Heroes Beyond Number

I’ve often harped on about the Imperial Guard and how, in terms of their aesthetics as a faction, I don’t really like them. Part of what draws me to 40k is the sheer strangeness of it all, the cultural melting pot of the Imperium and the grubby insanity that rises to the surface. All too often however the guard have been immune to this. Forgeworld have brought us the Death Korps of Kreig and, more recently, the Solar Auxilia, and there are always weird characters like the Enginseers amongst the ranks, but in the main the eerie strangeness of the 41st Millennium seems to have passed the Guard by. Some of the old regiments were quite interesting (I love a Vostroyan as much as the next man) but in general there seems to have been a policy of cutting and pasting real world, historical military into the far future (Space Russians, Space Arabs, even Space Rambo) rather than thinking about how those themes or environmental factors might have led to a convergent evolution in tactics, outlook or appearance. I’d actually love to see the Guard reappraised in a more nuanced manner – in the same way that the Space Marine Legions have developed into more complex, interesting creatures under the guidance of the Forge World and Horus Heresy designers, as opposed to the Space Vikings, Space Mongol Hordes and so on that we once had. Perhaps the solution would be to do something similar to FW’s Legion Upgrade kits, where a set of heads and torsos that allowed us to convert other regiments from the Cadians (a solid enough kit in itself but a bit too ‘little green army men’ for my tastes). The Talarns and Mordians could be created this way, whilst a new kit featuring longer coats to cover the legs would allow Vostroyans, Valhallans and Steel Legion. Who knows, they could even push the boat out and come up with some new regiments based around original ideas

Anyway I’ve wandered slightly from my original point which is my dissatisfaction with the current Imperial Guard in terms of their appearance and aesthetics. What I was looking for was more in the vein of the mad counts from Warhammer’s Empire, or perhaps the filthy peasants of Bretonia, men armed with nothing but hand-me-down weaponry and grim determination facing down the rampaging horrors of a hostile galaxy. I wanted incompetent commanders, bombastic priests, heraldic beasts and chimerical weapon-servitors. I wanted an army based around hubris and overwhelming firepower that makes up for its ineffectual military tactics with a callous disregard for human lives and the everyday heroism of unremembered martyrs.

By now some of you may be wondering if all this musing is actually going somewhere. Working on the ranks of my traitor guard recently, as well as the Imperial Serf I showed a few weeks ago, has led to me thinking about their loyalist adversaries more than I normally would, with the result that – by some organic process – I ended up building this guy. Whilst the fickle muse was still working for me, rather than against me, I even got him painted. He’s quick and crude, and I could use going back and adding a few details (some text on the oath scroll for instance). Consider him a little test of concept should I ever decide to explore the Guard more fully.

As it stands I remain an unrepentant heretic but I do feel a certain draw towards the Imperium at times so who knows, someday he may have some squadmates to back him up or, as is more likely, die valiantly by his side. Otherwise he’s going to have to take on my entire chaos collection by himself and some challenges are beyond even the humble guardsman.

17 responses to “Heroes Beyond Number

  • Alex

    I must admit, I’ve had a soft spot for the Imperial Guard ever since the RT days… the old RT grays, Praetorians, Tallarn, Mordian.. the only ones I didn’t really dig were Cadians & Catachan! How ironic :-/

    I like what you did with this guy – I’ve seen a few nice Empire/Brettonian/Cadian fusion armies, they do work well… willbe interesting to see if you take this further – quantity does have a certain quality of its own 😉

    • imperialrebelork

      I’m wa big fan of the Guard. I like that they are like “little green army men” because it takes me back to my youth. Playing with army men in the rug all day in the weekend was my thing hehe. I also like the fact that the Cadians n particular are so generic looking. Individually they are quite boring and dull but on mass they are a mighty looking juggernaut! Plus all those bits make for great traitor guard s we know. Saying all this though I do hope GW comes up with a more interesting regiment soon. Or even bring back the Praetorians but in plastic so we can cut up and convert. Lovely model mate. His face looks great and colours work well.

    • Wudugast

      Yeah, I’d love to put together the massed ranks of the Guard as I’d like to see them (and hope, incidentally, that it didn’t sound as though I was claiming cadian/warhammer fusion as an original idea – when in fact I’ve stolen it from half the internet!).

