons every other edition and codex is beyond me. Lately I've taken them out for some 1500 games against Eldar and space marines.

What is a tank army and why should I run one?

I think of a "Tank Army" from the perspective of the IG is a list that fields more than 3 Leman Russ hulls in a single detachment. With 3 or less hulls, the tanks aren't the focus of the army, and will be there to support your other models. With 4+ tanks, they take up enough points and table presence that they become the core focal point of the army, with other units serving as support. As vehicles in general got a boost with 7th edition penetrating damage tables, the IG are well suited for the metagame of 7th because our vehicles can dominate the opposition's vehicles when brought in large numbers. Having 6 AV tanks in a 1500 point game might sound like a dick move, but considering how unbalanced this game is and always will be, don't worry about it. You'll need all the AV 14 to face down Eldar wave serpent spam.

Vehicle Selection and Armament:

I am an advocate of battleforged, because objective secured and re-rolling your warlord trait are big advantages for a small price to pay in the IG codex.

Running a "tank army" doesn't mean you have to go Unbound. Sure, you can run nothing but Leman Russes or other vehicles if you want, but such a list has very limited mobility. 7th Edition, especially Maelstrom missions, is all about mobility. A tank army is never going to match Eldar (nothing can match Eldar in 7th in mobility or firepower), Dark Eldar, or Scions in mobility, but it still needs fast units to claim midfield or backfield objectives.

Vet squads in Valkyries are perfect for the task of claiming contested objectives. All they need is a heavy flamer for light infantry, demolitions to threaten TEQs and vehicles in assault, and a push out the door! Taking 2 vet squads gives you the ability to claim enemy backfield objectives on turns 3 or 4, and midfield objectives by turn 2 if you grav-chute deploy. Personally I like waiting till turn 3 or 4 to deploy my vets, but that isn't always the best tactical option.

Obviously you'll need some Valkyries. Rocket pods are a good choice, as you'll be closing in on the squads dropzone on turn 2 or 3 and will want to soften up anything holding the objective. Heavy bolters are too expensive as you'll only get to shoot one at full BS if you fire the multilaser.

In short, vet squads aren't a troops "tax." They are something you want in a "tank army."

Tank commanders: Take 2. This gives you 4 leman russes, right off the bat. I like my commanders to take vanquishers, and the other squadron member to be an exterminator.

Vanquishers are the kings (queens if you are playing chess) of tank-on-tank warfare. Because the main gun is heavy and not ordnance, take a lascannon as the hull-mounted weapon as well. This essentially doubles the anti-tank potential of the vanquisher within 48". For sponsons, I think Heavy Flamers are a must if you aren't going with much infantry support (i.e. only air cav vets, no platoons).

The enemy will ALWAYS try to kill your warlord, and if he can't do it at range, he'll send specialists to assassinate your leader. A primary threat is close-in infantry, especially ones with grenades. Because you probably won't have enough infantry to bubble-wrap your tanks, having some heavy flamer sponsons to hit tightly-packed deep strikers is an excellent defense. The AP 4 helps against stormtroopers, carapace vets, swooping hawks, and a variety of other potential deep striking threats. Plus the H.F. sponsons are half the cost of the heavy bolter ones. As you aren't shooting ordnance, you can still fire your main gun and lascannon at close infantry (even terminators and oblits will be afraid)

The other half of the squadron is the Exterminator, which can deal with everything the BS 4 commander isn't optimized to handle: mass swarms of infantry at range, light vehicles, and aircraft. The twin linked autocannon is a beast, and the BS 3 the crew has doesn't matter. You essentially have BS 4.5 with twin linked BS 3 (75% hits). Kit this vehicle out with 3x Heavy Bolters and a stubber for maximum dakka. With the split-fire order, your squadron tanks can still target separate units. Just make sure you issue orders before you do any other shooting.

Other Unit Options:
You can round out your force with a 5th or 6th tank if you want and are playing higher points levels. Remember you still have all 3 HS slots despite having 4 tanks already. For more tanks, the basic Leman Russ is a good choice: its a generalist threat that MEQs despise. It's greatest weakness is that ordnance forces all other weapons to snap shot, making sponsons on a basic russ unusable. Heavy Flamers should be heavily considered instead of the hull heavy bolter. Template point defense is critical for tank armies, and you can never have enough of it.

A Vendetta is always a good choice for this kind of army. Either bring one of these or two Hydras for anti-air purposes. The vendetta is better because it's guns are AP 2 and can target ground and air targets with the same effectiveness. But you can get two hydras for the less the price of one Vendetta. Your exterminator autocannons can function as anti-air in a pinch.

A third Veteran Squad in a Valkyrie is another option to consider.

Stormtroopers: One thing lacking from the army is mobility. For Maelstrom of war missions, bare-bones storm trooper squads or 2x melta-gun or flamer squads can help with getting midgame VPs by simply deep striking on an objective. Resist the urge to buy plasma guns and consider not bringing any special weapons: they have their uses in a Scions army, but as support for a tank army, these guys are simply there to claim a VP and then get destroyed.

Consider allying these guys in from the Scion codex: the orders are simply better, especially if you are running hotshot-only squad weapons.

Thats it for now. Part II will cover deployment and playing the tank army on the battlefield. 


  1. That's some nice advice there! I may have to unlock my warehouse and dust off a the might Russ's that have been mothballed. Yay for 7th!

  2. Good article! I would appreciate some advice on my plan for a tank heavy IG army. Not so much use of heavy tanks, but lots of tanks :)


    HQ Pask in Vanquisher with multimeltas and lascannon + dozer blade
    LR SQN: LR Exterminator with Plasma cannons.