      In terms of dream army projects it’s up there floating around my brain alongside Ad Mech, more Orks, more Chaos, revisiting Space Marines, Harlequin/Ghost Warrior/ Haemonculi fusion Eldar, Necrons, Vampire Counts, Skaven, Wood Elf/Dark Elf Wild-Hunt fusion, Night Goblins, Dwarves, Empire, etc etc etc… Still, I did enjoy making this chap so maybe this one is going to become a bit more concrete – at least in the form of a squad or two.

  • imperialrebelork

    Sorry for all the weird little typos. I think I was asleep still, or maybe still drunk. I dunno? Happy Valentines day… I said that in a very manly way with a gruff voice.

    • Wudugast

      No worries – being drunk/half-asleep are definitely admirable reasons for the odd typo in my book! And yes, I’m having a grand valentines day relaxing with my girlfriend – hope you and your wife and having a good time together also 🙂

      As for the guard I agree with you on all the qualities of the Cadians (have no love for the Catachans though I’m afraid) but I’d be more excited about them if there was something similar but a bit more esoteric. Then again perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to the Ad Mech…

      • imperialrebelork

        I used to love the Catachan now I’m a little over them but I do have a special ops project planned for them. They’re a bit too Rambo-ish. Even though I love Rambo I prefer the humble soldier over the muscle bound sunglasses wearing bandana wearing knob jockeys.

  • Iron Commander

    Great post, a really interesting read. I remember being 14 and flicking through the 40k rule book at the time (can’t recall the edition, was grey and had a hammer on the front- 4th?) and always passing by the Imperial Guard pages with a grunt because they were the opposite of what I was in 40k for: the alien menace, the gothic inquisitorial henchmen, the overzealous super soldiers in power armour… The ‘Guard’s range just kind of washed over me in contrast to the factions on the other pages. I guess they have their place in the lore and the grand scheme of the 40k universe but their ranks could probably benefit from a bit of a shaking up from GW.

    And brilliant work on the mini by the way, very cool indeed 🙂

    • Wudugast

      You could be describing my own first experiences of 40k/the guard. In stark contrast I always really liked the Empire in Warhammer, and find the lack of a similar faction to be holding me back somewhat from engaging with the fiction for Age of Sigmar. I like the idea of everyday heroism, of the common man – underequipped and down at heel – still going out there and doing his best in the face of all sorts of monsters. Really the guard should emphasis the grim, gothic brutality of the Imperium, instead they feel (to me) slightly divorced from it. There is a place for the super human (space marines, stormcasts, etc) but without the presence of the merely human they’re robbed of their impact.
      Glad you like the model – I may well come back to this idea again 🙂

  • technasma

    Great article – I totally agree and I’d love to see the Guard reimagined into something more gothic and grimdark – we’ve seen hints in the Savlar Chem-Dogs and Athonian Tunnel Rats. I’d like to see more medieval design cues and memento moris – playing on the superstition, fervour and ultimate desposability of human life in the 41st Millenium.

    • Wudugast

      Precisely – that last sentence especially sums up what I was trying to say very eloquently. As it stands these elements, the very things which make Games Workshop’s worlds so compelling, feel a little tacked on the guard when they should be right at the heart of it.

  • dave2718

    The current guard codex is pretty flexible (although I would love to see doctrines come back, perhaps along the lines of chapter chaptics like with Space Marines), and will allow a wide variety of builds: including space peasants. As you observe, what is lacking is the variation of models to work with. I like your idea of FW upgrades as a way to expand the range.

    • Wudugast

      I’m much more focussed on the models than the game but from what I’ve heard the Chapter Tactics/doctrines idea seems pretty popular. Perhaps they could roll this out across more of the factions, a combination of ‘chapter tactics’ equivalent rules and upgrade packs for the models to develop the guard regiments, chaos legions, eldar craftworlds, ork clans etc? Maybe some day they’ll see sense, put you and me in charge and we’ll sort things out 😉

  • Toni

    Good notes. The act of bringing the guard back to 41st millenium is long overdue! Will be watching his with interest

    • Wudugast

      Cheers! There’s been a surprising amount of interest in this so I’m definitely starting to think more about how I could progress it. I’ve already started putting ideas together for a squad, or perhaps something more akin to a guard themed Inq28 retinue. We’ll have to see what the cogitators in my brain churn out in the end…

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