    2 Squads of melta vets (3 melta guns) in Chimera (ML+HF) and dozer balde
    1 squad of plasma vets "" + autocannon, in Chimera with ML+HB





    Aegis Def line

    1. Tim,

      I have yet to use Pask, because I try to roll for the warlord trait that lets me outflank D3 units, which I used to get my Valkyries and Vendettas to their targets and line up side shots with the Vendetta. On paper, He's a good upgrade because of his set warlord trait and rerolls, all which reduce randomness. I think that if I ran him, I'd need to build his squadron around him, with maximum plasma (executioners + sponsons) to make good use of the upgrade. You pask squadron isn't as focused as I'd make mine.

      Heavy Flamers are my go-to sponson choice. In most games of 40k, the enemy will try to get their anto-tank units within melta/fusion gun range, and then assault your vehicles with meltabombs/haywire grenades. Packing cheap heavy flamers on your tanks is your only defense, besides infantry, against such tactics.

      As far as Vet squads, I'm running mine with only 2 special weapons when they are Chimera mounted. The rules changes make a 3rd special or heavy pointless until the Chimera is destroyed. You'll save points without reducing your mounted combat effectiveness. If you can splurge on Forgeworld or convert, chimeras with Autocannon turrets and hull heavy flamer are my favorite.

      Vendettas, Hellhounds, and the Wyvren are all good choices. I'd not run the Wyvren or Manticore ever, but the internet consensus is that they're both effective and points-efficient.

      As far as the Aegis, I'm not sure why you are taking it. If you want solid Anti-air option, you already have the Vendetta. You don't have dismounted infantry, so the Aegis points are wasted at best, and at worst give your opponent a cover save when they close to meltabomb your tanks!

    2. Thanks! If i play around with points some more I could see if i can fit another plasma russ into pasks sqn. fair point on the special weapons, if they are dismounted theyre probably dead anyway. i would love to run the FW autocannon chimera turrets, just having fw accepted in tournies can be problematic.
      Thanks again for the input

    3. What's your opinion on camo nets + aeigs for the warlord squadron? Pay 20 points for comm relay and early flyers ain't a bad choice either. Av13/14 with a 3+ cover save is pretty nasty but it'll cost you 65 / 80 / 95 points extra and deepstrikers, orders or powers can still ruin your day with ignore cover. But think of 3+ cover... and no jink move required, you can shoot all day long...

      Second, you can cut some fat when taking a commisar (lord commisar?) for the MTs, as he is cheaper.

      After all I must admitt I learned some valuable things here:

      - Double HQ-Tanks for BF4 - sure they pay 30pts extra but will make vanquishers work without psycic powers.

      - Flamers because of DS - brilliant!

      - Exterminators as cheep squadron tanks - I ran double executioners before because of split fire order and old grudges but its risky and expensive.

      - MT allies for DS scoring - fits perfect.

      Necrons, mass orks and devastator centurions wil still ruin your day but okay, sometimes it is just rock paper scissor... :(

      Cheers, BFT

    4. Hey BFT:

      Sorry on the delay for Part II. I wanted to get some more games in with my list before I wrote about the topics of deployment and engagement. The gist is simple:
      place objectives so your tanks can score them (out in the open)
      Hedge your bets by placing at least one objective in each DZ, and one cover in the middle where your Scions can deep strike onto it and still get a cover save.
      Place your tanks at max range, with their rear armor facing a table edge
      Checkerboard your tanks, with Exterminators forward and russes and vanquishers to the rear to deter deep striking close to your tanks.
      Bring an inquisitor with servo skulls.

      As for the Aegis + Camo nets, that is probably a worthwhile choice if you are a more defensive player. The price point is in the Camo Nets. Those points could buy a deep striking scion squad kitted out with flamers and meltas. Personally I play very aggressive, and use the AV 14 and better range of my main guns as my primary defense. The Aegis hampers your mobility by forcing you to stay behind it to make the strategy work, instead of having the mobility to chase down the enemy with heavy flamers or get out of line of sight.

      As you said, there is also a LOT of ignores cover out there, but not as much can affect AV 14 as infantry. For example, lascannon platoons or heavy weapon teams (something I run in my infantry list) with a combination of Divination and Senior Officer orders would be a counter to the Aegis/Camo net combo. I am tempted, especially because I play primarily versus eldar right now, and having their same 3+ cover save to throw right back at them is super tempting. I'd bring a Quad gun before improved comms. The way reserves used to work (4+ on turn 2) it was worth it. Now with reserves in on a 3+ on turns 2 and 3, and auto-in on turn, I'm not too concerned about stuff not arriving on time.

      I like the Scion command squad for a one reason: orders. The Prime can order his own squad to do any number of awesome things: rending, twin linked, & sniper come to mind. The commissar doesn't do that: all he brings is stubborn and Execution, which doesn't help at all when the enemy wipes out the 5-man suicide squad through torrent of fire. I think a commissar is "fat" while the Scion command squad is pretty "meat" :)

      As for match ups, I totally agree. There are only a few codexes at a time that can really produce a "take all comers" list. Having a fast skimmer dedicated Objective secured transport with AV 12 and a 3+ cover save and 2-to-7 twin linked STR 7 shots sure helps :) Also having your basic infantry gun glancing hit on a 6 doesn't hurt either. Necrons were the primary reason I went heavy infantry for years. Now Eldar's ability to shred infantry in cover has made me go armored more. And I'll never play against someone running Space-Marines-Inside-Space-Marine centurion crap :D

  3. C'mon post part 2 you lazy....! :)


  4. Looking forward to Part 2. I enjoyed this immensely as I'm contemplating a (nearly) all tank army with a small Space Marine allied contingent.